Poker Betting Rhythms

During any poker hand, we could say that there are three different betting rhythms taking place, simultaneously.

• First, the rhythm you want to establish of yourself as a bettor and player over many hands (deliberate, decisive, thoughtful, and so on).

You seek to keep this pace going. It is «who you are» as a player, a pace you've been refining for years. It's the rhythm that accompanies your Lifetime Player Personality.

  • Secondly, the rhythm of the betting as it is currently going around the table, on this particular hand. Every player is betting very fast on this hand, for instance, and you may wish to make a statement within this rhythm - such as, «I won't be pushed around either», etc. It is often helpful to have your bets match the timing of other bets as they go around the table. Everyone checks, let's say. So perhaps you'd like to do this in the same rhythm as everyone else because this will help the players behind you come to the same conclusion; that is, to check.
  • Third, a «hesitate slightly» or «bet-slightly-quicker» rhythm that can augment your current hand, or whatever idea you're trying to represent.

We may notice that we do these three things in life too. We each have our overall personality, our place within a group discussion - where we fit ourselves into the rhythm of it - and the individual spin we put on a certain thing we say.

Good players merge all of the above rhythms seamlessly. Just as in a live game, online betting needs to stay in the rhythm of your own betting (your overall «player personality» rhythm) and within the rhythm of the other players' current betting rhythms, as well as adding a slight spin to what you are trying to represent at any given moment. Doing all these correctly helps gain an edge in online play.

Here are a couple more bet-timing examples:

  • It's at the end of a hand in Omaha high-low. It's heads-up. You're in early betting position, the five up cards are on the board, and you've missed your low draw and all you have for high is a pair of queens. If you check very quickly in a situation like this, you are going to give your opponent confidence to bet - in fact, you're practically inviting him to bet - whereupon you will probably have to fold because you don't have much of a high hand and no low hand at all. Pause four or five seconds, however, and if he has only a borderline hand himself (or nothing at all), this might give him pause. Whereupon he then checks too, for instance, and your pair stands up - and wins half the pot. See the relation here between bet-timing and winning money? It is a very real thing - not something theoretical.
  • When playing online, it is helpful to time your bets to match the length of time a person would likely be thinking about betting with the hand you're trying to represent. For instance, in the example above, you might hesitate as long as it takes a person to think: «Well, I've got half the pot won - but I'm not sure; maybe I should just check». This thought took a certain length of time. You should match your hesitation to the length of time it would take to think it.
  • Or let's say you make a full house on the last card. You hesitate, as if thinking, a little bit worried, then you bet forcefully. This might look to an opponent like a «trying-to-push-you-out» type bet. What you're going for is the duration of time it would take a person to think: «Heck, I missed my hand. Well, I'm going to bet it anyway». These thoughts all have a certain «time length» to them. Consider what they are, and match your pauses to them.
  • The following is one of the worst timing mistakes that is made in online poker: Whenever you check very quickly in early position, this tells the players who are yet to act, «Well, there's one player I don't have to worry about».

For that's what your opponents are doing at the other end of the table - they're eliminating players around the table, crossing them off the list of who they don't have to worry about. Suppose the following situation:

Three players see the flop in hold'em. The flop comes all one suit. You instantly check in early position. To the second player to act, this tells him: «Well, the first player doesn't have it - I only have to get past one other player to win this pot».

Alternately, let's say you instantly check in early position, and so does the next player, right behind you. What does this tell the third player? It tells him to bet. A better idea? Always insert a four or five second delay before acting in early position.

In general, any time you plan to check in a hand, you ought to pause a little. This pause doesn't have to be long or dramatic. If you put in a reasonable pause at this point, it can give opponents the idea that you have some kind of hand, and it can stop them from betting, and possibly induce a «check» that will give you one more free card to get your hand home.

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