July 19, 2008

Texas Holdem Tip #15 - Texas Holdem Is Not Fair

Recently I was playing texas holdem and faced a situation that is not uncommon to frequent players. I was at a table with aggressive opponents. I sat on the button and had pocket aces. Several players called to me and a made a 4BB raise. All but two opponents folded.

The flop was a rainbow with 3 7 Q. I made a pot sized bet and one opponent folded while the other called. The turn brought an ace leaving the rainbow in tact. I made another pot sized bet and was called.

The river was a 5. I made another pot sized bet which would have put my opponent all in and expected a fold. The opponent called and showed 4 6 offsuit giving him a straight!

Several thoughts went through my head. How could someone risk so much with junk? He never even made an aggressive play to bluff with it. What kind of idiot would play a hand like this? Clearly texas holdem is not fair. But that is the problem and the opportunity for us.

Psychologists have found that individuals feel the pain of loss 3 times more than the pleasure of gain. If we flip a coin for $1 and you lose, you will feel 3 times worse than if you had won. If we flip again and you win, you will likely still feel bad even though you are back to even. The loss stings more than the victory lifts you. Applying this to poker, if you win and lose your “fair share”, you will likely feel bad about the losses. This is why players go on tilt after a “bad beat”.

How do we use this to improve our game? Realize that texas holdem is NOT fair. You are going to have some bad beats. Even if you play top quality high probability holdem, you will still lose a lot of hands. Fairness has NOTHING to do with texas holdem. This game is about survival. Accept this and you will make better decisions unclouded by negative emotions.

Accept all losses as just a part of the game. Use this texas holdem tip to win more money! See you at the tables …

July 10, 2008

Texas Holdem Tip #14 - Call From The Small Blind

There are time when you do not have to have a premium hand to make a solid bet. One such instance that occurs frequently is when you are sitting in the small blind with several players limping into the pot.

Suppose you are playing $1/$2 Texas Holdem from the small blind position with a weak hand and 4 limpers in front of you. At that moment there is $11 in the pot and you only have to bet $1 to play assuming that the big blind just calls. You only need to win 1 out of 12 to make this pay, so you should call with just about any 2 hole cards.

The odds justify this play and the flop will determine your odds for the next round of betting. This is a great example of being flexible with your poker play. If your opponents are going to let you get a cheap look at some additional cards, take advantage of their mistakes!

Use this Texas Holdem tip to increase your wins the next time you play. See you at the tables …

June 23, 2008

Texas Holdem Tip #13 - Think Flexibly.

This Texas Holdem Tip deals a little bit with the psychology of the game. Sometimes a player will go “on tilt” after becoming frustrated. They may not have been getting any playable cards for several hands. Or perhaps they have just had what they feel is a “bad beat”. Once agitated, they begin to make bad poker decisions. Often after a bad beat, a player will try to win it all back in the very next hand!

The problem is that the player had decided what to do before seeing the cards or understanding the situation. It is important to be disciplined and have a solid poker system, but this must be adaptable to the situation.

I’ll give an example from my own poker playing. A couple of nights ago I was playing multiple tables online. I was very focused on playing premium hands so that I could manage multiple tables profitably. At one table, I noticed that most of the players were just calling the big blind so that they could see the flop. I changed tactics and began to bet aggressively IF I was the first one to raise. Doing this, I took 6 of the next 11 pots without showing a single card. In the last hand, three players decided that I must be bluffing and called. After the flop came down, I fired a pot sized bet and they all folded to my 2-7 offsuit. Knowing that they had caught on, I went back to playing premium hands. If I had decided to stick rigidly to the “rules”, I would have missed out on 6 pots!

Suppose I have a pair of nines in late position. Normally I would bet aggressively with this hand. But, facing a raise and reraise from solid players in front of me, I would fold without hesitation.

The point is this: you cannot pre-decide whether or not you will play a particular hand without seeing the cards and understanding the situation. Your texas holdem play must flexibly adapt to your situation. Thinking flexibly is NOT an excuse to play undisciplined poker. It IS about recognizing when altering your play can be very profitable.

(By the way, a player on tilt who tries to win it back in the next hand is often a good candidate to call with any decent cards. There is a good chance you will knock them out of the game.)

See you at the tables …