At some point in every poker player’s career it happens. You finally build up the courage and bankroll to take a shot at a bigger game, but the moment it starts going poorly you begin to question every decision.
That’s just what happened to Tanner, a member of the Upswing Lab training course. Luckily he was chosen to get some 1-on-1 coaching from Doug Polk, and the coaching session was recorded so the 3,242 other members could watch.
Doug and Tanner laugh over the hand you’re about to see analyzed.
The intent was to help all members by showing them how Doug analyzes one member’s database, that way other members can use Doug’s method on their own database.
To start the analysis, they filtered Tanner’s database for pots greater 190 BBs. In other words, hands in which one player got stacked.
Tanner was a solid winner at $1/$2 and $2/$5 No Limit, but was down in his small sample of $5/$10. It didn’t take long for Doug to uncover some mistakes that he made.
In this article we’ll run through the first hand Doug analyzes, as well as the #1 mistake players make when taking shots at higher stakes.
Hand Analysis: Pocket Twos Under-the-Gun
The hand starts with our hero opening 2♣ 2♥ UTG to $25 at a 6-max $5/$10 NL table. The action folds to the button who three-bets to $93.41. The blinds fold and our hero calls. Effective stacks are 113 BBs.
Hero’s initial raise is okay depending on the table. According to the Lab's preflop charts, pocket twos are an optional raise from the lojack (which is the same as UTG at a 6-handed table).
The Lojack Raise Range from the Lab (Red = Raise, Pink = Raise or Fold, Blue = Fold)
In general these optional raises are better when a few criteria are met:
- It’s a low rake environment. If the rake is significant it’s just going to eat all the potential profit from these hands.
- Your opponents aren’t three-betting enough. If your opponents are three-betting properly, you’ll be forced to fold too much to raising pocket twos profitable.
- Your opponents are making big postflop mistakes. If you’re opponents play particularly poorly postflop, the expected value of all your hands goes up, allowing you to raise wider.
- The big blind under defends. If the big blind is folding too much, these optional raises will take it down preflop enough to be profitable.
In this hand because our hero is shot taking and doesn’t have enough information on his opponents, he should just fold the twos.
As played, hero should fold to the three-bet. The button used a fairly large size going 3.7x our open raise and hero is at the bottom of his opening range.
When you face a medium or large three-bet preflop, you should fold the bottom of your range.
Also, when our opponents use a larger size, it gives us worse odds to call. This means we have to fold more of our range than against a smaller raise.
These factors make it a clear fold - but luckily we get to learn from our hero’s mistake in this instance.
The Flop: Do We Defend vs a Small Bet?
The flop comes 4♣ T♥ 5♣ and the pot is $201.82. Hero checks to Villain who c-bets $74.97 and hero calls.
Again folding is the best play on this flop against this bet size. In his analysis Doug says “against a 1/4 pot sized bet I might continue but against a 1/3 I think you gotta let it go on the flop”.
When facing small c-bets, we have to continue with a lot of our range. In this spot, though, we’ll have a ton of better hands to call with. For example A4s, A5s, 66-99, T9s+, and suited club hands that we don’t decide to check-raise. Hands like two overs with a backdoor flush-draw such as Q♥ J♥ are also much better calls.
However our hero did call here so let’s see the turn.
The Turn: More Equity, but Now What?
The turn is the 3♠ making the board 4♣ T♥ 5♣ 3♠ and the pot $351.76. Hero checks to villain again who bets $255.88. Hero calls.
Unfortunately for our hero he misplayed again, as he should fold to this bet.
He’s getting 2.37:1 on his call meaning he needs 30% equity to make a call break even (learn how to calculate pot odds here). He will only hit his straight 17% of the time, and if he does hit it there’s no guarantee he gets any action.
He decided to make the call, so let’s see a river.
The River: We Get There, but…
The river is the A♣ making the board 4♣ T♥ 5♣ 3♠ A♣ and giving our hero a straight. Hero goes all in for his remaining $725.24 and is called by villain. Villain shows J♣ 9♣ and hero cries a little.
Even though hero did make his straight, he should check this river. This is because his range at his point is mainly going to consist of Tx hands, and villain can put those hands in a very tough spot on the river. If you lead with all of your strong hands then when you check villain can bluff you relentlessly
You need some slam dunk check-calls, and I think deuces fits the bill nicely.'
Doug then goes into a lengthy analysis on if you should have a leading range at all in this spot, and if so how to split what hands are in it versus what hands are check-calls, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.
Join the Upswing Lab Training Course for access to all of Doug's advice, as well as 245 hours of coaching videos and 259 preflop charts!
Onto the Mistake
While our hero made a string of mistakes in this hand, they are just a symptom of the biggest mistake players make when moving up stakes. There’s a bit of a psychological shift when taking shots where people often think their opponents are trying to pick on them, and therefore they must take a stand! Don’t do this!
You have to realize that you’re still playing against other imperfect humans who are not playing nearly perfect poker. The BIGGEST mistake is deviating from your normal winning strategy just because the stakes are increased.
If you follow proper bankroll management, play your ranges how you normally do, and keep working on your game, you will become a winner at the next stake and beyond!
Note: Want some help on your way to higher stakes? Take your poker skills to the next level when you join the Lab! Learn more now!