Poker Smarts: Who Else is Holding the Cards

H2H Helmet2Helmet.netContributor IMay 23, 2010

NEWPORT BEACH, CA - NOVEMBER 21:  (L-R) Scott Malin, In 2 It Media partner Michael Wasserman, John Hoefer, professional poker player Annie Duke and actor David Krumholtz at the All In For Wishes Celebrity Poker Tournament For Make-A-Wish Foundation Orange County at The Pacific Club on November 21, 2009 in Newport Beach, California.  (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Yesterday, I shared my, Three Rules to Live By , when at the poker table. We're going to build on that today and discuss the other people you'll find sitting at that table with you.

In order to be fully honest with you, I do believe in the following idea: "Any poker decision that wins you a hand is not a bad decision at all. It's only a risky one."

You'll find that some of the people you play against will make a decision that you would never make. Then that decision ends up winning a hand and maybe even taking your money.

This does not make the decision a "bad" one.

Repeatedly making questionable decisions does not make someone a "bad" player. Many times it may stem from a lack of knowledge of the game.

It may stem from a player's strategy.

It may depend on that person's mental or physical state.

You'll probably never know completely why someone made that decision, only the outcome.

However, you can take the information given to you in that situation and use it to your advantage.

Lets explore this more in depth as we talk about some of the different kinds of "bad" poker players you may meet.

The "Calling Station"

Regardless of whether you play online, at a casino, or at home, the "Calling Station" is probably the most common type of player that you will run into.

"Calling Stations," are typically the easiest type of player to recognize as well. This player will very rarely, if at all, take control of a hand. They will simply call whatever bet is made at the beginning of the hand and will continue to call if they believe they have a competitive hand.

Regardless, if they start with a strong hand or make a hand after the flop, turn, or river, they will leave the action up to you.

Sometimes it will be frustrating or difficult to play against this person because they always seem to end up with a hand when everything is said and done.

However, keep these tips in mind when you believe that you're up against a "station."

Don't let them play for cheap.

Vary your betting patterns so that the station will never know what is coming up next. This will help keep them out of hands where they have a small amount of outs. This will help protect you against straight and flush draws that could overcome your high pairs or sets.

Make sure you're keeping the pot odds in your favor.

Do not be afraid to bet the size of the pot if your stack allows it. If a player calls a large bet (especially against the size of their stack), they are at a statistical disadvantage, that will pay off for you in end (most of the time.)

Be creative and hesitant about your bluffs.

The "station" is a person that will very easily be able to call you down with a weak pair. They always are able to see the bright side that could come to them, regardless if the odd of it happening are small.

Making a bluff with a marginal hand can be detrimental to you as they may be calling with something that is a little better than yours. Keep in mind.

The odds of your small pair overcoming a pair that's only one number higher than yours is less than 20 percent. This means the station may not recognize their 80 percent chance to win, but will call you anyways and take your money at the end of the hand.

The "Donkey" or "Fish"

The term "Donkey" or "Donk," is just the more modern way of calling another player a "Fish."

You'll see this term around a lot in the chat boxes on poker playing sites.

A "Donkey" is recognizable because they will typically play with any two cards, regardless or their strength or ranking, and take them to the river hoping they'll beat you.

These players can be very frustrating because they typically don't use poker skills to beat you.

They'll make bets that don't seem to make any sense in the situation at the table, while making even less sense when you see what their cards actually are.

They have complete disregard for pot odds and their stack, just throwing chips around in hopes of winning more.

You'll typically find this kind of player in limit or low stake games. You'll also find that many novice poker players will fish for hands as they don't know much more about the game apart from what hands are good.

However, they will usually know what their outs are. You'll hear them talk about having lots of outs or specifically how many outs they had when they start talking after a hand.

If you run into one of these players, make notes on them (especially online.) You need to be prepared if you run into them again.

Here are some strategies when faced with a "Donkey."

Be very selective about your hands.

Be prepared to lay down a typically strong hand so that you can live to play another day.

When you see an erratic betting pattern, play very close attention to the community cards and get out of the way if the board is setting up to allow someone to catch a draw and beat you.

Control your aggressiveness in this situation and catch them when you have them beat.

Don't chase a hand. Be aware of the odds you have.

