In this episode, I discuss how to handle your poker nemesis who can “read your soul” and ways to avoid revenge tilt.
In case you missed episode 237, I helped you add tables to your online play sessions and discussed having a kick-ass attitude on-the-felt.
Here’s my challenge to you for this episode: Use your database to analyze the SD hands of your nemesis. Pay particular attention to hands where you lost lots of money or you felt that they read your soul.
Do full hand reading exercises with SD hands so you can assign your nemesis a range and narrow it through the streets.
Your goal is to learn what they’re doing that exploits you so you can either avoid it or work to counter-attack the next time you face them on the felt.
Now it’s your turn to take action and do something positive for your poker game.
Poker Nemesis (2:50)
The other day, a listener (code name: Dark Fox) reached out with a question:
Some guy I play LIVE poker with (code name: Nemesis) seems to know what I've got every hand. He can pick out a bluff and lay down a value bet. I do the same thing every time I put an important bet in (hide in my hoody) but he always knows (and often calls my hand).
What is he doing that I can't?
I love this question and I thought my answer to Dark Fox would make a great podcast topic.
When you encounter your poker nemesis, you have to answer the question:
“How does he read my soul?”
There are two things that immediately come to mind:
1. Your Nemesis is great at hand reading.
He understands all of your plays preflop, he knows what kind of a player you are, and based on those preflop actions he puts you on a range right there. Next, when that flop hits he gauges how well your range connects with the board and because of his understanding of the type of player you are, he can narrow that range to a certain set of hands based on the action you take.
He can do this through the streets and when the pivotal decision comes on the flop, the turn or the river, he's able to make the correct play because he understands you, he understands your range so well and is able to read the situation.
2. You are giving away your hand strength with your actions.
This can be as simple as, and maybe you don't realize this consciously but it happens subconsciously, you make tiny bets with your bluffs and you make larger bets for value. Maybe you start playing with your chips when you have a very strong hand or a strong draw or your hands are in your lap when you have a total bluff or a weak hand.
This basically boils down to, if he knows what you have all the time, you are doing something to clue him in to the hand you're holding.
How to handle your Nemesis (5:00)
Now that we know how they’re potentially taking advantage of you, what can you do about it?
1. Figure out what you are doing wrong.
Maybe you can recall certain instances of when they exploited you. As a LIVE player, write down all you can about the preflop actions, the board, the stack sizes and the bet sizes and try to figure out what he's picking up on that tells him what you have.
But, because you play LIVE, you might not be able to recall these hands so vividly. So, the next time you face your Nemesis on the felt, take really good notes when they seem to “read your soul”.
Pay attention to your Nemesis as soon as you get involved in a hand with them, take note of their stack size, position, your actions and your own position. It's critical that you take note of what the exact board is, your actions and his actions with sizing on each street. Record the point when you really feel that they know what you have and record the plays that they make that exploit their knowledge of you.
If you’re an online player, you’ve got a full database of hands that you can run through to analyze in this same way (this is one reason I love online play, BTW). Make sure you tag hands where your Nemesis exploited you so that you can review them later off-the-felt.
2. Analyze each hand from their perspective.
Try to step outside of yourself and imagine you are your Nemesis. You are just now dealt this hand, whatever it is, and Dark Fox made his play and you responded the way you did. Why did you (as your Nemesis) respond that way? What was it about Dark Fox's actions that told you he had such a weak or strong hand?
You're going to go through this process with every single hand that you take notes on or hands you online hands you tagged. Your goal is to understand what your Nemesis sees in your play style and how he takes advantage of it. Once you understand what he is picking up on and how he is exploiting you, you can start to combat it.
3. Combating your Nemesis
Combating this is as simple as not making those same plays again.
Let's say you find that you make the mistake of betting half pot for your bluffs and three-quarter pot or more for your value bets. Bam! You've now figured out what you're doing wrong and this is possibly what your Nemesis is picking up on to exploit you.
From now on when you're in a hand against them, and possibly against anyone else, you need to be bluffing and value betting in the exact opposite ways. Turn your value bets into half-pot bets and your bluffs to three-quarter pot bets. Or, you can make a change entirely and make every post-flop bet 2/3 or ¾ pot regardless of hand strength.
Another idea, is that maybe you're playing your hands face up when you are out of position but a little bit more deceptively when you're in position.
So ultimately, don't worry about what your Nemesis is doing necessarily. Concern yourself MORE with what you are doing that clues them in to the strength of the hand that you have.
