Everyone likes to be the table captain…the guy doing all the bullying. Raising lots of pots, continuation betting, winning pots uncontested. It’s fun. But the reality of the situation is, since it is so fun, lots of people are trying to do it. It is certainly the ‘correct’ way to play, as far as most instructional resources will have you believe. This post is not trying to refute that style, because often times it can be the correct way to play.
However, sometimes it’s not. When you find yourself at a table full of captains, or people who at the very least think they are, this is a time when it is not optimal to play this style. You want to be able to use their aggression against them. Check raising is a good tool, smooth calling with monster hands and allowing them to double barrel is another good tool.
Think of it this way – the whole poker community is learning the same stuff you are, at approximately the same time. Every player is at a ‘different stage of development’ but overall certain trends appear. You can use that knowledge to your advantage when playing against ‘unknown’ opponents, by simply counter acting the general school of thought in certain situations.
So how do you know what the ‘trend’ is – play. Play a lot. You’ll gather a great deal of insight into the way a particular game level plays, or even poker site (as they certainly vary in playing styles). Find what is comfortable for you, often one site may fit your particular comfort zone style better than another. Some sites are more aggressive than others. It is on these super aggressive sites and tables where you want to be applying the brakes. Start looking to play pots differently, float people (in position, unless you have a great read) and look to steal it on the turn/river.
Poker is not just a preflop, hammer it out in position, type game. While sometimes this works, against tougher opponents, generally it will not. Mix it up!
Hopefully you realize that sometimes it’s ok to slow down, it doesn’t mean you are a weak/bad player (not necessarily, although you may be)…you can’t run over every table you sit at…be a chameleon, adjust to the playing styles at the table. If a bunch of the players are weak, then by all means run ’em over…but if everyone is a maniac…adjust.