Strategy Article: Reading Your Opponent

by Pikkdogs ~ February 28th, 2012.

A big hello to all you OHKOers out there.  This is Pikkdogs here with a strategy article.  Before we get into the article, let me introduce my sidekick Pedro.  Hey Pedro.

Hey Pikkdogs.

What bit of trivia do you have to tell us today.

Well I have two things for you.  The first thing we can talk about is the fact that Nintendo has announced what our Spring set will be.  In May the set Dark Explorers will be released.  It is expected to contain most of what was in the Japanese Dark Rush set.  As you might guess, it will focus on Dark Pokemon.  It will also have EXs and Full Art EXs of Raikou, Entei, Darkrai, Tornadus, Kyorge, and Groudon.  Look for more news to come on this set in the coming weeks.  This past weekend was the weekend of the Academy Awards, did you have an Oscar Party Pikkdogs?

Well as a matter of fact I did have an Oscar party.  It didn’t have anything to do with the awards though, I just had some beers with the grouchy guy who lives in my dumpster.

Sounds like fun. 

It was.  But getting  a little serious here, the awards were kind of hijacked by some red carpet manuvers.  JLo got attention for maybe having a nipple slip, and Ryan Seacrest made headlines for getting “ashes” thrown in his face by “the Dictator.”

JLo and Ryan Seacrest are two very different people of course, one is known for being a extravagant diva that is always rumored to be going out with a hot guy…………..and the other is JLo. 

I see what you did there.   Nice, but let’s get onto the article

Reading Your Opponent

Here is a cool strategy tidbit that I want to talk about.  One of the things we always hear about in Poker is the art of reading your opponent.  Poker and Pokemon are not so different if you think about it.  In each game cards are dealt out, and what your opponent has effects what you do.  If reading your opponent is good in Poker, it must be a skill that you can use in Pokemon.  And in fact, it is very helpful to know how to read your opponent.  It is one of the things that separates a good player from a great player.  In this article, I will start by telling you my history with reading my opponent,  give you tips on reading your opponent,  and then wrap it up with how this effects thing in the current format.Scizor SF

My History

I have played this game for over 3 years now, and I have encountered a lot of times where I wish I would have known what was in my opponent’s hand.  I have learned from some of the best of how to read and decode your own responses.

The time where it was most useful to decode your bodily responses to your hand was during the reign of SP.  There was a card legal during that era called Power Spray, and given the right conditions, you could play this card during your opponent’s turn to cancel the effect of a Poke-Power.  It was mainly used for stopping the main draw-engine of the time, Uxie, and his Poke-Power “Setup”.  If you knew that your opponent had Power Spray in their hand, you could save yourself some bench space by not putting down Uxie, and instead waiting for a better time to play Uxie down.  A lot of games were lost because players could not get their draw engine going because of Power-Spray.  And Power-Spray just wasn’t for canceling Uxie, it was for canceling all of the other Poke-Powers.  A lot of games were ruined because of Power-Spray.  It was very important to know how to read your opponent to know if they have Power-Spray.

I can honestly say that I was schooled on this topic many times.  .  I remember one time when I was playing with a Scizor/Cherrim deck against a Blazeray deck.  Scizor/Cherrim could not use the popular engines of the time, Uxie and Claydol, because they have Poke-Powers, and if you have Poke-Powers on the field Scizor doesn’t do as much damage.  So, I instead decided to put the speed engine in this deck (a combination of Unown R, Pokemon Rescue, and Night Maintenance).  This engine worked because you could discard Unown R with his Poke-Power,”Retire”, and the draw a card, you could use the other cards to get Unown R back and then use the power again.  The only problem was that if “Retire” was Power-Sprayed, Unown R stayed on the field for the whole turn and that screwed up the number of damage that I could do.  So, it was important to read my opponent before I use the power to know if he/she was going to spray me.  Anyway, back to the Blazeray game.  It was getting late in the game, I had a chance to win if I got the right cards, but I had to know if she had the Power-Spray or not.  She was looking kind of uninterested and fazed out, so I thought she didn’t have the card.  When most people had Power-Spray, they would separate it from the rest of their hand and listen closely so that if a power was called, they could spray it before the power was used.  But in this situation, she did not seem like she was paying close attention, so I tried the power, and it was sprayed.  She was bluffing.  In other matches with this same player she would act very interested and make it look like she had a spray, when she didn’t.  She was one of the best at bluffing, and it showed how good of a player she was.  This was a good lesson in reading people, now let’s see how we can read people better than I did in these examples.

