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Texas Hold’em for Beginners | How to Disarm Your Biggest Threats

Some people don’t know how to play the game. I’m not talking about poker, but poker is a lot like life. I’m talking about the friend/enemy game.

POWERFUL PEOPLE WITH NO TRUE POWER

Here’s what most people do. They want to feel powerful so they act powerful. This might mean flashing their money around, getting big and strong in an effort to look intimidating, saying things that they think will scare people, and using leverage whenever and however they can. These people are completely missing the point.

Power doesn’t come from intimidation. It comes from being friendly to people and making allies. This doesn’t mean you should take any shit from anyone. If that happens, do not attack. Instead, delete. You cannot reach your full potential in any aspect of life if you have negativity around you. You must be a badass mofo and get rid of them, as difficult as it may seem. This isn’t so you can make more money. It’s so you can be happy.

Let’s break down the first paragraph in this section. If someone likes flashing their money, it doesn’t necessarily mean they have negative energy. Some people (not the majority) like flashing their money because they like to have a good time and enjoy life. That’s cool! But most people think money is the key to happiness.

poker money

Therefore, when they make a little money and they haven’t yet found that happiness, they strive to make more money, thinking that they need more money to find happiness. This pattern will continue for the remainder of their lives. Sadly, they will never find happiness.

If you do what you love, you will be happy. When you surround yourself with positive people and enjoy their company, you will be happy. If you’re seeking money just to make money, you will not be happy. And since people tend to attract what they’re like, this means the significant other is often after the same thing. Definitely not a happy situation.

Take two broke poker players that are a couple and love each other vs. a wealthy couple that are lawyers and hate their careers. Which couple is richer? If you rate this on a monetary level, then the lawyers, but it’s difficult to associate happiness with two lawyers that have dedicated their lives to work they hate and money.

If you view richness as happiness, as in rich in life, then the broke poker-playing couple is happier. This isn’t a recommendation to be broke. We don’t want that. It’s an example.

Getting back to that first paragraph, some people get big to look intimidating. They want to be respected. And if you’re wise, you will probably respect them. No sense in fighting. You either get beat up or end up in jail. Neither is a good option. By the way, some people get in shape because the gym is a stress reliever. That’s different.

Then you have the people that say things to scare others. They might say, “I’ve got two guns in my car, and if any son of a bitch wants to lay a hand on me, I ain’t afraid to use one.” Now you respect this person, but you’re walking on eggshells.

Lastly, we have the Leverage Cat. “If you do this, I’ll do this.” Or … “If you don’t do this, I will do this.” I have fallen into the Leverage Cat trap before, but only when someone backs out on a deal or changes a deal. I’m super friendly and fair until I know it’s time to play the game. Otherwise, there are no games.

You might respect the people listed above and you might not, but do you like any of them? Hell no! Who the hell likes showy/miserable people, bullies, and backstabbers? Yet this is how so many people feel like they will gain power. You want to know how to gain power? Answer: With a smile.

poker player smiling

Look at the world. If a nation doesn’t have strategic allies, they’re in big trouble. Another nation will come in and take advantage of them, steal their natural resources. I’m not going to go down that road in a poker article, but imagine having almost everyone you have ever met on your side. That’s power!

Now imagine using that power as a poker strategy in poker games. I’m not saying to use this poker strategy in poker games in a deceptive way. I’m saying that you can create allies at the poker table.

I understand that in most cases friends put their friendships to the side when playing poker hands in poker tournaments or traditional cash games, but I’m not talking about friends. I’m talking friendlies. There is a big difference. The poker tips below should help you in this regard.

WHEN YOU SIT DOWN

Personally, I have found that I play much better poker when I’m quiet and don’t say much. It allows me to focus more on my poker hands. However, I will be talkative and engaging if I have been invited to the venue for any reason. I must live up to my end of the bargain. As a side note, I will never give poker tips at the poker table. I’m not that guy.

Assuming you weren’t invited to a venue, and assuming you don’t want to get smacked upside the head soon after sitting down in a Texas Hold’em Poker cash game, you can take a very simple approach. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you. Continue the conversation, but do more listening than talking. If they tell you something that you think is awesome, tell them you think it’s awesome. It’s easier to create a bond with your poker-table neighbor than with someone at the other end of the table.

That said, if you happen to notice that the player with the most chips is at the other end of the table, strike up a conversation with him as well. Get him to talk about himself. If you have any similar interests outside of poker, point it out. Indirectly, you’re reducing this player’s focus. But you are also disarming him, just as you did the first player.

This isn’t going to work every time, but if there is a situation where your opponent goes all-in and he likes you, he might very well say, “I have two pair. I know you’re on a draw. I just want you gone.” Or if it’s your neighbor, he might put in a standard raise and say, “I’m on the nut flush draw. Don’t know what you have, but I’ll have to call if you jam.”

What you do with this information is up to you, but the point is that it’s information. I know this is all a bit deep for Texas Hold’em for beginners, but any time you can extract information, you heading in the right direction. It’s also information that you wouldn’t have had if you hadn’t disarmed these threats.

I can almost guarantee you (almost) that the players you disarmed will be telling the truth and that they will show cards that matched their story if their cards are turned up for any reason. People like making friends, and they don’t want to let those new friends down. Human beings desire connections more than money.

