An Example of How to Beat No-Limit
Hold'em Table Bullies
written by BeatTheFish.com
...Fishy says, "Those mean old fake
sharks don't scare me."
In previous articles, I have
discussed methods of fighting back against poker table bullies.
These pesky semi-maniacal players in your no-limit cash game or
tournament accumulate chips by sheer aggression. They don’t like to
show down a lot of hands, they put immense pressure on other players
every hand they’re involved in, and they occasionally get lucky
and/or have the best hand in order to stay in the game.
Table bullies capitalize on both weak players who don’t have the
heart to put money into the pot, and tight-aggressive players who
don’t like to put in their money without what seems to be a lock
hand. I would probably classify myself into the latter description –
as I’m sure many of you would also. I’d like to outline an example
hand that I recently participated in to give you an example of how
to use their aggression to your advantage.
Slowplay the maniac and trap him for all his chips. Let me
set the stage for the following hand: an online casual late-night
$2/4 no-limit hold’em cash game. The player directly to my left
decided to play table bully by making every hand expensive before
the flop and then not hesitating to shove in the rest of his chips
on the flop, turn, and river if necessary.
While the counter-strategy to this style seems obvious (wait for
monster hands and call the big bets), he sucked out on a couple of
big hands against other opponents. Not wanting to turn it into an
expensive coin flip, most of us are praying, “PLEASE let me pick up
those pocket Aces before this guy dumps his money off to someone
else”. Unfortunately for me, the Aces didn’t come. However, the
following hand came up:
I was dealt Ad-8c from the small blind. Certainly not a powerhouse,
but with the maniac and two other limpers in the pot it seemed
worthy of another $2. The bully in the big blind checked to a flop
of Ac-8h-4d, giving me top two pair. Of course, table bullies love
to take control so I decided to check and let him do just that. It
was an unconnected, unsuited board and I didn’t doubt that he was
going to bet out. To my chagrin, he just checked.
Play moved on to the early position limper who made a $16 bet. The
late position limper folded and I just called the bet. Without
delay, the table bully goes all-in! Jackpot! The original bettor
thinks for a while before finally folding. The bully had more than I
did (about $300) so I already had the checkbox on “Call”. Normally,
I might hesitate and worry about a set in this position but rarely
(if ever) will I lay down top two pair on the flop with a board like
that. I make the call and the bully is forced to show his 7-2
offsuit – the worst possible starting hand in hold’em. I have a
scare when a 3 came on the turn, but the river with a K to give me a
sizeable pot. That works for me. Our table bully was crippled and
busted out shortly thereafter.
I like this hand for its comedic purposes and the awful bluff the
bully tried to run, but there is a lesson in its workings. Such
players are not uncommon in no-limit hold’em cash games or
tournaments, especially online. When a player tries to take control
every hand, you should let him do the betting for you when you have
a monster hand. If you bet out big to try to build a pot, these
bullies will often be scared away. Remember, they like to dominate
the action and win pots without showdowns.
This strategy echoes a sentiment
Doyle Brunson shared in his book Online Poker: if you’re
playing heads-up against a highly aggressive player, let him do the
betting for you, fire a second bullet, and then get him for a raise
on the river. If you aren’t fortunate enough to get in all your
opponent’s money on the flop as I did, you definitely should
consider slowplaying table bullies on a harmless board.
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