Poker Tips by George: Who Do I Fear the Most at the Poker Table?

By George Epstein
February 22, 2021

Back in June 2002, the memorable Poker Digest magazine was published biweekly by an incredible couple, June Field and her husband, Phil. It always carried a number of fascinating articles about poker. One that I will never forget was titled “What Type of Player Should I Fear? Who are the ‘dangerous’ players?”

Written by Art Santella for his “Arty’s Poker Q&A” column, he interviewed several experienced poker players. Were the column still around today, perhaps Art would ask these players for their favorite Borgata promo codes. Anyhow, Art believes that “it is just as important to know the player whom you should fear in a game… as it is to know which players you can intimidate or outplay.” My comment: As a recreational player, I would never try to intimidate – or frighten – an opponent; but I always try my best to outplay him.

Art asked his interviewees what traits to look for to judge whether an opponent can be dangerous competition “insofar as deceitful play, changing gears, betting or raising strategy, who would cause you to play very carefully against him.”


Who to Fear? Who is a Dangerous Player?

Here is how Art’s interviewees responded, in general:

  • One who appears to play a proper tight and aggressive game, but is still deceptive enough to surprise you repeatedly when he shows down his hand.
  • Both very stupid players and very good ones can be dangerous. The very good ones watch the players, not the cards. They often raise and fold a hand during the same betting round. They never volunteer to show their hands. They induce bluffs on the river.
  • Dangerous players are aggressive, consistently make good decisions, play very few hands and win a high percentage of them, and allow nothing to adversely affect their game.

Art’s Opinion

Art carefully watches his opponents. He is most concerned with those who just sit back and take in all the action. He calls them “chameleons.” They blend “cleverly” into the game background. They are not loudmouths, nor do they give lessons or berate other players. “They just sit there and wait quietly to ambush you.”

My Opinion

In my experience, I have felt fear only when a new player joined our table and soon began to play VERY aggressively. He raised and reraised at every opportunity, building huge pots. Seated to his right, I soon became extremely cautious in selecting my starting hands; but then the cost-to-play overwhelmed me. My stacks diminished. Changing my seat to his left, I was able to see how he bet before I needed to act. The information was essential in this case. As a result, I played more starting hands. But the odds were against my hand improving on the flop. For example, I called with K-Q offsuit in the hole. The flop completely missed me so I folded, knowing my hand was likely a big underdog – not enough outs. Then, when I had a good starting hand that did improve, he showed down with a better hand. I could not beat him! He was dangerous to me. And I really feared him.

I believed he was a high-stakes player, waiting for a seat at such a table; and I prayed for him to leave our table. I sat out a round of play. Finally (it seemed a long time), the poker gods heard me. He quietly racked up his chips – a big winner – and moved to another table. Otherwise, I was prepared to change tables.

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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