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Phil Galfond = Nutz

    • PokerRoad
      Joined: 21.07.2009 Posts: 143
      This is an artical written by Phil Galfond in Augest 2007..

      It is the best artical ever written about poker IMO (Thought I would share It with those of you , who may never have seen it .....Enjoy ;)

      In last month’s article, we talked about admitting to yourself that you have leaks. We discussed how to go about finding and fixing them, and we started to go over some very common leaks amongst players of all skill levels. This month we’re going to continue where we left off and run through some more leaks that you might have.

      Keep in mind that just because you don’t have these leaks doesn’t mean you are leak free. Also, if you have leaks and are too proud to admit it, you’ll never fix them. Be honest with yourself. It’s the best way to grow as a player.

      I want to start with the most important point that I try to get across to all my poker students. I talked about it last month, but it’s just too important to stop discussing. It is the idea of having a reason for every move you make.

      The best way to learn about the game, whether you are playing, watching someone play, or listening to the recount of a hand that a friend played, is to ask why you/he/she made that play. I’ve coached a few players, and what I like to do for the first hour or two is to watch them play and make them justify why they are doing what they do. So they might say, “I’m betting this flop because I think I have the best hand and he will call with worse.” Or “I’m checking behind this river because even though I think I have the best hand, I don’t think he will call a bet unless he somehow has me beat.” I sit there and listen, and I ask for clarification sometimes, but I don’t give advice until much later. In fact, players often realize some of their own mistakes while verbalizing their thought process. Try telling yourself, out loud, why you are making the plays that you are. Not during live games though; that would be a pretty serious tell.

      One student of mine played a seemingly boring hand. He was playing 1/2 NL 6-handed.

      He opened to $7 from the cut-off with A♠Q♠ and only the button called. The flop came A♦9♥4♠. He bet $12 and the button called. Turn was the 5♣. He bet $32 and the button folded. I think the hand was played well. Sometimes I would check the turn, but my usual play is to bet.

      Then I ask him why he made the turn bet, and why he made it the size he did. His response was, “I’ve been in a lot of pots against the button where I bet the flop, he called, and then check-folded the turn. He’s been pushing me around a lot, so I wanted to let him know I really had something this time.”

      Do you want him to know what you have? If you actually want to let him know you really have something, then you should flip your cards up and show him that you have the best hand. That way he can fold his weaker pair. Is that really what you want?

      So many players bet to represent the hand that they have, which is exactly opposite the point of poker. You’re supposed to trick them. I explained to my student that in this particular hand, against this opponent, he should probably check. If the button has been pushing him around, let him try and bluff the turn when we have top pair. Against most people, another bet is best, but that isn’t the point. The point is that, had one hundred good players watched that hand play out, they would think that my student knew what he was doing in that spot. It’s not until you ask why he did what he did that you realize he has a major leak in his game and can start working towards fixing it.

      When you make a bet or raise, ask yourself these questions:

      What am I hoping my opponent does?
      Is this bet likely to accomplish that?
      What hands am I trying to get to fold?
      What hands am I trying to get to call?
      What hands am I trying to get to raise?
      What hand (that is different than my hand) am I representing?
      Here’s a hand example:

      25/50 NL, heads up against a smart but loose player.

      Bill raises A♠8♠ to $150 on the button with $5000. BB calls with $7000.

      Flop is 2♠Q♥9♠.

      He checks; Bill bets $250; he calls.

      Turn is 4♥.

      Check, check.

      River is the 7♣.

      He checks; Bill wants to bet $800.


      Me: What are you hoping your opponent does?

      Bill: Folds.

      Me: Is this bet likely to accomplish that?

      Bill: I missed my draw. I have to bet.

      Me: What hands are you trying to get to fold?

      Bill: All of them?

      Me: Specifically, what hands do you think he can have that he would call the flop?

      Bill: K-Q, Q-J, Q-10, J-10, low spades, K-J, K- 10, 10-8, 9-8, 10-9, A-9, J-9, other pairs.

