Game Dynamics

While every table has its own characteristics at any moment in time, the overall state of the game has a certain flow that must be monitored. This concept is called Game Dynamics. Usually game dynamic shifts are gradual.** A few players start 3-betting a lot and having success, and so people start 3-betting more and more. Now the games are 3-bet happy. Then, the best players stay ahead of the curve and start 3-betting less. Eventually the rest of the field follows and 3-bets less, so then the good players start 3-betting more again. You want to be one of the players leading game dynamic shifts.

Sometimes, game dynamics change quickly when a new piece of information is released. This might come from a groundbreaking post, video, or article. The best example I have of this occurred when well known player and poster TheWorstPlayer wrote about cold 4-betting. The concept was that, given a light CO raiser and a light button 3-bettor, you could 4-bet any two cards profitably. As soon as this was posted, the games changed radically. Overnight every regular adopted a cold 4-bet bluffing range.

Keeping your finger on the pulse of game dynamics is important. In my opinion, there are two ways to ensure that you are ahead of the curve. The first is simple observation. Are you getting 3-bet all the time? Are flop c-bets being raised all the time? By many different players? These are indicators that you may want to start doing the opposite. The other method is to regularly talk about poker with other players at your limit.

Once upon a time, I was 3-betting an extremely wide range on the button and making a lot of money in 2/4 games. Soon, everyone else caught on. One day, Xorbie, a very good player, said to me something along the lines of “I think 3-betting only premium hands is probably about right these days.” This was a shockingly simple response to the change in game dynamics. I stopped 3-betting so light, yet people kept on 4-betting me extremely loosely. Suddenly I was stacking people easily while only reraising very tightly. This adjustment to game dynamics is what helped me keep my game ahead of other regulars. So, while the specific dynamics of your table are the most important factor to be considered, keep your eye on the bigger picture as well. If somebody’s getting 3-bet all the time, they’ll probably play back lightly to a 3-bet—even if you’re not 3-betting light.

*This is probably the most important concept in the entire book but also the most difficult to explain or quantify. In its essence, game dynamics is about innovating new poker concepts to stay ahead of the curve of general poker knowledge. As poker videos, books (like this one), and coaching increase their role in poker’s learning marketplace, game dynamic shifts occur more quickly. The new techniques are more widely distributed and experimentation is occurring faster and on a wider scale. Staying engaged in the innovative process is the best way to stay on top of game dynamics—this means posting in forums, chatting with players whenever possible, thinking critically about the game, trying non-standard lines, etc. Usually, people will tell you that your ideas for new strategies are bad—usually they’ll be right, but not always. Seeking relentlessly for innovation is the best way to tackle poker’s most difficult concept. **In the past, game dynamics would take years before changes would become noticeable. Now, they might take between one and three months. This assumes no acute game dynamic shifts (like a ground- breaking new video or article that becomes widely popular).

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