Finishing up the ABC's of poker
April 18, 2017 3:00 AM
by George Epstein
ABC+ poker – Part II
Last week in Part I, we presented an overview of the first three key elements (A, B, and C) for becoming a winner in Texas hold’em: A – Starting-hand selection; B – Improving on the flop; and C – Basic poker math. Now, we will discuss the fourth and fifth (D and E) elements essential for winning consistently.
(Note: These are key topics to be taught at the new Poker for Seniors classes I will soon be teaching at the Freda Mohr Multipurpose Senior Center in Los Angeles.)
D – Bluffing
Using the example we introduced in Part I, after the flop you hold four hearts, and hope to make a King-high-flush. Four out of five times you will miss on the turn. In that case, you still have your four-to-the-flush, and now need one more heart on the river to have the winning hand.
There are two opponents remaining in the pot against you. The Big Blind checks. Glancing at your notes, he is not a deceptive player. He may hold a small pair, perhaps a lonely Ace, but nothing exciting in the hole. Still, if you just check along, his small pair or Ace-high hand beats your King-high. The best chance you have to win this pot is by bluffing. Fortunately, you are familiar with the Esther Bluff tactic and use it to reinforce your bluff; actually, it’s a semi-bluff. There is a good chance it will succeed.
E – Knowing the Enemy
There are two parts to this key element: Knowing each of your opponent’s playing traits; and the ability to “read” (guess with a high degree of skill) his most likely hands.
First, be aware of the most common playing traits: tight, loose, aggressive, passive, deceptive (often bluffs, check-raises, traps, or slow-plays). Other traits: Your opponent may also be inclined to chase with only a few outs; or, he may be a calling-station. This information can be invaluable when deciding how best to play your hand against a player whose playing traits are known to you.
Give serious thought to folding your drawing hand when a tight player raises before you.
If it’s a deceptive player who has just raised the pot, consider calling or re-raising with a half-way decent hand. Do not try to bluff out a calling-station.
Always look for tells; they can be valuable clues about your opponent’s hand and how he plans to play it when he acts behind you. Example: If a tight player behind you, picks up a pile of chips, he is about to bet or raise. Muck your hand unless you have a super holding or lots of good outs.
The pros often speak of “reading” an opponent’s hand. What do you think he may be holding? It may be a range of hands. Yes, it’s a guess; but if you consider how he has played his hand up to this point, and the type of player he is, you may have a pretty good idea as to the strength of his hand. If you can beat most of this range, then a call is in order when he bets out. Again, consider his playing traits. A deceptive player is a better candidate for calling his bet on the river. A tight player is bound to be dangerous.
There may well be other considerations in making your decision in each case. It depends on the situation. For example, if your opponent is low in chips, he could be taking a wild shot at the pot. If he is on tilt, he could be betting on almost anything.