Playing Against Good Poker Players

Good Poker PlayerDid you ever finish playing a hand in a tournament and think “boy did I get outplayed there!”?

For me, as soon as I recognise a good player I make a note against that player for future battles that may occur.

There are a couple ways to balance this playing field somewhat even if you think the player is much better than you.

I consider myself to be a good poker player (not great) always striving to be better, to match up better to players I think are great.

I always try to learn why I’ve been outplayed. For one thing it helps me not to go on tilt if I think about the hand and where my mistake may have been so I can learn from it and not make it again in the future.

As a good player I have come across many weak players but I have also seen and played much better players that I am happy to admit. If you can’t admit that then you are being arrogant and not recognising that being a good poker player is always about learning and improving.

How to Identify Good Players?

The first task is to identify the better players and the weaker players. Unless you have played these players previously and have notes stored on them, then the only way to do this is to observe the action in the first hour of the tournament, or when the player first sits down at your table.

There are some other ways like looking up a players tournament results using online databases, but that is a little out of the scope of this article, but something you research yourself later if you wish.

To identify good players, just watch the action, see what starting hands they are playing and how they play after the flop. Do they chase draws all the way to the river, call big raises out of position with weak hands – probably indicates a weaker player. Do they demonstrate ability to fold a draw when the odds are in their favour, are they able to make big laydowns in bad situations – probably indicates a good player.

How to Play Against a Good Poker Player?

Let’s assume for the purposes of this article that I am a good player at a table with a split of weaker players and better players and let’s talk about the early and middle stages and playing the better players.

First off you should try and avoid good players as much as possible and target the weak players. That is not to say be afraid of them when you have a hand but just don’t play any pots with them on their terms. Be in control with a strong hand and play your normal game.

So it’s the early part of the tournament and you have identified a couple weak and strong players.  You should always strive to have position on any player you think is very good so that you can act after you have seen his actions.

I would be playing the hand aggressively and I would not try to trap as it probably won’t work anyway. Strong players will not chase any draws and will recognise any threats on the board and soon work out that you are slow playing as soon as your reveal your cover and bet/raise.

They will re-raise if they feel they are in the lead or fold if they don’t. A good player will recognise the importance of information in poker and will want to win the pot without showing their cards.

By being the aggressor in the hand, you are making your opponent work and think. The more you do this the better the chance that you can force a mistake. If you bet or raise after the flop then your opponent has to decide whether it is a continuation bet or do you really have something.  Let your opponent waste his brain power to do all the hard work.

That is really the basis for my strategy, when you play opponents who you think are good then put the ball in their court to make the decisions.  If they re-raise you can fold knowing they most likely had the better hand.

Evidence of why my strategy holds true

I think there is evidence to backup my strategy against good players. It’s when you see the pro’s complain of certain tournaments that don’t start with a deep stack and the blinds rise a little more quickly than they like.

I once read an article that Todd Brunson liked playing in his fathers tournament because of the structure, big starting stacks and low blind levels for a longer period of time.

Mr. Brunson had the following to say about tournament structure and how some current structures (low starting stacks, quicker blind level raises) are not to his liking.

“This is what I hate about contemporary tournament poker. Any idiot who is aggressive enough can win a tournament with minimal poker-playing skill. Ever notice that many of these tournament champs get eaten alive in the side (real) games? Hopefully, tournaments such as this will set the bar; slow down the tournaments and let us play real poker, instead of just moving all in.”

I think he is correct but I also feel it confirms my strategy to try and level the playing field.  I would love to be at Todd Brunson’s level of poker but that may take sometime so I have to do something to limit his advantage on me should we ever meet in a tournament.  You can really substitute any player you feel is better than you are for Mr. Brunson and put yourself in my place.

In poker I don’t think there is any one player that is number 1.

I think there is a group of players that are at the top but even that is constantly changing because there are always new up and comers that play just a bit differently, maybe use a different strategy that works for them.

As I said I think I will always be learning how to play the game of poker and will always try to learn from players who I think are better than me.  I have purchased a great many books by different authors to read about different strategies and how some successful players approach the game, its interest to read all the different approaches and thought patterns.

I think there will always be better players and when I meet up with them in a tournament there are a few things I can do to try and even up the playing field.

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