When learning a new skill, you have to start from a baseline of 0% knowledge. We see it when a child learns to ride a bike, going from scrapes and bruises to cruising around the neighborhood. We see it in martial arts, learning how to throw punches and grapple, gaining endurance and technique and eventually mastering the sport through years of hard work and effort. Poker is no different. Maybe you are fairly advanced in poker and already play for a living, or maybe you’ve just started and are going to have some questions when I start talking about “3-betting” and “Equity Realization.” Wherever you are in your journey, there has never been a better time than now to learn poker, and there has never been a better time than now to start working on your game! With that being said, let’s dive into some study and look at three reasons as to why you may be struggling with poker.

1. Getting Too Attached To Your Hand

One of the worst problems players have when starting out is they simply cannot let a hand go. How many times have you had a terrible feeling when facing a bet from your opponent on the river, but just said something like “I gotta see it” and flicked in a call? Or maybe your problem is not being able to fold big hands preflop when your opponent is clearly very strong. Whatever it is, you are probably not thinking through things as clearly as possible when making big decisions with really good holdings. This could be because you aren’t considering your hand’s relative strength in connection to board texture and the actions your opponent has taken. Lets look at a few quick examples.

Frustration

a.) You are playing $1/$2 at your local casino, and you are the effective stack with $300. Your opponent is an elderly gentleman who hasn’t played a hand in the last hour. He is Under the

Gun (UTG) and raises to $10. You look down at J♦ J♣ in the Hijack and 3bet to $35. It folds back to your opponent who puts in a massive 4bet to $150. Should you fold, call or raise all in?

Ok, so this one is pretty easy. Even if our opponent was very splashy it would still be a dicey situation with pocket jacks, but given the opponent we are up against we have to look at our relative hand strength. How strong is pocket jacks relatively when facing a UTG 4-bet range from an “Old Man Coffee?” It is pretty clear that he has an incredibly strong hand, and even though JJ is a very strong hand as well, his range should be very tight here, probably QQ+ only. we should definitely find a fold in this situation.

b.) You are playing $2/$5 at the casino, and you are the effective stack with $1000. You look down at 9♦ 9♥ in Middle Position and raise to $20.
The Button and Big Blind make the call.
The Flop is 9♣ 2♦ 8♣ ($62)

Big Blind checks, you c-bet $40 and both players call.
The Turn is the T♣. ($182)
Big Blind checks, you decide to check and Button bets $120. Big Blind calls and you call The River is the Q♦. ($442)
Big Blind leads for $200.

Should you call, fold or raise all in?

In this hand you have a great starting hand, so you raise and get two callers. The flop is great for you as you flop top set, however the turn and river make the board very connected, with any Jack making a straight along with a flush being made possible on the turn. So just looking at the possibilities on the board, our set isn’t looking so great anymore. Then we have to consider the way the betting went down. You are up against not one, but two opponents who have made it to the river. Not only that, but the Big Blind has bet the river into two players after you bet the flop and the Button bet the turn! Especially at $2/$5, there is hardly any chance that the Big Blind is bluffing here. Both you and the Button have shown strength in this hand, and Big Blind is still betting. Your set of nines has little to no relative value, given the way this situation played out. You have to fold your set.

In both of these examples you had a very strong hand (JJ preflop in example a, top set in example b) and in both examples a fold is the correct decision. We were able to get away because we were able to identify that our hand’s relative strength in the hand was not nearly as

strong as it was preflop. The next time you sit down to play and are faced with a tough decision, try to start really breaking down the action in your head. Think about table dynamics, the way that the betting took place, and what possible hands you are beating, as well as what hands are beating you. A great way to solidify this habit is by taking notes on hands during play, to review later. You should make it a goal to write down at least one hand from every session you play to breakdown later. You may find that your relative hand strength was a lot different from what you thought in the moment, and maybe you could have gotten away from that “bad beat” you experienced!

