Ryan Laplante is simply a beast when it comes to poker tournaments. The Minnesota-native has cashed for more than $5 million between live and online poker tournaments dating back to 2009. Most of those cashes came in no-limit hold’em, but over the last several years, the Card Player columnist has shown his prowess in pot-limit Omaha as well.
Get the most from your poker game with CardsChat's free poker strategy guides and articles. Here you will find a host of poker tips and techniques to help you improve your poker playing, no matter. Aug 10, 2016 The first skill in Ed Miller’s The Course — and really, the first skill any poker player needs to master — is having a good pre-flop range. Many poker books for beginners advocate a set range from each position, and their suggestions are usually quite conservative to. Apr 23, 2019 FWIW, if you are looking for the other preflop considerations ALONG with this same kind of framework for POSTFLOP play, I couldn’t recommend enrolling in CORE highly enough. CORE is the complete A-Z poker course that I built with the rest of the team at Red Chip Poker to layout out ultimate poker syllabus and to build your strategy the right.
He beat out nearly 2,500 players to win a World Series of Poker bracelet in the 2016 $565 pot-limit Omaha event for $190,328, and most recently took down the $10,000 pot-limit Omaha at Poker Masters last month for $186,000.
Aside from dominating his opposition on the felt, Laplante has successfully dived into the coaching realm as well. He coached dozens of students to successful poker careers before launching his own training website, aptly named Learn Pro Poker. Laplante’s new training course gives a structured breakdown of game theory optimal (GTO) strategy, and when to deviate from those strategies to exploit players at the table.
Laplante sat down with Card Player to break down a hand he played at the final table of the Poker Masters $10,000 pot-limit Omaha event to give readers some insight into the game.
Concepts: Preflop considerations in pot-limit Omaha
The Action:Ryan Laplante raised to 75,000 from the cutoff and Tim McDermott called out of the small blind. On the flop, McDermott checked and Laplante bet 125,000. McDermott check-raised to the size of the pot, 580,000, and Laplante folded.
Steve Schult: I’ve heard people talk about “good aces” and “bad aces” with regards to the other two cards with their pocket aces. What makes aces good or bad and where does your specific hand fall in that category?
Ryan Laplante: These aces are dusty. They’re okay-ish. It’s nice that they are triple connected, but they are the worst kind of triple connected. A-A-2-3 in PLO8 (pot-limit Omaha eight-or-better) is a powerhouse. But in PLO, the low end of straights tend to be pretty bad. At least I have one suit. If I have no suit, these are almost the worst aces. The worst aces would be like A-A-7-2 or something like that with no suits.
That being said, even though they are “bad aces,” bad aces are still good enough to play for stacks if you can get most of your stack in preflop. One thing about PLO in general is that it is very much a postflop game even when you’re pretty short. That being said, the moment you can get 30 percent or more of your stack in preflop, you should pretty much always do it with aces. The only exception would be some ICM (Independent Chip Model) scenarios or things like that.
So even with the worst aces, you’ll still play for stacks assuming you can get most of your stack in preflop. The reason bad aces are called bad aces are because if you can’t get in a significant portion of your stack preflop, they have really bad visibility.
Visibility is a PLO concept that sounds like what it is. It’s how obvious and clear your decisions will be in most situations. Hands like double suited rundowns or strong high suited A-K-X’s have decent visibility. The deeper you are, the more postflop playability matters and the less having a big pair matters more.
SS: Tim has a hand that seems pretty connected with good visibility. Would this be strong enough to three-bet in other situations? Since there were two other players with very short stacks, I’m assuming it was ICM considerations forced him to play it as a call.
RL: Definitely. There are lots of spots where a hand like A-Q-J is a three-bet. The eight being disconnected makes it less good of a three-bet, but I might use this as a three-bet candidate maybe button vs. cutoff, button vs. hijack, button vs. MP2, cutoff vs. hijack, and cutoff vs. MP2. So I wouldn’t use it in many situations, but let’s say you turn that eight into a ten and you add a double suit, then I’m going to three-bet it virtually always, as long as there isn’t some amount of ICM pressure.
Double connected, high rundown broadways are super powerful. Because when you flop a wrap or flop a pair and a straight draw and a flush draw or something like that, you’re generally drawing to the nuts. And you’re drawing to the nuts with all of your outs which makes it much more powerful than just a bare wrap or the bottom end of a wrap, which is much weaker.
SS: The eight is kind of a dangler (a card not connected to the other three) then in this spot?
RL: The eight is kind of a dangler, but if it adds to a double suit, then it is a much better dangler. The fact that it is an eight specifically and not a seven makes it a much better hand in terms of playability. A nine would be much better and a ten would be ridiculous. A-Q-J-10 double suited is just a straight value hand because it’s a hand you can three-bet, get four-bet and peel comfortably.
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A lot of how you view PLO hand strength preflop is pretty similar to how you might view hand strength in limit hold’em in that it’s mostly based around strong linear hands. In limit hold’em, there really aren’t three-bet bluffs. There is just the bottom end of your three-bet range.
