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 Texas Hold'em Course Goto page 12345678910111213 1, 2, 3 ... 11, 12, 13  Next
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Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2004 9:12 pm    Post subject: 1 This thread is a follow up to the Poker Course thread. For some general concepts on poker, you might want to peruse that thread. First off, I do not claim to be any sort of "expert" at poker, nor do I play professionally. I enjoy the game immensely and have done a lot of reading and thinking about the game. I find that you never know something quite so well as when you have to teach it. Hence this thread. There are other contributors to these forums (for example Antrax) who play poker and whose comments are always welcome. This thread is intended to help you learn how to play Limit Texas Hold'em, and if you already play, to improve your game. No-limit and pot-limit structures will not be covered, except perhaps in passing to tell you why I think you should steer clear of them. There are many ways to skin a cat, and many people learn things in different ways. Hence I will be presenting the same material in different ways, to highligh different ways of thinking about the game. All questions are always welcome. Anyone is welcome to take a stab at answering any question. I presented the rule for Texas Hold'em in the original Poker Course thread, but I will quickly summarize. I will presume that the reader knows how to deal, and what certain poker terms are, including what it means to check, bet, call, raise, reraise, or fold, and what the pot is. I presume the reader understands the definition and ranking of the standard (5 card) poker hands: no pair, 1 pair, 2 pair, 3 of a kind, straight, flush, full house, 4 of a kind, straight flush. Structure Texas hold'em has 4 betting rounds; on the first 2 betting rounds, all bets and raises are in increments of the small bet, and on the last 2 betting rounds all bets and raises are in increments of the big bet, which is exactly twice the amount of the small bet. Hence in a \$1-\$2 game, all bets and raises on the first 2 rounds are a dollar, and all bets and raises on the last 2 rounds are two dollars. Usually, there is a 3 or 4 raise cap, so that the maximum any player can pay on any betting round is 4 or 5 bets, respectively. In Texas Hold'em, there are no antes. The 2 players to the left of the dealer are forced to place bets, called blinds, before the deal (the deal rotates clockwise). The person on the dealer's immediate left is forced to bet the small blind, usually 1/2 the small bet, and the person to his left is forced to bet the big blind, always exactly the small bet. Hence a \$2-\$4 game would have a small blind of \$1, and a big blind of \$2. The purpose of the blinds is to force the action so that every hand is contested. Play After the blinds are posted, each player is dealt 2 hole cards. These are their only 2 private, unshared cards throughout the entire hand. After the hole cards are dealt, there is a betting round, in which each player must decide to fold his hand, call the bet in front of him, or raise. After the pot is right (all players who are continuing have paid the same amount), 3 community cards are dealt face up; these may be used by everyone. This is called the "flop." Another betting round ensues. A 4th community is then turned up, called the turn, or 4th street. After another betting round, a 5th community card, called the river, or 5th street, is turned up. After a final betting round, there is a showdown and the best hand wins. If you're unfamiliar with any of the terms just used, you can review the original poker course thread here. There you are; now you know the mechanics of playing Texas Hold'em! Now you know, as we say, just enough to get yourself hurt. The next post will continue with the foundation of good poker play: Starting Hands. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-28-2004 06:35 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2004 9:29 pm    Post subject: 2 Starting Hands Imagine you sit down to play poker with 7 other people. But this is a strange form of poker; all hands will be dealt face up, all at once, and the best hand wins. It is trivial to see that except for an extremely rare tie, 7 out of 8 hands will lose, while only 1 can win. What does this imply? Most poker hands are junk, will lose, and should not be played. This is true regardless of the form of poker being played. This is the cardinal rule of poker: Most hands cannot, and should not, be played. What does this mean? Well, for one thing it means that playing poker properly can be boring. It takes a certain mindset to be able to play poker well; someone who can occupy himself when he is not in a hand, since that will be the situation he finds himself in most often. The good poker player will use this time to watch the game, he will watch other players when he is not under the pressure of having to play his own hand, and he will enjoy it. If you enjoy watching the poker TV shows that are popular right now, you have the makings of a good, patient poker player. Now imagine another situation. This time, only you and one other player sit down to play, and again the cards are dealt face up, best hand wins. What happens? Well, most hands still look like crap, but now your crap wins half the time! This reminds us that poker hands are relative; a 9 high can be a great hand if your only opponent has an 8 high, and 3 Aces can look pretty bad when your opponent has a straight. In other words: The strengths of different hands (and starting hands) depends upon the situation. Let's see how these concepts apply to Texas Hold'em in the next post. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-28-2004 04:30 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2004 9:52 pm    Post subject: 3 Since you only have 2 cards to start out with, there are only 1326 distinct starting hands in Texas Hold'em (52x51/2=1326). If we ignore differing suits (since one suit has no advantage over another), there are only 169 different starting hands. These hands fall into 4 categories. We shall see that these categories are not set in stone, but rather blend into one another, and the category a particular hand falls into is usually subject to the situation in which it is played. Let's look at the 4 categories, as I see them. Junk Junk hands are hands like 72o (for the remainder of my discussion, T means a Ten, and o indicates that the cards are of different suits; JTs would be a Jack and a Ten of the same suit). Junk hands are generally characterized by at least one or more of these 3 qualities: they are low, they have large gaps between the two cards, the are unsuited. This makes the junkiest of hands easy to identify. Pocket Pairs Pocket pairs are just what they sound like. A pair of Aces, or Pocket Rockets, is the best starting hand in Texas Hold'em. 1 of every 17 hands dealt in Texas Hold'em will be a pocket pair. The odds against being dealt any particular pocket pair (usually it's Aces that people care about) are 220:1 against. Big Cards Big Cards are cards like AK. Two big (i.e. high rank) cards, but not a pair. Suited Connectors Suited connectors are cards like 98s. One fourth of all non-paired starting hands in Texas Hold'em are suited. As you can imagine, these categories are not set in stone. What is JTs? Is it a big card hand? Or is it "just" a suited connector? The answer is that it can be both, or that one or the other may become unimportant, depending upon the circumstances. As we noted, the strength and value of different hands can change. To see how, we have to review the concepts of protecting a hand, and drawing to beat a hand. We'll examine these in the next post. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-28-2004 05:04 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2004 10:52 pm    Post subject: 4 A Review of Pot Odds Imagine that your opponent has an obvious pair of Aces, and you have a 4 flush. There is 1 card left to come. If it completes your flush, you will win; if it doesn't you will lose. Your opponent bets \$1. Do you call? The correct answer is: It depends. You will call when the pot is large enough to be worth risking the \$1. The odds against you completing your flush are slightly over 4:1 against, we'll call it 4:1 to make things simple. If the pot, including the \$1 your opponent bet, is \$3, you have an easy fold. Why? Because if you play this hand 5 times, you will lose 4 times and win once. The 4 times you lose will cost you each a dollar, for \$4 in losses, and the 1 time you win you will only win \$3. You have lost \$1 over these 5 hands for an "expected value" of -\$0.20 per hand on your call. But if the pot (including your opponent's bet) is \$5, then you should call. Again playing the hand 5 times, you will again lose 4 and win 1, but this time you will gain \$5 the one time you win while losing the same \$4 for the 4 you lost. You will net \$1 over 5 hands, for an expected value of +\$0.20 per hand on your call. So you should call to try to draw out on your opponent when the pot is sufficiently large enough, and your call is sufficiently inexpensive, i.e. when you have the correct pot odds (5:1 on a 4:1 shot in our example). What does this have to do with starting hands? Well, everything. Consider 2 players holding their 2 card texas hold'em starting hands. Unless they hold identically ranked hands, one of these players will be ahead, and one of them will be behind. If the board helps neither player, he will win simply by virtue of starting with