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Old 03-25-2012, 12:08 PM   #9
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: High on Life
Posts: 3,229
Re: Smashing Fewer Holes in Your Computer Desk: Written Insights on Modern Internet Poker

Jon gave me a copy of his product to review. When I was learning the game I found his sticked SSNL posts very valuable and we've spoken before about trading.

There are 3 sections of this product, “Strategy” which contains 10 short strategy articles designed to be consulted during the videos, “Videos” which contains 3 leak-finder style videos with accompanying written analysis and “Other” which contains some images, acknowledgements, instructions and, for some strange reason, two off-topic blog posts.

The product is available for $500 which is obviously quite a lot considering the amount of decent quality information that is now available for relatively cheap prices but it’s hardly outrageous in comparison to some other coaching products. $300 will get you the strategy articles and one of the videos while $75 will get you the strategy articles.

There’s a bit of messing around with unzipping files and password-protected pdfs but, if you’ve spent the money, I doubt you’re too worried about the time this takes.

Strategy Articles

“Balance vs. Exploitation” – This is an article which appeared in the inner circle. It discusses the difference between a balanced approach and an exploitative approach and makes a strong case for erring on the side of the exploitative approach in general. While I agree that players can sometimes place too much emphasis on balance, I don’t feel that the article did a particularly good job of explaining the benefits of balance.

Without giving away all of the details, the main thrust of the article is that most players, especially at low stakes, won’t have a strong idea of your ranges, may not make the correct play if they do and, even if they have and do, the player pool is so large that you’re unlikely to play many hands with them anyway.

However, what’s overlooked is the fact that we’re in exactly the same boat. Despite our best efforts, we usually don’t have a strong idea of our opponent’s ranges either, for the same reasons. One strategy we could default to is to use whatever information we have to make the most exploitative play, even if we’re right 51% of the time we’ll still make more than being balanced surely? Actually this isn’t the case. To take a simple example, if we decide that the best exploitative play on a particular street is to bluff 100% and in the next similar situation decide that the best play is to bluff 0%, then our average hand strength is at the 50% mark. However, if we played a balanced approach of bluffing our strongest 50% each time then our average hand strength is at the 25% mark. This isn’t a huge issue in river situations (unless you happen to be against a calling station who’ll call with worse than some of your bluffs) but is an extremely big issue on earlier streets where your best bluffs will have significantly more equity against your opponent’s calling range than your worst bluffs. Your opponent doesn’t even need to adjust to exploit you, you’re essentially exploiting yourself.

The second important point about balance is that, besides very obvious situations, it's difficult to know where somebody is exploitable if you don't know where balanced is to begin with. As well as that, if you notice somebody is exploitable but your default play is the wrong side of balanced, you could end up making the correct adjustment and still be getting exploited (although not as badly as you would have been had you not adjusted at all). Understanding how ranges interact and the actual reasons for why certain strategies work is extremely valuable and can only really be arrived at through a good understanding of balance.

“Preflop Primer” is an article on opening, calling, 3betting and 4betting. It contains short, punchy paragraphs that cover extremely important topics without any filler. It contains guidelines for minimum “cutoff points”, sometimes with the accompanying math. I agreed with almost everything that was said in it, which I very rarely do when reading other player’s thoughts on preflop play. Even though I enjoyed the concise format, I would imagine that a less experienced player would be left with more questions than answers after reading it as there are only a few accompanying reasons for why the advice is given. You could ask in the 30 minute skype session though.

The “ranges of hands to play from the blinds” against late-position raises article is very short and contains guidelines for what to play without explanation. The “playing small pocket pairs against habitual 3-bettors” is another short article, this time covering the math behind 4bet shoving.

“W$WSF %, W$SD % and WTSD %”. Another brief article covering some conclusions you can make from an opponent’s W$WSF, W$SD and WTSD stats. A big omission is guidelines for how many hands are needed for these numbers to become significant although this topic is mentioned in parts of the video analysis. “Number ranges for peripheral stats” is another very short article listing guidelines for 21 stats without explanation. Just to give an example:
“Call flop continuation bet%: 22-=very low; 23-30 = low; 31-38 = average; 39-46 = high; 47+ = very high”.

Continuation betting vs. checking on the flop discusses the situations in which you should prefer to check rather than bet as the PFR. Again there’s little accompanying explanation for the reasons why this advice is given. However, “Conditions that should make you more likely to 3-barrel bluff” was more in-depth.

