Amateur poker play

Timothy BryantTimothy Bryant Red Chipper Posts: 18 ✭✭

In your experience, have any of you found that playing against amateur, recreational or new players can actually hurt your game? Does it work to apply basic strategy and more in-depth strategy at a table where no one knows the game very well? Such as a home game of people who play twice a year or a digital play money version such as the wsop phone app.

Trying to read players and follow basic ideas seems to be tough when players are not responding the same way a regular or serious player would..

How do you combat this so as to continue to improve your game rather than going backwards?


  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 4,746 ✭✭✭✭✭
    In a way I think it should be kind of obvious. There is a poker problem and you're trying to figure out the best answer to it. How could solving this not improve your overall game as a poker player? This is a little like telling a chemist that by reviewing his Chemistry 101 text book, his knowledge is going to "go backwards" somehow. Except that some chemists have not mastered the stuff in that book yet anyway. They avoided it because they only wanted to study "more advanced" stuff.

    This isn't a great analogy because some recreational and losing players can be difficult to play against.

    The same applies regarding free money poker. This is nonsense. If you can't beat free money poker, or are too lazy to figure out that it takes more thinking than merely flipping coins (not suggesting you are), then how do you expect to solve the more difficult poker problems?

    It's rare that you'll find a table where all your opponents are the same level anyway. For example, last night I was playing Omaha at a table with a couple pro level players, a couple weak recreational players, one with a PhD in statistics, and one who seems to think he's playing with play money. He often raised preflop without looking at his cards and tried to get all in preflop often with awful hands. He typically wins or loses $20-50K in a night. Am I really going to sit in that game and only know how to play against the pros? Does that make any sense at all?

    Now, if you spend all your time playing against weak players this week in preparation for playing a big tournament against the pros next week, then I'd say your time is not being well spent. But in terms of your overall poker education, it's not only OK, it's necessary.
  • Timothy BryantTimothy Bryant Red Chipper Posts: 18 ✭✭
    As Ben Sulsky says, when you play against recreational players, "Every hand is an adventure!"

    Fantastic quote and ideology
  • Timothy BryantTimothy Bryant Red Chipper Posts: 18 ✭✭
    jeffnc wrote: »
    one who seems to think he's playing with play money. He often raised preflop without looking at his cards and tried to get all in preflop often with awful hands. He typically wins or loses $20-50K in a night.

    Great feedback. Thanks for responding. This all made since.

    What if you have players similar to the one mentioned above. However, it is not obvious. Clearly in the case you mentioned, he was not even looking at his cards, obvious way to read him. But if there is this same level of player who is more subtle about giving away poor tendacies and actions. (Perhaps he does more limping) nothing obvious sticks out, etc.

    Is it a matter of learning/studying each player, or will these fundamentals of intermediate/advance play hold up against all levels?

    Clearly much of the time you will have multiple skill levels at the table. I guess my new question is, what kind of adjustment, if any should be made in these scenerios?
  • jeffncjeffnc Red Chipper Posts: 4,746 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I think some of that depends on who gets in each hand. You have some say in that. Simple scenario that actually happens in high stakes games involving mostly pros: they're all there trying to beat each other but knowing they're going to more or less break even against each other, but trying to make money off the one "whale" in the game. (See the casino scene from "Rounders".) So they often take turns trying to isolate him. This leads to some strange raises with questionable hands in an attempt to push the other pros out and have the whale to themselves.

    If they can't accomplish that, then playing in multiway pots gets a bit complicated. It's difficult to bluff two different players if one of them thinks on Level 4, and one of them thinks on Level 1 or 2. It's also difficult to know what a Level 1 players thinks is a good hand. If he makes a strong bet with a merged range such as A9 on a QQTA4 board, is he bluffing? If you can't figure out if he thinks he's bluffing, then your reads and tells aren't worth much.

    I think the fundamentals of poker hold up against all levels (I assume you know what I mean by poker "levels"), but it depends on what you mean. Thinking on Level 2 can beat a Level 1 player, but will fail against a Level 3 player. Likewise thinking on Level 4 will fail against a Level 1 player. Playing on Level 3 is fundamentally sound poker, but I don't think it's a fundamental of poker to play at the highest level, only to play one level above your opponent. You don't ever want to play at Level 1, but sometimes you have to think on Level 1 to understand how a Level 1 player plays.

    So yeah, it's a matter of studying unique player tendencies (this Level 1 player always raises with any pocket pair, this one never raises except with AA, this one limps with AK because "it's a drawing hand", this one raises every ace he's dealt, ....)

    Learn to play a good solid strategy that is not easy to beat no matter how they think, then tweak and adjust and adapt depending on the tendencies of the player you're in the hand with to exploit certain weaknesses, if you can. You deviate from the best poker you know how to play when an opportunity to exploit someone comes up. If a player's flaw is bluffing too much, you exploit by calling more often than you think is normally best. If the player's flaw is being too passive and rarely betting without the nuts, you exploit by folding more than you think is normally best.

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