How to Read your Opponent

Although there is no sure fire way to read every opponent in every situation, here are some things that I have learned and heard about reading your opponent.

  1. Start Early– Don’t wait until the final hand to start reading your opponent, do it once you sit down at the table.  See how your opponent reacts to his opening hand.  What kind of facial expressions he uses, and what he says. Than, once you see him play his hand out, you will know what kind of hand he started out with.  If he had a bad hand to start with and he is making the same expressions later on in the game, you might have found out that his bad luck has continued.  It is impossible to read everyone because everyone is different, but if you have something to work on from before, you will know exactly what he has in his hand when the game is near the end.  On a related note to this principle, pay attention to what he is saying.  A lot of players talk to their opponents during the round and say stuff like, “Man that was a bad hand.”  If he is telling the truth about it being a  bad hand early on in the game, there is a good chance that come late game his tells will give him away, and you will know they aren’t bluffs.
  2. Find Out if Your Opponent is Experienced– If your opponent is a Pokemon pro, there is a good chance that he/she will try to bluff you.  If your opponent is a newbie just trying to learn the rules of the game, don’t expect to get played.  Depending on where you are and your past, you may automatically know if a player is a pro or not.  If you don’t, you can know by how the player puts down his/her prizes or where he/she keeps the discard pile.  If they are in strange places in a messy fashion, there is a good chance this guy is a newbie.
  3. Pick Up on Your Basic Poker Tells–  If you play poker you know some tips to picking up tells.  If your opponent looks excited they probably have a good hand and think they can control the pace of the game.  There are other ways of showing excitement that are hard to mask, like rapid breath.  Nervous tendencies also usually indicate a strong hand.  If they do things like sigh or look straight at you for a while, than they probably think they are not in a position to control the game.
  4. Talk to the Opponent– Talking to your opponent will sometimes get them to divulge some secret information.  It doesn’t hurt to try, so get them talking in hopes they will let something slip.
  5. Play the Odds– If you want to know if your opponent has that 4th Junk Arm in his/her discard pile, you don’t always have to rely only on reading tells, you can also find out the odds.  Of course everything starts with the 60 card deck, then ask to see their discard pile, try to estimate how many cards are there, than see how many Junk Arms are there.  Next, look over at your opponent’s prize stack and hand size.  If they have a large hand size and only 1 prize left, there is a better chance that they do have that final Junk Arm.  Finally, try to remember what were the last couple supporters that he/she played.  If he/she burned through a lot of supporters trying to find the last Junk Arm, you know that he/she has probably not been hiding it for the last couple turns.  If you play the odds like that, you will be in a better spot to find out their tells.

    haha I noozled you guys again!

Bring it All Back to Pokemon

So what do poker tells, odds calculation, and Power Sprays have to do with the current format?  Well, they all can be extrapolated to be used no matter what the format is.  I will admit that reading players now is not as important as it was with Power-Spray, but it is still important.  Now-a-days, it is most useful later in games to tell you if you should be overly aggressive because your opponent has a good hand, or if you should be conservative because your opponent can’t do anything either.  It will always be important to read your opponent, but I think with Mewtwo EX it will start to become more important. 

 We are getting set for a States season that will be all about the Mewtwo EX mirror matchup.  Unless you play Durant, Mirror Matchups are always a nail biting event.  Although the luck of the draw is important, the most important things in winning a mirror match are experience and skill.  So during States, knowing what your opponent is thinking will become more important than it did since the SP Pokemon dominated the format.  So make sure that you know how to read your opponent before you bring your Mewtwo deck to states.

