From Amateur to a Pro - The Spread
Friday, 10 June 2011
Lee Davy continues his poker education with Bluefire’s Alan Jackson.
This is the second article based on the coaching that I have received from Alan Jackson. Jackson is a highly respectable coach who works on the Bluefirepoker coaching team spearheaded by none other than Phil Galfond.
Before I met Alan Jackson I had played 130,000 hands of 6-max NLHE cash games, mainly on Full Tilt Poker. I had a VPIP of 26.4% (the percentage of times I voluntarily put money into a pot pre-flop) and a PFR of 19.6% (the percentage of time I raise pre-flop), giving me a 6.8% spread (the difference between the VPIP and PFR). My cold calling range from all positions was 13%.
The first task that Alan set about accomplishing when he agreed to take be under his wing was to review my database of hands. Out of this review he set me a certain number of rules. The reasoning behind the rules was to bring my game back under control.
The rule that this article focuses on is my spread. The Jackson golden rule for my spread was it should not exceed 4%. This meant tightening up my opening ranges and reducing my cold calling range.
Pre Alan Jackson Coaching
Here is a brief explanation of my 13% cold-calling range in those first 130,000 hands.
I had a very small sample size of hands where I would cold call with monsters in order to induce a move from my opponents.
Again, a very small sample size of hands, but I used to cold call with these hands in late position or in the blinds.
It wouldn’t matter what position I was in, who raised or from what position they raised from. When I looked at a suited ace I just saw Kara Scott in a bikini and just couldn’t get away from it.
Well, they just look so damn pretty don’t they? Again, irrespective of position or players’ tendencies, I would cold call with suited broadway hands.
I was defending against the small blind quite liberally. My defending range was extremely wide and the decisions were not based on any situational or player-dependant read.
Getting min-raised is the equivalent of having someone scratch a blackboard with Freddy Kruger’s glove. I don’t know why it fills my head with so much hatred and anger but it does.
Playing Against The Fish
I picked up this habit actually watching coaching videos. I would watch the players at the top of the game cold call in position against inferior opponents whilst holding trash and I would try to follow suit.
I would call with all pocket pairs 2-2 to J-J in and out of position.
I would call in and out of position with suited connectors.
Post Alan Jackson Training
After understanding the theory of domination and making necessary adjustments to my ranges, I started to show up on the river with the winning hand more often than my opponent.
After 68,179 hands, my VPIP had dropped to 21.8% and my PFR had dropped to 17.2%. This gave me a new spread of 4.6%. I was still 0.6% outside of my parameters but Jackson let this slide because I was winning. My cold calling percentage had dropped to 10%. So what had altered?
I actually increased the number of times that I cold called with premium hands. Jackson made me see that my three-betting range versus an UTG & UTG+1 opener was too transparent because it contained hardly any bluffs. I felt that the most profitable adjustment to make would be to start cold calling with my premium hands and cut out three-betting unless the player was a non-observant maniac.
I also started cold calling with premium hands against any opponent who had a very high fold to three-bet percentage and also if the players behind me had a high squeeze percentage.
My position is vital when deciding whether or not to cold call with these types of hands. There are times I will fold both hands in position versus a player with a tight opening range UTG & UTG+1 but times when I will call versus a player with a much wider range.
I tend to ditch both hands if the raise is from early position and I am in the blinds. If the raise comes from late position then I will often call because I believe I am more likely to dominate my opponent’s weaker aces that make up a wide part of their range.
I have completely revamped the way that I incorporate suited aces into my game. Instead of being an automatic cold call, they are now actually hands that I use as part of my three-bet bluff range. There are exceptions to this rule but this is dependent on three criteria: players who like to check-fold on the flop, players who like to bet and then fold to a raise on the flop and players who bet the flop and check-fold the turn. These are players that I will still cold call with suited aces in position.
My cold-calling range in position is now entirely dependent on either the quality of the player or the range of the player. If I know they play very standard post-flop or open with a wide range, then I can call. But, in general, I will ditch these hands because of the possibility of being dominated. When I am out of position, I will fold to most early position raises but will call late position raisers. Some of the times my hand will dominate the range of the late position raise, but it is also a good opportunity to check-raise bluff when you hit a flop with two overs and a gutshot or two overs and a flush draw. It is the introduction of the semi-bluffing range that makes playing these hands out of position profitable and brings a nice sensible balance to your check-raising range.
I cold call with all pocket pairs 2-2 to J-J. If the raise has come from early position then I will cold call with all of my premium hands. Technically, I do not have a bluffing range from this position versus an early position open.
Late position openers I will cold call with A-T to A-Q, dependent on player type. I think I am going to dominate a large percentage of the aces in my opponent’s range if I stick to these hands. Similarly, I can cold call with the suited Broadway cards and K-Qo.
I have tried to reduce my tendency to defend the big blind against small blind opens as liberally as I had been. This is particularly true when I have weak aces – again, this is because of the domination issues.
This is an area of my game that probably needs more work. My definition of more work is to go through your Hold Em Manager hands, filter all instances where you called a min-raise and see how profitable your calls are. There is a belief that you always have the correct odds to call a min-raise, but check out the data for yourself.
Playing Against The Fish
I still cold call against people I believe are not that good post flop, but I tend to raise more now. My actions and hand selection are a lot more controlled than they used to be. I will never raise or call without a hand with some post flop equity, for example. Before I met Jackson I would cold call with any trash.
The way to win the money against the fish is to turn up at the river with a hand that dominates their hand. This is why your range is so important, even against the fish.
I have made a few adjustments to my game in this area. I will generally call with 2-2 to J-J in position with the following exceptions: if the cut-off has raised; or if I am on the button and the blinds are “squeeze happy”, then I will turn 2-2 to 6-6 into a three-bet semi-bluff, instead of cold calling. The other change I have made is to not cold call with 2-2 to 5-5 out of position because these hands are not profitable for me.
I just completely eradicated these from my game. I went through my HEM database and saw I was not winning any money calling with these hands so I dropped them. As I improve as a player I am slowly incorporating some cold calling in position against very ABC opponents.
This series is also a video series that can be found at www.bluefirepoker.com. You can follow my own personal story on my blog at www.leedavy.co.uk. If you are interested in receiving coaching from Alan Jackson, visit www.AJacksonPoker.com.