If you have a straight draw and you need a face card (such as an ace) to make your hand, think not only of the pure odds to get the card, but replay others betting before that point to see if someone might have had that card you needed.

If you have a player or two that called a raise pre-flop but wouldn't call a re-raise, they could very well have been holding a weak ace, thus taking your odds away.

However, the best rule of thumb with a donkey is to make sure that you are playing good hands and letting your betting show this.

Look for people who continually try to steal the blinds, especially when they are out of position. If you have someone raising before the flop, especially early in the game, you are seeing the first of the "Donkey" symptoms. Once you are able to identify these players, you'll be able to compete with them effectively.

Beat them at their own game.

If your stack allows it, be more erratic with your betting patterns. Make a good bluff now and then. Once this type of player becomes confused, they make mistakes very easily and are easy to take care of.

If you are playing a cash game (non tournament,) once you have done damage to these players, get away. Take your money and run. Nothing frustrates this player more while keeping you safe from them.

The "Suck Out"

The "Suck Out" is the player who typically wins their money with straights and flushes.

However, you'll notice that they don't make their hands until the turn, or more frequently, the river.

Many times you won't even see a face card in their hands. These players usually don't know about position and will make their hands because they were able to call a small bet, out of position, and take their suited or connected cards all the way down to the river.

You'll hear these players talking about how they like to play for cheap or that they are really fond of "suited connecters."

However, these players are very easy to get out of their element, as well as very easy to beat heads up with the proper level of aggressiveness.

Remember that everyone had to start out as a beginner. Like we talked about before, many players don't typically look at the poker table while thinking about what's happening at the current moment.

They are thinking about what has to happen in the future in order for them to win. They convince themselves, very easily, that it would be easy to make a hand as long as they get a specific card. However they won't always know the odds. Use this to your advantage.

Play your position well.

If you're in position and you have a person that is typically just calling the minimum before the flop, raise when you're in position and the rest of the table won't be able to take advantage of it.

Eventually, you'll get this type of person so frustrated that they aren't able to play and they'll avoid getting into hands with you because it's not fun.

Keep your head.

I can't stress this enough. If someone does get lucky and beats you when they only had a four percent chance to win after the flop, don't acknowledge it and don't let it make you mad. Go forward and adjust your play so that this doesn't happen again. Always remember that you're gambling.

There is always a risk that you're willing to take if you decide to gamble. Learn from your mistakes and move on.

Don't hope that a weaker hand will turn into something better.

You may have the middle pair and know it's the best hand at that point, but don't continue with the hopes that it will improve unless the odds are on your side (or it's free.)

If you are in a situation where the chances your hand will improve to a winner unlikely, don't trap yourself in a situation where you have chips committed to a losing battle.


The "Tight A**"

The "Tight A**" is a player that is very conservative when it comes to poker.

They don't like to commit themselves to a hand unless they are very sure they have a winner. They will rarely raise, in or out of position.

If they do raise, they will frequently fold to small raises after the flop when they didn't make the hand they were looking for or if the flop looks like someone else could have made their hand.

They won't see many showdowns, but when they do, it typically pays off for them.

These players can become your best friends. Not only can you take a lot of money from them (especially when heads up,) but they can help you recognize what your odds may be.

Know when to fold them, walk away, and/or run.

Like I mentioned above, these players rarely get themselves involved in hand. When they do, they aren't afraid to put chips in because they are confident that they are going to win.

They aren't going to chase, they aren't interested in that kind of gamble. If you are in a hand against this player, assess the situation carefully; know if your hand is strong enough that it's going to win without improvement. If it's not, get out of the hand.

Be the first to act. With this type of player, they aren't going to take too many risks. If you've won showdowns with good hands and you've been betting them as such, this person isn't going to forget.

When you're able to act before this person does, you can plant that seed of fear in their mind. It may even get to the point that they don't want to get into any hand with you.

Be aggressive heads up. Don't let this person play for the minimum. There's nothing wrong with raising two or three times the big blind (or even more) of your stack allows it.

When you get to the heads up portion of the tournament, the tighter the player, the more likely it is that they will have a smaller stack. As the blinds and ante catches up to them, they will have to play out of their element or their stack will disappear fast.

Tomorrow I'll wrap things up with some universal tips that should prepare you for greater success.


Written by H2H Member Antony Nation


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