Play Better Poker A Lesson From Roshambo

The game of Roshambo (commonly known as rock, paper, and scissors) is fairly simple. You stand opposite your opponent, make a fist, and on the count of three you each make the shape of either a rock, a piece of paper, or a pair of scissors.

So how can this simple game possibly teach us how to play better poker?

Imagine for a second that you and the other players at the poker table were going to play individual matches of roshambo instead of poker hands. What kind of strategy would you employ to gain a winning edge? Would you be the rock each time? How about a pair of scissors? Would you be something random each and every hand?

If you had to show down a rock each time you were in a match, after a while you might start to get worried that someone would catch on and always play paper against you. You would be aware of how you’d played to this point, and likely try to keep your opponents on their toes by sometimes showing down a paper or scissors.

One would think that players would take that same logic with them to the poker table. However, the simple truth of the matter is that most poker players tend to play roughly the same way each hand. They develop a certain style that works for them and they go with it. Some players choose to be aggressive, others conservative. Some like to see an insane amount of flops, others only play their premium starting hands. While playing a single style may keep you from losing money, it will also keep you from winning it consistently. If you’re always a rock, and you sit down at a table of scissors, you’ll make a healthy profit. However, if you sit down at a table with a blend of different players (which is far more typical), you’ll be lucky just to break even.

So what’s the correct strategy? The bottom line is that if you’re going to maximize your profit in poker, you must learn to exploit the tendencies of other players. If you run into a rock, you must become a piece of paper. If you run into a piece of paper, you must be a pair of scissors. You have to be comfortable playing a different style against each opponent. If you don’t ever change gears, your strategy will only be effective against certain types of players, and you’ll pose no real threat to an astute opponent who has been paying attention to your tendency of always choosing rock. He will simply become a piece of paper and take you out.

You should get comfortable playing a style that is outside your normal comfort zone. That way, when your next poker (or roshambo) battle comes along, you’ll choose the best weapon for the situation instead of simply going with the one you know best.

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