      Me: Doesn’t he usually bet the river with a queen?

      Bill: Okay, yeah, so the rest of them.

      Me: Do you think a nine or other pairs will fold? Didn’t a lot of draws miss on the river?

      Bill: I guess they would usually call.

      Me: So, you want to make what hands fold? You have ace high. You beat K-J, K-10, and 10-8.

      Bill: Oh. Well. Maybe a nine will fold.

      Me: What hand are you representing?

      Bill: Something like Q-10.

      Me: The pot is $800 on the river. How

      much would you usually bet with Q-10?

      Bill: Like $550, I guess.

      Me: Oh.

      Bill: Oh.

      Another similar leak that people make is just pounding on pots with a strong hand or draw, with no reason behind it. Some people bet huge on all streets with top pair, even on very dry boards. Sometimes they bet so strongly that the only hands that will call their bets are better ones. For some reason, these people prefer to “take down the pot” than make more money. Some people will bet huge on the flop and turn with a flush draw (this is often a fine move), then get check-raised all in on the turn and have to fold because they don’t have the odds to call.

      Think about how your opponents might respond to your moves. If they’re going to either fold or shove on the turn and never call, your flush draw may as well be complete air. When they fold it doesn’t matter what you had, and when they shove you have to fold anyways.

      I realize now, after coming to the end of a two-part article, that there are too many leaks out there to give an in depth discussion on each. I’m going to list some other common leaks and talk about them briefly:

      Analyzing the hand based primarily on your absolute hand strength.

      The first thing you learn in poker is that three of a kind beats two pair. Hold’em books usually give you pre-flop hand ranking charts. Hand strength is drilled into you right away, but it just doesn’t matter all that much.

      First of all, pre-flop hand values are based on the situation. There are many spots where I’d much rather have 7-3 suited than A-Q offsuit. Second, so many things are more important than hand strength when evaluating a situation – like position, board texture, your opponent, stack size, tournament or game structure, history, and future implications of a play you make now. Learn the importance of these things and stop worrying so much about your two cards.

      Relative hand strength is an important concept to learn. If your opponent is playing a hand like he has a set or a bluff, midpair has the same value as an overpair, yet some people will call with an overpair on the river and fold middle pair even when they each lose to a value bet and beat a bluff.

      Playing Out of Position

      If you can help it, play pots in position all the time. The leak of ignoring position is common in beginners and near-experts, and not so much in mid-level players.

      Beginners look at their hand and decide if they should play it without worrying about what position they‘re in.

      Experts think to themselves, “I can outplay this guy. Who cares if he has position on me?”

      50/100 NL. 10k stacks.

      Near-expert (NE) opens in the cut-off to 600 with 9-7 off-suit. Tight predictable button makes it 2100; NE calls, thinking, “He’s so easy to play against. I always know what he has.” So NE, you’re going to outplay him enough that you can spot him position and the best hand? There’s not much you can do with 1/5 of your stack in the middle pre-flop, out of position against a player with K-K, no matter how much better you are than he is.


      Just this week, a friend of mine who’s a pretty good low stakes player told me that I gave him the best advice he’s ever received about poker.

      “Just because you have a hand that can’t win at showdown doesn’t mean you have to bet.”

      I’ve played against players who have to bluff at every pot if it’s the only way they can win. The correct reason for bluffing isn’t that it’s the only way to win the pot; it’s that you expect your opponents to fold enough of the time that your bet will make you money on average. If you expect them to call a decent amount of the time, there’s no shame in giving up on a hand.

      -Pseudo Showdown Value

      Let’s say you raise 7♠6♠ from the button and get a call.

      Flop is 5♠9♦K♦.

      They check; you bet the pot; they call.

      Turn is the 10♠.

      They check; you bet the pot; they call.

      River is the 7♦.

      They check. You think, “This is a good card to bluff, but now I have a pair, so I can check it down and hope I win.”

