Over-Adaptation may sound a simple concept to you or it may sound like something you’ve not encountered yet. But as our partypokerLIVE reporter and cash game expert Sean Belton discovered recently, over-adaptation is everywhere in poker. It all started in a cash game…
“One night last week, while waiting for a seat in my regular game, I jumped into a smaller game that was running a few tables over. A few players there recognised me as someone that ordinarily plays bigger and throughout the two hours or so spent at the table, I ended up playing in some pots with them.
After I racked up, one of the players wanted to talk to me about a hand we played together. Here’s how it went down. Blinds were £1/2. I opened to £7, my opponent three-bet to £17 from the big blind and I called. We both checked a flop. The landed on the turn, she checked again, I bet £15, she called. The river was the , she checked, I bet £50, she thought for a while and folded.
She told me she had kings. Not a problem. Her three-bet was maybe a little small and, while I would prefer a c-bet with kings, I don’t mind checking the flop every now and then for deception. The fold on the river is quite close, but certainly not horrible. The only real problem I have with the hand was that she said, ‘I’d normally bet that flop, but I always seem to lose to you and I got scared.’
This got me thinking about when I first started moving up stakes. I would occasionally frequently butcher hands versus accomplished opponents and, looking back, I couldn’t tell you why. I thought they were either wizards or luckboxes, or a combination of the two and it led me to play some otherwise straightforward situations in all sorts of strange ways.
Now, I don’t want you making the same mistakes that I did, so let’s talk about the underlying issue here: over-adaptation. This is, simply put, when you make massive adjustments to your game as you move up or down stakes and play against people you unfamiliar with, and it can be just as detrimental as making no adjustment whatsoever, so here are two things you need to look out for. They may seem obvious, but I see no end of players (myself included) making these mistakes.”
Don’t Play Scared
This is the most obvious way to overadapt. We’re not saying you need to jump into a game that’s bigger than your usual game and start firing it off left and right. In fact, we’d advocate playing slightly tighter than normal to begin with, just until you feel comfortable with the way some of your opponents are playing, and have acclimatised to the increased pot sizes.
However, there is a difference between getting comfortable in a game, and playing like a scared nit. If you find yourself folding hands you would ordinarily play, calling hands you would ordinarily 3-bet, and becoming overly concerned with losing money or pots, then the chances are you’re simply not ready to move up.
A good indication that you are not ready to play at a certain stake, is if you start to see your stack as money rather than chips. As soon as you start thinking like that, you will instinctively want to play more passively, and thus you become the fish at the table.
Don’t Become Reckless
For all intents and purposes, this type of over-adaptation is the polar opposite of playing scared, and is normally found when you play in a game smaller than usual. It can also occur if you’ve found yourself on a bit of a heater, or winning streak. What you end up doing is playing recklessly.
Now, there’s a huge difference between fearless and reckless. There is a difference between confident and cocky. There is a difference between aggressive and maniacal. If you start raising when you would ordinarily fold, if you start triple-barrelling horrible boards just because you think you can intimidate your opponent, all you’re doing is showing a complete lack of respect, and thus you become the fish at the table.
So, what’s the take away here? Just play my normal game regardless of stake? Yes, basically. It sounds simplistic, but it’s astounding how many players over-adapt to playing at a different level. If your play style got you to a point where you can move up, then there’s no need to change what you’re doing.
Keep studying and continue to improve, of course, but don’t just flip the script because the blinds are bigger.
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