Why does your RED LINE suck? - Here are some tips to imrove it.

Francesco Campioni
15 Feb 2024
Holdem Strategy
15 Feb 2024

Hello everybody.

We all want high winrates and beautiful graphs. And oftentimes we hear from all directions that we should take care of our red line winnings, and not only win by having the best hand on showdown.

Today we are going to speak about how to improve the unfamous red line in your overall graph with some tips and conceptions.

Let's begin.

What is the Red Line and what does it mean?

The red line is the non-showdown winnings line we see on the graphs of tracking softwares.

Such softwares can be Hand2Note, Hold'em Manager, Poker Tracker, etc.

It tells us how much we win or lose when the hand doesn't get to showdown. Guess what: the line showing our profit before showdown is always red. If you sum it up with the blue line, which represents your showdown winnings, you will get your total profit - the green line.

Many players struggle to have a winning red line or anyway a decent one and so I thought it was nice to make an article about that. 

I think the first thing to do is to understand how the red line goes up and down. It may be obvious to some of you, but I think it's important to have it in mind during all this article.

The red line rises the more (1) your opponents fold and (2) you don't fold.

It is not just making your opponent fold. Every time you don't go to showdown and lose the pot, it's bad for your red line. 

This also means that if you play like a nonsense monkey like betting any hand and never folding against whatever action, your red line is going to be awesome. But in that case your green line (net winnings) will hit the bottom because you will lose at showdown (your blue line) a lot more money than you won by making your opponents fold and never giving up.

It is important not to follow any misconceptions that the higher the red line the better you play.


All that matters is your total profit, which is shown on the green line, which is the sum of your red and blue lines.

So Player A with a crazy red line which brings him about 120% of profit, but a terrible blue one which burns the rest, will be much less profitable than Player B, who makes about 125% of his net winnings at showdown and tries not to lose more than 25% before showdown. 

How high or low your red line should be depends mainly on the field you're playing. I'm going to repeat it again because this is a very important point:

How your red line actually looks depending on how you play, but how your red line should look depends mainly on the field you're playing.

Everybody can have an awesome red line: it's enough to never fold and to always bet, but it doesn't mean that it's the correct choice on the specific field you're playing.

An example of how the red line can depend on different player pools

During my bankroll challenge I played the all stakes from an NL10 to an NL500 Zoom, and it can be seen that my red line was much better at the lower stakes than it was at higher stakes. Anything that goes off the field and because of the quality of my opponents.

Look how my red and blue lines changed on different stakes while my overall winrate remained almost the same.

When moving up in stakes my overall winrate dropped insignificantly, buy wherever I played - main profit came from the blue line. The red one dropped the more the higher was the stake,

I'm not saying that my red line was correct in one or in the other field. I'm just saying that the same player will have different red lines in different fields. If you are not satisfied by your red line, there are several common issues that may affect your game and your red line, and I think it's worth to show them to you.

Okay, let's assume that you are confident that your blue line is fine, and now it's time to try to raise the red line.

Common issue #1: Not betting (or raising) enough

You may not be betting (or raising) enough on one or more streets. It doesn't matter - which street: some people just focus on the river like "I'm not bluffing enough on the river" - not necessarily. Betting a lot on the flop is already good for your red line because your opponents will overfold a ton of hands right away.

Also keep in mind that I'm not speaking about bluffing or value betting. Both kind of bet types are good for your red line because even when you are value-betting and your opponents fold, your red line will go up because you've won the pot before showdown.

On the other hand, if you never value-bet, you go more frequently to showdown, and then your red line is going to be a bit worse.

Common issue #2: Overfolding in medium and BIG pots

You may be folding too much: on one or more streets.

Same for the previous common issue. A lot of people just focus on the river, but they should think about all streets and their overall results.

For your red line, it's always better to overfold a questionable hand right on the flop and continue with the strongest hands than to call on the flop and fold on the turn or river - no matter why. Especially, when you are out of position.

The smaller the pot lost, the less your red line drops.

Folding too much on the river when the pot is already big dramatically drops you red line because you lose 20-30-50 big blinds, instead of just avoiding such a spot beforehand, quitting a tough spot right on the flop or not getting into it on the preflop. Especially, out of position when you know the equity which you can realize OOP is 2-3 times less than the raw equity of your hand at that moment.

Everytime you fold your red line goes down. The bigger pot you give up without showdown, the more your red line drops.

As a consequence of that I would also like to add the two other common issues that may affect your red line and you may not even think about  them.

Common issue #3: Playing too loose

The looser the range, the weaker and the less bets or calls you can make with it profitably.

The first one is that you may be playing too loose in certain dynamics: in general or in specific spots that occur not so rarely. Because if you play too loose it's going to be difficult to bet and call enough when you have a weak range. So your red line is likely going to be affected by it unless you are a calling station or a maniac.

Common issue #3: Not defending the blinds

And another thing people do not really think about is that maybe they are folding too much on the blinds.

If you fold too much in these not-free positions, this affects directly your red lane. Folding a big blind is -1 bb/hand in your red line graph. So you should know that overfolding on the blinds will keep dropping your red line. And considering that you play in the blinds every 1 hand out of 3, this influence can be colossal.

In general,

I suggest you to focus a lot more on small pots because that's where usually a bad red line comes from as they occur a lot more frequently than other sized pots.

Speaking off my personal experience, I had a mediocre bad red line for the first part of my career. I was already a winning player and I didn't have bad lines at all, but my red line was pretty bad. At a certain point I started focusing a bit more on that, and I remember I was reading a book named "Poker's 1%" by Ed Miller. And there was one paragraph which stuck in my mind.

What I started doing there was I started playing my draws much more aggressively - maybe even too much aggressively, but from that moment on my red line became a lot better.

Hint: Play your draws and no made hands aggressively

I split my overall plan for no made hands (when I had a draw, for example) into two plans: the plan A and B. From that point on, rather than trying to hit my pair or complete my draw passively

My plan A became trying to make my opponent fold by raising or check-raising him. And if he doesn't fold, I still had plan B - to try to hit my hand.

I know it sounds a bit silly because it's a pretty simple and obvious thing to do for many people. But back then it had a huge improvement on my red line. And you can raise your one too.

I'm not saying that it's gonna be the same for you because chances are you may have other problems with your red line and maybe you're already playing your draws aggressively. But that has worked for me very well.

Also I'm not saying that adjustment was necessarily correct because maybe I started doing it a bit too much, and I remember my red line was very nice - it was higher than the blue line which was not necessarily what you wanted to do in your game.


Now let's draw some conclusions from this article.

And the first one is that you should not be obsessed with the red line. - In the end, only the green line is the one which matters. And perhaps in the field you're playing it's not even optimal to have a winning red line to the detriment of the blue line and winnings on the showdown.

In general it is easier to win by a red line in a tight and passive field while it is harder to win by a red line in a loose and aggressive field because keep in mind once again

The way you play determines the shape of your red line, but the way your player pool plays dictates how your red line should be in an optimal way.

Solve your problems one at a time, and not all at once

Also assuming you really have some red line issues, keep in mind that there is no easy fix. As we saw there are many things and many streets you may get wrong in a poker game. So if you think you might have a red line problem, then just docus on each potential issue one by one.

More often than not is not just one thing you're doing wrong which affects your red line, but it's a lot of minor things which summed up together have that negative effect. So just to try to focus on one thing at a time and you will see it's going to get better.

By the way, you will definitely be curious how much can you earn as a cash game poker player at low and midstakes - just read that article.

This article is made from Why does your RED LINE suck? video by Vladimir «ABIVPlus».

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