The title of this article might seem somewhat cheeky, but ‘plodder’ is intended to describe those players who have their own very watered-down version of the so-called ABC strategy. More accurately, they don’t actually bother with any of the recommended ‘rules’ and instead plod on, for the most part oblivious to what’s going on around them.
Reading that last paragraph we could be forgiven for thinking that beating such players is easy and a simple matter of doing things properly and exploiting their weaknesses. Over time this should indeed be the case, and we don’t need to be experts to succeed in this task.
There’s no shortage of tips about how to take money from plodders, but it’s also important to understand in what way they think, and how to accurately interpret what this or that play means in order to avoid any banana skins that they might – even inadvertently – put in front of us. There’s more to poker mastery than winning against those who play poorly – we also need to keep to a minimum the times when we lose big. It’s one thing losing a big pot or being eliminated from a tournament, for example, but it’s a blow to the ego as well as the bankroll when this happens despite our understanding of the game being superior to that of our hapless opponent who ends up with our chips.
The most efficacious way to beat such players is to observe them closely, identify their often habitual, predictable play and act accordingly when we judge that we have a stronger hand. Of course, it doesn’t always work out according to plan, in which case it’s important to keep our feet firmly planted on the ground and not just assume we’ll win because we’re the better player. Here’s how a typical hand might pan out against a plodder who fails to appreciate key aspects of the game and who puts too much emphasis on, for instance, hand value.
We’re in a Texas Hold’em tournament with 6,000 chips, and the Blinds are 50/100. The Plodder also has 6,000 chips, but has arrived at this point by taking a circuitous route that has seen numerous ups and downs, and which has featured a lot of limping, raising only with big hands and way too much calling with the wrong type/strength of hands.
As we should know, weak play doesn’t necessarily result in early elimination from a tournament. First, anyone can get premium and monster hands, hit draws and so on. And as is often the case, they can win big because those players who target them can be prone to not showing them enough respect, perhaps by trying an unsuccessful bluff, or paying them off.
So… Plodder limps in yet again, as does a player with a 3,000 stack in middle position. It’s folded round to us, on the button, and we have Ah Ks… We could get tricky and also limp, which has the advantage of disguising our strong hand. But it also would take us to the Flop in the dark, and against at least two opponents as we’d be inviting other players to only call, too. Meanwhile, it’s generally a waste of time trying to be clever against plodders.
The best option here is to raise, which allows us to assume the initiative and put pressure on the opposition with a view to narrowing down the field to just ourselves and the plodder. The question is how much should we bet. Note that if we miss the Flop there’s less chance of picking up the pot with a continuation bet against a plodder, so we need to find a balance which allows us to maintain a level of pot control while also putting the question to the opposition. To this end a bet of 500 seems logical.
This does the job, with only the plodder seeing the Flop, which is Ad Jc 5d. The pot is at 1,250, and the plodder goes against the flow of play with a bet of 400, so it’s time to have a think about what they might be holding. We can pretty confidently rule out AA, JJ and possibly AJ because this kind of player’s decisions are based around the strength of their hand, and would merit more than just limping in. Also, given that the bet is only around a third of the pot, it’s unlikely that they were dealt 44 because, again, this would elicit a big bet. What about a flush draw? Usually such players, especially after calling a pre-flop raise out of position, would check here. This narrows the likely range to any Ace or a pair of Jacks.
The next question, then, is how would we maximise our profit from this hand given that our analysis suggests we’re ahead. The ‘extreme’ plays won’t work against a plodder – going all-in scares them away, and slow-playing achieves nothing. A raise, on the other hand, builds up the pot nicely, and to determine how much to bet we simply tot up their likely outs (3 if they have Ax or 5 if they have a pair of Jacks) and then make them pay over the odds. So we raise to 1,600, which increases the pot to 3250 and requires them to put in another 1,200 to make what is an expensive call – not that this enters a plodder’s deliberations because they don’t think in these terms! This might seem illogical and an example of poor play, and that’s because it is – many players simply don’t factor in the cost of such a call; they’re just happy to stay in contention when they have what they perceive to be a decent hand that’s worth investing in and which can, of course, improve.
The pot stands at 4,450 and the Turn brings the 9s and, once again, the plodder bets out, this time immediately shoving all-in for the rest of their 3,900 chips! The important point to note here is that these players don’t go all-in without good reason – their bets are determined purely based on hand strength and, remember, we have already seen the same aggressive betting when they had a big hand. We might well have top pair, top kicker, but our tournament life is on the line and we need to consider how the hand has panned out thus far and revise our assessment of what they have.
We’ve most likely been overtaken on the Turn because we’ve been up against A9, J9 or 99. We have outs only against the first two possibilities so, with 8,350 in the pot and needing to put in our remaining 3,900 to call, the resultant odds – at barely more than 2/1 – of getting lucky are way too low. Consequently, this is a clear, fully justified fold, regardless of how well the hand was going, and how good our hand is. Like it or not, logic points to our giving up the fight and cutting our losses. We fold, and the plodder reveals As 9d for two pair.
‘We can’t win ‘em all’ as they say. And nor does a well-played, well thought out hand necessarily guarantee that we’ll come out on top once the smoke has cleared. That’s one of the simultaneously frustrating and fascinating aspects of poker. As I mentioned at the beginning, minimising our losses is as important as maximising our gains, and we should avoid thinking that we should always beat weaker players and accept that there will be times when we need to use our better understanding to avoid big losses, too.