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How to Play Against Superior Opponents

You might have heard this saying: it doesn’t matter if you’re the 8th best poker player in the world if the top seven are at your table. In our never-ending quest to become better at this game we love, we’re inevitably going to hit up against some pretty tough opponents.

Here’s what you need to know when you sit down at the shark tank.

Leave Behind the Ego

Everyone wants to be the best. While it’s great to have this goal, we need to be realistic. We can’t let our pride get in the way of our win-rate. As pro player Dutch Boyd put it, “Poker is a lot like sex. Everyone thinks that they are the best, but most don’t have a clue what they’re doing!”

The first thing that you need to address when put in the ring against tough players is your mental game. Leave your ego behind. You don’t need to prove anything. Trying to make showy or fancy plays, or even worse trying to assert your ‘dominance’ at the table, will open up leaks in your game that these players will exploit.

Stick to what you know. Play solid poker with your head, not your heart.

Don’t Let Yourself Get Pushed Around

Though you don’t want to go over the top as a macho-man, it’s also important to stick up for yourself. If you’re scared to play at all, then these players will use that against you.

For instance, they might start mercilessly 3-betting you pre-flop, costing you all your open raises. The key to solving this problem is to play a balanced strategy. As soon as you start to act predictably, then they’ll smell blood in the water.

Avoid the Shark

If there’s only one shark at the table, we can take certain steps to mitigate their presence. You shouldn’t start folding premium hands just because they’re in the pot, but you’ll probably still want to tighten up your range against them.

Avoiding the shark becomes much easier if there’s plenty of fish at the table. While you might compete for who gets to stay in the pot against them, they’re not going to want to be in every hand.

To this end, we can use position to our advantage. We don’t want to get stuck out of position against a better player who can use it against us. It’s much better to either have position against them going into the post-flop play or to use our position to enter the pot after they fold.

Simply avoiding the shark when possible can mitigate our losses against them.

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