by James A. McKenna, Ph.D
images do you get when someone says, Hes a power poker player?
You probably think of an aggressive player who forces people to fold.
Or, it might have been a re-raise that you labeled a power play. Others
will claim that the correct definition of power poker is any play that
results in a person dragging the pot to their pile of chips. They won
the hand and thats power each time it happens. Theres truth
in all these definitions and yet none define what power poker really is.
There is actually no such thing as a power poker player.
The reason this statement is true is that each player uses his own power
in his own playing style. Different players use their playing personalities
in different wayssome are aggressive, some passive, some structured,
and others very loose.
Each action can be considered a power play. For instance, a player with
a very good hand (i.e. the nuts) might play meekly to encourage other
players to bet and build a pot. Again, a very weak hand may re-raise to
represent a better hand. An example of the latter would be a player who
has a pair of twos showing on fifth street (7-Card Stud Poker) and re-raises
to represent three of a kind or two pair.
So, each player will use their playing powers in different ways. Once
you discover how a player is using his power, you have a great tool for
discovering their tells. In other words, you know when they are bluffing
and you know when they are about to win the hand. How? Most bluffs are
unconscious changes in behavior from their usual routine. For example,
suppose a player who usually places his bets neatly and softly when he
has a good hand starts splashing the pot and aggressively throwing his
bets in. Odds are that player is bluffing (unless he wants you to think
that he is bluffing). This brings up another level of reading tells.
To become proficient in reading tells, you must determine whether the
players actions were conscious or unconscious. Authentic tells are
unbeknownst to the player and are unconscious.
The use of power becomes a players arsenal of weapons, particularly
in high stake games. Since each player has their own power-style, the
players that have the most choices of playing aggressively at times, passively
at other times, and knows when to be structured and when to be loose,
will be the most powerful player at the table.
Many poker players will hope for loose players to come to the table.
They know that eventually a loose player will lose their stake. At the
same time, players will bemoan a table full of very tight players who
play like rocks and seldom change their style. Actually, a very structured
rock is easier to play than a loose cannon that is getting good cards
and making hands. Its the player that you cant figure out
who is moving from very structured to loose, and from passive to aggressive
who is much harder to read.
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