Much has been written about exploiting opponents on the felt. This is a critical part of the game. If you can’t identify and exploit the weakness in opponents, you’ll rarely have an edge and ultimately you won’t be successful. I’m quite sure every winning player spends a great deal of time and energy on this aspect of the game.
What is less certain is how much time and energy is spent on a related aspect of the game: making yourself less exploitable by opponents.
Take a minute now to do some soul-searching and ask yourself how much time and energy you spend working on exploiting others vs. working on preventing your exploitation.
Be honest. I’m guessing you spend more time on the former. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t believe an equal amount of time needs to be expended on both or that there’s any right percentage.
Every player is different and should play to his strengths to maximize his profits. However, I do think players at every skill level could spend more time and energy working on making their play less exploitable.
So, how do you do this? Mixing up your play and not being predictable is obviously a good starting point. However, poker isn’t played in a vacuum.
If you’ve been super tight in a tournament and find yourself getting short-stacked when everyone folds to you on the button, you may feel your tight image has built some fold equity for you and it’s time to make a move.
Of course, that’s not really mixing up your play. It’s playing a situation that’s fairly recognizable to even the most recreational of players.
Making yourself less exploitable is really an extension of sizing up opponents to exploit them. When you’re doing that, you should also be studying their perception of you.
• Do they play differently against you than against others?
• Is your opponent studious enough to be studying if, and how, you are mixing up your game?
• Is your opponent the type of player consistently looking to exploit others or does he play straightforward?
Is he the type that will make moves and is he giving you credit for making moves?
Exploiting others and making yourself less exploitable really go hand in hand. Working on one improves the other and vice-versa. At the end of the day, thinking one level deeper than your opponent will accomplish both.
— David Apostolico is the author of several poker strategy books, including Tournament Poker and the Art of War. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.