Adjusting Against Thinking Players with Brett Richey
Brett Richey is an accomplished cash-game player who frequents the live tournament circuit and was recently featured at the televised final table of the $25,000 North American Poker Tour High Roller Bounty Shootout on ESPN. With such a high buy-in, the field of players was stacked, to say the least. Richey talked to PokerNews about this week’s concept: adjusting against thinking players.
What are some of the big adjustments you generally make against good, thinking players?
Nothing in particular, but I try to stay a step ahead and figure out what their weaknesses are. I put myself in their minds and think about what they are trying to accomplish, not just in this particular hand, but overall in poker. Versus weaker players, I play a lot more straightforward, and I will play hands in a way that a good player would say, "OMG, that’s so obvious." So really, I just try to mix it up against good players. I think sometimes guys get too creative and out of line going to war with good players. If I'm at a table in a tournament with mostly weaker players, I'm going to stay out of a good player’s way and play pretty straightforward against him because it makes no sense to get into a huge ego, five-betting war with a good player when there are idiots waiting to dump their chips. I save the higher volatility plays for cash games or a tougher tournament table.
Do you feel like that happens a lot? Good players banging heads because of ego when they don't have to?
I think it depends. I think some good players play a really aggressive game, and they don't adjust as much to their opposition. I generally want to play post flop with deeper stacks versus weaker players, but there are so many different styles that can have success. It's hard for me to say it's wrong for someone to five-bet another good player with air when they're surrounded by idiots.
Against a table full of good players, what higher volatile plays are you talking about that you'd be happier making?
Certainly three- and four-betting light, and also calling off my chips in more marginal spots. I wouldn’t want to take a flip if I have decent chips and a table full of donks, but if everyone’s tough, I am more likely to just go with a hand and roll the dice. I don’t know, I don’t really have a defined strategy, I just kind of sit down and make decisions on the spot.
When you say you try to stay out of a good player’s way when at a table with some good and a lot of bad players, what kinds of specific things are you doing differently?
I’ll do less re-stealing. I won’t defend my blind with marginal hands versus a good player and call less in position with some hands versus a good player that I would call against the weaker players. Basically, I’m trying to reduce my variance because I know the good player isn't going to give much away, and I want to stay as low variance as I can so that I can save my chips for confrontations with weaker players where hopefully, I'll have a bigger edge.
In the NAPT High Roller Bounty Shootout, you were at two tables full of good players. Can you think of any hands that the concept of adjusting to thinking players applies?
OK, so it was at my first table. We all started with 25,000, so there was 175,000 total in play. We were three-handed at this point. I had one bounty so far, which was Andrew Robl. John Hennigan, Alex Kamberis, and Daniel Negreanu were already out. Scott Seiver had won six bounties in the morning, so if I wanted a shot at the $100,000 for most bounties, I needed to knock out both final two guys which were Phil Galfond and Lee Markholt.
So the blinds were 800-1600. It was my button, Lee was in the small blind and Phil in the big blind. Lee had about 50,000 and Phil had 35,400. I had about 90,000 and raised to 4,600 with ace-deuce offsuit. Lee folded and Phil shipped it in. I tanked and ended up calling, but it was a tough decision. He had pocket sevens and I rivered the three-out ace. But, he had been shipping it in about once every other orbit. I know he’s good enough to realize that he has just enough chips to make me fold, and I’m like 54% against some hands like king-queen and suited connected type stuff. Plus, he is really good, so I don't mind taking a shot at knocking him out.
If I lose, I'm still tied for chip lead. I also had the extra bounty consideration ($5,000 plus a stronger shot at the $100,000 prize). I probably wouldn't have called if he wasn't a top player or if there were no bounties. I always have three outs minimum, which isn’t a horrible spot. So it was sort of a weird situation where I just decided to gamble for the double whammy of knocking out a tough opponent and giving myself a shot to collect some bounties. Phil and Lee were probably the two people I least wanted to see in the final three with me also, so I didn’t mind gambling.
We were six- or seven-handed at the final table. I opened from middle position with queen-ten offsuit. Scott Seiver defended his big blind. Honestly, I have no idea what the blinds or stacks were, but I was deep-ish, somewhere in the 50 to 100 big blinds range. The flop comes king-queen-three. He checked and I checked behind.
Sometimes I bet, but I just felt like checking and seeing what happened on the turn, which was a six. It brought a flush draw. He checked again, and I decided to bet. I had been playing too many tournaments against weaker, straightforward players, and in this spot, once they check the turn, it means I have the best hand. So of course I'm pretty sure I have the best hand, so I bet. Scott check-raises me, and I hate life. I start talking about how I can't bet there, and I fold because the way I played my hand, I can almost never have better than second pair.
Scott is certainly good enough to pick up on that and raise me with any hand because it's so hard for me to call, so once I bet, I honestly should probably call. It’s a move I like against weaker players where I might pick up a bet with air on the turn or trick them into calling with bottom pair or something. But, against a player like Scott, I need to either bet the flop, or check the turn. I lost what I'm supposed to lose, in that if I bet the flop I would fold to a raise or check turn behind and evaluate river. I left myself way too open against a smart player. He told me later he had aces though so that was nice, but it still was too risky. He could’ve had any hand, and I have to fold or call off all my chips.
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