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Poker News: March 13, 2006

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Inside the Poker Tour (42)

'Prototyping Your Opponent'

In order to sensibly act you have to know something about your opponent. If I dryly give you the correct action in every situation, even if my suggestions are mathematically sound, I am doing a disservice, as clearly what I am offering is incomplete. When you know nothing about your opponents because they have not acted yet you often have to make an educated guess using your experience historically based on the way they dress, their jewelry, the way they handle their chips or cards, the way they stack their chips, how many chips they have, and even such politically incorrect details as their apparent hygiene. If all these possibilities leave you with no information the thing to do is to act like you are dealing with a mathematical model. After a few orbits of the table you will likely get the clues you need to temper your own actions—they will play too many hands, or no hands, and likely a few hands of theirs will be put face up on the felt. Usually matching any action pattern with a few exposed hands gives you all the information you need to prototype them.

Once we have some clues as to how they act we can put them into our schemata. By assigning them to an animal caricature that we have pre-selected we are giving our memory an assist in that we will make them into a prototype—lion, fox, pig, donkey, sheep, monkey, weasel, Chihuahua, rabbit, or lemming.

In order to reinforce the nature of these animals I will give a brief explanation of the character that each is known for.

The lion is king of the jungle and goes where he wishes, when he wishes. Everyone respects him and his play, he is quite straightforward, good but not very tricky—he usually has it when he plays a pot. Think Erick Lindgren.

The fox is sneaky and clever, at the poker table he might show you any two from any position at any time played in any manner. You never know quite what to expect, except that he will most likely play well in all situations. Imagine Daniel Negreanu.

The pig likes to get the right odds for his draw, by right odds I mean an overlay, he will let more players in if he holds a volume hand such as KQ suited, and hopes to win larger pots by making the best possible hand in those pots.

The donkey is nothing if not stubborn. If he wants to take a flop with AQ it will not matter if there are already three raises in front of him by the Smith brothers, he will still take the flop. He plays too many hands and calls too many bets while in those hands. If he flops a flush draw he will go to the flag with it, no matter what.

The sheep is passive and easily led to slaughter, as long as the bets are not too large he will call to keep you honest and make sure the right person wins the pot. He is very predictable.

The monkey is too clever for his own good, he will check with the best possible hand all the way to the river, or bet and bluff when it is a little too obvious that he has holy city or nothing, but if he had holy city he likely will check!

Weasel will check-raise a lot, he will come forward with a lot of chips and then just check or call depending on what others do behind him (if he is allowed to). He will try to interpret the letter of the rules in his favor. He misrepresents the strength of his hand as much as possible and often gives off reverse tells.

Chihuahua plays way too many hands, almost always tries to steal the blind in an uncontested pot when he is the first one into the pot and in late position. He will also usually fire a continuation bet if he has position, and sometimes even if he does not have position. He will also call if he has position with a very weak hand in hopes of being able to bluff on the following street.

Mister rabbit is the church lady at the table, too polite and too passive to be dangerous. Calls off most of his chips and will not bet unless he holds the best possible hand on the river, timid for sure but respect his bets! Okay to bluff him early on, but not if he bets or raises on the river!

Lemming is the maniac of the table, at times he seems to be determined to go off the cliff without a parachute. He seems oblivious of who his opponent is or what they might hold. He will re-raise with A7 or Q-10 or 95 suited or even worse and delights in being able to show some unexpected winners, especially against the rabbit, the pig, the lion, the donkey, and the fox. Call him ignorant and unpredictable, but keep your opinion to yourself as you will not only feed his ego if you say anything he will come after you from all angles and the flurry of bets and raises will be difficult to decipher as they will not necessarily mean a thing except that you are in his crosshairs! He seems to thrive on negative energy, often loves to talk trash and may get ecstatic if he is able to put you on tilt!

Having said that I must also get the caution flag out of my pocket and throw it onto the field! This warning is because you cannot allow a few hands in any certain situation override the possibility that something unexpected may arise. The maniac at the table can pick up AA, remember that. The tightest player you have ever seen might decide to make his first bluff since the Carter administration, so remember that. If you forget this reality it will smack you up alongside the head. Also keep in mind that some players will play very differently once the antes begin, or for various reasons once we are in a later part of the tournament.

On top of these possibilities are heaped many others such as what mood the player is in. His mood can be created by many things, what happened to him on the past few hands he played, his blood sugar, what his wife just said to him on the phone, or simply that he did not get enough sleep.

Whatever prop you might use as an aide, if it works for you then it works! If you choose to use self-hypnosis, or affirmations, or wish to repeat "a powerful positive force surrounds me" when you find yourself holding your breath, then do so without holding back in any way. There is no reason to feel guilty about finding things that resonate with you and work! There is also no reason to try and sell what works for you to others, so I suggest you find the 'sweet spot' and just use it without talking about it. If someone else is genuinely interested they will ask.

So until next time... play good, and get lucky!

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