Knowing your poker enemy leads to their chips

Mar 22, 2016 3:00 AM

In a previous issue we focused on “reading” your poker opponents – the “enemy.” Try to figure out what hands each is likely holding. Then, you can make better informed decisions, and win more/bigger pots. A key element is determining what kind of player each opponent is. “Know your enemy!” That’s essential if you want to be a winner.

This is especially important when a new player joins your table, about whom you know nothing. Let’s discuss this aspect in more detail:

A new player comes to your table. You have never seen or played against him before. You have no prior knowledge as to what kind of player he is.

First, note his clothing and general appearance. He is neat, clean shaven, and relatively well-dressed. Conclusion: He is probably a conservative (tight) player.

The opposite is likely if he is careless about his appearance and clothing. Perhaps, he neglected to comb his hair. Sunglasses hide his eyes. His chips are not orderly stacked. He is probably a loose-deceptive player – plays many hands and is likely to bluff often.

How many chips does he buy in for? If he buys in several times at the minimum – he’s probably a loose player; and likely aggressive. He is prone to raise with any half-way decent holecards.

What if he buys into the game for the minimum required by the casino? In that case, peg him as a tight player, and less likely to play aggressively unless he has a very strong hand. That’s important information when playing in a hand where he raises – especially from an early position. Tight players are to be respected, even feared, when they raise.

Upon being seated, the new arrival tells the dealer he will wait for the button to pass him before being dealt in.

Skilled players use this strategy to learn how their opponents play and assess the texture of the table before getting involved. Conclusion: He is a prudent player – bound to play well. Label him a PokerShark; have respect for him. He is playing to win! (On the other hand, a PokerPigeon comes to the table to play; winning is less important.)

Important: As he starts playing, observe how often he stays (invests his chips) to see the flop.

If he consistently plays more than one out of three hands dealt to him, tentatively label him a loose player. He is playing many marginal or mediocre holecards – possibly very poor starting-hands. If he is also passive (calls bets but rarely raises), all the better. Loose-passive players are the kind we like to play against! They are bound to be losers in the long run.

On the other extreme, if he pays to see the flop only one out of four hands or fewer, he is a tight (conservative) player. Be cautious when he raises; he probably has a big hand.

We are all familiar with maniacs – players who love to bet and raise and reraise. A big maniac might do so almost every hand he plays. Two or more at your table can be treacherous. (Change tables!)

Try to get seated to the maniac’s left, so he acts before you must declare. Then you can easily fold a marginal drawing hand in which you would otherwise invest to see the flop – if it were a multi-way pot with no raises. (We label this concept the “Hold’em Caveat.”)

If our new player fits this category, and you find yourself seated to his right, you have two options: Move to a seat to his left or to another table. On the other hand, if we observe that he is rather timid – folds whenever there is a raise unless he has a super hand. Plan to bluff him out often.

Bottom Line: It pays to evaluate your opponents – the enemy. There are many ways and opportunities to do so and take advantage of this knowledge.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Email: [email protected].