higher cards. So the other player is "drawing" to beat him. Protecting A Hand Return to our example of the Aces vs. the 4 flush. Only this time, you hold the Aces. You suspect your opponent of this draw (or another, it doesn't matter). There is 1 card to come. The pot is \$2. If you check, and do not bet, your opponent has gotten infinite pot odds; he gets to try to draw out and beat you for free! If you bet \$1, his odds are now 3:1 on the 4:1 shot; he can't call (if he does, you don't care because he's paying you more than the pot is worth). Even if the pot is \$4, giving him 5:1 to call correctly when you bet, you still must bet, because he will still be paying you the 4 out of 5 times he misses. The moral of the story is that when you believe yourself to be ahead, you must bet to protect your hand from being drawn out on. When you believe you are likely to be behind, you must call only when you think you have the proper odds to draw out. This is really never more true than before the flop in Texas Hold'em! When you have a hand that you feel is likely the best hand at the table, you must raise to protect it. This a) gives people the chance to fold, rather thatn catch a lucky flop to beat you, and b) lowers the pot odds of people drawing against you, possibly to the point where they should not be calling at all. Before examining particular hands, let's examine a rather strange property of Texas Hold'em starting hands (one that I've never really seen discussed in print): In general, stronger hands have fewer outs. What do I mean by that? Well, imagine you start with pocket Aces. You'd have to get very lucky indeed to form a flush or a striaght. Essentially the most likely way to improve 2 Aces is by catching another Ace. But there are only 2 of them in the deck. Contrast this with a hand like JTs. JT suited has 6 outs (admittedly having to catch two of them) to make 2 pair or trips, and is much more likely to make a straight or a flush. It has many potential outs. Does this mean that JTs is better than Aces? Of course not. Aces will beat JTs almost 80% of the time heads up. But what about if it's not heads up? Each additional player playing against you has a slew of outs. The outs to beat you go up and up, while you still have your lonely 2 Aces to catch to improve. So much so that a pair of Aces at a full table (10 players) will only win about 1/3 of the time (which is still more than any other given hand, of course). This tells us that it is in the interest of the Aces to narrow the field as much as possible, to reduce the number of outs against him. He does this by raising preflop, to destroy the odds of people who would like to limp in and see a cheap flop. Meanwhile, imagine you have the JTs. This hand is probably not the best hand before the flop at a full table (anyone with a pocket pair, an Ace, King, or Queen has you beat), so this hand is a drawing hand. You should call if . . . what? What two conditions did we say were necessary to call? a) You can get in cheaply (i.e. for just a single bet), and b) if the pot is sufficiently large. The only way the pot can be large without there being a raise (thus violating (a)) is if there are many players in the pot, i.e. the hand is multi-way. There are a lot of implications to this, but understanding the nature of protecting big hands, and calling with drawing hands only when the price is right is the best thing you can do to understand where all of the particular pre-flop advice on starting hands (soon to follow) comes from. We'll turn this into concrete strategies in the next post. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Sun Mar 28, 2004 11:34 pm    Post subject: 5 Position The last piece of theory we need to understand to put together a coherent starting hand strategy is an understanding of position. Position relative to the dealer button is of vital importance in poker variants such as draw, hold'em and Omaha. The later your position, the more people have to act before you, the more information you have when it's your turn, the fewer people there are behind you, the less uncertain you are about the action behind you, the less you have to fear being raised behind you, etc. Later position is a powerful advantage. Earlier position is a powerful disadvantage. Since the dealer acts last on all betting rounds (except the first one, because of the blinds), the dealer has the best position. The people to his left have the worst position. Because you have no idea if you'll get raised, destroying pot odds, and even if you're not raised, you have no idea if enough people will call to build a big enough pot (again not achieving sufficient pot odds), it is dangerous to call with drawing hands from an early position. This uncertainty about what will happen behind you continues throught the rest of the hand. Thus, in early position, you must only play big hands. Contrast this with late position. You can watch everyone else act first (except the blinds on the first round). If everyone folds to you, then even seemingly weak hands can be powerful compared to the two (random) hands in the blinds; you can raise to try and steal the blinds or get heads up. If many people call with no raise, you know that you'll be getting good odds for even weak draws. So you can play many more hands in late position than in early. This continuum of fewer hands in early position to more hands in late position extends throughout the table. Hence you can play more hands in middle position than you can from early position, but fewer than you could from late position. It is important to understand that the fewer people there are to act behind you, the more valuable any particular hand becomes, because there are fewer opportunities for people to be holding better hands. This ties in directly with our illustration at the beginning, where trash hands win half the time when there are only two players. This means that the fewer people there are at the table, the more valuable any given hand becomes. As the table gets more and more shorthanded, lower and lower cards become "big cards," and drawing cards become less and less valuable, since it is difficult to get the correct pot odds to call with them. So let's apply these concepts to our 4 categories, and see what we get. We'll do this in the next post. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-29-2004 01:37 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 12:15 am    Post subject: 6 Junk You shouldn't be playing junk. But what becomes "junk" can change depending on the situation. Recall that we said that junk hands have at least one or more of the following qualities: a) The are low, the have large gaps, they are unsuited. So the higher a hand is, the smaller the gap (if any), and if it's suited, the less junky it becomes. We'll see what hands become junk in which situations as we continue. Pairs Small pairs in raised pots, or unraised pots with very few callers, become junk. You will not have sufficient pot odds to call with these hands. The exception to this is when you are the first one in from late position; a raise with your small pair may win you the pot outright, and if you can get it heads up, your small pair has at least a 50-50 shot against any hand but a larger pair (and it is 16:1 against your opponent having a pair, much less a larger one). A point about pairs is that the value of pairs drops off steeply. I cannot overemphasize this: A pair of Aces is MUCH better than a pair of Kings, which is MUCH better than a pair of Queens, etc. The lower your pair, the more likely an overcard, which may make someone a higher pair, will come on the flop. By the time you get down to pocket Tens, you are really holding a drawing hand, hoping to flop three of a kind (a "set" as it's called). Hence these lower pairs (Tens and lower) become hands you want to see the flop with cheaply if there are a lot of callers. If there are no callers and you think you can steal or get the pot heads up, you want to raise or reraise. If you cannot meet one of these two criteria, even a medium pair can become junk and should not be played. Suited Connectors Very small suited connectors are almost always junk anyway. Medium suited connectors become junk in raised pots, or in unraised pots with few other callers, since (again) you will have insufficient pot odds. Remember the medium suited connector is very unlikely to be best at the start, and must draw out to win. In contrast, the later your position if you are the first to enter, the more your medium-large suited connectors become "big cards," again because there are fewer opportunities for someone to be holding a bigger hand behind you. Hence in late position, if you are the first person in, JTs becomes "big cards," and you'll want to raise with them to limit the field and reduce the pot odds for potential callers. Big Cards Big Cards are vulnerable starters. Big unpaired cards can win unimproved against a single opponent. But any two unpaired cards will "miss" the flop 2 out of three times. The more opponents you have, the more likely it "hit" at least one of them. My advice is to raise with big card unsuited cards, even AK, only under certain circumstances. Can you get the pot heads up? If yes, go ahead an raise. If not, just limp in and see a flop. This accomplishes several things. a) it minimizes your variance, or swings in your bankroll; b) it keeps the pot and your investment in it small, so that you don't mind folding when the flop misses you completely; c) it keeps the pot smaller, so that when you do flop your (very vulnerable) hand, you can more easily make sure your opponents