What’s up boys and girls, its T-Time. Rather than talking about a deck this time, I want to talk about outside advantages you can gain in a match. If you have read some of my old articles or watched some of my Youtube videos, you would know that I always suggest that you sit facing the clock due to the “slight advantage” that it presents. It is important to know that even a slight advantage in this game can be huge considering how many big losses can come in time or just by a slight misread or anything else. How many times have you lost on the bubble or just missed the cut? I know I have quite frequently recently. With these slight advantages, you can go from just missing the cut, to making it into the top cut.
While I was driving to YCS Philadelphia, I had an interesting conversation with my friend Sean Montague. For those of you who don’t know, Sean is a great player, a former national champion and is under recognized for his accomplishments if you ask me. Needless to say, I wouldn’t take his opinion lightly. Back on topic, he mentioned that before every match, he tries to talk to his opponent for a few minutes. He likes to ask where they’re from, how many large tournaments they’ve played in, and what they’ve faced so far. I added that I do this too, though I also like asking age, what they like doing outside of Yugioh, and if they had topped a YCS before. I had always said that I did this out of courtesy, which I do, but I realized that I used that information against my opponent all of the time. Sean was talking about gaining a slight advantage over your opponent by simply getting them to reveal some seemingly irrelevant facts about themselves.
Not only do the answers to these questions play a role in the way I would asses an opponent, but the way they carry themselves in general. Everything from the way they shuffle, sleeves and playmat they use, the demeanor they take, and even the way they move their hands and hold their eyes. I can compare this relatively simply to making poker reads. When I play No-Limit Texas Hold’em at a casino, I usually muck quite a few hands just to get a feel for what my opponents at the table are like. One time, I noticed that the chip leader was an elderly gentleman who I noticed was playing small ball (a style that involves playing a wide variety of hands, but betting lower than usual to catch good hands but not lose much when needing to fold). After he said that he was formerly the manager at a Ford auto-part supply company and that he was retired, I was able to make quite a few assumptions. I was able to gather that he was on a fixed income and had all day to play. He was playing more for fun than to make money. Also, he was playing small ball but I noticed it was out of his play style. Such an aggressive style seemed odd to him and he would shake a little when considering calling any re-raised hands. With that information, I was able to use an aggressive style against him, with a conservative style with the rest of the table, and I was able to push him out of enough hands to gain the lead myself. How does that relate to Yugioh?
Though I did pick up on his shaking-hand tell, had I not I was already able to make quite a few assumptions about the way he was playing. The small ball style can be related to any person’s deck choice. If a casual player is playing a competitive deck that they are uncomfortable with, usually based on the aggressive/unaggressive/combo based/simplifying style of the deck, they are likely to make mistakes. Perhaps they don’t know all of the combos, but most importantly, they may not understand the deck’s matchups. Playing a deck is easy enough, but knowing how to play it against certain matchups is where skill comes into play. Also, the higher the bet, the scarier it was for the elderly gentleman to play. That wasn’t just because of the fixed-income, but more because he wasn’t used to that kind of pressure since he usually plays for fun. So it is at a YCS or even a regional. If someone is playing on the bubble, top tables, or feature match and isn’t used to the pressure, they are likely to crack and make a mistake or over analyze. Sometimes it is possible to use these things to your advantage to read the way your opponent is going to act.
Now how do you use the fact that your opponent is a competitive player to your advantage? Well that is just as easy. Let’s use another poker example, and these are all real experiences I’ve had at the tables. I found myself playing against a louder gentleman who was bragging about the fact that he had made it to the money at the last WSOP and was on the televised coverage. This story does not involve me taking down this person, but rather another person doing so. In my time at the particular poker room I frequent, I noticed an older Asian lady who always seemed to arrive with $50 and leave with $500. I watched her slowly analyze the cocky gentleman and size him up as the night progressed. I avoided hands with him and many people folded when he would push. The old lady noticed that the way he was playing, he was ready to be trapped. The lady had played very few hands, but she re-raised the gentleman off of a value bet. He re-raised to push her out of the hand but she called. Come the turn, the old lady performed a check raise to not only re-raise the guy’s value bet, but a quarter of the pot. The guy was committed and called. Come the river, the lady pushed all in, and the man folded. The lady revealed that she had rags and was purely bluffing, and the guy went crazy. He called her a bad player and that she made bad moves. What he didn’t realize was that she was no novice and had been watching him the whole time. He revealed his strategy and made predictable moves while the old lady collected nearly $400 from the man. He reacted accordingly getting upset, and that is exactly how the average competitive Yugioh novice is.
Does this sound familiar to you? If not, please view any given message board and you will see it. It is also very common on Duel Network or at pretty much any tournament. The fact is that the average competitive player is predictable. They don’t make very many bad plays (I am using this very lightly, because I have seen so many) but the moves they make are generally easy to read or predict, especially when the pressure is on. Many of the best players, or pros, will exploit this advantage against such players. Bluffing, reads, and baiting are common ways to exploit the predictability of the average competitive player. However, these tactics don’t often work against a casual player. They, for lack of a better word, are fearless. They often have no fear of Gorz, Torrential Tribute, or Forbidden Lance. Reading them can also be tricky because they don’t always make the plays that would be considered the best one and they aren’t generally thinking turns in advance. Baiting them is often relatively easy, but it’s still a different state of mind when you go to play against them. So then how can you use this advantage to beat a pro?
A pro will try to read you as soon as you sit down and judge the kind of player you are. You can exploit that if you want, though it is actually pretty frivolous. There is no way to know what your opponent is really thinking, and if they are thinking a level above you, doing this is foolish because you will walk yourself into a world of problems. When you go to play a pro, they cannot disguise it generally because you probably recognize their name. Don’t expect them to always be making the “correct” move and you can expect a certain amount of bluffing. Also, take time to analyze why they are making each move that they are making. If they are a pro, then they are likely not just blindly playing cards the way the norm tells them too. There is a good chance they are doing things in order to manipulate a certain result from you, their opponent. Just make sure you don’t end up blindly playing cards based on the norms and base it on what is going on in the game. This may be hard since your opponent has probably then had more time thinking like a pro than you have, but if you understand what I am trying to say here, you will be in a much better spot. Also, try to remember that pros are just players. They misplay, walk into traps, and get caught in the moment, though it isn’t as common as it is for others. Just try not to be intimidated do what you have to do.
In general, try not to overthink things. Sometimes a play can be so obvious that it becomes too obvious and you read a bluff. Even worse, you can start assuming your opponent has cards that they don’t, or perhaps don’t even play. Just use basic logic to guide your decisions. You probably don’t need to play around Gorz if you are playing against Darkworld, so don’t sweat that. Also, if you are playing against Dragons, don’t assume that their backrow is always a trap, since they can probably only fit one or two if any. Against Inzektors, don’t always fear their backrow and if you have game you should push. They play cards like Call of the Haunted and Safe Zone, so it isn’t as bad as it may seem, especially if you baited a Torrential. Against Dino Rabbit, don’t expect their backrows to be irrelevant, since they probably have multiple down and attacking isn’t always a good idea. It is probably better to play defensive and watch them squirm. Their monsters may not be big enough to get around yours.
Despite the title, this is not an article that explains just how to beat a pro, it is how to play better in general and to read your opponent. Even though it seems like it is such a small part of the game, it is what separates the boys from the men. Hopefully this was helpful and if you have any questions please ask and I will do my best to answer. Also, I am going to elaborate on all of my articles on my Youtube channel, so look out for that. Thanks for reading!