How to Survive Learning Poker

(Until you get good!!) C. Alan Bester

Disclaimer: I am NOT a really good poker player!!
Being really good at poker is all about ―reads‖; that is, figuring out what your opponent has (and acting accordingly). No one can teach you how to read people. It is a skill that is developed with time and practice. I will outline a strategy, called ―tight-aggressive‖ by many pros, that will allow you to survive (limit your losses and beat weak players) while you learn the game. Many of these slides are stats I‘ll just skip over. They‘re available on my website.

Most of what I will talk about comes from these books.

They are listed from least to most complicated. Phil‘s book is very basic but also accessible to anybody. Harrington‘s is a great balance of ‗theory‘ and examples. Sklansky‘s books are awesome but quite technical. Some examples in this talk are based on www.pokertips.org. They also have some terrific videos of online play (under ‗exclusives‘).

Outline
• • • • • • • Preliminaries Tight-Aggressive Strategy Betting and Pot Odds Playing Premium Hands Playing Marginal Hands Tournament Hold‘Em and ‗M‘ Misc. Tips

Preliminaries
Do not even think about playing for money until this stuff is second nature!

Poker hand ranks are shown on the left from high to low. Pay attention to ―tiebreakers‖; e.g., an ace-high flush beats any other flush.

How Texas Hold „em is played
You are dealt two cards, face-down, called ―hole cards‖. Only you can play them. A round of betting occurs (―pre-flop‖). Five ―community cards‖ are then dealt face-up in the following sequence:

Round of Betting

♥ 9 9

♣ 7

Round of Betting

♣ 4

Round of Betting

♣ 6

Round of Betting

The first three community cards are ―the flop‖. The fourth card is the ―turn‖. The fifth card is the ―river‖. Each of the flop, turn, and river is followed by a round of betting. After the river round is the ―showdown‖.

♣ 9

♥ 9

♣ 7

♣ 4

♣ 6

Your ―hand‖ is the best five-card hand made from any combination of your hole cards and the five community cards.
♦ 10 ♣ A ♥ A ♦ 9 ♥ 8 ♥ 8

You have a straight (10-9-8-7-6); both hole cards ―play‖
You have a flush (five clubs). Only the ace ―plays‖. (Still beats the hand above) Three of a kind with an ―ace kicker‖. The ace is important-you‘d beat somebody with K-9 (as long as it‘s not K♣ !)

Rules of Texas Hold „Em Pre-flop betting

This player is ―under the gun‖ and will act first.

Direction of play or ―action‖

 The player(s) to the left of the dealer put out ―blinds‖, effectively forced minimum bets (or half if a ‗small blind‘ is used).  Each player is dealt two ―hole cards‖, face down.  Play (or ―action‖) proceeds clockwise, starting from left of the ―Big Blind‖. Since the BB is considered to have bet, you must call that bet in order to stay in the hand.  The ―Button‖, or dealer, acts last; future rounds start left of the dealer. (So the small blind acts first.)

Rules of Texas Hold „Em Betting rules and terminology
In each round of betting, when the action reaches you, you can call, raise, or fold. Before the flop, the Big Blind is considered to have bet, so you must call that bet (or raise) to stay in the hand. All bets are collected at the center of the table and are called ―the pot‖. If at any point everybody folds but one player, that player wins the pot. Otherwise the pot goes to the winner of the showdown. In subsequent rounds, the ―first raise‖ is simply called a ―bet‖. If nobody has bet yet, you have the option to ―check‖ (i.e., call a bet of zero). If someone checks behind you, you CAN still raise when the action gets back to you (a ―check-raise‖). In Limit poker, the betting increment is fixed. A $2/$4 limit game means that before and after the flop, bets/raises must be $2 at a time. On the turn and river, bets/raises are $4 at a time. In No Limit, there is no maximum bet size on any round (though minimum bets still apply).

Rules of Texas Hold „Em Etiquette
• Everybody has to learn sometime! Don‘t be afraid to ask questions of more seasoned players (between hands), but be aware they may (politely) decline to answer. • (IMPORTANT) Verbal declarations ―call‖, ―raise‖, etc. are binding. • If you are not playing the hand, DON‘T comment on it. Some people at the table may not see a straight or flush possibility and their opponents will not appreciate you pointing it out. • Even if you are playing a hand, limit your comments on it. You will often only be giving information away to a better player, and may be perceived as taunting a worse player. • In movies, players will often turn over a winning hand in dramatic fashion. DON‘T do this in real life. It‘s called ―slow rolling‖ and is very poor form. • Also, in movies players will often throw their cards or chips around dramatically. Don‘t do this, it just slows down the game. • This is a game like any other—be a good sport!!

