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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Respect Your Superiors; Intimidate Your Inferiors

15 December 2002

Even though you may be an ardent poker buff, you probably won't be the best player at the table each and every time you sit down to play. There will nearly always be people who can outplay you -- and people you can outplay. Remember that, theoretically, the deck is supposed to break even over your lifetime. At least, that's the only reasonable assumption to make when you play. Your personal mission, however, is to turn a net lifetime profit with merely average cards -- an interesting challenge. There are three basic ways to do that and you'll probably have to learn them all in order to succeed. They are to:

  1. Save bets with your losing hands.
  2. Earn extra bets with your winning hands.
  3. Win an occasional pot that your cards couldn't do on their own.
Number 1 is just good basic poker. The earlier you can read when you're beat and aren't getting the pot odds to chase, the better off your bankroll will be. An example of this from 7 Card Stud might be to fold that starting pair of Queens on fifth street when your opponent has paired his door card Jack. Another common chip preservation example from Texas Hold'em would be to muck pocket Queens on fourth street when the board becomes:

2-6-10 - A

followed by considerable betting. Or how about in Omaha High, when the board pairs on the turn after you've flopped the nut flush? You must strive to save bets against all levels of opponents -- tough and soft if you're going to survive at this game.

Numbers 2 and 3 are more delicate challenges. This is where your poker strategy should diverge a bit. At every table, one of the first things you should do is objectively evaluate where you rank along the poker food chain. That is, who are you going to make your money from, and who do you merely not want to lose any to? If you're in a pot against somebody whose ability you totally respect -- in fact admire -- he's probably the better player. That's what earned him your respect and admiration. Trying to save bets against him may not be all that tough, but attempting to trap him for extra bets or "leverage" him out of the pot isn't likely to work. If he's that good, he'll probably see through your play. Don't make the right play against the wrong player!

That's an important distinction to make. For this reason, you should save your fancier moves for players you feel you can maneuver. It's against them that you should try to earn an extra bet with a check/raise or by giving a free card, etc. They're the ones that you might attempt to intimidate into folding if you're in good position, suspect they're weak or have a scary board. In short, only try to outplay players you can outplay.

As for your superiors, play them more honest. Take better starting hands up against them because you might be giving up a little in the play of the hand. Starting out in front might be the only edge you'll ever have on them -- that is, until you become the better player. That's how you keep from losing money to those at the table who are better than you; don't give them equal footing. It's imperative, however, that there are some players in the game who you can outplay, or you don't belong there in the first place. How do you know who is who? Your poker sense will tell you soon enough, if you're paying attention.

Did you ever get that feeling with some players as though you're sitting two feet above them and can just tell where they're at most of the time? Sometimes you know what they're going to do with their hands before they even think of it themselves. These are the ones you zone in on. These are the ones who will pay you off when a better player would have realized he was beaten. These are the ones who respect and fear you.

Be careful though, because "two feet below" is just how you appear to some others -- your poker superiors. They can anticipate many of your moves in advance. Because of this, you should spend most of your time in pots with players you know how to handle. Apply all your finesse against them. As for those toughies sitting above you? Study them intently from the sidelines every pot they're in -- and learn how they do the things that make them so tough. That's how you move up the poker food chain.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey