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Old 07-27-2010, 10:08 AM   #1
citizenwind
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On Being Solid (very long)

On Being Solid.

I used to make long posts like this all the time, and I haven't in a while. So here we go. Ups to Verneer, who I've been discussing some of these concepts with lately. This is x-posted on my blog



Verneer called me yesterday to chat about some poker ideas, our respective experiences with rush, and the idea of the "Ladder of Mistakes," that I discuss in the first chapter of the upcoming book, which touches on the idea of making small mistakes early in a hand to avoid or cause bigger mistakes later on, such as folding 77 on a J94ss flop even though it might be the best hand at the time, or 3-betting a seven-high type hand to cause an opponent to tilt when you later pickup Aces.

By his own admission, Verneer is a life nit. So am I. We don't like bankroll swings, we both play mostly SSNL, and we both play extremely overrolled. I play and advocate a relatively straightforward, super solid TAG style, using a lot of common sense decision-making mixed with a few choices idiosyncracies. I make standard plays 90-95% of the time. I'm sure Verneer's apple doesn't far fall from the Solid Tree either. In his blog post about his tremendous success at 100-200nl, he describes his game-plan as "Raising when I got it, folding when I don't, and letting the 2+2-ers try to 5-bet bluff-shove me off Aces."

Back in the day, people used to herald solid play as the key to beating SSNL-MSNL games. Then, after the poker education boom, solid play fell out of favor. People became obsessed with Hero calls and romantic bluffs, and lost sight of their roots. Rather than asking "how does my hand fare against my opponent's?" they asked "what can i get my opponent to fold?" Without balancing the two questions, they suddenly became marginal winners, and as their opponents became even better, these players became more and more breakeven.

So often, I see people say "ABC poker doesn't win the money." What?!? Says who? Did someone flip a switch and suddenly make solid play unprofitable? Did a bunch of nosebleed players all come out at once and say that solid play is a losing style? And even if they did, were they doing so for the benefit of their opponents, or for their own benefit?

Solid plays wins the money. If anyone tells you anything else, they're deluding themselves. When someone says "Oh ABC poker doesn't win," they're wrong. At least half a million hands between Verneer and I proves that solid play not only wins, but it wins at a steady clip. Don't believe it beats MSNL and higher? Go search up Nanonoko, or TcBlade.

Let's say a SSNL player-- Edward, we'll call him, because i love vampires-- plays a really solid, slightly nitty 19/16 style that focuses on putting in very little money while behind, and putting in as much money as possible when very likely ahead. This philosophy is exemplified by the poker aphorism "Big hand, big pot. Small hand, small pot."

Let's take a second SSNL player, Jacob. Jacob loves bluffing. It's a drug. He splashes around, and gets high off of stacking his opponents and running big all-in bluffs when his opponent shows weakness. He plays 27/24 with a 9% 3-bet, and spends a lot of time trying to “own” his opponents, which is arguably necessary with his much looser style.

If you took 100 Eddie's and 100 Jacob's, most of the Eddie's will be 2 to 4ptbb/100 winners, depending on their skill and how well they ran. However, if you look at the Jacob's, I'll bet they generally will have winrates closer to -.5 to 1.5ptbb/100. This is for a couple of reasons:

1) At SSNL, value-betting is often more powerful a weapon than bluffing.

2) Eddie is much less likely to have big swings, and hence, is less likely to tilt. Jacob's game is much more sensitive to gameflow conditions, making his auto-piloting game much less effective as his number of tables increases. While Eddie can probably play 6-8 tables very effectively, Jacob should usually play no more than 4.

3) When Eddie's playing his B-game, he'll rarely be making huge mistakes for his stack. More likely, he'll make more small ones than usual, perhaps calling raises a bit too lightly, or folding a bit too early in the hand. If Jacob's playing his B-game, he might poorly time a 4-bet bluff, or 3-bet an aggro reg too often and get 4-bet, or run a bluff that would've been effective in a vacuum, but is poor in a specific dynamic. In turn, this leads to a deterioration in play, and Jacob loses even more.

