Monday, 17 August 2009

Fix Your Redline: It's not what you think!

You load up your blueline/redline graph and what do you see? You’re winning money at showdown valuetowning those donkeys left and right. But your redline looks like it’s 2000 and late and you’re about to beg for a bailout.

All together now: “There has to be a solution to this!” and we commence with a million threads asking “How do I fix my redline?” and 5 million responses of “if you’re greenline is positive you’re doing it right.” Are greenline results all that matter?

Let’s look at where redline comes from. It’s non-showdown pots. Winning non-showdown money requires playing an aggressive game and getting people to fold. This is what everyone is obsessed with. It is also difficult to achieve, and most people will just ignore it if what they are already playing is a winning game at their stakes.

But the flip side to non-showdown money is often overlooked and is rarely given as advice even though it is extremely easy to fix – a lot easier to fix than becoming more aggressive. It’s not flashy and aggressive like winning non-showdown money. A huge leak for a lot of microstakes grinders is losing redline money.

Think about it. Winning redline money requires getting your opponent to fold. Losing redline money requires your opponent to make you fold. And no, I’m obviously not saying don’t ever fold. I’m suggesting quite the contrary.

Those big downhill toboggan runs are not the result of a lack of aggression. They are caused by the presence of passivity. Poker is not a binary passive calling/aggressive raising game where you are either passive or aggressive at any given time. You have to remember that you have a 3rd option. You can check and/or fold, which are neither passive nor aggressive but quite simply nothing.

Let’s break down the fundamental theory of poker into its basic correct/incorrect functions for a second. You should bet and raise when you can get a better hand to fold or when a worse hand will call. You should check and/or fold when villain will or has bet with a better hand that he will not fold. So where does that leave calling? Poker is a game of incomplete information. We won’t always know whether to bet/raise or check/fold. As a result, people use calling as a crutch when they don’t have a plan and don’t know what to do.

This is the crux of perpetual redline downswings. The majority of your redline losses are going to come from taking lines like call and re-evaluate or any other passive line that should more accurately be called bloat/fold. If you want to catch up on the correct application of the re-evaluate and call line, check out I vi ii V7’s PSA or the Call and Re-eval article on my blog. Or just think about Baluga Theorem.

Calling does have its purposes and if you are planning your hand, they should all go into the deception column. You can re-evaluate and call to manipulate ranges. You can call to slowplay to win more on a later street. You can call to float and manipulate ranges to bluff the next card. Calling because you don’t know what to do is never acceptable. Every time you do call without a plan, you are taking the bloat/fold line and contributing to your redline downswing.

So to help fix your redline, increase your aggression factor. I didn’t say increase your aggression. Just decrease your unplanned passivity. In fact, just start calling it your “Passivity Factor.”

You can’t lose redline money if you don’t put it in the pot in the first place.


  1. same problem I've been trying to fix in my game.

  2. Been pumping in more aggression in spots where villain checks on the river, bet when last to act when checked around to me. It helped a little. At least my redline is flat-lining--instead of going down gradually.

    Still trying to fix it. Great article.