A tip that might help you improve your game

Tuesday, February 5, 2008 12:33 | Filled in poker, Strategy

Suited had the idea for me to write this particular blog entry.  I was telling her about an experience I had last night where someone started to berate me for being such a bad player.  This happens to me fairly often because I seem to play a bit different than anyone else I see.  I make fairly outrageous bluffs that sometimes backfire or I will call down with fairly weak hands or I will three bet with 33 or whatever and people think that my play is atrocious.  Sometimes it probably is, but more often there is a method to my madness that the other player doesn’t understand.  In this particular case, the other player went into a fairly extended rant about how badly I play and included a line similar to “I don’t know how you always seem to win, you are such a moron.”  I was telling Suited that this should be a red flag for any thinking player.  If you see someone regularly beating a game and you think they are making stupid plays, you should give careful thought to what they are doing because there is a very good chance that they know something that you don’t.

When I was a beginning player building up my bankroll at the low limit tables, I used to railbird icfishies, who was at the time the highest stakes player at ITH.  I watched often and I saw a lot of plays from him and others that made no sense to me.  They certainly weren’t going to be found in the pages of any of the poker books I had read at that point.  I slowly started to build an opinion of who was a great player and who was merely good or average.  At the 100/200 game, the merely good were losing money in those days.  I learned which players were winning over time and I paid more attention to what they did.  I realized that the winning players shared a number of characteristics.  They won a lot more pots without showdown than other players did.  They made plays that I had previously scoffed at and labeled as “calling station” plays in other situations.  When I would see them make big failed bluffs, I realized that a lot of the other pots where they took the same line were also often bluffs and tried to understand why they picked those particular spots to bluff.

When I saw that a particular player at my levels was winning or was causing me problems or making me uncomfortable at the table, I tried to figure out what they were doing and how I could adopt their tactics into my play.  When a player that I respected did something that seemed dumb, I made sure to give it some extra thought to try to figure out if it really was a mistake that they made or if it might be something that made them better that I didn’t understand yet.

I often see people post about what a fish their opponent was when I actually think that their play made sense.  Certainly, some people are fish, but you should make sure that this guy you think is a fish isn’t really a shark in fish’s clothing.  Spend some time in poker tracker looking at the hands of the big winners in your database to figure out if they know something you don’t.  Rail some of the 100/200 or 200/400 games and see if you don’t learn something.  I like to watch a guy named “PapaWarbucks” on stars.  He is one of the high stakes posters from 2+2 (I forget which one now) and I’ve picked up a number of cool tricks from him.  Unfortunately, he doesn’t play all that often.

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