Changing Gears

Poker players have been analyzing Doyle 'Texas Dolly' Brunson's game for years, trying to figure out why he is such a consistent winner.

Brunson is a living legend in poker. He is to poker what Tiger Woods was to golf and John McEnroe was to the game of tennis. Doyle Brunson dominated poker for longer than any of today's current crop of players and there were several reasons for his incredible success.

I am not going to use this column to analyze Doyle's game. I want to focus on only one aspect of his winning strategy -- something Brunson refers to as changing gears.

Now I don't know what kind of car you drive, but you probably have an automatic transmission. That relieves you of the responsibility of shifting gears when the road gets a bit steeper.

PlayingPokerShiftingGears

Poker players will receive approximately the same percentage of good hands as other players. They will find themselves with pocket aces, kings, a smaller pair or ace-king suited. It will then be up to them to determine how to play those two cards in order to maximize profits.

Most players will jam the pot when they get those pocket rockets or kings. They will do it 100 percent of the time which is fine up to a point. But this kind of play after a while will make it easy for the other players to read you and put you on a hand.

Doyle has a different take on playing such hands. At a certain point in his game, he will suddenly change gears and play such hands soft. Or he will slow play a nut hand in order to throw the other players off.

He tells the story of a poker colleague, a bright young man who had potential but who basically played the same game all the time. One night he showed up at a game -- and played totally different.

According to Doyle, the young player did things and made moves that evening that totally threw off the other players. He just wasn't himself, said Brunson, and he ended up winning a lot of money.

A couple of days later, the other players confronted him and remarked about the way he had played in his winning session.

'Oh, that,' said the player, smiling. 'I was in a lousy mood that night. My girl friend and I had just broken up. I came into the game steaming, planning to make the world pay for what she had done to me. I guess I made an idiot out of myself. I was lucky to win as much as I won.'

That helped enhance Doyle's belief that changing gears for whatever reason would be helpful in adding to a player's bankroll.

Some players do it this way. They set aside two cards, say a six-three offsuit, as their gear changing hole cards and treat them as aces. Then they play the hand all the way through like they are pocket aces. Even if they are called after the river card falls, it will throw off the other players who will remember the way the person played. And it will help that player win future pots because of the confusion it will cause poker players with long memories.

The next time you sit down at a poker table, consider changing gears. You can pick the time to do it. Such a tactic will make you unpredictable and in poker, that alone can help give you a strategy that pays off.

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