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Thinking Poker: Learn to Spot When the “Big Move” Is Coming

  • Martin HarrisMartin Harris
Thinking Poker: Learn to Spot When the “Big Move” Is Coming 0001

Tournament poker — especially in “big bet” games like no-limit hold’em or pot-limit Omaha — is often filled with players making what are rightly called “big moves” with their big bets. If you’ve been following the coverage of the 2014 World Series of Poker here on PokerNews, you’ve seen that truth proven over and over in every event.

Whether it be a carefully timed check-raise after the flop, a multi-barrel bluff from position against a particular opponent, or a river all-in shove to challenge a shorter-stacked opponent to make a decision for his or her tourney life, the “big moves” are a big part of what makes tournament poker exciting to play and follow.

So, too, is understanding both when to make such moves and when opponents might be contemplating them a big part of successful tournament strategy.

Recently Nate Meyvis of he Thinking Poker podcast took up the subject of trying to anticipate when opponents might be more likely than not to try such “big moves” in an article for Learn.PokerNews.

Meyvis pointed out that while sometimes circumstances dictate making such moves, it probably isn’t a recommended approach to think that you are in fact required to make such moves. As Meyvis explains:

If you play well, you won’t be thinking in terms of a “big move” for which you have to figure out the timing. You will simply take every hand as it comes and play it as well as possible, whether that entails a passive line or a huge bluff. Your best opponents will think similarly — they don’t divide strategies into “standard play” and “big moves” either, so it’s misguided to try to figure out which of those two buckets they’re pulling a strategy from in a particular hand.

Many of your weaker and less experienced opponents, however, do think this way. They keep a sort of mental inventory, and in that inventory is a stock of “moves” or “plays” or “times out of line.” They think about their big bluffs and semi-bluffs as opportunities to dispense items from that stock. It’s as if they’re spending a sort of currency.

Meyvis goes on to explain that being able to recognize that you’re playing against this sort of opponent — that is, the one who is waiting to “spend” his or her “big move” at the right time — can be especially beneficial. In fact, Meyvis continues, when playing against such opponents certain cues often arise that can signal a big move is about to come:

If you are playing against this type of opponent — and there are lots of them out there — it is, in fact, important to think about timing. When is the big move coming?

These “big moves” vary from player to player, of course. After all, any number of psychological and other factors can determine the timing of a bluff. That said, there are a few principles to keep in mind that can help you anticipate these moves and react appropriately.

Against weaker players who, consciously or not, consider themselves to have a quota of “big moves,” you are often more likely to see certain familiar circumstances arise to indicate such a move might be likely. For example…

What “familiar circumstances” often prefigure a player making a “big move”? Head over to Learn.PokerNews and find out three common ones that often tend to encourage certain players to try to seize the moment in “Thinking Poker: When is the ‘Big Move’ Coming?

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