I never claimed to be an expert at poker, in fact I don’t play very well at all most of the time. I don’t think I have the love of the game or the focus for long periods of time. I know HOW to play well, but putting that knowledge to good use is another thing. Just like a baseball scout may never good at baseball, or good enough to make a pro, college or even amateur team. What we do have in common is seeing common traits in players good and bad. Being able to recognize those traits and habits is easier from the outside looking in. Also seeing long term success from some players and seeing the methods they use to get there. There also is no one way to play the game to be successful, tight aggressive, loose passive, most of the time its just picking your spots and making the most of them. Limit games, no limit games, tournaments, pot limit games, all of them have their own strategies and methods.
Most of the players that are passionate about the game will read and learn from magazines, blogs, articles and everything they can get their hands on about poker. This is a great way to learn, but the best way to learn is experience. So taking this knowledge from every angle and using it effectively is the best way to learn. The very very good players that I see play a lot, when I say a lot I mean A LOT. I’m not saying quit your job and sell everything you own to become a poker player, but realize that you have to put some time in to learn all the ebbs and flows of the game and learn to take every situation that comes at you and learn from it and prosper. This article will not be for those that know the game very well, this article is for the average players that are wondering why they play so much and success eludes them. I’ve compiled a list of things I notice that great players are doing that the average player is not. So without further adieu here is the list:
- Value betting-its common for players to get gun shy, that third suit hits the river and they are so used to someone making the flush they check hoping they don’t have it. In a 5 way pot with heavy action yes the flush is probably there, and with multiway action a draw or better hand is likely. But if you are heads up with top pair or better why are you afraid? Whats the worst that can happen, it’s not like you are throwing your whole stack away. A value bet is something that you want your opponent to call with a weaker hand, they’ve gone this far , they will probably call you. It’s called value because in the long run you will make money on it. If they check raise or raise you can get away from a value bet. If they have a draw and missed they will fold, great! Why? You don’t have to show your hand and give out information to the table. Which brings me to my next point.
- QUIT GIVING INFORMATION-I stress this because it’s such a common thing I see in average and bad players. Showing your hand when you don’t need to. You bet the river, guy folds and you show the nuts or a pair or whatever. Playing your hands in poker is a pretty standard thing that most people can learn. Reading and learning your opponent is the hard part. You sit down at a table and try and figure out what everyone has, or how they play or what they do in certain situations may take hours or days or years depending on who you play with. If you show every hand you win, or every hand you missed in disgust you are giving everyone at the table a FREE lesson on how you play certain hands. I realize showing the nuts a couple times, or showing a bluff can help set up tricky plays later on and that’s a different story. I’m talking about the player that wants to say “I had it” just to prove what? And always the guy that has to show every missed draw or pocket aces beaten just to say “I’m so unlucky, why me?”. Thanks for the free info buddy. Another way of giving out information is turning your hand over when you don’t need to. A player bets the river and you call, WAIT for him to show first, if he beats you then muck. I see so many players call and then immediately turn their hand over. Why? Again you are giving unnecessary info. Know the house rules on who shows their hands first, never offer up your hand if its not your turn to show. Position also means that you show last on a checked river, just another reason to play hands in position, which brings me to my next point.
- Quit playing hands out of position-It’s such a common point stressed over and over in every book, magazine and forum online. Position, position, position. They can’t be more right, position plays such a huge role in how every hand is played. Tighten up in early position and loosen up later. The average player sees a hand they want to play and they play it, kind of like at a bar you see a hot girl you want to meet so you go after it. Would you go after her with her husband on her arm? No. Just let it go. On the button, then go get that girl. Your odds are better in position, and your ability to win more or lose less with the same hand.
- Ace rag-WHY? seriously any ace? I snapped those kings off with my ace rag so many times! How many times were you outkicked and lost the maximum with them too? Enough said.
- Underbetting-Watch what the common bets are for a table, see what amounts are good. Quit throwing bets so small any draw has odds to get there. Especially in tournaments because they not only have odds to get there but odds to get a value bet out of you on the river. Be careful though I’m not telling you to overbet which is next.
- Overbetting-This is another one that really, really costs a lot of bad and average players a ton of money. Blinds are 200/400 and the pot is 1600 and you shove for 10000? Why? are you afraid of getting drawn out on? Do you think you will get called by any hand ? First if you get drawn out on after you fire a pots size bet of 1600 you still have 8400 left and are still playing the tournament! If you push all in 5 times in this situation you still won’t make up for the 1 time you get called and get felted. Same with cash games, there is $40 in the pot and someone pushes for $200. Why are you risking so much? When the only hands that call will be great draws where its a coin flip and hands that beat you? If you have the nuts why not milk someone for more money? Players lose so much value by overbetting, I know it’s easy to talk about but I see it every single day over and over and over. Another overbet that’s not so obvious is raising the big blind 8x or 10x or higher. Blinds are 25/50 and most people raise 2x to 2.5x the blinds. Not our bad players, they want to raise to 250 or 500. Why risk so much? Its about risk vs reward. The very, very good tourney players I see are raising just over double. Blinds are 800/1600 they are raising to 3300 or 3500, it will push out the same players that wouldn’t call 16000 as well and you haven’t put a huge part of your stack in. Whats the worst that can happen? You get reraised? So you lost damn near the minimum. Trust me, these guys are good and have a lot of success. Frankly you don’t.
- Check-raising- It’s another thing I see the high level players doing almost every hand, and the average player not doing enough or at all.
- Raising for information-Why do you raise? To make the pot bigger! That’s not all. Most people have heard this before, raise for information it gives you a better indication of what your opponent has by how they proceed after that. It also gives you control of the hand which can allow you to get free cards, maybe get your opponent to fold. I see so many people raise preflop with big hands and then get bet into on the flop and they just call. RAISE! If they 3 bet you can put them on a range of hands, if they call you probably have them beat and save a bet on the river if you want. You also limit other players from staying in and catching sometimes, it definitely helps get others to fold.
- Raising pre-flop- Know what the difference between a 2/4 limit game and a 200/400 limit game is? In a 2/4 game its raised preflop maybe 5% of the time, in the higher limit or no limit games it is raised preflop 95-100% of the time and 3 or 4 bet at least 75-90% of the time. It is so uncommon at a higher limit game to see a pot limped in that its a shock to players when it happens. There are reasons for this. Do you know why your big hands AA, AK, KK etc are so valuable? They are big favorites against fewer opponents. If you play multiway they aren’t so good AND you will put a lot of money in with them. If it’s head up or 3 ways if you are the aggressor preflop it forces your opponent to HAVE to hit a hand or draw to continue. If they have a small pocket pair the odds are there will be over cards on the board, if they don’t hit a set they most likely will not continue after the flop. If they have say KQ or 2 big cards odds of them hitting a pair is roughly 35% of the time on the flop. So 65% of the time they WILL NOT and you will be in control to bet and they should fold. If they are the aggressor preflop those bad odds are turned back around on you.
Again I’m not the greatest player, but I know a lot of great players and watch them every single day. Hopefully this helps some of you play better and win more. If you like the way you play don’t change and good luck. Luck beats skill every hand, but not in the long run.