More on strategy in NL hold’em Poker

In my last post I wrote about stats and how it was not the be all and end all of playing no limit hold’em poker. What I’ve discovered since then is that if I focus purely on my own game for a few days playing only the best hands I still lose but I start to improve my reads, and here’s why….

If you aren’t a tight player and you’re losing you’ll probably never get good. The reason for this is because when you play tight poker you start to realise that any time you have a hand preflop and you raise, people soon catch on you’re a tight player and avoid calling any of your big bets on the flop. e.g. you have JJ, you raise preflop, get 2 callers. Flop is J T 5. You now make a big bet to represent your JJJ and stop a KQ or AK/AQ making his hand cheaply. However because you *only* bet big when the flop is good for you, your moves are an “open book”. So you don’t make much money. Sure you take down a big pot once in a while but you will rarely ever do it so often as to make good money from the game.

The whole point of playing a “System” of play that advocates making large bets when you have a half decent draw is to catch people out and deceive them and show them you’re “occassionally out on a limb”. If you only ever bet when your hand is practically the nuts, 1) you’ll rarely ever bet, 2) people will only ever play you when they have a good chance of beating you, 3) you’ll probably be tied onto your hand by that point because you waited so long and you’ll ultimately pay off the other player, 4) If you play predictably, the more alert players will notice and take advantage of you and, again, you’ll lose. (No one said this game was easy).

“Super System” advocates a fairly tight strategy with some loose play thrown in, occassionally in the early seats but mostly in the later positioned seats. The strategy mentions AA/KK, QQ, JJ-99, 88-22, AK, small connecting cards. He includes small connecting cards as a way to show you don’t always have AA/KK type hands when you bet. Specifically he says to bet heavily with open ended straight draws/flush draws on the flop, “[play it] as if the hand is complete”. This he says because he wants to set the table image of a player who’ll bet and go all-in (like a maniac type of player) with any kind of hand, made/unmade on the flop. He does this because if he folds his style of play is defeated, however if he re-raises all-in, his style of play and image is set for the remainder of the session. After going all-in DB says to tighten up because players will catch on pretty quickly and you don’t want to be seen as a total idiot… you want others to be just afraid enough that they will make mistakes by not raising/betting when they should.

By doing this he draws a parallel with playing JJJ “as if the hand is complete”. Doing both will catch opponents off guard and confuse them. It also gives you the table image of a gambler and increases your odds of getting some action in later hands when you *do* have a good hand.

Basically what the book tries to say is play tight but don’t play so tight everyone can read your every move and take advantage of the way you play. Of course if you’re having trouble achieving success, then just play tight and within a few sessions (10 perhaps) you might start noticing if you only ever bet big when you have a really strong hand, your opponents won’t play without the nuts. You often have to sucker other players in by betting weak, or even checking (if your out of position) to give opponents behind you a chance to bluff/improve their own hand. Try out different bets to see what works and be very wary of bad cards and the player types.

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