Some poker advice can hurt your game

Jan 19, 2016 3:00 AM

So often I hear or read poker advice that may – or may not – be sound. Just because he calls himself a poker pro does not necessarily mean his advice is 100% correct.

“But he seemed so sure of himself,” you say. Yes, he may actually believe his advice is on the money. But is it?

So you decided to take his advice and won a good-size pot. Just because that strategy worked for you – that time – does not necessarily mean it was correct.

My advice to you: No matter whence the advice comes, accept it only if there is a good reason that clearly explains its logic. Think it out. Don’t just blindly risk your precious chips on it. Otherwise, it may cost you dearly in the long run.

A recent column in a popular poker magazine involved advice with which I only partly agree.

In my humble opinion, the columnist never gave a good reason for it. I have long learned there should be a viable reason for every decision or action. (By the way, this applies to life as well as poker. After all, the game of poker is a microcosm of life.)

In his column, the pro would have you raise preflop with A-K, A-A, K-K and Q-Q, and call (no raising) with several hands, including K-Q. I agree in part but also disagree to a significant extent. He offers no viable reasons for this choice. (In all fairness to him, that may not have been his intent.) Here are my reasons:

• I agree made hands preflop (A-A, K-K, and Q-Q) should be raised.

My reason is based on probability law. Simply stated, these particular hands are favored to win the hand if there are not too many opponents staying to see the flop.

For example, pocket aces is about an 80% favorite over each opponent, but becomes an underdog against four or more opponents. Raise to thin the field. Here we agree.

• I totally disagree with the pro’s advice to raise preflop with A-K (Big Slick). Many poker players may disagree with me; but, I’ll give you my reasons for this strategy:

Your raise with A-K in the hole may induce opponents with A-rag to fold. But, aren’t those the very players you would like to play against? 

Everyone loves aces. Many will play Ace-anything. Starting with A-K, if an ace hits the board your king kicker takes the hand – unless he pairs his kicker, but so might you, winning the pot. (Note: Starting with A-K, on average, in the long run, an ace or a king will flop one out of three times.)

Those opponents holding an ace with a smaller kicker than yours would have been calling (or betting) all the way to the showdown – helping to build “your” pot – had you not (mistakenly) forced them out by raising before the flop.

Your goal should be to win as many chips as possible. Forcing out hands over which you dominate is hardly the way to do it.

Furthermore, by raising preflop, your opponents are alerted to the likelihood you have a big hand. Then, when an ace flops and you make the bet, they promptly fold their drawing hands or perhaps even medium/small pairs, so you lose the opportunity to garner more chips from them.

• Lastly, I disagree when the pro suggests you should not raise – call only – with K-Q in the hole.

My reason: Raising is the only way you can hope to force out opponents with A-rag – hands that would beat you when an ace falls on the board, while you have caught a pair of kings. Second-best can be costly!

Our message to our GT readers is pure and simple: Before accepting another player’s advice at the poker table, be sure there is a good reason for it – with sound logic. Just take my word for it.

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