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Did I play my hand right?
Exploring the new scenario feature of PokerCoach powered by PokerSnowie
(article based on an old version of the AI from year 2013)
The scenario feature of PokerCoach powered by PokerSnowie lets you set up any situation, varying all the parameters to your heart’s content – number of players, stack sizes, hole cards, betting rounds, etc… - and do a detailed analysis of the ensuing scenarios.
It is an extremely powerful coaching feature, as it allows you to really drill down into specific situations and understand the logic behind the best possible moves.
In the following article, I explore 5 ways you can use scenarios to improve your game, have some fun and answer the ultimate question: “Did I play my hand right?”
Examining all the options
Poker Coach is a very powerful tool to study and better understand poker. It allows us to cover multiple scenarios from pre-flop to the river. I can spend hours starting with a hand and playing with all the parameters. I won’t show you here all my conclusions, but I will give you an example of what I am looking at when I analyze a hand in detail.
Pre-flop we opened under the gun to 3 BB with AsTs and the Hijack called.
According to PokerSnowie, we can either bet or check on this flop. If we can't make any mistakes, why is this hand interesting to analyze? Well this is a perfect situation to study how our decisions should change when we modify the parameters...
- Changing our hand: would it be a mistake to bet A9s or to check with AQs?
- Changing our seat: would it be an automatic bet cut-off against the button? Should we stack off in this situation in a blind battle?
- Changing the size of the pot: if we had open to 2BB pre-flop, the pot would be smaller, the ranges would be larger. Would it be a bet under those circumstances? How would you play that hand if it was a 3bet pot? How would you play in a MTT, starting with 20BB? With 40BB?
- Changing the size of our bet: would betting the pot be correct?
- Changing position: if we were in position, for example under the gun against small blind, should we bet?
- Changing the texture of the board: would it be a bet with a rainbow flop? What would you do on Ah2c5h? And on AKJ?
- Giving us more equity: would it have been a bet if it was the Jack of spades, giving us a flush draw? What about with two spades on board? And what would you do with top two pairs, if it was a T or if we had AJs?
- If we bet the flop, can we call a small raise? What about if we were in position? What about if we had a backdoor flush?
- If we check the flop, how many barrels are we supposed to call? How would you deal with an over bet on the flop? On the turn?
- Future streets: if we bet, on what card should we barrel? With the Js, should we barrel another spade?
As you can see, there are endless possibilities here and the more I use it, the more I find myself discovering new opportunities in my game.
Analyzing Live Sessions
Our poker isn't restricted to online play. Scenarios is a great tool for analyzing hands we've played offline, whether in the local casino or at home with friends. Most of us can easily recall a session's important decisions, but for those who can't, it may be worth taking notes on a smartphone or notebook just after the hand, or using a voice recorder, like Gus Hansen did at the Aussie Millions tournament. The important factors are the number of players in the pot, their respective positions, their stack sizes, the bet sizing on each street, and the size of the pot at the moment of the decision.
Collecting these details may seem complicated at first, but there are a lot of shortcuts and practice will make it easier. This alone will improve your decision making at the table.
Once the session is complete, we can do our homework on Poker Coach. I like to do it on the same day or night. Whatever the result is, I sleep much better after knowing how well or not so well I played and what my mistakes were. Some players prefer to do their homework after a couple of days or even once a week.
I strongly recommend NOT doing this while you're still playing. When we're at a poker table we need to be focused on the present, not busy thinking or analyzing the hands which are done, even when we know all the players at the table and we're not involved in the hand. It's not a matter of getting reads, it is a matter of mind set in order to play our A game and make the best decisions.
Spotting errors from the stars on TV
It's not just our own hands we can analyse. For example, are any of you curious about what Poker Coach's decision would be against the 'Bluff of the Century'? Well I am, and sorry Chris, your move was brilliant and worked well against Sam Farha, but your bluff attempt would have failed against PokerSnowie.
