Free Poker Strategy Articles

A collection of poker posts written by poker players for poker players

Understanding 3-Bet Ranges

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As poker matures and aggression increases, it’s very important that you are understanding 3-bet ranges correctly. Today’s players are using advanced 3 bets more often and applying lots of preflop pressure, so it’s imperative that we can handle their 3bets profitably. In this article we are going to discuss how to assess a 3-bet range to help choose the best line when facing a 3bet.

Whenever we do anything in poker we want to first consider our opponent’s range. Now, some 3bet ranges are very easy to estimate and others are much more difficult. For instance, take a 12/8 nit with a 3bet of 1.2%. This person is obviously 3betting a much stronger range of hands than a 23/20 LAG with a 3bet of 8.3%.

But what does their 3bet % actually tell us about the hands they are 3betting?

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To understand that we need to understand polarization and some very simple range math. First, what is polarization?

Polarized: A range made up of nuts or bluff hands

Depolarized: A range with nuts and stronger hands

So a polarized range may include hands like QQ/KK/AA/AK and maybe a 54s/A7o/J8s. A depolarized range may include hands like QQ/KK/AA/AK and also JJ/TT/AQ/AJs. Notice the polarized range includes super strong hands and weaker hands, while the depolarized range includes super strong hands and some other strong-side hands as well.

Polarized versus Depolarized

Now let’s take this concept and compare it to range math. So when we look at our hud and see that a player is 3betting 2.5% of the time, what does that mean? What does a 2.5% 3bet range look like? The tough part is that we will never 100% know. And as that 3bet % increases, it becomes even more difficult to asses the entire range correctly. But we can understand some basic poker ranges to get us started.

First, what are the logical strong-side ranges and what % of hands are they? Well KK/AA (KK+) is .9% of hands. So if a player is 3betting 1% of hands or less, chances are it is incredibly nutted. Another logical strong-side range is QQ+/AK, which is 2.6% of hands. If a player is 3betting TT+/AQ+ that is 4.7% of hands.

QQ or better

So let’s say we face a 3bet and our opponent has a 3.5% 3bet. We think they will 3bet QQ+/AK as the strong-side of their range, which we know is 2.6% of hands. So this means 74% (2.6/3.5) of their 3bet range is very strong, and we can simply estimate how we would perform against the entire 3.5% range. Or say a player resteals (3bets our steal) 12% of the time and that they would 3bet TT+/AQ+ for value. That means that only 39% of their resteal range is strong. But what is the other 61% of their range here? Is it hands like AXs or 44? Hands like K7o or Q9s? We can’t be 100% sure, but at least having an idea of the strong-side density of their 3bet range gives us a starting point.

qq plus2

Now we can bring this back to the polarization concept we talked about earlier. Say we think a player is 3betting 6% of hands in this spot and that they would 3bet TT+/AQ+ each time. Well that means 78% (4.7/6) of their 3bet range is TT+/AQ+, but what is the other 1.3%? If they 3bet a depolarized range it probably includes hands like AJ/KQ/99/JTs sometimes. Whereas a player who 3bets polarized would probably use some weaker stuff (A4s, 22, 86o, etc.) the other 22% of the time. This may not seem important, but it can influence our outright equity against their range and also the postflop playability if we decide to call the 3bet.

Pie Chart of Range

It should go without saying that you will rarely ever know a player’s exact 3bet range.  But if you can visualize their range like a pie chart, it helps you understand the density of strong vs weak hands in their range. If you need a more in depth explanation or a visual example, check out this video.

in it I take you step by step, showing the powerful framework for building your opponents range in a precise and structured manner. Learn how the range forks, how different hands fall into different buckets, and how to narrow their call vs 3bet range. Once you’re able to apply this knowledge, your postflop play will become a million times easier while also helping you find extra bluff 3bets preflop.

And you should also remember that good players 3bet dynamically.  Meaning they will 3bet a different range from the CO against an EP open than they would 3bet from the blinds against a BUT open.  Good players will also 3bet you differently than they 3bet fish or an unknown player, so while a reg may have an overall 5% 3bet, they may 3bet this exact situation differently.

This article was meant to be a starting point so you can start understanding what normal ranges look like, how to visualize strong v weak densities, and how polarized v depolarized ranges look and change things.  Do some work on your own to think about how this can be useful (hint, think about 4betting!) and you’ll be well on your way to hand reading better in 3bet pots!


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Thin Value vs. Fat Value 101

How To Value Bet In Poker (With Examples!)

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There are three main types of betting in poker: value betting, bluffing, and betting for protection. While bluffing is important and protection is a bi-product of understanding equity – knowing how to value bet in poker is an essential part of improving your winrate whether you play ABC poker or another style. In this guide, I want to discuss what a value bet is, why it’s so important, and some useful ways to improve your value betting strategy.

First, what is a value bet?

