This is definitely the most interesting topic I've ever covered. Playing the player has absolutely nothing to do with your cards. I will discuss with you a study I performed and how it led me to a big-time profit at No-Limit cash tables.
It was late at night and I was sitting at home playing poker online. I had just gotten off the phone with a friend who had lost a lot of money playing. While we were talking, I joked about how I usually dominate him heads-up. He said, "The only reason you kill me heads-up is because you have watched me play for years. You know exactly how I bet and what hands I like to play and what hands I like to fold." I told him he was right. I also had an epiphany that would lead to over $6,000 in winnings that very same night.
My Own Personal Project
That night I wondered aloud to myself, "If I were to know every regular who plays No-Limit on a consistent basis with me, wouldn't I make a huge profit?" The short answer here is "yes," and what I found out was shocking, to say the least.
At the higher limits, you will encounter many of the same players over and over. It is nothing like the lower limits where people move in and out of games quickly. I play with many of the same players on a daily basis.
For about four hours I studied each regular player exclusively. I pulled out a binder with a ton of paper and labeled each page with the name of a player, and listed which hands I had seen him showdown throughout the page. I began to detect patterns in almost every online player. I thought this was great because every time I play one of these players I should have an edge. It never occurred to me how big of an edge it would be until I joined my first game after amassing these dossiers.
My First Trial Run
I joined a No-Limit table with $3/$6 blinds. I knew that all of the players there were good and I had played with all of them in the past. One was a maniac and the other four were tight, solid players.
When I recorded each hand they had played in my book, I noticed the distinct betting patterns they used. For example, one player named XjohnX would raise any pair $30. When he had a premium hand, AA, KK, or QQ, he would raise $24. I picked up on this fast and called his $30 pre-flop raise. I put him on a pair. I had pocket queens so I knew I probably had him beat pre-flop so I re-raised the pot to $48. He called and we saw the flop Ad-Kh-10c. He went all-in and I made a quick call. He showed down 9c-9h.
The point I am trying to make here is that knowing your opponents makes a huge difference in what you bet and what you fold. I would never have made that call against any other player, but unfortunately for XjohnX, I called his semi-bluff.
I am not advocating that you make a book for each player; I am merely trying to get the point across that at the high limits knowing the players you are up against is crucial. I can't stress enough how important it is that you pick up the tendencies of your opponents at the card table. Also, always remember that this does not hold true for the low limits. Most of the players there are bad and simple basic strategy should be used.
See you at the tables.