I have never had the “pleasure” of fighting my teacher. I have, however, witnessed him playing with some of his other students. I say “playing” because the students never really have a chance. They get hit here, there, and everywhere, and even the very talented fighters never seem to land anything. Now, my teacher clearly has a huge edge in terms of experience. When you teach someone everything they know, but not everything you know, then you know more than they know. But this does not account for the entirety of his insurmountable edge.
I have played with some of my own Taekwon-Do students, and I have found the same to be true. This massive edge comes from knowing exactly what my students are capable of. Being someone’s teacher is the easiest way to have a perfect read. I know what they’re thinking because I told them to think it. I also observe them fighting each other on a regular basis, whereas they rarely get to see me in action. There is an informational disparity.
In poker, there are two parts to every decision:
* Make assumptions about how your opponent plays.
* Choose the most profitable play against that opponent.
If you have accurate assumptions about your opponent, you will be able to consistently choose the most profitable play, hand after hand. While you may wind up teaching some students and having an edge on them, you’ll play most of your hands against relative strangers. You need to find a way to obtain information on them more efficiently than they obtain information on you. To do this, you must know what to look for.
As a fighter, I have a list of things to look for:
* Which leg do they favor?
* Can they punch effectively?
* Will they drop their hands if I throw a punch or a waist-high kick?
* Will they keep their hands too high if I throw some head shots?
* Can I slip my back foot towards my front foot without them reacting?
* How do they like to attack?
* How do they like to counter?
* Do they have any tells?
If this book were strictly about fighting, the list would be a lot longer. But you get the point.
I also have a list of things I look for in poker:
* Will they open limp? (And is there an open seat to their left?)
* Will they fire the third barrel?
* Can they turn a made hand into a bluff?
* Do they induce bluffs with reasonably strong hands?
* Will they screwplay the turn or sexy the river?
* Do they wait for the turn in position with big hands?
* Do they wait for the turn out of position with big hands?
* Will they call down light?
* Will they make super-thin value bets? Too thin?
* Will they make tough laydowns? Too tough?
* Can they raise bluff the river?
* Can they 3-bet bluff the turn?
The list goes on and on. You must compile your own checklist. Exactly what to look for depends on which form of poker you’re playing. But there are a couple of general guidelines that may help:
* **It’s easier to determine that someone *can* do something than that they *cannot*.** If you see someone raise bluff the river, then you know they are capable of raising the river as a bluff. But how many times must you see them *not* raise bluff the river to determine that they will never raise the river as a bluff? I can’t give you an exact number, but it’s more than one.
* **Identify tendencies that make a player stand out.** It’s not very useful to learn that a particular tight aggressive player does something that most tight aggressive players do. It *is* useful to learn that this player does something that only loose passive players typically do.
Learn what your opponent is capable of. Think about what they’re likely to do before they do it. Like a chess master, think 12 moves ahead of your opponent. Like a fighter, leverage this information to hit them where it hurts.