I decided to do a small series of posts (depending on interest if any) that kind of highlights the “modern” fundamental approach to No-Limit poker (emphasis on online cash game, particularly HU and overlaps with 6max). In the first post we talk about the obvious first thing in poker — preflop fundamentals and some aspects of preflop metagame.
Much of the material is graded non-rocket science and is kind of an assimilation of ideas from various coaching programs, skype group strat discussions, nuggets of invaluable advise from some of the beasts of the online poker world with a little bit of personal experience of playing way too many hands etc.
In general the absolute basic strategy is we should be opening 100% of our buttons to start with. If we are 3xing, in a HU match we put in 2.5bbs to win 1.5bbs, so mathematically if villain is folding 60% of the time (2.5/4) we show profit and thus the natural progression that opening any 2 cards in position is profitable (till villain adjusts).
Till even last year for HU 3x was the standard opening bet size, but now in most reg vs reg matches 2x is the unspoken standard. Reason for this is kind of two fold:
1. There is a perspective that 3x opens are exploitable by heavy 3betting early on in a match.
2. A more math based reasoning is: that less no. of BBs you raise the better the odds villain gets to play, if villain passes up these +EV calls (or 3bets) with a weaker range we benefit, on the other hand opening a larger size villain gets worse odds, and he passing up -EV calls (or 3bets) do not benefit us.
Consider point number-2 above in terms of a full-ring live game, if you are at a tight table it
makes sense to have your opens smaller from the steal positions (hijack, CO, button), but at a looser table you can choose your opening size to be much larger and be on the good side of the math. Consider further a typical 6max cash game, and now you can see that from a purely math perspective why the standard open from the steal positions (CO,button) is 2x, while as you progressively move away from the BTN towards UTG your opens can be as big as pot.
Further consider how (2) above dictates our preflop OOP defense range. If we are playing way too loose the math says we loose money, on the other hand we know that the button is opening 100% to 2x, so to prevent button from printing money simply by opening 100%, we need to widen our BB defense range Usually in a HU match the good regs will defend 60% or more to 2x opens (ppl like sauce who play esp loose OOP will have that number as high as 85%).
The beauty of HU poker stems from the fact that as both the button and the blind reach the post flop stage, their ranges are significantly weaker than that for a 6max or 9 handed game. This in turn leads to the fact that marginal spots now occur much more frequently. And this is where the ability to effectively hand read and identify tendencies (frequencies) become super critical.
[B]2. Preflop Metagame-> Frequenies:[/B]
Note at the very beginning that “metagame” is often misunderstood and therefore mis-applied.
For preflop, it simply means that our preflop strategy is such that it is based entirely on “frequencies”. We exploit the villain by messing with his frequencies forcing him to make more mistakes.
Messing with frequencies preflop is essentially getting a player out of his comfort zone such that with either our relentless pounding of the button while in position or heavy 3betting OOP, we force villain to adapt such that he is now forced to play the part of his range in which his frequencies are not optimal or he is not comfortable playing it.
In essence we make a tight villain play the middle part of his range a large portion of the time, where his frequencies arent optimal, while the loose villain isnt effectively able to play the same middle part of his range and thus has his ranges skewed towards nuts or air.
We often hear about how the best players are those who adapt quickly or are able to change gears or merge ranges effectively. What all this fancy phrases essentially mean is that the best players have frequencies that are optimal across the entire air—to—nut spectrum of a hand range.
3. [B]3 betting
This post having now crossed its official optimal word count quota, so we will leave the aspects of current 3betting trends to another time.
Till next time, Happy Diwali