have poor odds to draw out on you. What makes big cards Big? Well, ideally you want to hit your hand by flopping top pair with top kicker. Barring that, top pair with a good kicker, and so on. AK will always have the best kicker, regardless of whether you flop Aces or Kings. AQ will have second best kicker if you flop an Ace, and top kicker if you flop a Queen. The lower your big cards, or the larger their gap, the more junky they become. This is because you can flop top pair (say Tens, when you hold AT), and then lose when an over card hits on the turn or river (a J, Q, or K), or you could flop top pair and get outkicked (you could flop Tens with your JT and lose to QT, KT, or AT). Also, larger gaps cut down on your straight posibilities (AT needs exactly a K, Q, and J to make a straight, whereas JT can make 6 different straights). What about suited big cards? Suited big cards should make your day; by definition they are pretty much Big Suited Connectors, which means that they play well heads up or multi-way. Raise with them to get them heads up, but if you can't have no fear; you welcome callers to pay off your flushes. You can mix up your play a lot by sometimes raising and sometimes just calling with these hands, depending on the circumstance. There are trade-offs; the same caveats apply as before about keeping the pot small, but you also wouldn't mind having a large pot to chase when you flop that flush draw (which will likely be the highest flush draw out there). Next post: Actual starting hands! ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-28-2004 07:16 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 12:57 am    Post subject: 7 I want to correct something I said earlier. I said that the fewer people there are at the table the higher the value of any particular hand. This is not at all correct, as the above analysis implies. In actuality, different kinds of hands have values that shift relative to each other depending on the number of people at the table (among the other factors considered above). As the number of players gets smaller, big cards go up in value, and small suited connectors and pairs go down in value (since you can't get the correct pot odds for them). ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-28-2004 07:57 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 1:20 am    Post subject: 8 I'm going to present a couple of different starting hand strategies. This first one will be very tight; the second will be looser. Strategy A Memorize these 4 groups: 1) AA, KK, QQ, AKs, AQs 2) JJ, TT, AJs, KQs, AK 3) ATs, KJs, QJs, JTs, AQ 4) 99, 88, KTs, Qts, J9s, T9s, 98s, AJ, KQ You can figure out exactly how many hands this is by realizing there are exactly 6 ways to hold any pair, 4 ways to hold any 2 given suited cards, and 12 ways to hold any given unpaired unsuited cards. It works out to be 142 hands. That's about 11% of the 1326 possible starting hands. These are the hands you should play if you're just starting out at Texas Hold'em, and playing at a full table (ten handed). What that means is that, outside of the blinds (which we'll discuss separately), you should start out only playing about 1 hand in 10! You recall I said it could be boring to play Hold'em correctly? Well now you know why. The good news is that once you get comfortable, you'll be able to play more hands than this (see below). Also, I think it's unlikely that anyone here will actually be playing at a full table (except possibly online) which means that you'll have to play more hands than this (recall that weaker hands gain value the fewer players there are). OK. How to play these hands: Group 1) You should raise and reraise with these hands, almost always. You want to be the last person to put in a raise, unless it's capped already. We can gain some nuances later, but this will do for now. Group 2) You should come in for a raise with these hands if you are the first one in. [If there is a raise in front of you from a loose player, you can reraise these hands to isolate them.] If there are [many] callers in ahead of you, just call. If you raise and are re-raised, just call. If there is a raise ahead of you [and callers between you and the raiser] just call. Group 3) Always see the flop with these hands, unless you have to call a reraise cold. In other words, see the flop for 1 or 2 bets, but not for 3. If you call and are reraised behind you, go ahead and call. Group 4) See the flop if you can for 1 bet, but not for a raise. If you call and get raised behind you though, go ahead and call. Notice on these last two that the reason you are calling after you got raised behind you is that the pot odds are now huge on the additional bet. For this strategy, don't play any other hands unless you are in the blinds. Recall that in the blinds, you essentially get a discount on calling, but you also have a huge positional disadvantage. If you must call a (single) raise in the big blind, and your hand is not one of those already listed, go ahead and call if it is suited. In the small blind, if the pot is unraised and your hand is not already listed, go ahead and call if it is suited. We'll analyze the pros and cons of this strategy in the next post. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-29-2004 01:45 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 3:24 am    Post subject: 9 Some comments on Strategy A. You'll notice that it does not take position explicitly into account. One way to modify this is to remember than the later your position with no one in, the likelier your pretty good hand is the best hand. So if you're in late position an no one has called, you should raise with the Group 3 hands, and call if you get re-raised. If the re-raiser get's re-raised, though, making it 2 more bets cold, you are likely beat, and beat badly, so a fold is probably in order. If you are in very last position (the dealer button or one off), and no one has voluntarily entered the pot, ALL of these hands (Groups 1-4) are well worth a raise, to either steal the blinds outright, possibly get heads up, or possibly buy you the last position (called "buying the button"). Now to the pros and cons. The Pros of Strategy A a) All of the hands in Strategy A are very good to extremely good hands. If you restrict yourself to these hands while your opponents will play many more (and hence much poorer) hands, you will have a significant edge going into the average hand. This does not guarantee of course that you will have the best hand going into every hand, or that your lead will hold up, but the odds will be in your favor when you enter a pot. b) Your variance will be very low. Because you are playing very few hands, and those hands are high quality, the swings in your bankroll will be minimized. c) Your table image will be tight but aggressive. Observant players will (rightly) fear your raises, and will be hesitant to try to run over you, since you always show down a real hand. d) You will have PLENTY of time to watch how other players play, and to think about the game, since you will be playing so few hands. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 5:02 am    Post subject: 10 The Cons of Strategy A While the strategy outlined above is a solid foundation (it really is the core of all good hold'em play before the flop), it does have it limitations and draw backs. a) While you will experience small swings, you also cannot win a tremendous amount. This is true simply because you are playing few hands, you won't win some of the hands you do play, and observant opponents will be less likely to "pay you off" because your image is so tight (although there are plenty of unobservant opponents!). b) It's boring to eek out a small profit playing one hand in ten. You must at least win enough in the hands you do play to cover the cost of your blinds (and the rake, if you play in a public cardroom or online), when you are basically forced to pay for random cards. Playing only the Group 1 and 2 hands would probably do this, but then poker would essentially be a waste of your time; it would only be a break-even proposition, most of the time without you even playing. So the answer is to play more hands. But there is a trade off; playing more hands means you are playing weaker hands. Weaker hands can expect to win smaller amounts in the long run, but are likely to increase your variance significantly. So every hand you add to your repertoire can increase your long term profits, but your short terms swings will increase. At some point you reach hands that have zero long term expected value; they are break even. These hands do literally nothing for you except increase the swings in your bankroll. Only very skilled players with very large bankrolls can begin to approach the break-even limit in their hand selection. And here is the most dangerous part: There is no simple or easy way to tell if a hand is break-even for you in the long run. So as you add more and more hands, you get less and less added value from each hand, and higher and higher swings in your bankroll, until you reach some point where adding these extra hands is actually costing you money. And because you may be an overall winner on the hands you correctly play, you may not notice the value you are bleeding away squeezing these marginal, negative expectation hands. You can continue to expand your hand repertoire to the point where suddenly, you are a loose cannon. You playe too many hands. You are a loser. We'll see where the ballance is in the next post. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-29-2004 10:31 AM).]
Duke Gnome
Daedalian Member

