Has anyone ever asked you about your style of play? If so, what was your reply? You might have said that you like to be aggressive and steamroll your opponents so you can book huge wins. Or, you might have told them that you like to sit back and wait for premium hands, which would make you a rock. A third possibility is that you’re somewhere in the middle, such as a snake-in-the-grass type player. All of that would be fine, but if you answered in one of those ways, then you’re not maximizing your potential.
Changing Your Style
The title of this post gives away the answer. If you want to be a great poker player, then you need to be capable of changing your style of play based on the players around you. For example, if you’re sitting at a table with a bunch of tight players that are playing with scared money, then you want to attack early and often. If you’re sitting at a table with a bunch of loose players, then you want to sit back and wait for the right spot to fire (or walk the dog).
This goes a little deeper. Despite the type of table you’re sitting at, you also need to change gears. For instance, if you have been playing tight for hours and everyone else picks up on that, you should pick up the pace a little and see what kind of respect you get. It’s likely that your opponents will fold to your bets. However, use caution. If someone—or more than one person—starts calling, then you need to back off immediately. Go back into your safe little shell and play the patient game once again. This isn’t meant in a bad way. There is never anything wrong with being safe. Basically, you’re temporarily attacking to see how much you can get away with. You expand that line on the ground as far as you can, but once the enemy pushes back, you retreat.
You also need to change gears on the other end of the spectrum. If you’re playing aggressive at a tight table and your opponents begin calling you, then you need to slow down. Some aggressive players aren’t capable of doing this due to their egos, but as Ryan Holiday writes so eloquently: Ego Is The Enemy. In these situations, you need to slow down. Instead of going to your opponents, let them come to you. It’s actually more difficult for this type of player to change gears, which is ironic because so many people see aggressive players as stronger players, but the truth is that they have a tougher time changing gears due to ego and overconfidence.
The next time you sit down at a poker table, don’t go in with the mindset that you are one type of player vs. another. Instead, watch the other players carefully and see how the table is playing. If the table is playing fast, play slow. If the table is playing slow, play fast. That said, don’t forget to change gears a few hours in, which will completely confuse your opponents and should maximize your winning potential. Just don’t go too far when you change gears. Test your limits and adjust accordingly.