How to Exploit Players in Live Games – Expert Tips by Fedor Holz
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Exploiting your opponents’ tendencies and tells at the tables can give you an edge, but what does it really mean to exploit another player?
In this article, I’ll try to explain my process and how I approach exploitative play.
As you play, provided you pay attention to what’s happening around you, you’re bound to pick up some information. The question is, how do you transform this abstract information into an actionable plan?
When I pick up relevant information on an opponent, I’ll deviate from my baseline strategy and adjust my play based on that knowledge, but not before going through the process.
Building the Hypothesis
To start with, I’ll create a certain hypothesis about the player. For example, I’ll notice a player opening hands that shouldn’t be in their range. This is the foundation for the hypothesis, but there are several that fit the bill, i.e.:
- They might be opening too wide in general
- Maybe they don’t have a good understanding of hand strengths and what hands they should and shouldn’t be opening with
- Perhaps this was an emotional decision for this particular hand, not descriptive of their general playing style
You need to figure out which one of these fits and decide how big of an impact it will have on your potential adjustments. Someone opening too wide in general is much different from someone just opening one odd hand because they were on tilt.
The next thing to figure out is how certain you are of your hypothesis. If I see a certain play or behavior once, I won’t give too much weight to that.
But, if the behavior repeats and I can confirm my hypothesis as being true, I’ll start making serious adjustments to exploit the player in question.
You can apply a similar process to live tells. If you pick up on certain behavior, be it the way they move or how they breathe, or whatever else, you need to figure out what the impact of that information is, i.e., what it means.
When you figure these things out, you also need to decide how certain you are that it means what you think it means.
If your level of certainty is high, you can make significant adjustments to your gameplan. But if the certainty isn’t there, I try to make only slight adjustments and continue to collect the information.
Exploitative Play and Population & Individual Tendencies
One very important area when exploiting live players is population tendencies. This means drawing conclusions from the general population and applying them to a specific situation.
Having played hundreds of thousands of poker hands live and online, I’ve come across many situations that just keep happening over and over again.
A good example of this is that most players are very unbalanced in turn and river spots where there’s been very little betting throughout the hand.
In general, players tend to bet their strong hands a lot and don’t balance it enough, so you can take advantage of many river probe spots and win pots by simply knowing your average opponent will almost never have a strong hand in this scenario.
On the other hand, if you have information on a specific player that you’ve gathered from watching them play or from someone else who played against them, you can use this specific info to make very strong adjustments.
This is the strategy that I used when I first entered the world of high roller events. I watched all the footage I could find of the players I faced repeatedly and observed their online play as much as I could to pick up on any potential leaks, no matter how small!
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