There’s no 5-6 suited as a three-bet in limit hold’em. But in limit hold’em, you can three-bet a hand like K-Q because it’s a good playable hand. In limit hold’em, you’re three-betting like A-10 or better, K-J or better, Q-J or better, and pocket tens or better, and then some of those hands play way better against four-bets.
The A-Q-J-10 will play pretty well against four-bets and so will hands like J-10-9-8 double suited. It’s a wonderful three-bet hand because it plays so well even if you get four-bet. You can just flop a pair and a draw and just stack off very comfortably. Best casino slots app.
SS: Can we just take a second to breakdown what makes a strong preflop hand? Are these double suited rundowns better than bad aces?
RL: It depends on who your opponents are, stack depth, whether there is an ante or not and how aggressively the table is playing. Stuff like that will likely shift hand strength and playability.
For example, if you’re up against a very tight opener, then A-K-X-X is going to make a much better three-bet bluff candidate than some of the double suited rundowns. Because you are more likely to block their four-bets. You block aces and kings. But the better and looser your opponents, then the more linear you can three-bet. You can three-bet some strong connected suited double rundowns or an ace with three rundowns. Those type of hands will matter a lot more from a pure theory standpoint.
One of the main reasons that you will want to three-bet a lot looser in PLO with the double suited rundowns and that type of stuff is because of what your range will look like postflop. You don’t want to just bet pure aces and kings and some high double suited broadways. Because when you do three-bet and it comes a bunch of low middling cards, your opponent can just bluff you all day. So, having good board coverage is very important in PLO.
SS: Moving back to the hand in question, the flop is K-9-3 with two diamonds. McDermott checks and you bet 125,000. A few minutes earlier at the final table, however, you checked an overpair twice and folded to a bet. You had jacks on a ten-high flop. How do you decide when to bet the flop with an overpair in PLO and when to check?
RL: When I had jacks on the ten-high board, jacks there is just not a value hand because if I get raised, jacks are just so awful that it’s just an easy fold. Especially when I double-block their bluff raises. I block Q-J-X, K-Q-J, Q-J-8, J-8-X and that type of stuff. Blocking those hands isn’t a good situation for me.
That being said, let’s say with my jacks, the turn was an eight, Q, or K, then I could start turning my hand into a bluff because I double-block the nuts. If I turned a good card, you would have seen me near pot, near pot. But I didn’t pick up any equity and I didn’t pick up a good bluff card, so my hand essentially doesn’t have much showdown or that much playability just because how disconnected it was.
In PLO, for you to really be willing to put in chips, you need to have barrel equity. You need to be able to pick up equity on lots of different cards. If your hand is too weak to pick up equity on lots of different cards, then your hand is too weak to continue. Unless it’s a pretty rare situation.
With the aces on K-9-X, I can get called by plenty of worse hands that I have good equity against. Essentially with the jacks, if I bet and got called, my hand was going to be in awful shape. At best, I would have about 55 percent and I would probably only have about 35-40 percent equity against his range.
But with the aces, if I bet and get called, I will generally be in very good shape. I’ll probably have about 55-60 percent equity against his range.
SS: But he didn’t call. He decided to check-raise you. What types of hands is he likely to have and how does your hand fare against them?
RL: When I get check-raised, it’s actually a pretty disgusting spot. It’s nice that I don’t block any of the draws that he’s going to do it with, like the exact hand that he had. But that’s probably the hand that I’m in the best shape against in terms of the hands that he is check-raising. He is going to have like a pair and a straight draw, or a pair, straight draw and a flush draw. Or the flush draw with the semi-wrap like Q-J-10.
So, against most of his bluffs, I’m in pretty bad shape, and the fact that I don’t block them doesn’t really matter. If I had A-K-X-X where I unblock the draws, I actually might be a little bit more apt to continue against a check-raise because then I block two pairs and some sets. But with the bare aces where I don’t block any of his value hands, it doesn’t really matter that I don’t block his draws because all of those have so much equity against me, it’s just a fold because of ICM.
Let’s say this wasn’t a final table, then yeah, I probably would have stuck it in and not been happy about it. I’m just not folding unless I think they are that tight.
SS: What hands would you be continuing with against his check-raise in this spot?
RL: Something like A-K with a draw of some kind, I think I would go with. And any two pair or set. ´
Heads up poker is the purest form of the game and is one of the most profitable game types for skilled players.
Heads up poker format means that you will have to play the blind every hand and hence will have to play LOTS of hands - in some cases 100% of the hands you are dealt.
It's a high-pressure environment, that's for sure.
For a proficient player, this gives the opportunity to impost their skill set onto weaker opponents every single hand and can mean higher win-rates when compared to 6-max and full-ring games.
The key skill in heads up poker is the ability to adjust to your opponent and exploit them - that is what we will be covering in this article as we try to adjust to another professional player and target his leaks and weaknesses.
A winning player's heads up poker strategy consists of a malleable game plan ready to go from the onset. Solid ranges they’ve developed that they look to adjust as new information is learned about their opponent.
