Thursday, October 18, 2012

Talking about Listening about Thinking about Reading

Online you can easily type real-time notes into your poker client, as well as look at HUD stats to make pretty solid reads. You can look at hand histories while in the heat of battle, and even look up the players' online stats. In live poker, however, all of this data collection is much harder, if not impossible. Even though the action is much slower, it can be very difficult to keep track of who did what, when, and why. When you have 8-9 players at a table, and you're tucked in behind the dealer in the one-seat, this can be, frankly, overwhelmingly difficult to fully categorize and read everyone's traits and tendencies. I've been thinking about this following last week's live MTT, in which I did a pretty good job of reading, but at times I lost track of who was doing what. Live reads are tough for an online player to learn.

Serendipitously, I listened to last week's Thinking Poker podcast, in which they talked about live hand reading and how online people can and should adjust. Here are some notes I took down following the 'cast:
  1. First, work on spotting the fish. We all know the old adage that says if you can't spot the sucker in the first 30 minutes of play, it's you. But what should you do if you do manage to spot the sucker? Answer: pay close attention to them. The reality of poker is that most of your money will come from the weaker players. Figure out who they are and work on reading them. Said another way, focus on the money source. For example, fish like to "play perfectly," at least in their own minds. You can often pick up bet sizing tells from them, because they "know" that a big hand means a big pot, etc.. Watch them, work on spotting their leaks, and then exploit them.
  2. Focus on the players immediately to your right. Money flows clockwise around the table toward the button. Therefore pay attention to the players upstream of you, as you will have position on them nearly all the time, and therefore you should have an exploitable edge over them. Figure out how they're playing, and then attack their weaknesses.
  3. The flip side to the previous bullet point is to pay attention to how tough the player to your immediate left is. He'll have an advantage over you most of the time, so figure out how you can best staunch the flow of money in his direction from your stack. How tough is he? Does he 3bet light with real hands? Or a wide range? Does he defend? Does he iso? And so on.
  4. Narrate each and every hand played out in your head in real time.This helps you focus, and supposedly let's your subconscious work on the problem of categorizing players and their tendencies. A simple example might be: "UTG limped. It's the first time I've seen him do this. He's usually pretty aggro, so why the limp? Now the MP guy raised. He does that a lot. Probably with his whole range here. Maybe UTG is planning to limp-RR. But now the CO flat called. He seems to like to see flops. Action is to me here in the SB. Oh, I have JJ. What's my equity here? How likely am I going to get squeezed by UTG? Very. I should fold."
There's nothing in this post that is particularly earth shattering or new, but it is all useful advice to hear again and keep in mind when sitting down at a live table. Us online guys need all the help we can get.

All-in for now...

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