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 2:34 pm    Post subject: 11 Thanks a lot, Borodog. I play quite a lot of low-stakes Online Hold'em, and on average I pay for the privelege. After reading through your pointers I think my game will improve.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 4:16 pm    Post subject: 12 So clearly there is a point where adding more hands to your repertoire does not improve your bottom line, but dramatically increases your swings and will begin to cost you money. How do you find the line? The answer is that you start off playing tight, and you only add more hands slowly, as you are comfortable playing the hands you already play. When you pick up a hand that makes you think "Uh oh," it's probably best to throw it away. When you pick up a hand and you start trying to think of reasons you could maybe play it, if you squint and look at it just right, throw it away. Some hands that can be dangerous because they look so tempting: - Small suited connectors, like 45s. Rarely do these get the proper odds to become playable, except possibly on the button with almost everyone in without a raise. - Small pairs with few callers (except for a raise, first in, from very late position, as a steal). - One card hands, like Ax or Kx, where x is a low, unsuited card. The reason you like hands with 2 high cards is that it gives you twice the shot to hit top pair, and when you do, you have a good kicker. You also may have 2 overcards to the flop if it misses you. The problem with Ax and Kx is that you have essentially 1 shot to hit top pair, and if you do, you have an awful kicker. You can't feel very good about your hand, and you'll have to pay it off all the way, only to learn that your A6 lost to A8. An exception to this, again, would be first in on the button. You likely have the best hand (against the random hands in the blinds) and should come in for a raise to try and take the blinds outright. - One Suited High Card. Unless it's Axs, a suited high card is very dangerous, and even the Axs is not a great hand. You will flop a flush draw only 10% of the time. You will hit top pair with a crappy kicker more often than that, and be in the same boat as previously discussed. Furthermore, unless your flush draw is to the Ace, you will likely be drawing to a flush that could still lose (to the Ace) if it hits. A suited Ace is basically playable like a medium suited connector, i.e. with a few callers but not for a raise. A suited King would be the same in late position. I wouldn't mess with a suited Queen. - Unsuited Medium Connectors. Even a JTo is a dangerous hand, unless you are first in from late position, in which case you should come in for a raise. By not being suited, this hand basically loses half of it's options. - Medium Gapped Suited Connectors - Hands like 75s can look very tempting, and are indeed playable from late position in an unraised pot with many callers, but in general add minimally to your profit, and really only up your swings. Remember, when deciding whether or not to play a hand, you should be looking for a reason to fold it, rather than reasons to play it. Here are some reasons to fold: - Am I positive I will have enough callers to play this suited connector/small pair/whatever? - Do I fear being raised by a bunch of people behind me, destroying my odds on this suited connect/small pair/whatever? - If there callers in from early position (indicating they may have good hands), will I get trapped and outkicked with this crummy Ace/King one card hand? - Do these two cards need a miracle to win? ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-29-2004 11:18 AM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 5:07 pm    Post subject: 13 So let's see how we can go about increasing the number of hands you can play profitably. Strategy B: Blackjack Now, having dutifully scared you about weaker cards, in particular JTo, would you be surprised to learn that if you pick up JTo at a full (ten handed) table the odds are basically 50/50 that you have the best hand (so far)? This is the basis for our second strategy. The second strategy adds more hands, and relies less on memorization, so it is easier and more fun to play. A warning: all of the positional caveats we have discussed apply to these hands; not all hands are playable from all positions or at all tables. You will have to use your judgement to decide where a hand is playable. That's why I advise starting out tight and only adding hands as you get more poker savvy. Pairs Play AA, KK, QQ as discussed in strategy A. Bring JJ in for a raise, but just call if reraised. TT is a tricky hand; the earlier you are, the more likely you should just call the blinds, the later, the more likely you should raise. Play 99-22 just about the same: limp in with them unless you are first in from late position, then raise. Take the number of people still to act behind you into account; probably fold pocket fives down to twos from first position. Add another pocket pair with each fewer person to act behind you. Suited Aces AKs, AQs - play these just as in Strategy A. AJs, ATs - play these positionally. Early position limp, middle position and first in, then raise. Axs - Play this hand as though it's not suited for the reasons discussed above. Throw it away early, limp in the middle with callers ahead of you, and raise if you're first in from late. Blackjacks These are hands that add up to 20 (ok, not really a blackjack) or 21, where an Ace counts as an 11, and all face cards and tens count as ten. KQs - play this hand like AKs, but beware the Ace on the flop. KJs, KTs - play these like AJs and ATs, but beware the Ace on the flop, and realize that you'd much rather pair the lower of your two cards than the King. QJs, QTs, JTs - Limp with these hands, as they like a large field; they are basically high suited connectors rather than Big Cards by the time you get this low. The exception, of course, is first in from late position, you should raise. If you have the chance to re-raise a loose player and isolate him (get heads up against him), then do it. This hand plays well multi-way or heads up, but not against just a couple or three opponents. This is because if you hit top pair, you may have to pay off with a weak kicker. AKo-JTo - Limp with these hands where positionally appropriate, i.e. limp with the AK in first position, fold the JT in the same spot. By the time you get to late position, you should be raising with the JTo if you're the first one in. You MUST use poker sense when playing these hands; they are dangerous. They are unpaired, and will hit a pair only 1 time in 3. Many times that pair will not be top. Many times you will be outkicked. You have no flush potential to pad your odds. If you add all these new hands, you'll find that you can play about 20% of all possible hold'em starting hands depending upon circumstance, like your position, number of callers, if it's been raised, etc. You should still only be playing about 10% (the hands from Strategy A) up front (the exception is the blinds of course, where you get a discount). An expert who has the bankroll to withstand the swings might be able to play as many as 40% of all hands on the button (this is why expert players can sometimes appear to be dangerously loose), but neither you nor I should try to come anywhere close to that. Here endeth the discussion on pre-flop starting hand selection and strategy. I hope people find this as useful to read as it was to me to write! ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-29-2004 12:08 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 5:58 pm    Post subject: 14 One final thought on starting hands before I move on. I keep mentioning that the fewer people there are to act behind you, the more valuable a high card hand becomes. And I advise you to raise if first in from late position with many hands. The same is true of a shorthanded table. At a short handed table there are by definition fewer people to act behind you. As a rule of thumb, if there are N people playing, then on average you should be dealt winners 1/N times. This number 1/N is what I think of as the magic "tight" number; it is the fraction of hands you should play to eek out a small profit while minimizing your swings. In a position important game like hold'em or Omaha, it is the fraction of hands you should be playing up front, regardless of how you loosen up in later position. Meanwhile, I think a second rule of thumb is 2/N, this is approximately the fraction of hands that you want to play (as always, according to positional and other considerations) to maximize your profit while still maintaining reasonable swings in your bankroll. So at a 10 handed table, you would play 1 in 10 hands in early position, but could play 1 in 5 hands (depending) in late position. An expert might get away with 2 in 5 hands in that spot, depending on the situation. Also, at a 5 handed table, the magic tight number would be 1 in 5. So ALL of the "blackjack" hands I described are worth playing in early position at a 5 handed table up front; many should be brought in for a raise! On the dealer button at a 5 handed table, you should be playing 2/5 of all hands. This is true not only because weaker hands win on average, but the chances that the flop has missed everyone still in has gone up to the point where it becomes very possible to steal on the flop when it misses everyone (including you). At a 4 person table, if you are dealt JTo in first position, it is so likely that your hand is currently best that you should bring it in for a raise, unless your opponents are the type who never fold before the flop (many players are like this when the table gets shorthanded). ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-29-2004 01:05 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 6:28 pm    Post subject: 15 A friend of mine who is a pro says that more aggression is called for in Strategy A above. He says the Group 2 hands should routinely be re-raised, with the possibly exception of TT. He also favors being much more aggressive with AK, as in raising rather than limping in. While there is absolutely no doubt that you will make more money in the long run this way, you will also increase your swings. But really, not by much; these are still powerful hands. You'll do better in the long run to get more money in when you have hands this powerful. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 7:32 pm    Post subject: 16 My friend also pointed out that the discussion on small pairs is lacking. After all, any pair before the flop is likely to be the best hand before the flop. Doesn't that imply that you should raise to protect it? The answer unfortunately is no. The reason is that a small pair, while it might be ahead of any other individual hand at the table, suffers from the horse race concept: the more people are in the pot, the more outs there are for the board to pair up and beat your small pair, where again you only have 2 lonely outs to make trips. Your chances of winning the pot go down faster than the size of the pot is going up. Hence your small or medium pair becomes just another drawing hand, needing to flop trips to stay ahead of the field. This only happens once out of every 8 or 9 flops; hence you need a lot of callers. Note that you don't need 8 or 9 callers because the bet size doubles on the later rounds, giving you higher implied odds than your actual current pot odds, but we'll discuss that later. A second problem with your small pair is that is just doesn't play well after the flop. Say you've got a pair of fives, and the flop comes down QT6. You just can't feel confident calling a bet and another call on the flop, plus double sized bets on the turn and river, can you? You've only got 2 outs to improve. So you have to fold. Alas, your opponent was betting his KJ and your other oppenent was calling with his J9, and you had the best hand the whole way. Ugh. It's just better not to put yourself into these difficult situations in the first place. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Antrax
ESL Student

