Today, I’m going to tell you about unnatural defense strategies and why they’re something you need to be constantly be on the lookout for while you're playing poker.
In the latest season of Curb Your Enthusiasm Larry David has a problem: He is super annoyed with having to constantly interact with the public.
Speaking with strangers, listening to their jokes, sitting next to them at the Sushi Bar … ick!
But how do you sidestep unwanted conversations without constantly being an asshole?
Larry comes up with a genius solution that’s about as unnatural as they come: The same dude that wouldn't have sex with someone just because they were a Republican puts on a MAGA hat whenever folks get close to him.
Of course, in the City of Angels, Larry gets his desired outcome and everyone flees.
As he quips, “It’s a natural people repellant”.
If you wanted to have a conversation with him you'd have to use an equally unnatural strategy: Simply ignore the hat even when it made you feel strong negative emotions.
Good luck with that if you're not a fan of Donald Trump.
Most folks living in Hollywood, regardless of political beliefs, would never have the guts to use Larry's strategy. If you even suggested it to them their faces would probably get beet red and they’d tell you it’s against their moral beliefs, their ethics, and everything they know in the world…
But they would also keep getting annoyed in public.
Here’s the sitch: When you're faced with a problem that requires an unnatural defense you will almost always resist it. You will actively fight and give reasons as to why you will not do the exact thing an optimal strategy indicates you should.
This is the corner you want to force your opponent's into.
When you consistently put them in spots where the optimal defense strategy is weird or counter-intuitive, they will naturally make more and more mistakes.
They see your MAGA hat and book it in the other direction...
Exactly like we planned it.
Which, as you might imagine, is really great for your bottom line.
For instance in last week’s Poker Power Hour we spent about 30 minutes on a single hand:
Pretend you’re playing $1-$2, you call a $6 raise from the CO, and the flop is Ks 8s 2c.
You check and villain continuation bets ⅓ ($4).
This is the first unnatural defense point.
The solver wants us to respond by raising this cbet with 30% of all the hands we have here, including:
- Most of our 8x (middle pairs)
- Most of our 2x (bottom pair)
- Most of our pocket pairs from 33-55
- All of our offsuit aces with no pair that have the As
- Our top pairs
- Offsuit Qx with the Q of spades
- The majority of our backdoor flush draws.
Would this be your natural response? Do you think the human beings you’re playing against are raising with all of these hands in the moment?
Therein lies the beauty in continuation betting your entire range ⅓ of the pot in spots like this:
The way you get exploited is if your opponents RAISE our continuation bet at a much higher frequency than they should. What human being responds like that naturally?
Let’s humor the solver, take it's advice, and check/raise the flop to $14.
This brings us to unnatural defense point #2.
While it’s obvious the preflop raiser should continue with all of their top pair+ and flush draws facing a raise, the rest of their continuing range is by no means intuitive:
- Every single pocket pair.
- Every single 8x.
- Every single offsuit Ax with the Ace of spades.
- Almost every AQo.
- All QJo with the Queen of spades.
- All hands with backdoor flush draws.
Do you see how awkward and unnatural these defense strategies are in real time? If you bet $4 with QsJh on this flop would you even think twice about folding to a check raise? What about pocket 6’s or 7’s?
These yummy little +EV snacks organically present themselves over and over again with a high frequency every single session we play.
When you are trained to notice them in real time and force your opponent’s to defend in a way that runs counter to all of their natural instincts...
Your results will have nowhere to go but up.