Posts Tagged ‘poker stove’

Mailbag: Using Poker Stove

Thinking Poker MailbagQ: How would you recommend using Poker Stove to get better? Especially since I can only play live these days.

A: Your caveat at the end there threw a wrench in my plans for building a post around what I think is an innovative idea for the popular no-limit hold ’em odds calculator. You see, I often recommend Poker Stove to my students as a hand reading aid. While playing online, you can make real-time use of the feature that graphically displays a hand range.

Start with the entire grid of possible starting hands highlighted. When you get involved in a pot, de-select all of the hand combinations that you believe your opponent would have folded pre-flop based on the action and his position. Continue to de-select combinations each time he takes an action.

This is what you should be doing in your head constantly. For many people, having something visible to manipulate is a good starting place. In particular, this exercise prevents you from re-introducing hands into your opponent’s range that you’ve previously ruled out. I often have students tell me on the flop that they think an opponent would have bet his flush draws but then they are afraid to value bet when the third flush card comes on the river. Their minds have a fear response on that river that blinds them to the hand-reading work that they’ve already done.


Visualizing An Opponent’s Range

A lot of you probably get these “pro tip” e-mails from Full Tilt from time to time. I’ve glanced at a few and they were always very rudimentary and sometimes wrong. The title of this one caught my eye, though, and while it’s not a very sophisticated concept, it’s well-executed:

Andy Bloch on “Visualizing an Opponent’s Range”

This is essentially what I’m visualizing as I play a hand: a little bubble floating over my opponent’s head that contains an ever-narrowing range of hands. In fact, I think may borrow this technique for a video or two of my own.


Real Time Equity

Equity calculators like Poker Stove and Pro Poker Tools are great tools for analyzing your play away from the table and after the fact. However, their usefulness is limited if you don’t understand where these numbers come from and what factors influence them. For example, why is your equity versus an overpair so much better with top pair top kicker than with a pocket pair? Why does a big draw lose so much equity on a blank turn?

An equity calculator can tell you how should have played a hand, but if you don’t know how to analyze and learn from it, then it won’t necessarily help you with real-time decision-making at the table or with difficult decisions you may face in the future.

This month, I’m going to discuss a hand sent to me by a student of mine. I found it to be an interesting situation in a multi-way pot where analyzing the ranges of various players and how each of them affects Hero’s equity suggests a better line than what may be the “obvious” play. As you follow along with my analysis, notice that although I use an equity calculator to prove certain points, I always provide logic for my reasoning in a way that can be considered in real-time at the table. The point is that I’m not just armchair quarterbacking here: this is the kind of thinking about equities and ranges that you can and should conduct at the table.


Real-Time Equity Estimation

I’ve been writing a lot lately about the importance of understanding how much equity your hand has against your opponent’s range, and a lot of people have quite reasonably asked how to figure that out at the table, when Poker Stove is unavailable or impractical. Thus, my January article for 2+2 Magazine is an example of how to use rough estimates to make real-time decisions and in particular how to recognize the factors that cause your equity to be what it is in a given spot. Here’s an excerpt:

“Interestingly, if Villain has a one-pair hand, he barely affects our equity at all. If we assume that the big blind has 87, then letting the middle position player stay in the pot with 65 costs us only about 3.5% equity. This is because unless Villain’s kicker dominates one of Hero’s pair outs (i.e., unless Villain has something like T7 or A6 that kills one of our outs), then he will rarely affect the outcome of the hand. Either Hero draws out to a hand that beats both of his opponents, or he does not improve, in which case he would have lost to the big blind whether or not the third player was in the pot.”

By all means, please let me know what you think of it!