Poker is not a card game with people, it’s a people game with cards

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Jeffrey | Poker Articles, Poker Strategy, Poker Tournament

Submitted by Vic Porcelli, this article belongs to the Poker Strategy series.

Poker is a game of information.  To borrow a phrase from 1983 World Series of  Poker Main Event champ, Tom McEvoy, “…Poker is not a card game with people, it is a people game with cards.”  So how do we gather information about our opponents?  The first thing to learn is to not over think it. 

Let’s look at information that is a little less intricate than observing how your opponent breathes after he makes a big bet, or if the vein in his neck is protruding after looking at his hand. (both of which are parts of gathering information in the form of “tells”) 

Let’s start with some much more basic information.  Just listen.  Believe it or not, sometimes the information just comes to you.  Let me give you one example. 
I was playing in a tournament at a local casino.  The buy in was anywhere from $50 to $70 with 60 people in the tournament.  About an hour into the tournament the player to my left goes all in pre flop after some raising and re-raising action.  His hand was A Q.  He was up against A A and was knocked out of the tournament.  After he walked away from the table, the guy two seats away to my left leaned into me and said, “That will be the day when I put my tournament life on the line without a made hand and it better be Aces or Kings.”   I didn’t respond.  I just gave him an approving nod. 

Sure enough two hours later, at the final table, that same guy goes all in on me.  My hand was 10 10.   Normally in a situation like this I would give you much more information about the situation like table position, stack size and calculating “M.”  However this is just a lesson in gathering information on opponents.   My thoughts were: “Final table. I’ve already cashed.  There were only six people at the table making 10 10 a very strong hand.”   Then my thoughts turned to the opponent who is now raising me all in,  “That will be the day when I put my tournament life on the line without a made hand and it better be Aces or Kings.” 
I made my decision.  I was going to lay down my 10’s.  But I wanted to be sure I was making the right decision.  I wanted to see his hand.  So I chatted with him a little before I folded.  “I have a really strong hand here.  This is a really tough lay down.”   I turned up my cards to show him I was laying down my 10’s to him.  And he proudly showed me his pocket kings. 
A few positive things happened to me on this hand.  First of all and most important I saved my stack.  I was still alive.  Secondly I got immediate respect from the entire table for laying down pocket 10’s.  Getting credit for a “great read.”   A tight table image was immediately solidified.  By the way, a few hands later a player who had been aggressive the entire tournament raised from the button and I had the same hand, 10 10.  I re-raised him and he folded.

Getting back to the subject of information on your opponent, I used information the player offered me, totally unsolicited.  Pay attention to everything players are saying.  Sometime they may just offer up some valuable information that you use against them later.
The end result of that tournament for me.  I went out in third place after taking a bad beat, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear about my bad beat.  That will be the subject of my next column, “Don’t tell me your bad beat.”

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10 Comments to Poker is not a card game with people, it’s a people game with cards

The G.P.S.
March 24, 2009

I think you meant to say that “Good Poker” is about people and information. You can play poker without considering this stuff, you can even do ok playing like this, you just won’t be able to beat ME.

Mark
March 25, 2009

Lol…I challenge you to a heads-up:-)

Mark’s last blog post..Poker is not a card game with people, it’s a people game with cards

The G.P.S.
March 25, 2009

OK, I’ll play for my whole bankroll. I think there is a $1.25 sit n go starting soon.

Mark
March 25, 2009

lol…you’re on, eventhough it’s a bit over my usual limits.

Mark’s last blog post..100$ MLB (Major League Baseball ) fantasy bet freeroll

Ann
March 26, 2009

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Ann

Mark
March 26, 2009

Hi Ann

Thanks for your kind words. Do you play poker yourself?

Regards

Mark

Mark’s last blog post..U.S. Waves the Hoover Flag

KC
March 27, 2009

Great article. I’m glad I saw you on Twitter and found the blog. Thanks.

KC’s last blog post..Knowledge vs. Blissful Unawareness

Mark
March 27, 2009

Hi KC

I’m glad you like the blog:-)

Mark’s last blog post..100$ MLB (Major League Baseball ) fantasy bet freeroll

HEROBITS
March 28, 2009

Card games are truly about mind game. Never underestimate your opponent or else you might fall for the trap. One false move and it’s game over. Play with the deception but never let it dupe you.

Motocross Helmet
April 15, 2009

This article is so true. I have friends who have never played poker before, but have sat down at a table and done well just from being good at reading people. You just have to learn the ticks of the people you’re playing with. That’s why, whenever I can, I like to watch other people play before I join in and sit down to play myself. So that as I sit down to play I’ve already got some ideas of what the other players “ticks” might be.

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