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Mastering 4-Bet Pots with Deliberate Practice (Quiz & New Tool)

We’re mixing things up today with a guest post from one of Upswing Poker’s partners (Simple Poker).

If you use solvers, the five step process section of this article explains how to use a new and very useful study tool. The tool allows you to create your own quizzes based on any solver solution so you can practice any spot over and over again.

If you don’t use solvers, you may want to skip to the short quiz on 4-bet pots at the end of this article. Click here to jump straight to that quiz.

Alright, let’s kick it over to game theory specialist and software designer Alex Sutherland.

Playing out 4-bet pots postflop is something that even veteran players often struggle with. This is mainly due to the fact that it is a skill that is almost impossible to learn just by grinding away at the tables.

The reason for this is simple: 4-bet pots only happen a few times per session. The way our brains are wired to learn relies on us being able to repeatedly apply our strategy and get tangible feedback, which we can then evaluate and use to improve our strategy.

When something happens infrequently, and the feedback on whether our action was correct or not is muddied by the natural variance and uncertainty in poker, it is easy to reach a point where there is simply not enough repetition and measurable feedback in a short enough timespan for us to make any significant progress towards improving our play.

Practice Deliberately (Don’t Practice Tennis Serves in the Wind)

Imagine we are practicing a skill like serving in tennis. We’d go out with a bucket of balls and repeatedly practice aiming for a specific part of the service box.

As we observed the outcome of each serve we might try to add additional spin if the ball is going long or to aim further left or right if we aren’t hitting our target. Over time we’d get more and more consistent at hitting exactly the serve we wanted to.

Now imagine a tennis player was told:

You can only hit 5 serves a day, and gusts of wind will randomly make some of your bad serves go in and some of your good serves miss.

A player could easily go out and serve every day for a year in these conditions and make no progress whatsoever. Trying to master 4-bet pots just by grinding away at the tables is similar.

Whether it be in sports, business, or the arts, many people solve this problem through what is known as deliberate practice.

The basic idea of deliberate practice is that you break a complex activity like poker into a specific set of sub-skills (e.g. c-betting in position in single raised pots or postflop play as out of position in 4-bet pots) and then systematically work on repeatedly mastering a specific sub-skill as a way to incrementally work towards mastering the overall activity.

(For those who are curious I made a video on deliberate practice in poker at the start of the year, you can watch it here.)

As poker players, the challenge we face is that deliberate practice in poker is not easy to do.

We can review our sessions and look over specific hands, or work with solvers to better understand proper ranges in specific situations, but it is not easy to find a direct parallel in poker to going to the tennis court and practicing our serves for 2 hours.

To do that we need to be able to recreate a real world poker situation, make repeated actions in that situation, and get accurate feedback on when we make a good choice and when we make a mistake.

One way people often try to do this is by looking at poker quizzes, such as Dan B.’s c-betting quiz here:

Only 10% of Poker Players Will Ace This C-Betting Quiz

Quizzes like that are a fantastic thought exercise and a great way to learn, but it only lets us deliberately practice our c-betting for 15 minutes just one time. It doesn’t allow us to practice our c-betting for 15 minutes every single day for a year.

To actually enable deliberate practice over time we need a way to automatically generate a new c-betting quiz every day. It would also be helpful to see our results over time and view aggregate data to identify the types of hands or boards where we most commonly make mistakes. If we could do that, we’d be well on our way to being able to master any skill in poker, including postflop play in 4-bet pots.

For the rest of this article I’m going to walk through how to generate your own poker quizzes and practice deliberately with poker software. I’ll end with a quiz that I created, but you’ll also have the tools and know-how to make your own new quizzes on demand.

I’ll list out all the steps that I used to create the quizzes, but I’ll also make the quizzes I create freely available at the bottom so that you can skip all the work that goes into the creation and just use them to improve your skills in 4-bet pots, if that’s your preference.

Editor’s note: Again, this next section is primarily meant for players who work with solvers. If you don’t, you can click here to jump straight to the quiz at the end.

The Five Step Process for Making Your Own Poker Quiz

What you will need:

*This and the other links in this article are affiliate links.

Step 1: Pick a spot to study.

Generally the factors we want to consider are, how EV relevant is the spot in our overall win-rate which is the product of how common the situation is, how much money is at stake in that situation, and how much room for improvement there is in our play. For most players 4-bet pots are uncommon, but are by nature large pots with a lot of money at stake and spots where most players have a lot of room for improvement so that’s what I’ll focus on here.

Step 2: Generate computational solutions using your tool of choice for that situation.

You can use PioSolver or SimplePostflop to generate computational solutions to the spot you’d like to study.

These solutions can be exploitative or GTO depending on what skill you want to master. The starting ranges and bet sizing can be based on population ranges from the games you play or GTO ranges, or ranges from your favorite preflop charts — it’s entirely up to you.

In this case I’m going to use GTO ranges from SimplePreflopHoldem (calculated using mid-stakes rake), for 4-bet pots BTN vs BB at 100bb stacks.

I’ll take those ranges and use SimplePostflop to create postflop solutions on 74 different types of boards so that I have all of those various boards available to practice on.

Step 3: Load those solutions into Simple GTO Trainer.

I’ll make a custom drill and custom game for this situation so that I can practice playing it.

For full disclosure, I collaborate with the Simple Poker team on the development of GTO trainer and also personally use their other tools, so the screenshots show their software, but you could use a combination of Monker Solver (for preflop ranges) and/or PioSolver along with Simple GTO Trainer and get the same results.

Step 4: Practice.

I played a 50 hand session as the in position player and took three of the more interesting hands that came up to include in the written quiz below. As you can see from the summary window of my play (pictured below), my play was a bit more tight/passive than GTO, but my biggest EV mistakes came from bet sizing choices and from river play as the out of position player.

Step 5: Review and analyze.

Look at your results and look for patterns in your mistakes so that you can do better next time. Drill into any specific hands that you are unsure about Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you are an absolute master of this type of situation.

Hero made the right play on the flop, but his decision to bet the turn was a mistake. Checking would have rendered higher EV.


Try Simple GTO Trainer for Free

I’ve taken three of the interesting hands that I came across during my practice session and put them in a quiz below.

I’ve also worked with the Simple GTO Trainer team to make the drills that I created publicly available for free.

Just download Simple GTO Trainer here, install it, create an account, and select the free 4-bet upswing pack as shown below.

4-Bet Pots Quiz

Note: The preflop ranges at play in the quiz below may be different from the ranges you play or the ranges recommended in Upswing courses. When this is the case, answer with how you would play that hand if you were to play it the same way preflop.

How’d You Do?

Let us know in the comments below.

For further reading, check out “What Top Poker Pros Already Know About 4-Betting“.

If you want to make similar quizzes for yourself, be sure to check out the Simple GTO Trainer tool.

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The course will contain a whopping 36 hours of content, along with preflop ranges for every common spot at three different stack depths (50bb, 100bb, and 200bb).

Kanu7 is also creating a free 4-part video series in the run up to the course launch date. The first two videos are already available — click below to watch the first one!

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About the Author
Alex Sutherland

Alex Sutherland

Professional poker player and software designer. Creator of Table Ninja and GTO Range Builder.

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