If you want to win as much as possible in live cash games, read on.
Nick Petrangelo is an elite poker pro known for his $24 million in tournament earnings. He’s also a cash game crusher who started playing $1/$2 (at Turning Stone Casino) and worked his way to beating the highest stakes tables in the world.
This video + article series was created by Nick to help you boost your bottom line in the live cash games you play. Starting with part 1 today, a new part will come out every Friday, all leading up to the release of Nick’s new Smash Live Cash course, which features poker vlogger Brad Owen.
Nick is kicking off the series by analyzing a hand in which Doug Polk goes for a $39,200 bluff against “Ginge Poker” at $100/$200 on the The Lodge Live poker stream.
While walking us through this hand, Nick emphasizes the importance of adjusting our strategy to live opponents that aren’t playing ‘perfect GTO’ poker.
Making these adjustments can sometimes lead to us making some pretty counterintuitive plays like we’ll see from Doug in this hand.
Note: Nick Petrangelo and Brad Owen’s brand new Smash Live Cash course just came out! If you want to destroy live cash games, don’t miss out on this course. Learn more now!
Doug Polk’s Big Bluff at the Lodge
Location: The Lodge Card Club in Austin, Texas
Stakes: $100/200/$400 (straddle)
Stacks: Doug ($159k), Ginge ($62k)
Doug opens from the Lojack to $1,000 with A♠ T♠. Ginge 3-bets to $4,000 from the straddle with A♣ K♣. Doug calls.
Nick explains that there are two major points of analysis when it comes to studying preflop: bet sizing and range.
With Ace-Ten suited, Doug has a standard open from the Lojack.
Faced with the open, Ginge has a clear 3-bet with Ace-King suited. Nick would, however, like to see Ginge use a larger sizing (5x rather than 4x) because of the deep stack depth. The 3-bet range should contain an optimal balance of:
- Premium hands
- Suited Aces
- Suited broadway hands
- Some suited connectors
- Good pocket pairs
Versus the 3-bet, Doug has a pretty clear call. But as he calls, Doug should be making some key considerations about Ginge’s range going forward in the hand. Nick summed it up by saying (paraphrased):
Nearly all players, but especially live players, will typically make the mistake of not 3-betting enough of the weaker parts of their range, including the suited connectors and some of the gapped broadway combos.
A few missing combos of 87s, AJo, JTs, etc. might not seem that important, but this can exponentially narrow our opponent’s range in a lot of spots like this postflop.
Keeping in mind these considerations about Ginge’s range, let’s take a flop.
Flop: J♠ 7♠ 7♦ ($8,300)
Ginge Poker bets $2,700. Doug calls.
Nick would rather see Ginge use a big bet or check strategy on this flop. He explains that a lot of players like to default to the high frequency 33% pot bet, but this is a spot in which that sizing just doesn’t make as much money.
Nick adds that a big bet or check strategy is especially good in this spot if Ginge does have a tighter 3-bet range because he has fewer weak holdings diluting his range.
Once again, Doug has an easy call. The in-position player shouldn’t have many raises in this spot at all, even against the small bet. The nut flush draw is a clear-as-day smooth call, never raising.
Turn: J♥ ($13,700)
Ginge checks. Doug bets $6,500. Ginge check-raises $16,000. Doug calls.
This hand starts to get pretty cool after Ginge check-raises on this double paired board. According to Nick, this check-raise is amazing for several reasons:
Not only does Ginge unblock the drawing combos with A♣ K♣, but he also blocks a lot of the suited J♣ X♣ combinations Doug could potentially have here (like A♣ J♣ and K♣ J♣).
AK of clubs also blocks A♣ 7♣, so it’s pretty clear this is one of the best check-raise bluff hands for Ginge. A very sharp play.
Meanwhile, Doug should, again, be thinking back to what he thinks Ginge’s preflop range looks like. Slight shifts in the number of drawing combos Ginge can have to check-raise bluff with here should greatly impact Doug’s strategy going forward.
Doug will still have no choice but to continue with the nut flush draw. But if Doug felt Ginge was especially tight, Nick notes that he might have been better off checking back the turn.
River: Q♦ ($45,700)
Ginge checks. Doug goes all-in for $39,200 (effective). Ginge folds.
This is a tough card for both players. Ginge may realize at this point that Doug’s range is really hurting for Jx combos (Doug now can’t have Q♦ J♦).
With this in mind, Ginge could bet here and put Doug to the test, or check. Both options are pretty reasonable with AK of clubs.
After Ginge checks, Nick explains that Doug should be going through his range to try to determine his potential bluff and value combos.
At first glance, Doug’s A♠ T♠ would seems like one of the worst possible bluffing candidates. This hand blocks a ton of missed draws and Ace-high hands that make up the bottom of Ginge’s overall range in this spot. And when bluffing, you generally don’t want to block the worst hands your opponent can have.
However, it’s important to note that Doug might not have that many other bluffing candidates given how aggressive of a line he’s taken in this hand. He’s not reaching this point in the hand with 9♠ 8♠, for example, very often.
On top of that, Doug might be thinking that Ginge doesn’t have nearly enough Jx in his range to defend properly against a bet. This allows Doug to exploitatively over-bluff in this spot, which all goes back to Ginge’s (perhaps) tight 3-betting range.
Putting it all together, Nick thinks Doug is making a very clever play here: he’s shifting his bluffing frequencies and targeting folds from the stronger parts of Ginge’s range that Ginge is likely going to over-fold.
Analyzing Doug’s River Bluff in a Solver
If we plug this hand into a solver, we will quickly notice that Doug’s combo selection here with A♠ T♠ is seemingly terrible. In fact, it’s the absolute worst combo to bluff with according to the solver.
However, according to Nick, the solver, in this case, may not tell an accurate story of what is actually going on.
As we touched on throughout our analysis, every one of Doug’s decisions in this hand needed to take into account that Ginge isn’t playing ‘perfect GTO’ poker.
Understanding this, Nick explains that all that we have to do is create a solver sim that takes out a slight fraction of Ginge’s weaker 3-bet holdings preflop, and we can see that Doug’s bluff goes from being ‘terrible’ to actually making money.
This hand helps illustrate that, when it comes to live cash games, the old adage of ‘playing the man, not the cards’ really is true.
And this is what the Smash Live Cash course is all about – helping players develop strong fundamentals and then showing them how to adjust their strategy to live opponents.
Doug’s play in this hand may not be in line with the solver, but Nick thinks it’s probably more profitable in practice. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments below or tweet @UpswingPoker.
Ready for part 2 of Nick’s article/video series? Check out: Doug Polk Does The Thing He Said To Never Do (Analysis)