Evaluating the Structure and Adjusting to It

By the structure of the game, we mean principally the ante, the betting limits, and the rules of betting. The structure may deter an average or even an above-average player from sitting down, but it should rarely deter a good player. The good player should be able to adjust his play to suit any structure he happens to confront. There is however one instance where the structure might cause even a very good player to stay out of a game When it has made fair players into good players by accident....

Getting More Money In the Pot By Not Raising

Sometimes even with no more cards to come you can get more money or at least as much money into a multi-way pot by calling instead of raising, and at the same time avoid the risk of a reraise from the original bettor. You go for the overcall. That is, you call instead of raising in order to extract money from one or more of the players still in the pot behind you. Suppose, after all the cards are out, the bettor to your right appears to have a hand you can beat. If you raise, that player will...

Calling on the Basis of Pot Odds With More Cards to Come

What about deciding whether to call before the draw in draw poker and in stud games when there is one card to come Now the math becomes important. If you know you have to improve your hand to win, you have to determine your chances of improving in comparison to your pot odds. With a flush draw or an open-ended straight draw we'll assume the game is five-card draw poker you would be correct to call a 10 bet when the pot is 50 since your chance of making the flush or the straight is better than...

Situations When Effective Odds Need Not Apply

There are a few times when you do not have to consider future bets when assessing your pot odds. The first case occurs when either you or your opponent is all-in or almost all-in. Obviously, when your opponent has no more money to bet or you have no more money to call, the last card will be free. So all you need to do is observe your immediate pot odds and compare them to your chances of winding up with the best hand. In the example For the finicky, the exact equation is 10 47 x 9 46. Ten of...

Stopping Bluffs

Essentially the strategy to stop bluffs is to represent more strength than you actually have. Your opponent will not try to bluff, thinking you have at least a calling hand and perhaps better. Let's say you are playing draw poker, jacks or better to open, against someone you want to stop from bluffing. As the dealer in last position, you open with a pair of aces. After having originally checked in a very deep position, the potential bluffer now calls you. There is no chance that player has...

Giving or Not Giving a Free Card With a Marginal Hand

When you are certain you have the best hand, deciding whether to bet with more cards to come is relatively easy. However, you are frequently in a situation where you suspect you have the best hand, but you know you will be called only if you are beaten. Still, you must consider betting so that you do not give your opponent a free shot to outdraw you in the event you do have the best hand. The factors to consider when deciding to bet are 1.Your chances of having the best hand. 2.The chances the...

Bluffing and Betting for Value

The number of poker hands anyone can have is comparatively limited, but in addition to the hands themselves there are so many other variables that rarely if ever is a particular play always right or always wrong. Your play is affected by the size of the pot, your position, the opponent or opponents you are facing, the way they have been playing, the amount of money they have and you have, the flow of the game, and other, more subtle factors. This point is particularly applicable to questions of...

Implied Odds

Implied odds are based on the possibility of winning money in later betting rounds over and above what is in the pot already. More precisely, your implied odds are the ratio of your total expected win when your card hits to the present cost of calling a bet. A good example of playing a hand for the implied odds occurs in hold 'em when you have a small pair in the hole. It's about 8-to-l against flopping that card to hit three-of-a-kind, but the small pair is worth playing in most cases even...

The Power of the Semi Bluff

Let's say you're playing seven-card stud. You have a pair of jacks, and on fifth street your opponent bets. You know he has a big hand. So your response is easy You fold. Suppose you know your opponent is bluffing with nothing. Again your response is easy You raise. Suppose you think he has you beat with two small pair, but you're getting sufficient pot odds for a call. So you call. Straightforward bets, straightforward responses. But what if your opponent is not so straightforward What if he's...

Bluffs When All the Cards are

When all the cards are out, you obviously can no longer semi-bluff. You have either made your hand or you haven't. So all bluffs on the end are pure bluffs. They are bets or raises that you do not expect to win if you are called. When you are sitting there knowing you have the worst hand, knowing you cannot win by checking, knowing you cannot win by calling your opponent's bet, the only question is whether or not to try to bluff. You should not if you think the chances your opponent will call...

