I was at a local
sporting goods franchise store today looking for some workout equipment.
What do I bump into but a display of Texas Hold'em kits, complete
with chips, cards and a green felt cloth. Apparently, lots of fitness
jocks are also turning into poker jocks.
Chances are, a
fair share of you have been playing a little "know-when-to-hold'em/when-to-fold'em"
lately yourselves. To win at any kind of poker, though, you need to
use your head. You need to know exactly why you're doing what you're
Poker isn't like
blackjack. In blackjack, you get dealt a hand and you basically just
recall the proper play for that hand from memory. But in poker, the
proper play depends upon who your opponents are and what they've done
in the hand thus far. Because of that, you're constantly creating
your own strategy, and it better be based on some sound logic if you
hope to come out a winner.
It might well
be that in Hold'em, for example, you should raise before the flop
with a pair of pocket 10s and it may be that you should fold
them. Here's an example of each case.
in about the middle of the table and there's just been one call coming
to you. The call was made by an "action" player who will
pay to see a lot of flops. Well, your hand is probably better than
his and the two or three players behind you, so your correct move
is to raise.
Now suppose that
from that same seat it's been raised and then re-raised coming to
you. Furthermore, the two raisers are tight players who you judge
would throw away hands like 7/7 or Q/J from any early seat. Well,
there just isn't much left that your pocket 10s can beat -- and if
one or two high cards flop you can't even call a bet. So just muck
your 10s and don't put yourself in a trick bag.
The same goes
for any kind of poker. You always need to reason what you realistically
hope to accomplish, then take that course of action. Let's say you're
playing straight old 7 Card Stud.
You came into
the hand raising with that same pair of 10s. Now on fifth street (the
5th card), you have 7-10 / 10-3-8 while your opponent shows ?-? /
5-9-5 and bets. Even though you can beat what you can see, you have
to fold! There's just too great a chance that he called your initial
raise with a pair of 5s and now has trips. If he doesn't have trip
5s, he may have started with, say, pocket 4s still giving him two
pair. After all, he had to have something to call your raise with.
to understand that if his board was 9-5-5 instead, you could call
because the best he should have at this point is 9s and 5s
and that you have a decent chance to beat. Always have an understanding
of why you're doing what you're doing.
Let's say you're
playing Omaha Hi/Lo. Suppose you've got A-2-8-9 and the flop comes
7-10-K with two spades. You don't have any spades, but you do have
an open-end straight draw and a back door shot at the nut low.
The turn card
(4th board card) is the Jack of spades, making your straight
but the first player bets right out. You must fold! When three of
a suit hit the board in Omaha, somebody usually has the flush. Even
if not, your straight can be beaten by a 9/Q or an A/Q in somebody
else's hand. And since the turn card was a "brick" (9 or
higher), you can no longer make a qualifying low (8 or better).
You cannot call
a bet here, but you can probably go ahead and make a bet if you're
first to act. That's because your bet will look just as scary to your
opponents if they don't have a flush as it would look to you. They
just might fold a 9/Q or an A/Q. It's probably worth one bet since
it might win you a whole pot.
Poker is a game
of odds and logic. At the beginning of the hand you use the odds to
pick a good starting hand. As the play progresses, you use logic to
determine what is, what can be and where your hand fits into that.
You need to ask yourself questions throughout the hand, and the accuracy
of your answers will ultimately determine your fortune.