In no-limit hold'em, there are two types of players: those whose green lines (overall winning) is driven by their blue line (showdown winning) and those whose green line is driven by their red line (non showdown winnings). For some reason, the winning players with a positive red line benefit from the “sexy” factor on the forum: they are the guys who will bluff you out of pots but they will correctly call you down when you attempt to bluff them.
Many have heard how to improve their red line. There are three ways: by value betting better, by bluffing more and by making more correct river calls. Because all these ways to improve it look positive, it seems that having a negative red line is a leak, the visible proof that something is amiss in one's poker game. This conducts many to attempt to improve it. Despite many attempts, negative red lines stay negative, either unimproved or barely better and the mystic of having a positive red line continues.
What everyone fails to realise is that the blue line guy's and the red line guy's approach to playing poker are fundamentally
different and it makes any attempt to get a usually negative red line into a positive one doomed to fail.
In one sentence: the blue line guy focuses primarily on his cards
("play his cards") while the red line guy focuses primarily on his opponents
("play the players"). By "primarily", I mean this will be the first item they will focus on before considering anything else. This can be easily illustrated with an example:
The CO opens 3bb. The button looks at its cards and sees 72o.
- The button is a blue line guy: "72o has almost no equity; this is an easy fold." He folds.
- The button is a red line guy: "CO is a weak tight player. I 3-bet him 7 times and he folded every single time without showing any sign of adjusting. Bluffing him with any two cards is profitable and this is exactly what I'm going to do." He raises to 10bb.
Of course, this is an extreme example to better illustrate my point. Almost everyone would actually fold 72o. More realistically, the blue line guy will have a fixed set of light 3-betting hands and will 3-bet them indistinctly against almost everyone. If he is aware that CO is weak tight, he may widen slightly his light 3-betting range but not too much. On the other hand, the red line guy is more liable to make a more extreme adjustment after he notices CO is weak tight by 3-betting him significantly more often, maybe several times as often...
The blue line guy: a player born on the forums
Typically, the blue line guy is going to use poker forums heavily in his poker education. He will learn about "standard" line and how to play his cards in a "vacuum" first before learning how to adjust his lines against different types of opponents. The more advanced ones will know some game theory and will care about concepts such as "balance" and avoiding being exploited. They often make "ranges", based on their cards, for a specific purpose. Sometimes, they will even "randomise" these action to make themselves even harder to read and exploit.
The red line guy: a people person
The red line guy in contrast cares about making reads first and isn't that interested in "standard" lines. He may use the forum but will often be in conflict with the other blue line guys who infest them. The red line guys are easy to spot: when a request for advice on how to play a specific hand is posted, they are the one or two guys who will pester the OP for "reads" and refuse to answer until they get them. Meanwhile everyone else (the blue line guys) are giving their own card based line.
When the better red line guys are asked general questions about range building, "I can't answer this, it depends!" they exclaim:
Originally Posted by josuas
Hey giev, Do you think is good to play AK like Aces against most regulars when you've 3bet and you missed the flop. (not in a steal situation)
Originally Posted by Giev money??
Mehhh idk too general question.. Sometimes yes sometimes no.
Unpersonified poker is simply not the way they think about generic concept like bluffing.
They are the ones who look cool because they call their opponent with air and win the pot.
But they also look like clowns to many on the forum when they fold quads.
The red line guy likes to make snarky comments about players (typically a blue line guy) tossing a coin, rolling a dice or using their cards, their suits or a watch to randomise their decision:
(…) Some people might say it's best to flip a coin to randomize, but they're wrong. The best player adjusts to his opponent, and it's better to bet into some opponents here, and to check against others. (1)
So you say you figured out how often you have to bluff here to make hero indiffent to calling or folding. Then you rolled a dice and it told you to bluff this time.
They also often reject the concept of "balance":
For example, UTG raises to 3.5 bb with KQ in a 5-handed game. Button, a tricky but not too good player, calls. The flop is J-J-6 rainbow. A blue line guy will often cbet and if button is a blue line guy too, button will likely flat the cbet with his whole range (flatting it all being the easiest way to balance a range on this kind of board)
However, if UTG is a red line guy, the action may go very differently: "I don't have anything so I check", the red line guy thinks. Button bets 7bb. "With his bet, he is saying he has a good hand but with a pocket pair he would probably bet less. He didn't have a good hand preflop (else he would have 3-bet) but now he's representing a good hand so it is either 66 or Jx. There aren't many combos of Jx or 66. Is this player capable of bluffing? This is important because some players just never bluff. Yes, he is." the red line guy raises to 20bb and button folds. (1)
Note that the red line guy has never thought in this hand in terms of balance, ranges or anything card based. He has a read and acts accordingly. Also note that this red line guy is more polished than the red line guy in the 72o hand: he raises with KQ and gives himself 6 outs to a better hand in case he gets his read wrong.
This lack of respect for balance and willingness to exploit every edge, every weakness as soon as he spots them can often be seen in his stats who look far from "optimal" ("optimal" stats, another idea found on the forums, is obviously rejected by the red line guy as a completely misguided concept). For example, a blue line guy "Raise" stat on each postflop street may look like this - steadily decreasing:
However, a red line guy "Raise" stat may look like this:
(I am not inventing, these stats have been observed)
Needless to say, you will find many blue line guys amongst mass tablers while red line guys will usually limit the maximum number of tables to a much lower number, to a single digit, because they get their edge from precise reads and this precision is lost as the number of tables increases. Compare Nanonoko to Grindcore. Two very different approaches but both very successful. It is important to state that one approach is not more right or better than the other. Neither is everything as black and white as written above: you will rarely find a blue line guy who doesn't take into account who he is playing against, or a red line guy who plays without looking at his cards. If you do meet these extreme specimen, you can be assured they are losing players. But because even in the most polished blue line players, this tendency to play their cards first always exists, it is very difficult for them to have a positive red line over a large sample.
(1) the quote and the second hand example come and have been adapted from the book Dominate No-Limit Hold'em
by Daniel Ashman.