Every one of us has at some point suffered at the hand of a poker bully. Less likely to flush the toilet around your ears but constantly three-betting you, every player has felt the blood rush into their cheeks as they endure the dominance of a player who needs reigning in. But how can you use a bully’s power to your advantage and make them pay instead? We tool up like Kevin McCallister in Home Alone and prepare the traps for the bullies to walk into.
Adjust Your Range
While poker bullies are always aggressive, not every aggressive player you encounter is a bully. Separating the types is vital to your way of dealing with them. A standard aggressive player will three-bet in position, use their stack, image and reputation to take your chips. A bully will often do some of this too, but they’re keener to exert control. Take a bully’s control away from them and you’ll be bursting their bubble. They will crack and you’ll be the one in charge.
The first thing you need to do is to adjust your range. Every bully pays less heed to the rules of playing strong hole cards. They’ll enjoy nothing more than to three-bet you light and push you off the pot pre-flop, so make sure that you fire back with stronger holdings. Bullies prey on fear – don’t give it to them. Bullies use their stack to put you under pressure. But if you were watching over your table without sitting in your seat, you’d probably advise yourself to play more hands, call lighter and generally stand up to them. Don’t feel fear, but rather act on rational analysis.
Take Short but Sweet Revenge
One area where Poker Bullies look to target the weak is short-handed poker. Should you be playing eight-handed and two players are busted in the same hand, you can bet your last chip that the next hand will be targeted by the poker bully at your table. Make a stand for your stack early in short-handed poker 9whether due to table reduction or simply playing 6-max or shorter on your way to winning a title!) by playing marginal hands strongly. This may mean involving yourself in larger pots than you would prefer, but if you’re unable to handle the pot, then the kitchen of poker is not for you. Should it be discovered that you’re only taking part in hands where you have strong holdings, your problems are two-fold; firstly, your opponents can bully you off anything less. Secondly they know that when they do get involved in a hand against you, your strong holdings will be weak to missed flops or combo draws.
Three and Four-Bet More
Bullies love to win pots pre-flop without showdown. It preserves their bully reputation, improves their stack and enhances fear. Don’t be caged by a three-bet when you’re out of position with a strong yet not premium hand such as A-J or K-Q. Play back at bullies with a four-bet. More often than not you’ll be ahead, and if not and you head to a flop, any c-bet from you is going to be given far more respect.
Talk to Bullies
Most bullies (like in real life) are the weak, silent types. They look for weakness or frailty and quietly pressure this point, hoping it will buckle. By engaging any poker bully in table talk, you take the silent option away from them. More often than not, they’ll less likely target you in favour of going after easier targets.
Pick Your Moment
George McFly waited until he could save Lorraine from Biff Tannen in front of the whole school, two versions of Marty McFly and a time-travelling mad scientist. The poker equivalent may be tough to reach for, but you will get more opportunities to pull off a superstar move against bullies purely because of the frequency with which they will engage you in combat.
Make sure that you monitor stack-sizes and other players’ roles at the table carefully, then, if the situation is right, bluff your chosen bully off an important pot. It will have the effect of reigning in their behaviour and announces to the table that you are not going to be steamrolled with the rest of them. Should the bully be moved, lose a huge pot to you or be eliminated by another player or players, often this can propel you to being table captain.
Make you you stand up to a poker bully the next time that you see one at your table!