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When The Numbers Don’t Matter

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Ben Zobrist of the Chicago Cubs had not
swung on a 3-0 pitch and created a hit in three years when he was playing the
2016 World Series. He would refuse to swing 97% of the time on that pitch

Knowing this, Trevor Bauer of the Cleveland
Indians threw a fastball in the strike zone.

To his horror, Ben Zobrist not only swung,
but he opened up the entire World Series with his hit. Many people considered
it the turning point of the championship series.

What Trevor Bauer missed was that that 97%
figure was not worth much in the present situation. That statistic was created
throughout the regular season. However, the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World
Series were having a problem: Their entire team was jumping out of their shoes
swinging at any pitch that even looked like a strike. On a 3-0 count with
little risk associated with swinging, it was more likely that an anxious
playoff player would swing.

It is important to know the numbers in No
Limit Hold’em and create a good GTO strategy along with several opportunistic
exploitative plays. That said, when you show up at the table to play, you have
to understand that every day in poker is different. That’s why the game is so

When do the numbers not matter? When
someone has a tell, that’s a great reason to throw out your GTO frequencies.

In baseball, there actually are GTO
solutions for certain pitch counts and game situations. But what if the pitcher
is tipping their pitches?

This actually happened in the 2017 World
Series. Carlos Beltran, an aging slugger, was watching film and noticed
something. Yu Darvish, the hotshot pitcher from Japan the Los Angeles Dodgers
picked up, was giving away what pitch he was going to throw. He had a tell in
relation to how he gripped the ball before he threw. Carlos Beltran sat up in
his seat, rewound the film, and watched it again. He wanted to make sure he had
it right. Once he realized he was right, he informed the entire Houston Astros
team as to what he saw. The next time they went to bat against Yu Darvish, they
threw GTO out the window, because they knew what pitches were coming. They
absolutely shelled the guy, and he left the game with his head hanging.

I tell you this story for a reason.

Major League Baseball is a
multibillion-dollar industry. An elite starting pitcher makes hundreds of
millions of dollars for scores of people if he’s good, and he costs them almost
as much if he doesn’t perform.

You would think in this kind of high stakes
environment someone would have discovered Yu Darvish’s tell, but no one did. Yu
Darvish isn’t just anyone either. He is one of the best pitchers to ever come
out of Japan, a country that regards baseball the same way Americans revere the
NFL and Brits follow Premier League. In all the time Yu Darvish was a high
school phenom and pro standout, no one had noticed he had a tell. It wasn’t
till Carlos Beltran’s 40-year-old ass sat down and did the work that the tell
was discovered. That’s exactly why the Houston Astros signed Beltran, even
though he was “over the hill.” They knew the Puerto Rican would outwork the
other guy and wouldn’t let his aging body hold him back.

Now, if MLB has tells that severe, what are
the chances that absolutely no one in your 2/4 game has tells you can exploit?
Or even just slight betting patterns that tip their hand? Moreover, how often
does the situation of the day render the numbers irrelevant, like we observed
in our first example?

If you pay attention, there are many
moments when you have to throw your statistical reads out of the window. The
guy’s river aggression frequency might be 68% and every analytical tool is
saying it’s a call, but you have done your homework and know the guy has hit
his hand.

You can never rest on your laurels in
poker. Like Carlos Beltran, even if you’ve achieved all the glory and you’re
already a legend, you still need to pay attention and look for the next edge.
The game never ends. That’s what makes it so fun.

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