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ISF – Manipulation 202 and Questions

If you read my posts in the forums, you’ll notice I’ll throw around this word manipulation without too much explanation. In my earlier blog, I did write an article about manipulation where I talked about it in terms of bet sizing. Well, my old blog is gone now, and as I improved as a player I can now write a lot more about it, so this week I’m going to rehash the topic, as well as answer some questions that were asked in my discussion thread.



The easiest way to manipulate your opponent is bet sizing. And there are really only three types of bets you can throw out there: A small bet, a standard size bet, and a large bet.

Standard bet sizes normally aren’t thought of too much, but can be great to use. Let’s say standard tag raises in the CO to $7 in a 1 / 2 game, and I call with 76ss from the SB. Pot is now $16 and the flop comes Jc4h3s, we check and opp cbets $14. Here can be a great place to c/r a standard amount, say $42-46. Why? Well first off the flop really didn’t hit us that well, the only nut hands we can possibly have are 33,44, and 43s (unlikely). When we don’t hit a flop hard like this we need to either call most of our range, or we need a raise size that is inclusive to more hands such as QJ, JT, KJ, AJ, J9. If we raise too big those hands make much less sense, and opp is likely to look us up. If we raise too small we risk it looking too much like KJ, QJ, JT, and J9 and we may see opp try to blow us off our draw (but what he thinks is a weak jack) with a relatively balanced range.

Big bet sizes are my favorite to use, as bigger bet sizes creates fear and passive behavior from our opponent. Let’s consider the same situation as above except I’m on the BU this time. Flop comes the same, Jc4h3s, and we have the same hand. Opp again cbets $14. Here is a place where I like to raise big, something like $52. Why? Well the biggest reason is that when opp sees a big raise like this and suspects I have a draw, they often make the mistake of flatting it to “Trap” me, when in reality when he calls this raise I’m checking behind the turn most of the time and folding to a river bet. Also, it makes it a lot harder for my opponent to float or call light, because larger bets simply scare people. I throw out a bet of $42 and you may see a ton of playing back. I don’t know why this is the case, it’s probably fear, but it is in my experience.

(Note: I said earlier opp makes a mistake of calling a raise because he suspects I have a lot of air. Because in reality I’m showing up with draws and made hands, rather than total air, the better move is to threebet this flop with a wider range than just J9+, 33,44,JJ+. We can actually bluff a lot here because of our range gerth. If someone actually is bluffing total air here a lot, our equity is so good against his range it’s not necessarily the best play to threebet rather than call)

Small sizes are the opposite of big sizes, we like doing them to have our opponent put in a raise that is going to commit him versus our nut hands. But small raise sizes also factor into another category of manipulation, a much more interesting category called range manipulation.

Range Manipulation:

I’m excited to talk about range manipulation, as it is a facet of poker most probably don’t think about or even know about, but its one of the most fun and intriguing areas. Now back to small raise sizing as range manipulation. Consider the same situation as before up to our opponents cbet to $14, but instead we have a flop Jx4s3s, an active board indeed. This time we have a fd and a straight draw. Now if we raise his cbet to say, $36, that’s going to put our opponent into a dilemma. He knows we can have a fd a lot here, and if he calls he is just going to let us hit it. So he is likely going to threebet his KJ+,33,44,JJ+ at least. But look what we did here, we made him play his range in a completely transparent fashion. So consider he calls the raise rather than threebets it, we can be pretty sure his range contains very little of his strong hands, and therefore, we can be much more aggressive as he’s likely to fold to a bet or two. Since his likely range is 55-TT, QJ, JT, J9, fd’s and straight draws, two barreling or an over-shove on the turn could fold them all out. By forcing him to play his strong hands and his weaker ones in two different ways, we made life much easier.

While range manipulation, like in the previous example, can be good, it is not just range unbalancing form of manipulation, like seen here, but also range balancing. Range balancing can be shown easily through the example of a big raise in this same situation. With a big raise, we allow him to call with all his hands here. And while it makes it hard for us to bluff a turn well or call down his missed draw on the river, it does allow us to see our weak draws on the turn and river without having to call another bet!

The interesting part is we all do range manipulation, whether we know it or not. In fact, anytime we bet we manipulate a response from our opponent. When we check or call we allow our opponent to choose his decisions with no impediment from us, but when we bet he is forced to respond rather than act. A simple example of this is a simple cbet. When we cbet we often cause our opponents to fold his weak hands, call with medium strength hands, and raise his strong ones. If we instead check behind, our opponent could very well do any option, check or bet, with any type of hand (not to say we should cbet 100% of the time, checking is often the better move). Simple betting range manipulation can also come in the form of a lead, where we call preflop but bet out first to act. Leads look much more complicated, but it’s really the same concept. We force our opponent to fold his weak hands, call his medium strength hands, and raise his strong ones. But the beauty of a lead is our opponents don’t see it very often, and therefore don’t know how to react to them. So, they often play them as straightforward as they can.

