You’re in a $5/$10 NL full-ring 9-handed cash game. Everyone has about $1000 stacks. You raise UTG with Js-Jh. It is folded to an expert player in the SB, who calls. The BB folds, and you see a flop heads up, which is: 2s-2c-Td. The SB leads for $80. You raise to $250, and the SB re-raises you to $650. Your image is tight-aggressive, very tight in EP, and you rarely bluff. What should you do?
- Raise all-in
- Call and fold the turn if he bets again
- Call and get all-in on the turn if no overcard hits
- Call and get all-in on the turn regardless of the turn card
A few years ago I was showing a family friend how to play online poker. My friend dabbles occasionally at poker, but he doesn’t believe that the online games are beatable. It’s rigged, he says. It’s filled with ‘bots. And any kind of poker–live or online–is all about hot streaks and lucky runs, anyway. You can’t beat a random chance game in the long-term. So why study and read about the game? Worse, why write a damn blog about it?
My friend is so sure of himself, that he basically calls me a liar whenever I point out that I make a decent hourly wage at this online “hobby,” and thereby fund the occasional large discretionary purchase in my personal life through my winnings at the tables. Well, he doesn’t actually use the word “liar,” instead choosing the less inflammatory, “You’re so full of sh!t” term of endearment.
Anyway, in my long-running effort to convince him that he’s the one who is full of sh!t, I opened a couple of micro-stakes fast-fold “Zone” poker games when he had stopped by to visit with his wife. Here’s what happened:
You’re in the big blind of a cash game. The blinds are $1/$2 and everyone at the table has $50,000 in front of them. It’s folded to the button, who raises to $7. He accidentally exposes his cards in the process and you see that he holds Ac-Ad. He knows that you saw his hole cards. He did not see your cards. What range of hands should you call with? Which hands should you re-raise with?
- Fold all hands
- Call with any two cards (ATC), and re-raise with KK, QQ, and JJ
- Call with any pair or suited connector, fold everything else
- Call with ATC, do not re-raise with anything
- Call with ATC, and re-raise only with KK
- Call with ATC, and re-raise only with AA
The first step of the REDi system to thinking through a poker hand is Reading, and the first step to hand reading is, well, to actually begin paying attention. You can’t figure out what the bad guy is holding unless you are looking for clues and watching what’s going on at the table.
Okay, fine, this isn’t earth-shattering news, right? We all know that we have watch the action before we can decide what the villain is betting into us with. Ah, yes, but you also have to pay attention even when you’re not involved in a hand. In fact, I’d argue it’s even more important to ensure you’re paying attention after you’ve folded your hand. Let me explain…
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