I’ve been meaning to review Ed Miller’s poker book Playing the Player for a while. One of the main reasons I wanted to review it is that it’s recommended on Amazon as a similar purchase when people buy my book, apparently because people bought our two books together a lot. They probably are a good combination because they both deal with exploiting observable tendencies and patterns of predictable, mostly recreational players.
Playing the Player is a book about categorizing your opponents’ strategic tendencies and then setting out to exploit those tendencies. It will be of most use to low-limit ($1-2 NLHE and $2-5 NLHE players) who are winning players but who play a routine, non-flexible style.
Miller starts out with an examination of a theoretical game-theory-optimal poker strategy. A game-theory-optimal (GTO) solution to poker (which doesn’t yet exist) would be an unchanging strategy; it would play the same way against every player. It would not be exploitable by any one player, but it would also not maximize its winrate against the worst players. For example, a GTO strategy might dictate making a big bluff against a player who never folds. While the GTO strategy will win (or at least not lose) in the long run against every player, it also loses a lot of opportunity by not exploiting the mistakes (imbalances) of its weak opponents. Miller’s book is all about these exploitive adjustments you can make to extract more money, or save money, against your most imbalanced opponents.
Miller’s book is broken up into three main sections: Tight Players, Loose-Aggressive Players, and Bad Players. Each section has several sub-chapters of various traits that those kinds of players often have, and how you can exploit that traits.
For example, in the Tight Player section, the main traits are:
- Refusing to felt without the nuts
- Limp-folding preflop
- Tight player bet-sizing tells
- Refusing to fire a second or third barrel
In the Loose Aggressive Player section, the two main traits are:
- Frequent pre-flop raising and post-flop barreling
- Reflexive weakness attacking
For the “reflexive weakness attacking” trait, Miller talks about inducing a LAG’s aggression by imitating weak lines of play. For example, with some value hands, you may decide to lead into your LAG opponent with a small bet in order to trigger his inclination to attack bets that seem weak.
For each trait, Miller follows up with pitfalls to avoid when exploiting that strategy and a “who exhibits this trait” section.
One of my favorite chapters was in the Bad Players section; it’s entitled Winning in Wild Games. It contains advice on good strategies to adopt when playing in wild and crazy games.
I think Miller’s book is a good one and will definitely be valuable to almost everyone. I think its most value will be to $2-5 and $1-2 NLHE players who are solid but who perhaps play routinely, without thinking about their opponents’ styles. It will probably also be useful to even very experienced online players who are fairly new to live and don’t know about some of the more exploitable live player tendencies. I myself found it very useful for examining some of the mistakes I could be making or opportunities that I didn’t really take full advantage of when playing live.