Who is “I”?: Start of the Raise/Bet/Fold experiment

by ~ October 3rd, 2007. Filed under: Basics of poker, Philosophy and approach, Poker aggression, Project: bet, raise, or fold.

I started running a little experiment, one suggested, among others, by Isabelle Mercier. She suggests playing for a bit where you are not allowed to call, only bet/raise or fold. No mention of checking, so I’m allowing myself to do that as well; I can’t really see myself folding from the BB in a limped pot. I’m also allowing myself to call if I have a monster because it happens so infrequently. Anyway, the experiment so far has highlighted two interesting things, both of which I already knew.

The subject of this entry is the first thing I noticed. I have a real connection with my online persona to the extent that I can be embarrassed making plays that I’m not comfortable with. I can be quite aggressive late in a tournament, but early I’m trained to play tight and not play crap or mediocre hands. On top of this I am running this experiment playing at play money SnGs where people play quite loose/passive so by raising I feel like I’m playing like a bully/maniac, which seems impolite at these tables, raising every time I’m in and re-re-raising if I’m re-raised.

These people don’t know who I am. I will likely never even sit down at an online poker game with them again. My real name or picture are not in my user settings. These people are from all over the world, so the chance of running across them in real life is virtually nil, and even if I did there is no way we could recognize each other. Why do I care what they think?

Or maybe more important is third level thinking; what matters is what I think they think about me. Yes in the short term I can expect certain types of playing back at me depending on how I’ve played to date, but on a poker-theory level I should be able to adapt to that. Somehow it’s on a personal level that I’m afraid of being disliked. On a personal level we all like to be liked, respected, but on a poker level it’s good to be feared, maybe even targeted if you’re aware of it and know how to play back at that. That’s what a good LAG player sets themselves up, challenging, bullying, setting the others up to get frustrated with them so they eventually push back at the wrong time and get stacked.

But if I step out of my level of comfort as a player, I feel vulnerable, and I should. If I’m raising with good-but-not-great hands at a full table with big effective stacks, I’m putting myself at risk in the hand. When I raise a whole bunch of limpers I’m standing up, separating myself from everyone else and challenging them, saying, “I have the best hand, what do you think of that?” Fine if I have AA/KK/QQ, but I’m not getting those hands every orbit, so what does that mean when I raise like that every orbit? But if I’m not allowed to call, raising is the only way I can get in a flop with KQ/88/AT/79s from mid/late position. With all the limpers at this playing level it makes it more likely that I find myself in this situation. And these players aren’t going away. They limp/call more than they should too meaning I have to deal with most of them again on the flop.

There’s another training experiment I want to try one day. It’s to put a sticky on the monitor over top where my cards are and to play based entirely upon my reads of the other players without knowing what my hand is. Again, the reason that I haven’t done so is that I’m afraid of representing myself badly.

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