The Forms of Poker

Poker is a generic name for literally hundreds of games, but they all fall within a few interrelated types. There are high games like seven-card stud and Texas hold 'em, in which the highest hand in the showdown wins, and low games like draw lowball and razz, in which the lowest hand wins. There are also high-low split games, in which the best high hand and the best low hand split the pot. Among high, low, and high-low split games there are those like five-card draw, in which the hands are...

Semi Bluffs and Pure Bluffs

A pure bluff is a bet, which, if called, has no chance of winning in a showdown. A semi-bluff is a bet with more cards to come which, if called, is probably not the best hand at the moment but has a reasonable chance of becoming the best hand. Many expert players believe their bluffs should have negative expectation. They see them as a form of advertising that will lead to their being called on other occasions when they do have the best hand. However, I believe pure bluffs should have no worse...

Legitimate Hands in Loose Games

What about legitimate hands In a loose game people are willing to play a hand that is relatively lower in value than the average. Therefore, your own legitimate hands don't need to be quite as good as in a normal game since your opponents are likely to be staying with you with even worse hands. This becomes especially true when you get heads-up against one opponent. However, because of the action and the participants' style of play, loose games frequently tend to have multi-way pots. With many...

Adjusting Properly to the Structure

The important thing is to adjust your play to the betting rules, the betting limits, and the ante structure with which you are confronted. This ability to adjust is one of your greatest edges against the good but nontheoretical player. It takes quite a while for the nontheoretical player to find instinctively the correct method of play in an unfamiliar structure. In the meantime, that player makes costly mistakes. For example, the 15- 30 hold 'em game that used to be played at the Golden Nugget...

The Ante Structure

All poker starts as a struggle for the antes. If there were no ante, there would be no reason to play. It's true that some players would play anyway, but a good player in such a game would simply wait for the pure nuts and nearly always win. A good player would have no reason to play anything but big starter hands three aces, say, in seven-card stud because with no money yet in the pot, there would be nothing to shoot for. To play with anything less would be to risk getting picked off by...

Inducing and Stopping Bluffs

The two preceding chapters demonstrated how, with sound judgment or game theory, a player who bluffs correctly gains a tremendous edge over his opponents. In fact, given two games one with otherwise poor players who bluff approximately correctly and another with solid players who do not bluff you do better to play in the solid game. When I started playing draw poker for a living in Gardena, California, I intuitively suspected I was better off playing in games with the typically tight Gardena...

Analyzing the Cost of a Mistake

Unfortunately, the play that is likely to be right most of the time is not always the correct play. When you have a choice of plays, you also have to decide how bad it will be if you make a mistake. Here is an obvious example. If your opponent bets on the end and you think the chances are better than 50-50 that that opponent has the best hand, the correct play most of the time is to fold and save a bet. However, it costs you not just one bet but the whole pot when folding turns out to be a...

Requirements for Slowplaying

In most cases, for a slowplay to be correct, all of the following must be true. 1 .You must have a very strong hand. 2.The free card or cheap card you are allowing other players to get must have good possibilities of making them a second-best hand. 3.That same free card must have little chance of making someone a better hand than yours or even giving that person a draw to a better hand than yours on the next round with sufficient odds to justify a call. 4. You must be sure you will drive other...

Preface

This book is about the general theories and concepts of poker play, which are operative in nearly every variation of poker from five-card draw to Texas hold 'em. It is not a how-to book in the sense of providing the basic rules and a step-by-step procedure for playing the various games. Beginning poker players sometimes ask, What do you do in this particular situation There is really no correct answer to that question because it's the wrong question. Rules of thumb that say to fold one hand,...

