Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2007.
This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.
Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lessons from MCU
— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —
Lesson 96: Overcoming deceptive opponents
Do you find yourself regularly going to the same casinos and playing against the same opponents? Among those players are there any that you dread playing against because they’re unpredictable and too aggressive? Do they raise too frequently, usually when you’d prefer that they didn’t? Do they bluff too often? Are they interfering with your concentration when you’re trying to profit from the weaker players? Do you find it hard to read what they are going to do and when? It’s frustrating, right?
Well, guess what? These players are afflicted with what Mike refers to as the “Fancy Play Syndrome.” They are trying to impress you and others with their creative play. They can be dealt with, however. No longer do you have to split your concentration between the weak and the deceptive. No longer is it necessary for your play to suffer because you’re trying to meet their challenges.
When you find yourself sitting at the table with these imaginatively deceptive players, you should reduce your betting and raising — and instead call more. Do not raise just as frequently! I know that is your initial temptation against opponents who make you dizzy by their aggressive play, but don’t give in to it. These are players that you shouldn’t value bet against. Mike says borderline bets usually aren’t going to stand up to their aggressive raising. Borderline bets require timid opponents who won’t get extra value when they have you beat.
When playing against super-aggressive opponents, you should choose your seat carefully, if you can. You don’t want them to your left, as it gives them positional advantage over you. It’s going to be difficult to manipulate their play if they act after you. When a super-aggressive player sits on your right and folds before you make your decision, it gives you the opportunity to play marginal hands aggressively against the weaker opponents remaining. Your position also allows you to play more cautiously, if at all, when he enters the pot.
If he is to your left, the best strategy is frequent checking and calling. This isn’t what they want you to do, so it’s going to disrupt their technique. If they are frequent bluffers, checking and calling is also a great tactic for you. You’ll profit more from their misguided bluffs.
Against these types of players, Mike discourages betting with medium hands. Because they are playing aggressively, they’ll take maximum advantage of the times they have you beat. This is unprofitable for you. And, besides, you’re responding to their challenge, instead of teaching them a lesson.
The weaker players at the table bring you the most profit. Because you’re concerned about how to deal with these tricky players, you’ve allowed your attention to slip from making the most money. Instead you’re concentrating on how to deal with these undesirable players, therefore allowing them to manipulate you and sway you from your goal of profiting from the weak.
Mike advises that you let the tricky players “have the stage.” Let them try their strategies, but refuse to be goaded into action by their aggressive, annoying play. They are trying to work you like a puppet. If you allow that, if you value bet or make marginal raises against them to dictate your play and they’re going to be the ones to profit.
If you restrain yourself by checking and calling often, as Mike teaches, then you aren’t playing their little game any longer. This is the best way to “get even” or to “show them.” Now they are no longer in charge. You have now taken the reins back and by checking and calling against these deceptive players, you can now concentrate more on profiting from those weak players who are going to add to your bankroll.
So, bet less and call more against aggressive players, or players who bluff too frequently. Then you can be the conqueror. — DM