Online poker players who use stat tracking tools like Hold'em Manager or Poker Tracker know all about the "redline."
For live players, or players just starting out, "redline" winnings are your non-showdown winnings - hands you win without going all the way to a showdown.
Non-showdown winnings can be seen in HEM or PT by going to your graph page and hitting "display showdown winnings."
A red line will appear on your graph - that's your non-showdown winnings. Hence the name redline (ldo). Why is this relevant?
Lately it's become a bit of a pissing contest among players to have an upward-sloping redline - meaning you win more money than you lose in non-showdown pots.
Does it really matter? Yes and no. Of course you can still be a successful poker player with a negative redline. Different playing styles do different things to your graphs.
What Does a Downward-Sloping Redline Mean?
Where you run into problems is if your redline looks like a sharp, downward slope. Losing more than you win in non-showdown hands is a common leak that many players have - most notably 2+2 "legend" Fgators.
Fgators posted a now-famous thread in the BBV forum claiming he was the most unlucky player in the world and because of his perpetual run-bad he couldn't win at poker.
Fgators was a massive multi-tabler and played a ton of hands. And in that ton of hands he definitely saw his share of bad beats.
But that wasn't why he couldn't win. His redline was the most depressing sight ever; a sharp, downhill line almost the exact opposite of his showdown winnings.
Because he was losing so much money in non-showdown pots it almost didn't matter how much money he made at showdown.
It could never make up for what he was losing.
What Causes a Downward-Sloping Redline?
A downward sloping redline is caused by one thing: putting money in the pot and then folding. That's it.
If you're regularly putting money in and folding your redline will suffer. If you do it often enough your overall win rate is going to suffer.
Some common ways players regularly hurt their redline:
- Continuation betting too often or in bad spots
- Having a one-and-done approach to c-betting
- Playing the out-of-position guessing game too often
- Calling too often with draws and playing them passively (forcing you to fold when you miss)
- Calling raises with weak made hands only to fold to further action
- Calling too many three-bets and folding too many flops
- Check-calling weak hands that are essentially two-pair draws
- Playing passively in three-bet pots as the aggressor
All of these examples hurt your redline. The binding theme is putting a bunch of money into the pot only to fold without a fight.
Fix Your Redline By Playing Fewer Tables
Almost everybody that has a sharp, downward-sloping redline plays too many tables. What too many tables is to one person may be completely different to another person.
But if you're basically playing your session on auto-pilot you're playing too many tables - and your non-showdown winnings will suffer. The easy solution: play fewer tables.
One of the best things about online poker is that you can play more than one table at a time. Instead of the gruelling 20 hands an hour you may get live, online you may be able to get 1,000 hands or more.
Though more hands an hour is an obvious plus, there's also an obvious negative. The more tables you play the less attention you can give each one of them.
Auto-Pilot is a Major Factor
Let's say your win rate is three big bets per 100 hands (3BB/100) over a large sample size when you play one table. If you double the amount of tables you play, in theory you double the amount of money you make.
But you can't just keep doubling your tables and keep making more and more money. Eventually, as you add more tables, your game will start to deteriorate. You'll no longer be able to give each decision the required amount of thinking. You'll rush decisions to act on other tables and you'll slip into auto pilot.
Auto pilot is one of the major factors of a downward-sloping redline. When you slip into auto pilot you stop thinking. And when you can't give each decision the required amount of thought, you'll make countless little mistakes.
No longer are you thinking, "My opponent is tight-aggressive and will probably peel with 99 on T♣ 3♠ 4♦." You're just thinking, " I raised pre-flop I c-bet, hurrrr."
You don't think, "If I c-bet this board I am going to have to fire multiple barrels." So when you c-bet that flop and he calls, you shut down on the turn. He bets the river and you fold. Bam, you just wasted a bunch of money and hurt your redline.
Now picture doing that on 10 tables for two-plus hours. Similar situations pop up all the time and if you're consistently on auto pilot you'll be making mistakes like this all session long.
When your session is filled with small mistakes, your win rate - and especially your non-showdown win rate - is going to suffer.
How Many Tables Should I Be Playing?