The Ante and Other Forced Bets

The key question to ask about the ante and other forced bets like the blinds in hold 'em is How big are they in relation to the betting limits As we saw in Chapter Four, when the ante is large, you must loosen up, try to steal more antes, and almost never slowplay. When the ante is small, you tighten up, steal fewer antes, and slowplay more. If you find you do better and are more comfortable in a tighter, small-ante game, that's what you should look for, and vice versa. For example, if you are...

Table of Contents

xi Chapter One Beyond Beginning Poker 1 Chapter Two Expectation and Hourly Rate 9 Mathematical Mathematical Expectation in Poker 12 Chapter Three The Fundamental Theorem of Poker 17 Examples of The Fundamental Theorem of Poker 18 Example Example Example Example Example Mistakes According to The Fundamental Theorem of Multi-Way Pots Summary Chapter Four The Ante Structure 27 Calling on the Basis of Pot Odds When All the Cards Calling on the Basis of Pot Odds With More Cards to 36 41 Drawing to...

Bluffs When There are More Cards to Come

When there are more cards to come, your bluffs should rarely be pure bluffs that is to say, bets or raises that have little or no chance of winning if you are called, even taking into account the cards you may get on future rounds. Instead your early-round bets should be semi-bluffs, those powerful, deceptive plays we looked at in detail in Chapters Eleven and Twelve. It is important to bluff occasionally on early rounds to keep your opponents off-balance. But why do it when you have only one...

Mathematical Expectation

Mathematical expectation is the amount a bet will average winning or losing. It is an extremely important concept for the gambler because it shows him how to evaluate most gambling problems. Using mathematical expectation is also the best way to analyze most poker plays. Let's say you are betting a friend 1, even money, on the flip of a coin. Each time it comes up heads, you win each time it comes up tails, you lose. The odds of its coming up heads are 1-to-1, and you're betting l-to- l....

Chapter Eighteen

The 1978 no-limit hold 'em world championship at the Horseshoe in Las Vegas came down to a battle between owlish Bobby Baldwin of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and sartorial real-estate magnate Crandall Addington of San Antonio, Texas. An hour before the championship ended. Addington had 275,000, and Baldwin, about half as much 145,000. Among the gamblers along the rail Addington was the clear favorite, but then came the hand that turned everything around. Acting first, Baldwin bet before the flop, and...

When to Fold and When to Raise

We have said, up to this point, that the two main defenses against the semi-bluff are simply giving up and folding, or raising. (In all cases we are assuming the pot is relatively small.) The question now is when to do the one and when to do the other. That is, when do you fold, and when do you raise Obviously when you have a very poor hand, you fold. When you have a big hand, you raise unless it's so big you want to slowplay and trap your opponent later. The difficult decisions occur when you...

Reducing Your Pot Odds With More than One Card to Come

Let's say you are playing hold 'em, and after the flop you have a four-flush that you are sure will win if you hit it. There are two cards to come, which improves your odds of making the flush to approximately l3 4-to-l. It is a 10- 20 game with 20 in the pot, and your single opponent has bet 10. You may say, I'm getting 3-to-l odds and my chances are l3 4-to-l. So I should call. However, the 13 4-to-l odds of making the flush apply only if you intend to see not just the next card, but the last...

The Fundamental Theorem of Poker

This example may also seem too obvious for serious discussion, but it is a general statement of some fairly sophisticated plays. Let's say in no-limit hold 'em you hold the You check, your opponent bets, and you call. Now the ace of diamonds comes on fourth street, and you bet, trying to represent aces. If your opponent knew what you had, his correct play would be to raise you so much it would cost too much to draw to a flush or a straight on the last card, and you would have to fold....

Mathematical Expectation in Poker

Poker plays can also be analyzed in terms of expectation. You may think that a particular play is profitable, but sometimes it may not be the best play because an alternative play is more profitable. Let's say you have a full house in five-card draw. A player ahead of you bets. You know that if you raise, that player will call. So raising appears to be the best play. However, when you raise, the two players behind you will surely fold. On the other hand, if you call the first bettor, you feel...

