You hear the pros talking about “balancing your range” all the time, but what exactly does that mean in practice? In this episode, coach and cash game grinder Fausto Valdez shares his secrets for thinking about your range and the ranges of your opponents. How do we become less exploitable, while exploiting others at the same time? Valdez walks host Zac Shaw through a $1/$2 hand he played to dissect each decision and coach recreational players to think more like a pro when it comes to ranges.

Featuring: Zac Shaw and Fausto Valdez

Links from this episode:

Fausto’s PRO Videos (membership required)

Red Chip Poker Forum: Fausto Valdez Coaching

Fausto Valdez on Twitter

Zac: Fausto Valdez, welcome back to the Red Chip Poker podcast. Thanks for coming.

Fausto: Thanks, Zac. Always glad and happy to be here.

Zac: Always glad to talk to someone who is playing lots and lots of poker and also doing coaching. I’m going to be honest, I’m hoping to squeeze a little bit of free coaching out of this if you don’t mind. Maybe at the end go over a hand.

Fausto: Let’s do it. Anything for you, Zac.

Zac: Before we dive into that, I know that you’ve been doing a lot of coaching, you’ve been doing a lot of playing. So bring us up to speed. I know you’ve been on the podcast before so people know you. For people who don’t know you, what’s your deal and what have you been up to?

Fausto: So I just been grinding. Just a lot of poker, a lot of coaching students, and then just getting ready for the series basically. I’m basically playing anything from three to four times a week between casino games, home games, and in between that I’m helping students.

Zac: Home games, this is a new thing that I’ve heard from you, maybe not the first home game you played I would assume, but is that a new thing that you’re approaching in terms of playing and just how do you approach it compared to the live poker rooms that you normally grind in. Is it a different kind of a game that you’re playing? Are you profiling players more? What’s the reason why you’re diving into the home game scene?

Fausto: For me, it’s just managing my time since I live in New York and for me to travel to a casino is a two hour one way. So unless I’m staying out there, it becomes hectic. So I just mix in the home games to ease the traveling of playing poker since I am playing three to four times a week. As far as approaching it, basically same thing strategy-wise. I mean, it’s still poker. You still got to identify your opponent’s weakness, take advantage of it, and the only caveat is pretty much try to be a good host and fun player. Me, since I’m already crazy as it is, I get snap invited to all the home games. So that part is easy. As far as the fun player, I’m definitely that guy. I always mingle and have fun with the players. That’s the only difference. You don’t want to be like that rude person that nobody likes to play with at home games because that’s a good way not to get invited back.

Zac: I would describe you the same way. I’ve never had more fun losing at PLO than playing with you.

Fausto: So my job is done then.

Zac: It’s funny though with the home game. I’ve run a home game for a long time. I like to go to home games much for the same reason. Casinos are very far away from me. But one thing I like about it is in terms of profiling other players, you’re playing with mostly the same people every week. It kind of gives you this opportunity to get into people’s heads and also for other people to get into your head and kind of challenge your ability to adjust, right?

Fausto: Right. So home games, you definitely are playing the same people. I guess the part that I like since I’m here to make money, of course, I’m playing poker, but I like the challenge as well. I don’t want to be bored doing this the whole time. So when you do run into the same people, they get used to you, and it forces you to really understand your strategy and understand what is actually sticking, right? When you have to like deviate and create new lines and just throw a wrench into the whole system because they will pick up on it.

Zac: Absolutely. I always ask coaches in particular because I know you’re coaching, you’re playing, what your study routine looks like, how are you continuing to learn when you’re doing all of that poker. Clearly, you’re putting yourself in situations where you can have learning opportunities, but how does your actual study look like? Are you getting much time to look at videos and that sort of thing or do you kind of do it through the process of coaching and playing?

