Most poker strategy advice is about playing your hand. In this latest “In Conversation” video for Paul Phua Poker, Dan “Jungleman” Cates and Winfred Yu talk about playing the poker player. Paul Phua picks the highlights
In order to improve your poker strategy, it is very important to listen to players more experienced than yourself. One edge I had over my fellow businessmen, when we started playing ultra-high-stakes cash games against the top poker pros years ago, was that my English is good. I learned a lot of good poker tips just from listening to the poker pros talking about their hands.
But we can’t all share a table with the likes of Dan “Jungleman” Cates! That’s why I started the “In Conversation” series of videos: to allow all followers of the Paul Phua Poker School to watch and listen and learn as some of the world’s best players talk about poker.
Don’t bluff a losing player
In this latest “In Conversation” video for the Paul Phua Poker School, Dan “Jungleman” Cates, Winfred Yu and myself discuss something deeper than hand strategy. We talk about how to play the poker player, not just the cards.
Winfred Yu is asked who he would rather try to bluff: myself, or Jungleman? I am afraid he chose me! I have a reputation as a tight player, so maybe Winfred is thinking I would be less likely to call his bluff. But one should not think merely in such black and white terms. As I reply in the video, my decision to call will more likely be influenced not by how conservative player I am, but whether I am currently up or down. If am losing, I am more likely to call.
Winfred agrees that this is true for many players, particularly Asian players: “If he is losing a lot, don’t bluff him,” is Winfred’s advice.
Take advantage of players who feel under pressure
So you see, there are things you need to consider beyond the cards you hold and that you think your opponents hold. Are they tired? Frustrated? On tilt? Are they busy eating or talking? All these things will affect their decision to call or fold.
Jungleman adds an example from his own experience. On the final table of a tournament, players are under additional pressure from being watched, sometimes even televised. Many will not play their usual game, for fear of making an unusual move that goes wrong and causes them to appear foolish.
Jungleman explains: “So most likely you’ll see players, especially ones that, you know, aren’t used to playing these kinds of things, play much more straightforward than usual, and so maybe someone like Fedor [Holz], who is pretty out of line compared to everyone else, could actually run over the table, like, a lot.”
We saw this recently in the Triton Super High Roller Series in Montenegro, where Fedor Holz arrived late to the 6-Max tournament, quickly amassed a large stack of chips, and went on to win.
Be aware of ICM
Finally, this leads Jungleman to a very interesting discussion of ICM. ICM stands for Independent Chip Modelling, and is a mathematical formula for working out what your tournament chips are really worth, depending on your likely return given the stack sizes and payout structure.
In this video Jungleman explains the practical applications of ICM, using the example of three players left in a tournament of whom only one is short-stacked. “If one player’s very close to busting and you and the other guy have both, like, an equal number of chips, you and the other guy basically just want to bust the other guy, the guy with the very short stack. Because it’s just such a punt to gamble with the guy who has an equal stack size to you.”
The lesson here is that you should be much more cautious against the other big stack, and fold far more hands to him than you would to the small stack. Why risk an all-in against the big stack that might leave you busting out in third place, missing out on the second place prize which is usually much bigger? Far better to wait until the small stack busts out: then you and the other big stack can go to war.
When you listen to the poker pros, you realise there is so much more to poker strategy than just the cards in your hand!