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This is the third and probably the last in our series on the history of poker.  Poker has now gone online.  Let’s see how this move has changed the game.

Wannabe Pros

The player who wants to get better so he or she can play for higher stakes will play thousands of hands.  They will play almost every day.  They will play for hours on end.  Poker will become an obsession if it isn’t already one.

Playing Poker for Fun

The player who plays for the fun of it and has no desire to play for higher stakes, no desire to play every day, no desire to play thousands of hands, and no desire to study poker in depth, will play whenever he or she can but will not be obsessed if several days go by without poker.  These players will play for short period of time, long enough to get their poker fun and then they will go on to the many other activities they like to do, they want to do, or they have to do.

It is Extremely Important for You to Know Who You Are

You have to know why you play poker.  You might want just to have some fun but you surely don’t want to be someone else’s chump.  This means two seemingly contradictory things.  One, you should try to avoid playing against poker sharps and, two, you need to study more than you might want because it is nearly impossible these days to stay completely away from poker sharps!

It is Extremely Important to Know Who Your Opponents Are

There aren’t very many players these days who never study anything about poker strategy and tactics.  So, even if you would rather not do so, you have to study.  But what if you know that the opponents in the present game are true amateurs with very little knowledge of poker nuances?

In that case, we have a list of things you’ll need to know at a deep level in order to not get caught in traps of your own making.

  • Don’t bluff.
  • Don’t analyze ranges.
  • Don’t expect different betting behavior based on position.
  • Your opponent might be a compulsive caller so you can increase the size of pots “under their noses”.
  • Your opponent might be a compulsive folder which means that you have to bet small enough to get them to call.
  • Any subtlety in your betting will fly past them fast.

Why Shouldn’t I Bluff?

The main reason to avoid bluffing against many low stakes opponents is because they don’t understand that you are bluffing.  Even if you bet a whole dollar, to them it is just a dollar and they will call more often than not unless they really have a terrible hand—the kind of hand that would be great as the low in high-low poker but not in any straightforward game.

Why Shouldn’t I Analyze Ranges?

Because if your opponent is a true amateur, he or she has no idea what a range in poker is.  Your conclusion as to their range might be hopelessly off since they don’t know what a range is.

Doesn’t Everyone Understand the Basics of Positional Play?

The short answer is a resounding NO!   Here we have to make some distinction between games like draw and stud versus games like Texas Hold’em which has the blinds.

In ante up games, everyone puts in an ante.  Then there is a round of betting after the deal.  No one has to match the big blind since there isn’t one.  So, in early position, it is common for players with marginal hands to pass.  If someone bets, they have to decide what to do when the betting comes back to them.  Then their decision will often be a function of their hand and the size of the bet.

In many low stakes games, the bet on the first round is so small that most players will call in order to try to get a hand.

In Hold’em, you have to at least call the big blind.  In low stakes games, calling the big blind might be for such a small amount that players in early position might just call in order to see the flop.  This results in some players getting very lucky on the flop and having a very good hand that they should have folded preflop.

How Do I Know if My Opponent is a Compulsive Caller?

Here is the most important aspect of study in low stakes poker.  You might not want to study poker mathematics.  You might just want to play for a short time once or twice a week—maybe more often that that but always for short sessions—so you don’t feel the need to become even a modest scholar of poker.

Still, you do have to study human behavior.  It is a lot harder to study the behavior of online opponents but there is a world of literature in how to study online poker players.  In a subsequent article in this tutorial, we will add our few pennies to the conversation of how to study opponents.

But you have to realize that at the very least, you must study other poker players, their tendencies, their subtle mannerisms, and their general behavior.

How Do I Know if My Opponent is a Compulsive Folder?

The answer is the same as the one above with one very important addition.  A compulsive folder wants every reason to fold.  You have to get them to call or even to raise in the face of your superior hand. 

In order to get an opponent who truly wants to fold, to stay in the hand anyway, you have to act as nonchalant as possible.  This is not the natural state of human behavior; it is a learned trait.  Unlike in the case of the compulsive caller, where you have to get them call by not betting too high, in this case you have to give them every opportunity to not fold.

In the first case, you need to study your opponents in depth; in this situation you need to have studied yourself in depth!

Important to Appreciate Poker

In American baseball, more than in any other sports that Americans play, there is a cliché that is simply the word “baseball”.  It means that baseball is such a hard game to play and is so misunderstood by nonpayers that many people don’t appreciate the subtle skills that go into baseball.  Players do appreciate these subtle skills.  that’s why when something goes “wrong” as often as not the best explanation is simply “baseball”.

There is an element of this in poker as well.  Yu might make all of the correct analyses, the correct bet on each street or each betting round, but your opponent might not understand any of it and he or she might get the inside straight he has no “right” to get and he’ll win and you’ll lose.

In part 3 of this long discussion about low stakes poker, we will begin at this point on how to deal with anger, frustration, and the tendency within all of us to tilt.


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