Peter Clarke literally wrote the book on 6-max strategy (The Grinder’s Manual) and now he’s back with a new book, 100 Hands. It’s just as it sounds — 100 hands of 6-max poker, analyzed in depth as if Clarke was coaching you through each spot. And that’s exactly what we do in this week’s podcast: We review a random hand from the book and focus on giving listeners the skills to do their own strategic analysis at home.

Featuring: Zac Shaw and Peter Clarke

Zac: Peter Clarke, welcome back to the Red Chip Poker Podcast.

Peter: Thank you very much. How’s it going?

Zac: It’s going great, and our listeners who remember you being on the podcast will remember we got really deep into six max strategy. That was an amazing conversation and you have your book, “The Grinder’s Manual” which you were talking about then. And now you’ve got a new book, “100 Hands”. Tell me about the difference between the two books, and how your thinking on six max strategy, and authoring these strategy books evolved as you went from The Grinder’s Manual, to your new book.

Peter: Yeah I mean it’s kinda like a learning process, right? Because I started off “The Grinder’s Manual” because I thought, “There’s nothing out there that’s like a really definitive comprehensive course in poker, in my specialty.” Which is six max cash games. So “Grinder’s Manual” was really all about trying to fill that gap by creating something that was enough, just on its own for the student to pickup as a textbook.

Almost like I probably said to you last time, ’cause I sound like a broken record with this quote, but “Grinder’s Manual” is kind of like if you signed up for a university or college course, that would be the recommended reading for the full course. That kind of thing. But then I started coaching, well I didn’t start coaching, I continued coaching students. And many of them had read “Grinder’s Manual”. And when someone tells you they’ve actually read a book, never assume that they understand what’s in the book, because that process of reading and then actually mastering something is completely different.

It takes so long to master concepts. You don’t just read things about poker, and then suddenly become a great poker player right? Unfortunately, or everyone would be fantastic and there’d be no money in the game. But what you do need to do is bridge that gap. Fill that void that been the theory that you’re reading, and then they have the practical application of that theory.

So I guess in “100 Hands”, what I set out to do there was create almost like a companion to “The Grinder’s Manual” but something that would build on it as well, because poker moves so quickly. So “100 Hands” was twofold. One, it was to fill that gap between theory and practice and give the student, give the learner something to do practically and test themselves. And secondly, the idea there was just create something that could build a little bit on the theory of “The Grinder’s Manual” and keep them updated as well.

Zac: Gotcha, and there’s so much poker training material out there today, free and paid. “100 Hands” seems to kind of cut through the clutter. I love the concept of just plopping down “100 Hands” and saying, “Here, I’m going to teach you strategy, but these are actually spots that you’re going to encounter at the table.” Is this something that you set out to do? Or is this something that emerged organically with the kinds of things that you wanted to talk about after you did the more textbook approach?

Peter: This is very much a conscious move to try to recreate in book form the randomness of a poker session. Like when you sit down and you play a session it’s not like you can tell the poker client what kind of spots you’ve been studying, and have it give you loads of spots on facing four bets, because that’s what you just watched a video on, right? It doesn’t work like that. So what I tried to do there was literally just create a massive poker session with highly detailed answers.

And in my kind of blurb about “100 Hands” on my website I say something to the effect of, “Imagine you could slow time right there in the middle of a poker session, so that you could actually read a 100 essays from a professional, from an expert in the industry about the hands that had just come up. And all the hands that are really interesting, and you could have a bash at them first on your own.” So it’s meeting in the middle. It’s a book, it’s highly theoretical, but it’s supposed to create the feel of a poker session just slowed down and drawn out.

Zac: I was talking to another guest on the podcast recently about the disconnect that they saw in really good players who knew theory very well, and understood it in the abstract very well. But when it came to applying that to actual play at the table, it kind of went out the window. And I’m wondering if you have any recommendations for players to study those more abstract concepts, and then be able to actually apply them? And maybe the “100 Hands”, maybe the spots oriented approach is the way to go with that?

Peter: I think so. I think you do need both, and I think there’s one, not regret that I have about “Grinders Manual” but one thing that I didn’t quite anticipate, it would have been that people would actually get swarmed with too much information when they read it. And they would have to go through it multiple times, take notes. Students of mine have taken extracts from it and stuff like that, and made it more condensed, and summarized I guess is the word I’m looking for.

