“Harrington on Hold ’em” Review, Part 4

[RR] “You were complaining”,1 Roderick the Rock challenged Iggy the Improver, “that Harrington buried too much useful information in his problems. What general principles did you glean from the exercises, especially from his third book?”

[II] “Tons of stuff. But off the top of my head in no particular order:

  • Pay attention to everything. If you don’t know how your opponents are playing, you can’t read their actions accurately. The same exact bet in the same exact circumstance can have different meanings from different players. Before you have any history to work from, it’s okay to stereotype people’s likely playing styles by their looks. Chat people up to gather information.
  • The most profitable moves are usually the ones that go against type, which means that you need to know how the table perceives you. If you’ve been very tight, you can pull of the big bluff. If you’ve been very loose, you don’t need to slowplay when you get dealt pocket Aces.
  • Make your bets bigger out of position than in position. You don’t want to play out of position if you can help it.
  • The one advantage that being out of position has is that you have first-in fold vig. If two players have similar hands, the aggressive side will usually win.
  • Always know the pot odds. Overly cautious weak players tend to fold too often when they correctly know that they’re behind. On the other side, properly sizing your bets means making them big enough that it’s an error for your opponent to call when they’re behind. Going even one step further, figure out whether a standard raise from your opponent will put you all-in (or close) and what pot odds you’d be getting on that call. Determining whether you want to be all-in at that point can help you change your bet to an all-in instead.
  • Vary your play. In the same exact circumstance, you want to mix up how much you bet and how often you call instead of betting. It’s a game of information, and you want to deny your opponents that knowledge. Unfortunately, this makes your opponents harder to read, but that’s a second-order problem that you’ll have to live with.
  • Keep track of your M and adjust your play accordingly. Also take into account your opponent’s M when analyzing his actions, except for weaker players whom you think don’t know to do that.
  • Avoid confrontations with the biggest stack at the table if possible when you have a healthy amount of chips. Once you get short-stacked, it doesn’t matter who doubles you up, but keep in mind the 10-to-1 Rule, which means that a big stack may be calling you with any two cards when they have a ten-to-one chip advantage.
  • On the bubble, take the prize structure into consideration. Percentagewise, busting on the bubble when only three places are paid will likely cost you much more than busting on the bubble of a larger tournament. In most situations, folding to a raise to move up is often the right play.”

[RR] “Harrington didn’t call it ICM, but he explained the formula for the Independent Chip Model, which lets you figure out how much of the prize pool each chip stack is worth. It’s very complicated once you get past three players, so fortunately, you can just point your web browser to the ICM Poker Calculator and painlessly calculate payouts for up to ten people and prizes.”

[II] “Cool, I have to admit that I pretty muched skipped that math section. Do people actually chop the prizes here?”

[RR] “Occasionally, though mostly it’s when it gets to heads up, and the math there is very simple. I’ve seen bigger splits, but I think they just kind of winged it, so you may be able to get a better deal without resorting to ICM. If you don’t like the offer though, it may help you out.”

[II] “I hope I make it that far tonight!”

[RR] “Good luck!”


  1. See the introduction in Part 1 from three weeks ago and the next two posts.

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