Good reads and dynamics are key to poker success



There will come a time when you will have played quite some time with certain players. You’ll know their styles and views on the game. It’s important to keep tabs on this history, which should dictate future lines of action. These reads are the most important aspect of live mid-high stakes poker.

Playing ABC poker and making use of concepts such as hand selection and position are all one really needs to beat the smaller stakes.

When moving up, though, the dynamic between players is of utmost importance. It’s the primary reason why I play poker. I may sound insane, but I think it’s a thing of beauty. Crushing people becomes an art. The creativity involved in constructing ranges and execution is tantamount to that of an artist. It’s a matrix of prior hands played together, your perceived image, timing, everything really. When playing small stakes, I think it’s OK to play your hand in a vacuum.

“I have a big hand on a draw-heavy board, therefore I bet.” It’s simple. Like painting by numbers. But when you move up it becomes, “I think he thinks I’d be betting on this draw-heavy board if I had a hand worth protecting, therefore I bet with six-high trying to represent a made hand.” Pretty cool, huh?

I’d like to give you an example of an interesting dynamic I had while playing cash games on the recent Ante Up Poker Cruise with fellow columnist Lee Childs. He’s a solid player and I respect his play a lot. It just so happens I was seated on his left in our cash-game sessions. On the ship, Lee liked to open preflop a lot. He c-bet close to 100 percent and profited tremendously from doing so.

I decided I was going to three-bet him as much as possible on the cruise. Doing so with a polarized (really bad hands and really good hands) range helps me get paid off when I have two kings or two aces. Also, it makes my decisions easier because I know what I’m going to do if he plays back: fold junk, but continue with my value range.

I wanted to give the illusion I was some aggro-20-something who’s heavy handed when it comes to three-betting. I knew he’d adjust; that’s what great players do. I told myself no matter what I had when he decided to take a stand I was going to pile it in. I figured he would get semi-tilted that I was three-betting any two cards and play back at me light.

We played one pot heads-up where I had 7-4 suited and he (said he) had 10-2. It went raise, reraise, re-reraise. Now if you look at that hand in isolation you’d think we were both nuts. But looking at our history it makes perfect sense. Remember, the dynamic of a situation affects hand strength. Things become relative. If one of us had J-J we’re getting the money in, happily. Against a different player folding J-J preflop to the fourth bet is standard.

Set up interesting dynamics, then exploit them.

— Mike Wolf is a team pro at Email him at and follow his adventures on Twitter @mikewolf7.

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