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Adaptation: It’s the Key to Great Play!

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Aug 01, 2018


Great poker players adapt to their current circumstances. They effectively adjust from standard guidelines to their opponents’ differing knowledge level, style, thinking, and so on. They not only do this in a general game strategy, but also do it as individual opponents change their mindset while playing. Their adjustments are founded in their awareness, deep thought, learning from experiences, and strategic knowledge. This process should be a never-ending learning experience!

Different games have differing optimum strategies, requiring projecting different images. How your opponents’ perceive you is going to determine how they will play you. And projecting an optimum image can greatly increase your edge. If your opponents are calling too liberally, a gambling image will encourage even more calls, hence greater profit. Conversely, if your opponents’ are folding too much, creating an image that induces them to fold still more will optimize your edge. Learn how to read and attune your opponents’ perceptions.

That said, few games have exclusively one type of an opponent. Instead, there is an assortment of individuals with differing knowledge and psychologies who will perceive you differently based on either past experiences or varied interpretations. And to play optimally you must adapt to the conditions of the current event. By adapting correctly you will not only optimize your present expectation, but will also make yourself harder to read in future hands as few, if any, of your opponents will likely be able to read your adjusted thought processes.

People’s impressions of you are created through their analysis of past events and their psychological make-up. Keep in mind that is their analysis, not yours. How do they perceive you? How will they react to you? Will they change based on any new perceptions? Most do, but not all! Some people are very set in their ways. Try to analyze how your opponents’ perceptions of events are likely to change their future thought process, if at all.

For example; conservative people tend to stay mostly conservative as long as they remain emotionally stable. Paranoid people will react differently, some will think that you’re always bluffing and pay off way too liberally; others are merely too timid to ever challenge you. Some people are very trusting; others highly distrusting. Sometimes that trust applies to everyone, or it can be just you. Have you created a tricky image? Others are simply overly psyched up to gamble no matter what. A few are very stable and vary little emotionally. Most are hugely influenced by their emotions and are constantly changing mindsets. The variations are as wide as the human condition.

The point being, some people stay the same, and are set in their strategy regardless of external stimuli. Others are subject to constant changes, either because of newly acquired information or emotional changes. It’s your job to determine who changes and who doesn’t, influence those whom you can change to your benefit, remain aware of your opponent’s changes that do change, and adapt your strategies to optimize those changes. Recent events or those they perceive as unusual tend to stick in people’s minds and/or alter their mindset. Stay on top of events and think through how it will probably affect your opponents. It’s also important to note who is paying attention. If you’re trying to project an image, or think you may have projected a new image, it won’t have any effect on those who don’t perceive it.

Now you’ve gauged your opponents as best you can, you need to weight the variables of each situation. A simple example is in a game with a maniac; if the maniac folds, the dynamics of how the hand will play will be very different than had he called. That said, most cases are not that clear cut, and you must blend the risks and the rewards basing them on your most accurate assessment of the mindset of the players who are already involved or may become involved. Is the value of aggression high? Or do you need to make a hand to win the pot? Will the pot play better for you with certain players in or out? How will your opponents perceive you? How does your strategy affect your odds on your hand? How will your hand play with differing strategies?

This can get mighty complicated. And assessing the competition and predicting what they will do isn’t a perfect science. You’ll make many errors. But if you analyze the current makeup of the situation rather than playing in a general strategy mindset, your decisions are going to be crisper and your profits larger.

And you can take that to the bank! ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters -including purchase, sale or mortgage, his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is