      In reality, there’s almost no chance a halfdecent opponent gets to the river with a hand that can’t beat your pair of sevens. A good scare card hit, and you wasted a good bluffing opportunity because you made a meaningless pair.

      So, keep an eye on your game. Never stop questioning your moves, no matter how much success you enjoy. Sorry I said you were bad at poker.

      Good luck at the tables, and away from them.
  • 8 replies
    • kingdippy2008
      Joined: 30.08.2008 Posts: 2,107
      Wow sick article, its massive lol. Just made my way through it, probs the first to respond as everyone else is still reading it ^^

      I have read quite a bit about about Phil Galfond and a lot of what he says makes good sense to me :)

      Good luck and best regards,

    • drdrab
      Joined: 11.06.2009 Posts: 37
      i read this about a week ago, and his article from the month prior, he is pretty sick and his advice on betsizing has definitely stolen and won me some nice pots.

      look at all his articles cos they're pretty brilliant.
    • Sasa1234
      Joined: 22.05.2008 Posts: 298
    • andreibalint
      Joined: 11.04.2009 Posts: 872
      i want mooore :f_love:
    • degre
      Joined: 30.04.2009 Posts: 413
      Thanks for reporting this! I'll look for him on the web, definitely worth reading more.
    • PokerRoad
      Joined: 21.07.2009 Posts: 143
      Ok I have posted the best part of this article already imo.-But if your like me and you -JUST NEED MORE PHIL TIME then your welcome to read part one.

      lol at the title of this article ." You are Bad at Poker"

      I love this guy :tongue:

      I hate to be the one to break it to you, but I’m only doing this because I love you. You are not good at poker. You have a ton of huge leaks in your game. You occasionally make good plays and you know some basic strategy, but your thought process is bad and causes you to make a lot of mistakes. A great player would absolutely destroy you in the long run.

      Are you still reading? Good. Maybe there’s hope for you. The fact of the matter is, the above paragraph is true for about 95% of the people reading this article. Probably around 75% of readers are saying to themselves, “Well, that’s not me.” (So, if you said that, you’re still favored to be bad.)

      That’s your biggest leak: your ego.

      Don’t worry, though. I’m here to help. Let’s get started.

      As is the case with many self-improvement programs, the first step is admitting you have a problem.

      Why do you think there’s so much money to be made in poker? It’s because of people like you who think they’re good. They don’t bother to improve themselves or to be careful about the games they play in.

      Think about it. When a 300/600NL game is going on between two very good players, one of them is favored to win in the long run, and the other is favored to lose. Now people don’t get to playing 300/600NL without a lot of money, experience, talent, and intelligence (besides the occasional rich, untalented gambler). That means that many of the smartest, most talented poker players in the world overestimate their ability. And it happens all the time.

      Since the smartest and best in the world routinely overestimate their ability, I’m urging you to consider the fact that you might do the same. Just say to yourself, “Maybe I’m not as good as I think I am. Maybe I have something to learn.”

      If it turns out that I’m wrong and you’re one of the best poker players in the world, no harm done. You’re so good that it doesn’t matter what I tell you. But, if it turns out that you have missed opportunities to improve yourself as a player because you thought you didn’t need it, maybe you’ll take this as a wakeup call. If you’re serious about poker — or anything else in life — you should constantly be searching for your mistakes. When you catch yourself making a bad play, you should be happy. Now you can fix it and become a better player tomorrow than you were today.

      So, hopefully you’ve come to terms with the fact that you may not be a flawless poker player. What’s the next step?

      The best way to become a better player, for most people, is to search for leaks and fix them. How do you find those leaks? Well, it’s not always easy to find them on your own, so I have a few recommendations:

      • You can hire a coach to look at your play and identify your weaknesses. Good coaches can be expensive, but they are a great investment if you’re serious about your game.

      • You can make some good poker-playing friends, or talk to the ones you already have. Even if you are both average players, having indepth discussions or arguments about your thought process can help a ton.