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 7:46 pm    Post subject: 17 (I think this would be better suited in SAC) Personally I think it's better to raise early with high pairs, to cut down the opposition, and if you're on the button and everybody called, then limp and see if you hit anything. The reason for that is that once people put one bet in the pot, they are less likely to fold to your raise, and the later you are, the less likely someone will reraise you to make your raise count. However, if you're under the gun with TT, by all means, raise. You're likely to face only one or two other players, in which case your tens are likely to hold (though you should always be wary of the ace). Also, I consider small pairs to be pure drawing hands -- I either steal with them or call to see the flop, but never raise on the assumption I've the best hand in the table. Small pairs are just unlikely to win without improving. Antrax ------------------ "Look, that's why there's rules, understand? So that you think before you break 'em" - Lu-Tze, Thief of Time
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 8:35 pm    Post subject: 18

 Quote: However, if you're under the gun with TT, by all means, raise. You're likely to face only one or two other players,

I think this is highly dependant on the game conditions. A full table would have to be playing very tight before I would raise under the gun with tens, but then again, I am a naturally cautious player, perhaps too much so in certain situations.

 Quote: in which case your tens are likely to hold (though you should always be wary of the ace).

The problem is this: who's going to call your raise from under the gun except someone who has at least 2 overcards, if not an overpair? You are badly beaten by any overpair (JJ, QQ, KK, AA), and are basically 50/50 against just one hand with overcards.

