Gibson had 5 pitches: fastball, slider, curve, changeup and knockdown." --Tim McCarver
Some good poker players only know how to throw a fastball. Even if a fastball is their best pitch, they never become great players
because they are one-dimensional. Great players learn to throw more than a fastball.
Some players showdown good cards only. While playing good cards certainly is a cornerstone of winning poker, if you never win pots
with mediocre cards, you simply are not playing very well. If you make yourself so utterly predictable that your opponents can always
easily put you on a small range of hands, you make yourself an easier target. Think again of baseball -- if a hitter knows that
he is 99% likely to get a fastball, he can ďsitĒ on that pitch, and no matter how good your fastball is, if the batter is expecting
it, you are a lot worse off than if the batter is not expecting your fastball, or at least unsure of what you are going to throw.
Predictable opponents are easy opponents -- even if they play good cards. Imagine if you faced a Holdem opponent who only raises in
position with AA or KK, nothing else. Now he raises.
The fact that he has a strong, positive expectation hand
now actually works against him. Not only can we fold hands like KQ and JJ without a second thought, we can come after him out of the
big blind with any speculative holding like 76s where we know we can win a big pot if we hit, but easily fold when we donít.
At the same time, it is true that first under the gun in Holdem is a horrible position. You donít want to play many hands from there. But when you do,
you want your opponents to have some seeds of doubt in their heads. It is seldom profitable for our opponents to know exactly what we have.
Some players only play one game. Some folks walk into one of the large Los Angeles casinos, or an even larger online cardroom, where dozens of great
games are underway, but their entire universe is the $15/30 Holdem games. That is their fastball. The rest of the games might as well not exist.
And, these players are a totally known quantity in the games they play. They arenít able to take advantage of obviously profitable situations in
other games because they only play their fastball. Recently there was a $200 Holdem tournament at a Los Angeles casino where the club added $50,000
to the prize pool. That is the equivalent of 250 dead money players. How could any $10/20 through $40/80 Holdem player pass up such an opportunity?
Yet some did -- players who never play tournaments, because they are not the same thing as their limited $15/30 universe/fastball.
Iím not suggesting that a player with a 98 mph fastball should start playing a pile of mediocre cards under the gun, or play in a lot
of different limits, or try every game in the casino. What I am suggesting is
one-dimensional players should think about why Bob Gibson
was the most feared pitcher of his day -- he had a 98 mph fastball and a 95 mph slider (and more). Gibson had more than one way to get a
batter out (get the money at a poker table). If he would have just stood up there and fired his fastball, he wouldnít have been nearly as successful,
he wouldnít have been nearly the player that he was.
Great poker players can do everything. They can be feared at every game, and more importantly, in every hand situation. They arenít a
ďjack-of-all-trades but master of none.Ē They have worked to be skilled and talented and a threat in every game they play. They may
even have sacrificed some short-term fastball profit to develop the ability to make much more in the long run.
If you have a 98mph fastball, but donít have a 95mph slider, why donít you? Itís that slider that gets you into the Hall of Fame.
More on Poker Skills,
Skill in Adapting,
Poker Weaknesses and