David “The Maven” Chicotsky
It’s a common theme among poker players to say one would prefer to play against a good player rather than a bad player. Picture a meme image with a poker champion uncomfortably seated next to a fish. On the bottom, in typical bold lettering, reads, “Fish are less predictable, and sometimes, harder to catch.” In many ways, it makes sense for some players to want to avoid playing against unpredictable players. Maybe it’s just a general fear all people possess that creates this trend at the tables. Fear of the unknown is a powerful force, for most.
By most accounts, an intermediate player is more predictable than a mediocre player, but there are many poker players with significant experience who play like amateurs. So what do we know about amateurs or bad players? Are they less predictable, and if so, in what ways? What are the common mistakes or patterns that run rampant amongst the average mediocre player? Regarding the poker education level of mediocre poker players, if they’ve indulged in poker education, they’ve likely sought out books at major retail establishments. Meaning, if they’ve read subject matter on poker, they’ve all read the same books.
If you’re playing in a tournament with a mediocre player, the opponent might not make changes to their play style in cash games, sit-n-gos or satellites. Betting two-thirds of the pot, or the entire pot (in a cash game) might be the right move, but it’s rarely the correct bet in a tournament. Having a comparatively shallow stack, on average, in a tournament makes each blind worth more. Therefore, each blind represents more risk and reward than is represented in a cash game. In a cash game, you might have 200 blinds in front of you, and the ability to rebuy if you were to lose.
You’re able to bet a smaller amount in tournaments compared to cash games. You could bet 50% of the pot instead of 66%, which is a more efficient bet. It’s a big pendulum, or balancing act, between how many folds you get, versus how much you’re paid (so to speak) to get the fold.
Most mediocre players bet too big, relative to the pot in tournaments. This is just one of the many predictable ways an amateur will play. Know that it’s basically backwards thinking to avoid mediocre, unpredictable players. Embrace any chance you can to play against bad players. They might be more unpredictable to play against, but ultimately they are easier to profit against, and that’s your advantage.
David “The Maven” Chicotsky is the 2008 Online Player of the Year and a former #1 ranked online tournament poker player. He is also a well-respected poker coach and can be reached at TheMavenTraining.com. David is currently the Marketing Director for PokeroomUSA and a regular player on PPN Poker.