So with “100 Hands”, and just as that’s a good way to do it, is as an exercise book, and testing yourself first. The thing that is the biggest problem with people learning poker that causes this divide between understanding theory, and then actually being a really good player on top of that, is how actively you learn, right? So when I started learning the game, I kind of only developed and expertise in this format of poker because I used to discuss it on Skype, on Sweats, and forums with really good players at the time back in sort of 2009 when I first started playing seriously.

Because I was so interactive, and I was being put on the spot, then I started training, and coaching, and making videos, and you have to be accountable there, right? You have to actually talk, and know what you’re talking about, and sound competent. So that forced me, that articulation, and that need to articulate forced me to apply the concepts. So it was a very good saying in any kind of education, and I’m kind of first and foremost like an educator. So I always like, “Go down this road.” Right?

But the saying is that, “You don’t actually know anything properly until you can articulate it, independently, in your own words.” So the student just needs to test themselves first, pose themselves questions, try and answer them. And only then refer to higher sources of knowledge like books, their coach, whatever. So when I do a coaching session with a student, I think it’s super important not to just say, “In this spot you should fold because of blah, blah, blah.” How much of that will they retain? Maybe 10, 15 percent.

If you say, “What were your reasons for calling here first?” And then, “What do you think of those reasons? Which are good? Which are bad? Can you think of any better reasons now out of game? And how could you have stopped that thought process occurring end game, and replace it with a better one next time?” That’s a much better way to do it. So accountability, not passive learning, totally emphasis on testing yourself and being active with all of your learning I think is really important.

Zac: That’s great advice, and it’s been really inspiring to see some of the Red Chip Poker students graduate from being grinders, and professionals, to coaches themselves. And in interviewing a lot of the coaches, I’ve seen that they’ve kind of went through this process of developing their own training material for themselves almost. Whether that was a notebook where they collected some of the best nuggets of strategy, and put it together. They made their own spreadsheets, or their own programs to analyze different situations. Or just use the programs of others. It seems to be that there is this process that one has to go through in order to create one’s own study plan, and that can ultimately arrive at something of value to other players as well.

Peter: Yeah absolutely Zac, and you know what it is? It’s about having your own web of coherent beliefs right? That is yours, and is only dependent on knowledge that you have actually learned, and you remember how you’ve learned and stuff like that. Because if you just start taking random things out of other people’s ways of belief, what you end up with is basically a sprawling mess of concepts. And that’s what we call “TMI” in the industry right? “Too much information”.

So if you can build up a foundation for yourself, and I guess the higher concept rest upon the lower concepts, and it’s all a big pyramid, and it’s all steady at the bottom. Then you’re likely to have a very strong game. Whereas if you start taking bricks out of the bottom of it, and stuff like that, it can all fall apart very quickly. That’s why that personalized foundation that you create yourself is so important, I agree with that 100 percent.

Zac: So let’s take it over to strategy. You’re talking about introducing the fundamentals of poker strategy. A six max strategy specifically in this book of “100 Hands”. So I’m curious what are to you, the fundamentals? What are the key areas of poker that we need to be studying in order to win?

Peter: I guess what you could do is you could like through “Grinders Manual” just on the contents page, and you could see how the book’s segregated. Because my first book I tried to outline that, and then within “100 Hands” I tried to create practice examples for it? So in a nutshell looking at things like pre flop ranges, flop strategy and so much more you will start to improve. You will learn more about facing C-bets on the flop, and how you develop your ranges and strategies for calling them, raising them, and folding to them within your hand frequencies.

Turn play, viraling turns. When to do it, when not to do it. How to split up your range after you C-bet flop, and gotten called. River play to some extent as well, although it’s less common. And then your pre flop fundamentals would be either three bet game, which is one of the most important areas pre flop, and it comes up all the time. Your stealing game, just winning enough. Common father if you like, money that keeps you going, that let’s you survive the blinds. And then you get into facing three bets, and how you would handle that.

So that’s zooming out a bazillion miles, right? And looking at it from a birds eye view. But then as you go closer, I think what’s intimating and difficult is that all of those little areas that I listed in one minute there, are enormous. Each one on it’s own is a hugely massive realm where it’s so easy to get lost, and that’s why I think having “100 Hands” as a companion is good, because you can just always test yourself, and make sure that you stay active within all of those little realms and not just get lost with all this theory that’s not properly learned. So that’s the zoom out picture, but so much within each of those topics. It would take so long to describe absolutely everything.

Zac: Sure. That’s an amazing bullet point list that I will write down the second time I listen to this podcast, and take notes on. And one of the other challenges I’m sure of is that it’s also complexly intertwined. Even each one of those things is an enormous thing, but they’re also so connected in so many different levels. And it seems like a spot is really the only way to illustrate that. So I’m kind of curious what the actual content of this book is. And if you’re into it, I would love to just go through one of these hands, and kind of give our listeners a sample of what’s actually inside. Does that sound good?