There is another facet of range manipulation, often more unknown than the previous; we can call it threat manipulation. Consider in the previous situation our we and our opponent switch roles. We are now the one who cbet to $14, with the hand XxYx, and this time our opponent calls this bet. Turn is another 3h, making the board now Jx4s3s3h. We now decide to check, and our opponent comes out firing $26 into a $42. To his surprise, we reraise his bet to $78. Our opponent tanks and he mucks his hand. We could have very well had a set, an overpair, a fd, maybe a straight draw or A3s even, but that’s not important. What’s important is now when that situation comes up again, our opponent is in trouble. Let’s say we check to him again in this exact same board and same situation, and our opponent has 54. He can’t bet since even though he knows he’s ahead a lot, because there is a threat he will get c/r’s off his hand. You could argue “Well if he thinks your bluffing a lot than he can just bet and call your raise.” Game Theory tells us the contrary, as since our range is so strong and draws so well against 54 when we are bluffing, pot odds are going to be greater than your equity and you would be making a bad call. So this time, our opponent checks behind. Using that same thought process however, our opponent could very well bet his sets and quads, KJ/AJ/QJ, hoping to get c/r when he has good equity to win. Look what just happened, we again forced our opponent not only to play passively, but unbalance his range. Now if we have air and the river comes a blank, such as a 2x, we can bet our air a lot of the time, and force our opponent to fold his medium strength hand that has become so obvious. Considering he could be checking behind the turn with a medium strength hand or draw, we can also check a hand like AQ, and often show it down and win. Even if he tries to bet his missed draw to take us off a hand here, we won’t be fooled. Unless he’s betting many of his medium strength hands for value, a majority of the time we can call a bet and take it down with our 55/AQ versus a missed draw.

Now there are other ways to manipulate our opponents, but as usual I’ll leave that for you to experiment and figure out! So next session get out there and try some new manipulation tactics.

However, before I go I wanted to quickly answer a question a poster named DaGoat asked me about in my discussion thread you can find in the FTR Blogs and Operation section of the forum. He asked me to talk about floating in threebet pots in position.

Playing threebet pots with air can be one of the most difficult parts of poker. With draws threebet pots can be made easy by simply shoving over any cbet. But there are a lot of boards we come across with very little draws on it, and there are opponents who often cbet a lot but give up on the turn and river. Often times when those two factors are the case, you’d be better off floating.

When floating the most important factor is you have an opponent who often gives up on the turn and river. If you’re dealing with an aggressive opponent, you may actually be helping him our rather than hurting his game. Consider we called a threebet in position with 75s against our opponents AJ on a K63 rainbow board. We decide to call a cbet to float. Turn comes a 9 and our opponent comes out firing again. Yes, he is bluffing, but there is nothing we can really do about it. In fact, we actually allowed his aggressive two barrel to become an even better play.

The second most important factor is what we can represent. If we get threebet and call in position, the flop comes AJ4 rainbow and our opponent cbets and we call, we can represent a lot of strong hands, hands that we can vbet with, and hands we aren’t folding. Rainbow boards with two broadways in them are superb floating boards. On the AJ4 board we can rep AJ+, any Ax, AA, JJ,44, even KK-QQ for a river value bet. When we call we still have nut hands in our range and we still have hands we would value bet, which is going to make a bet on the turn or river more believable. On a board like Jx5s4s, if we call a flop cbet we screw ourselves. Calling represents a lot of hands that we would check down, like 65,64, or 66-TT, so if we throw in a bet if we decide to float we can get looked up very light (which is why if you decide to float a board like this you may want to vbet those hands!). Also, if an overcard comes, we can get Game-Theory-Owned. Finally, a board like T88, T77, 966, something like that can be a good board to float a gutshot or air on, as we are unlikely to reraise the flop with trips, a boat, JJ+, or top pair; all of which we are very unlikely to fold.

The final factor I consider is if the board is likely to get two barreled. A board like K32 is often going to get two barreled, as you are forced to fold a hand like QQ-44 (pocket pairs are likely hands that call a threebet). Boards like K54 also. Even drawy boards like Tx7s4s, as he is going to have draws a lot and note that you are likely to raise the flop with draws and nut hands.

That’s it for this week, I hope that answered your question DaGoat!

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