Playing strong hand simple as ABC
April 11, 2017 3:00 AM
by George Epstein
“ABC” poker is playing in a straightforward manner; don’t get fancy. Its main focus is playing strong starting-hands, folding the weak ones.
I will soon be teaching a new Texas hold’em poker class for seniors 50 and over. This will be a first for the Freda Mohr Multipurpose Senior Center in Los Angeles. During the six class sessions, 1.5 hours each, the class will learn about my version of ABC poker; call it ABC+ poker.
It could very well turn an average player – usually a loser – into a consistent winner. There are five key topics. We will discuss the first three in this column – Part I, and the last two topics in Part II. Here is an is an overview of class sessions.
A – Starting-Hand Selection: Probably your most important decision is whether to pay to see the flop. Everyone knows some holecards are better than others. The higher their rank, the more likely to end up as the best hand – and winning the pot.
With 169 possible starting-hands, it’s your job to decide which should be mucked and which are worth your investment to see the flop. You are anxious to see the flop, as it will represent over 70 percent of your final hand.
To best make that decision, use the Hold’em Algorithm. It provides a point score that avoids guessing and makes it easier to take appropriate action. The score is based on the rank of your two holecards; whether connectors and/or suited; and your position. Other factors: Texture of the game; how many opponents stay to see the flop; and whether an opponent makes a raise.
We also warn against Hi-Lo hands, one honor card and one small card (7 down to deuce) in the hole. On the flop, these are more likely to pair up (if they improve at all), leading to either a dominated hand or a weak (low) pair. Dangerous to your poker health.
Playing tight before the flop is prudent. Starting with a strong hand, you have a much better chance of winning the pot.
B – Improving on the Flop: On the flop, the dealer places three cards face-up on the board – community cards, shared by all players. Your hand might improve to a “made hand,” one that could win without further improvement. More often, it will become a drawing hand that needs to improve further to win the pot. Now, count your outs: How many cards remain unseen that would make your hand?
Example: From a late position, you see the flop with K-J, both hearts; and you catch two more hearts for a four-flush. You need one more heart for the big flush – a made hand. There are nine more unseen hearts in the deck; those are your outs. (We won’t consider the three remaining unseen Kings.) At this point, Basic Poker Math comes into play.
C – Basic Poker Math: What are the odds of catching the King-high flush? An estimate is quite adequate, using the 4-2 Rule. If you plan to see both the turn and river, multiply your outs by 4. Thus, 4 x 9 = 36. That’s the approximate percentage of the time you will catch the fifth heart to make your King-high flush.
You can expect to miss 64 percent (100 - 36) of the time. So, the ratio of misses-to-hits is 64 ÷ 36 or 1.8-to-1 against you. For convenience, let’s round it up to 2-to-1. These are your card odds. Then estimate the number of chips in the pot; say there are 40.
To see the turn, you have to call a 4-chip bet. Your pot odds are 40-to-4 or 10-to-1, much higher than your card odds (2-to-1), so you should call that bet. In the long run, it will pay off. You have a Positive Expectation.
Part II: The art of bluffing and knowing/reading your opponents.