Looking at the Hand as a Whole

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Looking at the Hand as a Whole

Post  Scat Damon on Wed Jan 25, 2012 2:45 pm

By: Daniel Skolovy

A mistake too many small-stakes players make is looking at each decision in a hand as a separate entity.

In reality, each and every play you make affects the entire course of the hand.

The problem with taking each decision as it comes is that you don't take into account the potential cause and effect of each play - you just act, and then are surprised when you're left with a tough decision.

Good players understand that each decision affects the final outcome of the hand.

They know that what they do before the flop and on the flop is going to dictate what happens on the turn and river. And they plan ahead for probable outcomes.

Taking each decision as it comes

An example:

$1/$2 six-max game, effective stacks $200. A fishy player under the gun raises to $6 and you call on the button with T♣ T♠. Everyone else folds and you take a flop heads-up of T♥ 4♠ 3♥.

Your opponent bets $8 and you raise to $16. He calls. The turn is the 4♥. He checks, and you check behind to slow play.

The river comes 2♣. He checks. You bet $35. He calls and shows A♥ J♥. Your full house beats his flush and you win a $117 pot.

Because you took each decision as it came, you lost out on a lot of money. If, instead, you had a plan for the hand, you would have played the entire hand differently.

When you flop big, your goal is to win your opponent's stack. So plan for that and make it a possibility.

If you had a plan

$1/$2 six-max game, effective stacks $200. A fishy player under the gun raises to $6 and you call on the button with T♣ T♠.

Everyone else folds and you take a flop heads-up of T♥ 4♠ 3♥. Your opponent bets $8 and you raise to $34. He calls.

The turn is the 4♥. He checks and you bet $65. He calls

The river comes 2♣. He checks and you bet your remaining $95. He calls and shows A♥ J♥.

You still win, but this time because you thought about the entire hand and had a plan to build the pot, you win his entire stack instead of just a small portion.

A few changes in strategy and you win almost four times as much.

One more set of examples:

Taking each decision as it comes

$1/$2 six-max game, effective stacks $500. It's folded to an aggressive regular on the button who raises to $7. You feel you're better than his raising range so you three-bet to $30 with the J♥ J♣. He calls.

The flop comes T♥ 5♠ 6♣. You c-bet $40 and he calls. The turn comes 4♣.You bet $90 and he calls.

The river comes 2♥. You bet $140 and he shoves for $310.

You're now in a miserable spot and talk yourself into calling. He tables 7♥ 8♥ and wins the $1,000 pot with a straight.

You didn't think about the hand as whole. You just took each decision as it came and you ended up getting into a tough spot and losing a ton of money.

If you had a plan

$1/$2 six-max game, effective stacks $500. It's folded to an aggressive regular on the button who raises to $7.
The dollars
Plan your hand and profit.

You realize that one pair plays poorly deep and you will either win a small pot or lose a big one. So you elect to just call and play pot control with the J♥ J♣.

The flop comes T♥ 5♠ 6♣. You check. He fires $10 and for the same reasons you called pre-flop you just call again on the flop.

The turn comes 4♣. You check and he bets $22. You once again just call. The river comes 2♥. You check. He bets $55.

You know he's capable of value-betting worse, and three-barreling air to try and get you to fold a hand like 8-8, so you call.

He tables 7♥ 8♥ and still wins with his straight. But this time you lose just $95 rather than $500 (or even $300 if you fold the river in the other example).

You looked at the entire hand as a whole and had a plan.

You didn't needlessly build a giant pot because you know one pair doesn't play well deep - and that your opponent could put you in an extremely difficult spot in a big pot.

You ended up losing, but you lost the absolute minimum because you weren't just mindlessly making a decision every time the action was on you.

Re-cap

Each time the action is on you, look at the hand as a whole and realize the possible ramifications of each potential decision.

Each decision changes the course of rest of the hand, and if you don't realize the ramifications of each possibility, you're going to be left in difficult spots on the later streets.

Know your goal for the hand and plan your play around that goal. It's a little more work, but the potential effects on your win rate will be very real.
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Scat Damon
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