Hand Selection: Fish vs. Regs

Allen Cunningham
AC tailors his play depending on who he's likely to play against.

In No-Limit Hold'em, there's no such thing as a static hand chart. The nature of the game allows for lots of styles of play to be profitable.

There are, though, some hands that do better against certain types of opponents. And knowing which hands are profitable vs. which opponents makes all the difference between being a good player and being a great player.

Obviously, no matter who your opponent is, the top portion of your range remains the same. You're always going to raise AA-TT, AK-AJs, etc.

These hands are just so strong raising them will always be profitable in a six-max game. It's the bottom portion of your range that should change depending on your opponent.

Playing Against Fish

The first thing you should ask yourself is "Where is my profit going to come from?" Against a fish, your profit comes from when they call down with inferior hands - which they do often.

That's what makes them fish. They play without regard for position, they call too often pre-flop and they take their hands too far post-flop.

Your profit will come from making top pair or better and value-betting relentlessly. So against a fish you adjust by adding more hands with top-pair value - meaning hands that make top pair and that will have a better kicker than your fish.

Hands like KT, KJ, QT, AT-A6 etc. all become raises when fish are likely to call because the fish will still play hands that you dominate.

Fish make mistakes regulars won't. They'll call a raise with A 2 and be happy to call three streets on an ace-high board.

Guy Laliberte
Fish love to call so add more top pair hands.

In other words, when your opponent plays a wider range of dominated hands then you, you should widen your range of dominating hands.

Playing Against Regulars

Your profit from a regular isn't going to come from him calling you down with a dominated hand. He just isn't going to do it that often.

A regular isn't going to call all three streets with that same A 2 on an ace-high board. You may get one street of value from your weak ace, but if there's action on a second street you're probably beat.

Your profit against a regular comes from making him fold the best hand.

Against a regular your top-pair hands go down in value and your bluff implied-odds hands go up in value.

Suited connectors are the best hands to play versus regulars. When they hit they make big hands - hands that you're willing to go to war with stacks with.

But the best part about suited connectors is they often flop or turn a draw and are great for firing multiple barrels.

A good example:

$1/$2 effective stacks $200. You have 6 7 in the cut-off and raise to $7. A regular in the big blind calls.

The flop comes 8 3 2. He checks and you bet $12.

(Now a regular is going to peel almost any pocket pair here because he knows you're going to be c-betting a lot.)

He calls and the turn comes T. He checks and you fire $25.

Now can he really call profitably? He has no idea if you have an overpair, an eight, a ten, or what. He just knows the board is getting worse for him.

You've also improved. You now have a gutshot straight-flush draw and even if you're called you can hit any one of your 12 outs and win the hand.

That's what makes suited connectors such great multi-barrel hands. They improve on the turn a high percentage of the time.

If you have one card of your suit on the flop, you're going to pick up a flush draw on the turn 1 in 4.7 times. And when you have as much equity as nine outs, it's always a great time to fire a second barrel.

Add in the fact you're going to be barreling overcards, your opponent is going to be forced into making tough decisions all the time.

Dan Harrington
Regs are tough to get value from, but easier to bluff.

It's not bluffing in the true sense of the word, where you bluff with nothing. It's better. It's bluffing with equity.

When you turn equity, it's always a great time to fire a second barrel because your opponents are going to fold a lot. When they don't, you can still either hit your hand and win a stack or miss, fire again and win by making them fold.

Bluffing with equity is always better than bluffing with no equity because it gives you an escape hatch. You're banking on them folding, but when they call you're not dead in the water as you can still hit.

Where fish are happy to stack off with dominated hands, regulars won't. Those times you do get a regular to call three streets with a dominated hand, it's probably a cooler.

But you can't count on making money from regulars with coolers. In the end, they'll cooler you just as much as you cooler them.

The difference in your win rate is going to come from you making him fold with the best hand more often than he does you. And that's done by firing multiple barrels.

Suited connectors are great for that.

It's a Numbers Game

You won't be able to tailor your play perfectly all of the time, but depending on the table you should be able to tweak your play depending on where the button is.

For example if you're in the cut-off, there's a tight player on the button and two fish in the blinds, you should be opening more top-pair hands.

However if you're in the cut-off and there are two regulars in the blinds, you should obviously be opening more suited connectors and less weak top-pair hands.

It's a game of adjust and re-adjust. Just look around the table and figure out which style you should be using against which opponent and play accordingly.

It's an easy adjustment to make and it will dramatically improve your results.

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