Quarantine has temporarily changed our lives. For me, it has postponed a movie and the APAT tour, which are negatives. At the same time, it has led to the publication of more books, co-hosting the FlopHouse Radio show, and the FlopHouse Radio Poker Series, which is a free winner-take-all poker tournament for bragging rights.
We have completed five weeks of that poker tournament series, and since I’m writing about it, I’ll show some love to the five winners: Kim Lepa, David Murphy, Janet Fitzgerald, Donna Karpavicius, and Mike Nelson.
During this stay-at-home journey (interesting phrase), I have had many conversations with poker players. Some of these people are amateur poker players, some are semi-pro poker players, and some are professional poker players.
The semi-pro poker players and pro poker players win more than the amateur poker players, but you would be surprised to find that many semi-pro poker players do just as well as professional poker players. They just have a different way of getting there.
What has stood out to me most throughout these conversations is that everyone is focused on how well they read other players. This conversation is brought up often because many live players have been forced to switch to online poker. Many conversations are brought up about the differences in being able to read people online vs. live poker.
Let’s briefly go down this road first since it offers value and you might be curious. After that, we’ll get to the main point of this article, which is Are You Readable?
READING ONLINE PLAYERS
I could write a long list of differences between live and online poker. It’s a very different game. Online poker also favors the technical-oriented left-brained players more than the creative right-brained players. However, whether you’re left-brained or right-brained, you should always focus on betting patterns.
That’s live or online, but it’s actually much easier to pick up betting patterns online. There are two main reasons for this. One, you’re seeing people play more hands, which allows you to gather more information on them. Two, the pot is automatically calculated and you get to see how players bet based on the pot size.
I’ll give you an example. I play in an online poker club called The Weekender. I’m not going to reveal names. I’ll go with Player A, Player B, and Player C. Wait a second! That’s fucking boring. Let’s make it The Lion, The Witch, and The Bitch.
Chill! There is actually nobody I think is a witch or a bitch in The Weekender. They’re all very cool. I promise. I just thought of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe and that’s what came to mind: The Lion, The Witch, and The Bitch. There are some women in there that you might call a bitch because they play good poker, but there is no bitch. Not even close. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. So … just play along.
We’re starting with The Lion first anyway. The Lion is a patient player who “naps” for most of a poker tournament. When he wakes up, you best watch out! You better run back to that safari-tour jeep and hit the gas. He ain’t playin’. He only wakes up if he wants to take your chips, sometimes your entire stack. He’s a tight player, but when he gets involved he has no fear. He won’t hesitate putting you to the test on the river when he has air. Let’s look closer though.
When The Lion flops top pair, he bets the pot.
When The Lion flops a big draw, he bets the pot.
When The Lion flops middle pair or any other type of marginal hand and he’s out of position, he checks.
When The Lion flops middle pair or any other type of marginal hand and it’s checked to him when he’s in position, he bets half the pot.
When The Lion is on a draw, he bets every street and fires huge on the river whether he hits or misses that draw.
To figure out where The Lion stands, you have to go back to his pre-flop action.
If he raised 3x the Big Blind from Middle Position, the flop is Ah Kh 5d, and he bets the pot on the flop, he’s either got top pair, second pair, top two, or a nut flush draw. There is an outside chance he has a straight draw, but that’s only possible if he has 1-2 opponents. If it’s three opponents or more, he’s not betting that draw.
If he limped from Middle Position with the same flop and checks, we can immediately eliminate top pair, top two, and a flush draw. We have to ask ourselves: Why would this player limp from Middle Position?
He’s a tight player that only likes to take risks when he already committed a lot of chips. He doesn’t have QJ, QT, JT, or anything like that because he doesn’t want to be raised pre, which would either lead to wasted chips or put him in a dangerous situation.
If he checks that flop after limping from Middle Position, it’s very likely to be a middle pocket pair. It’s also possible he has Ax-suited, but you don’t need to worry about that as much because it’s likely the wrong suit and he probably would have put a feeler bet out there on the flop.
Now let’s take a look at The Witch.
The Witch is always going to return fire with a premium hand, and she’s willing to go the distance with that hand.
If you have TT in the Cutoff, you raise 3x the Big Blind, and she re-raises from the Big Blind, you’re likely behind. However, it’s possible she has AK. That’s something we would find out on the flop.
She is never going to flat with a premium hand, even if she’s raised.
Some players would re-raise her here with TT, but that’s not the correct move against this player. She is out of position and will let you know where she stands on the flop. I don’t mean this in the standard sense because she’s going to c-bet no matter what. I mean this in a different sense.
The correct play against this player is to raise, but only if there is no A or K on the flop. Otherwise, raise no matter what. If she calls or raises, you’re in trouble. That’s assuming there is no T on the flop. If she whiffed, she will fold.
The Witch will attack until you snag her broom and whack her over the head with it.
The Bitch is a completely different type of player, and you need to play her differently because of it. The Bitch is one of the strongest players in this club. And, as a reminder, she is NOT a bitch! It just rhymed.
Anyway, most strong players have a HUGE weakness! It’s called Ego. They can know every in and out of the game, but if you know that, you can use it to your advantage. All it takes it one little comment that will offend them. They will go into RAGE MODE! That can be external or internal, but it doesn’t matter.
