Stand up to the bully at the poker table

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By Natasha Barbour

It seems every poker table has one person who tries to run over everyone. This person raises, three-bets and four-bets every hand, making sure he takes control of every pot. We call that person a bully. A bully always tries to push people off their hands and is extremely aggressive, too aggressive. By being too aggressive, the bully automatically makes mistakes. How do you take advantage of his mistakes and take the bully out of his comfort zone?

Call more often and bet less. Why?

• He has air more often than a real hand. You need to open up your range. Against a bully, you don’t want to wait for a real hand as you usually will end up winning a small pot. You need to check-call a lot as he cannot reopen the betting and this keeps control of the pot with your marginal hand.

• If you have a good hand that’s not vulnerable, let the bully make mistakes. A bully wants to be in control and once he loses that control, the pot is yours. So if you’re confident about your hand and want to get paid, don’t scare him. As he is usually loose-aggressive, he will do the betting for you. Though it doesn’t seem like it, this type of player can lose comfort rather fast, especially when outplayed or when he hangs himself. By that last term, I mean when you play a strong hand passively as he is constantly betting into you.

A bully is bluffing most time, so remember that, and on top of calling him more, you need to bet less.

A second, more aggressive way of dealing with a bully is to take control of the pots to bring him out of his comfort zone. Though they act tough, bullies lose comfort when they are being raised and reraised (in other words, when there’s another player bullying him). The trick is to be more aggressive than he is and he’ll slow down. Check-raise more often; it will put a stop to his bullying.

Playing with a bully is never fun. It kills the game if nobody plays back at him. To change that, you need to be more aggressive than he is (always in position). Remember, the bully’s range includes any two cards, so putting him on a hand or trying to read him is usually impossible, which is why it’s difficult to play with one.

If in a tournament, you need to “outbull” this bully pretty fast as you’re playing for first place and you can’t have him take every pot. In a cash game, you have the choice to change tables. Your aggression will slow him down. Stand up to him.