This isn't to say that there aren't outliers. There are certainly some VERY talented hyper-LAGs out there, but they are rare. Tableratings seems to anecdotally support this claim: when you look up very loose opponents who are giving you trouble, the overwhelming majority of the time, you'll find these players are small losers to small winners, and are rarely big winners over large samples. Of course, big winners are rare regardless of style, but I'd posit that players with 27 VPIP or higher are much less often 3ptbb/100 winners than their 22 VPIP counterparts.

When I first joined Cardrunners, I was one of the biggest winners at 100nl playing an 18/15 style. I table selected well, showed up with the goods, and generally didn't run huge, ridiculous bluffs. I wasn't a particularly fearsome player, but I grinded out a very steady, stable, low variance income, and that was good enough. As I became more experienced I opened up my game to 26/22, mostly to play more pots with the fish, though as I moved up to 2/4 and flirted with 3/6, I was having a harder and harder time maintaining a winning clip with a looser style. Those games are full of knowledgable, aggressive players, but if you dig deeply, you'll find that most of them are breakeven or very small winners. Why? Because these players are too spazzy, too suspicious. They're always worried someone's making a move on them, and put money in way too lightly. In fear of getting outplayed, they lose sight of “Big pot, big hand.”

If I was to seriously grind 100-200nl 6-max again, I would probably play between 19/16 and 20/17, with no more than a 5% 3-bet statistic (though I'd recommend my students to play very slightly looser, because they wouldn't have to worry about people trying to make hero plays on video against them). In the current state of the games, most regulars are Cardrunners or 2+2 members, and you'd think they wouldn't be susceptible to straightforward value betting and raising. Yet they are! They love to Hero call and they have high rebluffing frequencies. If you C/R a regular on JJx with a Jack, your value doesn't just come from a player calling you down with 88, it comes from someone bluff 3-betting and putting in 1/3 of their stack and then folding to your shove.

The tricky part, in my eyes, is how one defines “solid play” besides playing tightly pre-flop. I'm sure to butcher this definition, but I'll still give it a whirl:

1. Play big pots with big hands. When the pot's 50bb's or more, you should usually have a hand that compares very favorably against your opponent's. Against nits, that means you're near the very top of your range, and against fish, you've got top pair with a moderate kicker.

2. Run bluffs with equity. When deciding to raise a K84 flop as a bluff, it's MUCH better to do so with 76s or A4s than it is to do so with JT. Against KQ, 76s has 22% equity and draws to the stone nuts. JT has 6%, and sometimes when you backdoor two pair, you'll be paying off better two pair. This concept goes for both bluff-raising and floating. When double barreling, without a specific read, I'm barreling when A) my equity increases on the turn (I pick up a draw or had a premium draw to start) B) the card pooped on my opponent's flop calling range (aka usually an overcard to top or 2nd pair). At SSNL, I'm almost barreling with the sole intent to get someone off of TPGK.

3. Don't try to simplify poker into a pre-flop battle, trying to push tiny 3-4% edges. If you're getting in AQ or 99 pre-flop standardly in late position, you're not necessarily doing something wrong, but you're exposing yourself to significant trouble against perceptive or tricky opponents.

4. Play JUST loose enough to get people to assume you're a goofball. 3-bet on the button. Occasionally C/R and bluff-raise obvious bluffing spots and then fold. Let your opponents assume you're capable of more than you actually are. In a recent session, a 13/9 regular 4-bet QT and then CALLED OFF against my 5-bet. To make that call correct, either I have to be 3-bet/5-betting a hand like 55, or I have to be 5-bet jamming a hand worse than Q-high-- neither of which I've done outside of extreme circumstances. But my opponents don't know that!

5. Have a folding range. In every situation, you need to have a folding range. Be it folding to 3-bets, folding to 4-bets, folding to cbets, turn bets, etc. Though folding guarantees you'll lose the hand, folding encourages your opponents to put in more money with bluffs to try and run you over. Now, this doesn't mean you should fold too often-- you should still have a W$WSF north of 45%-- but it does mean that you should be willing to give up in certain positions, even when you know your opponent is going to be firing 100% of his air range. For example, occasionally C/Fing Kxxr with the betting lead encourages opponents to take shots at you when you check, which you can later exploit.