Game Types and Difficulty • Limit Poker is generally easier than No Limit
– Limit Poker is a mathematical game; psychology is much less important than in no limit. Very strong players have somewhat less of an advantage. – Strategies are simpler as you can only call, raise, or fold. – The possible gains and losses in one hand are much smaller!

• Cash games are generally easier than Tournaments
– Skilled tournament play involves adjusting your strategy based on the size of your ―stack‖ (chips) and the number of players at the table. – Tournament play forces you to be more aggressive and ―protect your blinds‖.

That said, tournament No Limit is much more fun! And it can improve your game very quickly.

Four Poker Principles
1) Play “Tight-Aggressive” Strategy.
2) Take Advantage of Position.

3) Call, Raise, or Fold based on Pot Odds.
4) Play your opponent‟s hand, not just your own.

Tight-Aggressive Strategy
Tight-Aggressive Play means that you: 1) Play only premium starting hands (tight) 2) Bet/raise aggressively when you do play a hand 3) Properly adjust 1+2 to take advantage of position To do this, you need to know: (easiest to hardest) (i) What ARE premium hands? (ii) What is position and how to use it? (iii) How to bet once you‘re in a hand. Let‘s tackle these one at a time.

WINRATE

Data from a major poker site. Observations are players that have participated in at least 500 hands of Texas Hold’Em. VPIP = Percentage of hands player has voluntarily put money in pot WINRATE = Bets won per 100 hands

VPIP

I think by far the most common mistake beginning players make is playing too many hands!

The Big Ten Large Pocket Pairs High ―Suited Connectors‖ A-A A-Qs ―Big Slick‖ K-K A-Js A-Ks Q-Q K-Qs A-K J-J T-T
• These are “premium hands” that should always be played and RAISED with pre-flop. • If somebody else raises, you should almost ALWAYS RERAISE with A-A, K-K, Q-Q, and A-K. • Large pocket pairs are the strongest, followed by A-K. • ‗s‘ refers to two cards of the SAME SUIT. Notice that A-Qs (Ace and Queen of the same suit) is a different hand than A-Q unsuited.

Some Stats to Remember Before the flop…
• Two ―overcards‖ are a little less than even odds (about 45% likely) to win against a smaller pair (e.g., A-K against Q-Q). • If you are playing a pocket pair, you are a 4-1 favorite (about 83% likely to win) against a lower pocket pair (e.g., playing K-K against J-J), about the same as if you were facing two ―undercards‖ (e.g. 9-7). This is part of why you reraise with A-A, K-K, and Q-Q unless you‘re convinced you are beat. • When neither are paired, two ―overcards‖ win about 63% of the time (e.g., A-K vs. Q-J). • A ―dominated hand‖ (e.g., A-J vs. A-K) will about 24% of the time. A ―severely dominated hand‖ (e.g., A-T vs. AA) will win about 7% of the time, 12% if suited. • Q-7 will win about 50% of the time against another randomly dealt two cards.

A decent starting strategy at an 8-10 person cash table is to play the “Big Ten” and fold everything else.
This is playing ―super-tight‖. Keep in mind that if you do this you will be folding 90% of your hands! We‘ll talk about modifying this strategy a bit, but keep in mind if you follow my advice you will not be playing more than 20% of hands until you get very good or are sitting at a ―short-handed‖ table (6 or fewer opponents).

Why Play Tight? An Example
♣ Q ♥ J

A lot of first-time players would absolutely refuse to fold this hand!! Why should you consider it?
♣ Suppose these cards come down on the flop. You just flopped ―top pair‖ (highest possible pair on the table) with an ―open ended straight draw‖ (any K or 8). But…

♣ J

♥ 10

9

• You are a pretty big underdog to anyone playing A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, T-10, 9-9, J-10, J-9, or 10-9. • You are also an underdog to A-J and K-J (you get ―out-kicked‖). • You are basically ―drawing dead‖ against K-Q (HIGHER straight!!) • There is a ―flush draw on the board‖: If another club hits, anybody playing two clubs basically has you beat. • Don‟t always fold this hand; just be aware it can be beaten!

