Take a game like Texas hold’em. It’s not just a one-type, one-style game. And every single one of its permutations requires its own particular set of skills: There are full ring games that will be either loose-aggressive, loose-passive, tight-aggressive, or tight-passive. There are shorthanded games, pot-limit, no-limit, and tournaments.
We all start out with perceptions of the correct way to play a particular type of game. And when you factor personal style into the mix, the upshot is that there’s always one certain type of game that an individual player tends to gravitate to. This does not mean that the games that don’t fit our own particular style are any less ski11-based or any 1ess interesting than the type of game another player specializes in. It just means that we’ve all got a Slot Gacor game that for each of us seems to have the most comfortable fit. Nothing wrong with that, of course. That is, unless it leads to The Trap.
You know The Trap. Maybe you’ve even heard yourself uttering its chant: This strategy has worked for me in the past, I am not going to change it, the reason that I am doing poorly is just BAD LUCK.
It’s too easy to get stuck in The Trap which leads to thoughts 1ike “I like full ring games and if the game is shorthanded I am not going to play.” There’ll be an equally trapped group of players out there who will only want to play if the game IS shorthanded. There’ll be another group that only wants to play pot-limit. Or no-limit. Or wi11 only play if a game is in a tournament format.
This kind of thinking is fine if you like running in place. But if it is your desire to be a great player, you cannot afford to shy away from the types of games that do not fit your style. With enough thought you can develop strategies that will be successful in the other forms of hold-em — or any other kind of poker, for that matter. The minute you quit studying the game you are doomed to failure. Why? Because some of your opponents are out there always thinking of ways to improve their games.
Let’s put it in terms that matter: You are giving up a tremendous moneymaking opportunity if you only want to play one particular form of a game and ignore all the others.
To be a truly winning player, you should be able to a respectable job in games like HORSE — hold’em ,Omaha eight or better, razz, seven-stud, and stud eight or better. Consider this: Even in the high-limit HORSE games, roughly 25 percent of the table doesn’t have the faintest idea how to play the specific game that is being dealt at any given time. Yet, if you have fallen into The Trap, you are still sitting in your favorite game –even if it isn’t very good at the moment — when the HORSE is the best game in the room.
Any game the live ones want to play, you have to be flexible enough to play. The live ones are the providers. For years, I would hear time and again that you need to be an idiot to be a great tournament player, that the people who are successful in tournaments could not ha table full of live ones if the situation was a money game, rather than a tournament format. And on and on.
Yet the good tournament players make a good deal more money than the live action players do, In my opinion, when you start calling people idiots just because they have different sets of skills than those you possess — rather than trying to figure out what it is they are doing right and where you are going wrong — the idiot becomes very easy to find. Just look in the mirror.
The major difference between live games and tournaments is that, in a tournament, your opponents can’t go into their pocket when they run out of chips. If your opponents are going to play differently because they have to exit if they go broke, shouldn’t you be playing differently also? The good tournament players do well in tournaments because their opponents play too timidly trying to keep in the game. Good tournament player’s often do poorly in live games because they get overly .aggressive against the same opponents who now are not timid, causing the tournament specialist to bluff off his money.
Good shorthanded players fall into the same trap. The value of aggression goes up in shorthanded games and tournaments. It goes down when the games are full, because you have to have a strong hand a higher percentage of the time — except of course when the game is tight.
Mason Malmuth once wrote a column entitled “Action Dan” in which he stated that there is a new breed of tournament player emerging. These players had been experts at live games and were now also starting to take tournament play seriously. Current world champion of poker Dan Harrington is a good example of this type of player. After thinking through the correct tournament strategies and playing in a few tournaments, Dan Harrington has done what nobody in the past has been able to do: win the $2,500 no-limit and the $10,000 no-1imit at last year’s World Series; win the $10,000 no-limit European championship, followed up by the$5,000 no-limit championship recently at the Four Queens. Dan does not fit into that category of overly aggressive players who had been successful in the past. He is instead an expert player who has put a lot of thought into how to play a tournament. He didn’t fall into The Trap.
The people that dominated the $10-$20 hold’em games of the early 1980s were all aggressive players. They did so well because their opponents were used to playing the old structure — which was a 50-cent ante and one $5 blind, Their opponents played too tight and the aggressive players ran over them. Their opponents were incapable of adjusting to the new game: They fell into The Trap.
When the games became looser in the late 1980s, all the people who dominated the games in the early 1980’s went broke because they were not capable of adjusting to the new game. Now they fell into The Trap.
But then, who can blame them? Change is difficult. Flexibility isn’t as simple as it sounds. And think how easy it is to fall into The Trap: This strategy has worked for me in the past, I am not going to change it, the reason that I am doing poorly is bad luck… bad luck…bad luck…The Trap’s gotcha.