If you hold pocket tens there is a 60% chance that you will flop one (or more) overcards when you do not trip up. Furthermore, there is another 60% chance that an overcard will come on the turn or river if (at least) one did not flop. If overcards come you might be forced to pay off, or you might be forced to fold the best hand, because your tens just do not play well. If you do hit your trips, you'll look like a genius or a psychic, but I think raising UTG with Tens just has too much variance.

Against just 2 overcard hands, the pocket tens do not even win their fair share:

code:
```

cards     win   %win    lose  %lose   tie  %tie     EV

Kc Ad  552148  40.28  814804  59.44  3802  0.28  0.404

Js Qc  370888  27.06  996064  72.67  3802  0.28  0.271

Ts Th  443916  32.38  923036  67.34  3802  0.28  0.325

```

Edit: And they won't even do that well, as again, you'll have to fold sometimes before a ten comes on the turn or river that would have made you a winner.

------------------
You will respect my philosophai.

[This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 03-29-2004 03:40 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Mar 29, 2004 8:51 pm    Post subject: 19 Antrax, Our mutual friend made some good points, and I think I'm coming around to agree with you both. Essentially, I think limping with the tens, even up front, is correct in a loose game, and raising is correct in a tighter game, if you can narrow the field. Our friend pointed out that if people are calling an UTG raise with QJ, they won't like their results very much all in all! He also pointed out, how many hands at a full table will have 2 overcards to your pocket tens? It averages less than 2, which is what makes my analysis above less than completely accurate. Thanks for the input! ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 12:05 am    Post subject: 20 OK. Here's something I put together to give you a little more concrete example of what I'm talking about: http://www.glpics.com/borodog/THEV-10-handed.xls This is a spread sheet that contains data from pokerroom.com's online poker tables. The data is EV, or Expected Value, the average profit per hand played in big bets. The data is broken down by position and starting hand. This is the data for a ten handed table. Negative EV starting hands (i.e. losing hands) are in red. On the right you will find several charts showing the EV by position of different starting hands including pocket pairs, AX, KX, and suited connectors. You can hover your mouse over any particular data line and it will pop-up which hand you're looking at. These data were compiled over many millions of hands; however there are two caveats: 1) They cover all different stakes. Play at different stakes can be very different. 2) They comprise the average results for all players, 19 out of 20 of whom are long term losers. This second point is very, very useful. It tells us that if the average player, who is a loser, can show a long term profit for a particular hand in that position, then we should DEFINITELY be able to show a profit for that hand in that position, since we study the game enough to know how to play smarter than the average bear. Notice: Any hand not displayed in a graph is a long term loser at all positions! This includes hands like QTo, and JTo! Again, these hands are losers for the average player; this does not mean that the expert cannot squeeze long term profit out of these and other marginal hands; it just means that it is very, very difficult. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 12:34 am    Post subject: 21 Here's the same for a shorthanded 4 person table: http://www.glpics.com/borodog/THEV-4-handed.xls ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 7:08 pm    Post subject: 22 Anybody reading this? ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Trojan Horse
Daedalian Member

 Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 7:27 pm    Post subject: 23 Just wanted to let you know I'm "auditing" the course. I'll be sitting in the back, mostly keeping my mouth shut , but I am paying attention. No pop quizzes, please
borschevsky
Chessnut

 Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 8:28 pm    Post subject: 24 I'm reading too..
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 8:42 pm    Post subject: 25 Yay! More tomorrow. At work, grading the papers of the blissfully ignorant . . . ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
referee
June 21st, 2004 Member

 Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2004 9:45 pm    Post subject: 26 I'm reading it too. Hehe... you could try some exercises like giving some hands and people email you their musings. *evil*
mith
Pitbull of Truth

 Posted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 1:33 am    Post subject: 27 What the others said.
Eykir
DDR Freak

 Posted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 2:56 am    Post subject: 28 I'm certainly reading it =) Update on this past weekend: Game was .25, .50 blinds, No Limit, Texas Hold 'em, 6 player. Started with \$25, at one point in the evening, I had \$68, and ended the night at \$45. I was behind for maybe the first 30 mins, but led the rest of the way. There were two big losers, and four winners, I was the lowest of the winners. Had I not lost three big hands (which came down to the last two cards dealt up), I would have ended the night around \$60. Max bet that wasn't all in was \$7. average bet per round was \$.50. Thank you Borodog for your sound advice beforehand. It certainly helped win a bunch there. [This message has been edited by Eykir (edited 03-30-2004 09:56 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Wed Mar 31, 2004 3:25 am    Post subject: 29 Thank you all for the positive feedback. I will take a moment to quickly address why I think no limit and pot limit are to be avoided. These structures are very dangerous for a novice poker player. They emphasize high level skills that a beginner will be poor at; even a marginal no limit or pot limit player can manipulate novices into extremely costly mistakes. There is a reason that no limit and pot limit are almost never spread in ring games in a casino; the poorer players get destroyed. They get destroyed so fast they don't come back, and the game dies. It doesn't matter how good a player you are if you can't get anyone to play with you. This is why limit Texas Hold'em (among other forms of limit poker) is thriving; it has the proper balance of luck vs skill. The skilled player can win in the long run, which is why he gets a game going. Meanwhile, the casual player can often have winning nights, and will hence keep coming back. Part of what makes no limit and pot limit so dangerous is that you can bet enough to protect a hand, effectively eliminating draws except by very poor players who pay a huge premium to try. Because the pots usually become heads up and the pot odds are always small, it becomes mathematically correct to bluff frequently. The skilled player's ability to read hands, pick up tells, bet the proper amounts, know when to bluff and when not to, and when to make critical folds where his opponents will make costly calls are all at premium value in these structures. Not that they are unimportant in limit; it's just that the price for a mistake in limit is well, limited. But I'm glad to hear you had a good night, Eykir! ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Eykir
DDR Freak

 Posted: Sat Apr 03, 2004 6:11 pm    Post subject: 30 Thank you for the advice again Borodog https://www.pokerroom.com/games/tournament/?id=94942 3rd place of 1200
referee
June 21st, 2004 Member

