Monday, April 09, 2007

Chapter 14, The Dynamics of Game Conditions

From The Complete Book of Hold'em Poker

Chapter 14

The dynamics of game conditions

Game conditions are generally derived from the behavior of the players. Loose players make loose games. Tight players make tight games, etc., etc, but it really isn't that simple. Players interact to create the game conditions, and they interact not just with each other but with the environment. Sometimes it's like that butterfly who flaps its wings in France and creates a storm in Thailand. Little things can have big effects on the game conditions.

You'll seldom see tight tables all of a sudden become loose tables or passive tables all of a sudden become aggressive, unless there is a change in two or three players. Even replacing one tight/passive player with a maniac isn't enough to change the overall character of the table.

The main changes that you'll sometimes see occur abruptly are a loose table turning tight or an aggressive table turning passive. Those changes can occur at a table with lightening speed, seemingly without warning, and if you're playing a strategy geared towards a particular game condition, it's those fast, unanticipated changes that can cost you a lot of money if you don't quickly realize that the change has occurred and adjust accordingly.

The way to guard against this is to be aware of clues that suggest that a swift, dramatic change in game conditions may occur. There are some events, some external to the table, some part of the game, that should heighten your vigilance about game conditions.

Events that can tighten up a table
Fun games tend to be loose games. Most people play poker because it's fun, and when they're having fun they tend to play a lot of hands. Such games tend to have a lot of table banter, joking back and forth among the players. Anything that is likely to interject a note of seriousness or discord into this banter will likely cause many of the players to tighten up, at least temporarily.
Often the table banter is being driven by a single, jovial, fun-loving player. Everyone may be joining in the fun, but it's that one player who's been driving it. In such a situation, game conditions can change immediately if the jovial player leaves the game. But, he doesn't actually have to leave for this to happen. Anything that might cause a change in his mood will tend to cause a change in mood for the table. Things like a particularly bad beat, or another player slow-rolling him on the river might cause it. Even him getting a business-related phone call on his cell phone might cause it.
There is a good chance the table will tighten up if one of the more loose aggressive players at the table is distracted, maybe eating, maybe talking to a cocktail waitress, he just got a call on his cell phone, a friend of his walked up to the table, or any one of a number of possible distractions. This is because loose players tend to be attracted to pots that have a loose/aggressive player active in the pot. Even loose players who don't do much raising often seem to enjoy competing in a pot where they know someone will be raising with probably weak hands. If that player is distracted and not involved temporarily, the other loose players will tend to pass.
Events that can turn a table passive
Aggression at the poker table takes a lot of energy. Often this energy tends to feed on itself, with each hand being played slightly more aggressively then the previous one. When that starts happening, look for the aggression to reach a climax and quickly dissipate.
One climatic event that frequently occurs is when an aggressively contested, very large pot is won by a player who was aggressively betting a draw and there is a multiplayer showdown. It often brings a temporary halt to aggressive conditions. Even players who weren't involved in the pot often feel the climax and will play passively for a few hands after that.
Aggressive games tend to be fast-paced games. If the pace of the games slows, the aggression will often dissipate. A change in dealers is one thing that frequently causes this. Don't assume that an aggressive game will continue to be aggressive for the first few hands of a new dealer.
Things that suggest the table conditions have changed.
One common characteristic of players at a loose aggressive table is that, once they've called a bet on the current betting round, they've committed to seeing the next card - they'll call raises.
When you see a player call a bet in middle position, then fold when there has been a raise and reraise, you can usually count on a change in game conditions to occur soon.
External events
Many events that don't directly involve your table can cause a change in conditions. Any kind of commotion or activity in the poker room might tend to distract players' attention, causing them to play both tighter and more passively.
A large pot at a nearby table might be enough to cause a distraction. A dealer shift change, where for a short period there are twice as many dealers in the room may cause a distraction. Many seemingly unimportant events might cause a distraction to the players. Watch for it.

UPDATE

DMV made a useful comment


DMW said...

I think about that passage often actually. I cannot corroborate it.

During 2005-early 06. I played a lot of 5-10 lhe with full kill. From 2-5 am the game was wild, often 7 people in for 3 bets pre-flop.

I would check, but I did not see that the table played passive after someone raked in a huge pot. SOMETIMES the next 2 hands were not raised, but the table went back to crazy in a very short time.

I'm going to have to do some clarification whenever I get around to a second edition.
My response
It doesn't always happen, not even most of the time. That's true of that entire chapter, I'm just talking about various events that might should make you a little extra vigilant the next couple of hands.

But a big climatic pot does have an effect many times (not most). You're right that even when it does happen the conditions will likely revert back after a couple of hands unless the player composition changes at the same time.

It depends somewhat on who drug the pot, or even who was involved. The players involved in the climatic event themselves will become more passive the next hand or two. Caro made that observation years before I did.

Are you talking about online? The book was written prior to online and the player interactions online aren't the same at all. Much of the effect of a big pot is visual, large pile of chips.

Labels:

5 Comments:

Blogger DMW said...

I think about that passage often actually. I cannot corroborate it.

During 2005-early 06. I played a lot of 5-10 lhe with full kill. From 2-5 am the game was wild, often 7 people in for 3 bets pre-flop.

I would check, but I did not see that the table played passive after someone raked in a huge pot. SOMETIMES the next 2 hands were not raised, but the table went back to crazy in a very short time.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Gary Carson said...

It doesn't always happen, not even most of the time. That's true of that entire chapter, I'm just talking about various events that might should make you a little extra vigilant the next couple of hands.

But a big climatic pot does have an effect many times (not most). You're right that even when it does happen the conditions will likely revert back after a couple of hands unless the player composition changes at the same time.

It depends somewhat on who drug the pot, or even who was involved. The players involved in the climatic event themselves will become more passive the next hand or two. Caro made that observation years before I did.

4:33 AM  
Blogger Gary Carson said...

Are you talking about online? The book was written prior to online and the player interactions online aren't the same at all. Much of the effect of a big pot is visual, large pile of chips.

4:35 AM  
Blogger DMW said...

No, it was at Foxwoods.

that's generally true about the winner of the pot becoming passive. Often because he is still stacking the chips.

Next time I play I will examine whether if the winner is unpopular with the rest of the table causes them to play looser or not.

3:48 PM  
Blogger Gary Carson said...

It's not whether the winner is popular, it's whether or not the player has been dominating the table.

Often, not always, there is a dominate player who tends to be followed by other players. When he's aggresvie, they're aggresive, when he tightens up, they tighten up.

Kind of a pack leader sort of effect.

None of this stuff is all the time stuff, not even most of the time. Just something to look out for and think about.

This kind of stuff, btw, is why I'm so derisive of Shoonmaker's book. This is the kind of poker psychology that matters, not the psychology of a two dimensional table he stole from a Harvard Business Review article published in the 60's.

Just had to get that in, I havn't pissed on him in a while.

3:43 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home