“Determining whether you have enough fold equity to go all-in” contains an example hand with an EV equation to calculate how often you need your opponent to fold. “Suggested HUD layout” contains a list of stats to have on the table and in a popup.

As a stand-alone product, $75 is a lot of money for very little content. Personally, I vastly prefer correct information without explanation rather than bad information with pseudo-logic explanations which a lot of products contain. On forums I’d prefer the one line input from a good player and be forced to figure out the why myself rather than several paragraphs of nonsense from somebody who doesn’t have a clue. I feel that the advice is very solid and that, fleshed out, it could be an extremely good product but I’m not sure I’d be able to recommend it as a stand-alone purchase in its current format.


Before I go into the leak-finder videos I should probably mention that I typically wouldn’t have sought them out on training sites. I’ve always been a lot more interested in the theoretical side of poker and leak-finder videos, as well as most playing videos, usually aren’t conducive to in-depth theoretical discussions. Powerpoint videos, articles and books are typically a better format for that type of content.

The folders contain the video, the HUD layout that’s used, the analysis and a picture of the student. With the $300 option you get the 90 minute video which also contains some of the student’s additional comments on his video.

The analysis is very detailed, 65,000 words over the three videos according to Jon’s coaching page. After what must have been at least an hour I had gotten through 20 minutes of the first video and realised there was no way I’d be able to go through the whole thing and have this review out in any sort of timely manner. You need to pause the video to read the comments and sometimes go back when action overlaps on different tables. Having gotten a flavour of the hand analysis, I decided to skim the rest of the analysis to look for in-depth tangents into different topics. So while I don’t have a fully comprehensive view of the product I do feel I know a significant amount about the type and quality of the content.

In the analysis, most of the non-trivial hands are discussed and the majority of these are given a very in-depth discussion. Preflop folds that should have been calls or 3bets are pointed out, the reasons for the general strategy and the reasons in the particular situation are discussed, typically making reference to the opponent’s stats, position and stack size. As well as this, there will often be guidelines for the minimum hand strengths which would be played in a given situation, making reference to the opponent’s you’re facing. Good and bad bet sizing is pointed out along with the reasons why.

Postflop the plan for the hand is discussed, the advantages and disadvantages of different options, various alternative possible situations are mentioned (different turn or river or opponent) and advice is given on what to do in those scenarios. There is also discussion of what should be done if hero held different hands. The majority of the time the opponent’s hand range is dissected and often a breakdown of the applicable math is presented. The math isn’t advanced, there’s no game theory type content for example, it’s usually EV equations, minimum equity or folds required, pot odds or implied odds type calculations.

Although there aren’t discussions of bankroll management and other “non-strategy” poker topics that are often covered in poker books, the discussion does digress into uncommon topics from time to time, examples include note taking, getting reads based on your opponent’s handle, when you should be making plays for image, the danger of heuristics, how to compensate for your natural tendencies, non-showdown winnings, table selection, seat selection, being aware of training site video producers style of play when attempting to learn from them. As well as that there are links to some of Jon’s 2+2 posts for additional reading about a topic that's being discussed. During the 90 minute video analysis there’s a brief interlude to answer some of the student’s questions (on both the strategy articles and video).

Where applicable there’s comparisons to earlier hands and the factors that make the decision similar or different. Due to the format a lot of the advice ends up focusing on preflop and flop play but the discussion of the plan for the hand and the possible scenarios that can be faced helps to offset this. However, rarer situations naturally end up getting less coverage and some overlap of discussion on common situations is unavoidable.


Overall, when trying to find your own leaks, I’m sceptical of leak-finders in general compared to having your own play dissected for leaks by a coach. I think that products like these make more sense when they cover the theory of the game as paying a coach for several hours to take you through theory isn’t hugely efficient. Although you may have some of the same leaks as the students, you might not always recognise it or convince yourself that it’s ok because you have a different style of play.

If you’re looking to plug leaks then I think, for the money, you’d probably be better off getting coaching with Jon as the advice is extremely good and I think it’s more likely you’ll plug leaks this way. If you’re looking for in-depth theoretical discussion I don’t think leak-finder videos are the best format and I don’t feel that the strategy articles are fleshed out enough. Perhaps the most efficient approach if you’re looking to get coaching with Jon is to get the strategy articles and the 90 minute video before getting coaching so that you’ll have the chance to become familiar with Jon’s approach (and the reasons behind his recommendations) in your own time which would allow the coaching to be more time efficient.
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