Unstudied poker players come in all ages and playing styles, but one thing bonds them together: A lack of “formal training” in poker strategy.
They are the retired nits who’ve been playing poker for decades but never picked up a poker book. They are young players who learned from Zynga play money poker and the WSOP on TV. They are middle-aged poker hobbyists who are home game regulars who never bothered to learn how to play against anyone but their friends.
For studied players, exploiting the unstudied is a big part of our edge. But even studied players often fail to consider the specific weaknesses unstudied players exhibit. That’s why coach Doug Hull sweated a session with a 30-year poker veteran who had never studied the game to get inside his head. What he found goes beyond the obvious “these guys play too many hands” observations and into many specific weaknesses to exploit.
PRO members can access Doug’s “How An Unstudied Player Thinks” strategy videos in the PRO member archives, but we wanted to share a few juicy tips for everyone looking to get an inside look at the unstudied poker player’s thought process:
1. Despite not understanding the correct odds, they are still heavily influenced by the odds they perceive
In the video, our unstudied subject guesses that AK hits a pair on the flop 15% of the time. A quick check with Flopzilla shows the real odds are 29% that AK at least pairs, and roughly 1 in 3 that it flops a pair or better. Over 100% off.
It would surprise no one that unstudied players don’t understand even the most basic pre-flop odds calculations. The more nuanced understanding Hull got was that for not knowing the correct odds, unstudied players still heavily factor what they perceive to be the odds into their decisions.
For example, when our unstudied player flops top pair, he perceives a stronger hand than he actually has, because he believes the odds of hitting this hand to be twice as unlikely as they really are.
The key takeaway is that unstudied players have more extreme “feelings” about hands because they often think the odds are more extreme that they really are. Made hands on the flop often feel unbeatable to them, but at the same time…
2. In spots where they are supposed to win, they are pessimistic
These players think “KK always flops an Ace”, and “Aces get cracked more than they win”.
Hull is a big fan of exploiting this weakness, for example, by barreling an ace-high flop when a fishier player can be put on a premium pocket pair pre-flop.
Conversely, an overly pessimistic, unstudied player who is betting like he is unafraid of a better hand is very out of character and should set off alarm bells.
3. Tiny donk bets with weak hands are common with unstudied players
Anyone who’s looked at a poker video knows bet sizing is a crucial skill. It’s not that the unstudied players are ignoring bet sizing completely, but they are often unwittingly telegraphing their hand through predictable bet sizes.
One specific example of this is when a player limp/calls or flat calls a pre-flop raise and then donk bets the flop. You’ll see this when pocket 6’s flop 2 9 K, or A9 flops K 9 8. They’re assuming they’re probably beat if their opponents play back at them, and at the very least will proceed with extreme caution. They are playing “fold you out or be folded” poker. You can exploit this by looking out for these “donk bet for information” sizes and blast them out of the pot with aggressive lines.
4. Suited cards look sexier than they really are
We already know these players play too many hands. When thinking about their range, it’s good to remember that they are selecting hands pre-flop based more on a gut reaction to the cards in their hand vs. the action behind them.
We saw our unstudied player make many ill-advised limps and loose calls simply because the two cards he was holding were suited. These hands will almost always be ace-rag or paint-rag types of hands when they’re suited, because these types of players aren’t generally hip to the value of suited connectors.
You can use this to a big advantage when you’re putting unstudied players on range. There are so many ways to use this information to crush a player. Get them to steadily call off their stack with a K- or Q-high flush to your nut flush. Get in extra value with a player who doesn’t understand he lacks the right odds to call your flop and turn bets and draw to his flush.
Or, punish them for making top pair, worse kicker to your premium ace hands, while keeping an eye out for the unpredictable two-pair threat when these players call pre-flop with their suited rag. The possibilities are endless if you keep in mind they’re playing way too many suited non-connectors.
These are just a few of the dozens of insights coach Hull captured in his videos, so become a PRO member now if you want to really squeeze all the value out of these types of players, that will more often than not form the basis of your bankroll. Here’s a preview: