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Exploiting Rocks’ Fears: Part Two

by Alan Schoonmaker |  Published: Dec 05, 2018


Part One said that Rocks are so afraid of losing that they just sit there, doing nothing.

This column tells you how to exploit their fear of losing. The stronger that fear is, the larger adjustments you should make. Some of these recommendations apply only to extreme Rocks, the most frightened ones. Against less extreme players make smaller adjustments.

Control Your Own Emotions

Self-control is always important, but it’s particularly important with Rocks. Because they are pathologically tight-passive, you can’t understand them, and playing with them is really boring.

Your confusion and boredom can cause serious mistakes. If you yield to those feelings, you’ll misread their cards and give them too much action. Since they don’t gamble with you, don’t gamble with them. If you gamble, and they don’t, they will beat you; it’s just that simple.

Sit On Their Right

They are the ideal opponents to have there. You can limp, bet, or raise with little risk of a raise or three-bet. You can easily steal their blinds. Because they fold so often, you’ll often get “two buttons per orbit.”

Hesitate And Look Left

Rocks often send clearer signals than more rational players, essentially announcing, “I will fold,” especially preflop.

Postflop telegraphs are usually less obvious, but are still visible if you look carefully. Rocks may ignore the action because they plan to fold. Or they may hold their cards in ways that clearly signal their intentions.

Respect Their Bets And Especially Their Raises

Don’t call without a good hand. They rarely bluff, and don’t bet marginal hands. If they bet, you need a good hand to call. If they raise, don’t call without an excellent hand, one that’s almost enough to three-bet an average player.

Don’t raise without a great hand. Raising them with just a normal raising hand is foolish. They wouldn’t bet without a good hand, and they won’t call a raise without a very good one. If you’re ahead, they will probably fold. If they call your questionable raise, they will probably beat you.

If they three-bet, fold anything below a near lock (and it often isn’t good enough). For example, if you raise with a king-high flush, and a Rock three-bets, you’re almost certainly dead.

If a Rock open-raises, and nobody calls, don’t call with A-Q. You’re probably behind. If he has a pair below aces, and an ace flops, you won’t get any action. If an ace flops and he bets, you’re probably beaten. If the flop is queen-rag-rag and he bets, you’re probably beaten.

Be even more cautious after the flop. Let’s say you limped in late position with A-9 suited. The flop is A-J-2 rainbow. A Rock limped under the gun and bets. Don’t even think of calling. You’re way behind. Rocks don’t limp under the gun with weak aces.

Postflop raises are much stronger signals of strength. Many players raise on the flop with a wide variety of hands: an overpair to the board, top pair top kicker, a draw, or even a bluff. Rocks won’t raise without a very good made hand.

Let’s say you open-raised with A-K suited, and a Rock cold-called your raise. You’re heads up, and the flop is A-Q-9 rainbow. You bet, and he raises. Fold. He wouldn’t raise if he couldn’t beat you, and your hand is unlikely to improve enough to win.

However, you can call a raise with many draws.For example, you got a free play in the big blind with 9-4 suited. The flop is A-10-3 with two of your suit. You semi-bluff bet, and a Rock raises. You can usually call because, if you make your flush, he won’t have a bigger flush. Rocks very rarely raise with draws.

But don’t expect large implied odds. If you make your draw, you have less chance of being paid off than you’d have against most opponents. Worse yet, if the card that makes your flush pairs the board, you must check. If your flush is good, the Rock probably won’t call. If he makes a large bet, you’re beaten.

If a Rock raises on the turn, don’t call with less than top two pair, and seriously consider folding even that hand. Rocks don’t raise on the turn without big hands.

No matter when you make the second best flush or straight, don’t make or call a huge bet. If you get a lot of action, you’re beaten.

Bluff and Semi-bluff Much More Often

They will win much more often than against other players. Rocks’ fear of losing makes them look for reasons to fold. Give them the right reasons at the right times.

If they call your draw semi-bluff on the flop, you’ll often get a free card on the turn. If they give you a free card, take it. You may be tempted to bluff, but their flop call clearly says they have a good hand.

Semi-bluffs also increase your small implied odds. If you don’t bet or raise with a draw and make it, their fear of losing greatly reduces your chances of being paid off. But, if you semi-bluff and make a draw, they become more likely to pay off.
Since they don’t bet and raise with draws, they may subconsciously think that you don’t do it.

The pot is bigger and more of their money is in it. Because they play so few hands and have such strong fears of losing, they overvalue their own chips and may “protect their investment.”

Don’t Assume Checking Means Weakness

Because they will check hands that most opponents bet, you can’t assume they have a weak hand.

Don’t Make Thin Value Bets

You have little upside, but lots of downside. If they can’t beat you, they probably won’t call. If they do call, they will often beat you.

Don’t Try Check-Raises

If you do, they will probably check behind you unless they have you beaten. If they do bet, you may not want to raise or even call.

The Bottom Line

Playing with Rocks is confusing and boring, and you can’t make much money. If there are too many of them, quit. If you must play with them, control your own emotions, accept that they are extremely fearful, and fully exploit their fears. ♠

“Dr. Al” ( coaches only on psychology issues. For information about seminars and webinars, go to He is David Sklansky’s co-author of DUCY? and the sole author of four poker psychology books. Please visit my website, You can check out many articles, blogs, videos, and books.