October 27, 2009

Notes on The Red Line

Today was my first day playing poker for 10 days as I have been out of the country. It's gonna be a low volume month, which is crap.

Anyway I thought I would mention the red line graph on HEM since I have seen it discussed on numerous micro blogs.

Frankly, I couldn't care less about it. I rarely look at the showdown/nonshowdown winnings graph, because I only look at things that can help me, and that can't help me.

Why? Paying too much attention to a balanced red line will fuck with your head and make you play sub-optimally. One of the main aspects the a "good" redline demonstrates is an understanding of fold equity. If you are reading this blog, you are likely playing at stakes on or under 100nl, and if so, its showdown winnings and blind stealing that are the order of the day. I would say the adjustment in fold equity between 25nl-100nl is relatively small, whereas the adjustment between 100nl to 200 and on to 400nl is massive comparatively.

Playing your opponents cards, value betting with the best hand and folding with the worst of it is the way of it 100nl and below, not trying to push top pair lovers off their "marginal" holding.

Playing a 32/25/10%3bet style will get tons of folds and a nice red line, but I have yet to see a big winner playing these stats at 100nl. You will win lots of small pots, but lose a significant amount of big pots, which combine to make a losing player.

I like to summarise with a hand as usual, and here we bust a top-pair-loving opponent by playing optimally against his stupid overvalue-top-pair style.

$0.50/$1 No Limit Hold'em Cash Game, 5 Players
Poker Tools by Stoxpoker - Hand Details
MP: $84.90 (84.9 bb)
CO: $211.35 (211.4 bb)
BTN: $120.45 (120.5 bb)
Hero (SB): $100 (100 bb)
BB: $108.65 (108.7 bb)

Pre-Flop: Hero is SB with 4 of spades A of spades

MP calls $1, 2 folds, Hero completes, BB checks
Flop: ($3) 2 of spades 9 of clubs 5 of spades (3 players)
Hero bets $2, BB folds, MP raises to $6, Hero calls $4
We lead out the flop with a semi-bluff with a combo draw, to build the pot.When it's raised, we can guess what he has. Most likely the overpair or TP. Many players (redline lovers) will 3bet-shove here with the combo draw, but against this typical 100nl station's range, we are flipping, when you factor in the unlikely sets. He is never ever laying down an overpair, or top pair. There is no fold equity. So why flip?

Turn: ($15) 3 of hearts (2 players)
Hero checks, MP bets $10, Hero raises to $45, MP calls $35
We just call the flop 3bet and chase our draw, which we hit and he will still pay us off when we hit, which he duly does here, as we check raise him, although I am surprised to see just how lightly he calls.

River: ($105) Q of clubs (2 players)
Hero bets $48 and is all-in, MP calls $32.90 and is all-in

Results: $170.80 pot ($3 rake)
Final Board: 2 of spades 9 of clubs 5 of spades 3 of hearts Q of clubs
MP mucked 9 of spades J of spades (a pair of Nines) and lost (-$84.90 net)
Hero showed 4 of spades A of spades (a straight, Ace to Five) and won $167.80 ($82.90 net)
We risk an additional 4bb on the flop (and possibly another check call 8bb on the turn if it bricks) to get exactly the same result as if we risked 90bb by shoving on 50% equity.

Forget about the red line. Seriously, there is too much else out there to master at these limits. Once you do master them, it's move up time to optimize your win rate, and THEN start looking at fold equity. But if you can get players to lay down decent hands at 100nl, your throwing money away. Because you should have moved up at that point......your crushing.


  1. Random reader, enjoying your blog.

    I would agree with you that a focus on the red line has led many players to an unhealthy obsession and less profitable playing style, as you've highlighted earlier in discussing everyone affinty for 3betting these days. Not that I'd consider myself otherwise immune to bad play, as I'm hardly a "good" player, I catch myself sometimes being upset with a short session where I finish ahead yet lost ground on my red line. This is obviously the opposite of what should happen, as winning money should usually make me happy.

    However, I would suggest for me at least, the red line is a valid tool at small stakes (recently moved to 25NL and sustaining) in it's ability to highlight for me when I've fallen into a passive or tilt induced mode. My obsession with the red line doesn't cause me to try and bluff with reckless abandon, but my awareness of non-showdown winnings helps me to avoid call/auto-fold combinations, unnecessary cbets, and other situations where I'm just creating dead money with no real plan to see the hand out. That is to say, there's not a lot of micro-stakes value in obsessing over an upsloping redline, but there's a huge amount of value in trying to prevent a ski slope.

    But you're exactly right otherwise. Too many "educated" players get lost in the statistics of the red line concept and inadvertantly lower their win rate trying to bluff the regs when they should be stacking the fish.

    Great read.

  2. yes, I post my thoughts based on my own playing styles and observations of those around me. But if the redline presence stops you turning your cards face up by becoming a station then thats fine too. I never had that problem, but thats just my style.
    also, i would say in todays aggrodonk climate, check calling can win you some pretty pots, if your hand reading skills are good, which goes against the redline.
    good luck and thanks for comment.

  3. The tyranny of the redline! Still don't know what to make of it. But your right to not let it influence your play too much. I have to say that when I think I am playing better than usual my redline seems to run more horizontaly. But I think the player mix, your stakes, position and a load of other random stuff can really affect non showdown winnings. I also tried monitoring my graph during a session but discovered that it can make things worse.