PokerStrategy.com’s Patrick Leonard insists that you can take the best bits from your opponents’ games and use them as part of your own armoury!
My long time poker buddy and ex-PokerPlayer writer Alex Martin was famously known as JammyJenny in the online world – it was just one of the many accounts that he crushed with. One day when signing up to a new poker site I wanted to be like my hero and called myself BarrellingBetty. I found the name hilarious: ‘Betty’ standing in for a stereotypical passive old woman, combined with ‘Barrelling’, which is a common term for betting multiple streets. Little did I know that I was actually way closer to playing like a Betty than I could ever have imagined.
When thinking about poker and what new lines you can add to your game it’s often quite hard. Where do I start? New strategies are not just flying through the sky that you can pick up and call your own. One thing that I do is learn from my fears. If there is something that I really find difficult to play against then I make a note and look at it after the session and review it.
Rock and a hard place
Here is one of my notes from last week on a player that was causing me great problems, ‘Villain A never folds in position and never folds the flop in a three-bet pot. Makes me commit to a hand.’ The player in question raised every button when I was in the big blind. If I called, he would bet any flop. If I called the flop he would bet the turn, (sometimes overbetting) and if I called the turn he would put pressure on me on the river.
Whereas if I three-bet he would either four-bet instantly, float the flop or he would raise the flop against me. Now, there are two ways to adjust to these type of players. The first is to employ a very good de-polarised three-betting range. This means that we exclude all bluffs from our three-bet range and start three-betting wider for value, with hands like K-J and A-9. The second option is just to try and stay out of his way!
Even when deploying tactic number one you will still fold more than against other guys, and as stacks get deeper it becomes less attractive to inflate pots out of position.
Still, if I was a good, aggressive, thinking player then taking tactic one is definitely the right play. However, if I was a tight player like so many players online my tactic would almost always be to take option two and continually avoid tricky players and situations. These players will avoid big confrontations, bluff catch less and have a very strong three-bet range preflop.
I thought about this player for about three nights on end (no, not like that…). He was really annoying me. I had played multiple pots with him where I got to the turn with second pair in a deep pot before he raised me – I was getting frustrated. My mouse was so close to being thrown against the wall and that’s something I really didn’t want to do! So instead I decided, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!’
Take them down
Over the next few days I identified regulars and marked them strong or weak. Versus the strong guys I kept the same strategies as before but against the weak guys I decided I would try to make their life hell.
I took all of the tactics that the maniac had used against me and deployed them against the weak regs. I very rarely folded to three-bets against them and when I had the initiative I would bet two or three times almost always. The results I had were amazing! Here is what happened…
- They started folding their big blind to me most of the time when I raised.
- They started folding more flops to me as they knew I was going to get the barrels out.
- They would play their hands very face-up. They thought I was a maniac so as soon as they had a hand they would make huge sizings and try to shovel as much money into the pot as possible. They imagined that they had finally caught the maniac!
- They would be visibly tilted, going crazy in the chat box and almost certainly marking me down as an aggressive fish.
From initially looking at what made me uncomfortable I was able to turn it around to my advantage. I analysed the strategy that was giving me problems, decided which players it would work against, and then used it myself versus them to profit hugely. Poker has evolved in a similar fashion to this. Historically, the preflop three-bet was introduced in MTTs after young guys realised it sucked when they had a mid- strength hand out of position and somebody had reraised them preflop. More examples of poker evolution include when players started shoving over a blocker bet with air on the river or when players intentionally started limping because it would make aggressive opponents bluff like crazy.
Next time you play think about what you struggle against. Who is your toughest opponent? Why is he your toughest opponent? What can you do to imitate him and what parts should you not copy? Remember that you don’t have to change your game completely, but a little tweak here and an adjustment there could make the difference from you being a break even player to a big winner.
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