Not paying attention

One of the benefits of playing on-line is being able to multi-task on other websites. I have found there are times, I’d estimate up to 25% of the time when my best results come from NOT paying attention to the other players. When playing I often hear my warning beep before looking up from another site.

When seated at a table with, with shall we say some very loose players, paying close attention to them usually offers no rewards. So I don’t look. I hear the beep, look at my cards and then, without any consideration for who else may be in the hand, I bet my hand accordingly to the cards I am holding, and then go back to my other screen. If I get beeped again, I do the same thing. Etc. etc, etc.

In the past month I have made two final tables with such a strategy and once there won both using largely the same strategy until down to three players. Then I got to play something that approximated “real” tournament final table poker.

I’d much prefer to be seated at a table of my “peers” (in regards to ability and attempts to play a “real” game), but there are occasions that doesn’t happen. So, there are times when I get some other work done (bill paying/completing surveys for airline miles) and find I have more chips than I started with, and times that I don’t. Either way, if I advance far enough into a tourney most of the donks are long gone.


I’m guilty of this sometimes as well. If I’m running bad, it’s usually better to make snap decisions in less than a second without thinking about it. It helps to keep me from out thinking myself.


My game is so weak that folding helps a lot. Even then I get Antsy and start calling weak-medicore hands. First time I played 3 games at once I was chips ahead or chip leader in all 3. I bet My hand only when the cards were truly there.


This is definitely an issue for me as well. When I’m only able to play one or two tables at a time (as is often the case on Replay) it is often very tempting to watch YouTube or scroll through Twitter or whatever at the same time and make my decisions on autopilot. However, it’s something I’m trying to avoid and I think it’s always a bad idea. Even versus bad players there are close decisions and things to learn about exactly how each of them play so as to best play against them, and of course against good players making decisions on autopilot can actually turn you from being a winning player to being a losing player. It’s also less fun (even if less instantly gratifying) because the game is most interesting when you have intense focus on your decisions and really put thought into them.

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You should pay more attention to the weaker players, because they are probably making several huge mistakes that can be exploited. You have to pay attention to discover and exploit these mistakes. Strong players are harder to exploit, and will adjust to make exploitation even harder.

If you have a business where 5 customers each spend $1000 a week, but negotiate for every penny, and 1 customer who freely spends $20,000 per week, no questions asked, who deserves more attention? You could lose a little on each of the tough customers and not worry, because the other customer still guarantees your profit.

Weaker players generate most of your profit, never ignore them!


Its a great play for lower stake tournaments because multitasking means you don’t have the focus to make creative plays, and automatically tightens up your range which is amazing for those tournaments where most people are overplaying hands like crazy. You can honestly easily get to final tables by just nitting it up since people call way too much.

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well not paying attention can be costly!

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I suppose a case could be made for this. If you’re playing against mostly level 0 players (people who know nothing about the game), a level 1 approach (playing only the cards you have) can give you an advantage. Although playing at level 2 (considering what your opponent has) or level 3 (considering what people think you have [i.e. table image]) could work better.

I mean it can’t be all bad. After all, making instant shove/fold decisions on 6 tables simultaneously got me 2nd on a leaderboard once and it does seem to work on the low stakes tables too.

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I don’t really think the level 0,1,2,3,4,5 etc system that Slansky and Miller came up with holds much water in the face of game theory. I don’t think any serious players at the highest stakes these days genuinely base their decisions against ‘level 4’ players based on what they think that their opponent thinks that they think their opponent thinks they have or something ridiculous like that. I think it makes the assumption that there are no theoretical best moves and just goes round in circles in a ridiculous levelling competition with no basis. It’s like trying to win rock paper scissors by saying ‘oh, well I should play paper because I know my opponent thinks that I will play scissors because he believes I think that he will play paper because the typical thing to do is to play rock because it seems the strongest of the three options’. Ultimately this thought process has no basis except your perceptions of your opponents level of thinking and if I just maintain unexploitable equilibrium (complete randomness between the three options in the case of rock paper scissors) you won’t be able to beat me.

As I see it, winning poker broadly comes from approximating theoretical balance in a particular situation, and then adjusting to exploit opponents by trying to figure out their range (against weaker players) or by trying to figure out their range vs your own perceived range (against stronger players). The more focused you are the better you’ll do this. Of course against weaker players you may be able to win without absolute concentration, but I think you can always do better by focusing more.

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I can’t say that I know the levels you are talking about, and I don’t play high stakes, but I nearly always apply your definition of level 4 play in my game. The exception being when I am playing 3 or more tables. Then I might be playing a completely different game.

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‘not pay’n attn’ , can be peacefull. You’re not caught up in chat drama, you’re not try’n to play lvl-9 poker, its more of a ‘scan , act , & go’. It becomes almost… ‘instinctuall’ , rather than ‘reasoned’.

People playing this style, usually bluff less and have stronger hands.


I like most of what you have said above. You have AK, you raise from early position, you are called in the BB. The flop misses you, BB shoves. You know BB suspects you have AK or AQ and will shove any flop that has no A, K, or Q, but you cannot afford to call him in case he has some kind of pair or draw. This is the essential dilemma of poker. How can you keep the opponent uncertain of what you are doing?

However the problem with “range theory” (at least in tournaments) is that a range will include bluffs and you probably cannot know what the bluff cards are or how many there will be, so your knowledge of the range is always incomplete.

In one of his books that I read years ago, Harrington talks about randomizing your bluffs by, for example, using a wristwatch, and if the sweep second hand is in the left hand side of the dial, then you bluff, and if it is in the right hand side you fold, so even you yourself do not know in advance how you will play that card combination on this occasion.

Range theory also depends very much on the notion that if your hand starts ahead of the hand of the opponent you are EV +ve, but in real life poker (tournaments), it is always the suckout that kills you, when you have all the odds in your favor, but still lose the hand after starting ahead of a hand that you dominate. In ring games, there is no problem, but in tournaments sooner or later you will lose one of these hands (usually sooner) and may end up eliminated, crippled, or severely weakened.


i hope someone is paying attention. Otherwise, the table image i’m carefully trying to cultivate, exists only in my head.


You’re probably right about that at the professional level, but let’s focus on places like Replay (real money or not) where most folks are amateurs. A significant portion of the players at Replay have no idea what they are doing or are simply focused on their cards alone. Most of these level 0 or 1 types are going to bet in a straight-forward manner as @Sassy_Sarah described. If a person can make good reads based on this playing style and how the community cards fall, that person can make rather easy decisions to bet/call/fold.

If you actually do run into the rare person here that does consider other player’s cards (level 2), it becomes easy to trap them by creating a table image of a certain style (level 3) and changing gears with a bluff or a slow play, etc.

However, @MattyBall , I think we are in agreement on the continuous outflanking mess that defines level 4 and level 5. Once you get above level 3, you’re constantly making adjustments as you described in your second paragraph, and the system more or less falls apart. But here, with these opponents, it is an effective gauge on who you are dealing with and how to exploit them with little effort.

I find plenty of time to do other things when folding preflop at a table of 9 or something. If I have a good hand I will pay full attention to what everyone is doing, how long they are taking, etc. and put a lot of thought into my decisions. When I try to play multiple tables I end up having to make these quick decisions and that usually doesn’t go well. I think paying attention to other players’ table image is mostly over rated and can seriously backfire
so I wouldn’t pay much attention to that.