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Peter Singleton - Strategy: A Game Plan

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  • Peter SingletonEnjoying the early summer?... Good, but as the saying goes we still have to "make hay whilst the sun shines", so get cleaned up wash of that sun oil and pay attention.

    This month in our tips and strategy column we are going to discuss formulating and following a game plan.

    So why have a game plan at all?
    Surely poker players should just sit down and play right?......Wrong!
    Before you "step", or to be precise "sit", in on any poker game you must do your homework and learn as much as possible about your intended foes. Watching the game for a short time and making a few mental or physical notes will reward you well in the long run. As will paying attention to other players actions, and also just as importantly reactions to events throughout the game.

    So formulating a game plan....

    Step One.
    First off five minutes observing the game whether live or online should really be a pre requisite move. During this time observe who is making the action and who is in "reaction". In most games you will find a catalyst who controls or influences the pace of the game. Incidentally this may not be the best player at the table but, he or she will be the "play maker" or "pot builder". Look for tell tale signs of confident winners or dejected losers, look for chasers now playing sub-standard hands in a vain effort to get their money back. Try to "map out" the territory building a mental picture of who is doing what and why. Obviously if it is a tournament then this is not possible just move straight on to step two.

    Step Two.
    As you take your seat in the game be aware of where you sit in relation to what you have already observed with regard to the other players. Remember this information can and will change as the game progress. For the first ten or fifteen minutes just sit back and watch ...unless of course a must play monster hand arrives.Use the first fifteen minutes or so to collect information and then always factor this information into any hand you intend to play before you call the first bet. For example... it is pointless calling the opening bet with a reasonable strength/speculative hand that you will pass for a raise when, acting after you are two players chasing their losses who you know will be prone to raise most pots they play in. Also factor in where the "Fish" or "Playmaker-s" sit in relation to you and where and when they will act in relation to you in every pot you decide to play. Very few players take these thoughts into consideration when deciding when and what hands to play.
    Thinking along these lines will put you way ahead of most players you encounter.

    Step Three.
    As the game or tournament progresses, peoples position in the game can alter drastically i.e. winners may now be losing or quite often trying not to lose any of their gains, thus playing a very conservative/protective style. Players in this category will now have very strict hand selection criteria playing only quality holdings and can easily (in most cases) be pushed off raggy flops if they have not connected, so look to steal pots off them but, if you face strong resistance look out ....danger... you have found a monster!
    Occasionally a big winner who has lost it all back and is now losing goes on "Tilt" so look to compound his/her woes further. One good way of doing this is small "niggly" raises in position with reasonable hands to keep them involved in pot`s.... especially if you have a good "read " on them.
    Also be aware of losers that now have their money back...they too may now tighten up, their "Chasing" may well cease and conservative/sneaky may be their new approach.
    It is hard to cover all scenarios but you must be aware of the changing rhythm of the game and constantly adjust your game plan to take into account all this new information.

    A note here specifically for tournaments:
    Not everybody in the tournament will understand the effects of time pressure, rising blinds and chip stack management.... You should, and must make subtle adjustments accordingly. The hand that was unplayable at the last level may now actually be a "push" or "all-in" play. If that`s the case then go ahead make the play, never worry about what others think. Tournament play is not an exact science you can`t sit and wait as you would in a cash game. My fellow pro Lucy Rokach sums it up perfectly in her comment about making the wrong move or as she puts it "doing the wrong thing at the right time".
    To win the tournament you have to get lucky, to get lucky you have to put yourself in lucks path, not all the time obviously! but occasionally that`s what will be required so...go ahead... make the play.

    So to recap...
    Go into the game/tournament with as much pre-acquired knowledge of the game and your opponents as possible.
    Constantly monitor and revaluate your information to make sure it`s up to date. Don`t make hasty decisions without first factoring in all the information (Many players just look at their own hand and give little or no thought as to what their opponent or opponents may be holding)..... Big mistake!
    Have a rough game plan in mind before you take your seat and then make alterations based on what you observe as the game progresses.
    REMEMBER: When you sit down have a rough/basic game plan in mind. Ok, it might not work but..... A bad plan is better than no plan at all!... At least with a bad plan you can make alterations.

    Well that`s all we have time for this month but, please think about some of the ideas here and try to formulate them into your "game plan". Next month we will look at other aspects of your game plan such as confidence and pre-game preparation. For now I will leave you with a question: Which player or person has the most influence on you at the table and ultimately decides if you will win or lose ?

    Until next time,
    stay safe, play well and enjoy your poker.

    Pete " The Professor" Singleton.

    Pete can be contacted at:

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