Do you fear your Nemesis? (8:30)
Another explanation is available for your Nemesis problems: you fear them and this fear is affecting your play style and even your memory and recollection of situations.
Maybe when you first started playing with them you had 2 or 3 instances where he made some plays that totally owned you.
Be honest with yourself and consider that this possible fear of your Nemesis is making you play against them unlike you play against any others, and they’re able exploit this. Or, maybe you don't remember all of the times that you make successful bluffs or value bets against them because your fear allows you to only remember the times when they seem to own your soul.
Don't hide in your hoodie when you face your Nemesis. I guarantee they pick up on this. Your Nemesis feels your fear. This probably gives them extra confidence to call your bluffs and to value bet big against you. Try to treat them like any other player at the table and don't give your Nemesis any special significance because of your interactions in the past.
One last thing, don't talk strategy at the table and don't ever mention to your Nemesis or anyone else that they seem to read your soul. You don't want to add to their confidence and you don't want them to think you're taking this game very seriously.
Avoiding Revenge Tilt (12:45)
Sometimes when your poker Nemesis is constantly pounding on you, you get angry and seek revenge. This leads to bad play and taking the aggression up a notch. It’s often at inopportune moments because your anger is taking over your logic centers. You just can’t let them win another hand from you!
So, what healthier options are there?
Switch Seats or Tables
This is easy to do in a LIVE cash game setting, but take advantage of it if your online site allows you to as well.
Your Nemesis is so much more of a problem if you let them have position on you.
As soon as a better seat opens to the left of them, pounce on it.
This won’t relieve you entirely, but it’s a step in the right direction.
Position = Power.
But sometimes your anger is just so high that a table switch might be a better choice. You have to figure that out in the moment.
If your Nemesis is pushing you around with your wider and weaker ranges, switch to a nitty style of play. Skip the K7s and A8s and QTs hands. Instead, open up ATs+, KTs+ and JTs+. Use all pp’s and only the best broadways.
Now, when your Nemesis 3bets or calls you, your stronger range is better able to handle it.
Take a Break
Assuming you deal with your Nemesis, sometimes all you need to get back in the correct head space is to take a quick breather. Sitting out of the tables, hitting the head, going for a quick walk, doing some push-ups… those are sometimes enough to clear the anger away so you can get back to the business of poker.
Nemesis is out, you’re in
If you’re getting owned by your Nemesis, just avoid him. If he’s in a hand, you’re out unless you’ve got a top 5% hand that’s willing to battle him.
Keep your Poker Face
Don’t let your Nemesis know you’re tilting and that you hate his face right now! No berating in the chat box online. LIVE, skip the dagger eyes and just look away or try to keep that blank “poker face” you’re so good at. Your Nemesis and everyone else at the table will try to take advantage of your tilt, and maybe in the future, try to send you on tilt again.
End the session early
If your anger and tilt are over the top, the best option might be to just end the session. Of course, changing tables is a good option, but if you’ll still be tilting even without your Nemesis there, you’re better off ending the session.
Support the Show
Some lovely supporters showed up for my latest webinar, Finding and Plugging Leaks with PokerTracker 4. I want to thank Rikardo Andersson, Matthew Brown, Maksim Onutsin, John Gray, Mike Gunn, Oliver, Dustin Janzen, Paul, Darren Layne, Jimmy Lai and Patrick. There's no better webinar available for plugging 7 costly and common leaks including Small 3bets, Double-barrel Madness, Poor 2bet Calling, Playing Too Loose, RFI-Call 3bets Poorly, Unprofitable BB Calls and for tournaments Limping at 10-15bb's.
Rikard Anderson picked up the #1 poker software available, PokerTracker 4. Thanks for your support, Rikard. In appreciation, I sent him my Smart HUD for PT4. Along with his growing database of hands to study, the Smart HUD is a powerful tool in his poker toolbox.
Philippe Verhelst purchased the PDF + Audiobook version of Preflop Online Poker. This is the perfect combo for tackling your preflop game. Read the book, put everything to use, and listen to the audiobook along the way to help reinforce the lessons you're learning on and off-the-felt. Thanks, Philippe.
In episode #239, I’ll share my plans for “The Month of Profits” and give 4 tips on increasing profits and cutting costs.
Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.
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- Poker Question and Answer Episode | Smart Poker Study Podcast - July 27, 2023
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