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Attack of the Killer Donkeys

Yes, there are herds of them out there in Pokerland, and I'm sure you've all had recent run-ins with players who call all bets with bottom pair and stay with a gut shot because they felt it was coming, or the nut who won't fold pocket deuces when ace-big-big hits the board.

Sadly, there are times when those donkeys and donkettes will catch a deuce runner and kick your behind with those big legs!

Two years ago, I stressed comparing pot odds with probabilities before acting. It's still important, but you really have to study the makeup of the table and adjust your play accordingly. If a thoroughbred picks a fight in a herd of donkeys, he is going to lose. Simply put, that means that if you're the only solid player at the table ... you're at a big disadvantage.

So what can you do to even the odds out against a table full of these players?

First of all, you must remember to find your comfort zone. If you don't feel you're in control of your chips, you have to change tables. If there are no other available tables, going home is a good option. But if you don't want to leave the game, you have to figure out who you are up against and play them the way they should be played.

One of the main reasons for the increase in loose play is the emergence of poker hobbyists who visit brick and mortar poker rooms in increasing numbers since the advent of online poker and televised tournaments. They don't understand that high stakes, heads up, live or tournament play is not what they will see in your card room.

Many of them come wearing hooded sweatshirts, dark glasses and hats like their television idols, and most don't care about losing a couple of hundred bucks in a poker session. Some mouth an unlit cigarette like Sammy or use an Ipod like Phil, and they're happy if they last four or five hours playing the game they think they saw on TV. They have no real concept of poker, and all they know is that the TV announcer said, "Ace-big is a great starting hand and must be raised pre-flop." But they don't understand that when you have several callers and you don't hit the flop, you're probably way behind.

There's no need to give them credit for knowing what they are doing. Put yourself in their shoes; don't put them in yours!

Don't hesitate to put them on junk when deciding how to play your hand. We've always been told that aggression is the key to success in poker, so we are reluctant to relinquish control of the betting. Nevertheless, it makes good sense to check your hand occasionally and see what others do on the turn. If they come out swinging on a board that hasn't hit you, it's time to reconsider.

When playing a donkey we must do remember they are not skilled players. If you give them too much credit, you will fold winning hands because you think they played like you would. If you don't question why they are calling with a junk board, then you will surely overplay your unimproved pair and lose more than you should have.

Good players are easier to put on a hand-or even a bluff-because there is purpose or reason behind their actions. Hobbyists, on the other hand, are not playing to win; they are playing to play, which makes them dangerous adversaries.

All of this has had an effect on tournament play too, and it's is rare to see top professionals win a major tournament. One reason is that there are so many of these new players in the game that the sheer numbers overwhelm the really skilled players. Tournament winners have to survive many all-in bets, and there are unknown players winning major events every week. It's just the nature of poker now, and you have to adjust or get trampled in the hee-haw stampede.

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