Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fear and confusion in no limit poker

Sometimes it's hard coming up with topics to write on. It's so much easier to find a topic somebody else wrote on then pick on what they write. Original thought makes my head hurt.

I don't get a lot of work done, but I wouldn't get nearly as much written if I didn't have brother Ed feeding me straight lines.

He has a recent post on betting patterns that indicate weakness in opponents. The post was okay, although as he's been doing a lot lately I think he showed some symptoms of FPS, I don't think some of the betting patterns he talks about are nearly as reliable as he seems to think. In particular I think it can be a huge mistake to treat a small lead bet on the flop as a reliable indication of weakness by itself.

But what I really want to pick on this post is his lead. He starts with
Being too readable can really hurt your no-limit game.
I certainly don't have any arguement about that.
Winning no-limit depends on fear and surprise.

Whoa.

Actually I don't think he meant "fear", I think he meant "confusion", but the idea that you should try to instill fear is a pretty common one and it's a really bad idea.

Fear is a fairly strong emotion. When I was in the Navy and heard the sound of incoming artillery I felt fear. My stomoch knoted up, my mind raced, adrenalin pumped, my body reacted with automatic defense reactions (I ducked and hit the deck hard). So I know what fear is, but I've never felt fear at a poker table. (Well, I did once.

Some opponents do feel fear, and they will be easy to exploit. But there aren't very many of them. The ones that will cause you seriuos trouble are the ones who aren't going to be fearful and will also be able to exploit you if you try to rely on instilling fear as an important part of your gameplan.

So, don't be predicable. Confuse them whenever possible. But don't try to scare them. It's wasted effort and will more likely backfire. The few times it will work are really only with opponents that are so easy to beat that you didn't need to instill fear to accomplish the task, it will only seem like instilling fear worked.

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