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Why You MUST Slow-play Pocket Aces – The Availability Bias

Posted by preachercasy151

Quickly answer this question: do more words feature the letter K as the first or the third letter in the English language?

***

Vedran is a strong low-stakes 6-max SNG player who is playing his way out of a minor downswing. He posted up the following hand in my students’ chat group:

‘I am dealt AA and open raise from middle position. The TAG reg in the Big Blind 3-bets me, and I decide to flat call, for deception and balance purposes.

The flop comes Ks Jd 3h. The reg checks, I continuation bet 60% of the pot, and the reg mini-raises me. I estimate his range preflop to be TT-KK, and, based on this range, I feel that he must have a set so I puke-fold. This is why I hate slow-playing AA!’

The Poker Mindset gets cloudy

Now, let’s get something straight. Vedran posted up the hand because he suspected that he had made an error. And believe me, he most definitely had. He had fallen foul of availability bias.

ScreenHunter_57 Jun. 18 17.31

When we think back to all of the times that we slow-played AA, we instantly recall the occasions where it ended disastrously. Our minds become awash with memories of flopped sets, of backdoor draws hitting, and of losing our place in the hand.

As such, our mind wants us to believe that slow-playing monster hands is a terrible move, and that we will somehow get punished every time we do so.

Well guess what?

It’s total garbage.

Should we slow-play Pocket Aces?

There IS a time and a place for slow-playing Aces. It’s just that all the times that it works out well are harder to recall.

In this hand, Vedran back-fitted his analysis to paint a scenario in which a fold could be deemed acceptable. However, is it remotely realistic to peg the TAG reg’s range squarely at TT-KK? Hell no! What about all the 44s and JQo and A5s that elected to 3-bet pre-flop? Just because villain is tight, doesn’t mean that he MUST have a monster here.

Similarly, on the flop, Vedran disregarded any bluffs or value raises with AK, KQ etc. He feared the worst, partially because, on an unconscious level, he has been conditioned to believe that AA gets cracked FAR more often than is the reality.

Vedran allowed his irrational fears to influence his decision-making, and It resulted in his making a very poor fold.

We are programmed to remember the remarkable. We are more likely to recall the times where we got that horrible sinking feeling in our gut as we saw the diamonds hit, than all those times where we doubled-up unceremoniously and quickly moved our focus to the next hand.

Your Mind Plays Tricks

Just because something springs more readily to mind, does not mean that it occurs more commonly. In fact, it is BECAUSE Aces win more regularly than lose that the wins become routine and unremarkable. By extension, the losses are out of the ordinary and therefore easier to recall.

And, as you have probably worked out by now, you were wrong. The letter K features more than twice as often as the third letter than as the first. It’s just that those words that begin with K spring more readily to mind.

Ladies and gentlemen – the availability bias. A nasty little blighter that needs to be kept away from the poker tables!

***

Let me know of the times when YOU fell foul of the availability bias in the comments below! And don’t forget to use the Social Share buttons to spread the article online.

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*I borrowed the Letter K example from Daniel Kahneman’s groundbreaking Thinking, Fast and Slow.

 

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What is a Good Win Rate at the Micros and Small Stakes?

Posted by BlackRain79

I get asked about win rates perhaps more than any other topic. That or how many hours do they need to play to make $50 a day. These questions usually come from people who are new to online poker. I often reply with something along the lines of it depends on your skill level, the stakes and the volume that you put in. It is totally impossible for me to answer this question without this information.

Also, I take the time to remind them (or perhaps inform) that they are thinking about the game all wrong. Poker is not like a regular job where if you show up for X amount of hours you get paid X amount of money. Most people lose in the long run in this game in fact. In other words they go to "work" and their paycheck is a negative amount.

Show Me The Money!

Anyways, while these types of questions do seem really silly to me, I have gotten enough of them by now to know that people want to know about win rates no matter what. So let's get into it! Now the question always gets phrased to me as "what is possible." So let's start there.

