Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2008) in Poker Player newspaper.
In today’s self-interview, I’ll ask myself about secrets. There’s only time to share a few today, and it might be hard for me to choose questions that coax the right answers out of myself. But I’ll try.
If you’re new to this latest series of columns, here are the rules. I get to ask and answer my own questions. That way I avoid the ritual of redirecting a question that I don’t want to address by cleverly and politely using verbal gymnastics — retargeting what’s being asked to something I actually want to talk about.
Asking my own questions works for both of us. Also, each column is completely independent of all previous ones, so you don’t need to have read others to understand this one. However, for no particular reason, I’ve decided to number the questions consecutively from column to column.
The last question was number 122. Here’s the next one…
Question 123: Why is today’s word “Secrets”?
It’s because I’m running out of words to use when there’s no binding topic for all the questions. Last time, it was “Variety” and three columns before that, “Anything.”
Quite simply, some days I’m not disciplined enough to focus on a central theme, so I choose to flit about in a disorganized fashion. This is one of those days.
Question 124: What is the easiest type of poker opponent to beat?
If you value your bankroll, you’ll remember this answer.
Some players think that the very best games are ones where there are huge pots and lots of raising. Those aren’t the best.
If you have a choice of tables, find one where there are, on average, lots of players per pot, but not much raising.
Whenever you see that, it’s an indication that players call too often, but don’t raise a lot — and that’s exactly what you want. We call that type of player “loose and timid.” If you’re selective about stalking your opponents, you’ll make most of your money by facing loose and timid opponents.
Here’s why: A loose and timid opponent has two enormous flaws. First, this player barges into pots with inferior hands, hoping to get lucky. Second, by not raising aggressively enough, this player fails to take full advantage of quality hands.
Put it all together and here’s what you see. Against this type of opponent, you’ll earn extra money with your superior hands, because you’ll win additional calls from hands that should have been folded. And you’ll lose less than you should when these opponents have you beat, because they’re not punishing you with aggressive and appropriate raises.
The secret is that identifying and competing against these players can be more important than adding tactical finesse to your poker game.
Question 125: Are there other types of players you should go out of your way to challenge?
Yes. Players who bluff too frequently are desirable. So, are players with tells — and many other types of players with specific weaknesses.
But here’s a very big secret: There is a large category of fairly good players who call too often early and then surrender too often late. You need to find these players and pummel them.
How do you know who they are? Well, they tend to think of themselves as superior competitors and are willing to call many pots on the first betting round, hoping to outplay you if they get lucky. They sometimes raise to establish early dominance. So, you’ll see them in a lot of pots.
But the biggest clue is that you’ll watch them making what they think are sensible laydowns again and again. In hold ’em, the trick is to bet into them on the flop or to meet their small- or average-size bets with significant raises.
This will sometimes be costly, when they actually have strong hands, but you’ll be surprised how often they fold. Try it.
Important! As an alternative, you can just check and call against a similar type of opponent. Let them hang themselves. Which tactic to use depends on how often they fold when they meet resistance.
Bet or raise
If they typically attack, but make a great deal of “intelligent” laydowns when encountering an unexpected bet or raise, then that’s what you should do against them — bet or raise. Just don’t do it too often or they’ll catch on and adapt.
If they don’t fold too often, your best bet is to check and call with medium-strong hands and let them build their pots — often by bluffing. Betting or raising, in that case, is often a mistake, because you’ll simply chase them out when they have weak hands, but have to contend at a disadvantage when they have strong ones.
The players to attack are the ones who are aggressive on the first rounds of betting and then take pride in making laydowns thereafter.
Question 126: You lecture about real-life strategy, things that work not only at the poker table, but beyond. Could you share one of those secrets?
Okay, here’s one.
Don’t share secrets if you don’t have to. That may sound strange, being that I’m telling you secrets right now, but that’s just the kind of guy I am.
The concept here is that in poker you can’t afford to let your opponents know the secret strength of your hand. If you do that, you’ll be demolished.
Well, in real-life, the same is true. You should share secrets only with your closest confidants or when it will help you that someone else knows the answer.
Seldom share a secret for the thrill of the revelation alone. For every time you turn out to be glad you told someone something unnecessarily, there will be many times that you wish you had dummied up.
Save your secrets for the showdown.
Question 127: Can you explain your under-the-table poker tell?
Sure. People who jitter, chew gum, or whistle softly will frequently stop if they’re bluffing and sense they’re about to be called. This is simple, instinctive defense.
It’s what you do when you confront a snake in the weeds. You freeze, hoping not to incite a strike, hoping not to be noticed.
Poker players do the same thing. Observe whether an opponent is jittering impatiently under the table during a bet. Look for a tapping shoe or a jittery knee from players sitting close to you. When they bet, begin to make a calling motion. If the fidgeting stops, that’s a sign of stress and an attempt to do nothing that will cause you to call. So, you’re facing a likely bluff and should usually call with a borderline hand. If the fidgeting continues, fold.
We’re out of time. Talk soon. — MC
Next self-interview: Pending