18/09/2008

Where is the Money Coming From?

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

I think that before you take a seat in any poker game be it online or in some card room then it pays to have some kind of a plan as to how you intend to make money. Too many poker players seem to drift into games having no idea what they need to be doing in order to win. Now to have a good idea as to where the money will be coming from (if at all) in a poker game then you need to know three things.

  1. Your own level of knowledge/ability
  2. The level of knowledge and ability of your opponents
  3. Their overall style of play and what their objectives are

You can quite often suss out a players objectives after only a round or two. For instance if I am playing in a SNG and I see a player fail to attack the blinds when in position and then fail to defend them or play back at a steal raise then my initial impression is that here is a player who is possibly playing a conventional tight to start type of strategy. They will be hoping to maybe hit a hand or two but will essentially be reserving their aggression for later in the tournament when the blinds are bigger.

There is nothing wrong with this strategy but once you know what someone is doing and for how long then it opens up opportunities to attack them and take chips from them. The same can definitely be said for cash games too and it is blatantly obvious to me within a very short space of time if a player is playing what I call “conventional poker”.

There is nothing wrong with conventional poker either but it is exploitable once you home in on what your opponents are doing and your BB/100 can sky rocket when you play poker in this way single tabling. But you must at least be aware in just how your opponents are trying to extract money from the game because only when you know this can you then tailor a strategy to beat the game or in some cases, an individual opponent.

Many professional players do this while multi-tabling but this tends to be a combination of them having a sound and solid technical game at the level that they are playing at. This allows them the luxury of being able to play numerous tables because their default game coupled with the average skill level of their opposition means that they can make good money playing and operating that way and especially when they use tracking software.

But underpinning it all is the fact that after a long process of hard work that they know what they have to do to beat the game based on what they know about their own game and of their opponents.

Quite often in bigger games, hyper aggressive players are my favourite types of players for the simple reason that their level of aggression will make it easier for me to get the money because the money is being put on the table in greater amounts. What I don’t like is low stakes nit type games where two out of three hands get folded round to the big blind.

But even in a game like this then it is easy to tune in to what your opponents are doing. Firstly you know one thing what they are not doing and that is gambling! Once you know that the players in your game are not opening up their ranges then you can start to open up yours.

But whenever I am sitting in what is a weak/tight type game then I am very careful not to overstep the mark. You know the type of game that I am referring to, you are sat watching a six handed game and you cannot spot any significant difference in style between the six players. Everyone feels comfortable in that game and this is an opportunity to make money….but not tons of money.

If you go onto the table and start trying to drastically alter the table dynamic by betting and raising all over the place then your opponents are either going to leave or start playing back. If you are going to steal and you want to consistently get away with it then you had better make sure that you do it in amounts that are acceptable to your opponents in a way that they fail to notice.

In a $1-$2, no one would notice if you were to extract $20 an hour from this game and the turnover of players would help you in your objective even more. But if you are playing in a game where the implied odds on your big hands are very small then you need to look for alternative ways to make money in that game besides getting big hands paid off by players overplaying good second best hands.

How you go about analysing a game in order to ascertain what is the correct viable money making strategy is not always easy. If you are already beating the game at the level that you are at then you have already found the answer to that particular puzzle. But if you switch games then you need to tune into your opponents styles and it doesn’t matter how good you are, every style has a weakness or weaknesses.

Once you identify them then you can begin to plot a way to beat your opponents and that’s when making money at poker becomes a whole lot easier.

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