Fausto: So part of it is through the coaching since I have to reinforce my ideas, and students bring me their questions and ideas. Some of them I have to think on the spot and like really think about like, “Oh yeah, this is interesting. These are the important things about this situation. So we should implement x, y, and z.” Then whenever I’m not doing that or my own study, I’m either messing around with Flopzilla or I look at recent hand histories or I’m just simply diving into different theories and strategies that I’m trying to implement or revisiting troubling spots that either re-arise in my game or things that I’ve noticed recently or new ways of tactics that I see people doing. So I’m very self-aware about all of that, and I just revisit all of that and just dive into it.

Zac: Do you have kind of a working document or collection of documents that is kind of the summary of your strategy, the notes you’ve taken through all your study, through all your coaching, and is that kind of the way that you’ve become a coach is by building all that material up to the point where, “Hey, look. I have a program that I could actually run someone through.”

Fausto: Right. So through my experience from playing, and working with the Solve For Why group, I’ve noticed that there are certain definite factors and variables that are always present within the game, and then there’s the part of incomplete information. Then we have to try to figure out the incomplete information part through these variables that are always fixed, which is like the stack sizes. The opponents are always shifting, but the math behind the game is that when somebody’s too wide, they’re too wide. They can’t get around that. No matter how aggressive or passive they are. These are things that we can clearly take advantage of because that’s going to be like sort of a fixed variable in an unpredictive way in a sense, but these are things we can always work on. Then there’s different theories that you can implement. So when you think about these things and which ones takes precedence over other things, you can manipulate the game many different ways and implement different strategies that work for you, but you need to understand what is it that you’re looking for and the pros and cons of implementing different strategies and what is going to be the impact and the dynamic that’s going to be created out of that strategy.

Zac: Interesting.

Fausto: I hope that made sense. Yeah.

Zac: I was going to say it sounds very Solve For Why. I think that you guys all have this way of thinking about poker. I mean, you all have very unique ways of thinking about poker, but the cohesive, the narrative thread that ties it all together is this constant questioning of the motivation between each action, what is the meaning here. I can imagine with, like you said, you open a wide range. There’s no way of getting around it. You’re opening too much and there’s mathematical reasons why you can play back against that in certain ways. I think a lot of players who maybe aren’t as studied, look at those players and have a feel for, “Oh, this person’s loose and I can push them around,” but I want to know more about the math behind how you react to these things you pick up. That’s the one thing that I’m struggling with in my game. I can put people on ranges, but I can’t necessarily sit there and count the outs and the combos. I mean, how do you integrate math? How did you do it in your game and how do you do it with your students?

Fausto: Okay. So to answer two things, the most important thing is to be able to like just sit back, disengage yourself from the technical stuff, and just look at the bigger picture of what’s happening, right? So when you look at the bigger picture, it’s like, “All right. Why is it that every time I check back the flop this guy attacks me, right?” You just want to see what led up to that point, and the actions leading up to that point without getting too technical. Once you see the bigger picture of all these actions and how they intertwine with each other, you start seeing the bigger picture, right? Then you can start forward thinking because every time we look at the microscopic part of it, all we look at is the now and that’s what we’re focused on and that’s how you create mistakes because you’re ignoring the future, right?

If this was like a 10 big blind game, yeah, we could think of the now, but when we’re talking about deep-stack cash games, we got to do a lot of forward thinking, a lot of planning. It just can’t be just a now. So you have to be able to be really good at understanding the bigger picture and how all these different branches of decisions tie in together. Once you understand that, it’s like, “All right. This is what I want to do because of this bigger picture concept,” and then we go into the details of understanding, “All right. This is important. These frequencies, I don’t want to be too imbalanced,” or, “I am going to be exploitative because of x, y, and z.” You have to make the decision which one takes more precedence, which one is more important at certain times, but you wouldn’t know that from understanding the bigger picture. Then when you keep diving into it more, then it’s like, “All right. Pot odds and combinatorics is important.” All those little micro details just makes your decision more stronger, and you understand what parts of your ranges you’re splitting, which parts you’re doing certain actions to your ranges. All those details come together once you understand the bigger picture.

Zac: That’s interesting.

Fausto: Bang, bang.

