Rope a dope

Marcus Bateman RSS / Marcus Bateman / 26 February 2009 / Leave a Comment

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You have to be extremely careful who you lay these sort of traps down for - against the wrong player you will actually just end up hanging yourself employing this strategy.

The term 'rope a dope' was first made widely known by Dan Harrington in his excellent series of books entitled Harrington on hold'em.

The term comes from a boxing phrase made infamous by the tactics Muhammad Ali used when he fought George Foreman. By sitting back and boxing extremely defensively, Ali was able to tire Foreman out, and as the rounds dragged on Ali was suddenly able to regain the upper hand and quickly win the fight against the drained Foreman.

The term is useful in poker as it describes a strategy where a player allows the 'dope' to do all the work in a hand, when in reality the player knows they have far and away the best hand right from the start. A classic example of this is when you flop a set against a maniac in hold'em, or when you start with trips in seven card stud. By just calling for the majority of streets you allow the other player to steadily hang themselves while you do your utmost not to scare them off with your monster hand.

This strategy does have some severe disadvantages though. By just calling and allowing the other player to do the betting, you both lose control of the pot odds on offer, as well as allowing your opponent to see more cards for a price of their choosing. Your flopped set might not look so good when the board has deteriorated to four to a flush or straight by the river - by losing control of the ability to protect your hand you can put yourself in extremely difficult spots.

Rope a dope is also extremely player dependent. If you sat down with Phil Ivey without knowing who he was your first impression would probably be that he was a maniac, and you would immediately think that rope a dope would be the perfect strategy to win his chips. The reality though is that Ivey will not be falling for this tactic, and will simply take the free cards and let you trap yourself. You have to be extremely careful who you lay these sort of traps down for - against the wrong player you will actually just end up hanging yourself employing this strategy.

Letting the other player trap themselves is a key part of a balanced game, but it must be applied selectively and carefully. Look for the right opponents and the right spots, do as little as possible to scare your opponent, and let them do all the hard work for you.

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