Imagine you're watching a major-league pitcher known for his blazing fastball. Up to the plate walks an opposing batter. Wham! Strike one is a high fastball on the inside corner. Wham! Strike two is a another fastball, waist-high on the outside part of the plate. The batter hunkers down and wonders where the next fastball is going. Oops. The next pitch is a sharply breaking curve. The batter lunges, but his timing is off. Strike three.
Now imagine you're watching a tennis match at Wimbledon. The server blasts a ball to the backhand side of the court. His opponent returns the ball with difficulty. The server blasts another shot to the same area. The opponent again returns the ball, moving even closer to the service line. Now the server flips a drop shot to the opposite side of the court. His opponent runs across the court but can't quite reach the ball. Game, set, match.
Like these two examples, poker is a game of misdirection. There are several styles in which no-limit hold 'em can be played. In this chapter, we'll describe the styles and show you how to play each way. Depending on your personality, one of these styles will appeal to you more than the others, and you'll adopt it as your basic approach to the game. However, no matter which style you adopt, you'll discover that you will make your easiest money when you make plays that are the opposite of your normal style. As in baseball and tennis, it's the plays in your normal style that will set up big wins when you switch to a different style. Keep that in mind as we work our way through the different approaches to no-limit hold 'em.
For a conservative investor in the equity markets, the most important consideration is capital preservation, utilizing low-risk instruments like bonds and dividend-paying stocks. A conservative approach to no-limit hold 'em works the same way. The emphasis is on preserving your stack by using a set of defensive strategies:
In the early days of no-limit Texas hold 'em, the game was almost entirely played as a money game (also known as a ring game), starting in Texas and Louisiana and only gradually moving to the casinos in Las Vegas. (Tournament play evolved later, and very slowly. For many years the World Series of Poker was the only no-limit hold' em tournament in the world.) Money game no-limit hold 'em rules differ from the tournament version in only one respect: the level of the blinds, once established, never increases. Since players almost always buy in for an amount equal to several hundred times the blinds, there is no need to play a lot of hands or to make any great effort to steal the blinds (except to set up future situations). Optimal money strategy is to simply lay back and wait to score on your occasional big hands.
When experienced money players made the occasional move into tournaments, they naturally brought their conservative strategies with them, and what I'm calling the conservative style became the accepted "correct" way of playing in the 1970s and the early 1980s.
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