That's up to you. Only you know when you're giving each decision proper thought. You know when you're struggling and rushing your decisions.
Some people can play 12 tables at once without rushing decisions or going on auto pilot. Others may struggle with two. It's up to you to figure out how many tables are right for you.
But I make more with a smaller win rate and more tables!
Well, that's probably true. It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out if you win at 3BB/100 playing two tables and 2BB/100 playing eight tables, and your only goal is making money, then play the eight tables.
If, however, your main goal is to improve as a poker player and move up in limits, then you may be better off in the short run playing less tables, making less overall money, but playing better poker.
When you massively multi-table you may make more money but you stunt your poker growth. It's up to you to decide what your goals are.
Do you want to move up in limits and improve as a poker player? Or are you happy with where you are and how much money you're making currently? If it's the former, you're better off playing less tables and paying more attention.
How You Can Improve Your Poker Redline
C-Bet Less and C-Bet in Better Spots
Focus on your opponent and his tendencies. If he's a calling station, you should be c-betting a lot less. C-bet when the board seems to help your range, or if you plan on firing multiple barrels.
If you're going to "one-and-done" the board, don't c-bet at all.
Fire More Second Barrels
Ditch that horrible one-and-done approach to c-betting. Think about your opponent's flop-calling range. Double barrel cards that strengthen your perceived range and hurt your opponent's range.
Fire More Third Barrels
Again, think about your opponent's calling range and your perceived range. Think about what type of hand he likely has and think about how much heat that hand can stand.
For example: you raise in the cut-off and a tight opponent calls in the big blind. The flop comes T♥ 5♥ 3♠. If you choose to c-bet this, you should be firing a ton of turns and rivers because your opponent will rarely have a big hand.
He's going to be three-betting most overpairs preflop and he's going to be peeling one or more streets with hands like 88, 99, and AT. Of those hands, few if any are going to want to call three streets.
If you fire one or two barrels then give up when he bets the river, you're losing a bunch of money without showdown.
Why You Should Play Your Draws Aggressively
It's simple. You learn this in poker 101. When you're the aggressor you can win the pot two ways:
- You can win by having your opponent fold
- You can win by hitting your hand
More ways to win = more profit.
To take that point further, when your opponent is raising 16% of hands pre-flop and c-betting almost all the time, rarely is your opponent going to have a hand that can stand a raise.
Often he's going to c-bet that jack-high flop with whatever crap he raised with pre-flop and be forced to pitch it when you raise. Now he's the one throwing away money with his pre-flop raise and flop c-bet.
Six-max game online; $200 effective stacks. Your opponent, who is a good regular (stats-wise: 20% VP$IP; 18% pre-flop raise; 3.0 aggression factor; 70% flop c-bet), raises to $8 in the cut-off.
You call with 7♥ 8♥ on the button and everyone else folds. The flop comes 6♥ 2♦ Q♥.
Your opponent c-bets $13 into $19.
Let's think about his range. Right now it's extremely wide. A player that raises 18% from all positions raises about 24% of hands from the cut-off.
Listing all of those possible hands is a waste of time, so let's just say it's a lot. Instead, think about what hands he could continue with against our raise: AA-QQ, AQ-KQ, 66, 22 and ace-high flush draws, which make up about 6% of his range.
Meaning he's going to be folding to your flop raise 75% of the time. And guess what? Even if you're called, you have more than 35% equity against everything but the nut-flush draws.
Standard outcome: you raise to $60 and he folds.
Fold Equity is Key to Fixing Redline
Essentially, the bet above is a semi-bluff that relies on fold equity. If your opponent is raising a very wide range pre-flop and continuation-betting a very high percentage of the time, he's going to fold to your raise on the flop a very high percentage of the time.
When you raise the flop with your flush draw you want your opponent to fold. But you know that if you're called, you can still win by hitting one of your flush outs.
What If He Calls?
If your opponent calls your flop raise you have to look at his calling range. Some opponents will call the flop raise somewhat light but still fold to further action.
Against these opponents you can safely shove the turn and laugh when your opponent folds. If your opponent calls flop raises with a much tighter range, you may be better off trying to take a free card.
Like everything in this wonderful game of ours, it's player dependant.
