In full disclosure, I enjoy video games and thus always view myself as Player1. In a poker game, I view everyone else as players in my game, and I rank them. So at a 9-handed game I would rank them Player1-Player9, and I would hope that I am always Player1. By that nomenclature, Player2 is the second best player at the table. If you aren’t routinely the best player at the table, you are doing something wrong and have work to do. So when you are the best player, your goal is to shoot down anyone who has a chance of trampling you. You want to be the table captain. You want to control the action. When you control the action it forces all of the money to come through you. You are the one who decides the size of the pot and they are at your mercy.
This is not an ego thing by the way. This is simply a dynamic thing. If you aren’t the best player at the table regularly, it’s time to put in some serious work. But once you are the best player in 90% of line ups, your goal is to assess your edge. The smaller your edge on Player2, the more important it is to shut him down. Remove him from his comfort zone. Never allow him to easily control the table. You are Player1 and you will retain that title until you decide to leave the game.
So how do you go about taking down Player2? I’m glad you asked! You out-aggro him. I should preface this by saying it’s much easier to control him when you have position. But even OOP you can shut him down, it just takes some extra creativity. Essentially, you make him hate opening. If you are 3betting him a lot, just think about how he’ll feel. Even if you are 3betting a decent chunk of his opens, is he going to love looking down at 99 or AJs? And if he hates life when holding things like JJ or AK…you’re owning him.
Step back and think about a time when you played against an aggrotard…how did you feel? How did you adjust? Chances are you backed off and tried to wait for a real hand. That’s how the average person tries to adjust as well. The issue with that strategy is simple: you don’t get strong hands very often. You get nutted hands seemingly never. And even when you do get one are you really getting stacks often? Or are you just picking up a 3bet or a cbet from time to time?
That adjustment sucks. It means you’ve lost and that you’ve just said, “Here you go sir…take my crown and control the table as you see fit.” And worse than that, you’ve removed your own win rate from the game. You will be playing like 9% of hands and making zero dollars barring a little rungood. That being said, this concept is geared towards competent Player2s…not the drunk dolt who is trying to burn through money before his wife calls him home. A competent Player2 who claims Player1 status will make your life a living hell.
So, back to aggressing him. 3betting is your friend. Make him adjust to you. Make him have a hand. Or make him start 4-betting (more) air. Either way you are likely taking him out of his comfort zone. And when you can stay in your comfort zone and take him out of his, you win. You may lose some single battles, but you will crush the war. And let’s be honest, that’s all poker is about…the war.
…when you can stay in your comfort zone and take him out of his, you win…
The thing is that most players adjust very poorly when they get aggressed, and even more so when a player is solely used to being the aggressor rather than facing aggression. If he adjusts by 4betting…it’s just going to be an expensive night (but they rarely adjust like this, for what it’s worth). If he adjusts by calling more OOP, how can you lose? And if he adjusts by folding more, you’ve just simply taken him out of the game. Which means you keep your Player1 status and improve your edge against the table as a whole because the other player who would have taken money away from others as well has now been removed from the equation. Easy game, right?
The truth of the matter is that most players won’t implement this advice. It’s too aggro, it’s too loose, and the variance is too high. But you know what? The variance isn’t higher. In fact, quite the opposite. Your win rate naturally goes up in this dynamic, and thus your variance decreases. You may expose a little more money with some lighter 3bets, you may expose a little more money with some triple barrels…but you are taking them in good spots while creating a dynamic that increases your edge.
This is a soft skill that allows you to utilize your hard skills like 3betting and barreling in some extra spots. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we need to be prepared to throw money in and know that it won’t always be coming back. You don’t play poker thinking that you’ll never lose a pot. You play poker understanding that there is risk. So you know what you do in your next session? Find Player2, close yours eyes, and 3bet the first time he opens. You may be surprised how it turns out, not just in that hand, but for the session as a whole 🙂