Carl “The Dean” Sampson is a well known poker player and author, and is currently a Cake Poker sponsored pro. Carl will be contributing to Poker News Daily on a regular basis, and you can also read Carl’s blog on his website PokerSharkpool.com
With the preponderance of six-max ring games now dominating the online scene, there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of theory on full ring games with between eight and ten players. At the lower stakes, good sound solid play will still get the money; but as you move up and your opponents are more alert you will definitely need to think about adding some randomisation to your play.
I will refer to the medium stakes levels of NL400 up to and including NL1000. Whilst it is certainly correct to randomise your play further up the ladder, many players who are coming up from NL100 and NL200 are doing so with their same old predictable game and their results are suffering because of it.
Let us take a look at an example from NL600 where having some randomisation will help you. You are sitting in the hijack seat with the 10d-9d and this nine-handed table has been playing very tight so far. The player who is in the UTG+1seat and the most active player on the table opens for $18 while sitting on a $450 stack.
It is folded to you, and in most cases you have a straightforward fold here: your position isn’t good and neither is your hand. You have a speculative hand that is basically designed for deep stack poker, and although you have a $600 stack (100BB), your opponent is in fact sitting on less so your effective stack is only $450 unless another player to your left with a bigger stack decides to get involved.
Re-raising is obviously out of the question – while re-raising does in fact serve the purpose of injecting randomisation into your play, it is clearly overstepping the mark to do so here, especially in a full ring game.
You have a choice between calling and folding, but you should not be calling many raises from this position anyway, as you have several players behind you who are still to speak, and it only takes one of them to raise again and you will be forced to fold and never have the chance to see the flop. But if you can ascertain that the opening raiser is somewhat aggressive then you can possibly call this bet around 20% of the time for randomisation purposes. As you begin to move up through the levels then you should at least start to consider sometimes calling raises like these, especially if the players to your left are less inclined to enter with a raise.
Why do you need to randomise your play? I would have thought that this question was rather obvious: whenever you enter the pot in this situation, you simply cannot let your opponents narrow down your range to just a handful of possibilities! In fact it would be better to three-bet with the suited connector here every once in a while than allow yourself to be read in this way.
Now I fully realise that there are many players out there who under no circumstances whatsoever would ever contemplate calling a raise with a hand like this even if the circumstances were right. There is nothing inherently wrong with this style of play, and never getting involved from the hijack with a hand like 10d-9d to a raise from a rather active player is certainly not bad poker.
In fact there are many players who firmly believe that image plays are of far less importance in online poker. But please remember that when you make a play of this nature then you are essentially not doing so to create an image as such but to randomise your play. While it can be argued that this all ties in with your table image, the primary objective is to create a situation in which your play cannot easily be interpreted by your opponents.
Also it is the very nature of online poker that makes randomisation so critical as you enter the mid-stakes levels and beyond. Encountering more and more players who are using tracking software or who have significant amounts of data on you is going to leave you severely handicapped if you fail to randomise.
So whether you agree with the play in the example or not, this is something that you are really going to have to think about at some stage as you move up from the NL100 and NL200 levels.