We’re heading out to the Mazagan Beach Resort for the Fariss Sunset Poker event in September. Get yourself prepared to join us with the first in a new live strategy series
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘table captain’, but what does it mean? Simply put, it’s the player who decides to try to take control of the game through his or her actions. The table captain dictates the pace of the game at any given time. He is the one who’s raising most pots and doing all he can to run over the table.
The first step in developing a plan against this sort of player is identifying them. There are broadly two types of table captain, but despite their inherent distinctions there are fortunately some similarities between the two.
The first type of table captain is the ‘talker’. These players aren’t only going to try to run you over, they’re going to make sure you know about it, too. They love it. Think of a player like Tony G.
These players are by nature extremely quick and easy to spot.
The second category of table captain, while not so immediately visible, is just as effective at controlling the table. These players, sometimes with the aid of headphones and a pair of shades, attempt no verbal contact. In fact they make a deliberate effort not to strike up any rapport with the other players at the table, even when they’re not in a hand.
They use the invisible barrier this erects to project an image of a silent but deadly assassin, and can be just as intimidating as their more verbal counterparts, if not more so. They are extremely calculating and tend to be relentlessly aggressive.
So how can we adapt our game to combat the aggressive nature of the player out to run over the table? Firstly, we should not allow our opponent to force us out of our comfort zone, as this is exactly what he/she is trying to do. If you’re a relatively inexperienced player and/or usually play a very solid game, you shouldn’t try to match your pushy foe stride for stride. The adjustments you make to your game should be much more subtle and selective.
Good and bad captains
It is important to understand that not every player who attempts to be the table captain will have the same skill level. While some of the very best players you encounter will take up the role, the same can be said for some of the worst. Some players will be a ticking time bomb, waiting to unload their stack the first time they run into a hand, while others will slow down when they meet some resistance, unwilling to enter big confrontations with marginal hands. It’s important that you have identified which of the two you’re facing before deciding when and how to make your stand.
Take some time to study your table captain’s play. How does he react when he is played back at? Is he stubborn, and calling down light regardless of how his opponent has been playing? If your opponent appears to be this type, what you shouldn’t do is get involved in big pots with him with no hand. You know he is going to give you action despite the fact that you haven’t put a chip in a pot, so you may as well use this to your advantage. However, this doesn’t mean you have to sit and wait for Aces. You shouldn’t be frightened to play a pot against him.
Be aware of the range of hands he is playing and from what position. You can then begin to re-raise him (in position) with your A-8+, 7-7+ types of hands. You’re raising these hands for value, as you know this player is willing to play pots with marginal hands. Another benefit of re-raising is that you will usually get the pot heads-up. Playing pots against weaker players, heads-up, in position and with hands that dominate theirs is a very profitable way to play.
The tough guys
But what if the player running the table is also one of your best opponents? This type of captain is a different prospect altogether. However, there are still ways of using his aggressive play to your advantage. The first thing to do is to keep quiet. You don’t want to alert your opponent as to your intentions.
By sitting back and remaining impassive to his attempts to run the table you will be able to get away with a lot more restealing.
This player’s raising ranges will often vary by position, but his opening range from early position will be much wider than normal if the table is consistently allowing him to get away with it. Look out for hands that he takes to showdown from various positions. While a more conventional restealing tactic would be to wait for a loose player to raise from late position, against this player you should mix it up to include some resteals from his early position open- raises. Although he should theoretically have a stronger hand in such instances, your re-raise should also garner sufficient additional respect to neutralise this edge.
The position from which you resteal is also important. If your opponent is a good thinking player and you only ever attempt to resteal from the button, it won’t take long for him to consider four-betting you with a sub-premium hand. On the other hand, re-raising from the blinds can be a very powerful weapon and should not only get more respect but also serve to discourage your opponent from stealing.
If you are the only one prepared to play back at him from the blinds, there’s no need for him to target you. The best types of hands to make this move with are the absolute worst. You should be looking to take down the pot preflop, and want to avoid getting attached to your hand should you get action.
You should also stay mindful of how the other players at the table are reacting to your opponent’s attempts to run the table. It is extremely unlikely that the rest of the table will be filled with super-passive players, all waiting for Aces so they can puff out their chests and make their big stand.
Again, it is important to spend time observing the table dynamic, paying strict attention and gathering information when you are not involved in hands. It is likely that there will be at least one other player prepared to make a stand with lesser holdings. If you can catch them in the act at the right time, this too can create an opportunity for you to win even more chips.
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