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Looking through the looking glass into world class poker

An analogy with poker and the true secret behind what can only be deemed world class play can be seen in the movie ‘the Matrix” with Keanu Reeves (remember Game Theory). In that movie, there was a scene if you were not aware where Reeves character “Neo” is waiting inside a room to see a lady called ‘the Oracle” that will tell him all that he wants to know about his future.

In that waiting room, Neo observes a boy with very special powers bending a spoon with what appears to be mind power. When he tries to replicate what the boy has done, he fails and then asks the boy how he did it. The boy reveals to Neo in some cryptic Zen like quote that it is not the spoon that is bending at all but their thoughts because ‘there is no spoon”.

Playing world class poker is a bit like this and the overwhelming number of players simply go through life never ever reaching the real goal of discovering what poker is actually about. They think that it is about mathematics and making big hands but they are wrong. There is surprising little maths in poker and making big hands is purely a bonus. It does not take skill to recognise a big hand and then have the patience to wait for it or to wait until you can cheaply flop the nuts and hope to trap someone.

This can be learnt in an incredibly short time frame by anyone and is how most people play and actually what they aspire to many of them. I mean, I could teach my young daughter to play like that in a day. If you can skilfully recognise situations that will be advantageous then you do not need cards it is as simple as that. The players that wait for the better hands are too transparent in their play, they may as well play with their cards turned up. Sure, they get to bust someone once in a while who has not been paying attention but those events do not come around all that often.

There should be a phrase that is etched into your memory and it is this,

LOOK FOR SITUATIONS AND NOT HANDS

It is pointless waiting for aces and kings and then misplaying them and losing your entire stack because you could not lay the hand down on the flop after someone had called your pre-flop raise and out flopped you. Yet this is what millions of players do, wait for the hands that they cannot even play properly when they arrive.

Just to get one thing clear here, I do not go around betting and raising like a lunatic and calling raises all over the place trying to get cute. Doing anything too often is counterproductive, I try and create a balance where I am stealing constantly whenever I am in a hand but I am not playing every hand. Other players are not stupid, they will know that you will not have flopped a hand every time. Also because players at the lower levels are weaker on average then bluffing and pressure betting can be less effective sometimes for several reasons.

The main two being that they have less money on the table and are likely to go all in and the second one is because they do not have the skill to recognize when they are beaten and will call with marginal hands where a good player would lay it down. But once you get your head around the idea of Flow theory then you do not have to wait for a hand to play. Certain things will align themselves and you will start to recognize a situation that can be exploited.

Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

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