Checking what the best poker players in the world are doing right or wrong is not only fun, it also helps us to improve our skills. And I trust PokerSnowie much more than TV commentators to spot other players' errors.
Verifying recommendations from an expert
There is so much information about poker nowadays: commentators on TV, columnists in poker magazines, coaches on video and authors in books, all telling us how to play poker. But who can we really trust to improve our game? Well I would say all of them and none of them, as it’s always interesting to have different visions of the game and to understand how different people think.
Since Poker Coach was released, every time I get a recommendation in poker, I build a Scenario to test it. My goal is not to check if the expert is qualified - everyone makes mistakes, even PokerSnowie! - But to compare their strategy with game theory.
Small mistakes are not very relevant, for example if PokerSnowie chooses another line on the flop and spots the expert is off by 0.22 in equity. But it is interesting to note when both lines are close and to try to modify the situation and see how it evolves.
How do I deal with blunders? Well, here is an example from a video produced by Isaac Haxton (Ike), one of the best No Limit players in the world.
He analyzed the hand correctly, stressing the range of Player4 is stronger on the flop because the pre-flop raise opens many combos of off-suit kings, while there are only a few combos of suited kings in the ranges of both callers.
Then Ike stipulated that Player4 would try to take too much advantage of the situation and bet in continuation all his range on that flop texture. So he raised to exploit this leak. His reasons for raising here are totally fine and have nothing to do with game theory.
So, should we follow the advice from the pro and try to exploit our opponents or should we follow PokerSnowie and game theory? Well, the hand was played and the video was released in 2009. In my opinion, players are balancing their range much better today. A pre-flop raiser would no longer continuation bet recklessly on that board, especially out of position against two opponents. So I don't think raising is still profitable and I would fold in that spot.
Improving the contents of our posts on the forums
Half of the posts on the poker forums are asking what to do with that hand in that situation. That is exactly what Poker Coach is doing. Does it mean PokerSnowie will kill activity on the forum? I don't think so.
But PokerSnowie can be a good referee to make our posts more interesting. Here is an example: we are dealt 6c6d in BB. Facing a 3BB raise from the button, should we 3bet or call? Both lines have pros and cons and we could argue for hours on a forum...
- We should 3bet: if the button 4bets, small pocket pairs have good equity for a 5bet shove
- We should call: it is a hand with potential and we prefer to keep a high SPR post-flop
- We should 3bet: to take the initiative and make the hand easier to play post-flop
- We should call: to not inflate the pot, it is very difficult to play small pairs in a big pot post-flop out of position
- Hmmm, the hand it is too difficult to play: I prefer to fold if the button is a tough player.
Let's check the Scenario with Poker Coach:
Folding is clearly a mistake but even if PokerSnowie raises, a difference of 0.03 BB in equity is a tossup so both lines are playable.
When good players are unsure about a hand and post it on a forum, it is often because it's a close call. It happens a lot, and not only in small pots. It probably explains how different styles can win at poker. Here is a decision to play or not for our stack, but as long as we are not folding, both lines have practically the same equity.
Thanks to PokerSnowie we can save our time and energy and have more interesting debates on the forum.
This move is a blunder according to Poker Coach, but I can't see why. Can you?
According to PokerSnowie I can either call or raise small with 6s5s. What line would you take? Would your decision depend on the profile of the villain, your image or on the dynamic of the game?
Those are just some of the ways you can use the scenario feature of PokerCoach to make your poker journey ever more interesting.
And how do you use it? What interesting scenarios have you been able to evaluate on PokerCoach? Let me know in the comments. I look forward to reading your thoughts and discovering yet more ways to progress with PokerSnowie.
Inside PokerSnowie's brain
PokerSnowie's ultimate aim is to find the ultimate un-exploitable equilibrium for all No Limit Hold'em configurations. Join us on this fascinating journey, which is just starting, into the future of poker.MORE LESSONS