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Third Rule of Poker

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The Third Golden Rule of Poker
Avoid playing too consistently; take note of the consistencies in your opponents.


Take a minute and think about some of the regulars with whom you play. Do any of them play the same game every time? Does one only raise when he's holding a monster? Does one raise all the time regardless of what he is holding? Does one call on mediocres to monsters, and fold on everything else? Let's look at some examples that better illustrate this point:

  • Example #1:
    You're at the table playing Hold 'Em with a bunch of calling stations -that is, players that only call or fold, but never raise- and one consistently big bettor. This player likens folding from a pot to backing out of a fight. His pride doesn't permit him to fold from a pot. What's more is that he rarely lets a bet go by without re-raising. A regular tough guy (and obviously unskilled poker player) at the table. Assuming he does not vary this style of play at all, here's how to make some easy money by taking advantage of his consistencies. If you are holding a weak hand, fold it...it's obvious you can't bluff him out. If you are holding a mediocre hand, call his bets without re-raising; in doing so, you put an end to his betting rounds unless a less intelligent player at the table chooses to re-raise (not likely out of a calling station). If you are holding a monster, bet your ass off...you'll be harder-pressed to card-read a consistent bumper like this one, so take him to task when you have the hand for it.

  • Example #2:
    You've been at the table for a few hours now, noting that a specific player is a regular calling station. Once in every ten hands, he opens a big betting round, or re-raises one on its way by. Because he does this rarely, you take note of his hand every time he plays it to showdown. Because raises from him are rare, you notice that he never raises and not plays to showdown. And every time that he does, he's holding a monster. If nobody sees him to showdown, go ahead and ask if he had it anyway. He's under no obligation to tell you, since nobody has paid to see his hand, but what's the harm in asking anyway? Of all this, you see that he never bluffs. Maybe he tried it once in his life, and didn't feel he could pull it off. Instead, he plays the hand that was dealt to him...every time. By observing these traits in what is obviously a basic illustration, it's clear as day that he ONLY ever raises with a monster.

    Again, two basic examples, but only to illustrate a point. In the first example, your game plan maximizes your wins and minimizes your losses. Your opponent only plays consistently. Even though he does not ever play representative of his hand (he raises on junk and on strong hands alike), you play your hand exactly as it was dealt to you. Even though you're now playing consistently, his style is not changing. You're both playing consistently, but you're playing smartly. In the second example, you have taken enough note of a player that his raises send off an alarm to tell you to re-examine your hand and possibly fold up tent. True, he could be bluffing, but you haven't seen him do it yet, and until you do, he is playing consistently.

    So, how to play inconsistently? There are no less than two basic methods of falsely representing your hand.

    If you have a strong hand, than consistent playing of the odds would dictate that you at least call, and possibly raise. To play inconsistently, you would 'slowplay'. With a made hand, you may choose to simply call or not raise very much in the early betting rounds, keeping more players in the game for later, heavier betting. By raising early (the 'right' decision when playing odds), you risk folding too many players who recognize your consistency and your strong hand.

    If you have a weak hand, than consistent playing of the odds would dictate that you fold, but possibly call. To play inconsistently, you would bluff. Folding obviously ensures you cannot win any money, and calling sends a message that your hand may not be a very strong one. Raising, when the odds dictate that you should not, sends a different message, that your hand is a strong one. If caught in the occasional bluff, you even extend a message to the whole table that your playing is not consistent, that they'd better develop a different strategy to beat you in future hands.

    Mixing up your consistent and inconsistent strategy ensures that your play is not so consistent that your betting round decisions firmly represent your true hand. Likewise, noted consistencies in the playing of your opponents can only help you in reading their hands and reacting accordingly.

  • First Rule of Poker - Second Rule of Poker - Third Rule of Poker - Fourth Rule of Poker - Fifth Rule of Poker - Sixth Rule of Poker - Seventh Rule of Poker

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