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Poker Life: Adding Randomness to Your Game

Sat, Apr 22, 8:37am by Poker Guru

An important part of a winning poker strategy is to mix up your game. You cannot simply let the situation dictate your action—that makes you too easy to read. In some situations you should raise 40% of time and call 60% of the time. Sometimes raise, call and fold should all be in your mix of actions. I have written about this before.

But how do you decide when to do what? In Dan Harrington’s excellent book Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments, Harrington reveals that he uses the second hand on his watch to ‘randomize’ his game. If he wants to make one action 75% of the time, he will glance at his watch and if the second hand is between 12 and 9 (i.e. between 0 and 45 seconds) he will use that action. Very clever.

A professional poker player I know uses another method. He uses the digit sum of the previous bet. Suppose the previous bet was 1150, the digit sum is 1+1+5 = 7 and then he uses that as his ‘random’ number. If the digit sum is a two-digit number he will use the digit sum of the digit sum to get a number between 1 and 9.

It goes without saying that you should not talk to other players about your method, at least if it is something they can exploit. But any method is better than not having a method. If you use your feel the risk is that you will not raise 75% of the time when you intend to—you might end up raising 100% of the time. In fact I think that is a very common mistake.

How about when you play online against someone you never played against  before and probably never will play with again? Or when you play one of those fast-fold poker games like Pokerstars Zoom where you play new opponents every hand? Do you still need to mix up your game then? I would say no. ABC Poker will take you quite far in those games and unless you play high stakes there is no need to complicate things. And that is actually one of the reasons I find online poker less and less entertaining. Winning is always nice but I also like the intellectual challenge. I like those new fast games like the Pokerstars Spin’n’Go’s for a quick shot of poker entertainment but I do not play those long online cash game sessions as much as I used to.


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