It is common knowledge in the poker community that the game is rapidly becoming more and more difficult to beat. Information is becoming available to the entire community that never used to be, through websites, poker schools, forums, etc. The average player today is stronger than the average player yesterday, and will be weaker than the average player tomorrow. However, there is more to this evolution of poker than just the improvement of the players; the game is changing, and those players that are best able to recognize and adapt to these changes are those that will be most successful throughout their poker career.
There are many plays and concepts that as of recently were considered advanced that have now become standard. A good example of this would be the re-steal or “squeeze” play. A year ago, it was a lot safer to try and steal the blinds from late position. Nowadays, the average online player is far more aggressive than ever before. It has gotten to the point where one shouldn’t be raising weak hands from obvious steal spots – the button, cutoff, etc – if the stacks aren’t right, because the odds of getting re-raised are far too high. This is the current stage of evolution that online poker has reached.
Perhaps you’ve heard someone say “the re-steal is the new steal”. This is a perfect illustration of the evolution of poker, and the winning player must be able to adapt. If 3-betting has become a standard play in online poker, then the obvious adjustment would be to either open less, or 4-bet more. As the general community begins to catch onto this, the game will once again evolve. In a year, maybe you’ll hear someone say “the re-re-steal is the new re-steal!”
This is not to say that we should be expecting every hand to be 8-bet preflop in a couple years- the evolution of poker strategy moves in cycles.
Recently I was playing a tournament with a friend watching by my side trying to learn. There was a spot where I picked up KK preflop with 15 big blinds, and a well-known player opened in front of me. Instead of just going all-in, I re-raised to about 2/3 of my stack. What I told my friend was this:
A little while ago, it was standard to make this kind of re-raise because most people feel it looks stronger than just reshoving, meaning it was done mostly with weaker hands. Nowadays, most people recognize this, and consider that sort of re-raise to be weaker. So, I am making it with KK to convince him that I am trying to make my hand look stronger and induce him to play with me.
This is a great example of the “cycle” of poker strategy. Just by putting this concept in this article, I am helping to disseminate this concept throughout the entire community. Eventually, perhaps even soon, most people will agree that one should re-raise in this fashion with big hands because it “looks weaker.” This also means that further down the line, people will recognize this and that style of re-raise will be considered most likely a big hand, like it used to.
Confused? You probably should be, but this is just one example of many of the cyclical evolution of poker strategy.
In my opinion, the main difference between fields in live tournaments and online tournaments is the “stage of evolution” that poker has reached in each arena. The evolution of online poker happens more rapidly than that of live poker, because those that are playing online are also most likely to be visiting the myriad places online that expedite one’s improvement as a player. This is not to say that “online players are better than live players,” just that the skill sets and concepts that are important or widely accepted in each arena differ, sometimes drastically. With the popularity and size of major poker community forums, it is easy to see how information from expert players can trickle down through the ranks faster than ever before.
Since the weaker players are being scolded for their bad plays and instructed as to how to play the hand next time, often by the same people, the community “moves together” up the ranks of poker skill. Slowly but surely, people conform to the playing styles of the top players. In the ranks of strictly live poker players, information and poker conversation generally goes just from one person to another. I don’t need to explain how massive amounts of information spread online faster than in any other environment. With the influx of online players into these major live tournament venues, the evolution of live poker will probably be catching up very soon.
Instead of just adapting to “keep up” with this evolution, one must be adapting to stay ahead of it. Rather than conforming one’s play to the same style as everyone else, the most successful players will be changing in ways that will keep them ahead of the curve. Therefore, it is crucial to recognize these signs of evolution as soon as possible, so that plans to develop a counter-strategy can take place as soon as possible.
The old guard is fading and the game is changing – you can either be left in the dust, or you can adapt and thrive. Good luck!
Cutty: The game done changed…
Slim: Game's the same, just got more fierce.
* Alex AJKHoosier1 Kamberis is a Contributing Writer for PocketFives.com, and is currently ranked #8 in the world at online tournament play. For more poker-related content, visit our Poker Articles section.