Zac: Yeah, I mean, I’ve always wondered. I see people who are really good at the math side of poker and it’s clear that they’re not really computing and being a calculator at the table. They’ve studied this stuff off the table. They’ve built an intuition. What you’re saying is really powerful because I think everyone, like I said before, you can put someone on a range. I mean, that’s something everyone kind of knows how to do, at least I hope. If you’ve been listening to this podcast. But where it breaks down for me is the point where okay, I’ve put them on a range, but now I actually have to sort of extrapolate that and I feel like I have to do the math in my head to determine the numerical value of that range in terms of how many combos of this versus how many combos of that of bluff versus value. That’s just where I completely get lost, and I feel like I’m just guessing and using intuition. I mean, do you have any tips to kind of sharpen that up?

Fausto: In terms of how to combat once you already have a decision point, right? In terms of ranges and stuff, is that what you’re asking?

Zac: Yeah. Or maybe do you want to just get into this hand, and I think the first street basically, we can talk about that.

Fausto: Sure. Let’s do it.

Zac: Cool. All right. This is a hand I played a year ago. So hopefully I’m better than this. But I love your criticism. So bring it. This is $1/$2 at the MGM Grand right before actually the meet-up last year. So I’m playing full ring, five players, limped, and I checked in the big blind with king of spades, five of spades, and so I guess what I was talking about before is in putting people on a range. It’s a little too early to put like five limpers in a range, but down the line, let’s say, I’m heads up with the king, five against someone. Let’s say I put them on premium pairs and suited connectors and blah, blah, blah, and all this stuff. Well, how do I actually say what part of their range connects … Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself because I’m getting a flop here. I want to know what part of the range connects with the flop versus what doesn’t. That’s basically the most primitive kind of thing you can do in terms of looking at the flop. So that’s what I want the advice on is like at that point, what are you doing to break those two categories down and determine how much of his range hit this flop versus how much didn’t?

Fausto: Right. So once you get into the flop, the way you want to view is understanding how the board interacts with the player’s ranges. So the fact that everybody limp, we’re going to understand that they have sort of a wide range, right? Once you see the board sections, right? You could categorize them in three different avenues, which we speak about in the camp. We Solve For Why and everything with my students. I tell them how this board interacts and it’s basically going to be split into range advantage. You showing disadvantage. Advantage is going to be great for whoever has the lead, and neutral is going to be like a fair game. The concept behind it is that when you look at a preflop range.

Let’s pretend this was like I open and somebody calls. A neutral board would hit both ranges just as equally, right? The ranges are going to intertwine very close. So boards like this is going to be like 10, nine, six; jack, eight, seven; queen, 10, eight. Like boards in the middle like that that have a lot of gutshot opportunities, backdoor draws, draws in general, hidden made hands that could easily call and is allowed to continue will continue on these boards but is not the same when the board is like king, seven deuce or ace, ace, three. There’s nothing on that board in a range in a preflop callers range, and in this case a limper’s range that could continue there. There’s just nothing there.

So when you see boards like that in that disparity, you could anticipate what’s going to happen, right? So you here limping and you have king, five, suited and the board is what? What’s the board?

Zac: I got ahead of myself there, but I think this is going to come right into play when we get to the flop. I mean, I’m not sure if there’s anything to talk about pre-flop. I checked the big blind with king of spades, five of spades, and I guess my only question there was does it ever make sense to raise there? I thought about it and I thought if I raise to kind of punish the limpers in a sense, and I expected to be called in one or two spots most of the time and be out of position on the flop unless I really bombed it. Am I thinking sound?

