Every player sitting around a card table has some skill. How much skill is relative, and some are better skilled at some things than others. Developing our skills, refining them, and recognizing what we do and don’t do well are critical to refining our skills to be a winning player. One of the critical skills is being able to recognize and exploit the anti-skills of our opponents.
An anti-skill is the thing that the other player thinks he does really well, when in reality they are terrible at it. I don’t mean a genuinely terrible player who plays to the hilt with garbage hands. Those are exploitable, and should be exploited as much as possible. Exploiting anti-skills is about finding players who take actions that are actually extremely costly to themselves.
One of the most common anti-skills is folding on the “hammer down” in the final round of betting. These players pat themselves on the back for folding before a large raise in the last round of betting. I did this regularly in Texas Hold’em in college: The River is face up, and I hammer down a raise or bet. People would fold. In ten hands, I’d sweep the at least twice this way, my opponents would pat themselves on the back for avoiding the “hammer.” If only they knew all I had was a pair of threes…
The check-raise is a commonly misused tactics and is essentially an anti-skill when used poorly. Check-raising can be powerful and useful, but should not be a golden rule or “secret weapon.” I’m not going off on a tangent about this or “limping” before the flop. “Limping” means that you refuse to raise before the flop to “see where you stand.” I don’t tell other players what they are doing wrong. Everything they do wrong does me a favor and I thank them for putting more money in my pocket.
My personal favorite is actually those that try to play fast and loose – or at least try to, hoping to confuse the heck out of me. If you’ve confused me, you’ve actually done me a favor because you’ve restricted my choices to either calling your bet or folding and getting the hell out of dodge. So instead of thinking about whether to raise you, I’ve got a 50/50 chance of taking you down and 50/50 is pretty good odds. Confusion is yet another common anti-skill. It is deliberate acts of deception and trickery that makes a player a winner. Confusion is not.
So next time you’re at the table and you see someone buy in for the minimum, hold back the smile. Watch him: does he use check raise poorly? Does he limp like he’s already been shot in the foot? Does he call bets on the turn and fold on the river? Does he confuse the heck out of you? Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, and when you are smoking out the anti-skilled to profit from, this is a golden rule.