"I just started shooting, that's it.
I just did it for the fun of it. I just don't like Mondays.
I just did it because it's a way to cheer the day up.
Nobody likes Mondays."
-- Brenda Spencer
Every player has poker skills. Obviously some people have more
skills than others. Developing our skills,
refining them, and recognizing them is an important part of being a winning player.
One of those valuable skills is the ability to recognize and exploit our opponents' anti-skills.
What is an anti-skill? Anti-skills are things mediocre and bad players do that better players take advantage of where the bad player
is actually under the illusion that what he is doing is skillful!
Windows - Mac
I am not talking about players playing flat-out bad -- going on tilt, playing garbage hands, playing over their bankroll. Those things
are exploitable too of course, but I am talking about those times and things where players think they are playing good when in
fact their actions are extremely costly to themselves.
Perhaps the most common bad play that weaker players think is a good play is "the big laydown." This term is used in many different
ways, and I am not meaning that making big laydowns is always bad. For example, big laydowns are a key to winning in big bet poker,
particularly pot limit games. I'm talking about situations where players pat themselves on the back for folding a "big" or fairly
powerful hand on the final round for one bet playing limit poker. Not only is this seldom a good play, it is often catastrophic --
especially against a strong player.
I know a player who
almost always bets the river card in Omaha HiLo when no low is possible and the river card changed whatever the best possible hand is.
He does this simply because it works. Weak players fold to these bets much more than they should. When a pot is ten big bets, and you
bluff one bet into one player where you have very little chance of winning with a showdown, and you win the pot three or five or even
seven times out of ten, you are making a huge profit at the expense of the folding player. And the opponent is cursing his bad luck,
going a bit on tilt, and suffering disappointment -- even while patting himself on the back for being "clever" enough to save
that one bet by not calling.
Another key anti-skill is the use of the checkraise. No tactic is more misused in poker by mediocre players. Thousands of words could
be written on this on tactic alone, but if you are a losing player or not winning as much as you should, and you think checkraising is
a key weapon in your arsenal, you likely suck at checkraising.
In Omaha HiLo the anti-skill of limping before the flop "to see where you are" creates much of the profit for better players.
Despite this, mediocre players the world over deliberately insist on not raising before the flop as a specific, thought-out game strategy.
Previously I wrote about jailbird poker, making
an individual play in isolation, not as a part of a bigger picture. A reverse phenomenon is the desire of many mediocre players to
confuse their opponents. They
attempt to be deliberately unpredictable, and thank goodness for that, because when I am in a pot with one of these folks, and they do
confuse me and I don't know what to do, the chance for me to choose the right action is usually 50/50 (call or fold). Deception wins
the money; confusion gives opponents a fighting chance at acting correctly. Brenda Spencer did something random one day, and pays for
it every day in prison. Randomness is the enemy of successful people. Deliberate action, combined with deception and trickery make
winning players. Aiming for confusion is an anti-skill in its purest form.
Next time you see someone buy into a limit game for the minimum as a deliberate strategy, smile and try and observe what other
anti-skills that player has. Does he use the checkraise poorly? Does he often call turn bets but fold to river bets? When he bets in
later betting rounds are his opponents usually confused?
Maybe this player will just have the one anti-skill, but chances are where there is smoke there is fire.
Just like better players have a toolbox full of valuable skills, weaker players will have a toolbox full of anti-skills for us to profit from.
Also see: Poker Experts,
Skill in Adapting,
Bad Poker Decisions and