6. Cold-call very tightly. As you get more proficient, you can call much more loosely, especially with fish to act. However, standardly calling open raises with very speculative hands and 100bb effective stacks just isn't going to be profitable. Hands like 98s and A2s are going to require multi-way pots to show a profit if you're not accurately fighting for small and medium pots, or if you're misjudging how often a fish comes along for the ride.

7. Don't attack strength, attack weakness. There are a surprising amount of threads where I see someone shove over a 4-bet, or a C/R and turn bet, or a 3-barrel on a bad board to fire on. Yeah, there are some spots where this is right, but this should certainly not be the norm! Don't attack people in spots where they are trying to put a ton of money into the pot, attack when they can't possibly have a strong hand. For example, if two players check around to you twice in a small pot, or a straightforward opponent doesn't lead after you check back the flop, those are times to pounce or run bigger-than-usual bluffs. Not only will your success rate in these spots be VERY high, but if you're caught, you get to develop a crazy image very cheaply.

I'd like to end on a final note:

We've all seen videos where high stakes pros have said "well, I'm kind of a station." And then proceed to make a call-down. In your own games, you should greatly resist the urge to be a huge station. Opponents at SSNL simply are not as aggressive as their higher stakes counterparts, and don't have the theoretical knowledge base to back up more sophisticated plays. At 50nl, I've never once said "Oh, my opponent has a capped range here, so I should shove this river" or suspected my opponents of being sophisticated enough to turn 77 into a bluff on Q64KJ when I triple barrel. Of course, people ARE doing this, but those players fall into such a minority that I do not let it dictate my overall play (I'm also convinced most of those players aren't big winners).

Be proud that you can make big folds when the need arises. Don't worry about balance and exploitation-- people aren't observant enough, aren't good enough, to be consistently exploiting you in esoteric spots. There are a lot of times where I said to myself "man, if I posted this hand in the forums, I'd get so berated," then proceeded to fold a flopped set or KK pre-flop (usually multi-way, where my opponent's range are stronger, and I get the side benefit to see that I'm right or wrong). I've folded top pair to a single flop bet in a single raised pot. Do I worry about folding the best hand? Of course! But it's not like I'm always folding top pair, or even folding enough to be exploited. Folding the best hand, though it may be a mistake in the moment, can often be correct in the long run. Trust your spidey sense. Your first gut instinct is often right. When the nit snap-mashes pot, I don't care what he's representing or that I have an overpair. He's got me crushed. Nice hand.

Last edited by terp; 07-27-2010 at 01:15 PM. Reason: ........
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:17 AM   #2
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

I will try this
if I suddenly start winning I'll be very angry

but then I'll thank you
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:24 AM   #3
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Good read.
Simple but solid, thank you.
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:28 AM   #4
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

but being Jacob is more fun
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:30 AM   #5
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

a lot of your thoughts, specifically early on, have crossed my mind in recent weeks

nice post, now edit and delete plz!
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:35 AM   #6
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

how much of this has to do with dynamics? aren't the best poker players those who adjust to their opponents tendencies? As of now with 2p2/CR etc, everyone seems to play like Jacob, but if OPs post gets popular, and everyone starts playing like Edward, doesn't Jacob all of a sudden become more profitable now?
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:39 AM   #7
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Quote:
Originally Posted by guids View Post
how much of this has to do with dynamics? aren't the best poker players those who adjust to their opponents tendencies? As of now with 2p2/CR etc, everyone seems to play like Jacob, but if OPs post gets popular, and everyone starts playing like Edward, doesn't Jacob all of a sudden become more profitable now?
no, because Jacob will move up and start beating the nosebleeds after he learns how to play his style correctly
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:42 AM   #8
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Quote:
Originally Posted by guids View Post
As of now with 2p2/CR etc, everyone seems to play like Jacob, but if OPs post gets popular, and everyone starts playing like Edward, doesn't Jacob all of a sudden become more profitable now?
Of course. However, poker is all about making the right decisions over and over again. Changing your style drastically makes doing so more difficult. In the end, I think each person has a style that is appropriate for them personally.
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:42 AM   #9
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Agree with pretty much all of this.
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Old 07-27-2010, 10:45 AM   #10
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

but it's so boring not occasionally mashing the pot button with 47suited from UTG
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:06 AM   #11
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Quote:
Originally Posted by guids View Post
how much of this has to do with dynamics? aren't the best poker players those who adjust to their opponents tendencies? As of now with 2p2/CR etc, everyone seems to play like Jacob, but if OPs post gets popular, and everyone starts playing like Edward, doesn't Jacob all of a sudden become more profitable now?
Actually, I think the exact opposite is true: if I'm at a table full of wild, fancy, splashy players, I'll just lock my **** down, lose a few small pots, and then let them 4-bet and 5-bet bluff me and show up with the goods. Solid play doesn't imply that you don't mash call with TP when villain's going ape**** on you.
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:07 AM   #12
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Good stuff

