Anyone who has played poker for a while develops patterns. Some of these are profitable and many are not. Every once in a while, we need to examine our patterns to justify their existence or so we may eradicate them. I participated in a useful exercise last night that cleared up some problems with my game and should make me a better player.
One of th e Tuesday night crew just started playing online. He has started with the 5+1 SNGs at Party. As I have stated before, the SNGs are a fantastic way to learn to play in many situations for a small amount of money. They provide opportunities to play at a full-table all the way down to heads-up, to play with a big stack, and to learn to play the short-stack, pushing because of the situation and not necesarily playing your cards.
Now this player is solid to begin with and I feel he will do well if he stays within his bankroll, but he did ask if I would watch him play a few and comment on his play. More than happy to oblige, we settled in with a couple of Guinness and fired up the games.
I immediately noticed the passive play at the low-buy in table. Six or seven limpers to the flop were not uncommon. Very few players made pre-flop raises and those that did often kept them to a minimum. One thing that happens to me at a table is a bit of mimicry. When I was in England a few years ago, I found myself responding to native’s questions in an English accent unconsciously. Similarly, I will often go along with the tone of the table, whether it be tight-passive or loose-aggressive. By observing another’s play though, I was able to instantly see the folly of going along with the crowd. My advice consisted primarily of one of two words: “Fold” or “Raise.” Now, I would hopefully make the same plays if I was the one whose money was on the line but by deigning to give advice to another, I had to ask myself, “Why do I recommend a particular action?”
I don’t need to go into SNG strategy here as many bloggers smarter than me have done so already, but I will say that chip accumulation once the blinds reach a certain level is paramount. By advising folding many arguably playable hands in early position, or after raisers, I reaffirmed my belief that it is not worth it to get involved with potentially dominated hands early in a SNG, even when it is more than likely that callers are playing worse hands than you would find at a higher buy-in table. As my play has improved over the last two years, I have been able to play more hands in more positions but it is still hard to beat AKs on the button if you are holding AJo from UTG.
Most of my advice did center around raising. After three circuits of raising on the button and having the blinds fold, my observee picked up 92. Again, it folded to him on the button. “Raise,” I said.
“Again? I’ve done it the last three times around”
“And they have folded the last three times haven’t they. Raise it up.”
Once someone has exhibited a pattern that makes you money, keep exploiting that pattern. Sure, at some point they are going to play back at you and you are going to lose a pot. If they have been willingly giving you their blinds all night, though, you are going to come out ahead.
Now, I had the advantage of watching a pretty good player but I would recommend to anyone to find a player they can observe and think about the course of action you would take in the situations they get into. Most importantly, ask yourself “Why” you would perform that action. Your game will be better for it.