Updated: Jan 9
When you’re sat at a live table, you shouldn’t throw GTO out of the window. Exploitative poker is normally going to be the best thing to do against most of the players you will come up against live. However, what happens when there is a great player at the table? or when you’re not sure of the exploits you should make? When you need to resort back to a GTO strategy- and at some point you will, you are going to need to use RNG. I'll be telling you 3 great ways to stay random at in live poker.
One problem that you will have at a live table, is the task of keeping your decisions truly random. It’s virtually impossible for human beings to do things randomly. For years forensic accountants have taken great pride in finding the subconscious patterns that fraudsters add to their ledgers. You can even try playing a computer at Rock, Paper, Scissors- even if you think you're making a random decision, chances are that you're not!
It’s therefore vital that you have an objective way of generating close to true randomness at a live table- especially when you need to play GTO. You also can’t bring your laptop or roll a dice at the table, every player can see that and you’ll soon be found out. You therefore need to adopt some more covert methods for being a random player.
Today I’ll be going over the top 3 techniques to help you make random numbers at the table without letting the watchful eyes of your opponent’s catch you in the process.
Cards and Colours
This is probably the most straight forward method of making random numbers at the table. To use the cards and colours method you should select red or black before the session and then a corresponding suit with that colour. When you are in a game and you need to make a 50/50 decision, you look down at the fist card in your hand. If it's the colour you selected prior to the session, you make the action- if not, you don't. This allows you to randomly generate 50% and 25% decisions (or 75% decisions if picking the inverse, i.e. when you don’t have the specific card and suit combo then you make the decision.)
For example, if you wanted to 3bet bluff with A5 suited 50% of the time, you pick red or black before the session- perhaps only bluffing with the red combos. For 25% of the time- it would either be with hearts or diamonds. To keep this hidden for longer you should change the colour frequently, a minimum of every session.
The Watch Method
The Watch Method is my favourite way to generate random numbers at a poker table, but it’s also the most conspicuous. Glancing at your watch before making a bet is a dead give-away that you are making a play at a low frequency, that often means bluffing.
To orchestrate this method, you will need a watch with a second hand. You divide the face of the watch into percentages. You can glance down at your watch and see where the second hand is at the time of you looking. I like to use the bottom right quarter (3-6) for my 25% decisions, if the watch hand lands there then I make the play. You can divide a watch face to give you 75%, 66%, 50%, 33%, and 25% decisions when at the table. This extra level of detail can really pay off in a GTO style of play.
To ensure you don’t get caught, you should look at your watch constantly, I sometimes even take it off and leave it near my stack. Unfortunately, the watch method has caught me out a few times in the past. Once, late in the evening before jamming the river, I glanced at my watch: I was supposed to bluff according to RNG. My opponent proudly informed me after the hand that he called my bet as he knew I was bluffing, it “looked like I wanted to go home”. Now I try to look at my watch before every river decision, or I use the Chip Count Method.
Chip Count Method for RNG
This chip counting method for RNG lands in the middle for complexity and value. This is the one method on the list that will give you an exact percentage- depending on the stake that you play. During a hand before you bet, grab an amount of chips, you’ll often be playing with the chips at the table anyway shuffling them etc. You then count them, and take the last 2 digits as your percentage. Let’s say you grab a handful of chips at a $1/$3 game of poker and this adds to a total of $165- you just made 65%.
The significant drawback of this method is that you require a large amount of change in your stack, and you must have a wide variety of chips to count. As with all methods on this list, you can get caught doing it.
If you want to play GTO at the next live game, you should give one or more of these methods a try. Try not to get caught in the act of being random, or that defeats the purpose of using RNG to make yourself harder to play against. During a hand you can use these methods in tandem to make you a much tougher opponent to play against at the live felt. Good luck!