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Optimal Mode of Play
IntroductionIn this Article
- What is the optimal mode of play and how do I find it?
- What are the typical characteristics of the optimal mode?
- What are the effects of playability?
The majority of poker encounters are concerned with winning the maximum amount from bad players. The goal might also be to exploit the weaknesses of such an opponent as much as possible. But what if the opponent is an excellent player? Many tricks that are effective against weak players are counterproductive in that situation. Thus, against a good player it's less about exploiting his weaknesses – he hardly has any – rather, it's about playing in such a manner that we don't give him a toehold.
Part I: Playing against tough opponents - The theory
So with Jack, we'll bet the turn again after making a flop bet, and he'll often fold. If he raises the turn, we know that he has a strong hand and can usually make good laydowns after that.
Joe is an acquaintance of Jack and a tough player. He watches our game against Jack and when Jack no longer wants to play, Joe jumps right in for him. We assume, incorrectly, that Joe plays the same as Jack. Joe is a tough player, though. He uses our tendency to bet the turn after betting the flop by playing call flop, raise turn without mercy. On the turn he often raises as a semi-bluff, so that what were good laydowns are now fatal mistakes.
To sum it up: Joe is extremely good at identifying our weaknesses and exploits them optimally. Whereas our mode of play is highly profitable against fish like Jack, it turns out to be very costly against Joe.
We will later see that there are modes of play that are nearly free of weaknesses, which is why even very good players cannot exploit them. If you strictly adhere to these “optimal” modes, though, you will not win the maximum amount against fish. However, they are theoretically at least break-even against *any* opponent, but, as no one's play is completely flawless, usually at least slightly +EV against any opponent.
||+ 3 BB/100
||+ 2 BB/100
||- 3 BB/100
||+ 0,5 BB/100
The optimal mode is purely defensive. We are not looking for weaknesses in the opponent that we might exploit, rather we assume that our opponent is a perfect player, and that any deviation from the optimal mode will be punished by him.
If you play strictly optimally, then the reads and stats about our opponent no longer matter. We play the same against every opponent and are at least break even against every opponent. In fact, we are a little plus since no opponent plays entirely free of mistakes.
It is clear, however, that we won't make the maximum. To do that – as in the example against Jack above – we would have to deviate from the optimal mode to exploit particular weaknesses in our opponent.
|Avoids own weaknesses
||Exploits weaknesses of others
|Exploits weaknesses of others
||Based on reads and stats
|EV greater than or equal to 0 against all opponents
||Vulnerable to good players
|+EV against fish
||Max +EV against fish
The maximum mode is based on the weaknesses of the opposition. The fewer weaknesses the opponent has, the more the maximum mode will approximate the optimal mode.
The two modes will be identical against an perfect opponent, that is, one without any weaknesses at all.
Against good players, though, the optimal mode is often very close to the maximum, so playing the optimum game already yields the maximum value, in some sense. But the optimal mode has a decisive advantage: it is independent of any reads or stats. We cannot be "wrong" and cannot be tricked by the opponent. No matter what the opponent does or how good he is, we are at least break even, but usually almost always +EV by default.
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