Pokemon players as a whole are fairly easy to read.  Most of them are very nice and friendly.  If they have a bad hand you usually don’t need to read it, they will probably tell you themselves.  Most players are fairly open and you can read them easily.  What makes it hard is reading the really great players.  These players have been around for a long time and usually can hide their emotions very well.  They usually don’t talk very much, and they never talk about their hand.  These are the guys who are going to bluff you.  You are going to need everything to read them, because they are used to decoding their emotional responses to what is happening in the game.  This is truly what separates a guy with a good deck between a good player.  Make sure to use all of your background knowledge about that person to judge whether they are bluffing or not.

So how can a good player hide their tells and become a better player?  I would say that the best thing that a player can do to hide their own tells is to be more silent during a game.  Yes you do still have to announce what you are doing, but try to be less open and more focused on the game.  Doing things like this might make you look like a douche, but that doesn’t mean that after the game you can’t go back to being friendly.  You can see that a lot of Poker players wear sunglasses to hide their emotions, that might help a little, but probably not enough that I would reccomend it.  Doing that would just make you look more like a douche.  So just try to be more focused on the game and less talkative with the opponent.  But, only do this when you are in serious running for Top Cut, doing it at the loser table would make you a douche. 

If you have any stories or tips on this topic, please put them in the comment section.  Well that’s all I got to say about that.

Those are some good hints for people to use.  They could do well by learning all of that…………..or just play Mr. Mime.  Lot easier.

Just go on and wrap up the article already.

Okay, today we have a piece of news from www.foxnews.com.  It seems that someone has installed a hot tub on the roof of a University of Michigan building in Ann Arbor.  The same people removed it just two days later.  The police and campus authorities are still struggling to identify who would do such a thing.  Say, Pikkdogs how far do you live from Ann Arbor?

About 30 miles or so.

Did you perhaps have a hankering for a hot tub last week?

I do kind of enjoy hot tubs.  But insinuating that I would have the plumbing skills necessary to install a hot tub is just ludicrous.  I can’t even fix a running toilet.

That’s true you do have the handyman skills of a pregnant badger.  It couldn’t have been you.  Maybe we won’t solve the mystery, but we should just go anyway.  Goodnight Everybody!

 

Category: Strategy | Tags: , ,
  • Ed

    Last time I relied on reading my opponent to make a critical decision, it didn’t work out.  I do think the strategy of relying on it was sound, though.  I figured that donking him was maybe my best chance to win, and I thought his body language said he was concerned about the possibility.  I made a play based on that, and he was able to use Sage’s Training to get another basic.  My gamble failed, but I think it was worth going for.

  • certainly a nice article. although, i did find one thing i don’t get. how is it that the durant mirror does not skill? it most certainly does. that’s like saying that luxchomp can be used in modified.

    • Anonymous

       Nothing about Durant (except deck choice and card choice) takes that much skill. 

      If you play Mewtwo, you setup and say “Devour.”
      If you play Six Corners, you setup and say “Devour.”
      If you play CaKE, you setup and say “Devour.”
      If you play Magnezone, you setup and say “Devour.”
      If you play the mirror, you setup and say “Devour.”

      I know that is over-simplification, but you gotta admit there is some truth to it. 

      • in the mirror, it does take skill. just think of it as playing against a durant deck when you’re playing something else. you play the mirror match by setting up with 4 durant, go first, and conserve your deck.

        • Anonymous

           I mean Durant is a simple strategy. But, Mischievous Trick and thinking strategically is where the skill is.

          By a few turns in, you should know all of your prizes and which one is where. This allows you to manipulate your top decks to an extent.

          Also, too many bad Durant players have a single minded focus on getting four Durant out every turn. Really, the key to being successful is controlling the board state.

          Not the most skillful, but definitely not “unskilled.”

  • ICEdaddy

    Nice article. Your logic is consistent with poker theory on reading tells (I am a more successful poker player than Pokemon player). The general credo for reading poker players body language is “weak is strong” and “strong is weak”. 

    In other words, if a player looks bored and or worried, they are holding a good hand. If they act decisive and quick, they are probably hiding a weak hand. This is reasonably reliable for good but not great players. The great poker players act the same no matter what they have.

  • Anonymous

    This is a pretty helpful article, I’ll try to use this.