Just when you think you’ve mastered of the important angles in poker, you discover something that doesn’t make sense. That’s because poker is actually a counterintuitive game. For this reason, many intelligent people have a difficult time mastering the game. Poker success requires more than knowing the basic strategy.
For example, it is common knowledge that as your position improves, you can play more hands. This is undoubtedly true, but it’s also not always the case.
Suppose you are in a loose limit hold’em game and you hold a small pair like 2 – Z. If you are in early position you can limp in (call if someone has bet or check if no one has bet), anticipating that you will get the multiway pot you desire. This is especially desirable if you have timid opponents behind you.
From the middle position, you should definitely fold the same 2 – 2. You cannot anticipate getting the same multiway action you could when you were in early position because a player behind you is more likely to raise in an attempt to isolate you. So here is an example where you could play a hand from early position, whereas you would fold the same hand from middle position.
Things are not always what they seem, and what seems the logical move isn’t necessarily the correct move.
Suppose you are “running good” and everything is going right in the game. You don’t play any borderline hands. You rake in several nice pots. You plan to hit the door the minute the rush is over. That seems like the intelligent action to take, and it’s what most people do – take the money and run. But is this the correct action?
Your good fortune has helped build a good table image. When your table image is good, you have the game primed to book a huge winner. Your opponents will fold against you at a much higher frequency than they normally would, making the semibluffing type of Slot Gacor hands go way up in value. (David Sklansky, in his book Theory of Poker, defined a semibluff as a hand that would almost be correct to call with if you had checked and somebody else had bet – therefore it would be better to have bet the hand yourself, as long as there is at least a small chance that your opponents will fold.) This gives you an additional way to win the pot, other than having to hit your hand.
When everything comes together and your opponents are folding at a higher frequency than they normally would, shouldn’t you be loosening your standards a little to take advantage of this situation! That’s certainly different than the aim of protecting your winner and having one foot out the door.
All you are looking to do in any gambling situation is to increase your expectation. Look at the expert, card-counting blackjack player, for example. He says to himself, “It would really be great if I were to win $2,000 today.” He finds a rich shoe that is full of aces and tens and wins a high percentage of his bets, finding himself quickly up the $2,000 he wanted to win. There is one problem: the shoe is still very rich. If he keeps playing, he may blow back a good piece of the winner. But tomorrow he could be playing another positive situation which in all likelihood will not be as good as the one he walked away from today, and he loses his edge. This same phenomenon occurs over and over again – lock up a winner today and play a situation that may be worse tomorrow.
A good table image at the poker table is much like a ten-rich deck in blackjack. When you have a good image, it is really ridiculous to walk away even if you are getting every hand beat.
How about when you’re in a slump! Do you, like most people, play looser than you normally would in a desperate attempt to get even! Do you bluff more than you normally would because you have to win a pot somewhere? The problem in this situation is that your table image is so poor at the moment that all your opponents believe they are going to beat you; they can’t wait to get into your pots. For a semi-bluff to be correct there has to be some possibility that all your opponents are going to fold. This is extremely unlikely when you have a bad table image. The correct strategy seems to be to play tighter and stab at fewer pots. How do you expect to get even when you pass pot after pot.’ You probably won’t. But you will lose less. You will make money in the long run if you are always trying to maximize your expectation and not being overly concerned with short term results.
Almost all the top poker players are friends of mine. I do not know anybody who always wins. It just doesn’t happen. No matter how good you are, you too will experience many losing sessions, and there isn’t anything in the world that you can do about it. There is nothing you can do when you take an inordinate number of bad beats for an extended period of time. Occurrences like this are out of your control. You should be concerned with things you do have some control over.