The Rock

Poker Player Analysis

If you begin playing poker online, as many do these days, you will rarely see tight aggressive play at the micro limits. The truth is, that's the surest way to beat those low stakes games. Some of the players who you'll run into at slightly higher stakes, say $1-$2 No limit, will have clawed their way up through the smaller stakes tables. The most effective players at the small stakes tables will have learned that there is little value in bluffing on the Internet and that tight aggressive play gets the money.

Many of these players turn into hold 'em robots. They do not mix up their play and are very predictable. In truth, they're not that far from correct play. The weakness in their game will come from an inability to change gears when playing against a player like you. Although the rock can be plenty successful at low stakes, he's my very favorite player to contend with. He knows just enough about poker for you to understand what he's likely doing, but not enough to know what you're likely doing. I'm going to teach you to become the proverbial thorn in the Rock's hide.

When you play against a maniac, a loose-aggressive player, the best policy is to raise less and call more often than you normally would. The rock is the exact opposite of the maniac and it follows then that you should raise more often and call less often when playing against the rock. Both of these ideas are closely connected to a concept known as the "gap concept". The gap concept was made famous by David Sklansky, and states that it takes a better hand to call a raise with than it takes to make a raise. The difference between opening requirements and calling or re-raising requirements is known as the "gap".

Logically, when a player raises, he is saying "I have a good hand". To call or re-raise you are saying that even though your opponent has a good hand you believe yours might be better. The gap effects increase exponentially with each raise or re-raise in a single betting round. The size of the "gap" is dependant on the range of hands that the opener might raise with. When you are up against an extremely tight player (such as the rock) and he opens from first position, you have to look at your hand and evaluate it against the hands that the specific raiser might open with. If you have a hand like AJs, against an early position raise you would probably call against a maniac or fold to a rock. However, there will be times when it would be a bad idea to call against a rock but a perfectly legitimate idea to re-raise him.

If you start with a small pair, say pocket fours, and the rock in early position raises, you may decide to re-raise. The rock will likely throw away hands like AJ, and 88 that you didn't want to play against anyway. If he does call you'll still have a good chance of winning the hand as long as the flop looks docile. If the rock puts in the third raise you can safely throw your pair away without getting into too much trouble with it. Against the maniac there would be very little value in re-raising under the same circumstances.

Playing Against a Rock

When you are playing against a rock you should loosen up your raising requirements and tighten up your calling requirements. That may seem like circular logic, it may seem inconsistent in and of itself but it is perfectly reasonable once you understand the playing style of the rock. The rock will typically only open with premium hands and will usually adhere to the "raise or fold" poker school of thought. When a rock opens the pot you can be fairly sure he has a solid hand. What would you do then with a hand like AJ against a rock? I'd throw it away. Against a maniac you might decide to take a flop with that hand. Now, suppose you have a hand like JTs. That's a hand you wouldn't dare re-raise a maniac with but it's not a bad hand to push back at the rock with. It might seem illogical that you would prefer a, seemingly inferior, hand like JTs to a hand like AJ when playing against the rock. In either case you are forcing your opponent to have a pretty big hand to call you with, so you have "fold equity" with either hand. The difference is that if you get called by the rock you are likely to be dominated with your AJ and only have three live cards (the jacks) to win the hand with. If you get called with your JTs, you can probably take the lead with any jack or ten. You also have straight and flush possibilities with JTs that could win you a very nice pot, particularly if your opponent has a big pair.

Rocks are formidable poker players who will likely win in the long run as long as they can manage to avoid players like you. The strength in their game comes from a basic understanding of poker fundamentals. The weakness of the rocks game is their predictability and exploitable tightness. You can re-raise the rock with a lot of speculative hands that you would normally fold when facing a raise. That's because the rock is more likely to fold to a raise than most players and is also easier to play against after the flop. In short, you should open and re-raise more liberally against a tight opponent. You should also be careful about calling a rock with hands like AJ and AQ. Call less and raise more than normal. Don't be afraid to push speculative hands against the rock. Even with a hand like 87s, you have a good chance of beating the rock. If you see a flop with a rock after a raise or two pre-flop you should be able to pick up a lot of pots uncontested when the flop looks harmless. When the flop comes out 7 3 2 (rainbow), you can feel pretty certain that that didn't improve the rocks hand, he doesn't know if it hit yours though. That's especially true if you have shown down some hands like 98s in the past.

Raise the rock more often, call him less often than you would most other players. Avoid playing easily dominated hands like AT and KQ against the rock, preferring hands like JTs. Take the lead in the betting post flop and try to pick up the "orphan pots" (pots connected to hands where neither player has much). Don't call off your chips to the rock. Raise or fold poker is the correct strategy against these tight- aggressive players. The rock is aware of the gap concept even if he doesn't know it directly. Use the gap against him. Take advantage of "fold equity" or "first in vigorish" when playing against them. Attack pots aggressively, and you should have the best of it against "fundamentally solid" players. Until next time, Good "Luck!"

♣ Next: Player Analysis: The Station, Part I

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