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Poker Life: The ever changing face of Poker

Thu, Aug 18, 9:13am by Poker Guru

Maybe all sports are the same, and I do consider poker a sport, but I sometimes I wish I could travel back in time to, say, the 90’s and use my poker knowledge of today and beat the world class players of that era. Would I? I think so.

Poker is like a cat and mouse game. Every new generation of poker players develop tools that beat the previous generation’s style, and with the huge growth of competitive poker in the last 10-15 years the style of play has probably changed faster than before.

I will give you one example. Nowadays everyone seems to play Dan Negreanu’s “small ball” style of poker, and that certainly was not the case ten years ago. Back in the day you could go deep in tournament by playing good pre-flop poker. Now you need a good post-flop game and the reason for that is purely mathematical.

Let us say that two players have 10,000 chips with blinds of 100/200. This would be around level 2 or 3 in a standard tournament. In the “old” days, I am talking about around 2007 here, a standard raise would be to 300-500. Let us say a player raises to 400. If someone three-bets it would be to 1,200 and a four-bet would be for about 35% of a player’s. You do not bluff away 35% of your stack early in a tournament and four-bet bluffs were almost unheard of at the time.

Nowadays, a standard raise is to 250, and someone might three-bet to 625 and with the same stack as above you can now four-bet for only 15% of your stack. That is a huge difference, and four-bet bluffs are now a standard part of the game. Even if your bluff is called you can afford to take another stab at the pot on the flop without risking your whole stack.

What will tomorrow’s players bring? Who knows. All I know is that the style of play that is profitable today will not be profitable tomorrow, and although that can be a little frustrating it keeps the game interesting.

I am very impressed with someone like Phil Hellmuth who has managed to win WSOP bracelets four decades in a row. When won the Main Event in 1989 against 201 strong players it was certainly very different from when he won the $1,000 rebuy event in 2006 against a 700+ players field. And he has won 12 more bracelets. As a comparion Doyle Brunson, another player with 10 or more WSOP bracelets, has not been able to adapt as well and even though he is still a legend he has “only” won four bracelets in the last 37 years.

Of course skills like reading (and playing) other players and staying focused over long periods of time will always be important skills in tournament poker, but part of Phil Hellmuth’s success is that he has been able to adapt to new styles of play.


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