The Big Reason to “Play Tight”
There are too many situations where you “make a hand” only to lose to a better one!
This hurts you in two ways:

1. If there are many players in the pot, even unskilled ones, there are simply a lot of hands that can beat you. 2. A skilled opponent with a good hand (maybe better than yours, maybe not) will ―put you on‖ Q-J and make a big raise, forcing you into a difficult decision.
We‘ll talk later about ―second best hands‖.

Other Benefits of “Playing Tight”
• You will crush unskilled “loose” opponents. Lowlimit games are often called ―No-fold-em Hold ‗Em‖ because beginners tend to play lots of hands and rarely fold. If you are playing better cards against an equal or worse player, over time, you will win! (It‘s that simple.) • In low limit games you are unlikely to be able to bluff anyone out of a pot. You will usually have to show the best hand to win, and that‘s more likely with good cards. • You are less likely to have to make difficult decisions for high stakes against skilled players. • You have more time to observe other players. This is essential both in figuring out who is playing what types of hands, practicing your reads, and observing skilled players.

Position and How to Use It
X Y

Where would you rather be sitting? Let‘s suppose you are dealt: (A-Ts)
♥ ♥

Z

A

10

Sitting in seat X, you must decide what to do immediately. Suppose that Z was going to make a big raise…

Importance of Position
• In Hold‘Em the dealer (―button‖) acts last in all betting rounds after the flop. The chart on the right shows the EV (avg. bets won over a large # of hands) by position. Data is from PokerRoom.com posted on the Two Plus Two poker forums. SB and BB are the blinds, EP = early position, etc. Data suggests players are able to exploit positional advantage – via good strategy (?)

• •

In poker, acting last is a big advantage.
You get to see what your opponents do, and act accordingly. Therefore…
• You should be more willing to play ‗marginal‘ hands like J-10s in ‗late position‘ (close to the button). • You should be more likely to call a small bet with a ―drawing hand‖ (e.g., possible straight or flush) that you would have to fold to a large raise. • We‘ll incorporate position when we talk about betting…

Betting and Pot Odds
♠ Q ♠ J

Let‘s say we‘re playing this hand. Flop #1: The flop ―misses you‖ entirely. You have nothing and can‘t even make a very good hand on the turn. Check and fold. Flop #2: You ―hit the flop‖, and in fact hold the ―nuts‖. This is a no brainer: Bet or raise. Keep in mind, though, you‘re not unbeatable, and that you want to be called.

♣ A

♥ 8

♣ 7

K

10

9


Q


J

Let‘s say we‘re playing this hand.


K


10


2

Flop #3: You have a ―drawing hand‖. Any Ace or Nine gives you a straight. Should you call, raise, or fold?

Answer: It depends. You have 8 ―outs‖ remaining out of 47 cards, or about a 17% chance of making your straight.
Say there is $10 in the pot and you have to call a $5 bet to stay in the hand. You should probably FOLD. Would you pay $5 for a 17% chance to win $15? If there is $90 in the pot you face a $10 bet, CALL. You are paying $10 for a 17% chance to win $100!

Pot Odds are a useful guideline in making decisions. You should NOT use them as a hard and fast rule.
• Pot Odds ignore action behind you or in future rounds. Even if you miss your straight on the turn, you could make it on the river and win an even bigger pot. • They also ignore the possibility of you making your hand and still losing. Your straight could easily lose to a flush (note that the flop had two diamonds!!) or a monster hand like a full house. • Skilled players modify pot odds to take these and many other factors into account. I would be more likely to call if the last card had been 2♥, if I were in late position with other callers in front of me, or if there had been multiple raises before the flop. • POSITION MATTERS. I am more likely to call in late position—no worries about a big raise behind me.

You have a 17% chance to make your straight.
What would you pay for a 17% chance of winning $100? (Probably $17). BUT we need to recognize that our bet will become part of the pot. So our expected winnings if we bet is

Prob(win)*( POT + BET )
CALL if BET < Prob(win)*( POT + BET ) Poker people like to state this result in terms of ―pot odds‖: if we define Pot Odds = BET / (POT + BET) we can say ―CALL if Prob(win) > Pot Odds”.

Common Poker Probabilities
You need to know how many ―outs‖ you have (cards in the deck that can improve your hand). Count them up and divide by the number of cards remaining. Examples:
♠ Q ♠ J ♣ K ♦ 10 ♦ 2

Our Cards

4 Aces + 4 Nines = 8 outs / 47 = 17% ♦ ♠ ♠ ♦

A

4

2

10

9

2

9 spades = 9 outs / 47 = 19%

9 spades + 3 Kings + 3 Eights = 15 outs / 47 = 32%

Two-Card Probabilities
Of course if you don‘t make your hand on the turn, you could make it on the river.
♠ Q ♠ J ♣ K ♦ 10 ♦ 2

Our Cards

Prob(Make hand on turn) = 17%

Prob(Miss the turn, Make hand on river) = (39/47)*(8/46) = 14.5%

An “open-ended straight draw” has a 31.5% chance of making a straight by the river. But this assumes you would call a raise of any amount on the turn (BAD!!!).

Pot Odds and Bet Amounts
―No Limit‖ doesn‘t mean you go all-in with every decent hand. Yes, it looks cool on ESPN, but it‘s often bad poker. A bet is an investment. You are buying equity in the pot. Why push 1000 chips into a 20 chip pot? Anything but a monster hand folds, and a monster takes all your chips. Bet or raise with authority. Think about pot odds. Why bet 20 into a 200 chip pot? Your opponent will then be betting 20 for a chance at 240 (pot odds say call if Prob(win) > 8%). This bet can also give a lot of info to a good player. Good bets are usually 30%-100% of the pot. Good raises are usually ~3-4x the original bet. If you won‟t bet/raise this much, CHECK OR FOLD.

More on Betting
Be the agressor. Betting is much more profitable than calling. It forces your opponent to make decisions, giving you information. Rarely he may fold the best hand! Have a plan. Decide how you will handle a raise or bets on later streets BEFORE you bet the flop (ideally at the very beginning of the hand, examples of this later). This can help a lot, as you don‘t fear raises and can more easily get away from a losing hand. Speaking of which… Don‟t chase chips. Once you have put chips into the pot, they‘re not yours anymore. They are also not going to get lonely. So don’t throw good money after bad! (But be sure to make a note of people who do!!!)

One Last (Important) Thing

Be aware of action in earlier rounds. What has happened in the hand so far is absolutely essential to deciding whether to bet, call or fold. For example, a bet on the flop from someone who just called (―limped in‖) preflop almost always means the flop helped his hand somehow. A bet on the flop from a preflop-raiser may be a ‗C-bet‘. A check usually means he either hit a huge hand or missed completely. If a preflop raiser is behind (after) you, betting is riskier. Should you call a raise from someone who showed a lot of strength preflop?

Playing Premium Hands
♠ A ♣ K ♣ ♦ A 9 ♦ 8

(1) or

Which is a better flop? Answer: probably (2) (top pair, top kicker)

♦ K 7

♥ 2

(2)

(1): J-T, T-7, 7-6, and/or two diamonds has outs to beat you. You are also behind A-A, 9-9, 8-8, A-9, A-8, etc. (2): You ahead of everybody except A-A, K-K, 7-7, 2-2. K-7, etc. are much more likely to have been folded pre-flop. No straight/flush draws on the board. You will usually beat K-Q, K-J, etc. with your ace ―kicker‖!

Your goal is not to have the highest possible hand. It is to have the best hand at the table!
• With premium hands, you need to make it expensive to draw against you. This is the other side of ‗pot odds‘. This generally means putting in a sizable raise before the flop and being aggressive afterward. People often refer to a round with no betting as a ―free card‖. • You generally want to be playing these hands against few opponents, ideally with hands only slightly weaker than yours (K-Q, K-J). The more people you let stay in, the more chance somebody gets lucky. • This is why you bet/raise aggressively! In the second hand, if you get beat by K-2, it is your own fault. You did not raise enough pre-flop to make that hand fold. A-A wins only 35% of showdowns against 8 opponents!!

You always need to be aware of hands that can beat you.

A


9


8

Flush draw: Any two cards on the board of the same suit. Here anyone with two diamonds is about 35% likely to make a flush by the showdown.

Straight draw: Any two consecutive cards, like 9-8. Anyone with JT, 7-6, or T-7 is about 31.5% likely to make a straight by the showdown. ―Gap‖ straight draws (9-7 on the board) are less important as apart from A-Q, K-J, etc, these hands are often folded. Pairs on the board: Anytime the board pairs, there is a possible full house. When the board pairs, be aware!

