BLOG – Walk a mile in his shoes; then sit him at a poker table

BLOG – Walk a mile in his shoes; then sit him at a poker table

Monday, 16 August 2010

Astute readers will notice that besides some print article previews I haven’t spoken about poker strategy for a while. Is it because I have realised that I’m in fact a gigantic fish who has no right to be teaching anyone anything about how to play poker? You would be forgiven for thinking that but actually, I have simply been preoccupied with the intense sport of T-Ball.

T-Ball, or Trampoline Ball as it is formerly known, involves one goalkeeper on a netted trampoline (around a ten to twelve foot diameter is ideal) and three or more outfield players aiming to land a tennis ball on the trampoline floor. There are many subtle nuances and technicalities in this super advanced game and great potential for physical injury. My gammy shoulder is terrible at the moment and I’m sporting a variety of bruises.

Anyway, back to a game that can’t hurt you – unless you accuse Jeff Lisandro of not paying an ante. It’s all too common when browsing micro-stakes and small stakes strategy forums to see someone completely misplay a hand against someone who just doesn’t think about poker in the same way they do... or, indeed, in any way at all besides “ooh my cards are suited”.

Say that John, a regular player who crushes his cash games, is in a hand against Scott who is a bit of a moron. John triple barrels a J-9-9-6-8 board with no suits holding A-J for top pair, top kicker and is disgusted to see Scott turn up Tc-7h for the winning straight. Here was John’s thought process on each street:

Flop – “I have top pair top kicker but the J-9 means a lot of overcards will have drawing hands so I need to bet for value.”
Turn – “Harmless turn card so I will bet again against this player who will call down with weaker jacks and nothing draws.”
River – “I beat all other two pair combos and I’m ahead against everything except trip nines or the unlikely J-J so I will bet and call a check-raise all-in.”

Sound. However, this is what Scott was thinking with his T-7:

Flop – “If I hit an eight then I can make a straight. I call.”
Turn – “I can still hit my eight so I’ll call.”
River – “Woo! Now for a super pro move: the check-raise!”

See the difference? Basically many players make the assumption of thinking that their opponents think the same way that they do when this is not the case. No one thinks the same way as anyone else so while John ruled out Scott calling two streets with a four-card draw, Scott had no idea of his slim odds and just saw a chance to make a straight. His strategy is a losing one but John could have minimised his losses in this hand.

You can turn it on it’s head though – if you know your opponent makes big bets when he bluffs, for example, then you can start making big bets for value. Your opponent associates these with bluffs – because he plays bluffs that way AND hasn’t read this blog so assumes you play the same way. Find out your opponents’ patterns and tendencies in order to exploit them.

As a final note I’d like to congratulate Bluff Europe’s mate Neil Channing who added his first GUKPT title to his ever-growing resume of live tournament final tables. He won the whole shebang for £64,000 – top bombing.

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