More Bruce Lee, Poker: No Fighting Style
Our poker writer looks at more positive things that can be learned from martial artist and film star Bruce Lee and applied to poker.
In a previous column, we discussed how Bruce Lee’s personal philosophy can help you become a mentally tougher poker player. This week, we delve into how Lee’s martial arts fighting style – or actually lack of a style – can be helpful playing no-limit hold’em poker.
Adversity and Adaptation
One of the core components to Lee’s philosophy is the ability to defeat adversity by adapting to circumstances. If you’re unable to make quick adjustments at the poker table your opponents are going to run roughshod over you.
The optimal way to adapt is to become a versatile poker player who can play poker anytime, anywhere, and against anybody. That includes all types of circumstances, playing styles, opponent personalities, and table selection.
You should know how to handle a table at 3 o’clock no matter if it’s a.m. or p.m. A semi-boring table at a locals’ casino at 3 p.m. will be filled with tight rocks. A loose and lively table at 3 a.m. smack in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd. on a weekend will be loaded with inebriated tourists.
Of course, it’s important to lean on fundamentals, but you have to be flexible. Learn as many strategies as you can, but don’t be married to any specific strategy.
If you play in a weekly home game with the same players, you know you’ll have to mix up how you play certain hands out of self-preservation. That includes bluffing more if your opponents think you’re a rock, and bluffing less if they know you’re constantly “getting your hand caught in the cookie jar” as Mike Sexton would say.
Winning poker players quickly shift gears. Elite players can shift gears in the middle of a hand as it develops.
How many times have you seen no-limit hold’em opponents overcommit to a bluff? They try to steamroll their way through a hand with aggressive bullying tactics. Instead of a triple-barrel bluff on the river, they should’ve slowed down much earlier in the hand when they realize that their opponent will not fold.
Conversely, there are times when you begin a hand trying to avoid any traps or pitfalls on the flop. Instead of playing cautious on the turn or river, you should’ve seized control as the aggressor.
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No Technique, No Fighting Style
A reporter once asked Bruce Lee about his favorite fighting style.
“No style,” Lee replied. “You want to have no technique.”
Lee often taught his students that the best fighting style is to not have a fighting style. You want to make it difficult for your adversary to get a quick read on you and anticipate your next move.
You can apply the no fighting style to your poker game. Your goal is to avoid getting pegged as a stereotype, so you must play with an indescribable style. I refer to that as “Bruce Lee’s No Style Poker.”
You gain an edge if you can quickly identify an opponent’s playing style whether it’s tight, loose-aggressive, or tight-aggressive. You get the upper hand when you can predict how they’ll play any given hand, or how they’ll react to a specific bet.
Reading Players a Skill
Bad players are predictable players. Once you get a read on an opponent and understand their style of play, then you can narrow down their range of hands or how they’ll play a hand in any given situation.
The toughest players in the world are cagey and you can never put them on a hand. Your goal is to never gift your opponent the same edge by allowing them to easily peg you as a player. This involves constantly changing gears, expanding the range of what hand you’ll raise with out of position, and varying the size of your raises or re-raises.
When you intentionally play without a specific style, it becomes nearly impossible to predict your future moves at the tables. This is even more vital at the virtual tables, when there’s very little information to rely upon aside from hand selection and betting patterns. With a no-style strategy, you’ll never fall into a recognizable betting pattern while playing online poker.
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee
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