Fausto: I think it’s bad. When you tell me, “Oh, I want to punish the limpers,” that’s a very micro thinking, right? Because you’re disengaging the preflop action with postflop. It’s a whole game. It all goes together, right? Pre-flop is not separated from post flop. So when you’re saying to yourself, “Oh, I could punish the limpers,” right? You choose not to because of your hand selection, but if say you have like ace, five or ace, 10, right? Like maybe you would do it, but your first intention is like, “Oh, let me punish the limpers and pick up the dead money.” Well, what happens when somebody calls you, right? You haven’t anticipated or set yourself up correctly to play postflop. Your mindset should be like, “How are these player types? How do they play post? What are their stack sizes? How does my hand interact with their stacks given that SPR that’s going to be created,” and how can I maneuver post? Right? That’s how you should be setting yourself up. If it happens to be that you open and they fold, then fine. But it shouldn’t be like the driving idea behind the thinking.

Zac: I gotcha. Kris was talking about that the last time he was on the podcast. Really get into their heads and think about they didn’t just show up here to fold to your raising the big blind. You’re going to have one or two people calling and they’re, like you said, it’s a full game. They’re going to be in on the flop. You’re going to have to contend there, and we’re going to be out of position. Yeah, so I’m all about trying to tell a story through other people’s mindsets almost and try and say, “If I did this, what would they do? If I did that, what would they do?” But I guess what you’re saying is the idea of punish the limpers can’t exist in a vacuum.

What about this specific play though? I mean, given that this is probably a standard $1/$2 table with passive players, and these limpers are weak. Do I ever raise here?

Fausto: I mean, you could. But when we start talking about like if you take king, five, suited and like raise, right? With that idea. What’s stopping you from doing it with any other hand? Right? You’re going to do it with king, six, seven, eight, nine, suited. Same thing as queen x, jack x, are all relatively the same. So it was going to stop you from doing it with other hands. So when you start going into that route, you’re basically exploiting, right? Because you’re choosing a hand that is relative to other hands and you better have a reason why you’re deciding to exploit, right? If your motion is like ah, want to like assert aggression and start shifting dynamics, that’s a fine reason, right? Now you’re going to choose extra hands to create this dynamic on purpose, that’s a fine reason. But if you’re reason is like… If your reason is like I just want to pick up the dead money and you think it’s going to work a lot, then fine, go ahead. But understand that whenever you’re meeting resistance, you’re going to have to overcompensate postflop by two ways. Either by being overly aggressive or folding too much because you’re naturally going to miss a lot given your hand choice and other relative hands are going to come along with it.

Zac: Right. I guess that’s why it’s so hard to talk about poker strategy sometimes and why more recreational players have a hard time even just joining the forum or making their two cents known because bomb the limpers in a vacuum I guess is kind of good advice in typical $/$2 games in spots where you’re in position, let’s say. Like I would totally be raising with king, five suited on the button here with average players to my left and no one being tricky. But then you go down this rabbit hole of like well how long I’ve been sitting at this table. I mean, if I’ve been bombing limpers, even one or two times, that’s being noticed by certain players and now they’re going to have a profile on me and have a certain dynamic with me.

Fausto: I just want to add to ease that because you could go down either route, right? You could like just start going ham or just keep strictly to a more abandoned strategy, right? The thing is like when people are taught tactical things like that, right? They just add a bunch of tactical things. They see the opportunity and they don’t know when to do it basically. It’s just all randomized and that’s very bad because you’re going to make mistakes. There’s no strategy or idea behind it. It’s just a bunch of random tactical things. You’re going to make mistakes. So what you should do is like understand at a very basic balance level what you’re set range will look like and when the card distribution comes as such that you are given a certain hand within your range and you see that opportunity, then you take it. If you had ace, five, suited, for example, like yeah, go ahead and take that spot and like try to squeeze out the money in the middle. But if you start choosing extra hands like king, five suited, that’s fine. I’m not going to tell you not to do it, but understand that you’re going beyond your set range and that you’re now exploiting and understand that your frequencies are going to increase with that also. Right?

So in a bigger picture, you understand, “Okay. Well, I’m adding these extra hands. My frequency is going to increase. My image is going to look more wild.” That starts happening, right? It’s a domino effect. But you do that with an understanding, right? I don’t think people realize that just because you see a spot doesn’t mean you just take it because you’re just thinking in tactical terms. You can squeeze any time you want. Somebody opens it goes call, call, right? People learn to squeeze you, right? Why don’t you just squeeze every time? Right? Like there has to be a rhyme or a reason, and a default when to do it and the easiest way to like follow is based on card distribution within your hand and then when you go past that, have a reason.

