Some years ago I was a very keen chess player and reached master strength. When I took to playing blackjack and then online poker between 1998 and 2000 then chess fell by the wayside. However the lessons are still there and the work and study that I did on chess at that time has actually helped me to be a better poker player. Poker has often been likened to chess but with cards and money and a lot more luck thrown in. There is no doubt that to be good in either chess or poker requires a good strategic brain and the formulation of a sound plan.
In both games then only when your opponents are very weak can you win by basically not doing anything. A strong chess player doesn’t have to do much to defeat a novice chess player. Simply by developing normally and waiting for their opponent to blunder will suffice to win. The same applies in poker because against very weak players then you don’t need to do anything constructive……if you have enough patience then weak players will eventually pass you money.
However when they stop “passing you money” then the game becomes a whole lot different. Suddenly you have to develop strategy for the first time and start to look at the game differently. In chess then a player takes a massive quantum leap forward when they begin to understand structure and how structure basically helps us to formulate a plan of attack in the middle game. The pawn structure allows pieces to develop in a certain way and each pawn structure has certain correct strategic plans attached to it. So what has this to do with poker? Well each type of poker game has its own unique “structure” where theoretically correct play is derived because of it.
Whether you are playing tournament poker, cash games, NLHE, PLO, heads up, short-handed, six max, full ring, micro-stakes, low-stakes, middle stakes or whatever. Each poker game has its own structure attached to it. In chess for example then some pawn structures allow for very sharp play akin to very aggressive lines in short-handed play in poker. These lines don’t suit everyone and some players who fare less well when it comes to calculating multiple lines do less well in these openings than others. However if we change that to a more positional opening where attrition becomes the order of the day then suddenly the player performs far better.
This is why it is important to find your optimal style in poker. Do not be led by hype or what you read or hear in coaching videos or books. You need to think long and hard about what type of personality you have and what your personal strengths are. It is no good being risk averse and then playing heads up poker just because you have read a book on it. This is one of the biggest lessons that I learned in my poker career.
The right strategic plan will reveal itself depending on how you want to play poker and the structure of the game that you are playing which is often referred to as the “game dynamic”. If you try to do this the other way around then it is like putting the cart before the horse. Making money in poker is a simple several stage process. Without any outside interference then you first need to decide how you really want to play poker. This is vital and a key first step. The next stage is to identify the structure of the game that you want to play. Once that has been achieved then a strategic way forward will be highlighted with specific plans of attack.