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“Thoughts on Observation” by Alan25main

July 14, 2021

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Good poker players take time to notice things. Even online, there are plenty of things to observe. Alan25main details some areas where you can focus your attention to improve your game.

Suppose you are a brand new recruit to Replay Poker, still stumbling around wondering how to do things.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming you’re playing against a machine. You’re not. All those other players are just as real as you are. Some are average, some are brilliant, some couldn’t dump sand out of boot if the directions were printed on the bottom of the heel. You’ll meet every one of them all here. Remember each one is different with their own pluses and minuses.

You manage to get yourself onto a table in the middle of a ring game, though you aren’t really sure how it happened. It looks just like the games you’ve seen on TV, but the players aren’t people you’ve heard of before. You haven’t picked a seat, but none are open, so no problem. What is the most important thing you can do?

You can observe. Observe what? Your opponents and everything about them. What images (if any) have they chosen to show the world? The game itself, from the size and shape of the table and number of its seats to how helpful the other players are or aren’t. Which players have large stacks or small. Which ones constantly chatter and which are silent as thieves in the night. Is someone acting as the table’s traffic cop, trying to slow down the speeders? 

What names have they chosen for themselves? If three of the players are Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, and if any one of them raises, then the other two also raise, would you recognize them as the Three Musketeers with their “all for one and one for all” credo? Does any of this data mean anything you can use?

A quick note about player names: Because a player calls himself Houdini doesn’t help him escape the traps the others have set. But, it’s still worth noting that he probably enjoys being–or at least thinking–he’s tricky. The real Houdini was quite careful–but, not careful enough (he died on stage, remember?). Shoemaker might actually be a cobbler, but they could also be a jockey from the racetrack. You need more data, though it’s a start. You’ll get more data in time. 

When a player calls, raises, or folds, was the action fast, slow, or deliberate? How could you know, if you didn’t pay attention earlier? Don’t some players seem to rush into every move while others take forever to decide what to do? 

How can you identify a quiet, relaxed game or avoid a wild one? If you look at the Average Pot column in the list of available ring games, the lower the amounts relative to the stake level will be the duller, quieter games, while the ones with large average pots will be the “more exciting” ones. But, keep in mind that “exciting” also implies “more dangerous.”

The more comfortable you are with volatility, the more comfortable you’ll be with the dangers of the combat–and, don’t fool yourself, this IS combat, just at a lower intensity than shooting at each other. A lot of players thrive on that volatility. In one episode, Maverick called poker “legal bushwhacking.”

Poker is only partly a game of cards and chips. It’s also a game of people.