Zac: Wow. Okay. That’s the mind blown moment for this podcast right now. I feel like I have to pause it and just go into a corner and think for 10 minutes. Wow. I mean, that is something that I think a lot of people struggle with, but it’s hitting me because I’ve certainly struggled with that. I study a lot because I’m here at Red Chip Poker, and the brain has a confirmation bias. If you see a situation, you feel like, “that’s the situation that I need to do this tactic in.” That’s a really powerful concept because I think a lot of us who have been trying to loosen up our ranges, let’s say, or become more aggressive have bumped up against the glass ceiling, the limits of just applying blind aggression, or applying blind tactics. What you’re saying is we shouldn’t be so self-conscious about coming from an ABC TAG kind of a tight range background. We should be kind of like solid in that, and then start adding on components to that and working from that angle versus the top down, which is like here’s a spot, let me explore this tactic to it.

Fausto: Right. Right. So the reason like I won’t do as many mistakes as all these players is exactly what you said. I know my default, right? And how the card distribution is going to impact just the game-flow. I see the bigger picture. Just because I see a squeeze spot doesn’t mean I’m just going to take it, right? When I do decide past my default, it’s for a clear strategy reason, and I understand that strategy. Like you mentioned, when you don’t understand that, you’re just going to see that spot over and over and over and randomize your tactic moves. That’s going to lead to mistakes.

Zac: That’s incredible. Well, all right. Now I feel like I can actually win in Vegas this year. Maybe once I avoid your table. All right. That’s too cocky, but that’s what poker players do they get too cocky. So let’s get through this hand, and now that I know so much more than I did five minutes ago, maybe I’ll be even more embarrassed. So the flop is ace of spades, queen of spades, nine of spades. We have the king and the five of spades. So we flop the stone cold nuts and we’ve got $12 in the pot. Six players. We’re first to act and in this spot I am just scared, just like everyone else is or not everyone. I’m sure you’re not scared. You’re experienced here. But lots of players get scared when they see this monotone flop, and so that’s why I check because I figure other people are going to be scared here. I mean, is that the right kind of thinking?

Fausto: Right. Yeah, so monotones are special in the case that they put a lot of pressure on people’s ranges, and it’s because of the vulnerability of the board texture. The fact that one extra spade could come, which is going to happen at a decent rate, just like messes up the relative strength of your hand. If you had a set here, you’re happy, but it’s not a slam dunk, all in. Right? So we have to basically plan out like the rest of the hand, and giving your exact hand, given that you have the flush, we want to think in terms of like, “All right. How can we get paid in this hand?” But at the same time, remember that like you’re playing a session, right? You want to be able to like get your bluffs through when you have bluffs, and you want to be able to manage your other vulnerable made hands as well, right? So the best way to think of your line is like while the nuts is easy to play, that’s not the issue. It’s more of like what would you do if you had an ace here, right?

Zac: Right.

Fausto: So what do you think you’re incentivized to do with an ace here in a multiway limped pot?

Zac: Well, it’s funny because when I played this hand, I thought for a split second of what other people could have, and I thought for sure someone could be limping with like a weak ace and what would they do on a flop like this. They would probably be scared, but they would also probably want to say, “I got the best hand now,” probably, unless someone’s got two spades. It occurred to me that in that case I’m just hoping that someone maybe has ace, queen, but that doesn’t make any sense. They wouldn’t have limped. So yeah, I’m hoping they have something like that or obviously a weaker flush, and I’m figuring that hardly ever happens. But if I were in that spot with like the weak ace myself, because I could definitely check my option in the big blind, I mean, I got to admit, I’d be kind of scared to bet, but I can kind of see why you’d also want to bet.

Fausto: Right. So like in a multiway pot, a lot of hands shift into protection mode because you have to buy up as much equity as possible, right? Because if not, you’re going to allow other people to be able to get a chance to catch up with their equity as little or as much as it is, right? You pressurize the middle of the pack of the multiway pot to show up with more real hands because they have people behind them, right? So this is a lot of pressure given the multiway scenario and that it’s a monotone board. There’s a lot of pressure here. So if I had a very weak hand that has poor showdown value, my best chance is to try to win now, right? So I would just try to win now and like bet pot. That’s only going to be like $10, right? Because everybody limped in a five way pot. So I just probably bet $10 or something, and then if a spade comes or doesn’t come, I could continue that theme on the next street and I know that ahead of time. Right? Because of the pressure of the board texture and I can anticipate given the nature of the board texture that it’s just going to be pressure throughout the whole way, and that I can keep using that.

Now, if I had an ace, I’m also incentivized to protect the hand given the multiway and that I want to buy up as much equity as possible. So I will play the same way as my bluffs, right? So naturally balances out. Now, given that I will play those parts of my ranges, it’s important that I do that with the nuts also. That’s why when you do that with an ace, you should do the same with your nuts and your bluffs so it all looks the same.

Zac: All right. Now you’re setting off the light. Okay. Actually this seems like it could be a really good flop to do that because with the ace and the queen and the nine of spades out there, and a fourth spade comes or even if it doesn’t on the turn, we can still very much represent the better flush against even someone who maybe had like five, four suited or something like that.

Fausto: Right. Yeah.

Zac: All right. So okay. I’m starting to get it. Let’s take it to the turn. Well, actually finish the flop action because what happened was I checked, one limper checked, and then the middle position limper bet 15 into like a $10 pot. So the limpers all fold and I called. I was kind of wondering is that a spot where I actually want to check-raise because this person now thinks they might draw to the flush and build a pot, or would I just scare them away check-raising?

Fausto: I don’t hate the check-raise given that if I did have an ace, I think there will be sort of enough hands worse that will continue through calling my check-raise. So if I can do that with an ace, I would do that with the nuts also.

Zac: Okay.

Fausto: Right. Yeah, that’s basically it. Basically you could keep blasting on most non-spades.

Zac: Because there’s this other thing that happens with these monotone flops and really like super wet flops in general where you can get the other person to essentially start to say, “Hey, I don’t believe you. You got to be bluffing. I don’t believe that you’ve got the spade. I’m putting you on a bluff like that.” I mean, that’s got to be something that you’re considering, right? Like whether the opponent is capable of doing that and that’s present in their mind or whether they’re not even thinking about that, right?

Fausto: Also, you got to think about the ranges. Just disengage yourself from your own hand for a second and just think about the shared amount of things you could do. They limped, right? The board is ace, queen, what is it? Ace, queen …

Zac: Nine.

Fausto: Nine, right? What do they really have that could just handle streets of pressure?

Zac: Yeah.

Fausto: Not many strong hands. They don’t have aces, they don’t have queens. I mean, they could have queens, but I doubt it. Ace, queen, maybe. I’m sure they would’ve raised with it. So it’s like maybe pocket nines. Ace, nine. Some weird combination of queen, nine that’s probably suited only. Then like jack, 10.

Zac: So it seems like the situation where they don’t have much. A very small part of their range hits the flop but when it does hit this flop, even then they don’t really have a lot where they can continue two more streets, particularly when a spade comes out.

Fausto: Right. Right. There’s just not much in their range given the actions that could continue. I’m saying that with confidence that I’m sure these people have not built out their limp-calling range in a precise way. They’re just limp-calling their vulnerable hands. That’s all their doing or trying to limp play their vulnerable hands. So I know it’s a lot of like vulnerable middle hands, and those vulnerable middle hands, they’re not made to withstand heat, right? They’re just going to crumble. There’s very little in the top of their range to interact with this board that could really continue. So even if a spade does come once after you check raise, you could try to put that extra pressure, and if they have a call or whatever, then you just shut down all together, right? Because they’re just showing you that they’re not going anywhere. If you happen to meet this bluff, what we call leverage is that you signify that it’s a large portion of their stack. You simply force them to show up with a hand. Like there’s no bluffing after that, right? Because the representation is that you’re playing for stacks. So if you meet that through your bet, it makes the bluff even more powerful. So that’s something you can keep in mind. Yeah.

