25/05/2009

It’s All Poker at the End of the Day

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

I remember years ago when the first poker game that I ever properly studied was limit hold ‘em. At that time I had the idea that every single poker variation was individual in nature and that making the leap from one variation to another was a massive step to take and one that had to be planned carefully.

This is still true of course but over the years with increased knowledge, it is now obvious that the games are not as different as I first imagined and that the differences were something that I basically constructed within my own mind. For instance if you are successful at playing NL50 full-ring then as long as you apply all round poker concepts then making the jump to playing PLO50 full-ring should be a relatively simple one that could be achieved with merely doing a little homework on PLO.

Switching from full-ring to six handed or from six handed to heads up or maybe from cash games to tournaments is not what I am referring to. These are changes that can be and are far more difficult simply because of the fact that a players own personality now has a far greater impact on potential results. If you are the type of player who prefers the sit and wait approach of full-ring grinding as this suits your cautious personality then switching from full-ring NLHE to six handed may be a far tougher switch than switching to say full-ring PLO.

But yet its amazing just how many players wouldn’t think twice about switching from full-ring to six max NLHE “because its still hold’em” but would shy away from full-ring PLO because “its an entirely different game”. But yet switching from full-ring NLHE to six max now also involves playing a different game. But if your style means that you prefer full-ring games then moving from NL to PL to limit to PLO to O/8 etc shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

For instance, let us say that you have only ever played full-ring NLHE. You already know how important position is in that form of poker. You also know how hand values change based on your various position. You also know how the value of a raisers hand changes based on where that raise came from. You also know that there will be players at the lower levels dropping in who perhaps are not experienced cash game players and don’t have the patience.

Do I need to go on? I don’t but I will... in a three way pot... the player to your right bets on the turn... they are aggressive... overly so. Your hand is mediocre and could easily be better than the action Jackson to your right but you are concerned that if you call, the player to your left may come along to. So you decide to raise to knock out the player to your left and your raise is based purely on the range of the initial bettor than on the strength of your own hand... do you think that this concept applies to only one form of poker?

Or how about adjusting your ranges based on how your opponent is playing pre-flop or whether they are tilting or not. Can you see what I am getting at here, if you are experienced at one form of poker then to a certain extent, you already know how to play poker.

If you are very good at game selecting and take the time to find good profitable games using whatever devices you have at your disposal then this is something that will stand you in very good stead should you switch to another form of poker. Anyone who takes this much care to find beatable games would succeed at playing another form of poker with minimal preparation based purely and simply on their professionalism alone.

If you have never played PLO in your life then this does not mean that you cannot be successful straight away. It isn’t difficult to find losing or weak PLO players at the lower levels and you are already off to a great start by sitting in games with players who are not strong at PLO. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to learn the mechanics of the game but that process doesn’t take as long as you may think. The trick is to identify that all poker variations share numerous common concepts and strategies and that much of what you already know and do can be successfully taken with you and transferred.

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