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Machiavellian Poker Strategy
by David Apostolico
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In Tournament Poker and the Art of War, David Apostolico showed players how to use the strategies explored in Sun-tzu's military manual to dramatically enhance their tournament play. Now he focuses on that other timeless masterpiece of tactical thinking—Machiavelli's The Prince—and reveals its uncanny application not just to tournament play, but to all forms of poker.
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The Guy Who Never Folds

I play occasionally in a very low stakes home game tournament in my neighborhood.  We have had a few recent additions to the game including a friend of a friend who is commonly known at The GuyDavid ApostolicoDavid Apostolico is the author of 'Machiavellian Poker Strategy', and 'Tournament Poker and The Art of War,' and his latest title 'Poker Strategies for a Winning Edge in Business.'  David's website is  Who Never Folds.  More accurately, he should be known as the guy who always calls.  He calls any and all bets every hand.  He never folds and never bets or raises.  Of course, he is guaranteed to lose every time.  While he is playing, though, he can wreak havoc.  It’s impossible to steal or semi-bluff as long as he is still in the game since he will stay in the hand.  The Guy Who Never Folds actually poses some real problems.  For instance, say I raise in late position with A-Q suited and get two callers including the guy who never folds.  The flop comes 2-4-8 rainbow.  Everyone checks to me.  This is usually a great time to bet out and win the pot.  That’s not going to happen here, though.  So what do I do?  I bet enough to force the other player out and get The Guy Who Never Folds head’s up.  Then I check it down the rest of the way unless my hand improves.  There’s no sense betting into danger.  Better to wait until I have a hand and then bet away at The Guy Who Never Folds. 

Now, there’s another interesting twist to playing with this guy.  He’s usually out quickly so you only have a short period of time to win his chips.  What I try to do then is isolate him pre-flop as much as I can.  Again, if I miss the flop I check it down.  If I get a piece, then I value bet depending on the strength of my hand.  While you are likely to never find a player as bizarre as The Guy Who Never Folds, a valuable lesson can be learned here.  In today’s environment there are weak players at every level.  That presents some interesting challenges.  These weak players are anxious to give away their chips and the astute player who picks those chips up will be at a real advantage. 

So try to identify those players early on and then pick and choose spots to isolate them.  The type of player you will usually find is the calling station who will check call a lot of hands.  The difference between the calling station and The Guy Who Never Folds is that the calling station will fold on the river when he does not make his hand.  Isolate these players, build the pot, and then chase him out.  Many players like to start out the tournament rather conservatively.  That’s a solid strategy as you get the feel for the game.  Don’t wait too long, though, to attack the weak links.  They won’t last long so you might as well be the one to take their chips.  This is both an offensive and defensive strategy.  You’re trying to accumulate chips but you’re also trying to keep one of your better opponents from picking up those same chips.

There is one last lesson to learn from The Guy Who Never Folds.  When a player does the exact same thing every hand, it is impossible to put him on a hand.  I am not suggesting that you call every hand, but some uniformity will actually make it more difficult for your opponents to put you on a hand.  Let me offer a few examples to illustrate what I am talking about.  Say you never limp in from late position if everyone has folded to you.  If you are going to enter, you will raise three times the amount of the big blind.  If you then try to slow play and limp in with pocket aces in that same situation hoping to get action you are actually giving away too much information.  Your opponents will be suspicious.  You are better off raising your normal amount as that will hide your hand better.  In another example, say that when ever you raise from early position pre-flop, you always bet out post-flop.  Now, if you flop a set and decide to slow play instead of betting out, you are going to send out alarm signals.  You’re better off doing what you normally would as that would make it more difficult for your opponents to get a read on you. 

Poker is a game of seeming contradictions.  For instance, there are times to mix up your play in order to be unpredictable and there are times to play consistently.  How do you decide which to do?  It’s going to be all based on experience and your opponents.

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