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Online Poker News Archives - December 7, 2005

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Copyright 2005

December 7, 2005

The 'perfect' poker style: your own

Author: Alex Schwartz

Maybe I'm completely wrong for thinking so, but I've always assumed that when all the chips fall, there is one strategy for poker that will be most successful. My entire education as a player has attempted to hone in on this one "perfect" strategy, and in my eyes, I keep getting closer and closer. It's aggressive, sometimes overaggressive, and it puts me in situations where I'm forcing players to fold hands that they don't necessarily want to play. Its one drawback is a tendency for wild swings, but in the end, it's made me a lot of money.

My suitemate, another pretty avid player, plays very differently. He's more passive, a little more conventional, and he's done pretty well for himself. I had never really given much thought to his style of play versus mine until he went on a huge winning streak. And when I say "winning streak," I mean a serious one. I'm talking about $24,000 in a two-week period. Normally this wouldn't cause any reflection on my part, but it happened to occur at the same time as a particularly vicious downswing on my end. As I sat there losing thousands of dollars, my suitemate would end each session with a bloated bankroll.

For me, there is no feeling quite like the one that accompanies a prolonged downswing. I question myself, I wonder if I'm doing something wrong, and I compel myself to improve. It's one of the biggest reasons I play as well as I do today, but it's also a little self-destructive. In this instance, my questions and doubts abounded. Does my suitemate play a better style of poker than I do? Should I be more passive? Should I call instead of raise on this particular hand? Almost every crucial decision that I faced during the course of a series of sessions became immediate material for second-guessing.

After a week of agonizing over every hand, I decided I wasn't going to do it anymore. The fact of the matter is, if you play enough cards, you derive your own style of play. And unless you really have no idea what's going on, that style is going to be the right style for you. I'm not promoting extremely passive play, but what I am promoting is letting your own play evolve into something that works for you. One of the biggest mistakes I see a lot of players make is emulation. They watch the World Series of Poker on TV or they read a book by a supposed elite player, and they immediately replicate a specific style. When push comes to shove, this will never work.

Being a winning player is about having confidence in your skill and the ability to search deep within the confines of your game to find minute flaws to tweak until they become advantages over your opponents. You will never be able to do this when working with someone else's strategy. I don't know how a more passive player would play a given hand, so I had a lot of trouble analyzing my passive sessions. Playing that style, I will never be the player I am now; it just doesn't work for me.

So when you're looking objectively at your style, take a moment to reflect: are you playing this style because you're comfortable with it, or are you playing this style because someone else is comfortable with it? If you're honest, I think the adjustments you make as a result of this could lead to some of the best self-assessment that any poker player is capable of making.

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