Review of poker lessons learned: Quiz 4

Quiz No. 4 Test Yourself On What We’ve Discussed In This Column

♦ Index:”Review of poker lessons learned” quizzes

This article first appeared in Card Player magazine.

I’ll be darned. Here’s another of these short quizzes covering topics I’ve presented in this column. Right now we’re dealing with concepts we discussed more than a decade ago. The first two quizzes had only three questions each, and the third one had only one question. One question! What kind of a quiz is that? Good question. Well, it turns out that the one-question quiz was a very valuable one. But it was the explanation that accompanied the answer that mattered most. The same goes for today.

I appreciate all of the favorable comments about this series, and I’ll continue to present these quizzes frequently.

Caro Column Quiz No. 4: Questions

Question No. 1 (based on a concept from my column in the Feb. 24, 1989, issue of Card Player and other related writings). Which of the following statements about your image at the poker table is false?

(A) The image you present while playing poker can mean extra profit, but it isn’t as important as maintaining an intense level of concentration.

(B) It’s harder to bluff if you have a lively, aggressive, and bewildering image.

(C) Almost every opponent can be manipulated by your image, even those who pride themselves on their ability to ignore it.

(D) Some players have a natural image that works in their favor without careful planning.

Anyway, I’ve strayed slightly from my question. Sometimes players who were accustomed to the single raise-blind version of the game ($20 and $40 blinds and no antes) decided to play heads up. The $20 blind was the dealer and the nondealer put in the $40 raise blind, leaving the dealer to act first. My question is …

Question No. 2 (based on the same column). Which of the following statements about limit poker vs. no-limit poker is true?

(A) No-limit poker appeals more to women players.

(B) You can expect to get more hands dealt per hour in no-limit poker than in limit poker.

(C) You need to play no-limit poker to win big money.

(D) No-limit poker is a more complex game than limit poker.

Caro Column Quiz No. 4: Answers

Answer No. 1. If you don’t remember our original discussions, you might be surprised by what I teach about image. Remember, we’re looking for an answer that’s false.

The false answer isn’t (B), because it is harder to bluff if you have a live, aggressive, and bewildering image. But I believe that’s usually a sacrifice worth making. Most of your opponents share one thing in common: They didn’t come to the poker game hoping to throw hands away. They came to the game hoping for excitement, hoping to be able to win pots. Although the true profit in poker comes from making correct decisions, and a decision to throw a hand away is just as meaningful as a decision to call or raise, most of your opponents don’t react that way emotionally. They want to call.

And because your opponents want to call, because they came to call, it already is difficult to emphasize a bluffing strategy with the hope of making money in the long run. Sure, you can be very selective and find good opportunities to bluff, but you’re swimming upstream against the current. The current wants to call.

So, when you additionally choose a table image that makes opponents think you’re loose and unpredictable – a lively player – you are making them suspicious and even more likely to call. That’s OK. In return for having to be even more selective about bluffing, you get more calls when you hold good hands, and – on balance – that usually works in your favor. You’re really taking advantage of your opponents’ main weakness, which is calling too much.

So, your lively, aggressive, and bewildering image does make it harder for you to bluff.

And the false answer isn’t (C). Indeed, almost every opponent can be manipulated by your image. I rejoice in manipulating opponents who think they’re too smart, too alert, or too savvy to be manipulated. Often the manipulation is not on a conscious level. These players often call in borderline situations and give you extra money because they unconsciously know that you are a tricky and carefree player. Sometimes when they have expressed – through words or body language – that they are above being fooled by you, you can actually bluff them more easily. Just go out of your way to seem to be eliciting a call and these rare, smug opponents are likely to fold. In any case, most of them can be manipulated by your image, just like everyone else.

The false answer isn’t (D), either. Some players actually do have a natural image that works in their favor. I knew a woman who had a particularly ditzy personality but played fairly tight poker. She would get called at an amazing rate. As far as I know, she wasn’t trying to establish this image, it was just her nature – and it worked in her favor. There are many players with natural images that invite calls, and a few whose dispositions invite folds. Your table image matters, whether it’s deliberate or not.

The false answer is (A): The image you present while playing poker can mean extra profit, but it isn’t as important as maintaining an intense level of concentration. That’s really, really false. First, while an intense level of concentration sometimes can be a good thing, it usually won’t add much to your overall profit. Being generally alert will get most of the money. That extra concentration certainly adds something, but it may detract from your ability to play long sessions. You might burn out early. I recommend that you concentrate as much as is comfortable, focus on the right things rather than everything, and keep a playful, lively, and confusing image. Sure, extra concentration helps, but beyond a certain point, it’s nowhere near as valuable as projecting the right image.

Answer No. 2. Limit poker tends to appeal more to women players, not no-limit. There are, of course, some notable women players who prefer no-limit, but traditionally, the ratio of females to males who choose no-limit is smaller than the ratio who choose limit. So, the answer isn’t (A). The answer isn’t (B), either. Although some no-limit hands go quite fast when nobody challenges a raise or even challenges the blinds, the hands that do have confrontations often can take many minutes to complete. Decisions are pondered longer, and moving chips into and out of pots – and counting them – takes time. And (C) is false, too. Many big winners play limit poker most of the time. Some are excellent no-limit players, but they do even better in limit games like Omaha high-low, seven-stud, or even sometimes limit hold ’em.

The answer is (D). No-limit poker is a more complex game than limit poker. I included this question because 11 years ago, there was considerable controversy about this. Some claimed that limit was more complex. But I have programmed computers to play both limit and no-limit, and I can guarantee you that the decisions that need to be made in no-limit are far more difficult to resolve correctly. In a $10 betting round, someone must bet $10 or check. Then, you either call, fold, or raise $10. In no-limit, you must decide whether to bet $5, $10, $37, $3,400, or whatever, and a raise can be anything. And it turns out that gauging the correct sizes of bets and raises can be very important.

I think the confusion came about because people thought that when you had a very strong hand, you could just raise all in every time. You can, but you shouldn’t. Between a minimum bet or raise and an all-in bet or raise, there are many possible wagers, and it’s complicated figuring out the right one. No-limit is more complex on a psychological level, too. So, I want to reiterate again today that – despite what you may have heard – no-limit poker is more complex than limit poker. There’s just no doubt about it. — MC

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Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.


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