When you are playing against unknowns remember that you are “betting on the field” as I call it. This means that you’re betting on a trend going on in poker today. You don’t know your opponent, so your best bet is to assume he is doing what normal players are doing now.
One good example of this takes place when you have A-Jo preflop. You raise
in early position and are flatted by a player on the button. The board comes J♣-
10♣-2♠. You bet and he raises. You are effectively playing 40BB.
Most people always get their money in here versus a random villain, and they are right to do so because the general poker population will 3-bet preflop with Q-Q, K-K, and A-A, so you can rule them out to a point. The average poker player does not flat J-10o versus an early position raiser, so that removes some of those combinations. You also realize the player could be raising Q-J, K-J, K- Q, and flush draws; this helps you. It’s especially popular in tournament poker to get it in early and often with your draws, so we can count on those hands more
Now, is it possible that the player flatted A-A preflop and is incapable of
raising flush draws or weaker pairs? Of course. Getting it in against that player is suicide, but we have no way of knowing if he plays like that. We can’t change our game when 80%+ of the field plays the same just because two times out of 10 we’re making a bad adjustment.
To know what the field is doing stay up to date with poker literature and videos. If you’re just starting it is likely you have a ton of time and not much money. Use this time as an opportunity, and make no mistake, it is a gift: I can’t tell you how much I miss having the time to explore everything that is out there for free in the poker world. Read dedicated poker articles. Get on every training site you can. Don’t go out for a few weeks so you can scrounge up the money. Take notes. Pay attention to what concepts get repeated over and over again. See what habits players are stuck in. Open a Word document and create a profile. Do the research.
It also helps to go into the forums of different foreign-language poker forums. For example, Russians are a huge part of the poker economy, but many do not participate on the English-dominated forums. If you just use Google Translate on a few hand history reviews you can see what is taken as a given in their poker world. You’ll be amazed at what different styles can develop when populations do not share a common language. If you are already a professional in some other field or poker you can hire a virtual assistant to cull the trade websites and forums for you. It’s not cheap, but right now you probably have more money than you do time. You don’t want them bringing you every single article or thread. That negates the purpose; you could have read everything if you had the time. Tell your remote assistant to find the largest threads in certain strategy forums. Look to what is causing controversy and what country it’s coming from. That’s likely to be the next trend.
You must remember that you are playing your opponent’s hand. Your hand is easy to play; it’s right in front of you. Playing the unseen holding is the real challenge, and should be what we are focusing on.
To play our opponent’s hand we need to know what his perception is. We can do this by getting to know the field through what is published and spoken of often, as discussed previously. We can also do this by creating a profile based on their statistics. It’s pretty basic: if a guy generally likes to play he is often going to keep playing. Don’t try to bluff him. If a player is comfortable with folding you’re more likely to get them to fold again. By using more tailored statistics you can find out what street they usually “take a stand” and don’t fold on.
These diverse reads will take you pretty far, but it is crucial we remember those numbers were collected from a variety of situations. Understanding how each permeation of a hand could effect it is very important. To understand how our opponents will react to different bets, run-outs, and situations we need to understand how the field understands those circumstances.
Many people never think of this. They project their own ideas about poker onto their opponent: “Well, this looks like a good board for someone to check- raise bluff, so I have to take that into account,” they’ll explain to their friends. Everybody nods their heads, without bringing up the opponent is a classical grind-it-out regular. A cursory look at his NoteCaddy pop-ups would show he almost never check-raises on these boards, and the last time he did he had a set.
For these reasons we need to pay attention to statistics, NoteCaddy records, and also what other players say about the game. Listen to what every poker player says about certain situations. Realize what they’re saying isn’t necessarily
correct, but that if a random player does a similar play to you this is likely what they are thinking.
I do not have many friends from poker in real life. Actually, scratch that. I have none and never hang out with a friend from poker outside of work. There are colleagues I am friends with, but generally we’re in the lab when we’re hanging out. When I am off work I don’t talk poker, and sometimes that’s all they want to do, so they end up hanging out with younger guys who still want to do nothing but.
However, when I am at a poker tournament, I am paying much more attention than the average reg. When I talk to my students I want them to explain to me their plays, from top to bottom. Not only does this help me tailor my instruction and undo the damage false beliefs have done to their game, but it also allows me to knows how the field thinks. This is especially helpful if your main colleagues are hyper-successful, or if you spend a great deal of time following the outliers.
If you suggest a play to a great name in poker they might say, “That won’t work, because I always do…”
You can then say, “Yeah, that’s great, but the last 162 people I spoke to said they do this.”
Although you just collected data from an easily accessible field the higher stakes regular will pay attention. Often, these guys come up with their plays and don’t know why they’re making them. When variance throws them off they need to recalibrate, and if they do not have the enthusiasm they once had for the game they need someone who is studying the masses. Make sure that person is you, so you can trade lessons with them.