There are secret weapons high stakes poker players have. This secret weapon is very useful to anyone who knows it. If used properly, it will:
- Make more folds when you bluff
- Make value betting cause more calls
- Encourage more accurate hero calls
So, what is it that high stakes pros use to gain an advantage nearly every time? It is called a hand combination (aka combinatorics or blocker) – the removal reaction that happens when you hold certain cards.
This term has likely been heard before, but most likely in connection with preflop. Here we will explore how playing with blockers post-flop can boost our success rate. In this article, we would deal with the different methods with the use of which a Pro player gains success in the game. It is best to understand how they make use of every opportunity. It will be done by looking at a few examples. To make sure we all understand each other, let us start with the basics.
What are Hand Combinations?
The number of possible combinations of cards that are possible to make up a starting set is known as a combo. In a deck of 52 cards, 13 cards belong to the same suit while 4 to each rank. Therefore
- Every unpaired set has 16 possible combinations
- 12 possible set combinations for every unpaired offsuit
- 4 set combos of every suited hand
- Each pocket pair can have six combos
From 3-2 offsuit to Aces, 1326 possible combos can be dealt preflop. If you have played poker before, you may have noticed that an offsuit hand has a three-fold higher probability of being dealt than a suited hand.
The value of suited hands stems from this fact. Flashes are difficult to create and even more difficult to beat. So, if you start your set with a suited card, you have a good chance of getting a tough hand that can win you a large pot. Due to their ability to flop flush draws, suited hands also realize their equity more than offsuit hands.
Many players use a hand matrix program to reference certain combo moves such as Poker Equilab. When using this program, you can check the “Display number of combos” box at the bottom left of the matrix screen. The number of combos of a set becomes visible once a hand is highlighted.
Under the slider bar, you can see the total number of set combinations in the range as a percentage and as a fraction.
Post-Flop Hand Combinations
You can also use this trick post-flop. Let us say a range contains 74 combinations and we add a flop and tick the “Display card removal” box. Following the addition of the flop of A-T-5, the number of possible set combinations will drop to 5.02% or 59 combination range.
Let me explain with an example;
A player named Rafi calls pre-flop with 59 combo range and T,3,2 is the flop. This will show an updated version of Rafi’s range in the matrix program and even show each set combo. The next step is to examine the removal effects of each card on this flop
Combinatorics of Top Pair
Making some moves is less likely to happen when one of the cards you need is on the board. That is why making the top pair often does not work. The program will reveal that Rafi has 15 top pairs on this board, but 36 no pairs combinations. He has now hit top pairs on 29% of all unpaired sets. By narrowing down your opponent’s range, this method can help you make better decisions.
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Combinatorics of Flush Draws
If Rafi’s 93 sets make it to this flop, he will have 9 chances of drawing a diamond flush. Due to the T’s diamond nature, this range of cards will make fewer flushes than would otherwise be possible. With two diamonds as lower cards, an additional 5 flush draws (AT-T9) would be possible, bringing the total to 14. This is approximately 15% of sets, an increase of 50%.
Rafi’s options for flush combos can be drastically reduced by certain diamond turn cards. A range containing 89 sets would have 5 flush combos, or about 6% flushes if the turn was the J. In Rafi’s case, all four of his flush draws were Js. Rafi’s flush chance would increase to 10% (9 of 90 sets) if the turn was the 4, which is nearly 2x higher than if the turn were the J. When you see a flush card with a dramatic impact like the J above, make sure to take advantage of the situation.
Using Range Balancing
Apart from hand combos, pro players also combine it with range balancing. The total range of Poker comes with 98 combinations in total. In this wide range, there are only about 49 combinations that fall within the bluffing range. It keeps the balance of the bluffing and non-bluffing combinations even.
Experienced players take advantage of a good set which can block more than a couple combos in the call range of the opponent. Additionally, if that set can block the defender even if it holds less value, it is perfect to improve upon the bluffing game. Mixing and matching between different combinations and using them as per the bluffing game is important to win big.
Combinations of Initial Hand
If top players want to win they will take advantage of an off-suit and deal with it. If you look closely they will always avoid a suited counterpart. They avoid it because it will make the game more advantageous for them. In a game when a player starts with a suited hand, they are automatically at a place where they can win by overcoming the opponent.
One thing to note is that any pro player would want to know all the aspects to keep things in check. So, they will also keep track of the range which has 74 combinations. The space beneath the slider bar would show the number of sets being dealt.
Using Combination of Sets
Some sets are valuable because of how they occur. In case a player is facing an opponent who repeats their strategies and tricks, knowing when to use a combo is essential. It is important to know how tough it might be to have a combo set if the player has a good pair against their opponent. In such a case, the pro players would take the benefit of equity to call on the basis of the pot odds.
It is pretty clear why pros use hand combos almost every time since, as you just learned, they play a huge role in poker strategy. They form the backbone of winning poker strategy when combined with ranges and math. Looking at a game closely or even watching tutorials can make anybody aware of using the right hand combinations.
The best idea is to use the different combos just as the experienced players would recommend. Range balancing and bluffing both need to be done well. It will give good results with practice. One should keep on playing online or offline to hone their skills.
Making the right decision in tough situations will be easier if you think through each move and carefully consider your opponent’s hand combos. A large portion of the game is based on how one bluffs with each hand. It is very important to get ready with your Poker face to be in line for becoming the next pro player.