Here's a recent example.
This is Tri.
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
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.
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.
There are a few other situations where some post-game analysis
can help me better understand my opponent's perception of my
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.
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
I discussed another email in this thread: