The Rock Says...

Predictable Unimaginative Players - Poker Rocks

Poker Rocks“A mariner must have his eye upon the rocks...”
-- Thomas Fuller

Winning poker results from consistently getting some share of the money lost by losing players. This money the losing players put up for grabs is divvied up between the house (who gets the lion’s share) and the winning players. These winning players fall into three basic categories: players who win purely because of a large amount of random luck; tough, solid, creative, thinking players; and, the “rocks.”

Naturally not all rocks are winners, and in fact, “rock” is not even a very good term. Rock only describes these players well in terms of their demeanor -- they seem to sit professionally. But they are not really "solid" players because they miss out on a huge amount of that money. They settle for crumbs rather than a few pieces of the loaf -- and this is just fine for the solid, thinking players (and the house) who are competing with them for shares of the losing player’s money.

Rigid, uninspired players are very easy to play against, even if these players happen to be winning players. Predictable, unimaginative players (instead of rocks, call them PUPs for short) are no real threat to a solid, sensible player. They leave a lot of cash on the table because of their weak/tight play.

PUPs thrive, if they can thrive anywhere, in clubs with rake or ante structures that don’t punish players for sitting motionless hour after hour. On the other hand, PUPs are an endangered species in games with high antes and blinds, and games where the house take is spread equally among the players via time collection. PUPs only do well when the cost of sitting is less than the profit that can be extracted from the one most simplistic way they win -- starting with and showing down the best hand.

Really tough players are not simpletons and robots. They take advantage of the multiple weaknesses losing players have. Losing players make a nearly bottomless pit of exploitable mistakes, and they make these mistakes many times each hour. They may not make a mistake every hand, but they have the potential to do so. A tough player should constantly be looking to take profit from the mistakes losing players make. PUPs are one-dimensional. They rely on a curious double whammy of coincidences to make their money -- they have to be dealt a very strong hand, and then they need losing players essentially to throw themselves on the PUPs’ spear.

Maybe a way to explain it is that what PUPs do best is sit, so the way they make money is to wait for it to come to them. It should be clear that there is more money to be made when you go out and look for it rather than just wait for it to fall in your lap! Tough players do much better than rocks because they go out and exploit the multiple weaknesses of losing players. They cultivate losing players to extract more mistakes out of them. They find as many situations where they have the best of it as they can. In fact, they create situations where they have the best of it. They find and exploit advantages as often as they can.

If you are a player who wants to win at poker, but are not already a top player, seeking out and observing role models is very helpful. For instance, reading a book by someone with demonstrated excellence is to draw on a role model. But role models also exist in most every poker game -- even if some players are only partially role models, meaning they do some things great but are merely average or even miserable at others. When you play, watch how players “get the money.” What these players do are the types of things to experiment with yourself.

Do not look to the PUPs for inspiration. Money flies all around them, and they don’t pick it up. They settle for a lot less than a player who really wants to win should shoot for. And, so far as a tough player is concerned, PUPs are about the weakest players at the table. Despite being, as a group, an “enemy” in terms of the battle for the losing player’s money in the long run, they present no great threat in any game. The luck of bad players is a bigger danger. Tough players exploit weakness, and PUPs are as weak as they come (when facing the tough player). PUPs can do just fine against the poor players, but are dead in the water against better players.

Next time you see a PUP, say thanks for all the extra profit they leave at the table -- the profit they leave for us to seek out, seize and spend.

See also Down in Value