Offense Wins Championships

Somewhere on planet Earth two boxers of equal size, strength and skill square up in the center of the ring. At the same instant on the other side of the globe, two teenage chess prodigies stare each other down before their championship match. In between, there are two powerful business women with the exact same product battling to control the market. Who will win?

This question forces us to think in a very narrow way. When all things are even, we will not have enough information to assign an added competitive advantage to either side. When we don’t have enough information, we tend to focus on emotion and feelings, rather than the cold hard facts. For example, the best way to predict who will win the the boxing match is not the one with the dreamy eyes. The winner of the chess match will not be the competitor with the nicest clothes. Lastly, the winner of the market is not the one with the shiniest jewelry. The cold, hard truth is that flipping a coin or randomly guessing will be just as successful as any other method when comparing apples to apples in a 50/50, single event.

Zoom out for a minute. When we are able to view these scenarios as groups of events instead of single events, more information becomes available to us. We should change our question from, “who will win?” to “who will win more with infinite attempts?” For example, maybe we learn that while both of the boxers are 28 years old, one is 8 months younger, which gives him a slight edge in the long run, but is meaningless in one fight. On the contrary, maybe the 8 months extra experience gives the other boxer the advantage. In the chess world, one player may make a point to stay extra hydrated while the other player stays somewhat hydrated before matches. Again, two factors that will not likely show in one match, but most certainly will in the long run. What if one business woman is slightly more focused on keeping her employees happy while the other overlooks it? This small item may put her at a disadvantage in the long run.

In Poker, we must look at everything in terms of groups of events because a single event or play is insignificant in the long run. Yes, we may be at a final table for millions and make a single play that is significant, but from a strictly poker perspective taking all rewards out of the equation, one hand is meaningless.

Whether it’s boxing, chess, business or Poker, relentless aggression should win in the long run. The one who strikes first and continues to strike will have the edge. Remember that we are talking about groups of events so if two boxers of equal skill fight 10 times, then the aggressive one should win at least 6. If they fought 100,000 times then the aggressive fighter should win at least 50,001.

Today’s example sheds light on the benefits of being aggressive on a Flop that looks to have no potential. One of the advantages to making continuation bets on bad Flops is that your hand can significantly improve later and your opponents will not expect you to have what you have. Follow along as we break down how sticking to The Poker Model’s strategy even in a bad situation can lead to big rewards.

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I’m one seat to the left of Under The Gun (UTG+1) with about 37 big blinds holding 7h-8h and the action is on the player to my right. The blinds and antes are $50/$250/$500. If the player from Under The Gun raises, then I will fold 7h-8h. In order to “call behind” from this position, I’d need A10-AQ, K-J+ or 22-QQ. With A-K, K-K or A-A, I’d 3-bet in hopes of getting all-in.

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The player from Under The Gun folds and I make a min-raise to $1000. While I would not call a raise with 7h-8h in my position, it does qualify as a hand I would raise with when the action folds to me. This is because it is a suited connector greater than 4-5, all players in front of me have folded (in this case just Under The Gun has folded) and I have over 25 big blinds in my stack. This raise gives us control of the hand and forces other players to make 3-bets to take control away from us. There is only one player at the table with a short stack (moneyhunting); if he moves all-in, then we will fold. We’d need A-Q+ or 1010+ to make this call. If any other players 3-bet, then we will fold and wait for a better spot.

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The player in the Cutoff position calls, this means that he will get to act behind me if we make it to the Flop. The action will be on me, and then him after I bet or check. The texture of the Flop will determine our actions, not our position, but it’s generally better to have his position over mine because he’ll get to view my action before making any decisions. There are still three other players in the hand that can 3-bet, call or fold. As mentioned above, we will fold to a 3-bet and get to see the Flop if they call.

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The image above may make it hard to see, but the player on the Big Blind made the call making this a three-way Pot. The Flop is Jc-3s-6d giving me nothing on the Flop. We’ll need to wait and see if OverTheTop bets or checks before the action is on us. Although I don’t have anything, I’m still planning on a continuation bet if it checks to me because it’s likely that my opponents don’t have anything either. I have enough chips and may get two folds and a win.

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The Big Blind checks to me and I make a half pot continuation bet, leaving me with 31 big blinds if I get action. My plan is to pump the brakes and fold if one of my opponents call or raise. At this point, pairs, draws and better will call or raise. All other hands will Fold to my continuation bet unless it’s a bluff attempt.

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Both players call! I’m fairly confident that someone has something. 9h comes on the Turn and the action is on the Big Blind. My first thought is that the Pot has become fairly large ($9,125). This is significant because a “small” bet (less than ⅓ of the Pot) can now be $3,000, which is 6 big blinds. My 31 big blind stack can go away fast if I call a medium to large bet which will be more like 12-15 big blinds. Also significant is that I have an open-ended straight draw. This means that a 5 or a 10 will give me a straight. There are no flush draws on the board so my straight will most likely be good if I hit it. My goal here is to see the River as cheaply as possible.

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The Big Blind checks and I check as well. I’m thinking that I will call a small bet from nots to see if I hit my straight. If he makes a medium to large bet I will fold because it will put me below 20 big blinds. While this is a very big pot, I’ll hit my straight less than 20% of the time and I don’t need to put myself close to the 20 big blind mark based on those odds.

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The player behind me checks and the 10d comes on the River. Bingo! Not only did I not have to put any money in to get to the RIver, I also hit the unlikely 10 that gives me a straight. We would not be in this position without making the standard continuation bet on the Flop. You will see later that the bet helps us determine what our opponents have as well. I expect my opponent to check to me where I’ll make a value bet about about $6000, leaving myself with 20 big blinds in the off chance that one of my opponents has a higher straight.

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The player from the Big Blind goes all-in for $10,149, which is a larger than Pot-sized bet (Huge bet!). My first thought is that he has K-Q, or Q-9, giving him a higher straight than me. In this situation, it’s wise to walk through what happened on the hand to get a clearer idea of what’s going on, players will do anything with any two cards. I raised, got called from the Cutoff, got called from the Big Blind. Players in the Big Blind tend to call with any two cards, so I expect the Big Blind’s hand to be a worse starting hand than the Cutoff.

I made a continuation bet on the Flop and received two calls. So my question now becomes, what did the Big Blind call with on the Flop? Although it’s possible that he is bad enough to call with absolutely nothing on the Flop i.e. K-Q or Q-9 on a J-3-6 Flop, it really doesn’t make sense. So I eliminated those two hands from his range, meaning I’d have the best hand. The same logic can apply for the player from the Cutoff.

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I make the call, the player in the Cutoff folds and my opponent flips over J-6, making Two Pair. I win a Pot of $29,423 with my Rivered straight. The player from the Big Blind decided to slow play Top Two Pair on the Flop instead of raising. The Poker Model would recommend a raise as described in our article, “Bet When You Have It.” More importantly, we were aggressive in this hand and stuck to our basic code by firing a standard continuation bet on an empty Flop, only to cheaply see a River and strike gold against a slow-playing opponent.

We continue to stress that Poker is about following the plan; today we see yet another example. If we had just check/folded on this Flop, then the hidden reward would never have come to fruition. Remember to be relentlessly aggressive with your tactics, but also calm and patient with your calculations. The championship win is only a group of events away.

Brett

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