Hey, it’s Ron, the amateur player here at The Poker Academy.
So exactly what are pros thinking about when they are “in the tank?”
I use to wonder this all the time. Especially when you can see the hole cards on TV. I’m yelling at the screen, “Call, you’ve got him crushed!” Or, “Fold. Fold! FOLD!!!”
Of course, the players in the hand don’t have the luxury of knowing everyone’s hole cards. 😉
So what’s happening in the tank for an elite level player?
A few things.
First, they will replay the hand street by street and put together the story of the hand. A pro would ask, “What is the range of hands this person would have that explains all of the actions?” For instance, if a really tight player opens in early position, you can reasonably exclude hands like 7-3 off-suit from his range. So if a flop comes out with sevens and threes in it and he bets again, what does that tell you?
Next, when faced with a tough decision, a pro will compare a few things.
Let’s say, for example, that you have top pair with a decent kicker and your opponent bets into you on the river. How often is top pair good here? Are there hands you beat that make sense with the actions he took? How much of the money would you be required to put in?
These are the type of questions an elite player is trying to answer when in the tank.
It’s a complicated set of skills that takes years to fine tune. Some people have a better feel for reading opponents, and some folks are just great at on the fly math.
If you’re like me, you’ll need to practice away from the table. Take some hands you played. Some that you won, and some that you lost, and write down your thoughts on each decision point. Compare your theory to what actually happened. Rinse and repeat.
The better you get at this process, the more often you can pick off a bluff or fold a big hand that’s second best.
If you spend zero time in the tank when you play, may I suggest that you need to slow down and unwind the story of the hand.
Hope you run good!