This will lead to them playing way too fast in an attempt to prove something, which will then lead to them losing all their chips. From there, they will hate you, but if you want to win, you want to be hated. It’s part of the game. But also let them know after the game that it’s just part of the game and that you’re actually a cool dude off the felt.
Many of you don’t want to go the Verbal Tilt Route. That’s cool. You have another excellent option. You can still go the Play Bad Tilt Route. This pertains to you playing bad on purpose. I’m about to share a well-kept secret with you.
If I feel like another player is a real threat, I’m going to change my game. When I’m on the Button with 9h 7h and they raise 3.5x the Big Blind from UTG +1, I’m going to call. I’m way behind, but that’s the point. If I hit that flop, I’m going to play the hand as though I have a different hand and let them lead. If the hand plays out where I have a winner, I will aim for the ideal river bet to get a call.
The ideal bet is obviously the amount where I will get called—without going too high so my opponent will fold. When that call is made and I table 9h 7h as a winner, it’s RAGE TIME! I’m not the one raging though.
I’m going to share another secret with you. Of all the professional poker players I have met, I would say only about 5% are capable of not reacting to something like this. About 95% of them—no exaggeration—will have a comment, share their misery with someone later, make a face, or do something to indicate their frustration.
A great poker player doesn’t just mean knowing the game. It also means emotional fortitude. And THAT is very difficult to find. Not surprisingly, the absolute most successful players I know have emotional fortitude. They win consistently.
I’m trying to tell you something here. Put your Ego to the side when I write the following. If you feel like someone at the table might be a better player than you, don’t fight fire with fire. Everyone does that! And your opponent is ready for it. Instead, fight fire with poison. This will lead to that player not liking you, but that’s emotion, and you want the strongest player at your table to get emotional.
I should add that when you don’t hit that flop, it’s an easy fold. Get out of there immediately. But still pick those spots against this player. You’re basically aiming for Emotional Implied Odds. It only takes one hand to tilt them up.
ARE YOU READABLE?
Give me ten sessions with someone and I’ll know their patterns. Cocky? Maybe. But this is my greatest strength. How else would I be able to win in this game when I’m not an expert in any other area? I need to know my strengths and focus on them. I also need to improve my weaknesses. My problem there is that I’m always writing (and exercising), so I don’t find the time to fix those weaknesses, but I will soon. At the current time, if I read something, I want it to be something not related to poker because I want an escape.
Are you readable to other people? If you think that’s the case, do what I do. Make it appear as though you’re readable, but that’s the plan. Someone just said they were surprised I would raise with AT UTG because I’m a tight player. Really? I’m a tight player, but I also jam pre with 33, call with Ace-high, and 4-bet with 76-suited, but only in the right spots. My image allows me to do these things.
If I jam pre with 33, it’s usually a squeeze because the original raiser bet 3x the Big Blind and that player always raises more than that with AA, KK, QQ, and because there were limpers. I will usually get all folds in this spot. If not, so be it. I was aggressive, and I like that. And I still get to see all five cards.
I’m able to call with Ace-high in some spots because I’m seen as a tight player. Many people assume tight players have no reading ability and aren’t willing to make those calls. I am not that person. I want people to think I’m tight so they try stupid bluffs against me on the river. That’s how I accumulate most of my chips in a poker tournament. It’s a rope-a-dope.
Then we have four-betting with 76-suited, which is a horrible play, but only if you’re looking at the small picture. I have been playing in the same club for almost two months now. I need to let my opponents know that I’m willing to put all my chips at risk with a hand like this.
The objective isn’t to win the hand (that would be nice). The objective is to confuse my opponents and to get more calls when I 4-bet with AA, KK, and QQ down the road. I will usually use this play in a smaller buy-in tournament, but it’s against the same players. My risk is limited because it’s a smaller buy-in event, but their perception will still be the following: Shit … Tyler is capable of 4-betting with 76-suited.
I have somehow succeeded in this game without being a technical expert and using strategical mind to my advantage. Use your greatest strengths to your advantage.
Most players are readable. Whether you’re playing live or online, pay attention to their betting patterns. They will give themselves away. The key is to capitalize off those patterns.
If one player always bets the pot when he flops a strong hand, you know to use caution. If the same player bets half the pot on the flop, you can attack.
If the next player always c-bets the flop after a pre-flop raise, put her to the test unless the flop comes high. It’s really that simple. If she has it, she will remain involved. If she doesn’t have it, she will fold.
If the third player is strong and a real threat and raises from early position when you have a drawing hand in position, call. Most strong players have a major weakness, which is Ego. They feel they’re entitled to win. If you win this hand and have an opportunity to show your hand, this ‘strong player’ will crumble to tiny little pieces. You have won by intentionally playing bad.
This, of course, is what puts the “Tilt” in motion. Pick your spots on this. Don’t force it. You will know the correct times. If you whiff the flop, it’s an easy fold, but wait for the right spot again. Once you win that one hand against this opponent where you had ‘no right’ to call, they’re toast.
HERE’S THE BIGGEST QUESTION: ARE YOU READABLE?
Answer: You want to be! But not in the traditional sense. If you can get your opponents to believe that you’re readable because you have certain patterns when you’re actually playing a much different game, you have the edge. Enjoy that edge. See you at the WSOP!