Isolation Play for Beginners by Aditya Agarwal
February 3, 2011, 19:00:10
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Hey guys, I am very excited to be writing poker strategy articles and to be able to share my poker knowledge with fellow poker enthusiasts.  The poker boom has begun in India and as many new people take up the game I feel it is very important to learn from the bare basics.  I will try and explain the various plays which I hope will help every beginner and mid stage player take his or hers game to the next level. I will be talking about plays which  I learnt coming up in the game as I was fortunate enough to get coached by some of the best players and I hope to share the insights I learnt from them with you guys  so I can help  you learn more poker strategies and become  better players.  A disclaimer, I am not a writer, actually far from it, I am a fulltime poker professional so please do give me feedback and I will try my best to improve on future articles.

In this edition I want to talk about the isolation play. One of the biggest mistakes, which beginners make, is trying to see cheap flops; they have the mentality that any two cards can win.  It sucks a lot for novice players to try their luck with almost any two cards pre flop hoping to get lucky on the flop. The problem with this is, the mathematics of the game is such that you are just not going to make hands often enough to be profitable if you try and see too many flops with weak and mediocre hands. Hands like A6, A7, K7, k8, Q7, Q8, J7, J6, 69, 6T, 48, 58, and so on are just not good enough to enter the pot, as a general rule for beginners you should not play the hand if you don’t feel it is good enough to raise. If it is not worth raising it is not worth limping. Most beginners will however make this mistake where they will be limping their weaker hands and raising their stronger hands. If you spot a player who is limping a lot, termed “chronic limper” on your table, you can exploit him a lot with the isolation play.  Iso play simply means isolating a weak player who is limping his weak hands by making a raise to drive other people out and playing him one on one if he decides to call with his weakfish hand. Once you have a read on a player that he is limping his weaker hands and raising his stronger hands, you have to punish his limps. Lot of the times people are stubborn and will call your raise but they will not continue unless they hit the flop, since most of their limping hands are weak it is going to be difficult for them to continue on a majority of the flops.

An example of such a play is: Player A, who has been limping a lot, limps in; it’s a 100-200 game, he seems generally like a weak player who is trying to see flops, you make it 900 (iso raise) hoping everyone else folds, taking down the pot here is profitable but you don’t mind Player A calling, since we know he is limping his weak hands and raising his big hands. The isolation raise can be anywhere between 3x-5x the limp, (in this example ideal isolation raise will be 600-1000, if the game is very loose I would suggest raising more to discourage other players from calling) adjustments should be made according to the stacks, deeper the stacks the more you want to raise and shallower the stack the smaller you want to raise to give yourself more room to play the hand post flop. Everyone folds back to player A who decided to call. Flop is K 4 6 and you go ahead and continuation bet anywhere between half to two thirds pot, knowing there is a good chance that he has missed this flop with the wide range of hands his is limping with, in this scenario it is very difficult for him to continue unless he has a King, even when he does have a King, it is never going to be a good King and he could potentially give up on a later street.

Most of the hands beginners limp with do not flop well too often- hands like Q9, Q8, A3, A2, K9 are all examples of hands which beginners try to see cheap flops with and hit flops. Most typically when they do call your raise they just play their hand pretty face up post flop, a continuation bet is a must once you have isolated pre since most beginners are not crafty enough to make a move on flops they have missed and will end up folding a huge majority of the times making this play very profitable. A lot of you are wondering what range of hands you should be isolating these limpers with, well you can pretty much do it with any 2 cards since you are going to end up winning the pot on the flop a very high percentage of the time. I personally prefer raising suited connected hands like 45ss, 78ss, 68ss and so on, these hands are really well disguised when you raise a limper pre and its either a miss or a hit on flops making your decision fairly simple on flops. I would also be isoing with all of my stronger hands, which I would be raising for value since I expect the limper to be calling with worse hands. If I see someone is limping hands like q9, k9, k8 and so on I will be isoing as wide as KJ, KT and JQ for value with the aim of playing the pot post flop with this player, since I can get him to pay me when we both flop top pair and I have him outkicked.

Hope I was able to explain this play, if there are any questions or clarifications needed, please go ahead and give me feedback at the Pokerguru forums!

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