3 reasons why aggregate reports are an effective form of poker study
By Brandon Wilson
Studying poker presents a few barriers to entry, especially for newer players, and one of these is knowing where to start. This article will recommend a method that is both cost-effective and robust with respect to learning the game properly.
In short, an aggregate report is a spreadsheet overview of global betting frequencies for each player across all potential board textures in a specific spot (for instance Lojack vs. Button 40bb SRP). The task, of course, is not the impossibility of memorizing exact frequencies for every board but rather grouping flops into subsets based on similarity, noticing trends and developing heuristics for in-game play.
Here are three reasons to start using aggregate reports in your study.
Training macro-level thinking of the game tree
Poker is fundamentally a game of frequencies, which means that the expected value (and exploitability) of any strategy therein is derived from how often a single action is taken in conjunction with all other possible actions in a given node, where all potential action frequencies = 100%. Because the EV between two actions in a vacuum, especially in earlier nodes, is often very close, knowing proper global frequencies and adhering well is worth more expectation in the long-term than taking the right action with one specific holding with ignorance to the overall range’s strategy. As such, poker players gain edge by implementing well-calibrated estimations about how much money one range wagers against another on average and by taking advantage of their opponents’ over or under-doing their frequencies (I.e. “under-bluffing, “over-folding,” etc.). Micro-level thinking, or considering only one’s exact holding, is one common pitfall for weaker players (“I flopped top pair; time to bet big”). This is problematic because taking an action that is divorced from a range’s overall strategy as dictated by stack depth and asymmetries in range strengths will lose considerable EV to studied opponents in the long run.
Consider the following example of an aggregate report from DTO:
One way this report is immediately useful is to know that on these Jack-high textures, betting for the OOP player (CO vs BTN) does not feature at all (“range check”). A common mistake in such a spot is to bet simply because one’s holding is strong, but as a result, the range with which he does is predictably imbalanced in favor of made hands, easy to counter and losing money. With this knowledge, then, when encountering this flop class in-game, a player is better protected from being exploited by hinting their holding due carving out an action that the overall range wouldn’t employ (I.e. betting big with strong hands and small or not at all with other hand classes).
Recognizing patterns and extrapolating by studying poker with aggregate reports
A byproduct of repeated exposure to aggregate reports is pattern recognition, i.e. intuiting betting volume based on ranges and stack depth. In other words, the concepts learned by studying poker with aggregate reports extrapolate onto neighboring branches of the game tree. For example, if we’ve spent time studying only BTN-BB 30bb, but in-game encounter HJ-BB, LJ-BB EP-BB etc., understanding BTN-BB range interaction can be used as a starting point as we discount holdings from IP’s range that as a result increase or decrease his EV based on boards we studied in BTN-BB. While BB may lead certain boards vs. BTN, these same boards may become range checks as IP’s density of strong made hands increases.
Dedicating resources to most common spots
Because the number of iterations in the NLHE game tree is vast (especially in MTTs due to varying stack sizes), being well-prepared for the most frequent situations is an effective step toward plugging strategic leaks. While study methods like “line checking” can be useful, they are usually myopic and, by definition, looking at one board. We don’t discourage these writ large, but time better spent, especially for the newer player, would be to develop an understanding of, say, Cutoff vs. Button SRP at 40bb, which not only occurs at a high frequency but also introduces concepts that apply to other positional matchups in which an IP called a preflop raise and retains absolute position post-flop (LJ-HJ, LJ-CO, etc.).
In sum, aggregate reports are only a baseline, but they lay the foundation for solid play and protect against the exploitation invited by “making it up” on the fly. Lastly, as players are most often beholden to an action clock or multi-tabling online, having a set of reliable, aggregated frequency knowledge helps to avoid draining valuable time bank, which can decrease the EV of future decisions when potentially more $EV is at stake.
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