Weapon of choice

It's important to play the player and not the cards when you go card dead

There are days at the baize when it seems that you’re bathed in a divine light. Every other hand is a monster and those that aren’t end up crashing into the flop like an out-of-control juggernaut. Betting, raising and re-raising holds no fear for you because you’re 10ft tall and bulletproof. Opponents don’t want to mess with you because when they hit the flop, you’re hitting it harder and faster. Savour these times because, unfortunately, in cards as in nature there’s always an equal and opposite to every situation. Enter the card dead zone…

Learning how to play when you’re getting dealt ‘nothing’ is absolutely vital – in tournament poker particularly. You can’t rely on getting a ‘fair’ share of good cards or that you’ll connect with the flop a third of the time.

You can walk away from a cash game with minimal losses if you don’t feel like it’s your day. In tournaments, where it’s now or never, you have to play with what you’re dealt. Like the Japanese cult film Battle Royale, where school kids are pitched into war against one another with randomly chosen weapons, you could be lucky enough to be dealt the equivalent of a semiautomatic rifle but you’re more likely to get a knife, boomerang or frying pan.

Feel free to ditch all your bad weapons while waiting for a howitzer but you’ll often find that no one will want to join you in battle when you do. For exactly the same reason you have to be prepared to capitalise on your tight image even if you’re only holding a rusty razorblade. If there’s a serial mid-position raiser a couple of seats to your right and you’ve been playing supertight then pile the pressure back onto them with a hefty re-raise. Your move will almost certainly be respected, which also sets you up nicely for when you get the real bullets next hand.

Pick a spot when you sense weakness in others’ play. Pay attention to the other players at the table, noting those who will lay down or call you down with middle pair. It’s a phrase you’ll have heard before, but when you’re card dead you need to remember it more than ever: play the player not cards.

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