Article by Byron Jacobs
Playing live, who is the worst player at the table?
This seems like a daft question. It depends on who is playing, doesn’t it? OK. Let’s rephrase it. Assuming all players are moderately skilled and play to about the same standard, who actually plays worst? Surprisingly, we can now give a clear answer. It’s nearly always the big blind (BB).
Why is this and how do I know? It’s because Alex Fitzgerald writes about this phenomenon in some detail in his two books Exploitative Play in Live Poker and The 100 Biggest Mistakes Poker Players Make. Let’s assume a $5/$10 game and take a common scenario. Usually someone will make a bet, typically about $25, which makes the pot $40. If a player has a moderate hand – not good enough to raise but good enough to play – they call the $25 bet. They have to put $25 into what will become a $65 pot. This means they have contributed 38 per cent of the pot (25/65) – a sizeable amount. You need a pretty good hand to justify this so, as we all know, players don’t often call, preferring to raise or fold.
However, assuming everyone else folded to that $25 bet, the lucky old BB can call for just $15, having already “bet” $10. Then the pot becomes $55 and their investment is $15 (the original $10 is already gone). This is 27 per cent of the pot, far less than the 38 per cent required from players outside the blinds.
This gives them a much better price to call and see a flop. Most players in the BB find this offer seductive and call with any old junk. They rationalise that any hand can hit the flop, so why not take a cheap look? Rather like a shopper who buys products they don’t really want just because they are on offer, they are overly focused on price instead of value. This sets them on a slippery slope.
The player who opened the betting actually has a decent hand but the BB’s holding is often poor. Playing with a feeble hand against a stronger one out of position is a hugely unprofitable scenario. If the BB had brilliant post-flop technique this may not matter too much as their skill would negate their card and situational disadvantages. However what often happens is that they get “a little something” on the flop, can’t find the discipline to get away from it and end up throwing good money after bad.
Keep an eye on the BB; they often have a target on their back, especially in live play.