 Posted: Sun Apr 04, 2004 7:22 pm    Post subject: 31 Where's our teacher?
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Mon Apr 05, 2004 12:43 am    Post subject: 32 Been out of town. Will post more tomorrow! Congrats Eykir! ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 8:49 pm    Post subject: 33 OK. Sorry for the loooong delay. I was out of town, and I've been doing a lot of data analysis on starting hands, especially short handed (since that's the way I play most often). Post flop play Once you've decided to play a hand and the first betting round is over, down comes the flop, the first three community cards. Play from the flop on is very situationally dependent; what is correct to do in one position may be incorrect for another; what is correct for some opponents may be incorrect for others; what is correct in one game may be incorrect in others. Not to mention the fact that sometimes it pays to play the same exact hands in different ways, if only to avoid giving your opponent too much information. So how do we make any sense out of all of these complexities? We will endeavor to understand why we make each and every play; if you understand the why of a play, the when of it (i.e. when to make one play versus another) becomes obvious. Or if not obvious, at least easier. Post-Flop Hand Categories After the flop I like to hands into just a few categories: 1. Nothing: The flop has missed you completely, you have no pairs, no draws, the best you could swing is maybe a single overcard to the board. 2. Poor: You caught a piece of the flop, but not a great one. A [poor] hand might be bottom or middle pair with a poor kicker, and you have no draws to a good hand. 3. Mediocre: You caught a good piece of the flop, but you can't feel very confident about it. An example would be top pair but with a bad kicker, or a lower pair with a good kicker (i.e. an overcard to the board, very much preferably an Ace). 4. Good: You caught top pair with a good kicker (this is why you play high cards). 5. A pure draw: You have a draw to a straight or flush, or even just 2 overcards to the board (if the board is not scary). Note, a backdoor draw, where you need two running cards to make a hand is NOT a good draw. 6. A combo: You caught a respectable piece of the flop such as a pair/good kicker plus you have a draw to a hand like a straight or flush. 7. A set: A set is 3 of a kind, but specifically 2 in your hand and a matching card on the board. A set deserves its own category, in my opinion, for reasons I'll explain later. 8. Lucky flops: A lucky flop would be flopping two pair, flopping trips (but not a set; i.e. a pair on the board matches one of your cards), or flopping a straight or better. Note that these categories are subject to game conditions. In a shorthanded game, it is not unusual for the board to miss everyone and Ace high takes the pot. Any pair at all may win. Post-Flop Hand Strategies Your main objective is to protect the hands that are likely ahead by trying to force out people who may draw out on you, or barring that, to charge them the maximum for the chance. Your secondary objective is the draw to hands that will win if the pot is sufficiently large. Your third objective is to not pay people off with crummy hands or second best hands, yet still not be bullied out when a mediocre hand may actually be the best hand. Your tools for accomplishing these tasks are few: the check, the bet, the call, the raise, and the fold. If you want to start packaging those plays into meta-plays, you get get the checkraise and the slowplay. A special class is the bluff, including the pure bluff, the bluff raise, the semi-bluff, and the semi-bluff raise. The number one most important of these tools is undoubtably the raise, followed by (surprise!) the fold. Let's examine the raise. There are 5 distinct reasons you might want to raise. 1) For value. You are raising to get more money into the pot that you expect to win. 2) To narrow the field. You are attempting to get other players to fold to increase your chances of winning. 3) To gain information. You want to see what your opponent does when you raise, to tell you something about what he thinks about his hand. 4) To buy a "free card." You are raising in the hopes that your opponents will "check to the raiser" on the next round, giving you the option of checking right behind them and looking at the next card for free (note the next card is not exactly free, but it can be cheaper). 5) To cut your opponents pot odds. You are lowering the odds your opponent is getting to draw out on you, hopefully to the point that he should not call at all. Note that it is pretty difficult to accomplish one of these without also accomplishing at least one of the others at the same time. We'll continue with our discussion of the raise in the next post. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 04-06-2004 10:29 PM).]
casinopete
Emergency Backup Antrax

 Posted: Tue Apr 06, 2004 9:08 pm    Post subject: 34 Very nice. Clear, concise, logical - you have a gift for this, Boro.
referee
June 21st, 2004 Member

 Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 12:30 am    Post subject: 35 OK, I assume an overcard means a card that is higher to all of the cards in the flop. Am I right? Flop: 5h 7d Qs Pocket cards: Ah Qh => The Ace is an overcard. The Queen isn't Flop: 6h 6d Td Pocket cards: Ks Qs => Two overcards Flop: 2s 8c Kd Pocket cards: Kc Jc => No overcards Am I right? A glossary post would be nice. Also, I played some on pokerroom.com and I want to say. It's WAY TOO loose! Are there any ways to counteract all that looseness?
casinopete
Emergency Backup Antrax

 Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 1:16 am    Post subject: 36 Overcards: Exactly. Looseness: No way to counteract it, but even though you get so many bad beats because of it, it's more profitable to you in the long run - it's just higher variance. It does mean it's doubly important to stay away from No Limit games, though.
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 2:29 am    Post subject: 37 referee, From your examples: Flop: 5h 7d Qs Pocket cards: Ah Qh: You have top pair an top kicker, a good hand. You also have a backdoor flush draw (a bonus we'll talk about later), there is no immediate flush draw for an opponent. However, any card from a 3 to a 9 could beat you. Your hand is vulnerable. Your objective is to make a drawing opponent pay the maximum, until someone demonstrates they may already have you beat. Flop: 6h 6d Td Pocket cards: Ks Qs: You indeed have 2 overcards to the flop, but otherwise have missed. Anyone with a ten has you beat, anyone with a 6 has you badly beat, and there are both straight and flush draws which you have none of. Check and fold if there is much action. 2 of your overcard outs are nullified because they are diamonds and may make someone's flush. You could catch a non-diamond King or Queen and still be beat, or still lose when a draw hits on the river. Check and fold. Flop: 2s 8c Kd Pocket cards: Kc Jc: This is a good hand. Top pair, pretty good kicker (especially if the table is loose; if it is tighter KJ is very dangerous). You have a backdoor flush draw again, and there is no straight or immediate flush on the board. Your strategy is to protect your hand until someone demonstrates they have it beat. casinopete, I beg to differ about not being able to do anything about the looseness of the table. There are definite strategy adjustments that can be made. More difficult to make adjustments for are the high number of aggressive maniacs you'll find when trying to practice at a play money table. My advice is to shop for tables, and try to find one where the pre-flop raising is limited. As players rotate, if the table becomes too crazy, just move to another. I may start up the GL private table again, if some people actual bother to show up this time. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai.
casinopete
Emergency Backup Antrax

 Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 2:38 am    Post subject: 38 First of all, fnord. Second, all of the play money tables are extremely loose - you could certainly find a less dramatically loose table, but that wouldn't really solve the "problem." Third, of course I'm wrong, adjustments can be made, but I think they are very subtle and difficult adjustments, especially given that all of the tables are criminally loose. Fourth, fnord. Fifth, I showed up for the GL table a couple of times, and would be very much interested in playing with you folks regularly. [This message has been edited by casinopete (edited 04-06-2004 10:38 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 3:31 am    Post subject: 39 Understanding Every Play So the reason that I explained the 5 reasons to raise (as I see them; other authors may group them differently) is so that we can begin to examine strategies for the different types of post-flop hands. The key to an effective strategy (i.e. it makes you money) is to ALWAYS understand EXACTLY why you make any play, whether it be a check, bet, call, raise, or fold. Since the raise is the most important tool, we'll use it as our main technique for elaborating this concept. First of all, the first two groups, Nothing and Poor, play similarly. I.e., check and fold them to action. If they are not beat, they are easily beatable, and you may have to pay a lot to find out which is true. Unless the table is very shorthanded, it's just not worth getting involved. Group 3: Mediocre Post-Flop Hands Recall that we said a mediocre hand was a hand where "You caught a good piece of the flop, but you can't feel very confident about it. An example would be top pair but with a bad kicker, or a lower pair with a good kicker (i.e. an overcard to the board, very much preferably an Ace)." Early and Middle Positions Remember your positional disadvantage. You certainly cannot bet this hand from early position, because you'll probably be at least called by a better hand, or worse, get raised and have to throw away your hand (and your bet). Don't make the mistake of betting from early and then calling a raise that already has callers; he raised in front of people, signifying a hand he wanted to protect, and the callers called 2 bets cold. You are beat. Late Position If someone has bet up front, they are signifying (or at least trying to convince you) that they do not fear a raise behind them, i.e. they have a strong hand. Particularly if there are callers or re-raisers before you, just fold the hand and wait for a better chance. However, if there are no callers between you and the raiser, I would strongly advice raising in this position! Let's see why. The later the better's position, the more likely he may be betting a weak hand (like yours) because he has fewer people behind him to fear raises from (like you). Your opponent may be semi-bluffing, i.e. on a draw and your hand may actually be best! In that case you should charge him the maximum. You will gain much information from your opponents given their response to this raise. Does he (or anyone in-between, i.e. a check-raiser) re-raise you? If so, you are almost assuredly beat with few outs to draw to: fold (do not make the mistake of calling that last bet). If he just calls, he is probably signifying that he is unsure if his hand is better than yours. He may have been on a pure steal when no one else bet, and may immediately fold to your raise. Your raise may cause other players with draws to fold rather than call 2 bets cold, when they may have called 1 bet and beaten you. If they stay, you have lowered their drawing odds, at the very least. Any callers may well "check to the raiser," allowing you to look at the river card for free, if you so choose. As you can see, raising in this spot accomplishes much, at little cost. The bets have not yet doubled, so if you were going to call his bet anyway, why not spend a little more and reap all those benefits? If it has checked to you in late position, you have a decision. Does this mean that you have the best hand, and should protect it? Very possibly. However, let's examine what betting out in this position will and will not accomplish in all likelihood. 1) A bet from late position looks exactly that, positional. People will suspect your hand is weak (and it is) and be more inclined to call you. 2) A single bet (rather than a bet and a raise) is often not large enough to make drawing hands fold. 3) Someone may be sitting in early position with a good hand waiting to check-raise you, so that HE may better be able to force people out and cut down their odds. 4) You have no idea if anyone who calls you is drawing, has a mediocre hand that already has you beat, or is slowplaying a very good hand that has you destroyed. 5) When all the drawing hands call you (as they almost assuredly will), you are building a bigger pot, whihc will give them better odds to continue to chase on the turn (when the bet size doubles). And remember, they've got many more outs (combined) than you do. In light of this, I like to check it around in this position. If someone beats me, eh, at least I've only got 1 small bet in the pot. But if I get lucky on the turn, then the pot is small, and I can really punish people and force them out by raising a double sized bet. Poof. That's my on-the-flop-mediocre-hand strategy. More on the other groups later. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 04-06-2004 11:32 PM).]
Dr. Borodog
Mad Scientist

 Posted: Wed Apr 07, 2004 4:22 am    Post subject: 40 Good Hands Recall that we said a good hand was one where "You caught top pair with a good kicker (this is why you play high cards)." This would include a pocket overpair to the board. The main thing to understand about this hand is that while good, it is very vulnerable. This is do to the same concept we discussed earlier: your top pair or overpair has few outs to improve. For example, top pair has basically only 5 outs to improve (unless you happen to have a straight or flush draw to boot), the other 2 pair cards, plus your other 3 kicker cards. If there is a 2 flush on the board, up to 2 of these outs may be voided because they'll make someone's hand (which beats you) when they hit. A pocket overpair (say Aces), has even fewer outs; just the other two of that rank. If someone else is sharing any of your cards, you lose even more outs to the drawers. The larger the table, the more vulnerable these hands become. Your primary goal then is to protect these hands any way that you can. Your secondary goal is to not lose your shirt when they get beat, which they very often will. Early Position You have a decision to make. Is there someone to your left who is aggressive? Maybe they raised pre-flop? If so, you may want to bet right out, hoping that they will raise you, to force people out. Is there someone to your right who is aggressive? Maybe they raised pre-flop? If so, you may want to check, hoping that they will bet, so that you can then check-raise them, forcing people out. Understand that there is no really good option from early position. You are just forced to play a guessing game about what will happen behind you (remember that positional disadvantage? Here it is again). Sometimes you will bet out, and get a several callers with no raise, build a pot (for them to chase on the turn), and then get beat on the river because of it. Sometimes you will check with the intention of raising and it will check right around, giving all your opponents a free card to beat you. There's nothing you can do to overcome this except think carefully about the nature of the players on your left and right. Middle Position and Late Position If there is a bet in front of you, raise. You raise to narrow the field, and to decrease the drawers' odds. If it is checked to you, bet out. From middle position, your bet looks less positional, and people are less likely to call you. But even from late position you simply cannot give free cards against these hands if possible, and a check raise here is unlikely to work, since a bet from someone in even later position will look even more positional than yours would, drawing callers before you can raise. Your best bet is to bet out and hope to get raised. But if you get raised, what do you do? Well, knowing your opponent is the key here. Are they a very tight player who would only raise with trips? Then you may be so badly beat that you should fold (even hitting trips on the turn or river may well boat them up). Are they a moron who plays any ace and likely has top pair with a crappy kicker? Then you should raise to punish their stupidity. Are they a crafty player (like you) who just as likely may be raising with 2 pair as with a lower pair plus an overcard kicker (to slow you down and size up your hand)? Are they the type that likes to semi-bluff raise in an attempt to buy the turn card free? In both cases a re-raise may be in order to punish the semi-bluff and lower pair (whose kicker may still hit and beat you), and gain information about a possibly strong hand (2 pair or better). Recall that your secondary objective is to get away from even a good hand when it appears that you are beaten with little chance of regaining the lead. If you flop top pair and top kicker, and to your surprise, there is a bet, a raise, and a reraise in front of you, FOLD! You are likely beat with your best outs in someone else's hand (or hands). More on the other hand groups later. ------------------ You will respect my philosophai. [This message has been edited by Dr. Borodog (edited 04-07-2004 12:23 AM).]
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