The Thin Red Line

The Thin Red Line

Thursday, 14 June 2012

This isn’t a history lesson about the Crimean War or Sean Penn films. It’s all about the Non Showdown Winnings/Losses, often called the “Red Line” on most tracking software. In simple terms, a downward-sloping red line is caused by a player putting money into the pot and folding. For the reverse to happen, you need to make your opponent fold.

Over the past few months we’ve covered various topics that help you improve your red line. Many successful players have a positive red line, thus they make money from non showdowns without it impacting on their showdown win-rate (blue line). However, I will stress is that if you’re a winning player with a negative red line, do not change a winning style for the sake of trying to improve it. The following is designed for players who struggle with non showdowns and are either breakeven or losing players.


An easy way to improve your red line and poker performance in general is to play fewer tables and to focus more on the action and on your opponents’ tendencies. If you multi-table to the extent that you are just a rakeback grinder, you’ll miss easy chances to steal and outplay your opponents. You need to consider whether multiplying your winrate over many tables is more profitable in the long term compared to significantly increasing your winrate per table. Using a Heads Up Display will help with multi-tabling, but nothing beats watching your opponents while you’re not in a hand and even replaying the hand to analyse their game. This is virtually impossible if you’re playing eight tables or more. You need to understand your opponents thought processes and the reasons why they make certain plays. Only when you are fully concentrating can you identify and then exploit these “weaknesses”.

Battle of the blinds

As explained in previous articles, attacking and defending blinds is crucial to maintaining your win-rate. The majority of the time your opponent will fold to a steal and this will have a positive impact on your non showdowns. The more you do it, the more you’ll win.?Additionally, if you have a player who loves to see the flop and then fold to your c-bet the majority of the time, you’ll win even more.

Defending your blinds either by 3-betting or calling should also help improve your results. Whenever you fold your blind the red line will go down. Check your performance when defending your blinds using tracking software like Holdem Manger to see if you are making a profit. If you are making a loss in these areas, which is more than the cost of the blind, then you should examine the reasons why. Rereading the previous articles in this series will help. Please see the page footer for details on how to receive these.

C-betting mindlessly

Your c-bets can be exploited if you employ them too often with no clear plan of what to do next. Pick your spots carefully, aim to use your position to full effect and watch out for opponents who will float you if you have a tendency to fire one bullet and then give up on the pot (the classic “one and done” approach). You should be trying to target these players and not be one yourself.

Look for flops on which you can double-barrel effectively. Extra equity such as backdoor flush draws can be helpful. Turns that help your perceived range and hinder your opponent’s range are ideal for betting.

Be careful not to bluff calling stations who will never fold to a c-bet.?You’ll notice that betting purely for value against these opponents will greatly improve your profitability.

Pay attention when c-betting in a multi-way pot. The more opponents you face, the smaller your fold equity becomes. Think: “Will my opponents believe I’m holding the hand I’m representing? Is it in my perceived range?” and: “Has the board missed my opponent's range?”.

Weak calling

My article on calling described when you should be calling and with which hands, but to avoid your red line taking a bashing, you should not call with speculative hands or weak made hands only to fold to extra pressure on later streets. Consider how aggressive your opponent is and the likelihood of him firing many barrels before you call with marginal hands. If this is a player who seems to c-bet and then give up when faced with a call, then you can call effectively and even float, looking to bluff a lot of turns. Review your play in this area and decide if folding or raising would have been a better option against the more aggressive opponent.

Play aggressively

As mentioned above, you should be playing a wide range of hands pre-flop and playing them aggressively. You should also look to play your draws aggressively post-flop. Remember that playing it this way will give you two ways to win the pot; when your opponent folds or if you hit your draw. Don’t only call with your draws as you will miss them the majority of the time and have to fold.

Value-bet more rivers

Too many times you will check behind on the river only to cry, “Arghhhh! He would have paid me off some more on the river.” As explained in the “Seeking Value” article [Bluff Europe; January 2012], you should be looking to thin value-bet the river more, only worrying about raises when actually faced with one. A lot of the time opponents will probably fold, but this helps the red line so all is fine and dandy.

3-bet pots

3-bet pots can have a big impact on your overall win/loss rate and your non showdowns. It’s recommended that you pay even closer attention to how your opponents act in 3-bet pots, even when you’re not in the hand. It’s usually correct to play these pots aggressively when making the 3-bet and avoid calling too many 3-bets, especially if you have a tendency to miss the flop and fold. The latter just burns money and has a big impact on your red line.

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Tags: strategy, Badbeat Poker