My 5 High Stakes Exploits: Lessons For Every Player

Sergey  «Jayser1337» 
15 Apr 2024
Holdem Database review
15 Apr 2024

In high-stakes poker, the right exploits are key to gaining an edge. Are you ready to uncover the logic behind them? Hello, Jaser here, and today we'll explore five hands that highlight a few important concepts used in high-stakes games. Whether you're a lower stakes regular or play mid-stakes and above, these insights can level up your play and help you build better exploits.

First up, let's talk about the importance of getting into your opponent's head. Remember, we're playing against humans, not computers.

I've played a lot of hands against the strongest players to say that nobody really plays close to the GTO (Game Theory Optimal) strategy, and each player has their own weak spots. It's your job to find and exploit them by paying attention to every detail. Let's look at two hands played against one of the most creative and aggressive regulars with his own exploitative style that is far from GTO, «Iceman». I've spent a lot of time studying his game off the table, trying to understand the way he thinks. What I've noticed and tried to exploit is his hyper aggression against capped ranges.

The first hand against him was played on a monotone board. We flop a flush. In theory, a solid player prefers to bet like 80% of his flushes. But because our opponent plays very aggressively against perceived weak ranges, my plan here is to do the opposite and check 80% of my flushes and half of my sets on the turn. 

I check again. He bets two-thirds of the pot, and I call. The river is a blank, and here we have two options: we can bet 2x pot or bet three-quarters. We could play our hand both ways. I wasn't worried that the bigger size could stop the Iceman from over-bluffing, given my passive play on the previous streets. I bet, and he jams, turning two pairs into the bluff. It was a fearless play that a solid player would not approve, and tighter players would never make.

In the second hand, Iceman opens on the button. I flat A3 off from the big blind. He checks back on a flop. Turn comes a blank three. With our hand, we want to attack the part of his range that consists of hands with 40 to 60% equity, mostly Ace highs. Plus, we want to protect our weak pairs against the overcard, so we bet one-third of the pot and get a big 6x raise. 

Because of his tendency to raise too thinly for value in position but then not bluff the rivers, plus my hand blocking his potential turn sets, here comes a nice spot for an exploitative bluff on the turn. And the river? Well, unless a board card comes like a jack or a 2x or a flush with three bet, and he calls. River brings no change, so we follow our plan and shove. The pot is ours.

Next, we'll delve into timing tells. The speed of players' decisions can reveal a lot about their hand. In this hand, we'll learn about the timing tell that costed my opponent almost 15K.

A NL10K effective stack is almost 150 big blinds. 

«ZarubaNT» is a solid regular. He opens on a small blind, and I three-bet 95 suited. We both played high stakes on the same poker sites. The action was pretty dead with only two tables running. Usually, Zaruba makes his preflop decisions very fast, but here he takes a while before making the call.

Because we're playing deep, taking an extra time to make a standard automatic preflop decision made me presume that his hand could be indifferent between calling and four-betting or calling and folding.

Flop, I see bet one-third and get check-raised. I call. On the turn, he bets 45%. We have enough equity to continue, so I call. River, he shoves, giving me about 29% . He wraps approximately three sets of sixes, one set of nines, two combos of K9 suited, and let's say two combos of 108 suited, given that some are just called on the flat. So, together, around 8 value combos. 

Now, this made me think: would he really take time preflop with pocket nines, sixes, or K9 suited? I don't think so because these hands would have called much faster. If we compare the 100BB and 150BB preflop ranges, we'll see that his most likely bluffs, like suited broadways and gutshots, are indeed indifferent between four-betting and calling preflop, which increases the number of his potential bluffs.

Given the time with a high conviction, we can significantly decrease his value range down to just a couple of value combos, which makes it a no-brainer call with any bluff catcher. I call, and he shows with Jack suited. Ship it! 

In this hand against the Jerica, I want to underline the importance of having a plan for multiple streets, always considering alternative lines like betting, checking, and not being afraid to experiment and make some non-GTO plays if you have the right reads. After the Jerica calls our preflop raise, the flop comes Ace King 4 with a flush draw. With a nut advantage and not many medium hands that need protection, we go with a polarized strategy and see bet close to a pot. He makes the call. 