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Combo Blocker At Poker Table

Blockers In Poker: How They Work In 2021

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The concept of blockers in poker has been around for a while but, until recently, it’s one that has been far more stressed in Omaha games. Lately, however, we’re seeing the concept applied more in Texas Hold’em as well. While the value of blockers may not be as high in Hold’em as it is in Omaha, they’re still well worth considering as a part of a greater overall gameplan.

Poker Board & Blocker
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Simple Poker Bluff Math

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The honest truth is that poker bluffs are simple with a small amount of math. But in saying that, I also realize that many players are scared of poker math.  It can look overwhelming at first, but with some basic knowledge it becomes very easy to do.  And with a just little bit of extra practice, you can memorize a few things and correctly estimate the value of certain bluff plays at the table.  

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LAG Poker Strategy

Playing LAG: Loose Aggressive Poker

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One of the bigger things I get when I coach students is the consideration of playing a LAG poker style. There are major differences between TAG and LAG players, but the common misconceptions and adjusts against a LAG style are what make it the most profitable style in today’s games.

LAG Poker Style

What Is A LAG?

LAG is short for “Loose Aggressive” and is a playstyle that is more aggressive, and with more hands, than a TAG (Tight Aggressive). Even though players think that loose = bad, a good LAG focuses on finding spots where each extra hand added into their range is +EV given the mistakes their opponents will make.

Good vs. Bad LAGs

A LAG plays more hands, and more aggressively than just about every other player – and because of this, they must be solid on more levels. It is important to emphasize this…because a LAG style is NOT for everyone. If you do not have your fundamentals down, if you do not understand most spots you get into, if you cannot quickly deduce a +EV line – then LAG is not for you at the moment.

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7 Best Poker Audiobook

The Best Poker Audiobooks (Updated 2021)

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Over the years I’ve transitioned a lot of my reading time from traditional books over to audiobooks. The audio format makes digesting information easier, quicker, and gives a deeper learning experience. If you are looking for more high-quality advanced poker guides but can’t stand reading – poker audiobooks are a GREAT option that I suggest you check out.

The following will be a rundown of what I think are the best, most comprehensive audiobooks for poker. I will try to show what can be expected from each book and help you decide if it’s the right book for you. An audiobook breaking down the basic rules of poker won’t be of much use to a seasoned tournament player…

Here’s my list of the 7 best poker audiobooks that I think go above and beyond to teach you different aspects of the game. Pick up the ones that are right for you and enjoy! Continue reading

Poker Combos & Blockers 101

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One of the most important intermediate skills a player can have is the ability use combos and blockers at the poker table. These technical skills require nothing more than a little counting (if you can handle 4+12, you’ll be fine!), but they can help you find so many extra bluffs and thinner value bets in every session you play.

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Hands To Play UTG In Live Poker

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You are playing in a live $1/$2 poker game. You are first to act UTG and look down at your hand. Do you know which hands you’ll play from UTG? Which hands will you fold? Will you open-limp at all?

Let’s discuss crafting an UTG range that makes you profit, while figuring out when to play tighter AND looser – including the key variables that most players overlook. Continue reading

mathematical approach to poker

Why A Poker Math Approach Is Best

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Poker is a game of math. The math can range from simple things like figuring out the size of the pot to very complex things like calculating the EV of multi-street plays. But poker is also a social/psychological game where tells, psychology, and dynamics come into play (especially in live & casino poker). Players that approach the game solely through the social lens are just as much missing a crucial element as players that solely approach the game mathematically. Like most things, balance is required to be a well-rounded player who can thrive at any table.

While most math-based players understand the value in the social side of the game (albeit, usually not giving it the credence it deserves – myself included years ago), social-focused players tend to ignore much of math side of the game. This is normally due to the fear that the math will be too complex, too cumbersome, and maybe even too nerdy.

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Nitty Poker Is Bad

Being A Nit Is Making You A Bad Poker Player

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Nit: A poker player who uses an extremely tight strategy, who plays very few hands, and who aims to only get involved in big pots with monster hands.

At some point in your poker journey, you will hear the phrase “tight is right”. A nit takes this phrase to an extreme, utilizing a strategy that is about tight as you can get without folding literally every hand. Most players hate nits because they do nothing but fill a seat that could otherwise be filled by a fish. But in the event you are a nit, I’m going to try to persuade to you stop this behavior today.

I run ThePokerBank’s YouTube channel (over 80K subs & 10M+ views), and as you can imagine, the comments on these free poker videos range from really solid players to results-oriented players to fish to ultra-nits. A while back I got into a quick back-n-forth with a player who said we should fold an overpair + flush draw getting 4:1 against our opponent’s all-in. He then went on to make the comment that:

No reads, fold all day in 1/2 or 2/5. Nothing wrong being a nit.

Now, many of my students have been nits. I used to be quite nitty myself. Heck, you can even find some old videos of mine where I offer very nitty advice. But in today’s games, a nitty style just doesn’t cut it. So here are 4 very simple reasons why there IS something wrong with being a nit…

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