Old Foes – A New Challenge

December 16, 2007

I remember writing an article months and months ago about playing poker after you haven’t played for a while. I enjoyed reminiscing about the experience almost as much as I did getting into a game again.

Well, this time around it’s not so much about not having played in a while, but this past weekend I had an opportunity to sit across the table from a few friends that I hadn’t play against in a while.

We’re talking at least a year. And these are good players, too. They used to do the online tournament route and each had read through a few book on Hold ‘Em. (One was a rather humorous “How to use your femininity as an advantage while playing poker” book. At least the title was humorous to me, but anyway…

Old foes – a new challenge.

It was the three of us and two people…so not a huge gathering. But I like a nice, quiet game of 5, especially when we all know each other.

No strangers, no limit – is nice.

Mind you, now, the two old foes do play together routinely still, so they benefit from the immediate advantage of being familiar and fresh with each other’s game and betting habits. I, on the other hand, had to dig into my memory to try and recall who bluffs when, how often, how much bullying I can expect and how much strength they have to typically back it up.

I bring this up because it raised an interesting question (at least one I raised to myself during one of my all-too-common episodes of random thought).

“Is it better to play against a stranger, or against someone whose game you think you know?”

I would image the quick and easy answer would be the familiar foe. Of course you’d rather have the inside track into someone’s brain. Experience across the table from someone, although never 100% reliable, would seem to give anyone above the novice level an upper hand when it comes to reading the player.

But if you haven’t played with someone for a while, long enough to forget a few things, is constantly trying to reassess your position based on your educated guesswork of a reaction from your opponents necessarily a better tactic that just guessing period? I mean, of course keeping in mind the other tools you’d use against a stranger, as well.

If my experience this past week would be the basis for a decision, I’d have to say I’d rather play the stranger.

This being separate from the social aspects of the game, too. I’m talking strictly business here.

That my feeling. I found myself trying to remember how these people used to play and it got me into trouble. My own fault, but I fell into this trap early and often.

“Ahh, Jane always used to bluff early when she was down. I am only holding Queen, 10, but I don’t think she has anything.”

I call, go down to Ace, Jack.

It happened enough times that I felt the need to write an article about it. If I had been playing a stranger, I’m sure my moves would’ve been different. Smarter. More patient.

So…if you haven’t seen an old poker buddy in a while and they want to get together to play cards, what do you do?

Go out for the drinks and dinner first, laugh about the “good old days,” and then when it comes time to break out the deck, just pretend you don’t know them.

To the guys, that’ll probably be easy, since your wife or girlfriend probably wishes you’d pretend you don’t know your old drinking/poker buddies more often anyway!

If you play online at a site like FullTiltPoker then you don’t have to worry about not playing against somebody for a while because you can keep online records of how they play.