Not to brag but I crush my wife at rock paper scissors. Somehow I pick up on her patterns and can employ an exploitative strategy that is +EV. So when my six year old wanted to play I imagined I would have similar success. I mean he’s six, wtf does he know?

To my surprise, I couldn’t beat him in any noteworthy way. Do you know why? He employed a near perfect GTO strategy. Because he is not a grownup he just picked rock, paper or scissors basically randomly. He didn’t try to see patterns in his opponent or predict anything. He just picked, you know… whatever. But of course picking rock or paper or scissors randomly is an unexploitable strategy.

Unlike a six year old, most grownups play poker the same way my wife plays rock paper scissors. They put their humanness into how they play and they start showing patterns. Because we are human those patterns repeat and can be exploited. As an astute player you can observe those patterns and craft exploitive strategies designed to maximally punish your opponents. Instead of mixing the right theoretical number of bluffs and value bets you know to bluff more against a tight player and less against a habitual caller.  You can call “too much” against over bluffers and make super tight folds against nits who under bluff.

But its important to realize that as you try to exploit your opponent’s tendencies you yourself have made your own frequencies and bet sizes out of whack. We just trust that our opponent is not astute enough to exploit us.

The point I’m trying to make is that when you play poker you have repeating patterns whether you realize it or not. When you play against good players they will try to notice and take advantage. Your defense against this lies in poker theory and that is why its important to study. Theory can protect you from that player that seems to keep guessing your next move.

 

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