Getting inside your adversaries’ heads

April 8, 2008

A quote, from Eric Van Lustbaders’s continuation of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series, “The Bourne Betrayal”:

“Bourne’s success had come from being able to get inside his adversaries’ heads”

Maybe not a revolutionary statement, and perhaps Robert Ludlum already said it better but I don’t have those books available to me right now. Still, I note it because of the relevance it has to playing poker.


I’m working my way through the newly released Harrington books on cash games. Harrington gives an analysis of a hand from a poker show between a QQ and a JJ. QQ raises, JJ calls from the blinds, flop comes AKx. Both players are thinking that they are either WA/WB so both check the flop, turn. QQ makes a callable value bet on the river, JJ calls, Harrington says well played on both parts.

But these are pros playing against pros. How would one of these pros play either hand at a micro limit table? They have essentially the same hand, the only difference is position. Does JJ in the blinds 3-bet a micro player to find out what he has? A micro player with the QQ likely c-bets the flop, trying to fold anyone who missed the flop without considering the WA/WB concept. But if the pro checks the flop with QQ, a micro player with the JJ might assume that means weakness and pot the turn.

You have to be able to get inside your adversaries’ heads. When you play different levels you have to be able to sense the way your opponents think to narrow down the range of their holdings as well as to look for ways to beat them. If you know that they’re tight/weak, you can raise regularly into them but if they’re really tight you have to be ready to fold if they fight back. If they bet flops too often you have to look for opportunities to call when you have something to draw to or reraise them and challenge them.

Last night I wanted to use up 0.40 of tournament dollars I had so I joined a $1 Sit and Go on my main site, not the one I normally play the turbo SnGs on. This was a mistake because of the lateness of the hour but at least I did a few thing right. Played few hands early, got to 50/100 blinds with slightly more chips than I started with, started raising liberally. It helped that I had decent cards and the table was quite weak preflop. Bashed people around, folded to most other aggression. 4 handed I note the player to my right is betting most flops and shows down a bet at a totally missed flop. Within the space of a couple of orbits I note the other three of us have all taken turns raising his flop bets and he’s folded all three. Then he gets short stacked and starts shoving and builds his stack back up a bit.

Later the very tight/weak player across from me limps from the button into my BB. I have 99 and raise 4x. I know the button has some kind of hand since he limps about as many hands as a good player would be raising, meaning whatever he has is probably a normal raising hand. Takes his time and raises me back so I put him all in. He turns over JJ but I suck out with a 9 on the flop. 99 I could fold after his raise, but if he’s got AK/AQ/AJ I want to get him in because 1) I’m the chip leader, 2) I’m backing up my aggression, 3) and this tourney is taking too long 🙂

Anyway, I’m meandering. Maybe I played too late into the evening.


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