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Why is he playing like that against me?

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Why is he playing like that against me?

by Tri Nguyen

This is an excerpt from Tri SlowHabit“
Nguyen’s book “How I Made My
First Million from Poker”.

My favorite thing to do at the poker table is to pick someone to go after over and over again. The reason is simple. He is prone to tilt and once he does, he will play badly and give me money.

Having someone in mind also forces me to play better because I am constantly paying attention to see if he has snapped. By the same token, if there is a winning player who is constantly doing something against me, no matter how bad or good his strategy is, it tells me something about my game.

I remember playing against a player who seemed to reraise me out of the blinds whenever I opened from late positions. I always called because this guy kept 3-betting me, seemingly every time, and thus I came to think he couldn't always have it when he did. But after a few days, I realized I was taking it personally. I wasn't thinking about why he kept 3-betting me.

The main reason he was doing so was actually quite simple: It was because I sucked against him in 3-bet pots. He made money whenever he put me in such a situation, so it was to his advantage to put me there every chance he got. I took offense to this because out of all the players he could be picking on, he chose me. But finally I realized this is poker and money talks. If I wanted him to stop 3-betting me, I had to figure out how to make him lose money when the two of us were in a 3-bet situation.

Adjust to their adjustments

I started paying attention to what hands he was 3-betting me with, and, lo and behold, I discovered he was always 3-betting me for value. In PLO, it's tough to fold pre-flop against 3-bets so I call all the time. This player realized that, so he only 3-bet with hands that dominated my calling range and proceeded to play them aggressively post-flop. I was basically drawing dead. So how did I adjust versus his strategy? I came up with a few ways to do so.

Overview: All chapters of the book
What can you expect
Foreword by Barry Greenstein
Introduction
Preparation
A Poker Journal
Balance Between Life and Poker
The Learner
The Happiness Scale
Mindfulness
What's Your Edge?
The Routine
Working on My Game
Working on Your Game
Poker Coaching
Side Income
The Downswing
Building a Bankroll
Bankroll Management
Why Do You Play Poker?
The Command Center
You Don't Choose The Game
A-ha Moment
Recommended Video Series
Recommended Software
Recommended Readings

One was to make my pre-flop raise smaller so the stack-to-pot ratio would be deeper, making it harder for him to end the hand on 2 streets with a c-bet and a turn bet. By lowering my pre-flop sizing, I now was more often able to play the river in position. But raising less than 3x was a lot of work because I had to type out the numbers instead of just clicking, so I didn't do it. What I did instead was start 4-betting. Whether it was theoretically a correct strategy to 4-bet with weak hands, I didn't know nor did I care. I just wanted him to realize that he couldn't run me over. If he wanted to go to variance war (I was essentially saying), let's throw some punches. I've got some passive income on the side, so sometimes my testicles appear a little bigger than they are.

The best strategy here, though, is to fold more and 4-bet only with monsters when he 3-bets me. Since he was constantly 3-betting me every time he had something decent, I adjusted by folding a lot of weak hands. As a result, he was actually playing his value hands against my newly adjusted range full of monster hands. And from out of position, too.

That's an example of how I improve when I'm playing poker at the table. I look at how better players are abusing me and I try to understand what they are thinking. I know what I'm thinking. I just need to figure out why they are playing the way they are because surely, whatever they are doing, they are trying to exploit something in my game. If I want to beat players who play a similar strategy as I do, I should try to look for spots where they are putting me in a difficult decision. Chances are, players with similar styles to myself are experiencing the same difficulties I am.

Uncommon spots for valuable information

There are a few other situations where some post-game analysis can help me better understand my opponent's perception of my play.

When I bet a river and I get insta-called by a hand that isn't the nuts or near nuts, this presents a prime opportunity for some self-study. Although the call doesn't necessarily tell me much about my opponent's thinking level, it definitely tells me a lot about my game. Somewhere during the hand, I must have given off a timing tell or a bet-sizing tell that allowed someone to make such a hero call on me without much consideration.

Since the river call came so quickly, that meant somewhere on the flop or turn I did something to give him a read that I had a weak range. I would surely look over the hand history to try to see what he's thinking. Perhaps there's a leak in my game that he figured out.

By the same token, you should never, ever snap-call someone on the river without the nuts. Sure, it's cool when you are right. But why give your opponent free information regarding his play? Let him make the same mistake over and over again.

Another spot I try to look for is if my opponent is value-betting me thin. First, it shows that he's good. But secondly, it gives me a lot of information regarding my river play. Basically, in his eyes, I'm not good enough to give him enough trouble on the river to prevent him from value-betting thin. In other words, he thinks against me that he has the green light to bet whenever he wants. What this means is I'm either not showing up at the river with strong hands often against him or he thinks I'm incapable of a check-raise bluff on the river.

Once I see someone make a thin value-bet against me, the first thing that comes to my mind is how I'm going to turn my hand into a bluff the next time I feel his bet-sizing screams value-betting. This is a somewhat superficial analysis of the situation, but it gives me a starting point on what I need to do.

It has been said poker is a game of information and at any point in time, either you or your opponent is taking advantage of this information. You are doing something against him based on your collective information of him and he is doing what he does based on the information he has gathered about you. By paying attention to what he does, you can understand what type of information he possesses about you and how you can go about taking advantage of it.

Let 'em have it sometimes

This brings me to another point. The common advice is to keep abusing the guy over and over if he's unable to fight back. However, against good players who might catch up, what you should consider doing is not exploit his mistake every time or else, eventually, he will catch on and fix his mistake. For example, if I get to the river versus a certain player and I always see a big bet, what this means is he thinks I fold a lot or he thinks I call a lot. No one has that many good hands to be constantly making big river bets. So if I call and win or lose, I take a note on the strength of his hand. If it was a monster, that means he's constantly playing with good hands because he thinks I'm a calling station. If he shows me a bluff, that means he thinks I fold the river to big bets too often. Whatever it is, it gives me a glimpse of what he thinks of my river range. And if he wants to keep taking money from me at the river, he should let me win once in a while so I don't get suspicious of what he's doing while he has some sort of backdoor insight into my poker balance.

Want to read more?

This is an excerpt from Tri SlowHabit“ Nguyen’s book “How I Made My First Million from Poker”. If you would like to read more you can buy the book here. At the check-out enter the discount code “PokerStrategy” to receive a 10% discount on the sales price.