If I had to appear on the TV programme “Room 101” and quote my pet hates then generalising would be very near the top. In fact in poker you hear generalised quotes all over the place. A generalisation is a statement or quote that is often true. If it were never true then people would never generalise. However this is where we have problems because in poker then the game is literally teeming with generalisations. For example in tournament poker then the classic “two big stacks should never do battle with each other” spring to mind.
This statement is only half true and so if something is partly true then it is also partly wrong. This means that we stand a very good chance of being wrong by blindly following it! So what of the previous statement regarding tournament poker? Well the dynamic shifts considerably when certain factors come into place. What if you were one of the big stacks and you knew or strongly suspected that your other big stack opponent feared a confrontation. Now it is open season on attacking their blinds and simply folding the weaker part of your range simply because they have a big stack is wrong.
Very strong poker players try not to generalise, they know the weaknesses of generalisations and they will only generalise in the absence of information. Like for example if I sit at a table and see a player that only has 77bb in their stack and is not seated at any other table. I will immediately generalise that this player is weak simply because of these two factors. The reason why I do this is to help with my game selection. However I will also be prepared to be wrong as well and will observe this opponent throughout the game.
For example some strong players will only use a one buy in approach and will not top up if they fall below 100bb simply because they have daily stop loss limits. Is this approach common amongst top players……..no…….but I have encountered it several times and so I know that it is not 100% certain that a single tabling player with 77bb is weak. Another generalisation is when players set mine. There is a raise from an early position player and sure enough a player with pocket fours cold calls.
They generalise that the call is sound because of “implied odds”. However just where are these so called “implied odds” against a good player? Do you honestly think that a good player will stack off with big overpairs for 100bb or more without improvement? You will also find that when you call raises with hands like pocket fours that it will be you that gets stacked just as frequently and if not more so. You call because you are trying to out flop a big pair. But yet what if the raiser opened with say pocket queens of jacks and the flop came J-7-4?
Clearly here you are going to lose a lot of money and your whole stack because you will assume that your opponent could have AA-QQ. How about if the flop comes A-9-4? Then you are probably going to get stacked when someone holds A-A because you are assuming that they could be overplaying A-K. So there are clearly many times where calling raises with small pocket pairs doesn’t lead to implied odds and in fact the only player likely to get stacked with these hands is you. They play better in weaker games where players stack off with hands like two pair and non-nut straights and flushes but against stronger players then the overall equity is much worse.
Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and 888poker ambassador