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 103: Concepts
You can’t play as many winning hands against sophisticated players as against weak players. Therefore, you shouldn’t be attempting to play less-than-stellar hands against these knowledgeable opponents. Unlike their weak counterparts, the skilled players are more guarded in their play and aren’t likely to make the mistakes necessary for your semi-puny hands to be profitable.
Although you can’t play less-than-average hands successfully against strong, experienced players, you can take a stab at the weaker players. So, you can enter pots with some mediocre hands against weaker opponents — hands you wouldn’t attempt when facing stronger rivals.
Why can you play these ordinary hands against weaker, less skilled opponents? It’s because these types of opponents make mistakes that can elevate your second-rate hand enough to merit the risk.
Even skilled players will make mistakes, though. They aren’t perfect. Watch them sometime on TV or on the rail during a tournament — or while you’re playing in a game with them. You’ll occasionally notice a blunder. One of the most common mistakes made by strong players is raising too frequently with a weak player still waiting to act. Had the skilled player called, there’s a chance that his weak opponent would have called, too. That often means extra profit.
Also, if the skilled player raises with a marginally strong hand, as he does quite regularly, he can be reraised by a waiting opponent. Then there’s a good possibility that the weak original bettor may spook and fold. If that happens, the experienced player has chased away a player who could have supplied more winnings on future betting rounds. Suppose the original bettor were merely bluffing? Then the player only needed to call, instead of risking the raise. Of course, the daring raise sometimes works in the strong player’s favor. But when the tactic is used too often, it doesn’t.
Mike doesn’t advise pooling money with your poker mates in order to get into a larger limit game, with the hopes of acquiring more profits faster. You see, usually you’re accustomed to playing a certain limit, game after game. If you choose to play at a bigger limit, the game is likely to be tougher than you expect, populated by more experienced players who are comfortable playing higher.
Although you may have excelled at the limits you were playing, these larger limits could be too challenging and prove dangerous to your bankroll and your confidence. So, it’s probably better if you forget about pooling your money to venture beyond your usual limits. Remain where you’re most comfortable and more likely to continue making money.
Weak opponents aren’t a good target for bluffing. Some pros make the mistake of thinking that weak opponents are the ones they should practice their bluffing talents on. Because of this error in judgment they aren’t reaping the rewards that could have been theirs to harvest. Weak opponents are callers. The pros should use the weak players calling defect to pad their bankrolls when they hold superior hands. They are only going to lose money, diminishing their profits if they continue to think that they can bluff weaker players.
Ego maniacs who take pride in their laydowns are the players you should bluff. Besides, Mike says it’s more amusing and less challenging to pull off a bluff on a player of this nature. They imagine that they are too proficient to be conned into calling. Ah, but they aren’t. Bluff and they’ll fold more often than is prudent. Try it.
Overall, your sensible, selective, no-nonsense opponent is your best bluffing target. The bluffing profit lies with them, not with the weak opponents.
Remember, you often don’t want to drive weak opponents out of your pots, because they increase your bankroll by making mistakes when they play against you. You also don’t want to bluff weak opponents, because they call too often.
I hope that you see the value of these concepts as Mike has pointed them out to me. — DM