danmer at the table

4 Key Lessons from an Elite Pro’s First Coaching Session

Feel like improving your poker strategy?

You’re about to learn 4 lessons from a live mid-high stakes cash game session that online beast and Upswing Lab coach, Daniel Merrilees aka DANMERR, recorded on WSOP.com.

Let’s jump in!

1. Always check the site/casino’s rake structure

Whenever you want to start playing on a new site or in a new casino, make sure to check their rake structure.

You will find that some of them have a ridiculously high rake which makes it extremely hard to make a profit. You may also find that some have more exotic rake structures like time collection or a percentage of winnings.

All of these rake structures should have different impacts on your preflop and postflop strategy. For example, in a time collection structure (where you pay a set amount every hour) you can play slightly looser preflop because rake is not taken out of the pot, which improves your pot odds.

If you want to learn how to adjust your strategy in different rake structures, check out this article.

2. Bet small and frequently on paired flops after 3-betting in position

Now, let’s dive into a hand from Dan’s session.

At $2.50/$5 on WSOP.com, the player in the hijack raises to $12. Dan picks up 9♣ 8♣ in the cutoff and elects to 3-bet to $34. Only the hijack calls.

The flop comes T♣ 2♣ 2 and the hijack checks. Dan opts for a small c-bet of $20 (around 27% of the pot). His reasoning is:

We will go for a smaller c-bet on the paired flop. The T-2-2 is a pretty good flop for us. He [can’t] really have much of anything there we have a big range advantage.

In other words, after 3-betting, you should c-bet at a very high frequency for a small size when you have a big range and nut advantage on these types of boards (paired and dry).

I did a simulation using pretty common preflop ranges for this scenario and the result confirms his advice:

In the screenshot above you can see that PioSolver suggests c-betting with around 70% of your range on this flop. Dan’s specific hand, 9♣ 8♣, is bet at a very high frequency of 86.7% I would round this up to 100% in practice.

To learn more about sizing your bets based on ranges and situational factors, read How to Choose Between Small vs Big Bet Sizes.

3. Open-raise to a smaller size when you think your opponents play too tight

During the session, Dan’s standard raise size was the minimum (2 big blinds). The correct adjustment to counter Dan’s small size is to play way looser against it, but Dan figured his opponents would play too tight. This is reasonable considering the general tightness of the poker playing population.

Keep in mind that this adjustment is only geared towards online players. Most live games play too loose in general, so you should opt for a larger raise size (3 big blind or more) in live games.

Adjusting Your Raise Size

You should always pay attention to the players at your table and adjust your raise size accordingly. You should reduce your raise size when:

  • You have tight players on your table
  • There are aggressive 3-bettors behind you*
  • The player in the big blind is particularly tight

*You should raise smaller in the presence of aggressive 3-bettors because you get to lose less when you are forced to fold to a 3-bet.

Conversely, you should increase your raise size when you have loose players on your table, tight 3-bettors behind you, or when the big blind is particularly loose.

4. Trust your reads

Dan played a couple of very big pots in which his initial instinct was to (correctly) fold his hand. However, in several cases he opted to make “curiosity” calls, all of which were fine calls from a theoretically perspective.

(Side note: I think it’s likely that he would have made these folds if he wasn’t recording a Play & Explain.)

One hand stands out in particular:

$10/$20 on WSOP.com. $2,000 stacks.

Dan is dealt T T♣ in the small blind
Button raises to $45. Dan 3-bets to $230. Only button calls.

Flop J 6 3♣
Dan bets $120. Button calls.

Turn 2
Dan bets $240. Button calls.

River K
Dan checks. Button bets $1,300 all-in. Dan calls.

Button wins with A♠ Q

Dan tanked for a while versus the shove on the river, exclaiming “this is a very very brutal spot.” Despite listing a number of hands that beat him and saying “I just don’t think these players are bluffing enough,” he decided to make the call.

Granted, this and Dan’s other calls were profitable in theory, but Dan could have exploited his opponents with some big folds if he trusted his reads. To quote tournament pro Alex Foxen:

In poker, folding is a weapon.

It is generally a good idea to trust your instinct, which is actually what your subconscious mind calculates based on all the hands that you’ve ever played and that you’ve seen play out. Of course, your instinct is subject to bias, which is why you should always evaluate your instinct-based plays post-session to make sure you aren’t making any big mistakes.

This approach will be beneficial to your mental game, which will positively influence your future decisions. By trusting your instinct, you will no longer have to deal with the internal conflict of “I knew I should’ve done X” that will consume your mental energy during future hands.

Just keep it simple and follow your gut!

Final Thoughts

Poker is awesome because there is always something new to learn or to understand in a deeper manner. Getting a glimpse into how a professional high stakes poker player thinks and plays in real-time is invaluable.

Dan’s session was an hour long and is available in the Upswing Lab’s private library, along with 195 other Play & Explain videos from coaches like Doug Polk, Fried “mynameiskarl” Meulders, Parker “tonkaaaap” Talbot, and more. There are basically countless tactics and strategies in these videos waiting to be discovered!

For further reading, check out “$1,000 Cash Game Insights from a High Stakes Veteran“.

Join the Upswing Lab now to access every training video from every coach. We’ve been adding new videos and resources every week for the past 3.5 years, and you get ALL OF IT when you join. Learn more here!
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That’s a wrap on this article. If you have any questions or feedback, I’ll be glad to answer them!

Until next time, good luck, grinders!


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About the Author
Dan B.

Dan B.

Online grinder aspiring to reach the highest stakes and crush the toughest games. I'm available for quick strategy questions and hourly coaching -- reach out to me at [email protected].

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