Not every poker table has the same dynamic, so it’s important to master a few different playstyles to draw from. Because I’m such a nerd, I’ve been visualizing my different approaches to the game as nine different D&D characters.
|Lawful Good Paladin||Lawful Neutral Monk||Lawful Evil Assassin|
|Neutral Good Bard||True Neutral Wizard||Neutral Evil Thief|
|Chaotic Good Ranger||Chaotic Neutral Barbarian||Chaotic Evil Warrior|
In my last article, I described the Chaotic Neutral Barbarian, the perfect style when sitting on less than 20 big blinds. When deep-stacked, with a tower of 300 big blinds or more, you need to be much more defensive with your chips. And there’s no better defender in my rotation than the Lawful Good Paladin. They’re the paragon of virtue: tight, aggressive, and well balanced. They don’t step out of line often, nor take a lot of risks, and play well against unskilled loose opponents. I like to use the Paladin when rapidly changing gears, usually switching to it when my opponents have stopped respecting my bets.
This style is Lawful because it heavily uses pot control. The Paladin plays straightforwardly, growing the pot with high equity hands, bluff catching with medium hands, and bluffing with the very bottom of their range. They do not deploy many traps, clearly announcing their intentions with large bets and strong check/raise lines, giving their opponents plenty of opportunities to surrender.
Their range is Good, tighter than a majority of the other players at the table, and they use preflop raise sizes large enough to annihilate implied odds Evil players might be relying on. Post flop, Paladins use a mixed strategy that leaves some of their strongest hands along every betting line. The holiest of Paladins are able to balance those few traps with an optimal ratio of (blocker dependent) check/raise bluffs. It’s never 100% safe to steal from a Paladin.
At a table full of whales, donkeys, or Evil opponents getting out of line, it can be a waste of money to play any style besides Paladin. There’s no need for deception if your opponents aren’t paying attention, or don’t know how to adjust. Unfortunately, it’s one of the most boring styles since you spend so much time waiting for good hands.
“Serious poker is no more about gambling than rock climbing is about taking risks.”Al Alvarez
Every preflop fold from a Paladin grows the power of their range. When it’s finally time to play, Paladins unleash that power with a vengeance. They never cold call preflop, when Paladins play they raise and they make that raise much larger than the table standard. It’s not always possible when stacks are very deep, but Paladins prefer to get at least 12% of the effective stack in preflop. That’s the magic stack-to-pot ratio where set-mining with pocket pairs becomes unprofitable. Bad reverse implied odds would be a Paladin’s primary weakness if they didn’t open with a Smite.
Lay on hands
A style built around folding and value betting goes a long way towards protecting a stack. If the blinds are too small to put pressure on you, it’s a good style to use for recovery & healing after the table dynamics, or board runouts, have turned against you, particularly during long tournaments.
Although Paladins play very restricted ranges, those ranges still contain full board coverage. A Paladin might raise 43s from under the gun, but decide to only do so with diamonds to keep the frequency low. Or make A4s the single hand in their 4bet bluffing range for the day. Those ranges remain tight because the Paladin will rarely continue with an easily dominated hand, such as K9o, but they have enough coverage to plausibly connect with any board texture.
The primary characteristic of the Paladin is its straightforward tight-aggressive approach to poker. Their bets usually mean what they say and their betting lines are easy to adjust to: stay out of their way when they show interest in a hand. This dynamic isn’t bad for the Paladin and can enable them to slowly grow a stack without variance, but often the real money is made when you exploit that honest reputation by switching over to an Evil style without warning.