This does not mean you should fear these hands; the right play is very often to bet more aggressively!!

Important: The Continuation Bet
♠ A ♣ K ♣ 9 ♦ 9 ♥ 8

What do you do with these flops?

or
♠ Q ♦ 7 ♥ 2

I bet around 30-50% of pot. This is a ―continuation bet‖ or ―c-bet‖; one of the very few ‗bluffs‘ I recommend to beginners. You showed strength pre-flop by raising. It‘s hard to call here with, say, 6-6 or below. Even if you‘re called, you often still have draws (this is actually a ―semibluff‖). If you are raised, I would almost always fold.

Example: Protecting Premium Hands
♦ K
Our Hand

♣ K

♣ Q

♦ 10
Flop

♣ 2

♣ J
Turn

♠ Q
River

♥ Q

♥ J

Both opponents, and anyone with two clubs, will be tempted to see another card. If the turn and river look like this, you would seriously consider folding to a large raise— LOTS of hands have you beat. You absolutely must put in a large bet/raise on the flop (if not also pre-flop). This makes it so that opponents have to go against pot odds to draw against you.

Opponent A

A

K

Opponent B

Playing Marginal Hands
―Suited Connectors‖

♠ J

♠ 10

♠ 6 6

or

―Small Pocket Pair‖

• You will usually only play these hands in late position, particularly with no raises in front of you. You will typically need help from the board to win with these cards, so you want to limit your pre-flop investment. • Hit Big or Get Out. You should be looking to pick up a straight or flush draw, or two pair with the first hand, or (ideally) a set with the second on the flop. Beware of hitting one pair with the first, you often get out-kicked. • You want to play these hands in big pots against multiple opponents. Remember Pot Odds—When you hit these hands, you want to get paid off bigtime!!!

Examples: Suited Connectors
♠ J ♠ 10 ♣ ♦ Q 10 ♦ 2

(1)

Not a great flop for this hand. You have ―second pair‖ (Qs unlikely to be folded) and need to be aware of both the flush draw and the gap straight draw. An ideal flop. High (2) K Q 3 straight and flush draws (only an ace worries you) and the K, Q is likely to have hit someone else to bet against you. Play this like a premium hand—it is!! (some would call this a “semi-bluff”)
♠ ♠ ♦

Examples: Low Pocket Pair
♥ 6 ♠ 6 ♣ ♦ Q 4 ♦ 3

(1)

Not a great flop. With 8 opponents, it is about 50% likely someone was dealt a Q. The straight draw isn‘t a big deal (6-5 is usually folded); the flush draw is worrisome. I still might play this, particularly short-handed. A great flop. Lots of (2) A Q 6 possibilities for high pairs that will generate action. Remember that the value of marginal hands is deception. You want an opponent holding A-Q here!!
♠ ♣ ♦

Some Stats to Remember Playing Marginal Hands…
• Suited hands flop a flush draw about 11% of the time. • Pocket pairs flop a set or quads about 12% of the time. • I think of it as: When I hit a big hand, do I believe I can win about 8-9x what I have to invest to see a flop? (Note: ―Short stacked‖ opponents can‘t pay you off!!) • When playing a mid-level pocket pair (e.g. 8-8) against 8 opponents, there is a 21% chance someone has a higher pocket pair!! • When playing 9-9, the flop will contain at least one ―overcard‖ about 80% of the time. • When facing an overcard, with 8 opponents it is about 50% likely that someone was dealt that card.

Example: Second-best hands
♦ K ♦ Q ♣ K ♦ 10
Flop

♣ 7

♠ 4
Turn

Our Hand (Big Blind)

♥ Q

♥ J

Two opponents, A and B, who raised preflop. On the flop, A bets around a third of the pot. You and B call. The turn: A checks. You bet the pot. B reraises you most of his stack. A folds (probably on a draw).

Opponent A (Small Blind)

A

K

??
Opponent B (Button; raised pre-flop)

You are in a really difficult position. What does B have? What do you do?
Consider raising on the flop in this situation. If B has A-K, K-K, or 10-10, he will often make a big reraise.

