Fast Track To Success – Lesson 2

Micro Stakes Poker (2)

  • Certain players are prone to certain types of mistakes by virtue of their style
  • By figuring out what best to do against these mistakes, we can gain the advantage
  • Make sure that opponents don’t easily do these things to you though

We Need To Look More Closely At The Mistakes That Are Being Made

So in the last session we started to look at our basing our play on looking to take advantage of the tendencies of our opponents, and we had a look at some of the things we would do to exploit tight aggressive strategies. So one of the things we can ask ourselves is, what is going wrong with the play of our opponent here that we can so easily exploit them? If you remember, we said that we don’t want to become a certain player type, and this is the mistake they are making.

More specifically, when they do this, they are looking to use something against us that is not justified by our play. Now it might be if we let it, but we’re smarter players than that. If we are tight ourselves, and we fold too much to their continuation betting, like so many players do, then this strategy will be successful against us. Or, if we are calling down too loosely, or are being aggressive ourselves too lightly, meaning that we’re looking to show down worse hands than he or she is, then we’ll get punished as well.

We Need To Make Sure That It’s Not Us That Is The Chump

Micro Stakes Stage #2

So if we were this type of player, then of course we’d be subject to getting beaten out of our chips against tight aggressive players. We’re at risk of being exploited against any form of strategy in fact, provided that our play matches what their style tends to beat. The mistake they are making though is playing their preferred style and more or less hoping that it does. So not only are we going to make sure that it doesn’t, we’re going to look to come up with strategies of our own that are designed not only as an antidote to their strategy, but even better, to look to turn the tables against them.

So it stands to reason that the more we pay attention to the play of our opponents, the more information we will have to use against them. Beginners generally start out by playing their own cards and not worrying so much about what opponents may have, or even more importantly, how they play. This is a mistake though and ends up reinforcing some bad habits, and it’s never too early in the game to start to think rightly about what it takes to win at poker rather than wrongly about it.

Now starting out at this, to be honest, you won’t be a poker wizard by any means, although at least you will be on the right track. Looking to play your opponents isn’t really anywhere near as difficult as many newer players imagine, and even a couple of first baby steps are at least steps in the right direction, as opposed to steps in the wrong direction that will just have us wandering around aimlessly and never really getting on track to where we need to be.

We Can Keep This All Pretty Simple For Now

In my main series I end up going into some pretty sophisticated methods of using particular traits of opponents to exploit them, but for now we don’t need to concern ourselves with anything too complex other than to just observe their play and base our decisions on what information we can gain from just that. As you progress, you definitely want to start to use poker statistics to help you gather and interpret the large amount of information that can be at your disposal, but for now, I’m presuming that you don’t have the money to spend on a program like Hold’em Manager or anything else for that matter.

That’s perfectly fine though and while programs like this are indeed a tremendous advantage once you learn to use them properly, no matter how advanced you become in using this information, good old fashioned observation is always important, so it’s certainly a skill that you want to work on developing right from the outset. In fact, regardless of what level of skill you have in using stats, observation will always be at least as important, as for one thing, you want to be very good at spotting when opponents are switching gears on you, and for this there’s nothing better than good old fashioned brain power.

You Need To Pay Attention To What’s Going On At The Table

You may have heard that you should always be attentive when at the poker table, whether you’re in a hand or not, and this is absolutely true. A lot of players are lazy though and in particular may be playing at other tables, often a lot of other tables, or be doing something else while playing. Especially when learning the game, I do not recommend that you do any of that, and even once you’ve become a good or even very good player, it’s best to concentrate on one table at a time. Let our opponents spread their focus thinly, as this will put them at a big disadvantage against us, provided that we do not make the same mistake.

You might find it a bit boring to focus on everything that is going on at your table, but you need to realize that this is important stuff and goes hand in hand with your observing things when you’re actively playing a hand. It’s also helpful to look to take notes, although don’t make the mistake a lot of players do and write down a bunch of useless crap. What you want to focus on here is tendencies, which involve generalities, and not so much specifics. So if you bet and he folded on the turn, who cares really, although if you see he or she does something more frequently, that’s the stuff you want to note.

Since you’ll just be relying on your observation and your memory, the information you’ll be working with will tend to be pretty sparse, especially compared with using a good stat package, where you’ve got perhaps thousands of hands on someone with tons of the exact stats you need right at your fingertips. In a way a program like this is like those x-ray glasses that used to be advertised in comic books several decades ago, and although they were a sham and they didn’t actually let you see people naked as a lot of kids hoped, having good stats on someone really does expose their poker tendencies not only naked but right down to the bone. You can in fact gain a much better understanding of a player than they have of themselves.

Just By Watching The Action You Can Learn A Fair Bit

However, any good information is good information to have, and you can certainly gain some useful stuff just by watching. This is especially true at the micro stakes where the play of your opponents will tend to be pretty transparent.

Although down the road you will be looking for how a player plays in specific situations, it’s fine for now to use the usual broad classifications like tight aggressive or loose passive, at least as a starting point, which can look to further refine as you gain more information and get better at observing. So this is the stuff you need to be taking notes on, and these notes will certainly help you if this is done right.

Beating Players By Exploiting Their Styles

So now let’s touch on some other broad categories of players you’ll meet at the micro stakes, and come up with some general strategies to beat them. Some players will both play a lot of hands and play them very aggressively. This is what we call the loose aggressive player, or at the extreme end of it, the maniac. This type of opponent gives a lot of players trouble, especially newer ones. They can even give good players fits, but only to the extent that they don’t know how to play against them properly, which won’t be the case for us, as this style isn’t that difficult to beat at all.

So let’s look at the two components here. They are loose, which means that they often don’t need a real hand, and the way to beat this style is to play better cards. They are also aggressive, which again means that we’ll make more money by playing better cards. So the bottom line here is of course to play better cards against them, while at the same time looking to figure out when they actually do have a real hand and when they are just looking to bluff off their stack.

The real secret to playing against this type of player successfully though is not to sweat individual hands so much and look to play where we have the edge overall. A lot of players make the mistake of paying attention to the small stuff too much and end up losing their perspective of the big picture. We do not want to make the same mistake here and in fact this is a very big lesson in itself.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Pushed Around Too Much

So for instance if I know what you are full of crap more often than not, and the range I’m playing against you will win 6 times and lose 4, and we’ll say that I win and lose equal amounts, then I’d be crazy to ever fold it. What can happen though is that you can get in situations where you lose two or three in a row and then end up playing too cautiously. You’re now playing not to win but not to lose, and this is a particular risk against aggressive players, where the cost of losing is higher.

So then when this player fires out multiple street bluffs, you start to second guess yourself too much, and do the very thing that makes his or her strategy work, which is to fold too much to it, especially after committing money to the pot on an earlier street or streets. There will be plenty of times where they indeed have the goods, and people tend to focus more on losses than wins, perhaps because it hurts more to lose than it feels good to win.

So this is how people let themselves be intimidated by aggression, and in particular, aggression that is pretty frequent. These players are looking to push you around, and they certainly will if you let them. The trick is to let them when you don’t have the cards to go along with the ride, and then make them pay when you do, and the price they pay will then be higher than the price you pay. This all sounds pretty easy, and it is really, provided you can maintain a clear head and focus on what works over time and not focus too much on the outcome of any given hand or even hands.

So in the next session we’ll look at more general player types and what it will generally take to be successful against them.