Understanding bad players

Beating bad players is easier than beating good players, but it does not mean they are just giving their money away.

With poker forums often mentioning about how dealing with bad players is often very different to how you deal with good players, I thought it was worth looking at why these players play in a specific way, and why it is important to understand and think about the motivations of these players. The first key point about bad players is that ultimately they are not there to win. Bad players are not there to exercise discipline over themselves, play within their bankroll, or use a lot of thought on difficult hands.

This is because - for the most part anyway - bad players are there for recreation. They use poker like many people use pubs, nightclubs and casinos - a place to let their hair down, spend some money, and take their mind off their job/family/whatever. Obviously letting your hair down does not include making big laydowns, playing within your bankroll (these players are nearly always looking for the buzz of playing with quite large percentages of their roll), or closely observing those around you. These players typically treat poker like blackjack or craps - simply thinking that whoever gets the luck on the day will win.

Looking at poker this way leads players to play in a certain way. They are very loathe to fold ever, due to believing that luck plays such a large part in the game. This means that their stack will fluctuate violently during any session, and as a result their moods will change very quickly. Many times I watch solid players miss out on these vital clues from bad players - how they play after they have made a few suckouts is usually radically different to how they play after losing half their stack - watch closely for these clues and act accordingly.

Beating bad players is easier than beating good players, but it does not mean they are just giving their money away. The principles of close observation, correct bet sizing and timing, and understanding stack sizes is exactly the same. When players chase junk against you and hit, they are not doing it because they are idiots, more that they are gambling for different reasons to you. I knew a long term loser in a plo game who perhaps said it best when I was talking to him about his losses: "Why would I want to sit around thinking about doing the right thing all day? That's just boring. I'm here to gamble". This is the reality of most bad players - and you have to adapt to it just as quickly as you do to a pro sitting down.

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