What are frequencies?
Frequencies tell you how often an event occurs. These are all examples of countable frequencies you could use to analyse poker situations:
- Villain 1 has opened 12% of the 495 hands he has been dealt UTG
- Villain 2 has 3 bet 10% of the 115 hands he has been dealt.
- Villain 3 has cbet 60% of the time in position (from 90 opportunities)
Some frequencies take more time to be useful than others – this is because the opportunity to perform an action vary. For example, the opportunity to cbet in position, will come up less often than the opportunity to open UTG (comes up every time).
Understanding frequencies is vital to strategy
You won’t know the exact cards the villain is playing unless there is a showdown, but you can see their frequencies. Villains cannot escape frequencies in the long run.
Let us imagine you are playing live poker, and a villain is seemingly really drunk – however, over a reasonable number of hands you have observed that his frequencies are in line with a good LAG. Less experienced players may be taken in and play incorrectly versus this player, but you will play him as you would a good LAG.
Exploiting an opponent
Let us imagine in a live $2/$5 game, a middle position opponent opens for $20, and we call on the button (we have $1,000, and cover our opponent). On the flop our opponent continuation bets $47 (i.e. the size of the pot). This means we are getting pot odds of 2:1, and we need to call at least 1/3 of the time to prevent our opponent from doing this with two blank cards. Let us imagine on a given flop, we didn’t have a hand we would normally call on this situation versus a strong opponent (as we have other hands in our range that would call). Instead of folding, we could also consider his frequencies – we notice that villains mp open frequency is standard, but his cbet frequency is too high, his turn barrel frequency is too low, and once he checks the turn and faces a bet his fold frequency is too high. This is representative of a player who thinks he should cbet just because he was the PFR (without think about opponent’s ranges, or board texture etc.), thinking he always represents a strong hand, but when he gets action (and he doesn’t have a strong hand) he is quick to give up. What do we do? We call with a lot more hands that we normally do, and if checked to on the turn, we usually bet when checked to (and expect to take down the pot).
Frequencies, then hands
Facing any identical decisions you will have a range of hands you will be playing in the exact same way. For example in a $2/$5 ($1,000 effective stack) 9 handed game, you will likely be opening a particular range of hands (against the given set of opponents on your table) if you are the first to open from the cutoff. Let us imagine the button calls. Let us look at our continuation betting strategy. Let’s say we want to approximate an unexploitable strategy and decide on this particular flop we need to bet 70% of hands (the rest we will check), and for every 1 ‘value’ hand we decide we need 2 ‘bluff’ hands on this flop. We then look at our range going in the flop, remove the combos we cannot have due to the removal effects of the cards on the flop. From the remaining combos, we work out how many combos we need to ensure we are betting 70%. Then we work out how many ‘value’ combos, and ‘bluff’ combos we need, to ensure the 1:2 ratio. Only then, do we select the hands. If you don’t do this your frequencies, may well be out of tune – and it is you who will get exploited by your more savvy opponents.