Limit vs. No-Limit
• The example on the previous page is why No-Limit poker is so challenging. It only takes one ―second best hand‖ to lose your entire stack. Folding a good hand is the hardest thing to do in poker. • Aggression early in the hand is very important. If you had raised on the flop, B might have raised both of you, which would tell you he had a very strong hand. • But what if B bluff reraises? Fine, let him. Eventually he‘ll do it when I have K-K. • In No-Limit, ―big cards‖ like A-Q, A-J, K-Q, and K-J are relatively less valuable than in limit—they tend to make a lot of second best hands. • ―Top Pair‖ tends to pay off less in No-Limit. The bets often get large enough that only very strong hands stay in (often everyone folds).

Tournament Poker and ‗M‘
No Limit Tournament play is (in my opinion) the most difficult type of Hold ‗Em. BUT it offers beginners the chance to improve quickly at very reasonable stakes. The biggest difference in tournaments is that blinds are increasing (by one hour in, blinds are often 10% of your starting stack). This forces you to play more hands. Strategically, the biggest difference is: Stack size becomes extremely important. In other words, you play differently depending on how many chips you have relative to your opponent(s).

‗M‘
Your ‗M‘ (or M-ratio, named after Paul Magriel) is the ratio of your stack to the total of the small blind + big blind (and antes, if applicable). Example: If blinds are 50/100 and you have $1500 in chips, you have an M of 10. Importantly, M is the number of „laps‟ around the table you can survive without having to play a hand. The hardest part of tournament poker is adjusting play based on your M (and other players‘).

Harrington‘s ‗Zones‘
Dan Harrington‘s excellent books ―Harrington on Hold‘Em‖ break M down into zones: Green Zone (M≥20): Play good solid poker as usual.

Yellow Zone (10≤M<20): Must take more risk. ‗Marginal hands‘ like suited connectors, small pairs lose value. Position becomes more important. Orange Zone (6≤M<10): Position crucial. You want to ―open‖ (be first to bet pre-flop) with a raise (no just calling).
Red Zone (1 ≤M<6): Move all-in preflop or fold. Period.

Example: ‗M‘ and Strategy
It‘s not just your ‗M‘ that matters! Blinds are 50/100.
Note: Stack sizes after blinds have been paid. „Button‟ stack = $1200 (M=9) „SB‟ stack = $300 (M=2) Fold YOU hand: stack = $3000 (M=20)

♠ A

♠ K

Call

„UTG‟ stack = $500 (M=3.33) Action: All In.

Fold

Fold

Your action?

These players have $2k and $4k in chips.

Observations
„Button‟ stack = $1200 (M=9) 1) I like UTG‟s move. The blinds are about to chew up >1/3 of her stack, and $500 is still a respectable raise (from early position, shows strength). If she‘s good she could be playing a very wide range of hands. Call

„SB‟ stack = $300 (M=2) Fold

YOU hand: stack = $3000 (M=20)

♠ A

♠ K

„UTG‟ stack = $500 (M=3.33) Action: All In.

Fold

Fold Questions: How have UTG and Button been playing? Have they been using position? Have they shown down many losing hands?

2) Button‟s play is iffy. Think about the Pot Odds you are offering to the SB and BB players. The SB is almost guaranteed to call. By that point the BB, who is large stacked, will only need to put in $350 for a shot at an $1800 pot. With only $700 left, very hard to fold post-flop. 3) The SB is either playing very badly or thinks he is very good and has total junk. As we said above, the Button‘s call makes it attractive for the BB to call. Even with a bad hand, 5 hands to go till the blinds eat 50% of his stack. You must take chances like this to “triple (or quadruple!) up”. Anything else is capitulation.

Analysis
„Button‟ stack = $1200 (M=9) 1) I am more likely to call if I think UTG is a strong player. A Strong player knows she must be aggressive in this situation. If the SB is bad, many times a raise here takes the blinds, buying valuable time. Weak players ‗wait for a monster‘. Call

„SB‟ stack = $300 (M=2) Fold

YOU hand: stack = $3000 (M=20)

♠ A

♠ K

„UTG‟ stack = $500 (M=3.33) Action: All In.

Fold

Fold

2) I am less likely to call if I think Button is a very strong player. A call from a very strong player here is much scarier than an all-in. If he wants 2 more callers, look out. That said, I am usually pushing all-in here. This is just too good a hand. You‘ll be surprised how often the button will look disgusted and fold. You then have $550 of ‗dead money‘ in the pot and are likely at worst in a ‗race‘ with UTG. At worst, Button wins and you‘re down to $1800, which is still enough to compete with.

