Know your poker ‘enemy’ so you can make better decisions

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How to win more money. That’s your primary goal.

Last issue, we discussed “starting out” in your hold’em session: table selection and when to change tables; and getting more information by smarter observations to gain an edge over your less astute opponents.

This valuable information includes tells and the size of your opponents’ chip stacks. You gain edge over those opponents – the “enemy” – who fail to do so. That probably applies to most poker players! They are so involved with their own hands…

Know the “enemy opponents” come in all sizes and flavors, so to speak. But there are certain characteristics that are especially important when your goal is to win better.

Understanding your opponents’ playing traits can help you go home winning more money.

The more you “know” about your opponents – the “enemy,” the better you can make decisions in your favor; and the more chips you can win from them.

From the moment you sit down at that table, observe how each plays his hands. Does he consistently play more than one out of three hands? Then, he’s not familiar with the Hold’em Algorithm; he is a “pokerpigeon,” and is bound to play weak hands. Eventually, he’s likely to “contribute” his chips to the other players – especially to you.

On the other hand, “poker sharks” play fewer hands; they are more selective and “tighter” than the others. Have due respect for these opponents when they bet or raise. It can save you precious chips.

The money you save can help to build your winnings. Get more info at showdowns. Even when not involved in the hand, at the showdown, to the extent possible, examine what holecards each opponent started with, relative to his position.

This is free information many players overlook; they are more intent on seeing who won the pot and what their final hands were – if at all.

Observing each player’s starting-hands gives you much valuable information you can use in future hands. Did he use the Hold’em Algorithm criteria for his position?

If not, he is a PokerPigeon and more likely to have poor starting hands – and less to be feared when you are in a hand against him. Give him less credit for a big hand.

Other types of opponents: We have discussed both tight and loose players. The loose opponents are highly desirable; they are more prone to chase with fewer outs, and to be calling-stations.

They will contribute nicely to your winnings. To the extent an opponent may be a Calling-Station, don’t try to bluff him out.

On the other hand, a tight player can more easily be bluffed out – unless he has a strong hand. Highly skilled players (like you) seek such information.

Win better by using the Two-Step concept.

Step 1: Apply the Hold’em Algorithm to select your starting-hands. (See ad for Hold’em or Fold’em? elsewhere in GT.)

Step 2: Be sure the flop helped your hand sufficiently to warrant investing further chips. You must have a “made” hand, or if you are still drawing, you need six or (preferably) more outs after the flop; otherwise, you will be chasing. Avoid wasting chips, hoping for a small miracle.

Vulnerable Hands: Often you will catch top-pair or even top two-pair on the flop. As attractive as these may appear, they are still very vulnerable.

An opponent could easily catch a better hand on the turn and/or the river. Protect these hands by betting or even raising a previous bet.

In no-limit games a big bet can help no end. In a limit game, be sure to use the Esther Bluff tactic to encourage drawing hands to fold.

The more that stay in the pot, the more likely one will draw out against you. Win BETTER by protecting vulnerable hands.

Next week, please see Part III of my series on “Win Better” with a discussion on bluffing.

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

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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