Peter: Absolutely. That would be good. So there are 100 hands in this book, and so it’s nice, and random, and objective, and I’m not actually prepared for what’s about to come. What I’ll do right now is just get you to think for a second, and be as close as you can to a human random number generator for me, and give me a number between one and a hundred.

Zac: 43.

Peter: 43, good choice. No one ever goes for 99, or 1. That just never happens with this.

Zac: I almost went for two.

Peter: That would have been unique, you would have been in the minority there going for two. Right okay, so let’s actually just go ahead and open up the book then so that we’ve got the PDF on screen right now. So I’m gonna go to hand number two, no I’m not. I’m gonna go to hand 43. You didn’t say two, you were gonna say two. I’m going to hand 43 right?

Zac: Go with your gut always in poker, right?

Peter: Absolutely. Unless your gut’s always wrong, in which case probably not. That’s another story. All right hand 43. So this is a silver hand. There are silver hands, and there are gold hands. And it’s not to say that the gold hands are more difficult than the silver hands. It’s nothing like that, rather the silver hands are played by a student. So hand 43 is an odd hand, and the odd hands are all silver. So a student has sent this to me at some point over the last few years and said, “What do I do? Help. I’m lost.” And the community has tried to answer it, and then I’ve answered it fully in this book.

The gold hands, so if you give me an even number, what we’d be doing right now is actually going through a hand that I played myself, or I created and the format’s a little bit different. So in the silver hand’s played by a student, you see all of the student’s actions, and your job as the reader is to actually critique the student’s play. See what you think of it, and see if you would maybe have played it differently. Do you agree with the line? Is it good? Is it bad? Be the coach essentially.

And the gold hands you look at mindfully, and try to understand it, and then answer the final decision point, which is always omit it. So my final action in the gold hands is always left out, and you sort of have to work out what I’m gonna do next. But as this is a silver hand, we are looking at it from a student’s point of view. So as a disclaimer, the play of this hand might be atrocious. It might be fine, it might be slightly bad, it might be all right, right? We don’t know yet. And you have to decide if you like it or not as the reader, that’s the idea.

So Hero is in a six max. So we’re starting off near the bottom kind of tier of the micro stakes structure. He’s on the button, and it’s the stacks here are almost just over 100 big blinds. Hero has $5.19 and Small Blind is the relevant opponent, has $5.23. So it folds to us on the button, and we then open to 10 cents with eight of spades, eight of clubs. So we have the black eights. Small Blind who is unknown, we don’t have any reads on this player, at least none were given by the student at the time the hand was submitted, raises $2.35. So you’re like a 3.5x three bet of the min open. Hero calls with pocket eight, so that would be a first decision point. As the reader what do you make of that as you’re going through this calling the three bet bluff versus Small Blind with eights? That would be the reader’s first task there.

Zac: Okay, are you gonna task me with that?

Peter: I don’t want to put you on the spot or anything.

Zac: I constantly get put on the spot on this podcast. And it’s funny because I just recently played a hand very similar to this, so that was in a home game live cash, and I elected to fold to the big three bet, and was shown sevens. So my feeling there was I probably should have called, but I’m curious to know what you would say as a coach.

Peter: I mean it depends on what you know at point in the session. I get that a lot where a student will say, “Oh well actually I ended up losing, so clearly I shouldn’t have made the call.” You can only go with what you know at point of decision, right? An action is not right or wrong based on what happened in hindsight. It’s right or wrong based on how good the use was of the information you had at the time, like how well did you use the info you had at the time.

So if you thought this guy had a really strong range, then there’s nothing wrong with you folding eights. In this pot here, we don’t know well, so I guess we’re kind of having to function in that lack of knowledge. And we’re just trying to pretend he’s a normal player. He made a rate you can’t decide. Right he made it $0.35, and we made it $0.10, so that’s fairly normal. So early indications are this guy is a regular. He is really big stacked. So we need to determine how wide the regs go with their ranges in Small Blind versus Button situations? Well this is 2017, and sadly these days they actually three bet quite a lot out of the Small Blind. There’s no longer a really passive game like it used to be, where you could just fold the hand.