Thread title seems a little sensual iykwim
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:07 AM   #13
citizenwind
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

p.s. this post was one giant level to get you all to love Twilight. my life is now complete.
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:21 AM   #14
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

solid post is solid

ty OP
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:27 AM   #15
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

I disagree with your implicit definition of solid play. 5bet bluffing and check/calling marginal hands 3x are all solid in my book as long as the reasoning behind it is solid.

If you are convinced your play is +EV you will tilt less because you know you made the right play the outcome is just results.

What is not solid is 5bet shoving because "he may fold" without really having any read. If you do that and are wrong, chances are you'll tilt.

For me solid play is trying to figure out what the best play is in any given hand and chosing it.
It's not solid to autofold PF, it's not solid to bet/fold river without thinking about it and it's not solid to fold to a CR without putting villain on a range.

Both Edward and Jacob do not play solid because they chose following mantras over trying to play perfectly.
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:42 AM   #16
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

tldr+level+citizenwind = gold
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Old 07-27-2010, 11:50 AM   #17
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Quote:
Originally Posted by clowntable View Post
I disagree with your implicit definition of solid play. 5bet bluffing and check/calling marginal hands 3x are all solid in my book as long as the reasoning behind it is solid.
I really don't think there's any argument you can make that will convince me that 5-bet bluffing is solid. +EV? In spots, for sure! But "solid?" No. You can be a big winner at SSNL without ever having to 5-bet bluff once.

Also, your definition of solid sounds like it's just the definition of +EV. Is your definition of "not solid" simply -EV? Do you make a distinction between the two?

A lot of this is going to come down to semantics. For example, I think c/c x3 with 2nd pair against a maniac is going to be "solid." But that's not a "marginal" hand relative to your opponent's range, it's only marginal in the absolute sense that your hand is not near the top of all possible made hands.

At no point does my post advocate auto-piloting, ignoring hand-reading, or not thinking about your opponent's ranges. I DO however, suggest that opponents have it more often than you think, which I stand by. That doesn't mean you should be blindly "following a mantra."
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Old 07-27-2010, 12:06 PM   #18
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

One of the best OPs I've seen on SSNL, ever. wp.
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Old 07-27-2010, 12:17 PM   #19
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Quote:
Originally Posted by citizenwind View Post
At no point does my post advocate auto-piloting, ignoring hand-reading, or not thinking about your opponent's ranges. I DO however, suggest that opponents have it more often than you think, which I stand by. That doesn't mean you should be blindly "following a mantra."
Unless the mantra is to play solid
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:03 PM   #20
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Yes my definition of solid is striving to make the most +EV play at all times. I really don't see how anything else qualifies as solid.

Being risk averse doesn't mean one is solid. Yes there's game situations in which Edward will be playing pretty solid but even advocating that SSNL in general plays similar is already very misleading.
I'm at vastly different tables every day. You can't just assume there's some mythical average SSNL table and a certain style beats it. Yes a certain style is going to be more successfull than another one and I'd agree that what you describe as solid is most likely to beat the average SSNL table these days but poker is all about making situation-dependant decisions.

Mantras only get in the way, yes they will help you and keep you on track but in the long run it's a huge hinderance to strive to play one style. If I need to be a nit I want to play like a nit, if I need to play tons of hands I want to play tons of hands.

