Confession 004 — Play It Like You Mean It
I confess. It’s hard not to play too many hands.
Some good advice for the beginner is not to play too many hands. Wait a minute. SwC Poker is exciting and you’re here to play, so why wouldn’t you play? Every hand can win if you play well, right? Not really, and not in the long run. Being too loose with which hands you decide to play can mean that other players mark you as a beginner and don’t take your betting seriously. If you play more tightly, folding lots of hands, when you do make a move, other players notice and are more likely to believe you have excellent cards. Playing “just the right amount” of hands in this case, means playing when you have excellent cards and position, and folding everything else… except when conditions are right to try to steal a pot later in the hand.
There is more to poker than simply playing your cards well. If you only play your cards, you can only win one way, by having the best cards.
Poker is a social game, even online. It’s a game of tells. And while you cannot stare down your opponent online to try and see if they are really holding a flush to your straight, you can infer quite a bit of data about those whom you are competing against. Response times, betting amounts and patterns and ultimately what type of hands are played can all be gleaned from really paying attention to what is happening at the table, not just what is happening in your hand.
The best players know that there are two ways to win a hand at poker. The first is to have the best cards, and the second is to make your opponents quit with better cards. Anyone can win the first way, but only skilled poker players can consistently win the second way. By observing the betting patterns and making the most of good table position, you can really increase the hands you claim. You should be making calculated runs at hands when your opponents are weakest. When your opponents are trying to check their way to another card and another chance of making a hand they don’t already have. Use late table position to best advantage and pounce when conditions are right. By convincing your opponents you have the cards they obviously don’t, you can often push them off a nice pot before the river even appears.
Now it’s not that big a deal to get the table to fold early to a strong late table position bet, though it can become a very big deal in late tournament play when stealing blinds can be quite lucrative. It’s more challenging to get more chips out of your opponents before you get them to give up. If you generally play a tight game, only playing really good hands, you can take advantage of conditions and table position to steal a pot mid to late in the hand. This is something to consider when you are in really late position and the table is checking instead of raising, either folding or betting the minimum required to stay in the hand. Here you can make a play to late steal the pot by betting small pre-flop (indicating you have decent, but not great, cards and are hoping for a good flop like everyone else), then bet normal on the flop (indicating a good flop and you are a card away from building a really good hand), and then make a big bet if a scare card presents on the turn or the river and watch the weaker hands fold. Since you have late table position, any strong play ahead of you, calls off your script and you dump the hand.
It’s a basic bluff that works, if you use it at the right time, against the right players, from the right position.
THE KING OF HEARTS
This weekly column serves as a guide for those who are interested in online bitcoin poker but haven’t yet taken the plunge and for those who are just dipping their toes in the water.
I talk about online bitcoin poker from a beginner’s perspective with the goal of demystifying the various poker game forms as well as all aspects of online play, table and lobby etiquette, and anything else related to this space. I’m enjoying spending time with you.
Poker Vocabulary and Abbreviations
Tight vs Loose Play — Conservative vs risky play
Tells — small, often unconscious patterns in player behavior that expose the player’s reaction to their hand
Scare Card — any community card that looks like it could complete an excellent hand for another player
Bluff — to bet with a weak hand, hoping to induce your opponent to fold their better cards
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Originally published at swcpoker.eu.