Exploiting Players’ Specific Weaknesses

Guide To Winning Poker (11)

  • Success at poker comes down to how well we adjust to our opponents
  • We need to look for what opponents do too much of
  • We then need to put together a plan that best takes advantage of this

We Need To Focus On Specific Weaknesses

Now that we have a little idea of what we’re looking to do in terms of determining what the relevant tendencies of our opponents are, it’s time to look at how this is all going to play out at the table. So we are contemplating a move or a series of moves and we want to look to use the information we have on our opponents to decide what the best course of action is.

As I’ve mentioned, the tendency is for players to look to characterize opponents in various broad classifications, like weak tight or loose passive. It’s a mistake to just look to do this without regard to the specific situation that you’re in, as players may have tendencies towards certain styles but may deviate from them in various degrees depending on where we are in the hand. Mostly though, this doesn’t provide us with any hard numbers, and especially when we become more proficient in our exploitative techniques, it will be very helpful to be using numbers rather than vague feelings. This is true regardless of whether we’re at the level where we can start doing math to help figure things out, as having a number is always more accurate than just a vague notion.

What We Need To Be Looking At Here

So with that out of the way, what I want to talk about in this session is what we need to be looking for generally when it comes to general indicators of a player’s weaknesses. What it all comes down to is that players tend to do one thing or another in excess, and when they do, we can come at them with more correct play to take advantage of it. For instance a player may fold too much in certain spots. Once again, it’s nice to know that a player is tight overall but even nicer to know when he’s too tight and by how much. Now you might be thinking, well he also does things too little, for instance not calling or betting enough, and that’s certainly true. However, “too little” always has it’s corresponding “too much,” which is in this case, too much folding, and it’s always the too much part that represents the weakness.

So there’s two main areas of opportunity that we need to focus on here, which correspond to the two ways that we make money at the table. They are of course, winning the hand by getting opponents to fold, which is fold equity, or winning at showdown, which is value. Pursuing fold equity is the easier of the two, and in fact just comes down to needing the numbers. Value equity is a little more complicated, to say the least, but at the same time is an essential component and one that we need to strive to develop a good understanding of. Generally, hands will have aspects of both, as it’s rare that we know an opponent will never fold, or be on a pure bluff where we have absolutely no chance to win at showdown. So what we will be looking at will almost always be a combination of both, to determine our total equity.

Players Of All Levels Need To Be Doing This

I want to point out here that if you’re thinking that this can all be pretty complex, you’re right, and in fact you probably have no idea just how complex it can be, but this doesn’t mean that this is all something that’s limited to extremely advanced players. On the contrary, this is something that even beginning players need to be thinking about, and start with some simpler calculations at first, and then look to develop one’s understanding and proficiency as one’s game develops and advances. Even using the grade one version of this so to speak will provide you with some very powerful weapons against players that you tend to play against at the stakes you play, who aren’t really thinking about the game much at all and are just using some overly simplified lines and strategies.

As you move on to the mid stakes you’ll find that things haven’t really changed much here, other than that players are a bit more perceptive, and do play a little more soundly, but their game is still very simple. In fact that’s why so many of these players play so many tables at once, as their game involves very little thought and they can pretty much play an automated style, designed to take advantage of some gross errors by weaker opponents. When they face better competition, they their game tends to wilt, which is why you hear so many people saying that you can’t make money against so called regulars. This isn’t the case at all, it’s just that their game lacks any real substance and falls over like a house of cards when pressured.

We Don’t Want To Fall Into These Predictable Categories Ourselves

So that’s definitely not how we want to learn, and in fact we’ll be looking at a lot of these so called standard lines and the philosophy behind them in later sessions and coming up with some ideas on how to best attack them. Basically though, players tend to buy in too much to a certain mode of play, such as tight aggressive, and any time you do that, you really limit yourself. What we need to be doing instead is tailoring our play completely to what will work best against particular opponents, and not be this or that type of player primarily.

As players improve, and become more dominant at the mid stakes or perhaps move up to the higher stakes, their awareness of the game does increase, but they often still tend to do things too much. However they will adjust much better to your attempts to exploit them, and at this level you need to be much better at adapting to changing conditions and strategies. However with a better understanding of what they are doing wrong then they have, which isn’t all that difficult to achieve by the way, you’ll be putting yourself in a better position to come out on top. In fact many of these players’ understanding of some of the basics of the game are lacking, and in particular they tend to overvalue things like position and aggressiveness, which are indeed important but the real key is to find the right balance, which does require a fair bit of thought.

Do Not Be Afraid To Start Thinking About Poker Properly

So this is the sort of thing we’ll be pursuing here, and regardless of where you’re game is at, it’s never too soon to start. I know I’ve been saying this a lot but it’s only because it’s such an important point, and I see way too many players of all levels who are afraid to move out of the box that they are in, whether that’s just focusing on thinking about the game more, or looking to move beyond the so called conventional thinking of the day.

As a matter of fact, if you’re a less experienced player, you may end up grasping the material better then some more experienced ones, who think they know much more than they actually do, and in particular think that certain so called truths are beyond inspection. If you’re in that category and are seeing that some of this applies to you, then you may have to work even harder, and in particular look to get beyond some of the things you may have learned or have been taught that you feel are correct beyond examination. We’ll be examining them though as nothing is untouchable, and all you really need to do is to always keep an open mind toward further discovery.

Recognize What Opponents Do Too Much Of

So in terms of what traits that people have that get them to do certain things too much, in addition to folding too much, they tend to bet too much, or raise too much, or check too much, or call too much. Not only that, they tend to do these things too much in certain situations, for whatever reasons, and our task is to look to root out these excesses and then come up with the best plan to attack them. Coming up with a plan is the easy part though, as each misplaced action will involve a corresponding counter action from us.

So for instance if a player folds too much in a certain spot, we’ll bet and raise to take advantage of that. If he checks too much, we’ll look to gain more free cards and also use this information to define his ranges. If he bets too much, we’ll play more hands against him. If he calls too much, we’ll bet for value more. If he raises too much, we’ll look to extract more value from playing better hands against this tactic then he plays.

It’s not quite this simple all the time though, although there are certainly a lot of situations where it is. As we improve on this, then we’ll be looking at several characteristics at once, for instance if he raises too much but also folds to re-raises too much, as well as looking at their tendencies in future betting rounds to look to leverage our advantages here and get our game more comprehensive. The key to doing all this effectively though is to be looking at the proper stats, which is the main reason I brought this all up so early in the series.

So now that we know what we need to be looking at as our primary source of information, and have touched on what we’re looking to do with it, it’s time to move on to some examples of putting both these elements together and show how this is going to work at the table.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series