First time I played at the casino I barely choked a word out to anybody else on the table, tried not to make eye-contact and focused on my cards. I played tight and bubbled out.
I loosened up the hand-range second time around and embraced the banter. I busted before the break. Needless to say, I’m pretty average at the best of times but I never realised I was making the same mistake on both occasions, I practice by playing free poker games – But I wasn’t playing the situation.
This ‘situational play’ has just been brought to my attention by Daniel O’Callaghan who posted on PKR’s Raise Your Game about it before Christmas.
The main lesson I learnt from ‘danshreddies’ was to never fall in love with my holding cards or what I think to be reads on my opponents.
Play the Situation in Online Poker
Online, it’s much harder to gather information on your nemeses and so ‘playing the player’ in this arena is a dodgy strategy – especially in MTTs.
Shifting from table to table happens a lot when you play poker online and it’s not like in the casino where you can hear action points from other tables going down. So, it’s even more difficult to get reads on players who aren’t on your screen.
For this reason alone, O’Callaghan’s school of thought is worth considering before your next MTT registration:
“[Think about our] cards, our position, our opponents’ tendencies, table dynamic, our image, and undoubtedly among the most important, our stack size (this list is by no means exhaustive).”
Position: If you push on the Big Blind into a pot of six+ people, does that appear stronger or weaker than a push under the gun? Well, it kind of depends on the rest of O’Callaghan’s factors…
Have your opponents been easy to shake off hands previously? Have there been a lot of busy pots recently? How active have you been prior to this hand? How many chips are you actually shoving?
To put all this into context, let’s take a dummy hand scenario:
Final table of an MTT and you’re chip leader and fourth to act.
You get dealt J/10 of hearts.
The three players to act before you all fold.
You can fold, call the big blind of $2k, or raise to $6k (you could shove but that’s only going to make everybody fold or put you in race against a monster).
Let’s say you raise to $6k and the second-biggest stack calls, as does the Big Blind. The pot’s now $19k.
Flop lands 6(H), A(H) and 6(D). Big Blind checks. Your turn to act…
In order to know what to do here, we need to take into account what kind of hands the second-biggest stack has been venturing into pots with and how often the Big Blind has defended. If the latter defends with pretty much anything and is now checking the flop, he could easily be slow playing trip-sixes. How strong has your bet appeared to be? Do these players in the pot think you’re bullying with your chip-lead status or do they respect you?
Only you can know this from how the poker strategy has been played out so far and you also need to consider the implications after this hand…
If you put a continuation bet in there and get trapped into chasing your flush, it could turn sour. If you exit the pot and give the second-biggest stack a chance to defeat the BB, effectively leapfrogging into chip-lead, you could be seen as weak.
It’s stress time for inexperienced players like me who are still bubbling out in the casino but it’s a pivotal situation for the pros. What would you do in this final table moment?
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