The following strategies apply to how to play specific hands out of specific positions Pre Flop and how you should continue on betting for each round to follow. The suggestions found here apply to the cards only rather than the type of opponent you are facing. We have made suggestions on how to play against particular players in the opponent types section. At the moment the suggestions are not very detailed.
The true key to poker lies in playing your opponent based on how your opponent views you, the cards and chips are used solely as symbols in the game of player versus player. In lower limit games and against players of lower skill levels (Level 1), however, your cards will matter and fancy tricks such as bluffing, pot odds, and raising the pot to force draws out of hands will not work. These lower level players have no real concept of card value or position and will try to catch their 4 out straight draw regardless of the bet simply because they know if they do indeed catch their card they can win the pot. Bluffs will not work against lower level players because they will call you to either A) make sure you weren’t bluffing or B) because they made bottom or middle pair and believe they have a shot at winning the pot regardless of if they make a better hand or not. A lot of lower level poker players will typically fall into 1 of 3 categories – 1) the tight non agressive player 2) the overly agressive player with no concept of what hand beats what so they may fold flushes and straights yet hold onto face cards with weak kickers or 3) the calling station/fisherman. The only difference between a calling station and the fisherman is fishermen will fold to bets on the river if they did not catch the card(s) they were fishing for whereas calling stations typically will not. This first type of player is typically the easiest to beat because you can avoid all the pots they play in. Type ones may and can win in games that have quite a few calling stations in them. Type two players are the hardest of the three to beat because they are impossible to place on a hand, especially if you are playing a type two player who doesn’t even know what hand beats what. We have played in games with type two players who will go all in with pocket tens against a board holding both an ace and a king yet seen the same player fold flushes and straights because he had no concept of what a straight or flush was. Type three players will lose in the long run but may wind up winning a home game or two on luck alone. Their ability to call large bets regardless of cards almost places them into the Level 2 style of playing agaisnt your opponents and not playing with the cards, but not quite. The reason calling stations do not qualify for Level 2 is because they aren’t calling all your bets because of the way you are playing, they are calling all of your bets because that is their style of play. Calling stations can’t shift gears depending on who they are facing, they will always call bets (unless they don’t hold cards they like in which case they’ll fold.)
Our strategies can be used against a good portion of Level 1 and Level 2 players. Level 2 players understand the concept of poker and can shift gears depending on what type of opponent they are facing. The Level 2 player understands that the value of their cards can shift dramatically from player to player. For example, a Level 2 player may make a raise, regardless of their cards, when they see tight players in the blinds in an attempt to steal the blinds from the tight players. At the same time a Level 2 player may only play the best 24 hands in poker (face card hands mostly) against an agressive player to give them the edge needed to beat the agressive player a better percentage of the time. Trying to throw an agressive player’s game back in their face tends to backfire as they are more accustomed to playing with any two cards whereas, you the Level 2 non overly agressive play any two cards, may not be able to raise or call large bets with the 9 5 offsuit.
As for the Level 3 player, their game is played based on how they believe their opponents view them. This is where the concept of mind games in poker comes from. A skilled level 3 player may be able to fool their opposition into believing that the only pots the skilled player enters into are quality hands when in reality the skilled player is really playing the hands they enjoy seeing flops with. Or the skilled level 3 player may play completely overly agressive (Gus Hansen did this in Poker Superstars 1) raising with any two cards to fool opponents into believing that their raise is weak when in actuality the skilled player holds a monster and is waiting for its opposition to make a move on the pot. Level 3 players may even play as calling stations to fool opposition into believing that the skilled player is a terrible card player in an attempt to win later rounds, causing its opposition to believe the hands were won on ‘luck.’
Being able to shift gears is a must in Poker and is very similiar to concepts found in The Art Of War. For those of you who haven’t read The Art Of War (you can find it in our poker books section) the book covers military strategies for warfare based on size of army and location of battle. The main point the book drives home is that you can have no fear of death in battle. Generals of the invading army are told to burn their ships or line up troops to kill their own soldiers trying to retreat from battle in areas with only one way in and one way out. You must use this no fear tactic in poker if you ever wish to elevate your game to its highest level. The best quote to drive home this no fear concept comes from Patrick Swayzee in Point Break – “Hesitation causes fear. And fear will cause your worse fears to happen.” You are the general, your chips are your army, and the table is your battlefield. If you intend on playing a hand direct your troops properly. If the cards shift in your opponents direction surrender the battle by folding your cards and taking your casulties then come back to win the war. There is no sense in continuing on in a battle you can’t win, it takes away your ability to win the overall war.
Another concept in life that also applies to poker comes from how winners play the game versus how losers play the game. An overall winner is always playing the game to win. They aren’t playing to break even, they aren’t playing for second best, they’re playing to win. It’s all or nothing. The mentality of a losing player however is completely different. The losing player is playing the game to ‘not lose.’ The losing player wants to win but doesn’t hold the necessary drive or wiring to see the situation as all or nothing. Breaking even is totally acceptable for the losing player as they view this as a victory, even though all they did was waste their time. Don’t get us wrong breaking even is much better than losing but no one who plays poker should want to just break even. There is an exception to this, however. A winning player on a current losing streak is playing to break even. The ‘break even’ concept is different for the winning player as opposed to the losing player in that the winning player is playing that partical game to win and win only, the breaking even part is breaking even from past losses and therefore is an overall concept as opposed to one specific game.
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