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Profiling And Exploiting Your Opponents

The way to play poker

It's hard to overstate the importance of the strategy of looking to exploit your opponents' play, as it's not just the most important thing, it's really the only thing.

If we're just looking to focus on our own cards, even some of the time, then our play becomes completely out of context, as the context always is in reference to our opponents and their image.

How to exploit your opponents

Even if we have the stone cold nuts, we need to look to our opponent to decide how to best play the hand to extract the most money from them. Every move at the poker table needs to be in reference to our opponents: what they may have, how they generally play in this particular situation, what they have done in the hand so far, and what they may be expected to do next.

There are of course various levels of sophistication involved in all of this, however it is never too soon to look to develop your skills in this area.

Even with new players to the game, they should at least start thinking about playing their opponents and not just their own cards. Of course you need to start out with the simplest concepts and work your way up, but you need to start somewhere, and it is far preferable to start with some good habits rather than making obvious poker mistakes.

We tend to start out with some broad notions here, like looking to characterize a player overall in a few categories such as loose aggressive or tight passive or whatever. This is not a bad idea for players looking to learn the basics, but as we progress we want to look to refine this to look at traits more specifically.

How to profile your opponents

For instance, we might call a player loose overall but we may spot a trend where he tends to tighten up a lot when pressured, or give up on bluffs later in the hand, or whatever.

So while these broad features are fine to start out with, we do want to look to use much finer strokes to really look to figure out someone's game in more detail and thus be more proficient in taking advantage of them.

We then take these tendencies and tells and then put them together with the specifics of the hand, meaning how it was played and what cards are out, to put together our reads and then decide how to proceed. So this can be a fairly complex matter but as you look to improve here, you will progress at least somewhat.

There is always a tradeoff as far as the amount of tables you play at once, and even with the best stats, the less you can pay attention to the action and the less time you have to plan your moves, the less effective you will tend to be.

In order to really develop as a player, if you are a big grinder, you really should take regular breaks from this and focus on a single table to look to develop your game more by looking to incorporate such sophisticated thinking into it.

A lot of players don't though, and this is why they struggle so much against the so called regulars at their stakes, and have so much trouble moving up. While your earn rate per hour certainly matters, we need to look at the long term as well, and improving our abilities to exploit our opponents should always be a top priority.