other day, I got chatting to an old guy who hadn't played poker in a while, and
he asked me what had changed. So I told him about the internet, and about
television, no limit, bottled water, hooded sweatshirts and iPods. No, he said,
he meant, how had the game changed?
Already he was asking the right
question. I knew immediately that this guy must be a good player, because he
knew what he should be looking for; he understood the Mutability Factor. So I
thought about what one thing would most flummox an old-timer coming back.
And my best advice was: there are no more
"starting hands". Inspired by Gus Hansen and the TV circus, people play
anything. You can no longer define your opponent's range by whether he's
called, raised or re-raised on his hole cards. You can no longer rule out two
pair on a flop of Q83.
Pre-flop bets are no longer a meaningful
language. The poker detective can basically discount them. Little pre-flop bets
don't mean your opponent's luring you in with aces; big pre-flop bets don't
mean he's protecting jacks. None of it gives information, because implied odds
have taken over the asylum. These kids want to get your whole stack by hitting
a mystery monster; they can't do that with aces, but they damn well can with
You can play tighter, charging higher taxes on your premium hands.
Or you can join in, embracing risk, fighting fire with fire. Either way, don't
bother trying to put anybody on a hand before fourth street.
nature hasn't changed," twinkled the old-timer. "I'll see you at the table."
And I had a sudden funny feeling that he will be sending me skint before the
year is out.