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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Know Thy Weakness

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At the poker table most of your winnings come from only one, two, or maybe three players. So, it makes good sense to play those players. Just make sure you are playing the right players. As a super tight player, I'm accustomed to having hands stolen from me by more aggressive players. It's the price I pay for my conservative style, but sometimes it seems that it might not be a positive EV play for the aggressive player.

For the second time in the last 20 years, I have found myself in a regular game with mostly beginners and a single player skilled enough to know that I am capable of laying down a hand. In both cases, I've noticed that these players have reduced their own win rate by stealing a few pots from me. At a loose, passive table those few small pots may not be worth it.

The first situation occurred over 10 years ago at the low limit stud tables in Las Vegas. I considered the aggressor a good player but he just couldn't resist stealing a few hands from me. When I raised with Kings or Queens, he just couldn't resist the reraise with his lone ace, knowing that I would lay my pair down. His problem though wasn't me, it was the other players. They would call two bets as readily as one and he often found himself trapped into a hand with less than even a marginal hand, against players that wouldn't lay down a hand if you used a big stick, much less a simple bet or raise. Over the several months that we played at the same table, I never saw him walk a winner, although he often would have two or even three buy-ins in front of him when I sat down. His desire to out-play me caused him to lose money to the other players.

Now in our weekly games, I face a similar situation. Most of the players are poor, but the one other skilled player has recognized that he can readily steal pots from me. Although not as extreme as the first case, (He still books a win occasionally.) I know that his win rate has been cut about 50%. He wins a few small bets from me, but subsequently he loses large pots to other players that don't respect his raises. Additionally the game is $3-5 No Limit Hold'em and his stack is very vulnerable to traps by me. The chip movement on the table is almost comical. He wins chips from me, but loses to the other players. I lose chips to him but win them back from the other players. Since he wins small pots but loses big pots he has introduced a significant negative EV element into his game. It also costs me money, but I am losing small pots and winning big ones so the effect is minimized.

The moral to this story, "Know which players you are playing against". Make those plays in a tight table full of skilled players,. It is only good poker and I respect that, but in a loose table full of beginners and marginal players, you might do better to simply respect/avoid the other skilled players in the game. The goal isn't to prove you are the best player at the table. The goal is to maximize your wins.

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