Thursday, March 13, 2008

Insight #1: Razz Poker and Procter & Gamble

Since I won't have time to play tonight..Here is Insight #1...

When I worked with P&G, one of the first things I learned was the importance of consumer habits when it came to marketing. P&G spends millions and millions of dollars on studies to research our habits. If you understand people's habits, you have taken the first step in being successful in marketing. The fact is that people don't change their habits unless there is an overwhelming reason to do so.

If you need proof, look at technology. The older you are, the more ingrained you are in your habits, and the less likely you are to try something new. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be willing to try a new tech-item because you are still developing your habits. For example, how long did it take you to get your parents to try email? (These are generalizations, of course, but they are directionally fact.)

People feel uncomfortable when you try to get them to change a habit. For example, if you brush your teeth holding the brush with your right hand, it would feel a little strange if you tried to use your left hand instead. But, what if I told you that your teeth would be healthier? Would you become a lefty? At first, yes, but you're habit is so ingrained you'll be back to a right handed brusher before you know it.

The same is true for Razz poker. Players have habits. If you observe the players around you, you will witness certain habits of players. At the most basic level, here are some common player types, their habits and how to take advantage of these habits with your starting hand:

a) The ABC player: Knows that he should only start with three cards to an eight. Habit: When he believes he is ahead, he will raise. When he thinks he may be raised from a player yet to act, he will call. When he doesn't have the goods, he folds. (Sound familiar?)

When he raises, you know where he is at--three cards to an 8 low. This will make it very easy to play your hand.
When he calls, you know he has the same type of hand, but he is aware of possible lower starting hands behind him. In fact, if he has played a hand for a while, he may even be calling with a hidden 9 card for his starting low.

If you and this ABC player are the only ones with low cards on the board, raise when you are first in the hand, regardless of your hole cards. You are betting that he does not have three cards to an 8.

When he calls, and you do have a good hand, you should raise and try to get heads-up.
This is a player who you can figure out quickly since his play is on auto-pilot.

Vary your play when it looks like you are always making the same play against this opponent: The next time, only raise when you have at least one low card in the hole. You don't want to be seen as being predictable.

b) The Aggressive player: Knows he can win more pots by raising and betting, than waiting for the three cards to an eight.
Habit: Raising when first in a hand with any low card showing.

This is the type of player you will win lots of money against long term.
When he raises with a low card showing, and you have a lower card showing, re-raise and try to get heads up.
When he raises with a low card showing, and you have a higher low card showing (8 or lower), re-raise and try to get heads up.
When he raises since he has the 2nd low card remaining before the bring-in bettor, and you have the other low card, re-raise.

The reason you are making these re-raises and not calling is because you want to be heads-up and you know that if you get a better card on 4th street, you will often win with a bet. And, it gives you pot odds to call a bet when you are behind on 4th see what happens on 5th street.

Vary your play: Since this player is aggressive, you want to have the edge most of the time, so only re-raise when you have at least one low card in the hole. You should avoid calling this player, unless it is to vary your play, and not be seen as bashing this opponent.

c) The Cautious player: Wants to make sure he has the best starting hand, before he raises.
Habit: Raises only when he knows he has the best starting hand. Otherwise, he will limp.

You will rarely win a big pot against the cautious player, but you can win more pots, and also avoid losing big pots.
When he raises, and you have a good starting hand, just call.
When he calls, and you have a good starting hand, raise to get heads up.
Play straight-forward Razz poker against the cautious player. Remember if he checks, you must bet.

If you just identify these three types of players and figure out their habits, you will go from a poker player to a winning Razz poker player.

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