Poker is a game of strategies – plans of actions designed to achieve specific goals. A tactic is the art or skill of using available means to achieve your goal – what steps you will take to accomplish it. How will you bring your strategy to fruition?
For example, you decide to try to bluff out your one remaining opponent in the hand; that’s your strategy. The most common tactic is making a big raise. Everyone understands and uses this tactic, even in low-limit games. A more subtle bluffing tactic is the Esther Bluff.
We focus on an advanced strategy. It’s “advanced” because it is not part of most poker players’ basket of strategies. This advanced Hold’em strategy involves holecards that are honors – ace down to 10 – but are still marginal drawing hands (as distinct from made hands or premium drawing hands).
Drawing hands usually must improve to take the pot. They could connect with the flop to make a powerful hand – perhaps a big straight or better – but are more likely to miss. Often, even if they do improve on the flop, they are second-best. That could be costly.
Here is a common example. You have been dealt K-J offsuit in a middle position. One opponent has called the big blind. Your turn to act. What are your options?
Of course, you don’t want to fold. After all, this is a strong starting hand and satisfies the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm, even in an early betting position. Most players will just call to see the flop. “Let me see what the flop brings.” Wrong decision in this situation. Better yet, you should raise!
Your goal at this point in the hand is to force out A-rag hands. (A “rag” is a small card – 7 down to deuce.) There is a good chance that A-rag hands will fold to your raise, especially if they have not yet made a preflop bet and are faced with a double-bet.
With nine players at the table, it is almost certain that at least one has an ace in the hole. One out of every 13 cards dealt is expected to be an ace with 18 dealt out for the players’ holecards – two per player. The odds are 18-to-13 (1.4-to-1) that at least one player has an ace in the hole. That’s better than even money (50-50).
What’s more, since you don’t hold an ace, then it’s even more likely an opponent does. Six out of 13 times, his hole card will be small (7 down to deuce). Most limit players like to play “Any-Ace,” no matter the kicker. So, about half the time (6 out of 13) you raise preflop against a player holding an ace, it will be Ace-rag.
Your preflop raise could very well have eliminated him from the competition. Now, when an ace falls on the board, that A-rag is no longer a threat to you. Of course, you can’t be sure. So play cautiously whenever an overcard to your holecards falls on the board.
One step further
Here’s where your betting tactics can make all the difference: To force out the A-rag, simply use the Esther Bluff, reinforced by the Richard B. Reverse Tell. (My co-columnist, George “The Engineer” Epstein has described these tactics in previous columns. If you missed those columns, just send him an e-mail asking for the descriptions of these tactics – George[email protected].) By using this advanced betting strategy, combined with the Esther Bluff, you have influenced luck in your favor. Expect to win more often and win more chips.
Contact Irene at [email protected].