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Understanding Opponents

Understanding Opponents
By Loki Luchs

When you sit down at a poker table, one of the first things that you need to do is to be able to understand who you're playing with. Are these players maniacs? Are they rocks or calling-stations? Do they have any ides how to actually play? A while back I found myself entertaining one of our frequent guests, who had settled down in front of the one-armed-bandits and showed no sign of leaving. Patient as I am, I caught the subtle hints that she had no intention of leaving until all of her money was gone. I meandered away, content to let her lose her money without having to be under my statistical eye. As always, I ended up in the poker room. This particular off-strip casino, however, has one of the smallest rooms in the city. If there is a game going, it's only 3/6 limit, and it's never full. I plopped down in a seat and after a short time, they had enough for a 4 handed game.

One of the best feelings in poker is playing short-handed. Short-handed play intensifies the edge good players have, because you can lower your expectation of what will win a hand. If you've only got a few opponents, you can legitimately play any two cards and know that even if you don't catch, your opponents probably didn't either. If you know that you can outplay your opponents most of the time, then there's never a reason to fold!

In this particular game, however, I encountered something that I had never seen before. I've played against thousands of calling-stations, but the Air Force Major playing with me was unlike anything I've ever heard of. The more I played with him, the more in-destructible I felt. He would lead out on every pre-flop and flop, calling if you raised him. He would then check-call every turn and river without having any hand at all. I had to adjust what hands I would bet out against, because there was no hand he wouldn't call down with! I felt confidence in betting 6th pair, because he would never raise me with a better hand and would frequently call with less. At one point, he flat-called to the river and showed-down a 7 high! After he had re-bought his ATM limit, the game broke and I walked out of this tiny, short-handed game up over 100 big bets!

If you're lucky enough to find yourself in a situation where you're against opponents that are this weak, you must be able to change your playing style to take maximum advantage of their frailty. I still have moments where as hard as I might try, I can't conceive how any of these players have enough money to buy in! I continuously over-estimate their abilities, because sometimes it doesn't seem possible that they are really THAT stupid! The fact of the matter is this: they really are! I can't tell you how many millions of people are in the world that are morons and still have money! Just remember: If you don't change up your style to maximize your profits, they're not the only dumb ones at the table.

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