Litmus test question for weak players

    • vaulsc
      vaulsc
      Bronze
      Joined: 28.06.2012 Posts: 124
      Exercise: Try to think of a question, such that when an inexperienced, weaker player answers it, their opinion is likely to be so different from the kind of answer that an analytical, disciplined player would give - that the question itself acts as a kind of 'litmus test' for telling the difference between such players.

      I find this kind of exercise fascinating because there are a lot of people who have a very naive evaluation of their own poker ability, but are happy to answer technical questions about the game in a very candid way. To me, it can be very helpful when working out what kind of ability the person has, if I'm not already sure.

      The hard part is working out the best kind of question to ask - it has to be such that a strong player would generally answer in a completely different way than a weak player would.

      Here's my example;

      Imagine you have just sat down at a 9-handed table (including yourself) to play a cash game, where everyone has bought in for $100 and the blinds are $1/2$. You are UTG, first to act, and are dealt KJo. What would you do?

      My own answer: Fold. If you think of the possible outcomes split into the four categories - win small, lose small, win big, lose big - there is a negative expected value from this situation. The times that you simply win the blinds, or get called and then c-bet to win with top pair will balance out with the times that you are re-raised and must fold, or see an Ace or other scary board on the flop and must play out of position unprofitably. Occaisonally, you might get called and then flop two-pair or better, and win a big pot. But that won't balance out the bigger losses you will get into with 'top pair' situations such as KJo vs.... AA, KK, AK, KQ, etc... and because you are playing 9-handed under the gun, you'll be out of position so often, facing these kinds of hands often enough, and will be forced to make tough decision after tough decision un-necessarily. Note that KJo on the button, for example, is far more playable - I wouldn't hesitate to open-raise with it there.

      Without explaining the excercise, I asked someone who had been playing a good 15 years and who has read a number of books, been a poker dealer etc. They said:

      "Fold. KJo is a terrible hand in that position."
      me: "Can you think of anyone who would play it?"
      "Only a very loose, aggressive or weak player."

      I also asked someone who I suspected was a weak player who said:

      "I would raise to $7."

      And another completely different person, who had admitted to me that they were fairly new:

      "Well, if it was being played three or four handed, I would raise, but 9-handed I would call (limp) for sure."

      ----

      - How would you respond to this kind of question?
      - Would you expect good/bad players to respond to it differently?
      - Can you think of better questions, that more reliably result in contrasting answers when responded to by players of contrasting understanding (good/bad) of the game?
  • 4 replies
    • B0WSER
      B0WSER
      Bronze
      Joined: 11.03.2013 Posts: 18
      - How would you respond to this kind of question? - Same as you
      - Would you expect good/bad players to respond to it differently? Yes, but you would have to ask a large amount of players, not just ability but style of play to get a true result.
      - Can you think of better questions, that more reliably result in contrasting answers when responded to by players of contrasting understanding (good/bad) of the game? - As above about the amount of people asked...Any question you ask will be very contrasting so ask a lot of them.
    • Pilks7
      Pilks7
      Bronze
      Joined: 06.09.2010 Posts: 129
      The question doesn't separate good from bad players, it only separates beginners from very bad players.

      A good player would say it depends. They would want more information.

      For example, if all the players were very tight, apart from a loose fish in the blinds, i would suggest definitely playing this hand, and probably raising 4x+ ( but again, it depends)

      The scale and range of bad to good players is so vast, and the skill sets so varied, that the idea of separating them into two categories is itself slightly absurd.

      But if someone answered definitively, "fold every time", I would say they have a basic grasp of poker, but are most likely not a thinking player, and so not a strong player.
    • vaulsc
      vaulsc
      Bronze
      Joined: 28.06.2012 Posts: 124
      Great answers, guys. Try to imagine you are friends with a player that you've seen playing poker in person a couple of times, and they've had some average results, and you can't quite get a read on how well they are playing. Could you come up with a question about technical poker hands that would help you develop your understanding of: how well do THEY understand the game?
    • Pilks7
      Pilks7
      Bronze
      Joined: 06.09.2010 Posts: 129
      What stakes? FR/SH, MTT, SNG..?

      But very general questions (from basic to slightly more complex) i would ask them if they identify player types at their tables, and if they have different plans for different types; If they table select; If they range their opponents, and how well they understand equity vs a range..

      If you watch him play (and can see his cards) you should have a decent idea of how well he plays/his leaks etc.

      If he is more or less break even at microstakes, I would suggest he probably applies/understands very few of those concepts. If so, point him to pokerstrategy. Learning poker alongside a friend is so beneficial to both, take full advantage of it