David “MissOracle” Yan has won a fat chunk of change in poker.
Today, we are here to help you replicate some of his success by bringing you five quick tips from the man himself. These were taken from a Play & Explain series in which he demonstrated his skill in a 100NL ($0.50/$1) 6-max Zoom game.
These tips range from fairly basic to quite advanced. Let’s get to it!
Tip #1: Preflop ranges should heavily dictate your postflop actions
All postflop strategies are strongly founded on the ranges you start with preflop.
In this Play & Explain series, David Yan played a hand in which he was dealt K♣ Q♥ in the big blind. Facing a raise from a Hijack, he elected to call.
Seems pretty standard, but what’s notable is that the original raise was sized to 4 times the big blind, a much bigger amount than what you would see normally (2-2.5 times the blind is standard).
David points out that versus a raise this big, even calling with KQ-offsuit is a somewhat close decision.
The flop is dealt J♠ 5♣ 2♣. That’s a decent flop for David’s hand, as he has two overcards, multiple backdoor draws and a little showdown value with king-high. Despite those possibilities, David check-folds facing a 62.5% continuation bet.
Here’s what he had to say about it:
In theory, you are probably supposed to do a mix of things — occasionally call and occasionally raise. But I think folding works best [in this specific spot]. The opponent raised 4x preflop. So, the ranges will be a bit tighter for both of us.
This is a key consideration
Normally, you should be very inclined to float versus a single bet with K♣ Q♥ on J♠ 5♣ 2♣. However, the preflop sizing in this hand changes things drastically.
Because David would defend tighter preflop versus a 4 big blind raise, he gets to the flop with a much narrower range (and so does his opponent). As a result, KQ-offsuit is now among his weakest hands.
This shows how important it is to not slip into “auto-pilot mode” in poker. Always consider how any little deviations from the “standard play” change both your range and opponent’s range. These deviations will often impact the optimal plays for the rest of the hand.
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Tip #2: When it doubt, randomize!
Doug Polk’s favorite phrase “you can either raise, fold, or call” is practically a meme at this point. But this seemingly obvious statement is often times exactly right.
In some spots, every available option is equally viable (or close to it). Sometimes, it is because the spot is truly that close between multiple decisions. Other times, it’s beneficial for your hand to be in both your raising and calling ranges (see: Upswing’s guide to mixed strategies).
But even if all options are viable, you still have have to pick one, right? That’s where randomization comes into play.
In one hand, David Yan calls a raise with K♥ J♠ from the big blind. The flop action checks through and David puts out a bet (75% pot) on the turn, which his opponent calls.
The river completes the board of J♥ 4♠ 6♦ 2♣ 3♥, and David puts out a value bet with his top pair ($5.70 into an $11 pot). His opponent quickly raises very small.
This is an awful, awful spot. On one hand, it seems very unlikely that the villain is bluffing. On the other hand, David needs to be right a laughably small portion of the time (25%) for this call to be profitable.
It’s just one of those situations where none of the options feel right.
By having some sort of a randomizing process, you can liftthe burden of having to pick exactly one of these options over the other. Whether it is mixing hands into your ranges or picking your decision in a seemingly 50/50 spot, there is no need to lose your head over these things.
“If you’re in doubt, you can always randomize,” says David.
Read our guide to mixed strategies here to learn how this works in practice.
Tip #3: Be more balanced vs stronger players and less balanced vs weaker players
Having a solid theoretical foundation is paramount in poker, but knowing how to deviate from that foundation based on your opponents’ exploitable tendencies is arguably just as important. Exploitative adjustments can do magic to your win-rate, if you implement them well.
In the video, David defends the big blind holding Q8-offsuit facing a 2 big blind (bb) open from the cutoff — a standard call versus the min-raise.
The flop comes Q♠ T♠ 8♣ and David check-raises from 2bb to 8bb. He notes that:
Against stronger players, you are sometimes supposed to just call your two-pair hands, or even straights, so that your range is not capped when you check-call.
But he goes on to explain that against weaker players, who are less likely to exploit capped ranges and are generally more fold-averse, you can use a simple strategy of always aiming to build the pot with your big hands. Thus, check-raising is not only fine, but quite preferred.
These type of adjustments can be made preflop too.
On another table right after the Q8 hand, David gets AJ-offsuit in the big blind. He faces a raise from the small blind, who is a weak player.
Versus competent opponents, David explains, this hand is a mix between calling and raising (mainly for board coverage). But versus a weaker player, he would almost always 3-bet to build the pot (and deny equity) with what is likely the best hand.
Tip #4: Avoid over-bluffing on the river by selecting your bluffs properly
It’s pretty damn easy to reach the river in Texas Hold’em with no hand whatsoever. But you can’t bluff every time that happens because it would result in over-bluffing, which will be a costly mistake in the long-run.
For example, in one hand David opens the Lojack with K♥ J♥ and whiffs completely on a board 5♣ 3♣ 2♦ Q♥ A♥. Both him and his opponent – a caller from the Cutoff – check it down to the river.
Now David has to decide whether or not to bluff.
Although he only has K-high, his hand is actually the best nothing-hand he can have. There are simply way too many weaker nothings in his range to bluff with all of them. KJ actually has a small chance to win at showdown on this board, so he chooses to check this hand and bluff with others (JT, for example, would be a reasonable bluff).
He utilizes the same principle just a moment later. After opening from the Hijack with A♥ J♥ and getting called by the Big Blind, David c-bets the K♥ Q♣ Q♠ flop and then checks back on both 9♥ turn and 5♠ river.
“I can still beat Ace-Ten or chop with Ace-Jack, and I have lower hands [in my range] to bet with,” he concludes.
Tip #5: If you don’t have enough “natural bluffs” in your range, you need to get creative
Editor’s note: A natural bluff is a very intuitive bluffing hand, usually a draw/missed draw. For example, JT is a natural bluff on every street of a KQ375 board.
Sometimes you will encounter spots in which building a bluffing range will take some serious thinking.
When there are no draws on the board or in your range, you need to start looking for some less “natural” bluff candidates.
In one hand, David gets dealt 6♠ 6♦ in the Lojack position. He raises, the big blind calls, and the flop comes Q♣ J♣ T♣.
- Most of the two-pairs
- A whole lot of pair+draw combos.
David decides to leverage his powerful range by betting 33% of the pot with his entire range, including his actual hand of pocket sixes.
After his opponent calls, the turn brings a 4♣. Now, the vast majority of David’s range is two pair or better.
David is obviously going to want to value bet with his strong flushes on this turn. This begs the question: what hands should he bluff with?
Feel free to pause for a moment and think
Here is how David answered that question:
Maybe a hand like K8-suited, which you might not even open preflop. Or some Ax-suited hands, but it’s not like Ax is a great natural bluff either. I mean, if you hit your king on the river, [your hand won’t even be strong enough to bet for value].
So, this seems like a spot in which he has to bet with some no-equity, “unnatural” bluffs to balance out his value range. David decides to do so with some of his pocket under-pairs with no club, including this one, and he bets 66% of the pot. His opponent folds and he takes it down.
So, to recap, remember that David “MissOracle” Yan would like you to:
- Understand what ranges are you and your opponents bringing to the flop
- Randomize your decisions when in doubt
- Be more balanced against stronger players and less balanced against weaker players
- Avoid over-bluffing the river by hand selecting properly
- Find other bluffs when there are not enough draws to bluff with
That’s it for today.
If you want to keep learning for free, check out Upswing Poker’s extensive library of strategy articles.
Good luck at the tables this week.
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