“How Can I Win?” That was the question posed to me by a gentleman who was also waiting for a table here at my favorite Heavenly Poker Starry-Eye casino.
“I play here once a week,” he sadly said, “and hardly ever go home a winner. I have played at the same table with you, and it seems you win most of the time. Can you share some of your secrets?”
He was a nice man and, since I play only for recreation and was in a giving mood, I decided to bestow upon him some general advice. Besides, I enjoy talking about “winning poker.”
“Well,” I said, “if you promise not to share what I tell you with others, I’ll enlighten you.” Of course, he readily agreed. “Just between you and me,” he nodded, smiling.
A matter of logic: So, here’s what I told him. “There are nine players at the table. If everyone has the same skill, in the long run all will have the same luck and win their fair share of hands.
“With the casino rake, bad-beat jackpot drop, and tip to dealer, it figures to cost you about $20 each hour of play. On that basis, everyone goes home poorer. So, to make up for that ‘overhead cost,’ you have to be more skilled – a better player – than the others.
“If you start with any two hole cards, one out of three times they will improve on the flop – no matter how good or poor your hole cards are. Poor hole cards are just as likely to improve as good ones; but the good starting hand that has improved almost always beats out the improved poor ones. So it’s logical you must start out with good hole cards.
“Of course, you can’t just wait for made hands and premium hands; they are so rare. The blinds would kill you. I use the Hold’em Algorithm to help me make that decision.
“When you do flop a decent hand, it’s usually vulnerable; an opponent could easily draw out against you. And, we all know second-best is costly. The only way you can protect your vulnerable hand is by betting or raising.
“It also helps to know your opponents – what kind of player each is. Then you can better judge and read their hands. And then you can make better decisions as to how to play against them – call, bet, raise or fold. It’s OK to fold a big pair when you are 90% certain your opponent has a better hand.”
My final bit of advice: “If you never bluff, you are bound to be a loser. You are playing much too tight. Your opponents soon realize this and will fold when you have a strong hand – so you win smaller pots than you could have won with that hand.”
About that time, my poker friend was called to his table. As he left me, he smiled and said, “I owe you a nice dinner.”
Of course, there is more: By then I had pretty much covered most of what I could tell him to improve his poker results. Oh, I might have told him about how best to bluff – using the Esther Bluff tactic; how to steal pots and how/when to slow-play/trap and check-raise his opponents so he could win bigger pots.
And I might have told him about value betting to build the size of the pot he expected to win with a monster hand. And I could have told him how to estimate his card odds (using the 4-2 Rule) and then quickly determine if he had a Positive Expectation when having to call a bet with a drawing hand.
Sure, there was much more I could have told him, but I think he had more than enough for now. Hopefully it will be enough to help him go home a winner this session, assuming he had his fair share of good luck.
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