Playing against a past challenger allows you pick-up where you left off in your previous encounter. Looking for ways to get an edge. Exactly what I was doing in a recent heads-up poker SNG tournament battle where I was pitted against a coach from Japanese poker site, www.pokertrainingjp.com.
I had won 2-1 in the previous bout of HU SNG’s, but Akinori issued a new challenge. He was keen for revenge since the games would be recorded for content on the Japanese poker training site.
The key to defeating Akinori again was all in the adjustments. His style was ‘TAGish’ which leaves you particularly vulnerable in short-handed and heads-up games.
My plan was an aggressive blitz. Constant aggression allowing me to win the majority of the pots. Chipping away at him until eventually, I’d finish off his dwindling stack.
This is also a very common scenario when heads-up in an MTT.
MTT poker players often lack a heads up poker skill set and are easily exploited since they aren’t used to playing the wide ranges necessary to be competitive heads-up.
Check out the video of the match and then we will discuss the strategy involved:
I planned to open around 5% wider than I would against a tough opponent. In hindsight, I think opening 100% of hands would have been a reasonable strategy. This would allow me to exploit his tendencies to over-fold preflop, and 3bet at a low frequency. A style which was confirmed in the replay as he made some questionable folds.
Conversely, against his open raises, I didn’t plan on folding much at all.
Versus his 2.5x open raise I was calling more than 5% wider than I would against a tougher player. The pot odds would be 2.3:1 to call. Around 30% ‘straight-up‘ equity required. When considering the all important equity realization, with some of the weakest calls in my range like 63o, I’d need to realize equity as follows;
Equity realization required = pot odds / equity = 0.3 / 0. 334 = 90%.
I was fairly confident I’d be in this vicinity given Akinori’s tendency to be a little passive post flop, especially on the later streets. This is common for a lot of ‘TAGish’ players when they get to heads-up.
They know a good strategy is to open a lot of hands preflop, but this translates to them being out of their comfort-zone on later streets when they’re frequently left with much more marginal holdings then they are used to. Typically resulting in a lot of turn and river checking.
This passivity on later streets would allow me to realize a reasonable share of my equity OOP. Again evident in the replay as some of my weaker out of position floats did get to the river where I was able to steal some nice pots (Q2, J9, etc).
Part of the HU strategy to defend frequently from the big blind included 3 betting a lot.
A typical strategy might include a mix of:
All at a frequency.
Equating to around a 15-20% sort of range spread. I planned on pushing this a bit further to 20%+ by including a mix of high-low holdings (as we saw with Q2s, J4o), and some weaker combinations at a low frequency. Aiming to profit from my opponent's over folding ways.
Overall the adjustments pointed out are not huge. However, they help set the tone of the match, as well as lay the foundation for post-flop play. Increased opens, more defending from the big blind including a lot of 3 betting.
This style makes it really tough for a 'TAGish' type of opponent to get into a rhythm as it keeps them constantly under pressure. Their likely response is to attempt to steal less, which has the profitable result of allowing for more walks from the big blind.
This tough preflop play is then backed up postflop with frequent cbets and barrels, as well as a good mix of raises and floats. Which will be the topic of next article as we continue this heads-up series!
Each type of opponent presents different challenges to overcome. Loose opponents allow you to me more patient with your offense. Reducing your bluffs whilst increasing your value bets - Since your opponent will be doing more calling.
You can 3 bet wider for value if they aren't folding to reraises preflop. Proceed post-flop by cbetting less, but look for 'thinner' value. Especially on the later streets when you have more accurately identified your opponents range.
Floating out of position which works well against tighter opponents, should be used carefully. When calling a flop cbet with a marginal hand, along with some hope of improving to the best hand, the chance to steal the pot on a later street often makes this play profitable. However loose opponents often call the river with a wide range. So bluffing in a lot of spots can be a futile play. Stick to solid holdings and contest the pot more aggressively in position.
Positional advantage offers you the opportunity to take more free cards, value bet confidently, and fire small ball bluffs. Remembers a loose opponents range will often be wide, so timely bluffs should be an important part of your strategy. Attack when their range consists of numerous weak holdings, and the board heavily favors your range. Don't push the aggression but rather look for boards that develop favorably when firing multiple bullet bluffs. Moves like this can be quite risky against a loose opponent!
Having played against my opponent previously, I'd gained a good feel for the way Akinori was playing. Overall a little too tight, in, and out of position. This provided me with an opportunity to make some adjustments to gain an edge in the match.
Starting with preflop. Raising more on the button and defending more aggressively from the big blind. Setting the tempo of the match, I kept my opponent under pressure and was clearly winning the majority of the pots. By adjusting and gaining an edge in the game, I was again able to claim a 2-1 victory in this heads up poker match.
Make sure you check out the video below for some more heads up poker strategies:
Get Access to Lesson 5.8 From the Road to Success Course which is a 45 minute video covering important heads up strategies.
Want more videos like the ones in this blog post? Check out the PokerNerve Road to Success Course where we have almost 100 videos like this to help take your game to the next level.