People play differently at different stakes. We decided to introduce you to how a high-stakes professional, who is well versed in all the intricacies of modern poker theory, makes decisions at a low limit that is not too demanding on the quality of the game – NL50.
Upswing Poker coach David "MissOracle" Yang has recorded six instructional videos explaining in detail how he does the NL50 zoom. For this article, we have selected three of David's hands that illustrate the adjustments of a very strong player to a relatively weak field. However, before moving on to the hands, let's quote David's opinion on the general philosophy of the approach to poker:
If you're looking to make some serious money playing poker, don't set yourself the goal of beating low limits like NL50 convincingly. The same goes for the low offline limits – $1/$2 and $1/$3. Low limits are just a stepping stone. If you get too hung up on a certain limit with its metagame specifics, you run the risk of getting stuck there for a long time and stop progressing, which will prevent you from progressing higher.
The fact is that the strongest regulars of low stakes usually become people who can subtly notice the main trends of the field and find the most effective adjustments. However, as you move up in the limits, the opportunities for exploitative actions become less and less, and at the highest limits, there is almost no room for an exploit. Top players try to execute a balanced and non-exploitable strategy.
Therefore, if you want to ever reach the highest stakes, you need to build a theoretical base without going too deep into field exploits. This does not mean that you should not exploit your opponents (of course you should), but you cannot ignore the theoretical foundations either, they should be given the main attention.
David Yan receives in the small blind. Four players fold. Ian raises 3bb. The big blind calls.
Jan checks. BB bets 5bb. Jan calls.
We opened Q9o from the small blind and flopped top pair on a dangerous flop. At first glance, checking seems counter-intuitive, as top pair can confidently bet for value and protect against draws and just overcards.
There are advantages to playing based on the logic of making a hand, but theory recommends a texture-based approach on the flop. we should check quite often. Therefore, many strong hands, including top pairs, are often included in the check range as well.
Range comparison shows that our equity advantage is small, as Villain has a lot of strong hands on this flop – straights, sets, and two pair. Betting top pair and getting raised puts us in a tough situation with a bloated pot, so we have to check a lot more often than we do on profitable flops like .
Our c-bet range on the flop should be much more polarized in this hand, including stronger hands and bluffs. Everything else can be checked.
Ian checks, BB checks.
Jan checks. BB bets 7bb. Jan calls.
Opponent wins with .
After our check call on the flop and checks on the turn, there is a tough decision to be made on the river. We have two pair, but there are four flush cards on the board, and after we check, the big blind bets a little less than half the pot. Not very nice, but calling is necessary.
Yes, Villain could easily have a flush, but our hand is way too high in our range. We have a bunch of worse hands – , , and so on. If we plan to only call with flushes, let alone big flushes, we will be overfolding too much.
Of course, it can be suggested that the opponent is unlikely to be able to take advantage of this. How do we know if he bluffs often enough? Indeed, we cannot know this, and yet I consider our hand too strong to throw away.
David Yan receives in first position and raises to 2.5bb. The cutoff, button, and small blind call, and the big blind folds.
MB checks. Jan checks. The cutoff bets 5.8bb. Button folds. The MB calls. Ian check-raises to 17.8bb. Both opponents fold.
Multiway pots at the lower limits are common. This time, under the gun raises with aces, three people enter the pot. Out of position, we often have to check back on the flop, especially in a multiway pot. When we're up against multiple opponents, it's nearly impossible to build a c-bet range that doesn't weaken our checking range too much.
Yes, we have a hand that wants to bet. However, if we send most of them into the c-bet range, we will be left with random overcards and medium pockets too often in our check.
Checking in multiway pots is not just for balance. Even very strong hands often show roughly the same expectation in both branches of the game tree. If we check with a set, Villain can bluff with a hopeless hand that he would have folded to a continuation bet, or by checking, improve on the turn and pay our draw. For example, a person with would just fold these cards to a continuation bet, but if everyone checks and the turn comes the king, we can get a lot more out of him.
In general, since few hands clearly prefer to bet in multiway pots, I advise you to check more often. If you are playing against weak opponents who pay very high then you can deviate from this strategy and bet more often, but an observant opponent will quickly realize how unbalanced you are in this situation. Although let's be honest, there isn't much they can do about it: not bluff your check for no reason when there are two other people in the pot who don't like to fold?
In short, I simply recommend that you act more prudently in such situations. And the stronger my opponents, the more often I will check.
After I checked, I got a bet and a call. Both opponents have a lot in their range . The caller may also have second and third pair and various draws such as A6s, 98s, 75s, 54s. He might also show a set or 64s, but with such strong hands, a check raise would often follow. In general, we destroy the range of this player.
The player who bet may also have many of the named hands. And while I'm not particularly keen on shoving, I definitely want to check-raise for value. If they fold, it doesn't matter, because they will lose a lot of equity.
Yang on BB has . Three players fold. The button raises to 2.2bb. The small blind folds and Ian calls.
Jan checks. The button bets 3.5bb. Ian check-raises to 11.3bb. The button calls.
We have a straight, but in general, the flop is quite dangerous, because many turns will complicate our situation – any diamond, jack or queen is definitely bad, we will not be pleased with a six or seven either. Some opponents will c-bet very conservatively and even if they bet, for example, with , they won't play a big pot. Therefore, we are not required to always check-raise – it is quite possible to simply call and postpone the raise to later streets, depending on the board texture and opponent's sizing. However, this time I will raise on the flop.
Ian bets 8.38bb. Button folds.
Typically, after a player out of position check-raises the flop and hits a flush on the turn, they can often continue to bet. The preferred sizing is usually small, although there are exceptions.
Why can we keep barreling? The point here is that we check-raise the flop with most of our flush draws at varying rates. So when the third card of a suit falls on the turn, flushes take up more of our range than our opponent.
However, we also have a lot of strong hands that are weaker than flushes – straights, sets, and two pair. They would like to continue extracting value, but we can't bet too much, because by large sizing we risk scaring away weaker combinations, isolating ourselves against stronger ones.
Let's say we have a set of eights on the turn. If you bet a full pot, Villain will fold anything weaker than a set, so a 33% block bet looks perfect, putting opponent's hands like or .
The fact that the opponent folded is a pretty good result for us on such a dangerous board.
New Zealander David "MissOracle" Ian is a former Supernova Elite who has excelled in all varieties of no-limit hold'em from cash games to MTTs and SNGs. His working limit is 500 zoom at PokerStars . Upswing Poker cash game instructor.