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"The Red Line Myth" by w34z3l

    • w34z3l
      Joined: 03.08.2009 Posts: 13,332
      The Red-Line Myth

      These days having a graph with a break-even/positive red-line is the fashion. Ironically it could be losing you a lot of money.

      The purpose of this post is not to bash players with a positive red-line; some very sick players have these type of graphs. The purpose is to demonstrate how some players are burning money to achieve it - and in some instances might not be playing as well as players with a falling red-line.

      The Relation between Red and Blue

      The first thing to understand is that it is virtually impossible to change your non-showdown winnings without affecting your showdown winnings. Any change you make to red will nearly always have an effect on blue.

      Imagine you check behind in a thin river situation with the best hand. Those winnings will always go to the blue line. What if you bet though? Likely your opponent might fold and those winnings will now hit your red line instead of your blue line. You've increased your red line at the expense of your blue line.

      What should influence your decision in whether to sacrifice your blue line in exchange for a better red line? The value of red and blue lines is exactly equivalent. $1 in the red line is worth exactly $1 in the blue line. Simply put, you want to choose the option that makes you the most money and not be influenced by whether that money will hit red or blue. If you had a choice between $1 increase to your red line, or a $1.50 increase to your blue line, the decision should be pretty straightforward.

      We are going to consider 3 general scenarios where players are sacrificing a large chunk of blue line to achieve a smaller amount of red-line. In other words they are arbitrarily making plays that increase their red line to produce a "cool" graph, but not maximising their value in the long run. Afterwards we will consider 3 ways to improve red-line while sacrificing a smaller amount of blue-line.

      3 ways of Losing EV by focusing on Red Line

      1 - Bluffing with the best hand

      Imagine you reach a river scenario OOP where you have double barrelled with a pair. For the sake of simplicity (and we will do this in all examples) let's assume our pair is good, our opponent has a busted draw, and he loves to bluff. (In reality you won't know this for certain but you can make your best estimates based on ranges and your hand reading ability).

      There is $100 in the pot. Since we know we have the best hand and our opponent will fold his draw we can easily add $100 to our red-line by betting and taking down the pot. If we were to check however and let our opponent bluff, we are clearly going to make more money than this. Specifically we will make the average amount villain bets multiplied by the frequency he bets (since we know we are good) on top of the $100. Betting here will increase your red-line but is essentially burning money since check-calling will result in an even bigger net-gain to your blue line.

      2 - Value betting too thin

      Hopefully you are aware that in order for a value bet to be profitable you need to get called by worse >50% of the time. The amount of money already in the pot does not factor into value-bet calculations.

      Let's imagine we are on the river in position and we know when we bet our opponent will show up with a worse hand only 40% of the time. Our value-bet is losing us money, we should check-back, adding to our blue-line. When we do bet and our opponent has a worse hand, those winnings sometimes go to the red-line instead of the blue-line. The play overall is losing money and is a bad one, but it also has the side effect of transferring some of our winnings to the red-line category.

      3- Bluffing in bad spots

      Bluffing against calling-stations or players with strong ranges is usually not going to pay off. When your bluff fails it is not going to be represented in your red-line (assuming you reach showdown), it's your blue-line that takes a big hit. The only time your red-line is affected is when your bluff works and your red line goes up. It doesn't mean the bluff was profitable, it just means that you are continually sacrificing both your overall winrate and your blue-line to improve your red line.

      It pays to be passive (On occasion ;) )

      Often players go into games with the mantra that they want to be "aggressive", fire a lot of barrels, and really jump up their red-line. Against some players this strategy will work a charm. Against others - specifically players who either like to bluff too much, or call too much, it simply isn't the best strategy. Aggression is often good in poker, but in certain situations being passive is the correct option.

      Vs certain players the way you maximise your earnings is by playing with a falling red-line. You can arbitrarily try to increase your red-line but likely you will be sacrificing EV by doing it. You are literally shelling out dollars just for the luxury of having a cooler looking graph. Sure, maybe other posters will salivate over it and make you feel awesome, but naturally what they don't see is all the situations where you had to play sub-optimally to achieve it.

      Having said that, we don't want to be giving up red-line dollars unnecessarily, and if we do find an opportunity where we can sacrifice blue-line dollars for a larger amount of red-line dollars there is no reason why we wouldn't want to. Let's consider 3 simple ways of improving red-line.

      3 ways to Improve your Red Line (and your winrate).

      1) Steal wider

      People often don't think of missing good steal attempts as a leak. After all, it's just a few bb. The size of a leak is not just measured in big-blinds though, it's specifically measured in big-blinds over a period of time. In other words the frequency with which a leak appears in your game has a direct impact on how big that leak is.

      Often when thinking of big leaks players might describe a time when they occasionally stack off light with a baby flush on the river. In reality this happens so infrequently it'll actually be a pretty small leak. You often get chances to make light steals 2 or 3 times an orbit, so routinely missing these opportunities will cost you a ton of money in the long run. Steal wide vs tight blinds!

      Of course, opening wider means that when you get called your range will be wider. You will lose at showdown more often. You are sacrificing blue-line in exchange for red-line. Your net gain in red-line will be more than your net-losses in blue line however.

      2) 3bet bluff

      Look for players with a high Ft3bet and 3bet bluff. It's extremely important to understand the maths behind bluffs - it is very basic and you should look into it even if you don't consider yourself a maths based player.

      SB posts 0.5BB. Hero (BB) posts 1BB. SB raises to 3BB. Hero raises to 9BB. How often does this bluff need to work?

