Monday, November 03, 2008

The Art of Poker - Chapter 6

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5

Chapter 6 of The Art of War is "Weak Points and Strong", and is, strangely enough, an apt description of the chapter.

It starts by using a simple example. By being the first to the field of battle, you will be rested and unhurried. The army that arrives second will be tired from the march to the field, and be immediately faced with battle. In short, fight on your own terms.

By dictating terms, you can dictate your enemy. Bait them in, or attack areas that they will be forced to defend to stall their advance. If you are well-provisioned, you can simply starve out your enemy.

Attack the vunerable spots unexpectedly and swiftly to keep the enemy off-balance and defending instead of advancing.

If you march through undefended territory, you will march without distress. If you only attack undefended targets, you will be assured of success. If you defend unassailable places, you will be guaranteed success in defending them. A skilled general will keep his enemy in the dark about where he will attack, and likewise keep his enemy unknowing of where the enemy should attack.

Subtlety and secrecy are the keys to controlling your enemy.

If you attack a well-defended enemy, you can still defeat them by attacking places they must hurry to defend. For instance - a supply line, or instead of attacking the fort, attack the palace. If you are being attacked, you can halt the advance by simply doing the unexpected and unthinkable. An example in my readings is given of the city, which being attacked, threw open its gates. Revealed behind those gates were some men simply sweeping and watering the ground. The attacking army feared an ambush and retreated without attacking. Truly a brilliant strategem.

If we know the enemy's moves and positions, we can attack him with full force. If we keep our own information hidden, he must split his forces to defend from all sides. By forcing this division of forces, we in effect cause their numbers to be few (being divided into smaller groups) to our many (being unified). But of course, our intended target must be kept secret.

And opportunities will always present themselves - if the enemy increases their force in one area, than another becomes weaker, and if he balances all fronts, then all will be equally weak.

As well, precise timing can allow you to prepare from a great distance, having your armies meet at a designated time and place, becoming one great force at the most opportune location. Without this timing, you splinter your own forces and they can be picked off one by one without the bolstering of their allies.

If your enemy isn't giving much information, anger and annoy him to force him from his position and reveal himself. Compare the opposing army with your own to determine where you are strong, and where you are weak. Keep your plans as secretive as possible, for then even the best spies won't discover anything.

Anyone can see how a battle was fought, but few see the long planning that went into the battle beforehand.

Don't use the same method twice, but bend to the infinite circumstances and changes in each battle to create an infinite number of tactics. Much like water flows downhill, so should an army follow the conditions of battle, and adjust according the foe. Water has no constant shape, nor does warfare have constant conditions. Each element and season takes turns at dominance with the others


I wonder if the repetitiveness of some of these chapters is done to underly that the key is variation of basic elements to create infinite combinations. Regardless, the first piece is easily connected to a basic poker concept - aggressive poker is winning poker, and perhaps more specifically, the gap concept. If you are first to make a move, you increase your chances, for when it is your opponent's turn to act, he now has to face a battle. Get your chips in and now he has to ask, "are my cards good enough to call?" or, "can I force him off his hand with a raise?" In other words, you're dictating the action and controlling the hand.

A strong hand can benefit from baiting an opponent in, while opponents can be held off from attacking by striking first at key points. Again, the gap concept comes into play.

And secrecy is key. Showing hands, talking about your play, and criticizing others gives away clues to your strategies and tactics. By revealing nothing, you keep your opponents off-balance.

If you attack weak players, you'll win. If you defend with the nuts, you'll win. And by choosing your targets wisely, you can defeat even seemingly strong foes. For instance, say there's a chipleader who is attacking the weak players. Every time you play at him, he bullies you. Bluffing him isn't possible, because he's not at risk. But if you can attack the other players at the table, you cut off his ability to take their chips, because they go to you. If he ramps up his attacks on them, and becomes looser, you can then take advantage of him, as his position weakens as he fights multiple battles. Drawing attention to his bullying, aggressive ways can also cause others to widen their ranges against him as they realize what his strategy is. As he defends from multiple opponents, he weakens.

Likewise, when facing an advanced player, an uncharacteristic, unexplainable, unexpected move can work wonders. If the board makes no sense, and he's attacking, making a move that confuses him (ie.- an all-in on an uncoordinated board of low cards) will often stop him in his tracks as he attempts to figure out what just happened. Many times your opponents will talk out the hand aloud, revealing tons of information about themselves, and will often talk themselves out of a call. Then they'll ask that always fun question - "You flop a set? Two pair? Pocket aces?" which tells YOU how weak they really were.

Knowing as much as you can about your opponent can let you plan a move far in advance. An orbit early you can think "the next time I've got position on him and he raises 4x the BB, I'm coming over the top", because you've seen that he always does this in MP or when the pot is unopened. You can float him with plans to take it down on a later street as he c-bets, but has bowed to pressure from others. You can plan and time your attack to do the most damage based on your observations and preparation.

And if your opponent is a rock, then don't underestimate the value of tabletalk or annoying betting. Do what you can to provoke a reaction, because if you can get a stone-faced killer to break, chances are you've permanently cracked the dam. Rocks tilt harder than anyone else when they tilt.

And always mix up your game. If your turn bluff worked one time, don't use it again and again, because people will see through it. Next time, adjust the size, the timing, or use it when you HAVE a hand. Keep 'em guessing. For anyone can see how a hand played out, but so very few pay attention to the dozens of hands that went into building to that move. Been a LAG all game? Then getting your aces paid off makes a lot more sense than if you were super-tight.

So, how does this all boil down? Don't blab about your plays or anything else that will give you away. Realize that every time your opponent focuses on one thing, it means another area of their game has weakened. Attack where they are weak, and defend where you are strong. Keep 'em guessing, and annoy them if necessary. Plan ahead, but be creative and mutable. Don't be afraid to be unorthodox in order to confuse them into losing. Take the path of least resistance, and victory will come naturally.

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