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Tony Murtagh

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The G-Spot: - So Many Styles
7/25/2007 12:56:50 PM

One of my favorite rap songs of all time is Raekwon’s Guillotine (Swordz). Halfway through the song, a clip from the martial arts move Shaolin vs. Lama is sampled. In it, the following dialogue occurs:

Combatant 1: “Weren’t you just using the Wu-Tang school method against me?”
Combatant 2: “I’ve learned so many styles. Forgive me.”

Read on, and you’ll see how this is related to poker.

First Impressions Last
Whatever happens during your first few hands at a table sticks for quite awhile. Most of your opponents will take whatever information they observe from you in your first five to ten minutes at the table, and they’ll use it to assign a player profile to you…a profile that they’ll use to make decisions against you.

Once a player has assigned such a profile to you, he usually won’t change it unless something surprising happens. Your opponents usually won’t suspect you of changing gears because, especially at lower and middle limits, most players aren’t capable of changing gears.

Master Many Styles
Know how your opponents perceive you, and take advantage by changing gears appropriately. For example, if you have a tight image, you’ll have a higher probability of stealing some pots. Additionally, your trickier opponents may make calculated bluffs against you on the turn or the river; if you’re out of position, you can sometimes check with marginal holdings to induce a bluff instead of throwing in a blocking bet.

Mastering many styles is important because you’ll encounter many different types of players. To play winning poker, you need to be comfortable playing as many different counter strategies as possible.

Know Your Opponents’ Styles
Since poker players at lower limits and middle limits usually have only one gear, it’s very tempting to succumb to first impressions if you play regularly in these venues. However, you can’t stop paying attention to your opponents after you think you have them dialed in.

Constantly pay attention because you aren’t the only tricky player in the world. The seemingly loose gambler may become a rock. The tightest, most passive player at the table may start taking control by tossing in numerous raises and continuation bets.

Always respect your opponents, no matter how bad you might think they are.

Value judgments are very dangerous in poker. Keep everything objective, and think in terms of betting patterns and tells instead of “bad” and “good.”

Adaptation Is Ultimately The Name Of The Game
Get comfortable playing many styles, and you’ll be much better prepared to take optimal advantage of all the unique circumstance you’ll find yourself in. Instead of just playing standard tight-aggressive poker, you’ll start thinking on multiple levels. Execute this thinking successfully, and your opponents will have to forgive you for all the money you win from them.

By Tony Guerrera

Tony Guerrera is the author of Killer Poker By The Numbers. Visit him online at

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