In my opinion the top 5% of the entire player pool are the ones who are the long term big winners. These are the guys who are doing "what is possible." So that is who I am speaking about below. Also, I will be assuming that they are religiously game selecting (both table selection and seat selection) when they have the time for it. Elite players tend to always be doing this anyways.

Now of course the big thing with game selection is that when you are playing 18 tables at once you simply do not have anywhere near as much time to pay attention to it as someone who is 6 tabling for instance. The same goes for the quality of your actual poker decisions. This will drastically affect your potential win rate. So I will break down the win rates below into three different volume categories.

Lastly, what follows is just my opinion from playing at all levels of the micros and small stakes for years. If you fail to achieve these numbers (or have already surpassed them) please don't send me hate mail!

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 1-8 tables.

NL2: 30bb/100
NL5: 20bb/100
NL10: 15bb/100
NL25: 12bb/100
NL50: 10bb/100
NL100: 10bb/100

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 9-17 tables.

NL2: 20bb/100
NL5: 13bb/100
NL10: 10bb/100
NL25: 8bb/100
NL50: 7bb/100
NL100: 7bb/100

Top win rates possible for elite players who play 18+ tables.

NL2: 12bb/100
NL5: 8bb/100
NL10: 6bb/100
NL25: 5bb/100
NL50: 5bb/100
NL100: 5bb/100

So there you have it! You can multiply these amounts by your projected daily volume to find out what the best possible average earnings per day are at your limit. You can also multiply them by your average hourly volume in order to find out what the best possible average hourly is at your limit. This is all pre-rakeback of course as well which can add up to thousands of dollars per month for high volume players at NL25 and higher.

The Let Down

Alright, let's inject some reality into this conversation now. The average win rate and daily earnings of a random person just getting started in online poker are both in fact negative numbers. Many people get caught up in the spell of the dream poker lifestyle. They have seen the millions being tossed around on TV and they figure that since they dominate their buddies every Friday night or have "been killing it" at the local 1/2 game for an inconsequential amount of hands that online poker is their's for the taking.

The vast majority of them find out the hard way that it doesn't quite work like that. Let me now list the win rates that are much more common for these stakes. Keep in mind that at least 3/4 of people who play poker actually lose in the long run. So these numbers represent the average win rate that a winning player (only 1/4 of the player pool) can expect to attain at the various stakes.

These are the average win rates for 1-8 tables.

NL2: 10bb/100
NL5: 6bb/100
NL10: 4bb/100
NL25: 2bb/100
NL50: 2bb/100
NL100: 2bb/100

These are the average win rates for 9-17 tables.

NL2: 6bb/100
NL5: 4bb/100
NL10: 3bb/100
NL25: 2bb/100
NL50: 1bb/100
NL100: 1bb/100

These are the average win rates for 18+ tables.

NL2: 4bb/100
NL5: 2bb/100
NL10: 1bb/100
NL25: 0.5bb/100
NL50: 0.5bb/100
NL100: 0.5bb/100

You can pull out your calculator again and multiply these numbers by your projected daily volume and hourly volume in order to get your daily and hourly earnings. I hope this article proves valuable to all of the financial planners out there who want to know exactly how much they are going to make before they even get started!

Unfortunately though, poker doesn't actually work this way.

Your time would be much better spent simply forgetting about all of your future riches for months at the very least. You should instead focus on playing as much as you can and working hard on your game away from the tables. You should aim to develop the work ethic, discipline, emotional control and dedication to continued learning that are all necessary for long term success in this game.

I am not here to encourage the dreamers who send me these emails asking about how much they are going to make. These are the people who are all but guaranteed to fail in this game.

I am here however to encourage realistic people with the hunger to learn and improve to go pursue their passion for this game. People with no ego who want to earn it like the guy who I interviewed in my last post. It's fine to have big dreams in this game but put that aside for now. It is time to get to work.

Nathan Williams aka "BlackRain79" is a microstakes grinder, poker coach, DragTheBar instructor and the author of Crushing the Microstakes. Now available in Spanish and Russian as well.

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