What If He Shoves?
If he shoves you have to bite the bullet and call. Yes, it sucks, but it's the correct play. In our example there's $19 in the pot when he c-bets $13. We raise to $60 and he shoves for $192 total.
That puts the pot at $271 and we have to call $132. When we have to call $132 to win $271, we're getting better than 2:1 and are getting the odds required for a nine-outer twice.
This is obviously not the best case scenario but it's just not going to happen that often. The high percentage play is that your opponent will fold and we will steal his pre-flop raise and c-bet.
Added Bonus of Playing Aggressive: It Balances Your Range
Another added bonus to fast-playing your draws that you can't really quantify with math is that it balances your range.
If you're raising your flush draws on the flop, no longer can your opponent just fold top pair. He's going to be left guessing whether you're raising a set or a flush draw.
So instead of just folding the flop because you never raise it without a set, he'll be forced to play the guessing game - which most players really suck at. The end result is more action on your made hands.
There's a pretty obvious downside to playing your draws aggressively: variance. When you raise with your draws, you'll frequently win the pot without showdown.
But occasionally your opponent is going to wake up with a hand and you're going to have to get it in as a slight dog. Some of these you're going to lose; some of these you're going to win. It's the nature of the game.
Obviously in the long run, raising with your draws is much more profitable. Your opponent will just be folding insanely often.
Add on the extra action you'll get on your made hands, and it's a no brainer. The only problem: that short run is sometimes going to be a bumpy ride.
Ride it out and you'll see the rewards!
How to Identify Bad C-Bets
Lots of multi-tabling, auto-pilot TAGs have the same, simple leak:
- Firing mindless continuation bets whenever they're the pre-flop raiser
When you fire c-bets with reckless disregard you're more often than not just going to end up folding later in the hand. Add up all of those folds over the course of a session - or a month, or a year - and you can clearly see that's going to cost you a lot of "non-showdown" winnings.
What's a Bad C-Bet?
Bad c-bets are ones where the only thought that enters your mind is:
- "I'm the pre-flop raiser so I should bet again."
Simple as that. The problem with thoughtless continuation-betting is that when your opponent calls you usually give up on the hand when he bets on a later street.
When you fold you forfeit your pre-flop raise, your c-bet and the rest of the pot without a fight. When you put money into the pot and fold, not only will your overall bottom line suffer, your "non-showdown" winnings take a big hit.
Losing a raise and a c-bet might not seem like a big deal, but it's a leak that can repeat itself countless times in a single session Do it often enough and it can become a massive leak for a player with an otherwise decent game.
How to Make Better C-Bets
If the main factor in bad c-betting is thoughtlessness, the way to become a better c-bettor is, naturally, to think about your c-bets. Every time.
What do you think about? You think about what your goal is. As the c-bettor, your goal is to use the initiative you've gained being the pre-flop raiser and get a fold from your opponent.
Mark these words: To get a fold! Repeat:
- When you c-bet, you want your opponent to fold.
Focus your c-betting on situations when he's likely to fold; check instead when he's likely to call.
Dry Boards With Big Cards are Best
It's human nature for your opponent to put you on big cards when you raise pre-flop. When the board comes A♥ 3♠ 8♣, it's an easy c-bet.
The board is dry and he's very likely to have missed. You're the pre-flop raiser so you're more likely to have an ace than he is. In this case, your continuation bet is likely to succeed.
On the flip side, when you raise and the board comes 3♥ 2♠ 6♣, you're probably not going to get credit for a real hand that often. It's probably better to check, unless...
You Plan on Firing Multiple Barrels
A board like the one above may not be great to c-bet if you plan on going "one and done" on it - meaning firing one c-bet then giving up when called. It may still be profitable to c-bet but only if you plan on firing multiple barrels.
On a low board, or a board with one medium-high card like T♥ 4♣ 2♠, your opponent is liable to peel with almost any pocket pair. He hopes you'll give up when your c-bet is called and he can go on to check it down and win the hand.
This article, though, is to get you to stop that mindless "one and done" c-betting and get you thinking. On these types of boards, "one and done" c-betting just isn't profitable.
