Saturday, March 17, 2012

Action Begets Action

Got a question from a reader the other day about why he never seems to get paid off with aces or kings. Part of what he wrote was: "I get aces. I raise like I'm supposed to. Everyone folds. It's like they know I have aces."

After exchanging a few follow-up emails with said reader, I think I know the answer to his problem:

They do know he has Aces.

Huh? How is this possible? Simple. He's playing like a nit. His stats are 7/4. He's simply playing too tight, too passively, and too predictable. Yes, he's got the whole gap concept thing down. Yes, he's playing a highly positionally-aware game. Yes he's folding a lot....

...but he's also playing like an open book. At the stakes he's at, everyone else has a HUD running. Hell, even if they don't have tracking software, it's pretty obvious to them that he's entering hardly any pots. So when he does get involved in a hand and raises, everyone else runs for the hills. Because he probably has Aces or Kings.

In other words, the problem he has is one of image. Everyone at the table sees this player as a rock. And when a rock raises, especially from EP, we have to assume he has a real hand. So everyone else folds like they should.

If I were coaching this player, I'd suggest working on opening up his game. Or at least take advantage of his image by stealing more. Three bet in position more. Resteal more. Balance your range. Mix it up.

We all know that the books teach TAg play, which is fine for building a solid foundation to your game. But the problem is that more and more players these days have their own foundations well constructed. They're also on at least Level-2 thought. They're putting their opponents on a range and they're reacting accordingly. The range of a raising nit is easy to establish, and the correct reaction is just as easy to implement: fold.

The Guru used to preach that Action Begets Action. As you progress up in stakes, you need to begin to transition from TAg to semi-LAg play. You need to balance your ranges. You need to deceive. You need to get involved in more small pots, so that when you do pick up a hand you will get action. You want your opponents to start doubting you a little, so that they will pay you off with your Aces...

One of the keys to making the transition from break-even player to winning player is mastering the art of deception. Poker is all about getting the other guy to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Sklansky summed this up so perfectly in his Fundamental Theorem of Poker. Deception is all about leading your opponent to think you're playing one type of poker, when you're actually playing the opposite.

Beating a Level-2 thinking poker player requires you to be at Level-3. Said another way: poker is kind of like like jiu-jitsu. You have to use your opponent's perception of you to your own advantage. If they think you're a rock, steal more. If they think you're loose, get 'em to pay you off when you have the nuts. Get one step ahead of the opp, and then stay there....

...and maybe they won't put you on Aces next time.

What's Your Table Image?
All-in for now...

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