You’re in a multi-table tournament. Blinds are 100/200. A novice calling station raises UTG to T500. An unknown player flat-calls in MP. Everyone, including you, has about T20K in chips. You are in the cut-off seat with Ah-Ad. What should you do?
- Raise to T1000
- Raise to T1600
- Raise to T800
- Raise to T2300
Jim Rohn once famously said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
Think about this for a minute. It applies to so many different aspects of life and work, often for the worst. I know family members and friends that struggle in life, almost entirely because of the people they hang around, people who drag them down and/or don’t offer any positivity or examples of goodness, people who promote bad behavior and/or want company on their race to the bottom.
I’ve also seen the opposite, where people become better and/or more successful because they’ve actively changed their environment and have found better role models to have around with. Want to be a winner? Hang around with winners and try to emulate what they do.
At its fundamental core, poker is a game of decision making. He who makes the best decisions makes the most money. And there is nothing more important than the decision whether to play your hand or not. Preflop decision making is the foundation upon which postflop profits are built. And integral to good preflop decisions are the holy trinity of Position, Aggression, and Caution, or PAC for short. Let me explain:
Position and Aggression and Caution are the Lions and Tigers and Bears of Preflop Hand Selection. Oh-my!
My old poker coach, the Guru, used to impose a $5 fine on any of his students who told a bad beat story in his presence.
Student: “Listen to this terrible bad beat I just experienced–“
Coach: “Did you lose with a royal flush?”
Coach: “Then I’ve heard it before.”
The Guru charged this fee primarily because listening to students whine about poker annoyed him, but he also would point out that thinking and dwelling on the negative in poker often leads to future negative actions. Bad thoughts lead to bad behavior.
The fact is bad beats should never be whined about. Yes, they can sting at the time, but you have to remember this: bad beats are good things. Suckouts keep the poor players coming back. Bad players occasionally get lucky with poorly played hands, which in turn reinforces their belief that poker is all about luck, not skill. They come back—often after reloading multiple times—and continue to make bad decisions. Over time, they donate a lot of dead money to the poker pool—and sharks like us feed on that money. For this reason alone, bad beats should be celebrated, not denigrated. But there is an even more important point that you need to keep in mind the next time a villain sucks out on you:
Question: You’re in a $5/$10 NL Hold’em 10-handed FR cash game. Everyone has about $1000 stacks. The table is a mix of aggressive and passive players. Your image is tight-aggressive. You are UTG with Js-Th. What should you do?
- Mostly limp but sometimes raise
- Mostly limp but sometimes fold
- Mostly limp but sometimes raise or fold
The legendary comic Steve Martin rose to the top of his profession by being consistently funny. He has said he never worried about being the best comic in the world. He focused instead on improving his basic skills and being consistently good no matter what the situation. Martin never tried to be the world’s funniest comedian, or the most controversial, or the most outrageous. Instead, he knew that if he just worked consistently on trying to make people laugh every time he went up on stage, he’d eventually succeed. Slow and steady would win his race.
“Don’t be great. Be consistently good.” -Eric Barker
Question: You’re in a $5/$10 NL full ring 9-handed cash game. You have a tricky, tight-aggressive image. Everyone has about $1000 stacks. Three people limp in preflop. You are in the SB with 5c-7c. What should you do?
- All-in 2% of time, call 98% of time
- Big raise 50% of the time, call 50% of the time
Remember the movie “Maverick”? Yes, the ersatz old-time poker movie with Mel Gibson playing the lead is silly, cheesy, over the top, and highly unrealistic—but I enjoyed it anyway. And, surprisingly, there are a few decent nuggets of poker wisdom hidden in the rest of the silliness. Take the scene where Mel’s character, Bret Maverick, is trying to convince a group of grizzled saloon players that they should let him sit down and play cards with them. They eye him as an interloper and cardsharp, and some of them are adamant about not letting him play—that is, until he says:
“I promise that I will lose for at least an hour.”
The players like this idea, so they let him sit in the game. And in the ensuing hour, Maverick indeed does lose. But not a lot. More importantly, he takes that first hour to learn what his opponents’ tendencies, tells, and betting patterns are. At the end of the self-imposed losing period, Maverick begins playing real poker, exploiting all that gathered information—and promptly starts crushing the game. Let’s talk about this.
I see orphan pots go unclaimed all the time at the micro- and low-stakes tables: There’s a bunch of preflop limpers, then a dry flop comes out and everyone checks around. The turn card is then dealt and nothing changes; the board is meh and people check it around again. Same thing happens on the river. Frequently, the winner of the hand is someone lucky enough to see a showdown for free with a crappy bottom-pair or Ace-high hand.
Question: Why doesn’t someone step up and make a stab on the turn to take down the pot?
There are 10 commandments that all winning poker players adhere to. If you’re not incorporating all of these into your game, you’re probably not winning. I’m serious. The importance of these ten commandments cannot be overstated. In this post, I’m going to delve a little more deeply into where these come from and what they mean in practice.
We’re going to start with the concepts of poker profit and expected value. Pay attention people–this is important: