Defense

OSU is coached by Eddie Sutton who teaches defense. Pressure defense to be exact. My high school coach patterned himself after Coach Sutton, and Sutton’s law can be translated into poker just as almost anything a person can sense.

            Sutton’s idea is that a good defense can stop a good offense. Okay, maybe he’s right. I won’t debate that; it does seem to be an adage in the sports realm. But Sutton’s other thought is that defense is not dependent on luck. Funny thing to say for a man who isn’t coaching a team in a game of chance. But basketball has a luck factor the same as poker. Calls that can go either way go the other way. Rebounds keeping falling just out of your reach, a ball rattles out, the timekeeper lets an extra second eek away and you can’t get the shot off before the buzzer. Good shooters will tell there is no luck. Sure they understand a good roll, but the ones that are nothing but net were intended to go exactly there.           

            But there are some days when nothing seems to fall. On those days, when Sutton’s offense in slumping for a few minutes, the defense isn’t under the control of streaky play. There is no luck factor in defense. You smother the opponent and force them to make mistakes. Even if an individual gets beaten by a player, a good defense can come to the rescue without weakening the team as a whole. If you add pressure to this kind of defense, well there are more mistakes to capitalize on.

            Sitting at a felt table hour after hour is going to require more defense than offense. Every hand I don’t play is me guarding my chip stack, my payroll for the day, week, month. I can see the potential in every hand that passes because the saying is true “Any hand can win.” Some of the hands I fold (actually it seems like all of them) get hit hard on the flop. No good play goes unpunished, as they say. Winning a pot means protecting those chips. At the casino, I might net 25 off of one pot, but that can be gone in seconds if I’m not careful. So I play defense.

            As for pressure defense, it can frustrate your opponents. It’s happened so many times I’ve lost count that someone has remarked that I haven’t lost a hand that day or that they’ve never seen me down. It’s the best thing they could say. It’s free advertising. Of course it isn’t true, but no one needs to know that. If a stranger comments to its validity, I say something that feels like a denial but can be read as me trying to hide it. “Oh, I’ve lost before.” “You weren’t here the other day.” “I’m just having a good day.” But something sparks in the hunters. They want to beat me. They will overplay hands to get at my chips, which makes the pressure higher, but the read easier. Then if the cards have been kind enough to let me dole out some beatings, and they came down in such a way that I could play them in sneaky ways, I usually can bluff a few pots. My pressure D has them rattled.

            Of course this is the same game as playing tight, not gambling with hands that might already be beaten, but just another way I like to think about it when the cards are cold.