Poker is a fascinating and complex game in which even the slightest, ostensibly irrelevant change in circumstances with two almost identical situations can alter the table dynamic so much that a totally different approach is required. That’s what keeps us so intrigued and has us returning to the tables time and again to see what the poker gods have in store for us next time, and the next.

But that truism doesn’t in any way mean that all players have a deep understanding of the game and that everyone treats every hand as a brand new adventure that might reward them for originality or imaginative thinking.

Fortunately for those players – even recreational poker hobbyists – who have even modest ambitions in that it’s worth putting in some effort in order to have a healthy bankroll, there are countless opponents who will simply not have produced a handful of original poker thoughts between them. Instead, they have a rigid, unimaginative poker formula founded on a recipe whose ingredients never change. These players happily trundle along at a snail’s pace, with not one iota of flexibility, making the same plays time and again, totally oblivious to the fact they’re advertising to those shrewd opponents who care enough to be on the lookout for such things exactly how their routine (habitual, in fact), predictable approach can be exploited.

It’s surprising just how many predictable players are out there. Of course, as far as we’re concerned, that’s a pleasant surprise! Let’s have a proper look at how our targets play…

Typically, these players have an approach to the game that revolves around waiting for good hands to come to them rather than getting proactive and trying to influence the game through their action. Seeing flops is part of the strategy, with a view to hitting big hands. On the face of it – at least to inexperienced players – this might seem like a feasible way to go, but reality isn’t as simple as that. First, you’d have to wait around a long time before finally being rewarded with a monster. Secondly, there are no guarantees that when you do hit big you will even get any takers, so you might have to settle – after waiting so long and after contributing blinds/chips to all those pots you avoided – for a very small sum. Thirdly, should someone come along for the ride, you might not even emerge from the ensuing battle with the prize! Luck, remember, is part of the game, and bad luck (bad beats….) can be a very damaging part of the game. And herein lies a crucial flaw in such a policy – relying on coming across big hands while refusing to make an effort to fight your corner tends to fail on two fronts: too many opportunities to assume the initiative and outplay opponents are not taken, and the few desired results are by no means guaranteed to deliver enough chips to cover the cost of the strategy.

Some players will take this prolonged gamble approach to the extreme, paying to see flop after flop in a massively overpriced and unfounded quest to find treasure in the form of hands that might anyway not deliver. Meanwhile, these predictable players will happily fold to the slightest hint of aggression when they miss, which is, of course, very very often. Note that when they start confidently with a strong starting hand like AK they’ll still connect with the flop only around a third of the time.

Even when they do hit and find a hand like TPTK and follow up with a continuation bet, they tend to shy away from maintaining the pressure on the Turn if there’s a chance they’re not ahead, or even far enough ahead. Only big hands and big draws will tempt them. And this provides yet more opportunities to exploit their one-trick-pony policy – because success is predicated on finding only monsters. Anything not big enough sees them put on the brakes, at which point they can be pushed out of the race.

These players are remarkably easy to bluff because their train of thought doesn’t go anywhere near original or creatively aggressive destinations! They are conspicuously prone to giving up and folding way too often and the pots we’re contesting when we get involved with them are ripe for the taking…

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About the Author


AngusD switched from pro chess to poker two decades ago and has been professionally involved in the game on numerous levels since the very beginning of online poker, including playing as a poker ambassador both online and at major festivals around the globe. He has written much about the game over the years, and brings to YPD a wealth of experience in all aspects of the poker industry. Meanwhile, his many years on the pro chess circuit (he’s an International Master and prolific author) afford him an interesting perspective on the psychology of poker.

Latest changes

The last changes of the page “Beating the Predictables” was made by AngusD on October 05, 2021