So I think the call is normal, as far as I’m concerned. Based on the fact that for one, it’s probably just gonna be fine in terms of EV, because most players will have enough hands that playing eights in possession for this price, it’s just okay. And secondly strategically speaking, if we were to fold eights here, we’d actually create the kind of strategy that would fold too often through a three bet. It would actually allow Villain to churn out money, just print money against us by three betting pretty much any two cards in the future. So there’s a kind of vacuum reason, that’s probably just trying to call, and there’s a long term strategic reason, folding would be a bad strategy. And those are slightly different, but they’re both valid reasons for calling this three bet.

Zac: Makes sense.

Peter: So then we move on to the flop, which is nine of spades, six of diamonds, five of clubs. Small Blind then goes ahead and makes a very large C-bet, so the pot is $0.75 cents now. We’ve called to the three bet, and he bets 54 cents into 75 cents. Large bet, but we have flop middle pair and a gut shot as one of the better flops to hit. So if you remember what I said there about the fact that, against the regulars we do want to make sure we don’t fold too much of our ranges in most situations. What are we gonna do with eights now? We’re facing a C-bet with a pair and a gutter to the straight.

Zac: So that’s a call right?

Peter: Yeah, that’s a call. It’s not a raise, because raising would be to create a raise in range in a spot where there’s no need for one. That’s one thing that I’ll talk about in the answers here. And also, we just have to protect this part of our range, we’ve flopped about as well as we can without making a set. So to fold on a nine, six, five oard would not be very good. And then actually the nine of diamonds rolls off and turns. So the board is now nine, six, five, nine with two diamonds, and we still have the eight of spades, eight of clubs. So now on the turn small blind checks. So hero’s next decision point is whether to bet this turn or not, with this pair of eights and the gutter. And hero does decide to bet $1.04, into $1.83. So what do you make of this?

Zac: Well let’s see. Is our hand good or better? Are we getting anything better to fold? Probably only I guess over pairs might, but probably wouldn’t ’cause they would have to put us on the nine.

Peter: Yeah it would be weird to fold yeah.

Zac: Yeah, so that’s not accomplishing much. And so when we get called, we’re usually just hoping for that straight, and so yeah. So I think maybe a check would be what I would do.

Peter: Hm, yeah interesting. I think it’s a very close pot, because I think betting for value is quite thin. Well I think we might get called sometimes by some kind of six, seven, or whatever, ace, six or something like this. Or maybe ace king, ace queen. It’s just being a bit stubborn as possible. I don’t think we’re gonna be in good shape when called, so I definitely agree with you. I think that’s good analysis that after our bet gets called, it’s not gonna be great.

But here’s something I’ve written in the analysis for this. So I’ve said, “The turn check is not normally too tricky from this population. It is one that could be made by the whole range, if Villain was strategically competent. And that’s a thought that’s really about that nine being a better card for us, then it is for him.” That nine pairing is good for us, ’cause we called the flop. We have more nines than he does.

But anyway, I quote, “But this is almost never the case in this group. There is more capping than there should be in the average five and ten cent game with regs” And basically what that means is that I think that while if we do get called, we’re not happy. I think in this reg infested population what I’m really saying there with that quote is that we will actually run into just two over cards, very, very often when we see this line. When someone goes bet, flop, check, turn. I don’t think they’re balancing it by checking it off of their strong hands, right? That’s my population read.

Zac: Okay.

Peter: So if we have the best hand extremely often, there emerges a new reason to bet, that’s not actually for value, and it’s not a bluff, it’s protection. And the idea of protection is that if we have the best hand, the vast majority of the time, we would quite like to just deny everything equity related to Villain. We don’t really want villain just binking like a queen, a jack, a king, or an ace on the river. We don’t want to have to make potentially a wrong river decision if he does bet on one of those cards, or whatever.

So by betting there if we do have the best hand very often, we can actually just protect our equity, and avoid a few uncomfortable situations. And if Villain isn’t checking a strong enough range, then we get away with that. If Villain’s checking over pairs and stuff here, he can punish us for that. But the read is that he’s probably not. So I actually endorsee the bet for protection based on the grounds that the population will not have pairs or better when he checked to us there, and we can get away with it so to speak.

Zac: That is fascinating. So now quick question before we get to the river, if we’re betting this turn what’s our plan for the river? I would imagine that if certain cards come, and we have to bet. And if other cards come, and if we get bet into, we’re gonna be kind of weary right?

Peter: Yeah I mean getting bet into is very strange. One thing I’m very big on in my books is knowing how the average poker player plays in whatever climate you’re in. So it’s not just about being like, “Okay this might happen.” It’s about thinking, “How often do they actually lead the river there?” After just calling that flop bet, calling the turn. And I think you’ll see them make that kind of procedural check to you. almost all the time on the river.

