By Sean Hansen
If there were only two things I would suggest to any player who wants to take their poker game to the next level, they would be:
• Know and play the right frequency of hands preflop for the game you’re in.
• Pay attention to when opponents’ frequencies get out of whack and bury them for it.
We won’t talk about the first one right now because it’s a long discussion. Assuming, however, you know what a solid preflop range set looks like, you should be able to tell when an opponent is playing too tight or too loose. We can all identify the tightest player in the game and the loosest. What are the implications of that, however, and how do we exploit errors?
In a tournament, for example, your tight player is going to fold too often preflop. He’s making a mistake, so abuse his blinds, so long as you don’t stray too far from your correct ranges, otherwise you become exploitable. The player who opens too many hands? He’s also making a mistake. His range is too wide, so he’ll fold too often to three-bets or he’s going to miss most flops.
One of the things I like to do when I figure out an opponent’s mistake is to ask myself why he’s making that mistake. For the tight player, is he timid? Is he money-jumping? For the loose player, does he have an obvious ego? Does he lack discipline? Is he on tilt?
You can, with practice, watch an opponent and figure out his motivation for why he’s playing badly. And that will clue you in to how he will continue to play poorly on later streets. The super-timid player can be barreled off of remarkably strong hands sometimes; you often don’t need a hand. The egomaniac will hang himself if you provide the rope; often second pair or even less is plenty to call down with against this player.
See how that works? Their mistake affects their ranges, which in turn affect what ranges we can use to exploit them.
Once you really are sure you have a good idea of what a good set of preflop ranges looks like (get help on this from someone who knows, don’t assume you have this locked up), you should be able to:
• Notice when someone is outside of those ranges
• Figure out why they’re playing incorrectly
• Develop a plan to exploit their mistakes on each street
Make sure to keep stack sizes in mind and when you hold a big hand, don’t forget what their mistakes are. It’s easy to look down at A-A and forget to play the player. Feel free to shoot me a question on Twitter @BigSlickAcademy.