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What's your thought process??


I'm about a year and a half into my journey to learn this game. What I'm struggling with is how to establish an effective thought process for making good decisions and getting solid results. What I seem to lean toward is a thought process like:

  1. Notice what others are doing/ID weak, strong, passive, aggressive, responses, betting trends
  2. Is my hand a garbage hand? Fold if yes
  3. Evaluate my hand based on my position - am I in range for my position?
  4. Has preflop action folded to me so I can raise first in? If so, bet based on hand and position
  5. Am I in position to steal the blinds - do I have that opportunity?
  6. Am I giving up my blinds easily, am I an easy target?
  7. After initial betting for hand, try to put remaining opponents on ranges based on their position/betting/behavior
  8. Am I ahead or behind going into next street?

I can accept running hot and cold, which is my experience so far. I understand the concept of variance and can accept it provided I know I'm thinking properly and understand where I am in terms of being a good decision maker.

Does anyone else have a similar internal dialog? For those of you who are way more experienced, does this make sense? I have not yet incorporated thinking in terms of counting outs, EV, pot odds, implied odds, or any math oriented evaluation. Any advice?



  • mrfleming

    I think your list is very good, especially your questions on range (3, 7). You could keep adding and adding so some of the work is about prioritization.

    I'm not implying that I am doing all this, but that I think this process work is important.

    1. what is the pot size compared to the amount to call (an obvious mention)?
    2. what will the players behind me do and what is their stack size?
    3. what is my M ratio (what zone am I in)?
    4. what is my stack size in BB's and how many hands will this allow me to see?
    5. what stage of the tournament am I in?
    6. is my betting polarized (variation)?
    7. Am I three betting at all?
  • mikec420m

    Thanks, and I think you bring up good questions that I don't think about much - especially your questions on stack size. Do you ever make decisions based on SPR or pot odds? I think your question on stack size in BB is important for tournament play, but what about cash games, which is what I focus on?
    Usually I become more aware of stack size when I have isolated a weak player with a smaller stack. That is where I would typically try a semi bluff. Aside from that I don't think of stack size so much.

    I also can not say that I run through this entire list every time it's my turn to act, but they are the things that I work to keep an awareness of. I find myself more oriented to this kind of a decision process versus a math driven process.

    What I'm trying to determine is whether it will be more effective for me to develop this way of thinking, or if I should make the effort to augment it with some key math indicators such as SPR, pot odds, implied odds, etc?

    What do you think?

  • mrfleming

    I don’t have the nerve to play cash games, never have. I only know MTT.

    My home game allows players time to think, but I still feel the need to not take up too much time when the action is on me. When in casino tournaments and pub poker league games, the play is much faster and I feel more pressure to make quick decisions. So, what is the answer to the problem of my feeling pressured to play fast? 1) suck it up snowflake and take what's yours, and 2) improve my intuition so I play fast more better.

    I remind myself that professional play is slow and thoughtful, but the idea of working on one’s intuition is really interesting to me. Intuitive play comes from playing 1000’s of hands (on APT). And professionals are saying that off-table study transfers into better intuition, in particular, hand analysis work involving ranges. They are saying that the difference between good intuition and bad is knowledge and experience. They are saying this in response to people complaining about not being able to do this complicated stuff during live play.

    I'm using APT to build the habitat of noticing stack sizes. The robots don’t care how much time I take. And just recently I've noticed that it is transferring to my live play, I am indeed starting to look at stack sizes. Mostly I’m comparing the overall look of a villain's stack compared to mine and others. The APT homepage is saying that they will have a chip stack size study session, and I’m looking forward to that.

    STP ratio? I wish! Professional advice is saying that this aspect of the game is very important. So, this might factor into prioritizing my list.

    I became convinced of the importance of pot odds, for each and every hand, very early on. Don’t play without calculating pot odds. Don’t play without counting your outs. It's easy and important and in my home game it has separated my play from more than half the other players. I was shocked when one player admitted to not knowing what pot odds are.

    I feel that by asking the question “what about the thought process”, asking this regularly, taking out my list and reviewing it, adding and subtracting things, and adjusting the prioritization, I will improve my actual play. Awareness building off the table, will transfer to my real play.

    I’m thinking that blogging is also awareness building and will improve my game.

  • mikec420m

    Your concept of developing intuition I have been thinking of as developing "instinctive" play. Different word but same idea. Drill away from the table, study, and play through specific scenarios on APT, then play "regular" cash games on APT to apply what I learned off the felt. I discovered APT a few months ago, and just recently renewed my subscription. I'm finding it a good way for me to work on each aspect of my play and become stronger in general.

    I started playing online micro stakes cash games about a year and a half ago, but at the lowest levels most players are ridiculously bad and I was finding it difficult to apply what I was learning. I decided to focus on working here, with the idea of going to play live in a casino - I live near two awesome casinos, each having a very good poker room - and leaving the online play for a future time. I am less experienced than you, but one thing you've helped to confirm for me is that my concepts and how I'm developing my thought process seems sound, so I will continue the way I've been going.

    I am just starting to absorb about the real importance of poker math and learning how to calculate pot odds, count outs, and so forth. That is the next aspect of my play that I will develop - using pot odds and outs calcs part of my thought process. Right now it seems difficult and intimidating, but I'll spend the time to get it down. I had bought and read some books on poker math moths ago, but I don't take to it naturally and I really struggled. Maybe it's because I was only just trying to learn the basics of the game - I may have tried to absorb too much too soon.

    Anyway, I appreciate the exchange of ideas and thank you for replying to me. Your idea of blogging is interesting to me. It's making me consider the idea of creating a blog to chronicle my learning of NLHE, my thought process and experiences as I learn and grow in the game. Writing things down is a great way to stimulate thinking and creating insights you don't get otherwise. Maybe I'll pursue that. If you have a blog I'd be interested in reading it. Would you share the link?

  • mrfleming

    greets Mike: By blogging I meant writing right here on the APT Community section. Maybe I'm calling it by the wrong name.

    BTW, I listen to the Rec Poker podcast on the way to and from work. Episode 131 has an interview with "psychologist" Jared Tendler who has a chapter in one of Jonathan Little's books. Along about minute 51 there is a discussion center around "unconscious incompetence" "conscience incompetence" "Conscience competence" and last but not least, our subject here, "unconsciousness competence"
    ." Its worth a listen


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