One of the secrets to becoming a better poker player is that you don’t have to be the best player in the world—or even at your table. Especially at lower stakes game, you really only need to be less bad than your opponents. That means letting them make mistakes and reaping the rewards.
Everybody makes mistakes: both in life, and especially in poker. That’s why its so crucial to have a critical eye, so that you can identify your own mistakes and fix them, and also so that you can recognize when your opponents make mistakes so that you can take advantage of it.
There are two levels to this fundamental strategy, and the first is a prerequisite for the second. Let’s dive in.
Level One: Playing Solid Poker
If you can build a solid, default strategy, then you’ll make huge progress in the win-rate department. Learn the math behind foundational concepts like ranges, equity, and expected value. Simply making better calculations than your opponents will let you beat a lot of people.
The key here is that you’ll play your ABC strategy while your opponents mess around and make mistakes. You don’t need to get fancy or try to “outplay” anybody in this case. Just play your game and let the chips fall into your stack.
It sounds so simple, but this is actually one of the hardest parts of learning poker. There’s a lot of math involved, a lot of concepts to wrap your head around, and simply a ton of ground to cover. However, this is the best investment that you can make in your poker game.
Level Two: Baiting Mistakes
Once you’ve established your default strategy, it’s time to start exploiting your opponents’ weaknesses by identifying their misaligned frequencies, giving them a psychological player profile, and making moves that will set them up for mistakes.
For instance, if you know that there’s a loose-aggressive maniac at the table who always raises pre-flop limpers, then go ahead and limp in with your good hands. Sure, you might usually want to raise those premium hands, but if you know that the maniac is going to put more chips in the pot if you limp, then set them up to make that mistake.
The key to mastering this technique is thinking one step ahead of your opponents. You need to predict what you’ll do in response to one of your moves, and then make the move that sets them up for failure.
Follow these two steps, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming the chip leader.
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