The funny (and sad) thing about that is that the money-hungry people referred to above really want to make money to build their human connections, not realizing they’re attracting the wrong kind of human connections.

Anyway, if humans desire connections more than money, especially in the early stages of the bonding experience, do you think they’re going to trick you to make a little extra money OR do you think they will want to earn your trust and loyalty? In most cases, it’s going to be the latter.

Now … if you get a money-hungry person at your table, this doesn’t apply. They will do anything in their power to take your money. They think they’re being slick, but they’re only fooling themselves because they’re after the wrong thing.

poker player

I have told the story many times about the study of people on their deathbeds and what they wanted to tell the living. I’m not going to get into all that here, but I will make one key point. Not one of the five things listed related to making more money.

Actually, money was never mentioned. You do need money to do at least two of the things on the list, but you should earn that money by doing what you love. If you’re just seeking money, you’re wasting your life! And life doesn’t happen that often.

ANOTHER DISARMING APPROACH

If you’re playing in poker tournaments, you can’t use the following approach, but you can do it if you’re playing in Texas Hold’em Poker cash games. In most venues, if you’re heads-up, you can show your hole cards to your opponent. Always ask permission before doing this because some venues don’t allow it, but in most places, you should be good to go.

Make sure it’s a small pot when you do this. If you get to the flop or turn, it’s a small pot, and you have already sensed weakness from your opponent, turn your cards up and say something along the lines of, “I’ll show you. You seem like a good guy. I’m not here to take your money. I’m just here to have a good time.”

The vast majority of people will return the favor. Since you don’t want to do this with everyone (there would be no point in playing poker), it’s highly recommended that you do it with who you perceive to be one of the bigger poker threats, which is usually the biggest stack.

When you disarm your biggest threats, many of them are going to slow down when they’re ahead of you in a cash game. They will still go for the win, but they won’t always be as ruthless. If that’s the case, and you accurately pointed out the biggest threat at the poker table, then you potentially made yourself the biggest threat at the poker table.

You might be wondering how I could possible know if you’re the biggest threat at the poker table, right? I mean … how would I know anything about your poker skills, correct? This might be Texas Hold’em for beginners, but if you’re paying careful attention, this actually goes well beyond Texas Hold’em for beginners.

I know you would potentially make yourself the biggest threat at the poker table because you would have just disarmed your biggest threat. You just went in there, looked at the chip leader and slowed him down, but only against you. If other people pick up on this union, they’re not going to like it. Some might even say it’s collusion.

That’s good. Now you have the rest of the table on tilt. If the player with the most chips is your alley and everyone else is on tilt, that’s fu**ing poker!

I’m sure I told you the following story already. If not, I’ll give you the short version. It relates to disarming and tilting at the same time. I was playing in a small poker tournament and the biggest threat at the table was Nash (not his real name). Nash would crush this game. This is what I was told.

I didn’t know this first-hand because this was my first time playing in the game. I was running bad and couldn’t get anything going. Not only that, everyone in that game was super relaxed. I knew I was doomed unless I did something.

When Nash was short-stacked and went all-in, he got three callers. I was one of those callers. Everyone checked to the river. I had ace-high and acted last. I knew what I needed to do if I wanted to have any chance of turning things around and winning this tournament.

So, I jammed. Everyone folded, knowing that I would only bet there at all if I had a winning hand because Nash could get knocked out otherwise. I sure as hell wouldn’t go all-in unless I had the nuts or close to it.

When I tabled ace-high and Nash had 22 (I had Nash covered 5:1), every player at the table went berserk. They were shouting, cursing, telling me how stupid I was for doing that, they told me I didn’t know how to play poker, on and on. And they didn’t stop. This kept going for at least two hours. By the end of the night, Nash and I chopped heads-up for the win. We both laughed about it.

The people in that game think they understand poker, and they do understand the technical game of poker, but they don’t understand poker. I know that sounds complicated when I’m writing about Texas Hold’em basics, but this will come to you.

For the record, I don’t recommend attempting the above approach as a poker strategy for tournaments. It would be too bold. Then again, if you’re running bad, nothing is working, and you think getting everyone at your table on tilt might help, then it’s a good emergency poker strategy for tournaments.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This article isn’t just about disarming your biggest threat. It’s about playing a different game. Look at the end goal and figure out how you can achieve it. If you want to be different, then it can’t just be: I need to call with AK in this spot and fold AJ in that spot.

I was recently told by someone that I have a much bigger impact on people’s lives than I think. I don’t know if that was a compliment or a way of saying I should use caution, but what most people don’t realize is that you can tap into other people’s minds at times, and you can even often sense what will happen next. It’s just a matter of trusting that feeling or not.

If I sound crazy to you, consider this quote from a study on extrasensory perception (ESP): “Hartstein said,”(Bem) did find that people who were bigger risk takers tend to have an ability to have better precognition or ESP than other people. Is it that they are taking risks, so will they have to anticipate what might come next? Who knows? But they did find that personality type is more likely.”

I believe it’s primal, which used to relate more to survival and now (for us) relates more to finding ways to win. ESP might sound sci-fi, but it’s the same thing as a sixth sense or gut instinct. And it’s real. You just need to tap into it. When you listen to it, and you don’t let the opinions or potential judgements of others get in the way, you win. See you at the WSOP!

I suggest you tap in.

♠ pokerjournal.org / Tyler Nals