BY RUSS SCOTT
RELEASE: APRIL 27, 2010
Arkansas Player: ‘What’s My Best Strategy Against Aggressive Donkeys?’
An online player in Arkansas is a consistent winner, but a recent session left him frustrated and unsure how to deal with today’s super-aggressive opponents.
Q: In a recent one-table tournament, half of my opponents were decent players, the other half donkeys. I couldn’t enter pots with any confidence and ended up just folding until I basically was out of chips. Is there a strategy for a game like this besides just picking an all-in hand and crossing my fingers? – Brian L. in Arkadelphia, Ark.
A: Brian, you’ve hit on a key reason why poker, especially online, is tough to beat today — a growing number of highly aggressive players.
Your experience in that $20 sit-and-go wasn’t as unusual as you might think, partly because players could rebuy once during the first hour. Nevertheless, it appears you had a really wild table. You wrote:
“These donkeys were different than I am used to. There were pre-flop raises of 20 times the big blind, and sometimes three or four callers. This went on for at least an hour. My raises in good position were getting reraised regularly, and I wasn’t getting the quality of pre-flop hands to call them.”
It got worse from there.
“I would watch the other players’ cards at showdown and be shocked. Unbelievable hands were being played with no strategy at all. Of course, sometimes they actually had decent hands or would just call any bet and end up catching something. I couldn’t gauge what hands to play and what to lay down.”
“My position plays and standard pre-flop raises that normally steal me so many blinds, and my continuation bets that win so many small pots, were completely useless in this too-many-donkeys situation. The out-of-control players, ironically, had control of the game.”
No wonder you asked, “Is a game like this simply too erratic for any strategy?”
There’s always a counter strategy, Brian, but that doesn’t assure success. Before we get into that, I’d like to suggest a change in your mindset.
Lots of players call opponents “donkeys” because of their seemingly reckless and idiotic moves at the table. I believe that’s a mistake.
Using the donkey label for unconventional players is too personal. It can obscure your primary mission — figuring out their tendencies and weaknesses.
A solid player facing a wacky one can’t let frustration take over. Instead of name-calling, study his true playing strategy — however crazy it seems — and try to exploit it.
Here are some tips for playing against unconventional opponents:
*** Be extremely patient early. You can’t win the event in the first hour. Just smile at their huge bets and muck everything but premium pairs.
*** Play non-rebuy events, which usually are less volatile.
*** Don’t enter pots with hands you’ll fold if someone raises, especially until you’ve got a good read on your opponents.
*** Carefully watch opponents’ bet sizing. Do they overbet marginal hands to force players out and underbet good ones to entice them in? If you see a pattern, react accordingly.
*** Are they always aggressive pre-flop in late position? Since they can’t have a strong hand every time, sometimes you should push back hard from the blinds with reasonable starting cards (8-8 or better paired, A-10 or better unpaired), especially if you’ll be heads-up. Yes, it’s a risk, but it’s better than always giving in.
*** Mix up your play more. Set some traps with your big hands. Sometimes just call down their probable bluffs when you have top pair. Other times, against opponents who simply won’t fold, make them pay dearly when you’ve got the goods.
*** Never play so tightly that the blinds and antes demolish your stack. Be willing to gamble before that happens.
An unconventional player’s worst nightmare is someone who does the opposite of what they want. Try to be that unpredictable player, but watch for signs of a “smart donkey” who shifts gears to counteract your play.
E-mail your poker questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org for use in future columns. To find out more about Russ Scott and read previous LuckyDog Poker columns, visit www.creators.com or www.luckydogpoker.com.
COPYRIGHT 2010 RUSS SCOTT
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