I have a friend who likes to play against tough opponents because, she reasons, the tougher the competition the better her own game will become. What do you think about that?
Dear Jouster, Well, it works for tennis. If you play against tougher opponents, your tennis game will certainly improve. But is that what you really want in poker? I don’t think so. After all, the goal of the game is to win money, and while sharpening your skills will certainly help you realize that goal, playing against soft opponents works much, much better.
If you’re really interested in improving your game (and you should be) then spend your time studying poker books and using analytical tools and deconstructing your own play. Obviously you’d like to reach the point where all your opponents are weaker than you. But out there in the real world, the fact is that some foes will be much, much better. Avoid them while you can. That’s not where the money lies.
What is with these maniacs I play with? While I’m cautious and careful about what hands I’ll play, they seem to jump in to the pot with anything at all. J-3, 9-7… they just don’t care! Last night I saw a maniac call four bets before the flop with 5-4 offsuit, and win a monster pot when he caught runner-runner to make a low straight on the river. It’s frustrating to see the maniacs running all over the game, but when I try the same strategy it never seems to work. How can I play like a maniac and win?
The professor feels your pain. The fact is that there’s a certain type of player who regards any two cards as a reasonable starting hand in ligaz11 hold ’em. Fluctuations for these players are much higher than for you and me because, while they do win the monster pots with garbage holdings, they lose a lot more with those garbage holdings too. Thus they go up and down by racks and racks, whereas you and I, playing selectively aggressively, just go up and down by stacks and stacks.
Of course you can play their way, if you’re willing to ride the big roller coaster, but I think you should be aware of something called “confirmation bias.” Confirmation bias tells us that we’re much more likely to see something if we’re already primed to look for it. You see the maniacs winning big pots and you start to think that all they do is win big pots. But you’re paying much more attention to their occasional big wins than to their consistent small losses. It may be that you’re not even noticing the losses at all.
The professor recommends: When you enter a game, note everyone’s stack size, so that you can track their real performance as the hours roll by. I think you’ll find that the maniacs, while temporarily successful, do not really profit overall. In the meantime, when you see your opponents getting out of line (jumping into the pot with inferior holdings) don’t neglect to punish them! Sure they’ll suck out on you once in a while (and you’ll think that it happens all the time) but entering the hand with weak cards is a mistake, and you will make money in the long run by punishing other players’ mistakes. That’s a promise from the prof!