Control

The result of good poker is control—control of self, opponents, and the game. When the good player achieves self-control through discipline and understands his opponents through thinking, he can seize control of his opponents and the game. When in control, he becomes the center of attention. His opponents spend a major portion of their time and effort trying to figure out his moves and then adjusting to them ... they play according to his moves and actions. From this controlling position he can--

  • influence the betting, raising, and bluffing of his opponents
  • force opponents into traps and wrong moves
  • dilute opponents' attention toward one another so he can play them off against each other.

The player who continually strives for maximum investment odds cannot control the game. Always making the play that yields the maximum return reduces the flexibility needed to control the players and to achieve maximum edge odds. The good player, therefore, chooses from a wide variety of plays available at slightly less favorable odds. For example, by backing away from the maximum investment odds, the good player can bet more aggressively and increase his flexibility in play-making so much that he can produce almost any desired effect. Also, by underbetting a hand and then overbetting a subsequent similar hand (with only occasional bets made at maximum investment odds), he makes his betting unpredictable. That flexibility and unpredictability let him control the betting.

Money flows toward the player who controls the betting. The best time to get that control is early in the hand while the bets are still small. The good player often gains control by unexpected or unusual bets (such as a raise into obvious strength of an opponent), by larger than usual first-round bets, or by weird bets (such as a $4 bet instead of the usual $5 bet). He then makes subsequent offensive or defensive betting manipulations designed to influence the big last-round bets and raises.

Offensive manipulations, designed to maximize a potential win, are done by altering (increasing or decreasing) the betting pace in order to--

  • build pots
  • encourage players to stay for the large last-round bets
  • set up bluffs
  • induce opponents to bluff.

Defensive manipulations, designed to minimize a potential loss, are done by altering (increasing or decreasing) the betting pace in order to--

  • suppress bets or raises
  • prevent bluffs
  • drive out or keep in players in order to create favorable odds for drawing to a potential hand, such as a four flush or two pair.

Confusion and fear decrease the ability of players to think objectively and to play their hands properly. Most players fear the confusing play and unpredictable betting of the good player. By making spectacular shock plays, he further increases their fear of him. Many opportunities occur in which investment odds actually favor spectacular maneuvers such as--

  • holding a high pair pat in draw poker
  • breaking up a full house to draw to three of a kind
  • raising and then dropping out on the next bet
  • making a colorful bluff such as holding pat and betting four kings in a lowball game
  • raising a weak-looking stud hand in the face of strong-appearing opposition
  • dropping a strong-looking stud hand in the face of weak-appearing opposition.

John Finn has a big psychological advantage over his opponents. He confuses, shocks, bullies, frightens, and worries them into focusing their attention on him. They react strongly to his actions. Their moves and bets are often distorted because they base them on trivial moves by John, while ignoring significant moves by other players. Knowing how they will react to his moves, John can often make them do what he wants, while he alone retains a balanced view of the game. The results? He controls the game This is how that control works:

Immediately after bluffing Sid Bennett (in the previous chapter), John spreads his cards face-up across the table. Seeing John's four hearts with a big black club right in the middle, Sid moans and groans as the other players laugh at him. With his face blushing red, he mutters, "I'll sleep in the street before you bluff me out again."

The players are still talking about John's bluff as Scotty Nichols starts the next deal. Ted opens for $25. Sid fumbles with his money ... an indication that he wants to raise. John has a pair of aces that could be played with good investment odds if he can gain an offensive betting position and prevent Sid's raise. That is an easy problem for John. He just throws some confusion at the players by making a weird $3 raise.

Sid drops the money he was fingering. "What's Finn up to?" he says, wrinkling his nose. "He's either got nothing or a powerhouse. Uh . . . probably hoping for a raise."

Perfect. That is exactly the reaction John wanted. The silent players stare at him as they try to figure out his bet. The result? Everyone just calls and then anxiously awaits John's next move. With that $3 bet, John prevents any raising, gets everyone's attention, and assumes the offensive betting position.

Now the draw. John Finn takes three cards--Sid frowns at him. Immediately John looks at his draw. He catches a pair ofjacks to give him aces-up two pair. His expression remains unchanged. Sid draws one card, glances at it, and then grunts, "I had John beat all the time. Should've raised him out of his seat."

A convenient statement for John ... it verifies that Sid still has two pair. Scotty also draws one card. By knowing his betting and playing habits, John reads him for two pair also. Ted draws one card; his freckled face stiffens as he slowly squeezes his cards apart. Then with a burst of swear words, he flings the cards across the table.

"Miss your flush?" Quintin Merck asks, smiling with a fluttering mustache. Ted just pouts his lip and looks at the ceiling.

John makes a nominal $1 bet. Sid, still mumbling about being bluffed out of the previous hand and then being tricked out of the first-round raise, reacts emotionally, "You ain't getting off cheap this time," he snorts. "I raise fifty bucks."

Scotty Nichols hesitates a long time before calling. That confirms he has two pair. If Scotty had three of a kind or better, he would have called without hesitation. Now John is in a strong fundamental position with his aces-up; he raises to $100. Both Sid and Scotty, having already bet their hands heavily, feel compelled to call. So they do John's aces-up wins the $400 pot.

So with a normally unfavorable hand and position, John controls the betting and wins the pot. Also because he knows how to control the players, he builds a potential $100 pot into a $400 pot by tickling Sid's emotions.

John Finn is a good player because he disciplines himself, thinks objectively, and then takes control of the game. Discipline, thought, and then control--the DTC method--is his technique for good poker.

Parts Three, Four, and Five of this book show how the good player with the DTC method achieves--

  • improved edge odds (increased advantage)
  • faster money flow (increased income)
  • more players and games (increased future earnings).

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Footnotes:

  • 12 ] The good player does not consider an honest error in judgment a flaw. To him a flaw is the failure to think and act rationally. The flawless play, therefore, is not based on omniscience or perfect judgment, but rather on full rational thought.
  • 13 ] Collecting and remembering the data for these Weekly Game Notes require discipline and concentration. Indeed, the chief value in acquiring these notes is not the data themselves, but the forced mental attention to the game that is required to collect the data.
  • 14 ] This and the following figures calculated for a five-hour weekly game . . . and 1900 hours of actual work per year (estimated from data in the U. S. Government Bulletin, Employment, Earnings and Monthly Report on the Labor Force. vol. 12, no. 10).

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