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Poker News: May 31, 2006

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Copyright © 2006 Monterey Herald

HEADLINE: Winning by bullying a poker bully

Author: Daniel Negreanu

It can be really frustrating to have an extremely aggressive player at your table who just won't seem to leave you alone. No matter what you do, the bully keeps coming after you, especially if you aren't getting any good cards of your own.

Hopefully, after reading this column, you'll have all the tools you need to fight the good fight and start pounding back. If you know anything about a bully, you know that if you stand up to him, he'll usually run away and hide.

Let him run, but get his chips first.

To accomplish that, the first thing you need to understand is the bully's biggest weakness. His most common one is that he likes to play lots of hands, and, when he does, he'll play them aggressively. Sooner or later, he'll cross the line between good, solid, aggressive play and become a maniac who bluffs too much and plays wildly.

What you need to do is exploit his aggressive tendencies so that they work in your favor.

When you sense that a bully is crossing that line, take a deep breath and give him as much rope as he needs to hang himself. By that I mean, trap him with your good hands and let him bluff off his money to you. There is actually a poker term for this maneuver: collecting bullets.

Collecting bullets is an excellent way to keep a tyrant off your back. Try slow playing to trap your opponent. This passive and clever tactic will win pots from the bully that had you otherwise bet, would likely have prompted him to fold his cards.

Remember, a bully looks to pounce on perceived weakness, just like one of those hooligans did in grade school. On the playground, you'd eventually need to stand up to the tormentor to get him off your back. In poker, though, you want to let him feel like he can run over you all day. Indeed, when you have a monster hand, your greatest desire is that he will pounce all over you. Let him do all the betting for you.

Or, as a friend of mine, and fellow professional player, Layne Flack, says, "Why do the pushin' when the donkey will do the pullin'."

It's very important and also financially rewarding to recognize situations where slow play checking will win you more money than betting. The bully who bets when you check, but folds when you bet, is the perfect target for bullet collecting.

Now, I don't want to leave you with only one anti-bullying strategy, or you could end up like a sheep to the slaughter. There is more to it. There are times when you don't want to appear to be a pushover by letting the bully run the show. The advice I've given thus far works best when your opponent has position on you throughout the hand.

However, when you have position on him, then it's time to stand up and show him who's boss.

When you're in position, meaning that you are seated to the bully's left, be a thorn in his side by raising and re-raising to take control of the hand. He usually won't have a strong enough hand to play and will fold.

Here's the most crucial concept to master: Always make the bully think twice about stealing the blinds. You must make him believe that he could run into a buzz saw at any moment -- that buzz saw being you! Once you've tamed the aggressive opponent, the door for you to become the bully has just opened.

Since you're now the bully, your opponents will be leery of you and won't want to mess with you too often. Take advantage of this situation by stealing their blinds. If the other players don't stand up to you, keep being the aggressor and punish them until they do.

And one last thought. Once you become the bully, beware of those motivated players who will try to take you down. Being bullied or being the bully both come with danger.

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Article downloaded from the World Wide Web on May 30, 2006:

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