Looking For Chinks In Your Opponents’ Armor

Guide To Winning Poker (29)

  • Any style by your opponents is exploitable if you know how to do it
  • Players at the low and mid stakes don’t adjust to this all that well
  • When they do adjust, it’s a matter of adjusting better to their adjustments

You Need To Work Harder These Days To Win Opponents’ Money

All players with any skill at all play with certain strategies, which manifest themselves as certain patterns. These patters can be observable to us by both watching their play and by using stats that we have compiled on them.

There are two ways which we make money from opponents. The first is simply from their bad play, and this is why we always want to seek out the worst opponents that we can at our given stake level. An example of this is their willingness to blow off large amounts of money or chips with a weaker hand versus our more selective holdings. So against these players, you just wait for a good hand and then watch them pay us off.

There was a time when winning money at poker was this easy, back in the first few years of internet poker, but since then players have become more and more conservative generally. While you still see donkeys like this around, their number has shrunk to the point where we now need to rely on more sophisticated strategies to get their money as a general rule.

This is definitely the case as you progress to higher and higher stakes. At some poker sites, ones we don’t recommend by the way, there are so few fish that play there that they get ganged up upon and busted fairly quickly, so you spend most of your time playing against the so called regulars, who generally play a tight aggressive style.

Where You Play Has The Most Bearing On Your Results

However, if you follow our poker room recommendations that we feature for you on our site, as you should be doing, you will be putting yourself in a much better position to play against more fish than you would have the opportunity to at the tougher sites, regardless of the level of stakes you play.

At the good sites, and good here meaning easier to do well at, you can even see big fish at the highest stakes, gamblers who have more money than poker sense and who often come over from the poker room’s casino or sports betting operation to entertain themselves with a little poker.

So nowadays, you need to become good at not only beating the fish, but beating the regulars as well. The regulars as a general rule don’t really know how to beat other regulars that consistently, and even videos from top instructors don’t have a whole lot to offer you here.

Every Style Has An Antidote

However, as I said, poker playing involves using certain strategies, and while these strategies may look to limit mistakes, they are all subject to exploitation. For every poker move, there is an action which can take advantage of it. The trick is for us to first recognize the pattern, to determine the extent that it is being played, and then to look to counter it.

For instance, a simple example of this would be against the kind of player we normally see, the tight player. It makes no real difference here what other qualities they may have aside from this tightness, at least as far as our looking to take advantage of it.

So these players fold a lot, which means that the counter measure for this is to look to take more pots down by getting them to fold when we have nothing either. We can especially do this with position on them, as they almost always will play tighter out of position and will give us even more free pots.

Against more than one of these opponents, we will of course need to be more careful with this, but armed with the percentage of times that they will fold in certain situations, we can even act with mathematical certainty by using some very simple calculations. Taking the pot down is only one of our weapons here, but it’s certainly one of the main weapons that we have against players like this.

Aggression Puts Pressure On Opponents Not To Play Incorrectly

This also has the advantage of using aggression, which in essence requires our opponents to act within an appropriate range of action in response. For instance, if I bet into you, in order to not become exploited, you need to make sure that you are not folding too much to my bet, and also make sure that you are folding enough.

So I am forcing you to discover the correct amount of folding, so even if you do look to adapt to try to take away my advantage, you will have to adapt correctly. Doing so successfully is a pretty complex affair, and not a lot of players have enough of an understanding of the game to pull it off very well.

Even if they do, then whenever our opponents change their strategies, we will look to recognize that and change ours in accordance. So in our example, we will say that our opponent adjusts to our betting properly, but that was correct only in accordance with the amount of betting that we are doing. So we then change it up, or make other changes, making their present strategy now incorrect, and forcing them to make a new adjustment.

Playing More Tables Makes Exploiting More Challenging

So this is in fact the essence of poker at its highest level, although today’s penchant with playing several tables at once will in itself render even the world’s best players at least somewhat impotent here. This is why I never play more than one table at a time by the way, as to pull this off at the highest levels, it requires intense focus, which multi tabling doesn’t really render possible, even if you are a great multi tabler and can maintain pretty good focus playing several at a time.

Any player though, regardless of skill and experience level, can really benefit by looking to learn to exploit their opponents more, and also get better adjusting to whatever adjustments, if any, that their opponents end up making. Players at the lower stakes don’t tend to adjust very well though, and generally only react out of frustration, very often overcompensating with the changes they implement.

So this is good news for you as you can learn to push people around and use a bevy of other tactics against them, and it won’t be until you start to really climb the stakes that you’ll really have to worry about being played back at correctly.

You Still Need To Protect Against Being Exploited Yourself Though

However, you do need to know how to handle whatever they end up throwing at you in response, which requires an understanding of what is correct and what is exploitable. For instance, players will often look to attack players who seem to bet too much, with things such as check raises, which in this case will consist of hands that they normally would not check raise with.

So what we do here is look to entice them to do this, and look to play back with real hands. This works especially well against players who can be encouraged to put in large amounts of money looking to teach us their lesson. As they adapt and become more aggressive against us, it therefore pays to be very attentive to what they are doing so we can best counter it.

In this case, they have perceived us as being more aggressive, meaning betting lighter, and they have decided to play lighter themselves, to keep us more honest. So in order to combat this, we need to either choose to out bluff them or look toward the value side of things. So in this case we are faced with loose aggression, and the remedy for that is to tighten up and play better hands, at least in cases where money gets in the pot.

Watch Closely How Your Opponents Adjust To You

So a lot of this is looking to manage the perceptions that our opponents have of us, while at the same time managing the perceptions we have of them. If we can do better at this than they do, we will beat them, it’s that simple. The time to learn to do this well, better than they do, is right from the start, when you are learning the game.

Poker is essentially a game much like chess, only most players don’t really realize how much the two games are similar. It shares with chess the element of making a series of counter moves to always adjust to what our opponents are trying to do to us. However, it’s actually a much more complex game than chess, which in spite of its intricacy is still a finite game with complete information and finite possibilities.

With poker, we are dealing with incomplete information where player tendencies play an even bigger role. There’s also the element of luck involved, making our decisions correct not absolutely like with chess, but on balance, over the long run. So this makes it even more difficult to know what exactly to do at times, and we often need to select from options that are to some degree at least a bit cloudy.

Look To Improve Both The Quantity And Quality Of Your Thinking

Poker also requires us to manage the way we deal with complexities, and we have far less time to make a move than we would in a normal chess match. Poker is more like speed chess in that sense, as we can’t just take ten or twenty minutes to make a decision at the table.

However, as you are learning to master the game, it’s much more about quality of thinking than quantity, meaning that we need to be thinking about the right things, which are always what sort of moves against specific opponents are going to yield the most profit over time.

Once we are thinking properly like this, as we go along and gain more and more experience, our experiences will be much more profitable, and we will learn so much more than the average player who for the most part plays a pretty mindless game. So focus on manipulating the players you play against and you will soon see yourself doing it much more successfully.

Ken’s Guide To Winning Poker – Index

Starting With A Solid Foundation

Aggression Series

Position Series

Various Poker Strategies

Mistakes Series