Learn Your Enemy

Some of the members on this website have written emails complimenting me on my friendly attitude toward other players. While I believe in being civil, there is more method to my madness than meets the eye.

A good poker player profits by being friendly to his enemies.

All good generals know that in order to conquer an opposing army, you must know your enemy. Because an unknown foe is very difficult to defeat.

To understand my point better, think of yourself as being in a large underground room at Carlsbad Caverns. You are in the blackest of darkness, an underground cavern occupied only by bats and stalagmites.

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It is here that you and your unseen enemies face one another. Only truth is permitted here and in the sheer darkness you tell who you are and what makes you function.

This is the kind of information you should seek from your enemies at the poker table. You can gather some of it through the simple process of questioning your fellow players and filing their answers away for future reference.

When I played on the Big M casino boat at Myrtle Beach, S.C., I found myself seated to the right of a burly man who turned out to own a salvage company in a small South Carolina town He was a big money player whose father had played against Doye Brunson. He learned to play poker at age seven and had played in games far exceeding my limits. Yet despite his background, he was beatable in a $2-5 No Limit Texas Hold'em game with a $200 to $500 buy-in.

While he would not hesitate to go all-in on a very speculative hand, he respected skill and would not challenge skillful players. He thought of me as having a certain amount of skill and generally backed off when I was in a pot. I appreciated this sign of respect and used it to my advantage.

On a couple of occasions during our poker game, I played for blood and went all-in on hands that were promising but not completed. In neither case was I called. But even if somebody had called my bet, I had a certain number of outs that would win me the pot.

Doyle Brunson plays the same way and maybe I learned this technique from him. Doyle knew his enemies and wanted them to fear him. He portrayed super-strength and put his enemies on the defensive. They never knew what they were facing when they called one of his all-in bets.

Learn your enemy. Ask him questions about where he was born, where he grew up and how old he was when he first played poker. Share information with him. This will help draw him out even more and will add to your store of information.

Once you know and understand your enemy, you will no longer fear him. That is when you can begin to play certain moves on him and the other players. Keep the wagers light until you have a sure thing or something approaching it -- then make the move.

By learning who your enemy is, you will develop a respect for him. You will also create an early warning system that will let you know when you are getting in dangerous territory with him. Make probing bets with not completed hands, and major bets when you have the nuts. This is solid poker and should not fail you when it is practiced correctly.

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