Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2012) in Poker Player newspaper.
Should you ever ignore your opponents in poker? Oddly, yes.
What about players who ignore you? There’s a lot of extra money to be made if you understand why they’re doing it and how to respond. We’ll talk about that, too, in today’s self-interview.
Question 1: I don’t get it. Why should I ever ignore opponents? Won’t I win more by focusing on them?
In most cases, you will. Make a habit of focusing on your opponents.
What are you looking for? You’re looking for tells, of course, but there’s more than that. You need to study opponents’ moods. You’ll find that most players don’t stick to a game plan consistently. They change, depending on recent fortune.
For instance, if they’ve suffered bad beats, they’re likely to play more desperately. Expect their average hands to be substandard. So, of course, usually you should study the other players at the table. Still, there are times when it pays to ignore them.
Let’s think about image. Every opponent brings with them a unique table image. Sometimes this is an act, designed for deception. If you can crack their acted image code, you often can know what to do in response. They’re trying to convince you to do something – always something unprofitable from their perspective. So, the trick is to figure out what that something is and disappoint them.
Fine. But there are rare players who have naturally lively personalities. Sometimes their demeanors are distracting or even annoying. One thing I’ve determined over decades of poker action is that these bizarre built-in personalities will prompt you to call.
But because these personalities are real, not acted, they create images that are often inconsistent with the players’ actual style of play. In that case, it’s better to ignore the image and concentrate on the actual history of play.
Often, you’ll discover that you’ve previously been unconsciously motivated to call, based on a flamboyant natural personality that has no relationship to actual tight play. In that case, ignore the image and act in accordance with the reality.
Question 2: Any other players you should ignore?
You should consistently ignore opponents who irritate you. Obnoxious personalities abound in poker. Don’t let that image goad you into breaking your game plan. It’s human nature to want to barge into pots and punish unpleasant opponents. Don’t.
Never target opponents who annoy you. Just stick to your best game and make decisions that are consistent with winning strategy.
Question 3: What else?
Well, here’s a mean psychological trick you might try sometimes. Conservative opponents occasionally advertise by demonstrating that they’re willing to play rare weak hands or by showing a bluff. When they do, I look away as if distracted, pretending not to notice.
This has the effect of making those opponents believe their advertisement failed, that it was wasted – and they’ll likely to try it all over again soon. By ignoring the advertising, I can make them play poorly more than the one time they intended. If they choose to stray from sensible poker and use deception as advertisement, it’s better to make them do it two or more times than just once. Right?
Of course, I hate it when players do the same thing to me. That’s why I plan my own advertising to appeal to a wide audience. I don’t attempt high-profile advertising when the table is short-handed or distracted.
Question 4: Speaking of opponents ignoring you: Haven’t you defined that as a tell?
Right. It is a tell and, in fact, a very powerful one. Whenever you’re planning to bet, examine the opponents waiting to act after you.
Question 5: What are you hoping to see?
You’re hoping to see a player ignoring you. Opponents looking away and seeming uninterested when it’s your turn to bet are actually waiting to pounce. They’re often trying to make your bet seem safe, so they can raise.
Before you make an aggressive bet with a medium-strong hand, always look to see if anyone is ignoring you. If so, check instead.
Surprisingly, “ignore” turns out to be an important poker word. There are things you need to ignore to increase your profit. And you need to be aware of opponents who ignore you, in order to avoid bankroll disaster.
I guess we’re done for today. — MC