Pker Stars Pker Stars

Click this link to download and install PokerStars. Receive the maximum deposit bonus of 100 up to 600. Marketing Code PSP6964 possibly bet the hand on the end for the simple reason that your bet has absolutely no positive expectation. Since your four jacks are exposed for the world to see, your opponent will fold every hand he can have except four queens or a straight flush in hearts. With either of those hands, he will raise. So your bet has nothing to gain and everything to lose. This very...

Raising as a Means of Cutting Down Opponents Odds

To illustrate this important point, we'll examine a hand from five card draw poker. You have a pat flush the player to your right has nothing at all, and the player to your left has two pair. For the purposes of this illustration, we'll assume you know exactly what both opponents have. We'll also assume the betting limit is a flat 10 but that somehow a 100 pot has been created before betting gets under way. With the cards out, we'll say the chances of the two pair improving to a full house are...

Betting When Your Opponent is Correct to Call

At the same time, it would be incorrect not to bet at all with the best hand, even though you were 100 percent certain your opponent would make the correct play and call. By not betting, you are giving your opponent a free chance to make the best hand. Put another way, you are giving him infinite odds. Let's say the odds are 5-to-l against your opponent making a hand that beats yours. By betting 20 into a 150 pot, you are offering that player 872-to-l odds ( 170-to- 20), and so he is correct to...

Raising to Bluff or Semi Bluff

Raising as a pure bluff with a hand that has no chance of winning if called is a tricky play, too risky to be attempted often. It is usually done only when there are no more cards to come, often when you didn't make the hand you were hoping to make but are trying to convince your opponent you did. Presumably your opponent has a decent hand to bet into you and is reluctant to throw it away when you raise. In limit poker, raising as a pure bluff can succeed often enough to be profitable only...

Beyond Beginning Poker

The beauty of poker is that on the surface it is a game of utter simplicity, yet beneath the surface it is profound, rich, and full of subtlety. Because its basic rules are so simple, anyone can learn poker in a few minutes, and novice players may even think they're pretty good after a few hours. From the expert's point of view, the veneer of simplicity that deludes so many players into thinking they're good is the profitable side of the game's beauty. It doesn't take long for pool players or...

Analysis at the Table

Like any other gambling game, poker is a game of risks versus rewards. Any decision you make at the poker table can be thought of as a comparison of the risk involved in a particular play and the possible reward for the play. There are three questions involved in arriving at a decision How great is the risk How great is the reward Is the reward great enough to justify the risk When deciding whether to bluff, your risk is a bet. Your reward is the pot (as well as advertising value if you show...

First Position Play

When you are first to act with a legitimate hand, you have four options. One is to check with the intention of raising if your opponent bets. Another is to come out betting. The third is to check with the intention of calling if your opponent bets. And the fourth is to check and fold if your opponent bets. With very strong hands your options are to try a check-raise or to come out betting. The key factors in deciding whether to check-raise are 1.The chances your opponent will bet if you check....

Advantages of First Position

However, this point does bring out the fact that there are a few situations where it's advantageous to be first. In first or early position you get more check-raising opportunities. Furthermore, with a lock in first position you might win three bets by betting and reraising. Finally, you sometimes want to drive players out to make your hand stand up only raising in early position, before opponents have had the opportunity to call the first bet, can succeed in doing this. Nevertheless, these...

Using Mathematics to Read Hands

When you can't actually put a person on a hand but have reduced his possible hands to a limited number, you try to use mathematics to determine the chances of his having certain hands rather than others. Then you decide what kind of hand you must have to continue playing. Using mathematics is particularly important in draw poker, where your main clue to what an opponent might have is what you know about his opening, calling, and raising requirements. If, for example, you know an opponent will...

The Betting Limits

The first thing to consider about the betting limits is whether you can afford them. Even if you think you have much the best of it, you should not play in a game whose limits are so high in relation to your bankroll that you cannot play your hands correctly because you don't want to risk going broke. At the same time, when you think you have the best of it, you should play at the highest limits you can afford whenever possible. The excellent nohprofessional player Jay Heimowitz, from Monti...

