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Poker Strategy | Beginner's Poker

Boot Camp - Pay Attention To The Game

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Once you know that calling an all-in pre-flop after a raise, a re-raise and another re-raise when you're holding 8-5, even if it is suited, is probably not a good idea, what's the advice you can expect to hear from top players the most?

That's right. Pay attention.

You must pay attention to your opponents, how they play, what they play and when they play it. And you must pay attention to yourself because not only will the way you play affect how others play against you, but you might play differently based on how you're feeling at the moment.

Still with us? Good.

But I think you need to pay attention to the general feel of the game as well, not just the players, because it's the feel that will most affect how your opponents will play their hands.

If a game turns loose, even the tight players may not play as tight. If a game is incredibly tight, you might see wild players start to tighten up, even if they've played wild a couple hours ago.

This is not optimal play, of course. One of the best pieces of advice I got from someone was to play the opposite of how the table plays. If the table is tight, you should play loose, and if the table is loose, you need to tighten up and wait for a hand that you can bust them with.

So why do people play like the table? It's human nature. My twin girls and my toddler tend to mirror each other's moods. If one is cranky, the other starts getting cranky, and then the third starts to chime in, and then we're in a house of fuss.

If a party is quiet, everyone in the room tends to be quiet. If a party is loud and wild, most will start to loosen up.

The fact is, no one wants to stick out in a crowd, and so we tend to take on the moods and actions of others, even if, like my 1-year-old twin girls, we don't realize we're doing it.

The thing is, usually it doesn't take much for a party to get a little louder, does it? If two or maybe three start to kick things up a bit, others will see them and start to feel more comfortable about having a good time.

You'll see really loose players "break the ice," so to speak, at a poker table as well, and they can completely change the feel of the game. Also, no one wants to look foolish or stupid at the table. That's also human nature. But if one person is playing so badly, it seems to be OK to take more risks because, hey, you won't look as stupid as that guy, right?

Here are a few tips on how to deal with the feel of a table and how it should play into your decision as to playing a hand or not:

• Even one loose player can make tight opponents play less than optimal hands, especially if that player's already in. You might keep that in mind if you're facing one of those "normal" opponents after the flop, even if the tight player folds after the flop. That could mean you're not as outkicked as you think, or it could mean a junky flop might have hit them harder than you think.

• Tight tables aren't very profitable, and you should move from them when you can. If you're playing online at Bodog Poker, PokerStars, or Full Tilt Poker, for instance, there's no excuse to stay at a tight table. But if you're playing live, you can, and should, still request a table change.

• There's a difference between loose, passive players and loose, aggressive players, and they need to be handled differently.

They also affect the feel of a game differently. A table filled with loose, passive players may make your opponents afraid to raise even when they should. After all, no one wants to seem like a bully. This is especially true at a home game, when you're playing with friends. Punish these tables by betting your strong, solid hands and raising a higher amount than you normally would pre-flop because you're sure to get a caller or two.

But a table filled with loose, aggressive players can tilt even the tightest players and make them make irrational, wild decisions. Be patient with this table but also be ready to enter pots with less than optimal hands, if the situation calls for it, and slow-play more often because the table will usually bet for you.

• Playing the opposite of the table is a good idea, but it isn't always profitable. If you do loosen up too much at a tight table, you'll find yourself getting beaten by better kickers, sets and overpairs that beat your overpairs. This advice plays better preflop in tournaments, when you have a good chance to steal the blinds.

And if you tighten up too much at a loose table, you'll miss out on some golden opportunities. The fact is, you should be willing to enter more pots with loose players.

Just remember that there's a difference between playing loose and playing stupid. You'll still need to have the discipline to fold good hands. If you don't think you're capable of making great lay downs, you need to continue to play tight no matter how loose the table is playing.

• It's perfectly fine to make adjustments to players, and in fact that's what you should be doing. But don't make such a huge adjustment that you're no longer playing your game.

If you do, you're playing wild, and then you're just another donkey at the table.

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