When you think about your opponent's range in most of these cases however, multi-barreling on these types of boards can become extremely profitable.
Your opponent's range is usually made up of weak, one-pair hands. You can often just fire the turn and river and have him fold out a very high percentage of the time.
More Bad C-Bet Spots
1. Multi-way pots -- Multi-way pots just mean more opponents that can catch a piece of the board and call you. When you're looking for a fold, that's obviously not ideal.
2. Draw-heavy flops -- If you raise in early position with A♦ K♥, get called on the button, and the flop comes 6♠ 8♠ 9♠, it's probably best not to fire that c-bet. That flop just smashes your opponent's calling range.
3. vs. calling stations -- It's basically the age-old adage: Don't bluff calling stations. You can't bluff a guy that never folds.
4. Flops that don't help your perceived range -- These are the boards that you either plan on firing multiple barrels on or you don't c-bet. If a board looks like it didn't help your range, making a single c-bet then giving up is literally flushing money down the toilet.
Either plan on firing good turn cards (i.e. big cards), or just check.
5. Showdown-value hands -- A flopped hand that has good showdown value but isn't quite strong enough to bet for value is a good one to check through.
A good example would be A♥ 7♦ on a K♦ 7♠ 2♣ board. You're likely to have the best hand, but betting will just fold out everything you're ahead of. No worse hands ever call, making it perfectly fine to check behind when in position.
Bottom line is if you want to make better c-bets you have to think through every situation. Think about your opponents and their playing styles.
What boards are likely to have helped their pre-flop calling range and what boards they think helped your pre-flop raising range?
Always c-bet with a plan. The main thing: ditch the "one and done" approach. If you plan on firing one barrel and giving up, don't. It may be better to not fire any at all.
Play More Hands in Position
Stop playing out of position! It's been said a thousand times but if you're playing out of position you're going to lose money. And when it comes to non-showdown winnings, it's extremely true.
When you play out-of-position you're at an extreme disadvantage. You have to act with no information and your opponent gets the huge bonus of getting to see what you do before he acts.
What that means for your redline is that you're going to be left guessing a ton. You're going to peel with your second pairs and your weak top pairs, and then you're going to fold to further action.
Putting money into the pot and folding = redline disaster. An example:
$1/$2 game online; effective stacks $200. You're in the big blind with A♣ T♣. It's folded around to the regular on the button who makes it $7.
The small blind folds and you call. The flop comes J♥ T♠ 3♦. You check and he bets $12 into $15. You make the call and the turn comes K♥. You check and he fires $28 into $39.
Now here's your problem. You know that the K♥ is a great barrel card. And you know your decent opponent is going to second-barrel it with almost 100% of his range - just because you're going to fold so often.
So your options are fold and forfeit 10BB, or call and hope he shuts down on the river. If he fires the river, you definitely have to fold and now you're forfeiting 23.5BB.
Neither option is good. Especially if your opponent is capable of firing multiple barrels. Because your opponent is in position, he's entirely in control of the hand.
He decides whether to bet or whether to check and he always has the last say. If you lead, he can fold, call or raise. If you check, he can check or bet. Where your hands are tied he has complete control. With similar hands taking place all the time, it's easy to see how you can bleed money from out of position.
Though it's impossible to completely avoid playing out of position (you can't just fold TT because you're out of position for example) you can (and should) tighten up your out-of-position calling range.
Bluff and Semi-Bluff More
Just like in the last example, don't just play "fit or fold" poker. Look for opponents that have weak redline disease and punish them.
Find the one-and-done players, float their flop c-bets and take the pot away from them on the turn.
Don't Obsess Over a Positive Redline!
These are just a few examples of how you can improve your non-showdown winnings.
The main thing you have to do is think. Think about why you're doing what you're doing and ask yourself what you're hoping to accomplish.
If you're just betting for the sake of betting, your whole game is going to suffer. But if you're a winning poker player, it's best not to obsess over having a positive redline.
If your style is working for you, continue with it. Chances are messing with what works is going to make you less money - not more. If you're a fledgling poker player, though, you'd best make some changes now - or resign yourself to just being another one of the thousands of below-average grinders out there.