Many poker players forget why they play poker- to make a profit. It’s easy to get caught up in winning and losing, streaks and ruts, big hands and great moments. But amidst all the excitement, some lose sight of the fact that they need to play a fundamentally sound game in order to consistently win. Poker, like many games of chance, can be reduced to mathematical expressions and calculations with relative ease. Give a skilled player the basic picture of a hand you’ve played at some point in your career, and he can tell you exactly what your expected value was on all streets of play. In other words, he can tell you, mathematically, whether or not you should have won, whether or not you played to maximize your profit, and whether or not you could have done anything differently. All because of math.
More math. If pot odds haven’t convinced you that math is your friend, implied odds surely will. Especially when playing no-limit forms of poker, a player wants to be very conscious of his implied odds at all times, seeing as they will dictate exactly how much value can be extracted from a given situation at all points in a hand.
Like pot odds, implied odds deal with the ratio of potential winnings to investment. However unlike pot odds, implied odds consider potential winnings on all future streets in a hand, instead of just one. Why is this important?
Continued from last post, playing LAG is another strategy advice that high-stakes players should ignore in microstakes games.
Tons of high-stakes guys advocate a LAG style of play. Basically, LAG style dictates that a player should loosen his preflop range from all positions, and should overwhelm opponents with pure aggression. This is a good strategy against weak-tight players. However, lots of microstakes players find themselves getting sucked into the trap of overdoing LAG against loose-passive or weak-passive players. This can be a huge leak, and can cut into profits significantly.
A lot of players like to look up to high-stakes players for strategy advice. There’s nothing wrong with that per se. However, there is a fine line between taking advice into consideration, and misapplying it. As a player, you must always remember to tailor your strategy to the types of opponents you will be playing. I’m sure you can imagine the skill difference between a high-stakes pro, and a gambler at 25NL.
Whenever you read strategy, you need to take into consideration who it was meant for. Advanced metagame concepts aren’t going to apply to basic games full of non-thinking players. Here are a few strategy items in particular that you should be weary of applying to the lower limits.
The conventional wisdom regarding the c-bet basically states that a good bet size should always be around 2/3rds of the pot. It’s okay to follow this rule at first. It’s generally profitable. However once your post-flop skill starts developing, you’ll want to tailor your bet sizes to the types of players you’re up against in different situations.
Against very poor players (who will be the majority of your opponents at low levels) you want to play in a manner that maximizes your value. Meaning, bet big when you have a good hand, and bet small when you don’t. Bad players are not paying attention to your strategy, and usually do not even realize there is strategy involved in poker at all. Do not be afraid of scaring players out of the pot by betting big. It simply doesn’t happen like that.
A lot of you reading this article probably have a good idea of how to play solid preflop poker. Maybe you’re ready to take your game to the next level. After all, following hand charts can make you money, but it sure can get boring pretty quick. The key to unlocking bigger profits in Hold’em, as many pros will tell you, is learning to play great postflop poker.
You’ll find that once you can dominate postflop, you can worry less about the cards you play preflop. Postflop skill is kind of like a magic bullet, allowing you to constantly outwit your opponents regardless of your holdings. The first step to mastering postflop Hold’em is learning how to use a betting technique called the continuation bet.
As you surely know by now, great Hold’em players don’t wait for good cards to start making money. It’s possible to squeak out a marginal profit doing so, but good players have realized that you don’t need good cards to beat most of your opponents.
Drive this inti your head: people are dumb. It sounds crude, but it’s true. People don’t think about the decisions they make when playing cards. Most just want to gamble. Some have been deluded by ESPN into thinking their gambling will eventually make them money. Any way you put it, the vast majority of poker players make terrible decisions on all streets. While they may not have a common strategy, most bad players do have two common traits. First, they only play hands based on the cards they hold. Second, they don’t think about their postflop play.
It’s very simple. Raise. If you are going to play a hand preflop, make sure you raise it. Take control. Force your opponents into situations they would rather not be in. They will play horribly in the face of a tough decision.
If nobody has raised ahead of you and you hold a strong hand you’d like to play, raise 3 times the big blind plus one big blind per limper. 3 times the big blind plus one big blind per limper has become a standard preflop raise size, as it strikes a nice balance between value and fold equity.
Now that you have a handle on starting hand selection, you already have an edge in most microstakes games. If you’re looking to drastically increase that edge, and consequentially your profits, learning to use preflop aggression properly is key.
Preflop aggression is often regarded as the first ‘secret concept’ of poker strategy. This may seem like a bold statement. A ‘secret concept’… How cheesy. Surely, lots of players know about preflop aggression, particularly those playing higher limits.
The basic goal of a poker player is, or should be, to always make decisions with a positive expected value. In other words, to minimize the amount of money one puts into pots while “behind”, and to maximize value from pots in which one is “ahead”. Many beginning micro stakes grinders find this concept elusive. The main objection being, that most players at the lowest limits are so bad, no amount of strategy can ever prevent opponents from getting lucky and winning.