The turn comes a six of hearts, which is a total blank. He checks, and we continue our polarized strategy. The only size we use here is an overbet. Notice how the solver checks most of his turned open-enders, flush draws, and combo draws, and instead, he picks some naked hands with no equity for double barrel hands like J9o, T9o, J5s suited, etc.

Let's figure out why some hands in our range can be profitably played in several lines whereas others don't have this option. In the balanced turn C-bet strategy, we can only have approximately one bluff combo for each value combo. For example, on rivers like 8-7-3-deuce, we can value raise our turn gas that became straights and bluff those that read a pair and block villain's two pairs. If our raising strategy is perceived strong and balanced, we can force our villain to fold some of his value bets and thus realize the equity of our range better.

Given his play tendencies, I expect him to check-raise many more stronger hands on the river.

We played a lot at the tables, and while he overall won most of the standard spots and had a high 33% went to Showdown, I've noticed that he didn't really like to make the expensive bluff catches in the spots where his range wraps a very narrow value range. My plan was to get him to fold a much wider range against my river shove on a card that completes my potential straight draw. I shoved, he tanked for a good 30 seconds, and called with ace-eight.

I didn't expect him to ever fold ace-8. If he was considering folding this combo, my exploit would be even more profitable than I thought. However, if he was balancing his timing and wouldn't consider folding even the worst two pairs, then he's got me either way. It was a very thin exploit that requires a lot of history with the player to be tested.

«ja.sam.gale» is our next opponent, and pocket aces is our hand. With a 160 big blind effective stack in an NL5K game, I'm in the small blind versus the big blind. I raise, he calls, and the flop comes 3-7-3. I check, he bets 40%, and I check-call. The turn is a King, and he overbets 2x. I make the call. The river is a blank, and I check, and he bets pot size. Now, what are the options with our hand?

Alright, let's break down the options starting from the flop. It's a challenging flop for the small blind because there are many potential trips in the big blind's range. Additionally, being deep-stacked further shifts our strategy into a defensive mode.

My plan here would be to check the flop with a very high frequency, including 100% of my aces. 

As for the turn, even though the king improves our range slightly, we can't create a dominant range because our opponent still has a nut advantage.

On the turn, our opponent overbets two pots. An interesting observation is that we fold some of our turn king-x combinations, specifically those that block his potential bluffs with Broadway cards. However, we choose to call with pocket queens and most of our medium pocket pairs from pocket eights to pocket tens.

These pocket pairs are preferred over top pair with a king because they have the potential to improve to a full house, whereas a pair of kings is drawing dead against trips.

Regarding pocket fours to pocket sixes, I'm not optimistic about calling with them. Personally, I would prefer to fold all of them because I anticipate our opponent bluffing more frequently here, and I don't want to block those bluffs. 

On the river, with our hand, we have a straightforward decision. We simply call. The river comes a ten of spades, we check again, and the big blind bets a pot-sized bet.

On the river, when the ten of spades appears, we check again, and the big blind bets a pot-sized bet. Even in GTO, pocket aces are sometimes shoved, but for different reasons. In this case, I've decided to shove all of them because of three assumptions I've made about my opponent.

First, I expect him to bet weaker trips in the pot size more often than the solver suggests. Second, my opponent is not a passive player, so he might defend just the right part of his range but not overall against my river check-shove. And third, I anticipate his pot-sized bet to include all of the king-two pair combos.

Against my river check-shove, I expect him to bluff with king-seven instead of the weaker trips because I mostly represent pocket kings or sevens and tens, but not the three-x combos.

Considering that I don't have a three off pre-flop and I don't shove worse hands than a tiny number of ace-three suited combos, I decided to check-shove and value bluff with my aces, expecting him to fold some better hands and get called by some worse ones.

If you found the concept of value and exploitative play exciting and want to delve deeper in future videos, don't forget to comment and share this material to somebody. Remember, despite solvers being everywhere, there is still a lot of room for exploit in poker, so stay sharp at the tables, pay attention to every detail, and show no mercy to your opponents. Thanks for your attention, and see you later!

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