Reading Hands

The ability to read hands may be the most important weapon a poker player can have. As the Fundamental Theorem of Poker suggests, the key mistake in poker is to play your hand differently from the way you would play it if you knew what your opponent had. The more often you play your hand correctly on the basis of what your opponent has the less you give up and the more you gain. If you somehow knew what your opponent had every time, you almost couldn't lose because you would always play...

Hourly Rate

As suggested in the coin-flip example at the opening of this chapter, hourly rate is closely related to expectation, and it is a concept especially important to the professional player. When you go into a poker game, you should try to assess what you think you can earn per hour. For the most part you will have to base your assessment on your judgment and experience, but you can use certain mathematical guidelines. For instance, if you are playing draw lowball and you see three players calling...

The Object of Poker

Whether you are playing 1-limit poker at the kitchen table or pot-limit poker at the Stardust in Las Vegas, whether you are playing poker for fun or for a living, once a week or every day, you have to understand that the object of the game is to make money. That's where the profits are. That's where the fun is. That's the way the game is scored. lack Straus, 1982 poker champion, has said he'd bust his own grandmother if she was in a pot with him, which is pretty much the only attitude a serious...

Evaluating the Game

Before sitting down, good poker players stop and evaluate the game, especially when they have many games to choose from as they do in Las Vegas, California, or New Jersey. However, a serious player should evaluate even a weekly private game before deciding whether to become a regular. There are two reasons for evaluating a game. One is to determine whether the game is worth playing. The second is to determine how to play in that particular game. When professional players consider whether a game...

Analysis in Theory

One of the most difficult things for the average poker player to do is to make accurate decisions at the game in the heat of a hand. Many good and bad players alike simply decide what they think their opponent has and then go on to determine their best play on the assumption that their opponent has the hand they're assuming he has. However, as we saw in the chapter on reading hands, this is a bad and potentially costly way of going about the business of decision-making. There is a better way,...

The Ethics of Check Raising

There are some amateur poker players who find something reprehensible about check-raising. They find it devious and deceitful and consider people who use it to be less than well-bred. Well, check-raising is devious and it is deceitful, but being devious and deceitful is precisely what one wants to be in a poker game, as is implied by the Fundamental Theorem of Poker. Checking with the intention of raising is one way to do that. In a sense, check-raising and slowplaying are the opposites of...

Small Antes

Not playing loose enough in high-ante games is a much less common problem among poker players than playing too loose in low-ante and average-ante games. When players in a game cry out, Here comes a live one, what they mean is, Here comes a player who plays too many pots, who always wants to get into the action, who doesn't consider the odds before calling, who calls to the end with next to nothing when two aces are staring him in the face. Put more succinctly, what they mean is, Here comes a...

Loose and Tight Play

Loose poker players play a large percentage of hands. They have relatively low starting requirements, and they continue in the pot with relatively weak hands. Tight players play a small percentage of hands. Their starting requirements are high, and they are quick to throw away weak hands that don't develop into big hands. Some players always play loose. Others always play tight. Good players adjust their play to the game. In Chapter Four we saw how the size of the ante relative to later bets is...

Summary

A bluff is a bet or raise with a hand you do not think is the best hand. With more cards to come, you should generally restrict yourself to semi-bluffs with hands that may become the best hand. When deciding whether to make a pure bluff, you estimate whether your chances of getting away with it are better than the pot odds you are getting. However, if there are more cards to come and you plan to continue to bluff, you must take into account your effective odds. On the end you should usually...

Optimum Bluffing Frequency

What is the right bluffing frequency It is a frequency that makes it impossible for your opponents to know whether to call or fold. Mathematically, optimal bluffing strategy is to bluff in such a way that the chances against your bluffing are identical to the pot odds your opponent is getting. Thus, if, as in the example just given, an opponent is getting 6-to-l from the pot, the chances against your bluffing should be 6-to-l. Then that opponent would break even on the last bet by calling every...