Poker Information and How to Use It
The proper use of information is a 3 step process and how well you manage this process will be a HUGE determining factor in how successful you are at poker. The difference between the best players in the world and the good (but not great) players is that the best players do these 3 steps better than anyone else…it’s that important! All good players understand what a typical range should be in a vast majority of spots but it’s the great players who find creative ways to deviate from the standard and use the proper amount of deviation (not too much and not too little) to exploit the most value out of their opponents.
So here’s how u do it. First, you must identify and find the information. Second, you must process and understand what this information means. And finally, you must understand how to adjust your game based on this information. The first step doesn't just mean being the most observant, it’s also knowing what to look for. You have to find all the subtle clues that give important hints to how people play certain spots. The second step is about taking that information and getting all the information out of it which requires logic and a lot of experience. There are situations where many things that can be inferred from one seemingly small piece of information. If you get info pertaining to X part of a person’s game, you can often infer things about Q,Y,Z parts of their game too. To do this you need to have the experience to make accurate generalizations and the logic to tie it all together. I will present a specific example later. The third and final step requires logic, a deep understanding and feel of the game, and cognizance of your range. It takes a lot of experience and knowledge to learn how to adjust properly to the information in front of you. Say a guy on your left is 3-betting more than the typical opponent. How much would u adjust your opening frequency? Do you even know what your opening frequency is typically in that spot? If not, how can you possibly make the correct adjustment? What of your 4betting frequencies? Do you know what those would typically look like and what they should look like now? As you can see it takes a deep understanding of the game to make these adjustments.
Step 1: Gather the Information
Let’s start with the first step. There is a ton of information out there and you don't just get information when people show down their cards. This includes factors like the buy in of an MTT, your image, the location of the player, OPR stats, their screen name (whether it’s known to you or not) and so on. There are plenty of subtle clues and stereotypes you can use to exploit your opponents and of course the not so subtle clue of somebody showing down their hand. Although this is by far the easiest step, you can’t get to steps 2 and 3 without doing this one first . You must use creative and thoughtful ways to find information in spots that other people don't in ordermaximize your edge.
Step 2: Process the information
Now you must process this information and by that I mean understand what this information does to your opponents range. Almost all information you receive simultaneously strengthens one part of his range, while weakening another. For example, let’s say your opponent c/r flops a lot as bluff and for very thin value like top pair weak kicker. In this spot his c/r range will be very strong and tough to play against but his c/c range on the flop will be extremely weak and that’s where you can exploit him. Also, like I said above, you can infer a lot from one small piece of information. Let’s look at an example. you see a guy 3.5x in the late stages of an MTT. You can infer a few things from that (some obvious some not so obvious): 1) that he sucks and doesn't understand tournament dynamics since every player knows 3.5x is a waste of money 2) you can infer a few things from 1, since he's a bad player he probably doesn't know push/fold math because bad players generally are not that advanced. You can also infer other things that you know only good players do, like 3/4/5 betting light, 3-barrel bluffing, floating, and check raise bluffing rivers . Now look at all the adjustments we can make from this one seemingly small piece of information. We can now open shove on his blind lighter, re-shove him lighter ,fold more to his re-shoves, fold to more of his 3/4/5 bets , 3-bet him more, 4-bet bluff him less, tighten your range for 3b/4b and calling a shove, and we can call lighter vs. him preflop and fold more when he check raises river. This key to this process is just finding out what the information means and what adjustments need to be made. We still haven't figured out how much we need to adjust, so let’s move on to part three.
Step 3: Adjust to the Information
The next problem we face is how much to adjust to this information. It’s very difficult to tell you how much to adjust in a situation while its going on, let alone trying to do it in a article with a hypothetical situation. There are just way too many variables and its very feel based but I can show you what variables to consider when making these decisions for yourself in realtime. We have the information and we know what adjustments to make but the question is now, how much do we adjust? There are a few things to consider and a few things you have to know to answer these questions. First and most importantly you need to have at least a decent IDEA OF WHAT YOUR RANGE IS IN A SPOT to even begin to be making an adjustment. I can’t emphasize this enough. You don't need to know exactly what your range is (although it would help) but you just need to have a good general feel or cognizance of what you’re doing in a spot.
Now we need to analyze the information we have. First, we need to think about how accurate our information is. The more confident we can be that the information we are receiving isn't just noise the more we can adjust. Some information is more reliable than other information. Let’s take the guy who raises 3.5x for example. I said that he probably doesn't 3bet, 4bet, or 5bet as much as he should, which one of these assumptions is most likely to be right and why? The answer is clearly 5betting, because our assumption was based off the fact that our opponent was a bad player. It’s much more common for a bad player to 3 and 4bet as a bluff than to 5bet , that’s a play that only regs make in my experience. This is determining the reliability of information through logic and experience but it’s not the only way to determine the reliability of information.
Another method is by the quantity of information you have. Determining the reliability of information based on quantity just means the more hands or clues you have that lead to the same conclusion about your opponent, the more confident you can be in the reliability or accuracy of the conclusion the information leads too. This is really straightforward but I see a lot of people over adjust to their opponent after seeing them show one hand. Generally you want to start out with small adjustments and as you get more information backing up your conclusion the more you can adjust. The reason is that one hand your opponent played can just be an aberration or maybe your opponent based it off information that you didn't know and it isn't the way your opponent typically plays in that spot.
Sometimes one hand can give you a lot of reliable information about your opponents. For example, if you see a player fold to an open jam getting 5 to 1 in the BB, you can be fairly confident that he doesn't know push/fold math. The reason why the information in this one hand is so reliable is because he's deviating so far from correct play. The greater the deviation from correct play, the greater the reliability of the information. For example, you would open shove a lot wider if the guy showed and folded ATo in the BB getting 5 to 1 to an open shove than if he showed 72o. Importantly, you wouldn't just do this because it increases the reliability of your read but it also shows a greater level of exploitability, which is the next thing to consider when adjusting your range based on information. The more exploitable you think your opponent is playing the more exploitably u can play in turn. This is the most important thing when considering how much to adjust your range. Slightly bad plays should be countered with slight adjustments and really bad plays should be countered with really big adjustments. It’s up to you to determine how exploitably you think someone is playing, and you have to have a solid understanding of what the correct play is in as many spots as possible to do that.
Now we have the problem of what hands to add to our range. It’s kind of straightforward and depends what part of your range your changing. If you’re going bluff a guy more you start by adding the hands with the most equity and best blockers. Like 3betting pre with an ace in your hand or having the A of diamonds on a 3 diamond board. When you need to deviate more you add hands with less equity and less blockers. If you’re value betting thinner, it’s really straightforward…you value bet thinner! If you need to open less pre-flop, you figure out what the bottom of your opening range is and deviate from there (i.e start with folding the bottom of it and work your way up).
Practice, Practice, Practice!
You can’t do any of this stuff effectively without a good understanding and feel of the game, a lot of experience, and a lot of practice applying these ideas. An idea is only as good as how well you can apply it in practice. It’s absolutely meaningless if you can’t use your idea in a practical way at the poker table. So spend a lot of time thinking about poker, form your own ideas, learn to put them into practice and play a lot of poker. Good luck!
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