Changing Gears In Poker
For those of you that drive a manual car, you will know how important it is to change gears depending on the type of road you are driving along. If you were to simply stick with one gear for an entire journey, you will find that you will struggle along some roads.
For example, if you decide to stay in 1st gear throughout a journey, you may be fine when you are first starting out, but as you start to get along and hit the faster stretches your car is not going to be performing as well.
This is quite similar to poker, as throughout your sessions, you should prepare to alter your play and "change gears". Your particular strategy at the start of the session may work well for a while, but at some point it is recommended that you change gears; otherwise your performance will start to deteriorate.
Changing gears helps you to adapt the the changing dynamics of the game.
What is changing gears in poker?
Changing gears is basically where you deviate from your standard playing style to make your game more unpredictable. If you are a tight player, you can change gears by opening up your starting hand requirements and start playing a more loose style of play. Similarly, if you are a loose player you can change gears by tightening up your starting hand requirements and playing fewer hands.
However, it should be pointed out that this does not necessarily mean going from super tight one minute to ultra loose the next. The time and manner in which you change gears should depend on the particular dynamics at the table.
Changing gears can simply involve moving from a loose style of play to a tight one (and vice versa).
Why should you change gears?
The are numerous reasons as to why you should change gears, but one of the most important reasons is because your opponents will be able to work out your particular playing style, and use it against you at your expense.
If you continue to play a straightforward tight-aggressive playing style throughout a session with no sign of change, it will make it much easier for your opponents to put you on a hand. However, if you can change your play so that you are more unpredictable, you are effectively taking away the edge that your opponents have over you and placing it back onto your side.
In general, the tight aggressive style of play is quite like the 3rd gear of a car; it may work okay throughout the majority of a journey, but it is not going to perform best in certain situations. If you can change gears and utilize the ability you have to keep your opponents guessing, you will be maximizing your potential from every session you play. 3rd gear may be fine for some, but for those looking to win more money and develop, you need to be able to change gears in the right situations.
Examples of when to change gears.
- When stack sizes change (i.e. you become shortstacked or deepstacked).
- When you reach the bubble in a tournament.
- When the dynamics of the table changes.
- When players leave the table or when new players join.
- Your play has become static and predictable.
In each of these situations above, a certain variable at the table has changed. This means that it will have an effect on the way people are playing against each other, and the way they are playing against you. Therefore you should adapt your approach to the game accordingly so that you can take advantage of the changes, or compensate for the way your opponents will now be playing against you.
When your stack size changes.
If you start out a cash game with 100BB, you can happily employ your favoured winning style of play. However, if you win a handful of all-in encounters and find yourself with a much larger stack size against opponents with equally deep stacks, you should be prepared to adapt your play.
In this situation there will be much greater implied odds at stake, and so you can afford to pay that little extra to see flops with hands like pocket pairs and other drawing hands, whereas you may previously folded because the pot odds and implied odds would not have been in your favour.
When you reach the bubble in a tournament.
Typically in a tournament, people tighten up at the bubble in an attempt to hold on and make their way into the money. This is a prime opportunity to take advantage of this tight play, and pick up some loose uncontested pots to set yourself up with a strong stack to contend for first place.
Sure, you can tighten up as well, and muddle your way into the money, but you are missing out on a prime opportunity to pick up loose pots and give yourself a much better opportunity to take first place.
Big MTT tournaments are prime examples of where the ability to change gears as the tournament progresses is vital to a winning strategy.
When the dynamics of the table changes
Sometimes in poker, the way the table is playing will start to change, as players gradually play tighter or become looser. If you can spot when the dynamics of the table is changing for whatever reason, you can capitalise on it by adapting your game accordingly. Of course you can carry on the same way you have been playing throughout the session, but again you are missing out on a great opportunity to maximize your winnings by not taking note of the changes.
When players leave the table or when new players join.
Similar to the point above, if new players are joining a table and old ones are leaving, the dynamics of the table will naturally be changing. If you play at a table for an hour or so and notice that many of the original players have left, you can't expect the dynamics of the table to be the same as when you started. Therefore you should always be aware of potential changes especially as new players join.
Your play has become static and predictable.
As already mentioned, one of the most important reasons to change gears is to keep your play unpredictable. If your opponents can work out your style of play, it will make it a hell of a lot easier for them to read your hands. So make sure that you do not shoot yourself in the foot by continually playing the same style of poker; be prepared to mix it up a little when necessary.
However, this does not mean playing bad cards for the sake of it if you are a tight player, it simply means opening up your range a little to incorporate hands that a slightly looser opponent might play. Just because you are changing gears, it does not mean that you should play badly and lose money for the sake of changing gears. It is perfectly possible to adopt a winning loose style of play from your current tight style of play and vice versa.
Changing gears evaluation.
It is not terrible thing to continuously play your regular style of play throughout a session. In fact, it's always good to be consistent and make the plays that are the most profitable at every opportunity.
However, if you are not changing gears, then you are not allowing yourself to make the most profitable plays possible. If you confine yourself to one style of play alone, you are restricting yourself from getting your hands on the extra money that comes from diversifying your play.
Some players have been brought up on the bread and butter style of ABC poker; which is all well and good. But this kind of play isn't always going to cut it in certain situations. So if you want to get the most from your sessions you should learn to change gears at the right moments, and keep your opponents on their toes (as well as to take advantage of the changing dynamics of the table). It may be a little tricky to change gears at first, but after a little practice it will be like second nature.
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