Texture and how it relates to poker

January 17, 2017 3:00 AM
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According to my oft-used and well-abused Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “texture” is “the visual or tactile surface characteristics and appearance of something.” What does that surface look like? How does it feel to your touch?

When playing poker, it has a similar but much more subtle meaning. As a matter of fact, there are two different types of poker textures.

Board Texture: The dealer places the three cards to the flop face-up on the board. Each player studies these as related to his two hole cards, hoping for a good fit or match – one that could lead to the winning hand for him. The dealer subsequently places the turn and river cards on the board, possibly changing the texture of the board.

Combined with his two hole cards, this represents each player’s hand. The cards on the board – their rank and suit – are important. Taken together, they determine the texture of the board.

Example: Several players stay to see the flop. Let’s say it’s Kh-Jh-9c – cards that likely will improve many a hand, perhaps your own. In this case, you caught a pair of Jacks – middle pair. A tight player bets out from an early position. Chances are he has top pair or better. From your middle position, wisely you muck your cards – likely saving a stack of chips. Board texture makes a difference.

Game/Table Texture: It describes the general character of the game as being played at that table, at that time. Game/table texture depends on the playing traits of the players.

If there are mostly tight players – lots of folding and checking, and few if any raises, that would be an extremely tight game – one you probably should avoid. It’s hard to overcome the “cost-to-play” in such a game. (Ask the floorman for a table change.)

The opposite extreme is when most players stay to see the flop almost every hand, and often all the way to the river, rarely folding (a bunch of PokerPigeons); then the game is loose. That should be much to your liking when you catch a monster hand. Then, it’s much easier to build the size of the pot. On the other hand, bluffs are likely to be less successful; it’s harder to get loose players to muck their hands.

Lots of raising makes for an aggressive game/table texture – just the opposite of a passive game, where the players just call along. Combine that aggressiveness with loose players who tend to stay all the way to the river, and you have a loose-aggressive texture. Likewise, there could be loose-passive games with relatively little raising. Aggressive play tends to predominate over the other types in setting the texture.

If the game is extremely aggressive, marginal or mediocre hole cards are practically unplayable – too expensive to stay to see the flop. With just one very aggressive player (a “maniac”) at your table, you could adjust by getting seated just to his left; then you know when he raises, and can fine tune your play accordingly – to your advantage. If there are two or more very aggressive players, you would be wise to seek a table change; while waiting, play very cautiously before the flop, or take a break.

Game/table texture can change. As time passes, players are wont to leave the game. Very aggressive players often go broke. Big winners may quit while they are still ahead. (That’s for me!) Others leave for many possible reasons. The new players who take those seats may very well define a different texture for that table.

Personally, I prefer a loose-passive game/table texture. Most hole cards worthy of my investment as a starting hand are strictly drawing hands; the odds are against improving to a made hand. So, I want to invest as little as possible to see the flop. At the same time, I favor a multi-way pot. Then, if (when) I do connect on the flop, I can build a bigger pot.

Yes, both board texture and game/table texture are key features when playing to win.