Controlling Your Situation
Some of the worst moments in a poker players career occur not when useless cards turn up, but rather when they realize that their playing style is being manipulated by others at the table. While most players feel that they are in constant control of the way they are playing, that is the very danger of manipulation. For example, aggressive players can turn tight and conservative when betting against a more experienced player.
Suddenly, the aggressive player has adopted a playing style extremely foreign to him or her, and the battle has opened up on two fronts. Now, the player not only has to focus on playing against a more experienced player, but also has to do so while figuring out how to harness an unfamiliar approach to the game. Consequently, the most useful tool that a novice poker player can possess is the ability to control his or her situation at the table. This can be performed in three ways, most easily remembered as the three Ms.
There are countless mental notes to make while playing, even during a fairly relaxed gamed of poker. The importance of keeping track of the chip stacks of your opponents is immeasurable. Obviously, this observation will give you a sense of who has the most dominant position at the table, but it will also clue you into a few other things. Who has the most chips at the table? Is it the loose, aggressive player, or the tight, passive player? At the same time, you should be paying close attention to your own chip stack.
Often, I will spend a couple of hours playing poker and end up losing all of my money at the end of the night because I simply was not paying attention to how my chips were moving. If it seems that your chips are being slowly whittled down by the blinds and a few small pots, then perhaps a change of playing style is in order.
Based upon the things that you can physically monitor about the players around you, it is necessary to adjust and manage your playing style. If it seems that a particular betting methodology (aggressive, passive, loose, conservative) is effective at the table, you can consciously make an effort to either change your own approach or change the way in which you react to the betting of other players. By simply making small adjustments, you are not only broadening your poker experience, but you are also making it more difficult for your opponents to get a read on your style.
Ironically, you should be trying to put your opponents under the exact same manipulation that you are trying to evade. For example, if you are generally recognized as an intelligent, conservative bettor, pushing your weight around and raising a lot more pots than you normally do will put your opponents in a situation that they have never had to face before while playing against you. While that is just one example, the key to manipulation is forcing uncomfortable situations upon your opponents and causing them to react. No playing style seems to be particularly immune to manipulation, and a person with any playing style can assume a role of manipulator.
By controlling your particular situation at the poker table, it is possible to put your opponents in situations in which they have little experience to draw upon. Applying the three Ms at your next game of poker will undoubtedly cause some strange looks from the other players. They will be surprised, confused, and wondering what exactly you changed about the way you play poker that makes you look so confident.