You are in complete control when playing poker
August 08, 2017 3:00 AM
by George Epstein
Playing Texas hold’em, each player is dealt two downcards – the two cards in the hole. Only you can decide whether to fold or invest your money (chips) in those two cards – to call or make a raise. You are in complete control. How you make those decisions depends on your skill level – knowing when to fold, bet or raise before the flop, weighing your options and making the right decision – the choice that is in your best interests. Only you are in control. The same applies throughout the hand. You are in control of your hand.
But, there is yet another aspect of control. Yes, being in control of your own hand is important but perhaps more important is to be in control of the game. How? Just be the aggressor more often, and the other players will become hesitant as to whether to bet into you – leaving you in control of the game.
It also helps if you have high piles (or racks) of chips in front of you. That implies you are a big winner. Your opponents take note of this, and give you lots of respect. They may even fear you; that’s a natural emotion. The net result is they hesitate to bet into you. What’s more, they are more likely to fold their marginal hands – and muck their cards when you bet out or raise, even if it’s an outright bluff. You are in control of that game.
Early in the session, it’s best to do your aggressive raising when you have a strong drawing hand – one with lots of solid outs. Occasionally, a brave spirit will bounce back at you, perhaps even re-raise. With lots of outs, you have a decent chance of catching a better hand. How will he feel when you turn up the winning hand on the showdown? Won’t he be surprised – and angry with himself! “Why did I get so involved with him?” he asks himself. Gazing at you, he ponders: “That guy must have some magic power.” From then on, he gives you even more respect and often succumbs to your bluff bet while holding a decent hand.
Being in complete control of that game, you have a huge edge over most of your opponents at the table. They become more hesitant in playing their drawing hands against you, even with lots of outs. You could win the pot by default when they muck their cards; also, that gives you a less costly chance to catch the monster hand for which you were hoping.
But, don’t get too euphoric. The time will come when an opponent catches the nuts on the flop. He stayed to see the flop with A-J suited, and the flop came down with three more of his suit. He has the nut flush. No matter how well you display your aggressive nature, he is bound to call – or raise – you all the way to the showdown. When that happens – and sooner or later it will – you better slow down and play ABC poker.
Alternatively, now that others have observed you are only human, and vulnerable just like everyone else, you are less likely to have control of the game. Others will call your raises much more often. This may very well be a good time to take a short break from that table. (Your opponents’ memories are short.) Or, you might even ask for a table change. If so, when you go to the new table with racks of chips, the other players will quickly observe this and give you lots of room; they will respect you and more often fold their cards when you make a raise. And, once again, your bluffs will be quite successful. (Note: Never show your hand unless you must.)
You could do this all evening, throughout your session. Net result: You go home a big winner! Being in control of both your own hand, the betting, and your opponents’ responses during the game is a great way to accomplish your goal.