The following lecture was the third Tuesday Session, held October 13, 1998, and later appeared in Card Player magazine.
Today we’ll look at the third Tuesday Session, October 13, 1998. The title was, “Major Tips for October.”
Major tips to try.
1. It’s tempting to get into an ego war with a poker bully – someone who wants to establish dominance by “bulling” the game. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to fire back with a few raises and sandbags (check-raises), especially if it will make the bully “behave.” This is good strategy if the bully is a winner.
But, most often, the bully is not a winner. In that case, your best strategy is to simply call and let the bully “declare” his dominance. His declaration will not match his results.
This is a very important topic. You see, most players do not know how to react when an opponent tries to control the game through super-aggressive play. The solution is simple. If it’s a strong opponent, it is in your best interest to neutralize this behavior. Raising back will do this. If it’s a weak opponent, your maximum profit comes form letting him “rule.”
By letting your weak opponents rule, you are allowing them to increase their most common mistakes – betting too much, raising too much, bluffing too much. You should tend to simply call. If you raise or use other counter-strategy to make their poker lives miserable, you are likely to bring them back in line. They may become wimps. They may stop their poor and unprofitable bets and raises … and your bankroll will suffer.
There are some words of caution here. Letting someone else rule the game runs contrary to my general philosophy of establishing an image that makes you the one force to be reckoned with at the table. For this reason, I will only let weak opponents rule with bad bets and raises. I will tend to counter-attack both strong opponents and break-even opponents who try this tactic. Also, position comes into play here. If you’re sitting one or two seats to the right of the opponent, you are not in a good position to declare war. You should be much more willing to launch counter attacks if your on the left of that opponent, giving you a positional advantage.
2. The middle position is frequently misplayed on final betting rounds – even by seasoned professionals. If you have a strong hand that is not a cinch, you will usually make more money by just calling than by raising. Why? It’s because your hand might not be best, you might lose a call from a weaker hand behind you, the original bettor might be bluffing (making a raise futile), and more. If the player behind you has a hand that is better than yours, you probably won’t chase him out with a raise, anyway. Save this middle-position raise for weaker hands – and use it sparingly.
Analysis of many key situations shows that, when you have a fairly strong but vulnerable hand, just calling is usually better in the middle position on the last betting round.
3. When you check-raise to get extra money, you prefer the player immediately to your left to be the most likely bettor. That way, the sequence can go you check-bet-call-you raise-call-call, giving you two bets from each opponent. If the most likely bettor is the last of three players, the sequence is apt to be you check-check-call-you raise-fold-call. This leaves you only two bets captured. It’s better to bet, in that case.
4. Eliminating opponents from proportional-payoff tournaments (in which the prize pool awarded to the top finishers in accordance with their final standing) is not as valuable as most people suspect. Although late in the tournament, it’s often a good thing, early on it has little value.
Even late in a tournament, it’s not always worth the risk. And early in the tournament, making an unusually aggressive bet or call on the chance of eliminating an opponent makes no sense. If there are 100 players left, the penalty for letting an opponent survive is about 1/100th of the value of his remaining chips. That usually isn’t enough to change your strategy.
Most tournament players are way off the mark when it comes to eliminating players. It is not your obligation to do so. You obligation is to make the most money for you. And that often means letting the opponent live and holding onto your chips.
5. Fumbled bets that are quickly corrected are often bluffs. This is one of the strongest tells in poker. When an opponent fumbles a bet and it doesn’t fall correctly into the pot, a bluffer will often tend to correct the situation. It’s a natural instinct. The player realizes that opponents are looking for reasons to call and that a fumbled bet is likely to make them suspicious and trigger their calling reflex. In a desperate effort to fix this, the bluffer who fumbled will try to straighten the chips or the money – undoing the damage. However, a player who really does hold a strong hand will seldom bother to clean up a fumbled wager. He wants you to call, and there is no damage to undo.
6. Since the majority of hands you might play are about break-even, another skillful player could decide to not play most of these. Effectively you would be playing twice as many hands and earning the same profit. Different styles for different folks!
This is among the most amazing concepts in poker. People often ask questions about how many hands they should play. Since so many hands that you play have small-profit expectation, some players just fold most of these. It really happens that some winning players enter pots with twice as many hands as other winning players, yet their long-range profit is about the same.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that either of these types of winners is maximizing his profit. There’s much more to world-class poker than just how many hands you play.
7. If you’re averaging excessive profit per attempt by catching bluffs or making calls, you most likely aren’t calling enough! You’re probably costing yourself money on the somewhat-less profitable calls you didn’t make.
Players who take pride in being right when they call are usually losing money in limit poker games. If a pot is 11 times as large as the amount it costs you to call, and you expect to win one in 10 times, you will make a long-range profit with this type of call. But you will lose nine times for every one you win. That can get frustrating. But, the point is, if you wait for just the calls you know are extremely profitable, you will need to sacrifice all the other calls that are reasonably profitable – and that sacrifice can cost you a lot of money. – MC
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