You raise from the button with QJo. Your opponent calls you from the big blind. You both are 50 BBs deep.
The board comes 9-6-2 rainbow. Your opponent checks to you. There’s 6 big blinds in the middle.
What do you do?
Do you bet?
If you bet, how much do you bet?
In this situation, what do you honestly do? What have you done the last fifty times you played in this spot? Did you say you bet half-pot here normally?
“Because that’s my normal continuation bet size,” is not an answer.
That’s the same as me asking why you do something, and you answering, “because I do it that way.”
To be a profitable poker player, you must challenge your belief systems.
You likely said to yourself, “I bet half-pot there to fold out Ace-highs and King-highs that miss the board.”
Great. Does he fold ace high to a half-pot sized bet?
“I don’t know anything about this player,” you might have answered to that question.
You don’t know anything about 80%+ of the players you play against. Yet, you still must play against them.
What do you think the field does in that spot? Do they fold ace high to a half-pot sized bet?
I can tell you the answer, because I’ve studied billions of poker hands, and their statistical breakdowns:
The field is all over the place versus that half-pot sized bet.
In European online poker, you might get a fold, because that’s considered a big bet there. In American online poker, you’ll get a call a high percentage of the time. But there’s a ton of variability from player to player in both these continents.
Now, let’s back up to the half-pot bet you made. Why did you make that bet?
Most people bet half-pot because that’s what they always do, and it’s a habit.
Habits kill you in No Limit. The game changes constantly, but habits do not.
I had problems for years getting poker players to change their bad habits. No one on Earth has done more private poker lessons than I have, and in those thousands of hours I tried damn near everything to get people to change their play. I showed them field databases. I showed them Flopzilla hand ranges with statistical rundowns. I made them look at the results of surveys. Yet, many people stayed with their habits.
It’s hard to change something we do so often. If I told you to brush your teeth a different way, you’d probably keep forgetting to do it because you’ve brushed your teeth your way so many times. Poker habits are just like that. They’re engraved. However, one day, I found a way to get people to change.
On every decision they saw in my simulations I’d ask my students, “what is the most important thought here?”
Don’t tell me everything you think about a particular hand. That doesn’t do you any good in the field. You have seconds to make your decisions online and live. I need you to think about the most important thing as fast as possible.
When I showed people that 9-6-2 board and said, “what’s the most important thought?” then they would answer:
“I need to fold out high cards. Ace highs especially. If I do that he folds more than 50% of the time, generally. My bet will be profitable.”
“Good,” I’d say, “so what’s going to be your bet size?”
They’d stop. “I don’t normally do this, but I guess I should bet more than half-pot, because people tend to freak out and fold to that bet size a lot with their missed high cards.”
Bingo. We’d found a way to rewire a poker brain.
Every single time you have a poker decision, ask yourself, “what is the most important thought here?”
I guarantee this simple question will change the way you play. You will be in control. You will also be far less fatigued, as you focus on what’s important, as opposed to every thought that goes through your head.
This article has been a preview of Alex’s new strategy series, “How To Think Like A Poker Player.” The 5+ hour series is available for $79.99 for a limited time! That’s 60% off the normal price!