Having a strong red-line isn’t impossible; it just takes a solid understanding of the game to get your red-line moving in the right direction without affecting your win-rate.
What Is The Red-Line?
In essence, the red-line refers to non-showdown winnings. When you put money into the pot and fold, your red-line will fall, but if you can get your opponent to fold without going to showdown, your red-line will climb. An example of this would be if everyone went all-in every hand and you called only your strongest hands and folded the marginal. In this case, your red-line would be negative because you’re only winning showdown pots and losing blinds; neither of which improve your red-line.
Does Having A Positive Red-Line Matter?
Yes and no. You can improve your win rate by improving your red-line but bear in mind you don’t need a positive red-line to be growing your bankroll. A winner can have stats like half-a-million won in non-showdown, a-quarter-million won overall and a red-line of straight-down. Or half-a-million won non-showdown, negative hundred-thousand in showdowns for a positive red-line and net gain. Both players are examples of overall winners, although one has a negative red-line.
The line that should get 90% of your attention is your bottom-line. And how much money you’re making overall.
A flat red-line is better than a negative one, as is usually the case in games where there are more regulars and fewer fish, and pots tend to be small to medium-sized. If you’re getting the better of your opponents on the small-medium pots, your red-lines will be flat or positive. However, if they’re getting the better of you in non-showdown small-medium pots, your red-lines will be negative.
How To Improve Your Red-Line
Be More Selective With Your Continuation Bets (C-Bets)
When you c-bet all the time you’re contributing to the pot, but if you check-fold and give up, you’re hurting your red-line. It’s a bigger drop than if you just check folded on the flop.
Fire Second And Third Barrels More Often
Recover the non-showdown value lost from check-folding and increase your red-line by getting your opponent to call one or two barrels, then folding. The more your opponent calls before they fold, the greater the increase to your red-line, for a bigger non-showdown pot win.
Value Bet Thinner
It may seem counterintuitive, but try value betting thinner when you’re called by better to help your blue-line. Get your opponent to fold some hands that you had beat, or to fold a slightly better hand, and that’s a pot that goes straight from your blue-line to your red-line.
Defend Your Blind More Aggressively
Defend your blinds for better pot odds and remember, money folded in the blinds hurts your red-line. It’s considered a non-showdown pot lost. So protect your blinds more often by defending and winning a few more pots postflop. You only need to win less than half the time you defend. Or win pots off the blinds by re-raising your opponent to steal and take down those 3-bet pots postflop. You’ll see a bigger gain to your red-line from the built-up non-showdown pots.
Play More Aggressive In General (Check/Raising)
A passive game, in general, means trying to win pots at showdowns; which hurts your red-line. However, if you can pick your spots well and try to force your opponents to fold by adopting a semi-bluffing or aggressive check-raising approach, this will improve your red-line. It also means relying on fold equity rather than just playing on your pot equity.
Don’t Call One Barrel With The Intention Of Folding To More
As with the first point, be selective with the hands you play. If your opponent is going to fire two or three barrels and your hand can only call one barrel, you’re better off folding to the first bet when you know more are coming.
Stop Calling 3-Bets With Weak Hands
Stop throwing money into the pot when most of the time, you’re going to fold post-flop. In a 3-bet pot you’re dealing with a bigger pot than usual, and therefore a bigger hurt to your non-showdown line. In general, don’t call 3-bets with weak suited connectors or small pairs unless you’re extremely deep-stacked because you so rarely connect well enough to play aggressively. Most of the time you’ll end up folding, so if you call even once before folding, you’re destroying your red-line.
The Bottom Line
Improve your red-line by implementing these techniques one at a time to see an uptick in your red-line. If your bottom line follows the same upward trend great, if not, focus your efforts where it counts: your bottom line.