Dusty not buying Hellmuth’s advice

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Dusty Schmidt is one of my favorite poker writers. Since becoming a poker pro about 10 years ago, he has won millions in cash games.

In addition to being a featured columnist for “CardPlayer” magazine, he has authored two poker books, including “Don’t Listen to Phil Hellmuth.” (After wading through Hellmuth’s book, I agree with Dusty.)

I agree with Dusty that “overall the tight and aggressive approach is a good starting point.” Poor players – the losers – generally play too many hands. Based on my Hold’em Algorithm, on average, winners should expect to fold 75%-80% of the hands dealt to them, depending on betting position. As for playing aggressively (i.e. raising), I always recommend selective aggression.

Raise when it is to your best advantage to do so. There are many reasons for raising, such as when you start with a made hand and want to thin the playing field so your vulnerable big pocket pair will remain favored to win the pot. (With four or more opponents staying to see the flop, probability law decrees your A-A becomes an underdog.) Underdogs are losers!

As Dusty explains, your decision to play a starting-hand should depend on many factors, including your position, the players already in the pot, those in the blinds and the other players left to act. Essentially, know your opponents. What type of player is each. Tight? Loose? Passive? Aggressive? Maniac? Calling-station? Timid?

He probably should have added an important factor in playing your starting-hand is whether there have been any raises, as well as who made the raise and his position.

“Treat your poker like a business,” Dusty advises. For each hand, ask yourself: “Should I invest in this hand?”

What action will make the most profit for you? Sometimes raising, rather than just calling, is the best bet. Good advice. Dusty doesn’t say, but I would base that decision on the strength of my hand (of course, the nuts is best!), betting position, the cards on the board, and the number and types of players still in the pot.

With a monster hand, you should consider deceptive strategies such as check-raising, slow-playing, trapping and baiting your opponents, to build the pot.

Hellmuth’s book advocates playing extremely tight. “Super tight is right,” he declares. I prefer playing moderately tight, and using my tight image to bluff on occasion – until my bluff is called.

Dusty regards Hellmuth’s “top 10 starting hands” as playing much too tight. (I, too, have spoken out in disagreement with Hellmuth’s list.) Instead, Dusty recommends “a fairly conservative strategy for starting-hands that is not overly conservative.” I agree with most of his recommendations.

He lists a substantial number of “open-raising hands” depending on position. You can stay in with these starting hands, calling or raising depending on many factors (not discussed in his column). Instead of trying to memorize and recall these starting hand listings in the heat of battle, it is so much easier to use my Hold’em Algorithm.

Dusty closes his column with a super recommendation: “You can play pretty tight and make money playing poker, provided you are sitting in the right games. Observe the hands other winning players are playing… and think about why they play those hands. Use their strategy as a starting point for developing your own.”

My suggestion: Consider how they played those winning hands and the types of players involved.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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