We've discussed frequency of the play of our opponents in several lessons, yet this topic is important enough to go into in a little more depth at this point in the lessons series.
First off, you may be wondering how me may track this information, given the extent of what needs to be tracked here, and the detail of it. At some point, we are hoping to have this function integrated in a poker software package.
The real challenge here though isn't getting the software developed, it's what to do about allowing our opponents access to what would be a very powerful program. In the game of poker, you don't want to educate your opponents too much. One of the advantages we have is that we tend to pay more attention to our opponents more than they pay attention to us. So we need to be careful not to level the playing field here. We wouldn't want too many of our opponents to have it too easy, so that's why I'm treading cautiously here. The trick will be to get it to provide information that will require some real skill in interpreting.
For now though, simply by observing, we can still pick up quite a bit. However, it's still important to gain enough of an understanding about the theory behind frequency, so we can use our observational powers to best advantage. Another benefit of this is that we are empowering our subconscious minds to intervene on our behalf in a more effective way. We actually use, or should be using our subconscious minds a fair bit in playing, which will give us a "feel" for the type of decisions that tend to be correct. This is the mechanism whereby we use our experience playing the game to best effect. And of course, as we increase our knowledge, our "feel" increases in turn.
So let's look in a little more depth into what we need to be looking for here. The focus will be on making some general comments about some general styles of play.
Pre-flop Percentages: This of course is going to give us information where we can make inferences about the quality and range of hands played by opponents in certain situations. The considerations here are percentage of calls and raises. Let's look at some typical players here:
1. Plays a lot of hands. He doesn't really raise a lot. This player can play two high, one high, any 2 suited, or connectors with varying gaps. He's folding some hands though so we'll look at what he actually plays to give us a better idea. When he does raise, this is where we'll be the most concerned. If not, there's 2 things to keep in mind here. Rag flops are more likely to hit him, so we need to be aware that we may be behind here. This is particularly important where flush and lower straight potential exist. With a high card up and him involved, we're very likely to outkick him, and look forward to this action. We can also usually discount a lot of premium hands he would normally raise with.
2. Medium call frequency: This is your middle of the road player who plays about 1 in 3 times not on the blind, as opposed to more than this from the looser player described above. He's a little more selective, and will be playing high cards, ace low, perhaps king low, suited, and connectors, although of a higher caliber than the looser player. When he raises, again, this will give us valuable information. Kickers tend to be a little better than the looser player, but still won't be as good as ours in most cases. He's got an even greater potential for low straights, as his connectors tend to be closer together. Flush potential is still a concern as well, and the flushes will tend to be a little higher.
3. Tight players: We won't run into that many of these players at our games, but we need to be aware of them when they do emerge. They are playing good cards, although probably not quite as good as ours. We need to monitor their raise frequency even more though, as this is going to tell us if they have a decent hand or a good one. The money we make off of these players is for the most part going to come when our hands are a little better, which does make for some very good action. If we're a little sub par though, we need to be careful here, as we don't want to be the player who is marginally outkicked.
4. Aggressive players: These players bring it in for a raise quite a bit pre-flop. The range of hands they raise with will be according to their frequency of raising. What you want to do with these players is to get involved with less than what you would normally call raises with, and look to play back when you get the hands you would normally call raises with.
Post Flop: You need to treat the information you gain here separately. Often you will run into players who are loose pre-flop, and tighten up after the flop, and vice versa. In addition, there are players who call loosely or tightly, and bet loosely or tightly.
1. Bets loosely pre-flop: These players are the more aggressive variety, more so than the norm at loose games. The frequency of a player's betting will give you good insight into the quality of hand required to do so. This player bets a lot. We can loosen up against him, and become more aggressive as well, calling with more hands and raising with more as well, when we have a good enough hand.
2. Doesn't bet a lot pre-flop: There are two variations to this - the check folder and the check caller. With the check folder, we generally will tend more to bet into them when we seem to have the advantage, looking to limit their free cards and also take advantage of fold equity. If they are a check caller, we will take the free cards when we're behind, and bet when we're probably ahead.
3. Raises a lot pre-flop: This is going to be similar to the pre-flop raiser. We want to look more to players raising throughout the hand, rather than holding back and raising in later streets, since this may indicate slow play. As far as frequent raisers are concerned, again we want to pay attention to the frequency of the raising to give us an idea of what the range of hands being raised with consists of. Then, we'll be looking to either call along or play back, depending on our own hand strength, which will be loosened in proportion to their frequency.
4. The calling station: This player is one we run into a lot. He likes to call with second or third pair, and particularly likes to play draws, often with little regard to the odds. He simply likes to win pots. Its important to make him pay for every card he gets. He won't raise you a lot, but when he does, care must be exercised here.
So we've looked at a few scenarios here in this lesson, from more of a general and practical standpoint, rather than from a purely mathematical perspective. The underlying principle though is - the more hands they play in a given situation (call, bet, or raise), the lesser the quality of hands that are being played in such a manner. Therefore, it is very wise to pay attention to this, in addition to looking to see what we can gain from their showing their cards at the end. When we put the two together, we will have established a valuable advantage over them.