Leveling The Opposition

Out-thinking your opponents by moving up a level higher in thought...

A year or so ago, I was working with a fairly advanced student who wanted a tune-up to their game. In this session, we were playing a full ring $100NL cash game online, with me sweating the action on Skype. Effective stack sizes were relatively deep at 200bb. For a variety of reasons, we were playing very snug and had an ABC/nitty-TAg image, and in fact hadn’t played a hand in a couple of orbits. There was a lot of good, solid players at this table, with good hand reading apparent in most the players, and light 3betting in position and lots of aggression by the bad guys. Overall, the table was bad enough that we decided that we were going to wait for the big blind to come around and then we were going to leave this table in search of softer action elsewhere.

In one of the last hands dealt to us, the action folded to us in the HiJack seat. We looked down to Qs-Th and we open-raised to $3. We got called by both the CO and Button. The blinds folded and we went 3-way to the flop, with us out of position against two good players. The flop came out A-5-3 rainbow. My student C-bet to $6.75, which felt a little small to me, but otherwise I liked the play, with him obviously representing an Ace in our range. The first villain folded, but the second villain, who was a TAGgy/thinking/tricky L2 player, then 3bet us to $23. What’s the right play here?

Adapt or Die

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

I am often asked what is the best “style” of play for a beginning poker player. The right answer of course is Tight-Aggressive (TAg), as it is the safest and easiest way to profitability for someone who is still mastering hand reading and the like. As a student gets better and more skilled, they can and should open up their game and play a more Loose-Aggressive (LAg) style, as it generally increases profitability and win rates (though somewhat at the expense of higher variance).

But when I’m asked if LAg is the style I play, I kind of just shrug and answer, “it depends.” See, I’m adaptable. And as you improve and move up in stakes, you need to be just as adaptable, too.