You earn poker profit only if your opponents make mistakes. That’s the fundamental truth about winning.
Nobody plays poker perfectly, so the battle is over mistakes. The players whose mistakes are the fewest or least costly eventually win. Mistakes made by opponents will naturally occur. But why settle for just those. You should entice even more of them. Today, we’ll examine how to do that.
Enticing covers many things, from projecting a personality that makes losing more comfortable for your opponents to eliciting bets and raises through subtle psychological maneuvers. But let’s go a step further. Let’s simply entice weak opponents to play in our pots. That’s indirectly enticing mistakes, because weak opponents make plenty of them.
Where the money lives
The most important key to enticing is to make yourself someone who weak opponents prefer to play against. Look at it this way. You’re trying to play in a land of weak opposition, because that’s where the money lives. Right?
Some players chase down extra-tough games out of pride. But you’re unlikely to make much money against strong opposition. Occasionally, you may choose to hone your skills in such games, but if you want to win as much as possible, you’ve got to understand a fundamental poker truth.
Your lifetime results won’t be determined by how skillful a player you are. Your results will reflect the difference between your skills and those of your opponents. Note the words, “the difference between.” Say it! The difference between. That gap in skill is how profit or loss is measured in poker. In fact, there’s no other possible source of poker profit.
So, you want to entice weak opponents to play against you. It’s a good idea to hunt them down and only play in games where they reside. But, wait! If you become a master of poker psychology, you’ll learn how to make yourself appealing to weak opponents. And then they’ll hunt you down!
You entice weak opponents to play against you whenever you present yourself as fun-loving and uncaring about whether you win or lose. Some players find it hard to feign not caring about winning pots. So, I say, don’t feign it. Try really not caring!
Ask yourself why you really care at all? If you’re making good decisions, you’ve done your job. Luck will take care of the rest — good luck, average luck, even horrible luck. Why do you care? You’ve played your part by making quality choices. The results are up to someone or something else. Maybe it’s the poker gods. Maybe it’s a mysterious force made up of mystical madness and probability storms. Whatever it is, it’s not you. So, stick to your job.
Yes, I suggest you really stop caring and then you won’t need to con opponents into thinking that you don’t care. Cheer for them. As I’ve said many times, if they win, you’ll be on the winning side emotionally. And if they lose, you’ll get a consolation prize — the pot. You won’t get upset. You’ll be able to concentrate on making the best decisions.
Do you see the advantage in cheering for your opponents? If it’s genuine, they’ll sense it. And they’ll love playing against you. You’ll entice them to enter your pots more often than anyone else’s. And there’s the profit! You get to play against weak opponents more than that serious looking expert across the table.
So, you’re likely to win more often and in greater sums.
Fine. But are there tricks you can do to entice money from opponents in specific situations? Sure. Try this. When you sandbag (meaning check with the hope of luring a bet and then raising), check defensively. Reach toward your chips, threatening to call. This puts an opponent into an either/or thought process. Either you’re going to call or you’re not. They feel their bet is safe with hands slightly above average. It seldom occurs to them that the “either” and the “or” are both wrong. “Neither” is the truth, because you raise. You’ve enticed a bet.
I also like to entice raises from aggressive no-limit opponents by betting about 20 percent of the maximum when I hold an unbeatable hand. By maximum, I mean the most that can be wagered. And that’s either the remaining amount in your stack or your opponent’s, whichever is smaller.
This 20 percent guideline can be modified to fit personalities and circumstances, but it’s a good starting point when you’re trying to entice a raise. You’re betting big enough to feel okay with a call, but you’ve betting small enough that a bully has room to pounce and destroy himself with a large raise.
In poker, you should always try to entice opponents into throwing money at you with losing hands. You should entice bets. You should entice calls. You should entice raises. And if you’re not doing it, it’s time to begin.
Mike Caro is widely regarded as the world’s foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. A renowned player and founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy, he is known as “the Mad Genius of Poker,” because of his lively delivery of concepts and latest research. You can visit him at www.poker1.com or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.