I guess I disagree most strongly with point 3 and point 6. You will get tons better if you put yourself into marginal situations and push marginal edges.
Advocating to give up a 3-4% edge isn't solid it's risk averse. The key is knowing you have that edge with confidence and taking it and if you're not certain about it you need to learn how to get more certain. Work the math, get reads on villains. Just folding in these spots is not the solution

There's no silver bullets in poker
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:12 PM   #21
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

i agree with clowntable, solid doesn't equal nitty. if you are passing up +EV situations then you are not as profitable as you could be. there is pretty much always a correct decision in a hand and the more experienced you are, the more often you will recognize +EV plays that may be marginal to players who do not know what they are doing

also citizen, nanonoko does not play according to your definition of "solid", i've played with him a lot before, including HU

Quote:
When I first joined Cardrunners, I was one of the biggest winners at 100nl playing an 18/15 style. I table selected well, showed up with the goods, and generally didn't run huge, ridiculous bluffs. I wasn't a particularly fearsome player, but I grinded out a very steady, stable, low variance income, and that was good enough. As I became more experienced I opened up my game to 26/22, mostly to play more pots with the fish, though as I moved up to 2/4 and flirted with 3/6, I was having a harder and harder time maintaining a winning clip with a looser style. Those games are full of knowledgable, aggressive players, but if you dig deeply, you'll find that most of them are breakeven or very small winners. Why? Because these players are too spazzy, too suspicious. They're always worried someone's making a move on them, and put money in way too lightly. In fear of getting outplayed, they lose sight of “Big pot, big hand.”
of course if people are playing like nuts at 3/6 you should be playing tighter, especially when moving up. but it seems funny to me to label certain stats as a "style" and then claim that it produces a better long term winrate than someone who doesn't play a static style at all times, and just knows when to play tight and when to play like a LAG, depending on the table and opponents

Quote:
If you C/R a regular on JJx with a Jack, your value doesn't just come from a player calling you down with 88, it comes from someone bluff 3-betting and putting in 1/3 of their stack and then folding to your shove.
i find it funny you mention this too, i always wondered what those 18/15 guys were doing when they check raise the nuts on dry boards, obviously if you have a read that people like to "rebluff" often then it might be a higher EV play, but it is definitely read dependent and a lot of people will just give up. is it worse to expect that someone will try to bluff raise your cbets, or that someone will try to bluff 3 bet your flop raises? seems pretty close in my opinion

i definitely agree that its correct to play "solid" and not bluff people off tpgk and all those other things you said, but most looser winning players already know that and play quite in line postflop. most of the things you are describing are possible even if you play looser than 19/16 or whatever

Last edited by jaysu; 07-27-2010 at 01:37 PM.
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:31 PM   #22
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

this style thread is nice, thanks

agree most with clowntable and jaysu. sure nano wins a ton but he is definitely an example of a very successful/talented monkey who steps carefully despite playing as many tables as are running
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:47 PM   #23
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Quote:
Originally Posted by clowntable View Post
Advocating to give up a 3-4% edge isn't solid it's risk averse. The key is knowing you have that edge with confidence and taking it and if you're not certain about it you need to learn how to get more certain. Work the math, get reads on villains. Just folding in these spots is not the solution
So you're always getting in any pair 77+ pre-flop? You never flat AA or AK? Avoiding pushing a tiny pre-flop edge-- such as always 3-betting AJ, can yield very strong post-flop edges.

Also, I think you're confusing "risk averse" for +EV. David Benefield often talks about how sometimes he takes lines that make his life easiest, because for him that's the most EV situation. I agree greatly with that. Watching a few very good HSNL/nosebleed players play, a lot of their game revolves around staying out of trouble and avoiding marginal situations as often as possible. That doesn't mean they don't get into tough spots-- of course they do. But they don't actively search for spots where they're likely to make ridiculous mistakes. THAT's what I'm advocating.

Some players also take -EV spots in a vacuum to be +EV in the long run. Do you take all those spots as well?

This is a pretty cool discussion, I'm glad it's playing out.
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:51 PM   #24
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

Also, yeah, I completely misspoke about Nanonoko. Looking in my database, I have him running at 21/15 and my hands with him seem relatively standard, but that's obviously WTFROFL wrong.
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Old 07-27-2010, 01:52 PM   #25
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Re: On Being Solid (very long)

While clowntable is right, it is my opinion that because of the 2p2 condescension of the nit, that the mistakes SSNLers most commonly make are easily exploited by playing pretty solid, ABC poker.

though I think solid ABC means something completely different than it did a few years ago...
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