Zac: Cool. Then it also kind of defines their range a little bit more.

Fausto: Right. You just force them to show up with a hand. They can’t do anything. A large percentage of the time, they’re not going to have a hand worth stacking off with.

Zac: All right. That’s Ed Millers whole thing of do they want to play for stacks? If not, apply aggression. But as you’re teaching me, that’s a tactic that isn’t in search of a spot. It’s just a guideline to use. Don’t look for every opportunity to do that, right?

Fausto: Right because I would look at your hand through the lens of like, “What am I going to do with like my bluffs?” Play your hand like a bluff and that’s how you should play like you’re nutted hands. Because a large percentage of the time you’re going to have nothing here, and you should try to find the win for the pot. You should try to find a way to just fight for this pot. When you do show up with the nuts, you want it to be represented the same way. Because in these spots you can fight like you should, give that image with the nuts also. So that’s why I said like I don’t really hate the check raise, and if it happens to be that you had an ace here, you’re going to fluctuate between like how much worse could call you and if you don’t think it’s that much, you could try to like show it down. But at the same time, you could get value from it because I think there’s worse that could call you here.

Zac: Makes sense. I mean, you’re transforming the neurons in my brain. The connections are making new connections. This is awesome. So that’s super helpful. I’m actually going to go back and study this podcast and just to finish out the hand, because we have two more streets, and it does happen on the turn. The two of spades comes so that’s the four to the flush, and at that point I do just call on the flop, the check-raise line though that we investigated. It’s very interesting. But I checked and the villain checked on the turn. The question there is … I mean, I’m trying to think now. Does it make sense to bet here. Particularly when the limper bet out on the flop. So they’re saying there’s some strength there, and I feel like if I bet, it could also be one of those like, “Well, I don’t believe you.” But it’s still now there’s four to a flush. I don’t see any other option besides checking here.

Fausto: Right. Like you leading now is just like you’re in a pressurized range too too much. It was already like pressure before and now with the force feed comes out, it’s like literally any part of their range just feels like crap.

Zac: Right.

Fausto: I can’t think of a hand that they’re like, “Yeah, let’s get it in.” It will have to be like specifically jack, ten of spades to give them the illusion that they have some straight draw sort of royal flush or something like that.

Zac: Okay. Yeah, I got the nuts. Fourth flush card comes. Not going to bore our listeners with that, but then river comes kind of a brick, eight of diamonds and there’s 40 in the pot about. I went out and I bet I think pot, 40, maybe a little bit more. My thinking there was, “Well, this guys either going to call or fold” The only way to win this is for this guy to call. To win any money is for this guy to think that I’m basically bluffing at the pot on the end here like with the missed straight. Well, at this point, there’s no missed spade draw because all the spade draws come in. But basically I just thought, “I know I have the best hand. I might has well put the most money out there. I’m not going to win anything in value. There’s not a hand that he could have, but maybe he thinks that I’m just trying to steal it from him and he calls down with like trip nines or something like that.”

Fausto: So you ended up potting, right?

Zac: Yeah.

Fausto: Or something like that. Yeah, I like it. At this point, I would try to make my hand look as ridiculous as possible. I would probably 2x the pot honestly. What was the size of the pot?

Zac: It was like $40.

Fausto: Yeah. Just throw like 80 in there.

Zac: That’s such a Fausto move.

