Slope

I’ve been trying to think of a word to describe a concept I’ve been thinking about wrt live poker. Although I’m not completely satisfied, slope is the best I’ve come up with so far. In any case, I think the concept is helpful and I’ve never seen it discussed elsewhere, at least not quite in the way I’m thinking of it.

Slope is the rate at which a player’s range narrows as action increases. A player with a flat slope plays most of his hands to the river. Whatever he started with, he’s likely to go with it all the way. A player with a steep slope abandons a large chunk of his hands with each bet/raise. If he faces bets on the flop, turn, and river, he’ll only call all the way with a small percentage of his starting hands.

When weighing whether or not to run a bluff, players often consider if their opponent is loose or tight. These distinctions refer to the strength of a player’s starting range. In many cases I think it’s more helpful to consider the opponent’s slope. Someone who starts out with strong hands can still be bluffable if he’s willing to give up many of those hands. Conversely, even if you know someone has a weak hand, bluffing him won’t work if he’s unwilling to fold it.

For example, PJ (I wrote about him before) is tight, meaning he starts with good hands, so bluffing him would seem like a dicey proposition. But it turns out PJ is both tight and steep, meaning he’s willing to fold strong hands to heavy action (e.g., he won’t put much money in with AA if the board comes 987). PJ is actually susceptible to big bluffs in certain situations. In contrast, Ian is a notoriously loose player — he often plays more than half of dealt hands. But he’s also a flat player: he often calls down all the way with hands like bottom pair. Even when you know Ian likely has a weak hand, it may not be a good idea to bluff him.

In general, you should follow through with your bluffs against steep players (keep firing all the way to the river) because each bet will fold out a big chunk of their range. Against flat players it’s better to stab once and give up, because once they call the first bet it’s unlikely that they’re ever folding. You should also value bet more thinly against flat players. For example, you can bet top pair on all three streets and be confident that a flat player will call you down with plenty of worse hands, whereas a steep player would fold all the hands you beat by the river.

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