2) Flatting Too Many Hands In Early Position and Middle Position

One of the biggest traps players fall into when they start playing poker is they “just want to see a flop.” Now I get it, everyone loves flopping sets with low pairs, and stacking people when their 56s flops a straight. However, more often than not you are probably leaking money long term when playing these vulnerable hands in early and middle position. There is a reason that when we look at Game Theory Optimal (GTO) ranges (available at raiseyouredge.com) we will see a lot of small pairs and suited connectors simply need to be folded a lot more than you may think. Let’s look at a couple examples.

a.) You are playing $1/$2 and have $300 effective in your stack. UTG raises to $10 and you are next to act with 5♥ 5♦. Should you call, fold or raise?

If you studied the Raise Your Edge ranges, you should have a quick answer for this, but many new players get sucked into the trap of playing small pocket pairs too often! It feels great when you flop a set, but that will only happen roughly 1 in 8 times. The other 7 times, you are often stuck in early position with a marginal pair and will almost certainly get bet out of the pot pretty fast. You also have to take into consideration that players behind you may decide to 3bet you, forcing you to simply fold your small pair out of position.

This is what the RYE Range Viewer looks like:

b.) You are playing $2/$5 and have $1000 effective in your stack. UTG raises to $10 and you are next to act with 8♠ 9♠. Should you call, fold or raise?

Another temping hand, but I’m sorry- you have to fold here too! If you were in later position you could potentially call or 3bet this hand, but you are compromised heavily by being in early position here. Typically, you want to play suited connectors in late positions like the Cutoff and the Button, where you can see what your opponents do first before barrelling away at draws. In early and middle position there are too many bad things that can happen (like getting 3bet by a player who hasn’t acted yet) that you should just be folding and waiting for better spots.

These are just a couple examples of a common leak that a lot of unstudied players have when just beginning to learn the game. If you want to start working on your preflop game there are hundreds of ranges available at raiseyouredge.com that will tell you exactly what hands you should be playing preflop, from every position and in almost every situation you will come across on the felt. You can check the free ranges out by clicking on the link here.

3) Playing Too Scared Deep In Tournaments

Have you ever found that most often when you make a final table you are one of the shortest stacks? Do you run up a big stack early, but always seem to let it slip through your fingers near the end? If so, you may have the incredibly common problem of playing too scared, or too tight when deep in tournaments. So often you will see a player’s stack dwindling down to nothing at a final table, just waiting for a big hand when in reality they should be going all in a LOT more than they are actually doing. Let’s break down a hand as an example, and then I’ll show you a great tool to use to start learning how to play when short stacked in a tournament.

a.) You are in the Big Blind with K♥ T♣ and you have 20,000 chips (10 big blinds) effective in your stack. The Small Blind has you covered with almost 100,000 chips, and goes all in. Should you call or fold?

This is a situation that I’ve seen time and time again. Players will start folding way too many hands in the big blind when their opponent shoves on them. KTo is a SLAM DUNK call in this spot, since your opponent can shove about 70% of their hands from the Small Blind. When your opponents are shoving this wide, you have to defend your Big Blind by calling around 50% of your range. When you start to learn and understand basic short stack shoving ranges, and how much you should be calling or folding, you’ll see yourself start to become a lot more aggressive in tournaments, and you’ll have a lot more chips in your stack when the payjumps are biggest at the final table.

If you want to start learning and improving your short stack tournament game, make sure you check out ICMizer 3. This is a program that pretty much every serious tournament player has used and studied, and is simply one of the easiest ways to learn how to play tournaments. You can input your own hands quickly into the program, and it will tell you exactly how you should have played according to GTO principles. You can also use the SNG Coach included with the program to quiz yourself on thousands of common tournament spots to help you begin putting the theory into practice. If you want to start learning with ICMizer 3, you can use promo code “RYESPECIAL” to get 20% off your order! You can also try the program for free and run up to one hand analysis per day, so make sure to check it out by clicking here.

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