by George “The Engineer” Epstein
It can cost you a big pot. It’s not illegal – though it may be immoral in some cases. It happened to me, and it could happen to you, too. In fact, it may already have happened without your realizing what was going down. What’s more, the dealer played a role. (He might have been complicit in the scheme; but that’s just speculation.) Let me explain by describing a hand I played in a low-limit hold’em game at a local casino.
I was in a middle position with Q-J offsuit. Along with four opponents, I stayed to see if the flop would help my hand. Yes, it did!
by Barbara Connors
Arguing with a fool proves there are two —Doris M. Smith
It’s a foolish mistake that happens all the time at the poker table. First, an experienced player bets to protect his hand. Then some know-nothing bonehead calls with a piece of garbage longshot that doesn’t even remotely have the odds to call in this spot. Not that the bonehead will ever know what a terrible play he made, because his miracle card falls on the river and he drags a huge pot. But that’s not the foolish mistake. No, the foolish mistake comes a moment later, as the bonehead is stacking his chips, and the experienced player can’t resist getting up on a soapbox and giving the bonehead a stern lecture about how wrong it was for him to make that call.
Criticizing your opponents is foolish because the repercussions are almost universally bad for your long-term profitability. What happens when you tell an opponent how badly he is playing? Generally, one of the following: A) thanks to your instruction, the bonehead learns from his mistake and begins to play better, or B) he leaves the game altogether because it’s not relaxing and fun anymore, or else C) he gets seriously ticked off at you. The first two outcomes are terrible because they ultimately deprive you of the very thing your poker survival depends upon — a weak opponent. Only the third option has the potential to maybe work in your favor if you can put the bonehead on tilt.
I was discussing President Barack Obama’s reelection the other day, not from a political standpoint, but from a strategic one. And it related to poker in a big way. How come? It’s because you have to understand that not one thing makes the difference between winning and losing. A large number of things determine your fate. But each factor can sway the result all by itself. And that’s the topic of today’s self-interview.
Question 1: How does the Obama vs. Romney race tie into today’s word, “Difference”?
A number of factors made the difference in the 2012 presidential race. Some favored Romney. The biggest ones toward the end favored Obama. Weighed together, they provided Obama with a victory.
It’s the same in poker— competing factors. The right ones lead to eventual profit, if they aren’t overwhelmed by the wrong ones.
Question 2: Just curious— what factors are you talking about regarding the presidential race?
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
If you play any game or sport enough, you’ll develop patterns or traits that characterize you as a player. As humans, we’re creatures of habit that embrace the things that work for us and continually repeat that activity. If you really break us all down (as poker players), we tend to take on an identity of ourselves based around our most repetitive habits.
A player that identifies himself as overly tight is embracing his habit of avoiding risk and folding too often, at the expensive of profits. The player that identifies himself as overly loose identifies that he’s making too many plays and accepting too much overall risk at the expense of profits. If you’re too tight, you’re basically paying money to not have to play hands. If you’re too loose it’s like effectively paying money to make unnecessary plays. Try and make a play or not make a play based on what you think is the correct decision, regardless of your comfort level. Too often, poker players stay within their comfort zone and play the same way day in and day out.
by Diane McHaffie
Impulse is an abrupt, spontaneous urge to act, often with dire consequences in poker. How long would you survive if you allowed impulsive actions to govern your decision-making? Not very.
Moods. Don’t allow impulse to dictate decisions in poker. What sort of mood are you in? Upbeat is good. Depressed is bad. A negative attitude means you probably won’t play your best game. Go to the park instead. If you’re coming to the table to improve your mood, I’d reconsider. That doesn’t work. If you’re angry with someone, chances are your nasty mood will lead to impulsive decisions. Not good!
Observe the players prior to joining a game. Do they appear to be rookies? If so, expect them to act on impulse, and that’s money for you. If they’re meek players, calling frequently, but rarely raising, you’ll likely be rewarded. They’ll make impulsive calls when you hold big hands.
by Lou Krieger
[Read Part 1]
Players often find trouble when they use implied odds to justify weak calls. Here’s why. Suppose you call a $10 bet on the turn in a $30 pot. Your immediate odds are 3-to-1 plus whatever implied odds you assign to the final betting round on the river. But unless your adversary is completely transparent or you have a terrific read on him, it’s all too easy to be overly optimistic—and therefore self-deceptive— about how much more money your opponent will be willing to invest in the pot if you make your hand. You might complete your hand on the river and try for a check raise only to have your opponent check behind you. You’ll probably win the showdown, but you would have won more if you wagered an amount your opponent would have called.
by Barbara Connors
"Boy, I got vision and the rest of the world wears bifocals" —Paul Newman in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”
Imagine a poker player who possesses infinite knowledge of the game. He knows all the plays and exactly when to use them, he has memorized the odds, and he can do complex calculations in the middle of a hand without missing a beat. But for all his vast expertise, this know-it-all player can still be undone by the most ignorant poker moron if said moron is impossible to read. When you find yourself up against opponents who don’t make the logical, thoughtful plays they “should” make — calling when they should fold, betting when they should check, raising when they should call — all the poker knowledge in the world won’t help you, unless you can find a way to read them. Problem is, the very fact you know so much more about the game than they do is precisely what makes these opponents so difficult to read.
by Ashley Adams
In my last article I posed a quiz about a $1-$2 no limit hold’em game, with players with effective stacks of $200, played against typically mediocre players. Here are the questions again with my answers and comments.
1. You have KsQd in late position. Three players call the large blind in front of you. You raise to $10. The two initial callers call your raise. Everyone else folds. The flop is AsJdTc. The first player bets $20. The second player calls. Which of the following statements is the most correct?
a) You should always make a small raise to induce your opponent to call you.
b) You should always call so you can exploit your opponent on the turn and river.
c) You should sometimes fold to make sure you’re not thought too aggressive.
d) You should always call, to encourage aggression on the turn.
e) You should sometimes stick your chest out, stare directly into each of their eyes, and boldly say “all in”, shoving out all your chips aggressively.
The conventional answers are probably some mixture of a), b), and d), but the best answer is e). Sometimes, especially with three mediocre players, this goading play will cause an opponent to take the bait, assume that your goading move is a bluff, and call you.
2. When playing against a maniac, which of the following statements is most correct?
There are things you don’t do if you want to maximize poker profit. In fact, what you don’t do often builds and protects bankrolls more powerfully than what you do.
Since that might sound confusing, I’ll explain it in today’s self-interview. And I’ll provide a selection of high-profit advice from poker’s “don’t” list. So, let’s get started.
Question 1: How am I supposed to ask you questions about poker strategy you don’t do?
It’s easy to ask for your advice about what to do, but how should I ask about what not to do? Can you give me some guidance, so I can conduct a better interview? Sure. Just ask me if there’s anything I recommend that players don’t do regarding a specific poker topic of your choice.
Question 2: Okay. So, what would you recommend that players don’t do regarding bluffing?
by David "The Maven" Chicotsky
Set plays are something that I feel most players don’t use enough. A set play is when you make a move against a target player before all information is made available.
Take for example, the idea of calling out of the big blind with the intention of betting or check-raising the flop if we miss our hand. This adds value to a hand like QJ-suited, making it more playable, as we’re able to apply our hand strength - as well as a measure of fold equity. Calling out of the big blind and solely evaluating the flop based on hand strength is a bad habit to get into.