I Am Exploitable, But That’s Not a Problem

Is my poker game exploitable? Definitely. Can you trick me into folding hands that are better than yours? For sure. Can you finagle me into paying off your flopped full house? Absolutely you can. Can I grind out a painless living anyway? Yep.

Exploit (from Dictionary.com)

  • to utilize, especially for profit
  • to use selfishly for one’s own ends

Dictionaries sure do have a way with words. To use selfishly for one’s own ends. What an elegant way to say that. I’ve tried in vain for years to define the words exploitand outplayin a poker c­ontext. And this definition works dandily for both. I’m going to complete one sentence three times:

“I called his raise with 97 offsuit in the small blind…

… planning to exploit him after the flop.”

… planning to outplay him after the flop.”

… planning to use him selfishly for my own ends after the flop.”

Okay, now that we know what we’re talking about, let’s do some.

Raising Joe

Playing $2/5 NLHE, I was in seat eight and Joe was in seat five. Joe is good at exploiting timid players by way of steady aggression. One of his tactics is to open for amounts that are larger than the norm.

Larry limped for $5 and Joe made it $60. That was an overbet in this game. Everyone folded. An hour later, Larry limped, Joe made it $60, and Larry called. Larry is a tight, timid player. He likely has a pocket pair or ace-king or ace-queen in a spot like this, and when he misses the flop he will reliably fold to a C-bet.

Larry missed the flop. The endgame was predictable. Larry checked, Joe bet, and Larry folded.

Joe had exploited Larry’s transparent style by executing a well-designed strategy. Seat One said something about having seen the open-with-an-overbet concept in a training video online. Joe smiled.

An hour later, my chips were gathering dust, I was in the small blind, several players limped, including Joe, and I folded. Joe leaned forward to look around seat six and into my smiling eyes. In a friendly tone he said, “I hope you get to play a hand soon.”

The next hand was my button. Joe and I both had $1,000. When I looked at my hole cards − eight-seven offsuit − I decided that if Joe opened for $60, I would 3-bet to $200.

One player limped. Joe made it $60. The hijack and cutoff folded fast and just as fast my two black chips landed flat and firm.

Seat One chuckled at Joe. “Looks like you got your wish.”

The blinds and the limper folded.

“Nice hand, old man,” Joe said. “You earned it.” He flashed ace-ten to me and mucked.

What were the chances of Joe folding to my $200 bet? I think they were high. I think if he had anything but a premium hand, he would have folded, and I think his range included many non-premium hands such as ace-ten, king-jack, and medium connectors.

Here’s a recap of the hand:

I exploited Joe’s pattern. Big deal. It means nothing. I didn’t exploit his pattern because it was “flawed” or “exploitable.” I exploited it because I’m a good no-limit hold’em player doing what good no-limit hold’em players do: figuring out good spots to fire, and pulling the trigger. Joe could be the greatest player ever, and I’d still be able to exploit him on occasion. Or outplay him, or use him selfishly, or whatever you want to call it. And he’ll sometimes exploit my patterns. It’s called playing poker. May the better strategist win. 


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