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How to Play Killer Poker Against Anonymous Opponents
When I started playing online poker I found it very difficult to deal with the fact that all my opponents were anonymous. I usually hadn't played against them before, and to me, they were just nicknames with chips in front of them. And how do you play against someone you don't know?
Pen and Paper as a Stat Tool
To solve this problem, I used the most basic stat tool there is: a pen and a piece of paper. When a game started, I drew a table, wrote all the players' names around it, and started making notes on how they played.
Mostly, I focused on their pre-flop decisions, which are often the hallmark of a player's particular way of playing. How often do they call and raise? Do they flat-call raises or always re-raise when they enter a pot after a pre-flop raiser? Do they care about what position they're in?
This gave me answers to two questions: (1) How many hands does my opponent play?; (2) How does my opponent handle these hands - aggressively or passively?
To me, this was an Archimedean discovery. Behind every nickname, there was a player of flesh and blood with individual strengths and weaknesses. For the first time, I was able to exploit players' flaws and avoid the strong players.
Knowing how you should play against certain player types is one of the most important factors when playing winning poker. We'll look at three of the most common poker-player types and examine how you should adjust your strategy when playing against them.
Weak and Strong Players
First of all, never make moves on an opponent who doesn't understand what you're doing. Never bluff the unbluffable. This might sound obvious, but there are many players who constantly, and unsuccessfully, deploy overly complex strategies against substandard poker players.
If you're up against a weak player, you should play straightforward and avoid making subtle moves. Weak players often love to call, and why not let them do that?
Bet and raise with strong hands and fold when you think you're behind. A fancy bluff on the river when "it's obvious that you have the flush" will often backfire. Don't think that you have to mix up your game to become unpredictable. Weak players simply don't care how you play - they're too busy playing their own hands, which is one reasonthey're weak.
Against a strong player - someone who is able to understand more complex plays - you have to mix up your game. Sometimes you can do the obvious play, but you also have to tell false stories: bluff, semibluff, bet with a strong hand to make it look like you're bluffing, slow-play, overbet etc.
If a player has the bluff in his own repertoire, he is more likely to think that you're bluffing. But on the other hand, he might realize that you "must have a hand" when you bet, say, 60% of the pot coast to coast.
Against a strong player you must lie, but lie so it seems believable.
Calling Stations - Your Favorite Opponents
If there's one particular type of player you should look for when selecting tables, it's definitely the loose-passive: someone who plays many starting hands, draws when the odds are against him and prefers calling to betting and raising.
This player, however, sometimes manages to outplay more knowledgeable poker players just because the better players don't adjust and use the correct strategy against him. The "good players" employ fancy moves and try to outplay the "fish," which only results in the stronger players' demise. They make moves the calling station doesn't understand.
You must keep in mind that a calling station (almost) always speaks the truth. If he calls you, he has something - a draw or some sort of hand. But no matter what you do, he is very likely to call you. Consequently, you need a hand that can win in a showdown. If you don't have it, get out.
On the other hand, if the calling station checks on the flop and the turn, you must bet no matter what you hold. But you should only bluff when it's obvious that your opponent has given up the hand.
Sometimes you're pretty sure of what your opponent holds, say top pair, weak kicker. You know that a better player would have to fold if you made a large bet or raise. Your instincts tell you to make a move. But don't listen to your instincts. You must not overrate your opponent.
If you make a move, the weak player is going to think for quite a while, without knowing where he stands in the hand. But when there are a couple of seconds left, he will call. He'll then write something like "Oh, I almost folded" in the chat; and you'll think "You should have folded, you fish!"
Then you leave the table, knowing that you got outplayed by a bad poker player. Never a good feeling.
This is why it's of paramount importance that you take steps to get a read on your online opponents. As I discovered to my benefit, a few minutes with pen and paper taking notes on their playing styles will prove invaluable.