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Profitability Generators

April 2, 2016

 

I’ve coached over 100 poker students since I founded this training site in 2014. Many of them are weekend warriors that love to play 1-2NL. Some of them are semi-pros that grind 2/5NL after work. A handful of them are hardcore pros looking for an edge in the local 5/10NL game.

 

They come to me hoping that I’ll reveal otherworldly secrets to them — concepts too powerful to be shared with the general population. The truth is that many of the advanced concepts they want to learn about are completely unnecessary and inapplicable in real-life situations. I firmly believe that simple is better and less is more. 

 

All the information you need to win is freely available on the internet. It’s just a Google search away. The challenge is sifting through all that information to find a few gems. That’s where I come in. I’ve spent a thousand hours evaluating every heuristic and now I’m going to share a few secrets with you. To quote the overused and often misinterpreted words of Aristotle…

 

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

 

So what do you repeatedly do? Think of high frequency actions performed at the table. Every hand you’re dealt, you have to determine if you should fold pre-flop or continue with the hand. It’s the most important decision you can make. In other words…

 

Pre-flop play is the foundation of post-flop profitability.

 

All struggling poker players have the same thing in common. They’ve gotten so caught up in advanced concepts that they’ve forgotten what they’re trying to accomplish. When objectives are abandoned, downswings are imminent. The good news is that all of this can be avoided if you consistently ask yourself this simple question…

 

How am I going to make money post-flop?

 

There are a few things that you should always consider before putting chips in the pot pre-flop. They are fundamental principles — things that are always true. Together they will generate almost 100% of the profits that you make lifetime.

 

Card edge is the most important. Having an equity advantage and/or a playability advantage versus your opponent’s range is what it’s all about. That goes hand in hand with initiative. Being the last pre-flop aggressor uncaps your range, allowing you to represent hands that your opponent cannot have, thus improving your ability to generate fold equity. 

 

Position is also important but it doesn’t have much value without initiative. A strong range with initiative can easily overcome a positional advantage. The same goes for skill edge. It doesn’t matter how good you are post-flop. There are many insurmountably bad pre-flop situations where skill edge could never be enough to bail you out. Skill edge is merely something that adds value to card edge, initiative, and position. 

 

If you approach pre-flop play from this perspective, you will immediately realize that there are a few things you should never do. Obviously, limping is terrible. But do you know why? Flatting weak broadway hands versus tight opening ranges is also really bad. So is flatting small pocket pairs versus loose opening ranges. Allow me to explain. 

 

We all know limping is unprofitable. Every poker coach tells you not to do it. But they don’t offer much of an explanation. At most, they say you want to put pressure on the big blind. But that can’t be the only issue. Really all you have to do is ask yourself a few questions. 

  • Do you have a card edge? If you do you should’ve raised for value.

  • Do you have initiative? Never. You forfeited it by limping.

  • Do you have position? Very rarely. You’re always exposed to an isolation raise.

  • Do you have a skill edge? Even if you do you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Flatting weak broadway hands versus tight opening ranges is just as bad. How often do you see Old Man Coffee open UTG with a tight range of hands like 99+/AQ+ and get flatted by a hand like KTo? This is one of the easiest ways to light money on fire.

  • Do you have a card edge? Never. You’re at an equity & playability disadvantage.

  • Do you have initiative? Never. You forfeited it by flatting.

  • Do you have position? Irrelevant. Position is useless without initiative.

  • Do you have a skill edge? Even if you do you’re fighting an uphill battle.

Lastly, flatting small pocket pairs versus loose opening ranges is a leak that nobody cares to patch. How often do you see a wannabe Viktor Blom open 50% of hands from late position and get flatted by pocket 22’s from the button, or even worse, the small blind? This is a very slow, miserable death. Again…

  • Do you have a card edge? Never. You’re at an equity & playability disadvantage.

  • Do you have initiative? Never. You forfeited it by flatting.

  • Do you have position? Irrelevant. Position is useless without initiative.

  • Do you have a skill edge? Even if you do you’re fighting an uphill battle.

You have identical problems in a completely different situation. The bottom line is that you’re only going to flop a set or better 12% of the time. The times you flop a set you’re unlikely to get paid because your opponent’s range is inherently weak. The other 88% of the time you have to deal with over cards against an aggressive opponent. Is this really a situation you want to get involved in? 

 

These are just the three biggest leaks I see. Card edge, initiative, position, and skill edge apply to every pre-flop situation. Simply taking five seconds to evaluate these profitability generators will immediately improve your pre-flop play. As you practice this, you’ll start to notice a few recurring patterns. 

  • Card edge = green light.

  • Initiative, position, and skill edge = green light (within reason).

  • Initiative + position = yellow light

  • Initiative + skill edge = yellow light

  • Position + skill edge = yellow light

  • No edges = red light unless you’re getting really good pot-odds.

The only time you have incentive to ignore the four profitability generators is if you’re getting really good pot-odds. The min-raise has become standard online. Obviously, you don’t need much equity to continue when you’re getting 3.5:1. It can be even more extreme in tournaments with antes. Ultimately, you can call with a much wider range of hands pre-flop, check-fold the flop at a higher frequency, and still be profitable because of the extreme pot-odds you were offered pre-flop. But I digress…

 

This discussion is far outside the scope of this blog post. The good news is that even a basic understanding of these principles is more than enough to give you an edge over average competition, especially in a live cash game setting. The rest of my training program specializes in maximizing the value of green light situations, refining yellow light situations, and learning to avoid red light situations as much as possible. 

 

That wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed this discussion. If you're interested in customized one-on-one coaching, just send me an email here. As always, make sure you run good, have fun, and constantly look for ways to improve!

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