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StrategyWeekly No Limit

Balancing your game and exploiting your opponent’s leaks.


In this article
  • The importance of balancing on higher limits
  • Why you should polarise your ranges
  • Balancing against certain opponents

It is obvious that the importance of balancing your game rises as the limits get higher. At micro limits it is not necessary to analyse how often we fire the first, second or third barrel, how good we stand against floating and so on, this aspect of poker skill becomes vital starting around the NL100 level.

It is worth writing an article about it. Poor balance in your game leads to easily read leaks that we must eliminate, and on the contrary, we need to look for such leaks in our opponents‘ play in order to have an edge over them.

This topic is so wide and diverse that it is difficult to discuss all ideas within just one article. However, that’s not our aim at all. It is important to understand the principle and basic ideas, to give you food for thought.


Open your stats in HM-replayer and imagine that you have to learn to play well against this one particular opponent, to find leaks so you can exploit him – maybe he two-barrels very often and you won’t raise him with a set on the flop, you’d rather call him and therefore such a line will be more profitable.

Vice versa, he may be folding to cont-bet raises 45-55% of the time. This is the type of player whose continuation bets you should bluff-raise. These are the leaks you need to be able to recognise, and good players are able to define them and therefore exploit them. Observe how often you fold to three-bets, four-bets, your continuation bets, second barrels and your aggression on the river, study yourself and you will certainly find the spots in your play that need to be balanced and built up.

You may ask: And what percentage of the time should I fire a second barrel? 50, 60 or maybe 65%? What figures should I try to reach? There are a few indicators.

The first indicator is to ask yourself what type of opponent (by looking at the stats) is the most difficult for you to play against and what percentage of second barrels confuse you (their barrels? aren’t we talking about our barrels here?). Try to reach this figure; it will be the most correct (will it? why?). The second indicator is to observe your opponents’ hands and their lines of play against you. Evaluate whether their play is adequate and where they like to make any moves.

For example, when I noticed that my opponents started three-betting with a wide range against me too often, I realised that I folded too much to their three-bets, and having reduced how often I fold, I was able to double my win rate.

And every time when at showdown you happen to see a “strange” hand that your opponent is holding, just ask yourself: “Does he make such moves counting on my unbalanced play lines?”

NL Holdem $6(BB)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($221)
UTG+1 ($761)
CO ($601)
BTN ($1.028)
SB ($600)
Hero ($600)

Prelop: Hero is BB with JdQs
4 fold, SB raises to $15, Hero calls $9

Flop: ($30) Qd6cQc
SB bets $15, Hero calls $15

Turn: ($60) Qd6cQcKs
SB bets $30, Hero calls $30

River: ($120) Qd6cQcKs5d
SB bets $81, Hero calls $81

Hero shows JdQs
(Pre 71%, Flop 100,0%, Turn 100,0%)

SB shows 9hTs
(Pre 29%, Flop 0,0%, Turn 0,0%)

Hero wins $279

The opponent is probably on tilt. Regardless, you should look at your frequency of folding to the second and third barrel – is it too high? And, of course, if you notice the tendency of your opponent to overplay some certain lines against you, you should definitely keep it in mind and take steps to exploit this leak.

Polarising your Ranges

One more important aspect of balancing is the ability to match the hand range to a certain play line. It is clear that with 60% of second barrels, we won’t be betting only with good hands and folding only with garbage. The main point is to polarise ranges so that your hand is well disguised from your opponent.

Talking about second barrels, let’s split our range on the turn into:

  • 1. Strong hands (top pair or better)
  • 2. Mediocre hands (worse than top pair)
  • 3. Draws
  • 4. Garbage

Well, then it’s much more effective to polarise the second barrel range and bet in the cases of 1) and 3) and check with 2) and 4), rather than bet with 1) and 2) and check with 3) and 4). However, the aggression percentage will be approximately the same.

Maybe this is a too obvious example, but it clearly illustrates the point of range polarisation. And that’s what our goal is about – to make it hard for our opponents to choose the correct move.

Ideally we have to polarise our ranges throughout all rounds of betting so that our opponent’s decisions will be hard to make.

In regards to the previous example we polarise not only betting ranges, but checking ranges as well. And it is also very important as we can always choose to check-raise or check-call on the turn with 2), thus not giving the info to our opponent on whether floating will be profitable for him.


NL Holdem $20(BB)

Stacks & Stats
UTG ($837)
Hero ($2.000)
CO ($4.091)
BTN ($2.110)
SB ($1.626)
BB ($3.180)

Preflop: Hero is UTG+1 with ThAs
UTG folds, Hero raises to $60, CO calls $60, 3 fold

Flop: ($150) 3h8cJd
Hero bets $90, CO calls $90

Turn: ($330) 3h8cJd9d
Hero bets $240, CO folds

Hero shows ThAs

Hero wins $327

On the turn we only have a draw. However, our correct balancing makes it impossible for our opponent to continue the positive play for him as our range is full of over pairs, sets, strong Jacks, i.e. our range is quite polarised. If we check here, then it will be too easy for him to control the pot with a mediocre hand or value bet with a strong draw +.

Finally, a couple of words about one more concept - adjusting your balance against certain opponents.

Balancing agains specific opponents

So far we have estimated our play independently, a default play against an average player without any link to certain opponents. And what if our opponent is not an average player, what if his play line is too specific?

For example, very aggressive pre-flop, or cont-bet raise equal to 30%, or 70% floating? His play might be positive, but only thanks to us. Such deviations in his play are leaks, and we should certainly exploit them.


For example, let’s imagine pre-flop action, more specifically our general 3-bet range against a certain opponent. We can play independently of our opponent and 3-bet against all players with a certain range in certain position. Otherwise, we may open up our 3-bet range against opponents who tend to fold and narrow our range against an opponent with little fold percentage to 3-bets.


As a result we have an edge against our opponent thanks to adjusting our balance to certain types of players. We use their leaks, to get the right balance of 3-bet lines in order to increase our win rate. Our opponent estimates the 3-bet along the field average, this leads them to estimating our hand range incorrectly.

This example is also rather simple, but the main point of adjusting can easily be understood. Talking about a more complex example, if you are heads up on the flop and your opponent plays passively on the river, you should already be thinking on the flop which line you should use on in order to exploit this leak effectively. We adjust. We are going to show hyper aggression against him on the river, and as a result, our value betting effectiveness will increase against the players with high agg freq stats.


To sum it up, this article illustrates the balance concept, one out of many ways to maximise value from our actions at the poker table. If this article makes you think deeper about balancing your game, which was my aim, I did my best and have fulfilled my task.

Thanks to all of you! Good luck and skill! May the Luck and Skill will be with you always.