So I’m not really worried about their cards as where he leads the river. In terms of what cards we bet, well if the rational for betting the turn was just to protect our equity well we’re on the river, there is no sixth street right? There’s no sixth card that’s gonna roll off, right? There’s no river plus one. So there’s nothing to protect anymore. So if we don’t have a value bet, and we don’t have a bluff, we simply check behind. Job done, we protected our equity. We win some, we lose some now, but at least we avoided situations where a Villain got a free river card with a really weak range full of over cards, on the turn. That was the rational for betting the turn. So I think the plan is to check back almost all rivers have checked to be honest.

Zac: Okay very good, yeah when I focus on the range that we’re assigning the opponent, that and seeing the situation through using that as a filter, it makes so much more sense then focusing on any other part of it without using that as the context.

Peter: Yeah exactly, because you have levels of making reads right? Like at the top you have, “I know exactly how this guy plays.” And that’s fine. You can play against him very well. Then below that you have this is X, or Y type of player, and they have a tendency to do X, or Y thing. And then what we’re dealing with here is the level below that, which is what does the population do? ‘Cause this guy’s unknown, and we don’t have one of those higher kind of reads. Below that you have GTO. You have foundational play, and what you should do if you’re trying to play defensively, and optimally. But I don’t think we need to fall back on GTO play when we can actually diagnose accurately how the population is likely to handle this situation.

Zac: Beautiful. Is there a river to this one?

Peter: There is no river, because what actually happens next is that Small Blind decides to min raise us after we bet 104, into 183. Pretty gross, not something we were really expecting, but again where am I gonna go to when I’m playing a five and ten hand? I’m gonna think about the five and 10 population once again, right? And it’s gonna hopefully guide me to the right choice now. Well you’ve probably worked with people, and spoken to community members who play these stakes right? And how strong do they think it is when a reg check min raises a turn card?

Zac: Right, massively.

Peter: Massively, yeah, agreed. So this one, there’s not really too much to say. I mean the student does fold, and the student actually has to fold, and I think the student played this hand very well. So what have I said? Without going into too much detail, ’cause it’s some more complex stuff, and that’s analysis as well. What have I said here? Yeah I’ve barely even talked about the fact that we got raised as far as I was concerned. That was such a clear fold that the more interesting decision, not the more glamorous one, but the more interesting one was whether we bet the turn in the future.

But I say here I quote, “This is a spot where the average reg is generous enough to offer us close to zero percent equity with his line. As our pot odds demand more than zero percent for calling to be reasonable, we should graciously accept his offer, and fold.” So in other words, the reg is playing exactly like the population would play the nuts. Probably just has the nuts, and has been kind enough to tell us that he has the nuts, and we will take him up on that and fold.

Zac: Gotcha. Wow I love your hierarchy of levels in terms of what we’re focusing on strategically. Population, GTO, I’m gonna write that down. I’m sure I’m not gonna be the only one. So “100 Hands”, I wanna read all “100 Hands”. Where can our listeners pick this book up?

Peter: Okay so the best way to do it is to get the PDF, which is available on CarrotCorner.com. So, www.CarrotCorner.com, and then it’s actually on the front page, but there’s a side page called, “100 Hands”” you can click, and there’s a little sample extract on there where we go over the first hand, and the intro. And then just down below where there’s links galore, right? ‘Cause I won’t be able to buy it, so I’ve got these links that say, “Buy ‘100 Hands’ now.” You click that, and what happens is you get taken to gun row to our, just a company that vends stuff for people online. They’re very, very secure. And you can buy it there, and they will email it out to you just basically instantaneously, and they have to put a little privacy kind of seal on your copy of it, or what not. But they send it over within a minute.

Then if you really want a Kindle version as well, what listeners can feel free to do is actually email me and say, “Look I bought your book as a PDF, any chance of a Kindle version?” And I can give them a digital file as well, if they do that. So that just saves them having to buy it from Amazon, and then no one makes any money, like Amazon will make all the money, right? So buy it on Amazon one, but if you really wanna support a kind of self employed independent poker author, buy it on the website guys. That would be much appreciated.

Zac: Awesome, and we’ll put a link to it in the show notes as well. Peter Clark, thank you so much for your great contributions to Poker strategy “The Grinders Manual” was awesome. Can’t wait to read, “100 Hands” and hope you come back on the podcast soon.

Peter: I would love to. Thanks so much for having me, it’s been a pleasure.

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