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How to play versus beginners

You can sometimes lose to a beginner because he’s not playing the game “correctly”, but in the long run, you will definitely win.

Typical beginners features

Poker novices are easily recognized by their game distinctive features, that you can make a profit from. In this lesson, we’ll learn to identify these features using information from our previous lessons.

FANCY PLAY SYNDROME. It's important to understand that beginners are not playing you, they are only playing their cards. So, you should play plain “ABC” poker against them as they won’t even realize that you are running some advanced game on them. Be careful not to get infected by fancy play syndrome. Novices don’t care about what you think, or what your image is – they simply hold a pair and know that could be good, so they raise or call any bet.

Example of a game - Distraction & reading when almost out of the game

No Limit Hold'em Poker Tournament
Blinds: 25/50
You and your opponent hold 3000 chips each

PLAYER INFORMATION. Your rival played many hands, called and raised having good cards. His stack size is constantly changing in the course of the tournament. You'd easily spot he's a beginner. He has won some hands due to unsuccessful attempts of other players to bluff him and due to flushes or straights collected. When he gets the card needed for a combination, he immediately puts all his chips not even trying to hide his hand's strength.

PREFLOP. Your rival traditionally calls. He may have any cards. Another player has also called having 1500 chips in the middle position. You are in late position holding .

(picture 2)

How to play such a hand? Judging by the previous games, your rival would like to see the flop and will most likely match your bets postflop as well. If you call, it will make your cards weaker in your rivals’ eyes. So to call or not to call? Don’t! Of course, sometimes it is possible in such a situation, and it can be a good way to change your playing style, but only if there's someone watching your game. In our case, there's only a novice who just plays his own cards.

So, our decision is to raise. In this case, we need to make everyone but the novice fold. We should make an effort to play this hand one on one. We should also control the pot size as  can easily lose their strength on the flop. Provided the blinds 25/50 and another player, we raise to 250.

The button and blind fold, the novice calls, the player in middle position folds. Amazing!

FLOP. The pot is 625 chips, and the flop comes . The villain puts 200 chips:

(picture 3)

This is a good flop from our point of view. He would raise preflop having aces and jacks, so he might have something like 44 or AJ at the moment. Apparently, our cards are much better.

He could bet, but most beginners tend to check or call. Let's assume his cards are Ace or Jack (J8 – KJ).

How should we play our cards in this situation? Go all-in and get him scared? Check/call might be a good decision with the cards available, but not against a novice. He doesn't think about your cards. The only thing he thinks about is that he has got a pair, and he can go on betting. If you call, he'll consider just two possible options:

  1. "This guy is trying to kick me out"
  2. "If I'm lucky enough, I won't get another card."

So, let's raise. You win in poker if you manage to force your opponents into wrong decisions - making mistakes. If he matches the bet, then, in any case, it won't be to his good, as his odds should be 8.17 to 1. We are raising to 800. Post the bet of 200 and the raise we made, the pot will make up 1,625. So, calling will cost the opponent 600 chips, which will provide odds 2.7 to 1. Keep in mind that he doesn't think about odds, he just wants to bet and win.

TURN. The turn came 9-spades, and the pot is 2,225. Our rival goes all-in, putting 1950 into the pot:

(picture 4)

How to win in such a situation? It's not as complicated as it seems. First of all, we are experienced enough to not depend on the cards we hold. Forget the fact that we've got a top pair and a high kicker. Our rival showed no aggression in previous hands until he received good cards. So, as he's a novice the chance it was some sophisticated bluff is very low.

Most probably, he holds A9, J9 or 99. We’ve still got outs against A9 and J9, and no chances against two nines. The pot is 4,175 at the moment. Calling will cost us 1,950 and will provide odds 2.15 to 1. We have to fold, as this will be the best decision. So, we fold and the rival shows his J9.

Now you know how to play versus tight players, aggressors, and beginners. Let`s go further!

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