Predictability in Online Poker

Being predictable is a huge leak in online poker. One of the worst mistakes you can do as a poker player is to be too predictable at the online poker table, because predictable poker players cannot win much at poker, if any.

Being predictable means that some other players have played with you and observed repeating patterns in the way you play. They will use these patterns to make money out of you.

For the most part, you will encounter two types of opponents in online poker. So-called "unknowns" are players that you never met before and will probably never see again, or just once or twice. It could be a tournament player who decides to have some fun at a ring game. Or someone who simply plays very rarely.

Given the huge turnover in online poker, you will always play with a large number of unknowns, unless you play at the high stakes. And you need to know how to deal with these unknowns.

The other players are the so-called "regulars", meaning that they play very often in the game type and stake level you are in, and over time you will play many hands with them, possibly thousands.


Are you predictable to the regulars?

Being predictable means that you play in such a way that the regulars are starting to abuse your tendencies as they have established they you will tend to almost always play a certain way in some situations. For instance, if you only 3-bet pre flop from the big blind with KK+, this is quite predictable. More unpredictable players will 3-bet-bluff to steal against a weak player.

During the first few sessions other players will not be able to predict much, but sharp poker players use online poker tools called poker trackers, tools that collect and analyze hand histories. From these software they can uncover simple patterns or more subtle ones, by running statistical scripts.

So the more you play with them, the more they know you. Being predictable indicates having only one way of playing in response to some scenarios. If instead you were to "mix your game", these software will tend to become ineffective because they will only be able to display an average of your action, losing the nuances.

The key to being unpredictable is to mix up your game. Be loose-aggressive, then switch gear to tight-aggressive, then lose-very-aggressive, then rock-like, etc. This really is the art of the masters like Phil Ivey, as you must combat your own natural tendencies in order to deviate from your comfort zone.


Mixing your game to avoid being predictable

Beginning players are very unpredictable because they do not know standard plays or second-level thinking and higher. Interestingly regular players who are too straightforward can be much more predictable because they have studied the game and follow closely what they believe are optimal standard plays.

A classic example of predictability is with what hands you raise pre flop. For some one playing tight ABC poker in a full ring NLHE game, it normally means raising in early position with {AK,QQ+}, adding AQ, JJ for middle position, and then opening a wider range in late position.

But great players like Doyle Brunson have introduced plays like raising with 87s in middle position or even early position, as a deceptive way to mix up their game. If Doyle Brunson raises pre flop, it is harder to know his range. This introduces even more unpredictability post flop.

You want to see predictable players at your table. It a player becomes so predictable that you can deduct with good probability what he will do, it makes playing with him much easier.

Intimidating players are the ones constantly switching gears who have understood how important it is to always keep your opponents guessing. The paramount example of game mixing and unpredictability is Phil Ivey. Other pros say that he can play any two cards like aces.

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