This is a multi-part article in which Egor, creator of the hottest poker bot on the web, explains what it takes to derive an income from playing online poker.
In our last installment, we established a hierarchy of game types for Fred – our perfect online poker player – to play in. Now that we have this list of priorities (along with an active database of poker player stats), it is simply a matter of looking for the games with the highest expectation. However we also need to arm Fred with a solid foundation of fundamental poker strategy, and that is what we will do now.
There is a secret to successful online poker play. It is this: Don’t lose your stack when holding only one pair, but play against opponents who are willing to lose their stack when holding only one pair. Did you get that? I just told you how to make a living playing online poker cash games. This secret is real, and it really is that powerful. Most players do not follow this principle, and it is exactly that which allows us to make money at this game.
OK, time for an example. You are in a loose cash game with a bunch of donks and are dealt AA preflop. You have about 120 BB’s in your stack after raising preflop and picking up a caller. The flop comes Q74 rainbow and the first donk bets 6 BB’s, about the size of the pot, into you. You raise to 17 BB’s, and your opponent goes all-in for 93 BB’s (which covers your stack).
Most people who consider themselves to be good players will insta-call that situation. However calling is 100% wrong. It violates the prime directive – which is, once again, never lose your stack when holding only one pair. You need two-pair, a set, or a combination flush-draw and straight draw to make that all-in call. You want to be the guy with the set there, not the guy with AA. The difference is the difference between being a winning and losing player. Just muck one-pair hands for large all-in raises, period.
Which leads us to Fred’s basic poker strategy. He is a set-miner. Yes, he raises with a wide range of hands from late position preflop when everybody folds just as any good player does. Yes, he folds trouble hands like AJ and KQ preflop to aggressive opponent raises (barring the occasional big blind defense). Yes, he raises preflop with premium hands and then bets the flop no matter what hits. Those are all fundamental plays that every good player takes his turn in making.
However in NL Holdem the big money changes hands when there are large raises and reraises post-flop. All that other stuff is just part of the dance. It’s the large-bet decisions that actually determine your long-term results. Those are the ones you want to get right. When all the money goes in the middle make darn sure you have a big hand – not just a good hand. Do this one thing right and I like your chances. Do it wrong and get everything else right, and you still can’t win. This is why so many “good players” are still losing money!
To be a set-miner means you want to see a lot of flops when holding any pocket pair. The determining factor on whether or not you call a preflop raise is how deep the stacks are in comparison to the preflop raise amount, not just the preflop raise amount. You can call large preflop raises with 22 if both you and your opponent have huge stacks. It’s all about implied odds. You want your opponent to have AA or KK, or to have AK and flop top pair. You have the advantage because if you don’t flop a set you are gone. Their situation is much more precarious.
That is how to play cash games anyway. Tournaments are a different animal and Fred will need to approach them with a different strategy. That is exactly what we will discuss next time.