      • Join an internet message board/forum. There are dozens of places online where poker players talk about how to play poker. I learned much of what I know from If you take this route, I suggest reading the forum avidly for a week or two before posting anything. (Just trust me on that.)

      • Review your play. You can save all your big hand histories and go over them later. If you play live, you can document the action in a notebook. There are plenty of programs that track results online; Poker Tracker is the most popular, but there are others. Look back at all of your biggest hands and see how well you got your money in. See if there were better ways to play the hand. Sometimes you lose a big pot but played perfectly, and sometimes you win a huge pot although you played it terribly. Keep that in mind.

      Since I can’t be there to coach each one of you individually, I’m going to go over some of the most common leaks amongst mid-stakes players. If you have none of these leaks, perhaps you are more advanced than the average reader, but I assure you: You have leaks. Don’t give up on looking for them.

      The first leak, and one of the most important amongst even very successful players, is simply the lack of a thought process. Maybe I should say the lack of a sophisticated thought process.

      This is far and away the biggest leak amongst winning players. “What? Winning players? Must not be a very serious problem then,” you might think. However you’d be wrong. The fact that they are winning players makes it worse because they assume nothing is wrong.

      I should get more specific before I continue. The problem is that these players play in a way that makes money in their regular game, say $5/$10, six-handed No Limit. However, they have no idea why they make the plays they make. They learned from a book, or from watching a friend play, or maybe they just happened upon a good strategy. They raise a good range of hands pre-flop. They bet a good number of flops, check-raise bluff a good amount of the time, etc. But they don’t really know why they do it. They just know that it works for them (so far).

      I was playing in a 25/50NL game at the Wynn. At first it seemed like the play was okay. It was clearly a soft game, but I thought a few of the players seemed solid, from observing them the first hour or so. Then this hand came up:

      Some Guy (SG) opened to $200 in late position. I had no read on him. He was new to the table. Older Guy (OG), who seemed to play well, called in the SB.

      Flop is Q-J-3, rainbow. OG checks, SG checks.

      Turn 4s, bringing two spades. OG bets $300 into the $450 pot. SG calls.

      As an observer, at this point, I’m putting OG on some kind of pair or draw. He hasn’t really taken enough action for me to put him on a narrow range of hands. I’m putting SG on something like A-K to A-10 or something midpairish. Occasionally he might have a flush draw, too.

      River is the 9s, for a board of Qs Jh 3d 4s 9s.

      OG bets $900 into the $1,050 pot. A big bet for most live games.

      I put him on either a set, a straight, a bluff, or a flush — with flushes and bluffs having the most weight.

      SG thinks for a while, maybe 45 seconds, and then calls.

      Now OG makes a very disappointed face, and is reluctant to turn over his hand. “I guess he was bluffing,” I think to myself.

      OG takes a few more seconds and hesitantly turns over Q-10 of hearts as if he’s embarrassed. SG looks surprised and mucks his hand.

      This is the point where I realize that the players I thought were decent had no idea what they were doing.

      A man in the three seat (3S), who had been playing fairly well and made it clear to everyone how good he was, says to OG, “Wow. I bet you didn’t like that call.” OG shakes his head no, in agreement.


      I couldn’t believe that these guys had fooled me for so long. I really thought they knew how to play.

      I realized then why I was fooled. They made plays that were correct most of the time. They had experience in this live 25/50 9-handed game, and they’ve been winners in it for a while. The problem was, I couldn’t tell why they were making seemingly good decisions. I couldn’t hear the thought process behind each decision.

      See, the river bet with Qh 10h there is actually a good play. I would make the same bet against most thinking opponents. My reasoning would be that I have the best hand most of the time. My opponent likely wasn’t drawing, so won’t bluff if I check. So the only way for me to make money on the hand is to bet if I think he will call with a worse hand enough of the time (If he won’t call enough with worse, then I have to check and fold to a bet). Now I can decide on a bet size. I would choose a large bet for a couple reasons, mostly because I want to make my opponent make a bad decision. I want him to put me on a different hand or hand range than what I have.

