Confession 005 — Protect and Serve

I confess. I don’t protect my hands like I should.

A common trait of the beginner’s poker play is the lack of appropriate bet sizing. Just because you are interfacing with a computer doesn’t mean your response pattern should be robotic and predictable. Poker isn’t about FPS twitch skills, nor is it about mashing the bet button. It’s about subtlety and tight, nuanced gameplay.

While the SwC Poker client has lots of easy bet buttons and great customization options, you really want to stop and think before you bet and first ask yourself what exactly you are trying to accomplish.

It’s always good to remember to vary your bet sizes somewhat to keep your opponents guessing as to what you are really holding. If your betting patterns are too transparent, you’ll never make any money playing poker as your skilled foes will all know what’s in your hand. If your betting patterns are too erratic and loose, then your bets will never get any respect and it will be much more difficult to manipulate other players at key moments to your best advantage. Sometimes your cards are strong but vulnerable and you want to push the other player out of the hand. Other times, you might have a great hand, and want to keep your opponent in the hand and betting as long as possible, maximizing the value of your superior cards.

You have to decide which outcome you desire in the hand. Do you want to push someone off the pot to protect your vulnerable cards or keep them in it so that your hand can crush them over a big pile of chips? Your decision will determine your best approach to betting the hand.

Getting Opponents to Fold — Often times, you might have a great but vulnerable hand and your opponents not showing or betting any particular strength. You think if you can convince them that you have a great hand, they will fold. This is called a protection bet. You are trying to bet the smallest amount that will make your opponents fold. If you are trying to manipulate someone to fold the hand to you, you should first understand that occasionally an opponent will have really great cards and you will not be able to influence them to fold. This is why it is important not to over-bet. Beginners will often make a gigantic bet to try and push someone off a hand, but this is an unnecessary risk when a smaller bet will often accomplish the same goal. Getting someone without confidence in their cards to abandon them and fold, certainly takes a nudge, but not usually a huge push.

Getting Opponents to Call — If you have a killer hand you’d like to serve up, you definitely want to keep your opponents betting as long as you can to maximize your eventual hand winnings. This is called a value bet. You are trying to bet the highest amount your opponents will call. This has the twin benefits of maximizing your eventual winnings and making some of your opponents fold, improving your pot odds. You have to use all the knowledge you accumulate on your opponents’ gameplay and betting patterns to try and predict the right bet to get the right response.

By paying attention to the subtleties of your own betting and taking a little extra time to think, you can really increase the value you can extract from a hand.


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 — conservative vs reckless gameplay
 Protection Bet — betting to get others to fold and protect your vulnerable hand
 Value Bet — betting to maximize the value you extract from your hand
 Push Bet — betting all-in

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My opinions and observations are my own do not reflect the opinions of SwC management. I will respond to all messages and I welcome your feedback.

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