Adjusting Playstyle on the Fly and Factors to influence such changes -
Warning: Long. Also potentially incomplete and without proof read.
So I played a few hands at the live game here last night. And I played moderately tight aggressive, as I was card dead and missing a lot, and after a while I was up a bit, but I realized a giant, gaping hole in my game.
I cannot adjust to terrible players. I CANNOT.
I expect them to fold when they don't get pot odds
to call, when they do not. I expect them to play as though they care about the money, but they do not. So, taken from the special features of rounders, we move on to the first point I will make.
There are basically three types of poker players -
1. Players who play for the 'gamble'. These players may or may not have ever read a book about the game, but most of their poker education comes from ESPN or their weak home game. They are playing against you because it's fun to.
2. Players who play for the 'challenge'. They enjoy poker, know a considerable amount about it, wish to do well, but play mainly because they find some deep enjoyment in besting their opponents. Whether it's making a hero call or paying for a draw that doesn't add up, they are playing to beat other people, for the thrill of the win.
3. Players who play for money. This guy plain and simple plays for money. He dreads making the incorrect decision, he counts his outs, knows his lingo, advanced concepts, and may be better than you. There are ways to reduce this player. Example: Outplay him all night, put him in a lot of tough decisions, and make him pay, and let him know he's failing (This can be very risky, but it is but a mean to an end.) He may shift to trying to beat you, which can be profitable, but also be risky.
Now, that we've covered the basic types of players, we know that we have LAG and TAG players, and unconventional players (such as myself).
It stands to reason that if your table is full of nits, you can stand to gain a lot of small pots by running bluffs, however you are likely to run into monsters eventually. The same can be said for a table full of LAG players, generally these players are so caught up in running bluffs and crazy bets, they tend to not see the information right in front of them, that the guy who hasn't played a hand in 3 orbits has check/called them to the river and they're gonna keep barrelling into our big hand with 2nd pair. You can win large pots against these villains by tightening your game.
But these points are pretty much common knowledge, and not worth elaborating on for the purpose of this post. But it is a good example of changing your standard game to adapt to your opponents, and your opponents are the single most important factor to adjust to.
Here are some factors I consider when I decide my action.
1. What is my opinion of villain? Most players at lower stakes get so caught up in playing their hole cards, little else matters to them. If they haven't played a hand in a few orbits, and wake up with JJ, they'll 3-bet you and consider calling your 4-bet even when they expect they're behind, especially if you've taken steps to reduce them from a player who plays for money to a player who plays for a challenge. He will be more likely to call with underdog hands, which we will make him pay forr.
2. What is villain's opinion of me? If he regards me as a threat, he will be cautious with me and fold to relentless aggression without strong holdings. If he regards me as a maniac, he will call me down lighter, and pay me off when I have strong holdings. This is especially important. If you adjust your style of play, your villain's opinion of you will be wrong, and they will mistake that third barrel as a serious hand that they cannot beat, or suspect you're trying to trap them when you check and you really want to draw, which may add value to your bluffs but detract from the value of your made hands.
3. What is our effective stacksize? My prefered game is 150 BBs+ deep. As a matter of fact, I prefer 200 BBs. Better yet, 250. I like to target people with money. They have more room to make a mistake, and more room for me to punish them for it. I especially appreciate it if they consistantly fall into an arch-type that is easy to play against. NIT, Maniac, Table Captain? All have their weaknesses, and at 250 BBs effective stacks, I get a lot of implied pot odds
and chances to draw out with weaker hands when I can punish my opponent.
4. What is my history with villain? While this can fall under villain's opinion of me and vice-versa, this is a little bit more personal, and a bit more expensive. In one session, I sat to the right of a villain with a deepstack (boo), bought in for the max 100 BBs, and slowly and surely outplayed him at several junctures. He eventually got to the point where instead of focusing on money, we were both 200 BBs deep and he knew he was behind, but still called me down with inferior hands just because in spite of what he believed in his gut, he could outplay me, or I was trying to outplay him. He shipped me his entire stack, and was no longer of interest, or consequence to me, until he built his stack up again.
