Monday, September 28, 2009

Avoiding Predictability

I really fell into a rut and predictable pattern over the last few weeks. I think what happened is that I ran really poor for an extended stretch, lost confidence, and tightened up my game a lot. With me it's almost instinctual to tighten up and be less aggressive when things are going badly. This is the wrong thing to do though. The cards have no memory, they don't know whether you've been running good or bad, so I should never let past results influence my play at the table.

I always say what separates good players from great players is how they play when everything imaginable goes wrong, as it inevitably does in poker. Well, I played about my C game when it happened.

I didn't even realize what was going on until a few days ago. It dawned on me looking at some graphs that I'd had no big upswings or downswings over the last 50,000 hands or so. Then I started thinking about how I used to play when I first moved up to 30-60 and I remembered that I was much more aggressive and unpredictable. So these past few days I've made an effort to be ultra-aggressive and extremely unpredictable. I've gone so far that I'm probably at the other extreme now, playing like an insane maniac. I'm sure the regulars in my games are convinced there's more than one person using my account.

Since I made the transition to insane maniac, I've been winning a lot more pots with the worst hand, bluffing my opponents off their hands, sometimes in huge pots (no easy feat in limit).

I've noticed some of my opponents are reluctant to get involved with me. They're not attacking my blinds as much and/or folding their blinds to my raises. Both of these things are incredibly profitable for me. I've also noticed players making a lot of mistakes they wouldn't ordinarily make. I've taken a lot of people out of their comfort zone and am putting them to test time and time again. This is a great thing to do and a great position to put your opponents in.

And the super swings are back. Today alone I had a 150 big bet upswing followed by a 110 big bet downswing, followed by an 80 big bet upswing. In dollar terms, I had 5 or 6 $5000 swings today. Good times are here again.

The moral of the story is: avoid being predictable at all costs. Even if it means making outrageous bluffs, or plays you'd never ordinarily make just for the sake of being unpredictable, go ahead and try it. Poker is never played in a vacuum, so even though you might give up some value in a particular hand by doing something crazy, you'll get some, if not all or more of that value back in later hands. Put your opponents in tough spots, make them feel uncomfortable. The game is about making less mistakes than your opponents. The more uncomfortable you can make them, the more prone they are to mistakes.

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