Fausto: Yeah. Like because also you don’t want them trying to bluff catch with like something weird. If you had a bluff here, you just want to put pressure, right? So like I said earlier, if you’re going to do that with that, do it with your nuts, right? Just make it look ridiculous because if you bet something normal, it just looks like value. They’ll try to bluff catch, but at the same time, they’ll try to convince themselves that like you’re just trying to go for value. Because of that, I would just like go ham. That’s all just 2x the pot to confuse them. Because I think that’s the best way that they’re going to make a mistake. The other line is to try to bet like $10 if they’re like a spazzy player, but I doubt it. So I would just like bet 75 or 80 in there.

Zac: All right. So I did the right thing on the end, and this is kind of why poker is so tricky because even though I did the right thing, I didn’t necessarily do it because I knew I was doing the right thing or why I was doing the right thing. I had an intuition and it turned out to be sort of right. You can get a certain distance in poker with intuition, but you just have shown me how much more I have to learn and how it’s really not just about picking up tactics and applying them. It’s much more about developing an overall thought process that builds off of the fundamentals that you’re already really strong with and then build sort of like incrementally off of being comfortable.

Another thing you really inspired me on is I’m a very visual player, and now I’m going to think of you know those games where you put a word on the top of your head and you have to guess the words and the other person said?

Fausto: Right.

Zac: So now I’m going to think that visually in terms of at the table everyone’s ranges are flipped so everyone can see what ranges people are playing. Because it’s not just about thinking about what range I would do this with or what range they would do this with, but you’re really getting me into the mindset of what do they think that you have here. I mean, because ultimately you’re up against a lot at $1/$2 of players thinking not super deep, I would say. They are playing tactics like I did a year ago or two years ago or probably still today.

So I guess my last question is how do you exploit those players? Is it to constantly adjust and kind of like get their number and basically find their exploit and then just keep them in a box and be the table captain? Is that what you’re doing at these $2/$5 games?

Fausto: I have my default basic strategy that I know will work that’s a mix of like balancing. I just keep poking and poking and poking until I start seeing people crack with aggression. When it becomes oblivious where my opponents weakness and strategy lies, then I take advantage of that. Right? Then I’ll try to exploit and do extra things that I normally wouldn’t, but I will because I can, because they allow me to. That’s what I mainly do. Also, it’s a mix of like managing vulnerable spots as much as possible because these monotone, like neutral boards, regardless of if the opponent’s passive or aggressive, ranges are going to run really close. It’s a matter of you doing less mistakes on those and you being able to like shut out the other opponent when they’re in the middle and them not shutting you out. Right? Because if ranges are run really that close, the only difference that’s left is who manages the situation better, and that’s how you create your edge.

Zac: Right. That’s profound. Like I said, there are several times in this podcast where I felt like I’ve had to walk away from the mic and think about what you said. So definitely one I’m going to listen to again, and I know this isn’t exactly what you do when you coach other people. We’re kind of just shooting the breeze about strategy, but for people who are interested in actually getting coaching from you, is that something that you’re offering now, and if so, how can they get in touch with you?

Fausto: Yeah, so I’ll be in Vegas, but I’m still taking on extra students. So they can reach out to me in my email, which is my first and last name They can reach me at social media, which is Twitter and Instagram. It’s just my name. So the Twitter handle is @FaustoValdez, Instagram is Fausto_Valdez. They can follow me there. What I basically do with my students is that I mostly go over a curriculum that I’ve already set up, and we look at what our overall strategy looks like. I basically divulge more or less what I do but more importantly allow you to understand the bigger picture so you can fluctuate within your own strategy and understand what is it that you need to be looking at so you can create edges for yourself.

Zac: Nice. Yes, a lot of people are talking about your coaching in the forum. Nothing but good things to say. So if you’re listening and you want to learn more, you can check that out as well or just get in touch with Fausto. He’s contributed a lot of great stuff to the Pro Plus Core Catalog, and, again, thanks for coming on. I’m really looking forward to seeing you in Vegas, and if I do win a pot against you, I’ll credit you entirely from this podcast.

Fausto: No problem.

Zac: All right. Thanks.

Fausto: Thanks for having me.

Zac: Yeah, thanks.