5. How much is in the pot, who is in it, and how many players must I beat? All self explanatory, but I'll touch on them regardless. If the pot is tiny and our chances to improve are a long shot and our villain overbets, it is usually better to take a stand elsewhere. Is a weak shortstack in the pot? Are they likely to jam? If they do, what does the rest of our action look like? What was the action leading up to the flop. Who am I likely to be ahead, to be behind, to have good draws on? Obviously straights and flushes have more value in multiway pots (especially well concealed ones), as we can bet less and as long as we get several callers, build the pot. A $60 bet heads up serves the same purpose for pot building as a $30 bet does in a three way pot if everybody calls (adding $60 to the pot that did not come from our stack, being the purpose). To touch upon the shortstack villain again, is he likely to raise for us? If we have a crippled stack, on the brink of exterminiation, I'll slow-play hands. A couple examples, I wake up with AA under the gun. The CO was recently crippled and now sits with just under 5 Buy-Ins. I expect he'll jam with any two cards with decent pot odds, so to make the pot odds sweeter for everybody else, making the jam more likely for our opponent. I like to limp here, with the intent of re-raising a jam as an apparent squeeze play, getting credit for weaker holdings, and more likely to get action frrom players who wish to punish us for punishing them. Another instance is when we flop a big hand on a dry board, and the same short stack decides it's time to jam. What follows is an actual hand history my friend and I shared once.
9 handed, 1/3 NL, short buy-in game, live.
I'm BB with 92o. Friend is SB and terribly shortstacked. 7 limps, friend completes, I check. Flop comes 972 rainbow. Friend jams. I consider raising, but I know that by calling here I can offer sweet pot odds for people to act after me. While were I not holding a monster, I might raise here to try and protect my friend's holdings, but I'm looking to collect a giant pot, and want as many people to have a chance at it as possible, because if things go south I can get away from this hand. At this game most of my villains are players playing for the 'gamble', so they might all call with some deranged notion that we're trying to put my friend out, and not win the most money possible. We get called all around. All future betting will be on the side. The turn is a T, which doesn't help our cause, but can complete a lot of hands that might have called against us. T9 being the most obvious, albeit unlikely, but also 68 and 8J, not that we are particularly worried, but now there are enough cards with draws that we want to charge. We bet enough to hopefully get called by the likes of top pair, so we can dodge their kicker and not get counterfeitted on the river, and value bet the river. We get 3 calls. The sidepot is much bigger than the main, which is sizable in itself. The river is a 9. Our friend is a dolt and flips over his hand, thinking he's won. I note that he also holds 92 and I am only beaten by TT. Given the absense of raise on any street I am sure I have the best hand, and wish to inflate the side pot, stuck chopping the side. I jam, get one call, and rake in a significant amount.
6. What has happened so far in this hand? If preflop was 3-bet, and the flop action was 3-bet, I'd think long and hard before calling with a weak hand like 2nd pair no kicker (as a matter of fact it's an instant fold short of great pot odds, implied or otherwise), but 2nd pair no kicker on a turn that had some preflop action and then has been checked to is much more likely to elicit action from me. Keep in mind what happened during the hand is very important, but also great importance comes from the people performing the actions.
To further elaborate, sometimes, it's personal. While I prefer not to 'gun' for any player, let's face it, sometimes we can use a grudge to our advantage. We make a huge bluff on villain (or worse, he on us), and he decides to get us back. We feign weakness as he barrels and barrels, and as he jams the river with weak holdings trying to get his revenge on us, we add his stack to our own. On a side note, remember your target is chip accumulation, not trumping any given villain with some wild and off the wall play.
Now, how do you change your Playstyle on the fly? Here are some examples.
We're deep. We raise preflop with less than premium holdings, hoping to entice other deepstacks. Two deepstacks call our preflop action, but a short stack makes an outlandish raise (only because their stack is so short, obv the only move for them will be to jam on any flop, and never fold preflop, our only option is to call and risk having to make a decision with two cards to come, and three on the board, when we suspect our villain will jam.
Now, it's time to go to the difac, so discuss as you will, and I will continue to touch up on such points once my work for the day has been completed to fit government standard. (Half-assed.)