Lessons from this Example In these situations, newer players are usually overly passive. The call by Button and fold by SB are probably awful plays. This is often called an ‗isolation play‘ (driving Button out). Part of the value in our bet is the chance Button folds. Note the role of position. Short stacked, UTG is a half decent place for an all-in move. The BB is a pretty good spot when most/all of the action is pre-flop. Note how we took our own stack size as well as our opponents‟ stacks and play styles into account. Better question: what do you do with Q-J suited here?

A Quick Word on All-In Bets Let‘s say you are the Button in this hand and have called (bad idea, but go with it). Let‘s say the BB pushes all in (as I‘ve argued). What do you do? What if he had only raised you $700 chips?

Any raise over $700 puts you ALL-IN if you call!
But it still might matter. Many players, particularly under stress, forget this basic fact. More important, many players forget to take their opponent’s stack size into account. If your opponent only raise $700, did he realize he was putting you all in? Did he think you might view the two raises differently?

Misc. Tips
Know Your Opponents
A lot of beginning players will say ―I had K-Qs and the flop and turn were Kc-10d-7c-4s, should I call an all-in raise?‖ Wrong. What did your opponents bet before and after the flop? What did that tell you about their hands? How have they bet previous hands? Did they check (―slowplay‖) strong hands? Did they raise with weak ones? Have they been using position and if so, how?

Play the hand, not just your cards!!

Misc. Tips: Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda
• Your goal playing poker is to always make the right decision given the info you have at the time. • A lot of people will fold Q-9 in early position then be really mad when the flop comes K-J-10. Or be upset when they folded a draw and the next card is an out. • NO. If you had a 17% chance of making your straight on the river and folded to a pot-sized bet, you almost certainly made the right decision! • Don‘t let ―miracle cards‖ change the way you play! Do you really want to BET that lightning is going to strike twice?! Don‘t be mad when people call you with trash and get lucky. You WANT them to play that way!! • By same logic, avoid ―rabbit hunting‖ (asking to see the next card after you folded) or showing cards after folding.

Misc Tips: The Turn and River, and Bluffing
• We‘ve talked mostly about the flop. What about the turn and river? • Playing Tight-Aggressive makes it more likely you get to the later rounds with strong hands and have an idea what your opponents have as your aggression forced them to make decisions. • It rarely makes sense to fold on the river. At this point, you will have pot odds to call all but very large bets. • Checking/Calling on the turn and river is often good strategy. If you‘ve been aggressive, the weak hands are already gone! If you‘ve made a big draw, make a ‗value bet‘ you think will be called. • Bluffing in Hold-em is usually a poor play if you literally have nothing. Particularly at low stakes, somebody usually calls you. • The semi-bluff, however, is a very important tactic. Making a decent-sized raise on the flop with a flush or straight draw (―representing‖ top pair) can keep your opponents off balance. • Eventually you will need to vary your betting and strategy to keep from becoming predictable. Don‘t worry about this at lower stakes as your opponents won‘t pick up on it anyway.

Misc Tips: Tournament and Short-Handed Play
• Tournament play generally forces you to be more aggressive. In cash games, you can reload anytime. In tournaments, blinds are typically increasing! • Stack size becomes extremely important. How many BBs you have in your stack determines how you play. • When you are short stacked (8x the BB or less), you need to ―pick a hand and make a stand‖. You don‘t want to get stuck in the BB with a random hand. You cannot afford to limp in here, it‟s all or nothing. • Raises in late position (stealing) is often a good tactic, particularly late or when the blind player is short-stacked. • As the number of players goes down, you need to play more hands and play them all aggressively. • „Heads up‟ (1 on 1) or three-way play is challenging. You MUST make sizable raises when you have position.

Misc. Tips: Common “Tells”
• Watch a player‘s hand when he bets. Shaking hands indicate nervousness, which generally means he has a very weak OR very strong hand. • Beginning players often ―overcompensate‖; they stare you down when they are bluffing and act deferential when they have a good hand. • Watch your opponents‘ eyes on the flop. A player that looks at his chips usually has made a hand and is calculating how much to bet. • There are lots more tips on Poker tells. Be careful with this stuff; a better player will pick up on what you are responding to and send you „false tells‟. • My rule of thumb: Fixed behavior, Variable bets

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