Understanding your opponents is the key to maximising your winnings when playing poker. You will find that in all games the outcome of you winning or losing will come down to a few crucial decisions, do you fold, do you call or do you raise them all in? Make the correct decision and you are going home with your pockets stuffed full of cash. Make the wrong decision and you are walking home faced with the proposition of telling the wife you have just blown this months rent on a bad call. You will come up against many weak players in your poker career and this article will begin to explain how best to play against them so you take all their money.
One thing you must always do when playing poker is adopt your play depending on whom you are facing on any particular hand. In its simplest format we will put players into 2 categories, weak players and strong players. Both have their own characteristics and both can be played for profit. Automatically you would assume that weak players are easier to play against but this is not always the case.
Because weak players do not understand the game in as much depth as strong players, they will quite often not succumb to bluffs and advanced strategies. A common example of this would be if there is a flush draw on the board and you have nothing. You go for a big raise trying to give the impression that you have the nuts. The weak player calls and turns over top pair. Most strong players would have recognised your move of a big bet and (if they did not have the flush) would have folded. The weaker player did not notice this call and thinking a top pair is a good hand, called you out. The result is he wins and you lose because the weak player quite simply missed the bluff.
So the all-important question is how do you play the weak player so you maximise your winnings and minimises your losses? The answer is simple, don't over complicate things. The weak player won't understand bluffs or check raises so don't use them. Instead play to the strength of your hands. If you have 3 of a kind and the weaker player is calling he will probably have a pair or 2 of a kind. What I am trying to get at is that weak players will call with weak hands. They are also likely to pay for a draw. That is they will pay big money because they want that extra card to make the straight or flush.
Another categorical sign that a player has nothing is if they check after the flop and turn. Weak players will only bet if they have a hand and a weak one at that. This is one of the rare times that you can bluff a weak player. Say a ragged flop comes down and you check and so does your opponent. Then he checks on the turn, you could put in a monster bet and chances are he will fold, he certainly won't think to check raise, that's for sure.
Weak players also like action. By this I mean they like to see lots of flops. How much fun is it for an inexperienced poker player to sit there and fold every hand? If you are a strong player you know that if you don't have the cards you don't play, simple as that. So you could say that weak player play permanently on tilt, they are likely to play trash hands that look pretty. By this I mean suited cards like 8 2 diamonds, or 3 4 off suit because in their mind they have a good chance of hitting the flush or straight draw. The stronger player knows that the odds are stacked against them with these hands and will chuck them in games with 10 or more players.
Callers are another trait of the weaker players. By this I mean players that call all the way probably because they like the action. For all they care they could have 7 2 off suit and the board could look like this 6 4 k A 9 yet they would still call and to my mind I have no idea why. If you come up against these types of players, never try to bluff them no matter what is down on the board, you will get called, simple as. Of course these players can help you as well. If you come up against one you can take them to the cleaners with low value hands.
I hope this advice helps. In part 2 I will be discussing when weak players bet and call and providing examples of how to turn losing hands into winning ones. For more poker advice and strategies like this one visit our online poker directory and "see what others say before you play"