      Use this formula - Amount invested / Total Pot (including hero's bet)
      Hero raises 8. Total pot is 12. 8/12 = 0.666 or 66.66%

      This means if your opponent folds more than 66% of the time you generate an instant profit by 3bet bluffing, even if you give up when called. As before, you are going to be getting to showdown with weaker on average; you are sacrificing blue-line for red-line. The same as before, your net gain in red-line will be more than your net-losses in blue line.

      3) Check-raise bluff

      This can apply to flop, turn or river. The maths is exactly the same as it is in 3bet bluffing. Establish what price you are getting on your bluff and with what frequency you need it to work. If your opponent is folding more often than this you are going to generate instant profit (and yes with a cost to your overall blue-line).

      Burning Money to Look Cool

      That's essentially what some players are doing by arbitrarily trying to achieve a better red-line. At the end of the day which is a better? Winning at 10bb/100 with falling red-line or winning at 7bb/100 with a positive red-line?

      So think about what you are doing, and why. Never try to arbitrarily make certain stats rise or fall; think about the play that is going to net you the most EV in the long run.

      Thx for reading. Feel free to comment + flame or whatever. Not currently making any strategy content atm so figured I'd write this for
  • 43 replies
    • kakadustew
      Joined: 28.06.2010 Posts: 12
      nice post!
    • patszerdonk
      Joined: 19.05.2011 Posts: 834
      w34z3l, good strategy post as always.

      Can I request something? :)
      How about writing strategy about blind battles, Especially how to construct calling range+3bet range in blinds vs LP steal. I know there are some strat/video contents already, but all for >NL50

      Note to
      recruit him to be a coach/strat/video producer. He is the best for NL10 and below, IMO.
    • w34z3l
      Joined: 03.08.2009 Posts: 13,332
      Hey, thanks for kind words guys :)

      Originally posted by patszerdonk
      How about writing strategy about blind battles, Especially how to construct calling range+3bet range in blinds vs LP steal.
      I will keep it in mind for sure. Thanks for the suggestion.
    • Tim64
      Joined: 02.11.2008 Posts: 8,028
      Very nice, thought provoking post. Many thanks!
    • yougotfelted51
      Joined: 04.02.2010 Posts: 1,276
      really great post, thanks for putting this out there!
    • akrammon
      Joined: 17.05.2009 Posts: 3,142
      Great post, sir!
    • RasTweet
      Joined: 26.12.2009 Posts: 4,553
      Hey w34z3l!

      Thanks a lot for this!

      Made me think a lot.

    • JonikoP
      Joined: 15.05.2010 Posts: 600
      Great post, thanks.
    • trickybob
      Joined: 28.07.2010 Posts: 914
      Nice post. :s_thumbsup:
    • ipeaceonu
      Joined: 23.06.2007 Posts: 232
      I don't even play ring games and I still enjoyed reading. Good post, tx
    • DrDunne
      Joined: 29.12.2010 Posts: 3,378
      ty :)
    • keoghh
      Joined: 01.07.2011 Posts: 857
      Very nice post, also +1 to a blind battle strategy post ! :D
    • Iwantunow
      Joined: 02.12.2009 Posts: 2,586
      when should we raise any2 on the bu? how much does each blind have to fold?
      if I make it 2.5x i know it has to work 62.5% to have immediate preflop profit and I'll achieve that when each fold 80% (.8 x .8 = .64 64%)
      but since every hand has some equity postflop + we have some fold equity on the flop or later streets, what numbers are good enough to raise any2? 70% each? 75% each?
    • EvaStegfellner
      Joined: 20.06.2012 Posts: 49
      Very Nice Post, thx :f_thumbsup:
    • w34z3l
      Joined: 03.08.2009 Posts: 13,332
      Originally posted by Iwantunow
      when should we raise any2 on the bu? how much does each blind have to fold?
      if I make it 2.5x i know it has to work 62.5% to have immediate preflop profit and I'll achieve that when each fold 80% (.8 x .8 = .64 64%)
      but since every hand has some equity postflop + we have some fold equity on the flop or later streets, what numbers are good enough to raise any2? 70% each? 75% each?
      The maths is correct. If we are risking 2.5 on the button to win 1.5 in the blinds we need 62.5% steal equity. Sqrt(62.5%) = 79% on average each blind needs to fold. (One might fold more often, the other less often, so long as the average is 79.1%)

      However, just because we can raise any 2 doesn't mean we necessarily have to or even should.

      1 - People might adjust and begin 3betting you and/or calling wider.
      2 - You might make mistakes post-flop and end up losing more on average than you gain from the blind steals.

      I don't see a need to give a quantitative answer because as in most poker situations "it depends". For example opponent might not be folding very often pre-flop at all, but if he folds 90% of the time to a cbet on the flop, you still might be able to profitably open any 2.

      If opponent is deep stacked you will find it easier to play a wider range also, even if they don't fold too much pre-flop. Being deep adds to your implied odds especially if your opponent is a calling station or ultra aggressive.

      If stacks are less than 100bb deep though, you probably want to stick with a value range against opponents who are not folding post-flop. (Assuming you can't profitably steal with trash)

      Your opponent's fold to steal stat is just a starting point. You know that you will get a profitable steal if it is high enough. If F2steal values don't allow you to generate automatic profit then you can use other information about that player to help you decide how wide you should steal.
    • pyranya2000
      Joined: 13.03.2011 Posts: 2,394
      Verry nice/usefull post TY.
    • DragotoiuRobert
      Joined: 19.07.2009 Posts: 201
      nice explanations, and very useful content.
    • DannyJQ
      Joined: 13.07.2011 Posts: 1,508
      great post, thanks. :f_thumbsup:
    • alenstrat
      Joined: 13.03.2009 Posts: 821
      Great post. Thanks a lot on the concepts.