      So, looking at it from his standpoint, he might think something like: A large bet by me means a flush 30% of the time, a straight or set or two pair 25%, top pair 10%, and a bluff 35%. That’s what I’m trying to make him estimate with my bet sizing. If he believes this, he has to call with his mid-pair, since he has over 2:1 pot odds and has the best hand over 1/3 of the time.

      If I make a small half-pot value-ish bet, he might put me on a range of 70% top pair, 10% straight/set/two pair, 5% flush, 15% bluff. Then he would correctly fold his mid-pair.

      If I were bluffing this river, I might choose the smaller bet size to represent a thin value bet, and make him fold his mid-pair. You have to consider what your opponent might have before you make a bet, so that you can decide how big or small a hand you want to either push him off of or get him to call with. If I put my opponent on two pair in this hand, I wouldn’t ever expect him to fold to my halfpot size bet because it’s not representing a strong enough hand. If I wanted to bluff, I would have to bet bigger, or check-raise bluff, which is probably the best bluff vs. two pair on this board.

      Another benefit to value betting big and bluffing small is that you make or lose more or less money respectively when you are called.

      Anyways, that was a bit of a tangent, but I wanted to show you what a real thought process on that river should look like.

      OG showed a huge leak in his logic when he thought his top pair was no good after his big river bet was called. Why did he bet, and why such a large amount? If he thought he had the worst hand, he clearly wasn’t betting for value. To bet for value, you should feel you have the best hand over half the time. So was he bluffing? Bluffing with top pair in this spot seems pretty terrible as well; any better hand would be unlikely to fold in that position.

      I honestly believe that OG had no idea why he was betting. He just knew he had top pair. And I think the real reason he bet so big was that he didn’t want to be raised. I actually think he was trying to represent the flush so that low flushes wouldn’t raise him. (Hopefully you realize how dumb it is to try to represent a flush when you are value-betting top pair.) Unless you’re in a tough game against smart tricky players, which we weren’t, you don’t have to be worried about being bluff-raised on that river after that action. He only bet big because he was scared, not taking the expected value of his play into account at all. And 3S agreed with him. He agreed with OG’s almost nonexistent thought process.

      The truth is that players like OG and 3S make money in the game they are used to playing. And as long as the game stays easy and the dynamic stays similar, they’ll continue to win because they happened upon a strategy that beats that particular game.

      However, if players start to become more aggressive, or more passive, or tighter, or they start to check-raise more, etc. etc., OG and 3S will no longer be able to win, because they don’t have the mental tools to properly adjust. If they want to play in a heads-up game, or sixhanded game, or they want to move up or down in stakes, or play in a tournament, they’ll be screwed. All of these new games require adjustments, and making proper adjustments to different game situations and opponents requires the ability to reason well.

      Everyone has this leak to a certain degree. I’ve actually never sat there and thought about why I open-raise A-K suited on the button. I just do it.

      The way to improve your game is to ask yourself, especially when reviewing big hands: Why did I make that play? What are some reasons for making a different play? Even in hands you aren’t a part of, think to yourself, “Why did he make that play? Would I make the same play? Why would I/wouldn’t I?”

      If you end up getting a coach or some poker friends to talk to, make sure you discuss the reasons behind your plays. And please, operate under the assumption that you have a lot of leaks. Be on the lookout for them constantly. You’ll be better off that way, whether you actually are a bad player right now or not.

      So thats both parts of this amazing article -hope you enjoyed as much as I did the first time a read it -I suggest saving or printing it & the next time you feel you are preforming on auto pilot when playing online just give it another read -Always helps me to think more creatively. ;)
    • Kruppe
      Joined: 20.02.2008 Posts: 2,145
      he just busted the highstakes FL player, Vega Lion's fulltilt roll .............. by winning ten 30k flips in a row.
    • PokerRoad
      Joined: 21.07.2009 Posts: 143