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How to Destroy Your Opponent After Seeing One Showdown (Part 2)

Sometimes it takes just one showdown for a great poker player to change their game plan and start crushing opponents.

If you want to maximize your win-rate, you need to be able to identify and exploit the leaks in your opponents’ games. One of the best ways to do this is by paying attention to how they played their hands that went to showdown.

Occasionally, a player will showdown a hand that reveals huge holes in their strategy. This article will go over two such example hands, including the adjustments you could make to boost your win-rate on the very next hand.

Note: This is a continuation of one of the first and most popular articles I wrote for Upswing Poker, How to Destroy Your Opponent After Seeing One Showdown. If you haven’t read that one yet, I recommend checking it out because it includes four more great examples of leak-revealing showdowns.

Hand #1: Donk Life

If you play low stakes, especially live, you’ve undoubtedly played against your fair share of players who donk-bet. These players will donk into the preflop raiser somewhat frequently while also mixing in random check-raises and bets.

The Lowdown on Donk-Betting

A donk-bet is a somewhat unorthodox bet made by an out of position player who was not the aggressor in the previous street. “Eric defended his big blind preflop, then donk-bet into the preflop raiser on the flop.” 

Donk-betting is a mistake in the vast majority of flop situations because the preflop aggressor often has a range advantage on the flop.

Range advantage basically means that his range has more than 50% equity against your range. If you bet into that range, you will run into better hands too often while simultaneously weakening your checking range. When you weaken your checking range, you enable the in position player to run you over (in theory).

For these reasons, donking on the flop is something that you should probably never do. Even if you implement a donking strategy perfectly, the increase to your win-rate will be quite insignificant. Donking on the turn and river, on the other hand, can be a reasonable play.

Let’s dive into an example.

Online $0.25/$0.50. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $50.

Hero is on the button with K 9
3 folds. Hero raises to $1.25. SB folds. BB calls.

Flop ($2.75): 9♠ 5 4♠
BB bets $1.50. Hero calls.

Turn ($5.75): J
BB bets $4.50. Hero calls.

River ($14.75): K♠
BB bets $11. Hero calls.

BB shows A♣ 7. Hero wins the $36.75 pot.

What do we learn from this showdown?

This was a really ambitious play from our opponent. He probably didn’t take his hand into consideration at all, because bluffing with A♣ 7 on this board does not make much sense. Consider:

  • He didn’t have straight draw.
  • He didn’t have or a flush draw or backdoor flush draw.
  • A♣ 7didn’t have a blocker to the flush (on the river).

From my experience, these types of donk-bet-happy players don’t have any rhyme or reason for making these triple barrels. They seem to base their decisions on how they feel at that moment in time. This causes them to bluff with too many random airball hands.

It would have been a lot more reasonable for him to make this play with a hand like 7 6, or even A♠ 7, because those hands interact with the board. But him showing up with A♣ 7 really tells us a lot about this player.

Now, let’s talk about how we can leverage this information.

How can we exploit this player next time?

Against a player like this, you will need to strap on your big boy pants and call him down almost every time. Making big hero calls can be uncomfortable at first, but it’s the way to beat a player like this.

The one exception is on the river with super low pairs when a ton of draws complete. For example, 4♠ 4♣ on J93♣ 87♣. Calling on the flop and turn in this scenario would be fine, but the river is just too scary to call down, especially considering that he might turn something like 75 or A8 into a bluff. A hand like K9 on that board, however, is probably still worth a call.

Note: Want to know exactly which hands you should play in every common preflop situation? Get instant access to extensive preflop charts and lessons (for cash games and tournaments) when you join the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!

Hand #2: Going Crazy Versus Check Backs

When a player checks back instead of c-betting, it oftentimes indicates that he has a medium-to-weak hand. In fact, most players make the mistake of checking with disproportionately more weak hands than they should, and thus open themselves up to being exploited. 

Because of this dynamic, some players go absolutely crazy when their opponents check back. They fire bluffs on the turn and river regardless of their hand because they think their opponent simply won’t call down often enough.

It’s time for the exploiter to become the exploited with another example:

Online $0.25/$0.50. 6-Handed. Effective Stacks $50.

Hero is in the CO with J♠ T♠
3 folds. Hero raises to $1.25. SB folds. BB (regular) calls.

Flop ($2.75): K♠ J♣ 7
BB checks. Hero checks.

Turn ($2.75): 6
BB bets $2. Hero calls.

River ($6.75): T
BB bets $5. Hero calls.

BB shows Q5, Hero wins the $16.75 pot.

What do we learn from this showdown?

The player in the big blind bluffed on the turn with a hand that had very little equity to improve (just 3 outs to hit middle pair). This is something which, in theory, you shouldn’t do in this situation.

Assuming this player is a regular, he likely thought that you would over-fold versus aggression after checking back.

How can we exploit this player next time?

The best way to exploit him would be to check back with a lot of medium-strength hands that can call down versus his aggression.

On the K-J-7 example, this would involve checking back with hands like K5s, QQ, AJ, 88-TT and 7x with plans to call with all of them on the turn. Should you face another bet on the river, you should call all of them (barring a very bad card) because he will have significantly more bluffs than he should.

Final Thoughts

These examples show why focus is very important in poker. You don’t want to miss any showdowns and you don’t want to always play a “standard” strategy. Always have your thinking cap on and look out for ways to exploit your opponents!

To learn more about exploiting players, read one of these articles:

Til’ next time, good luck, grinders!

Note: Ready to join 5,000+ players currently upgrading their No Limit Hold’em skills? Crush your competition with the expert strategies you will learn inside the Upswing Lab training course. Learn more now!


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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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