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Playing The Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker To Dominate Your Opponents


It’s the skill that allows you to win in games most players can’t crack and that allows you to win huge in the good games.

It’s the skill that allows you to win money off not just the worst players in your game, but off every single player at your table.

It’s the skill that ensures you never find yourself in a bad spot at a poker table.

And, according to Phil Galfond, it’s the skill that separates the small stakes, subsistence level grinders from those who move up to win big money at the medium and high stakes no-limit hold’em games.

What is this skill?

It’s learning to play the player.

Ask any poker player with a little bit of experience, and they’ll tell you poker is a game of people, not of cards. They’ll tell you that it’s more important to watch what the other players are doing than to focus on just what’s in your hand.

They’re absolutely right.

But the next time someone tells you this, I want you to follow this player to a table and watch him play for a couple of hours. Nine times out of ten, you’ll see someone who plays a relatively static strategy based on card values and who largely ignores what his opponents are doing. He’ll tell you he plays the player, but he’s actually just playing his cards like everyone else.

Why the disconnect? Why do so many poker players know that we play a “people game,” yet so few actually follow through and play a strategy grounded in these ideas?

It’s a lack of know-how. Most people are looking for the wrong things in their opponents, and they’re drawing the wrong conclusions.

“Oh, that guy is real tight. When he raises you want to stay away.” (No.)

“That guy plays every hand. All you have to do is wait for the nuts, and you’ll get him.” (No.)

“That guy plays real solid. You might want to move tables or at least stay out of his way.” (No, No, NO!)

I think at one point or another in their study, a lot of students of the game honestly give the “people” side of poker a look. But because their approach to profiling and adjusting to opponents is so wrong-headed, they aren’t successful, and they end up scrapping the whole thing and falling back on playing cards.

Maybe this describes you. Are you an ABC player? Do you like to play tight preflop, bet your good hands for value, and rarely bluff? Do you achieve some success with this style, yet are often frustrated because you think you should win a whole lot more than you do?

Many people think of ABC poker as “solid poker,” and they describe ABC players as “good players.” I promise you that there is so much more out there.

An ABC style is a cards-based style that wins under favorable circumstances, breaks-even in tighter games, and loses badly against tough players. If your goal with poker is to win real money and constantly improve your game, you must learn to move beyond cards-based, ABC poker.

Playing The Player by Ed Miller

(Reader Stefan emailed me, “You sold me with the excerpt. I’m going to get the book.”)

Playing The Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker To Dominate Your Opponents teaches you to do just that. It’s the first book of its kind. (At least the first book of its kind written for the regular small stakes player and priced under $100!)

I won’t lie. It’s a challenging book. Mastering everything in the book is going to take you a while. (Think of it as getting your money’s worth.)

But I’ve done my best to make it as simple as possible. I break the process down into easy-to-understand chunks and guide you through it.

First you look for traits in your opponents. No, “he’s loose,” or, “he’s aggressive,” in this book. Those classifications are way too vague and don’t actually help you to make poker decisions.

I give you specific things to look for. Things like, “The player fails to bet top pair hands for value on the river.” That’s a very specific trait that’s easy to see. You’re watching a hand, the river goes check-check, and the guy on the button turns over top pair and wins. Boom. You’ve got the guy pegged with this trait. (Yes, it’s possible the guy will bet top pair the next time around, but usually he won’t. It might surprise you, but most players consistently adhere to these traits.)

Once you’ve observed the trait, I tell you all the things you can do to take advantage of it. With most of these traits, the counter-strategies in the book are absolutely devastating. Once you identify a trait in an opponent, you’ll be wanting to play pots with the guy just so you can keep getting him to make his predictable play and then nail him for it.

This trait-and-counter structure is what makes the book so powerful. I’m not asking you to throw out everything you know about poker and start over. If you’re comfortable playing ABC poker, you can still play ABC poker. You just add in these traits and counter-strategies one at a time.

So this week, you read the section on exploiting bet-folding, and you look for players willing to bet top pair on the turn, planning to fold to a raise. You play exactly as you’re used to, except you look for this trait—and when you find it, you lay down some devastating turn bluff-raises.

You master the ins-and-outs of this one play, and then you move on to the next one. Do that a dozen times, and you’ll be a far, far more dangerous no-limit hold’em player than you are today.

Playing the Player is written for intermediate players—those of you who know how to hold your own, but haven’t quite “figured it out” just yet.

This book teaches you “it.” I know for a fact that a bunch of struggling players are going to read this book, and the light bulb is going to go on. It’s going to shine bright and long. And for these players, the sky will be the limit.

Folks, this is a good one. It’s not just another poker book. It’s going to change the way you think and play, and you’ll be much, much better for it.

You can order Playing The Player today. It’s $49.99 for the e-book, or you can get the paperback from Amazon.

The e-book is currently available for instant download. You’ll get three different e-book formats suitable to read on virtually any device that will let you read a book.

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Or get the paperback from Amazon.