Is there one player in the cardroom that is constantly playing back at you?
Do you hate playing pots against this player?
Let’s discuss how to deal with a poker bully.
Oftentimes, the best strategy is no strategy. You want to get off the table where the bully is playing.
If the bully is making every single pot a 3-bet pot, then often times the table isn’t great to begin with.
If the bully has position on you that makes winning extremely difficult. When you are flatting 3-bets out of position you are not making money. It’s similar to calling from the big blind. All you are trying to do is save fractions of what you put out there. All those losses are going to the bully.
Your options become 4-betting more consistently or constantly playing defense and losing. Both are high variance and do not make you a ton of chips.
Get Position On The Bully
If you can get position on the bully that is when the real fun begins.
Most bullies at the poker table are actually not that creative or good.
They raise a ton of hands and they will reraise often. When you are just calling postflop on a coordinated board they have learned that means you have one pair. To be fair to them, they’re making a great assumption. You most likely would have raised with two pair or better on such a coordinated board in order to protect your hand and simultaneously get money from it.
If you pay attention, most poker bullies do the same things. Raise and reraise often pre-flop. Barrel down when the person is calling on a coordinated board as opposed to fast playing. That’s it.
There is a simple defense versus this strategy. But it all starts with you getting position on them. Consider requesting a seat change if possible.
Poker bullies do not like it when you put them on the backfoot.
They are used to everybody reacting to them. They like it when you just cold call versus their opens. This lets them know that you do not have the big premium pairs or Ace King. You most likely would have 3-bet with those hands. They can use this information to keep firing at you.
If you reraise them preflop they don’t have this read. Now you can have all of the premiums, but once they just call your 3-bet they can’t have the premiums. This gives you a range advantage and a license to keep firing.
Now you might be asking at this point, “What do I do if I 3-bet, miss the flop, continuation bet, and the bully calls? This happens to me all the time with even great hands like Ace King and I don’t know what to do with the hand.”
The answer to that question is too broad for the scope of this poker strategy article, but what you can do is watch the two free training courses (see links below) that cover how to play 3-bet pots when you miss and also how to play Ace King when you miss:
Do you want to 3-bet players who keep trying to steal your button? Check out this free MASTER class on 3-betting!
Want to learn how to play Ace King for the most profit? Check out this free training course!
Advantages of 3-betting
For right now though, we will discuss all of the advantages you get when you 3-bet.
The bully is going to check to you on most flops. That means you will be able to take a four-card flop anytime you want whereas he only gets a three-card flop. That ability to check and take another card is a huge edge! That’s why position is so important.
Additionally, if you flop a huge hand then you can bet on the flop and start building a pot. However, if he flops a huge hand and you check back the flop, he loses an entire street of betting.
If your opponent is not check-raising frequently on the flop, donk leading, or generally making your life hell, then he is not defending out of position well enough.
If he decides to just call your large raises and then pray that he calls down correctly postflop that is not a winning strategy. He might act like a tough guy, but he doesn’t actually know what he’s doing. If you run that strategy through any database management tool in online poker you will rarely see it work. It’s akin to calling out of the big blind. You’re just trying to cut your losses.
Pay Attention To The Bully Postflop
When you are not in a hand, your work doesn’t stop. You need to pay attention to what the bully does postflop.
Specifically, you want to watch the hands where the bully is not taking the betting lead. He might be good at applying pressure when you have capped your range, but many bullies are lost when someone else applies pressure to them.
A showdown is a treasure trove of information. See what you can learn about the player.
What you will find in most North American card rooms is that bullies play more or less the same postflop when you put the pressure back on them.
They will fold their high cards on the flop or turn. Usually, they have a favorite street to do it on.
They call down with their pairs because they’re paranoid someone is bluffing them the way they bluff people. They pay off too many river bets.
They raise two pair or better because they want to build the pot.
If you see any deviation from these generalizations, you need to note it. Was the bully comfortable in that situation or did he suddenly stop talking? You need to know all of this.
Prepare To Reload
Most bullies can get their work off because everybody else is afraid to stand up to them.
This is usually because people are playing with scared money.
If you are going to enter an aggressive game, you need to know you could easily lose a couple of buy-ins immediately. That’s part of making it to the show.
When you finally start taking the fight to the bully, you will often find that there’s nothing behind their bluster. They are used to having people react to them. The day you stop letting them dictate terms is the day you find out they’re utterly predictable.
Do you want to learn how to triple barrel bluff like a real pro? Check out this free training course!