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Taking Advantage of Happy Accidents in Poker

One of the great things about poker is that there are usually multiple ways to play hands, multiple benefits when you do a particular thing, and multiple ways to second-guess yourself when things don’t go as planned. In this column I want to look at the second thing I mentioned in the opener , “multiple benefits when you do a particular thing” and examine the difference between doing something as part of a strategy versus taking advantage of a situation that arises because of said strategy; what I call a “Happy Accident.”

Actually my wife was the first person I heard use this term when one of my kids made a mistake drawing a picture, which then turned into an even more elaborate picture, so it was a “Happy Accident.” What started off as a near-temper-tantrum over a ruined project turned into the “greatest thing ever!” if my son can be believed. He didn’t set out to make the greatest robot fighting a snake ever, but when the situation presented itself he jumped all over it.

Let me use a sports analogy to explain this difference between a predetermined strategy and a Happy Accident: Suppose Tom Brady and the New England Patriots go to the “hurry-up” offense. They are doing this to keep the defense form changing personnel, using elaborate blitzes, and to tire them out. But suppose during this hurry-up a Defensive Back fails to cover one of the outside receivers and Brady throws an easy touchdown; this is a Happy Accident in football. You can’t rely on the DB to blow his coverage, but because of your hurry-up the situation presented itself and you need to be able to take advantage of it.

So what is an example of a Happy Accident in poker? Imagine you are playing your usual LAG style (balancing your range, keeping your opponents guessing, and winning pots with aggression) and someone decides that enough is enough, they are going to stand up to your aggression. Well, you’ve just stumbled upon a Happy Accident; you didn’t set out to put a player at the table on Tilt, but this is what happened through your style of play. We can’t rely on Happy Accidents, but we can take advantage of them when they present themselves.

Now, the difference between a Happy Accident and a predetermined strategy in poker is simple: Strategies are more of your game-plan, the things you do to turn a profit: Happy Accidents are our in-game adjustments, how we react when someone does something completely unexpected like declaring” war” on us because they are sick of our LAG play. Our reason for playing a LAG style isn’t to cause tilt, or to scare people away from getting involved in pots with us, but these things can and will happen, and we need to be ready to take advantage of these spots when they come about.

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