I try to focus on things people should learn to be a successful poker player. But this month I thought I’d spend some time on the things you need to unlearn. For many Ante Up fans, you wind up being the best player in your local home games or any regular games that you play consistently because as a listener to the Ante Up PokerCast and a reader of the magazine, you’re always learning. You’ve probably read books, frequented forums and done other things to advance your game that opponents just aren’t doing.
If you’re anything like me and most of the students I work with, you often feel like the smaller games and playing with people who “have no clue” can be miserable. They don’t know what they’re doing, don’t know what you’re representing, they play any two cards regardless of position, they call you too lightly and “no one folds!” The problem with this thinking? You really want to be playing against people that know less than you. You don’t want to regularly play against equal or better players just because you can get away with more bluffs from time to time. You want to play against these players who are weaker than you, but the key is you must unlearn some of what you know to beat them.
Now, let me clarify. I don’t want you to completely unlearn a bunch of stuff, but I want you to be able to selectively forget some of the things you know and some of the tools in your poker toolbox. When you’re playing with weaker players, you must play patiently, selectively and straight-forward. Whether it’s playing a session, tournament or one hand against anyone who you feel is much less knowledgeable about the game, you have to take steps back to think more along the same lines as them. But try to stay one level ahead of them. If you play too advanced you’ll often end up frustrated when some great play you set up fails. You must play a more ABC game, bet your monster hands strongly and avoid any marginal situations. Remember, if these players never fold then that means they’re not folding when you have monster hands. So stop trying to get them to fold when you have marginal hands or nothing at all, and punish them when you have the goods. They say you can’t bluff an idiot, right? So, if you know this and you’re trying to bluff the idiot, well, who’s the idiot?
Playing against less competent players is what we all should be looking to do. It may not be as challenging or fun as outplaying some of the world’s best, but it sure will be more profitable if you make the adjustments. And when it comes to cashing out at the cage, it sure is a lot more fun for me to have racks of chips than knowing I got to make several fancy plays that session. Selecting the right games, against weaker players, and making the proper adjustments are critical to surviving today’s poker games. Because of the state of online poker, the lower limit games and lower buy-in tournaments are quickly filling up with more and more educated players, many of whom are used to playing much higher. Those who make the adjustments to find and profitably play against the weaker players are the ones who will survive. Decide to Win!
— Lee Childs is a professional poker player and coach. He’s the founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker and Inside The Minds. Check out his sites at acumenpoker.net and facebook.com/insidetheminds.