In a horse race, every horse is rated based on its chance of coming in first in competition with other horses in that race. The favorite is the horse with the lowest odds against it. So a 2-to-1 shot is a big favorite over a long shot that’s 10-to-1. This is reflected in the payoff. That’s why many who gamble on the horse races prefer to bet on long shots. The payoff is greater. The more horses in the race, the less likely it is that the favorite crosses the finish line ahead of its opponents. It’s similar in poker. Your hand may be favored before the flop against each of your opponents individually, but the more opponents involved in the hand, the less likely you are to win. It’s common, in fact, for a hand to be favored over every other hand individually, yet be an underdog when considered against a full field of opponents collectively.
Believing I had created the Poker Labs concept, I was surprised to read that the WPT Boot Camp includes “hands-on labs.” Why did I introduce the Poker Labs into my poker classes at the Claude Pepper Senior Center in Los Angeles?
If you never use deception in playing poker, you are not likely to be a winner. Without deception, your opponents are better able to read you. They soon learn that you hold a strong hand whenever you bet or raise. With that information, it is easier for them to make wise decisions about betting, folding, or raising against you.
Bluffing is the most common form of deception. The idea, of course, is to convince your opponents that you hold the best hand so they fold hands that likely were better than yours, or release drawing hands that might have improved enough to win the pot if you hadn’t bluffed them out. How often you bluff is a matter of judgment and depends on your assessment of your opponents and the immediate situation.
“Tricky!” was the title of my column in the August 30, 2010 issue of Poker Player Newspaper. We received many comments from readers about that column. And there were a number of clever names for the “tricky” play described in the column.
It’s always rewarding to get well thought out comments on my columns in Poker Player Newspaper. There were several good comments from readers about my column on “Losing With the Second-Nut Flush” in the October 25 issue. Most noteworthy was the e-mail from Tony Townsend of Lakewood, Colorado. He goes by the tag “Sizz in Blackhawk,” where he plays most of his poker. Judging from his comments, I’ll bet Tony is a winner.
The game of poker is much like a play performed on a stage. There are many analogies between performing in a play in a theater and playing poker.
The king-high flush is often referred to as the second-nut flush. Assuming a straight flush isn’t possible, and there is no pair on the board, only the ace-high flush can top it. It is a powerful hand but can lose more often than you might think.
We’ve all been exposed to foolish arguments about what percentage of poker is skill versus luck? Frankly, that discussion has no real meaning. It’s a waste of time. More important is to understand that poker skill—proficiency and talent—can help you to get luckier.
Deception… Poker is a game of many faces, including deception. It offers many opportunities for taking the pot by being tricky. Bluffing is the most common form of deception. Stealing the blinds and check-raising also are viable examples.
Ask your friends, family, neighbors. Like it or not, most will tell you that poker is a gambling game. On that basis, some well-meaning people frown on the game—even though it offers many benefits aside from the potential of winning money.
In hold’em, there are only three made hands before the flop: A-A, K-K, and Q-Q. They can win without further improvement much of the time, although Q-Q is on the cusp. If an ace or king falls, pocket queens become chopped liver. Most playable starting hands are drawing hands that must improve to take the pot. We are assuming that you bluff only when circumstances permit, which is infrequent. In limit hold’em, most pots are won by the best hand at the showdown.