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Art of Poker

The Five Faults

There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general. When an army is overthrown and its leader slain, the cause will surely be found among these five dangerous faults.

Deceiving Your Enemy

For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.

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Choosing Your Battlefield

The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

Setting Up An Ambush

By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.

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You Can't Lose

Sun Tzu said: The good fighters of old first put themselves beyond the possibility of defeat, and then waited for an opportunity of defeating the enemy.

Compare Your Opponents Style With Your Own

Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.

All Warfare Is Based On Deception

Sun Tzu said: All warfare is based on deception

Most players stop at taking steps to deceive the enemy thinking this is enough. But to take this statement fully into account, you also must learn how the enemy is deceiving you.

The most important thing you have to learn to win in poker is how to successfully read what your opponent has. When you learn to do this your opponent will have much more trouble deceiving you. Every hand you play you should expect to see your opponent cards. If they don't show their hand at the end, you lose nothing. In fact, you will still learn a lot about your opponents playing style without seeing what your opponent had. If, however, you are able to see their cards at the end of the hand then work backwards.

  • What did you think your opponent would have?
  • What did your opponent have?
  • Why were your opinions of what your opponent had different from what actually was shown?
  • When did your opponent make their hand (was it the pre-flop, flop, turn, or river)?
  • When did your opponent fool you (was it the pre-flop, flop, turn, or river)?
  • Does the opponent have any tells in the amounts they bet given their situation?
  • What amount did the opponent bet during each betting round and what type of hand did they have at the time they bet?

This is alot of information to collect. It is probably unrealistic to expect to learn the deceptive styles of every opponent. In large games you must choose your battles carefully. Try to narrow down one or several opponents who you feel are:

  • a) Players that you feel you can defeat easily
  • b) Players who pose a threat to you in the game

Players that can easily be defeated should be your first concern. Like a lion choosing a weak antelope, you should immediately have your attention fixed on finding a weakness in each player's game. Once you have chosen a victim, you can study them closer until you have the opportunity to engage them.

Players who pose a threat to you in the game do not have to be dealt with right away. Even in fast paced games with a decent hand you have no reason to attack an opponent in a strong position. You always have the ability to see several of your opponent's hands before facing them in a decisive hand. If you have not learned your opponent's style of deceiving you, then you cannot be guaranteed victory. Many players get pressured because they feel the game is moving too quickly and the leader is quickly becoming too strong to attack. If this is the case, simply focus more of your energy on the leader and learn their style. The more hands they win, the more insight you will get as to how they are winning. Regardless how big their lead becomes, their ability to deceive you will shrink, and your ability to inflict damage upon them will increase.

Hence the saying: If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.

This famous Sun Tzu quote illustrates the advantage of spending time studying your opponent before you engage them. Poker is one of the only casino games in which players have a real ability increase their odds of winning. When you are reading your opponents well your odds of winning go up because your opponents will have more trouble deceiving you. After learning the skills needed to stop your opponent from deceiving you, you must then learn how to deceive them.

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