When it comes to poker, there is more than one way to skin a cat. There are many different strategies you can use in many many different situations. A good poker player will learn to identify situations that he or she can profit from in order to take the lump out of the pot, or in tournament play, when he or she has AQ, and makes a big raise to about 5 times the initial raiser’s pre-flop raise.
A good MPO500 player will learn to make these observations and then to capitalise on them. A good card player will be able to identify what the odds are that any given hand will be the best available to them in the long run. A good poker player will take this lump out of the proportional pot, and make a substantial profit from dealing with frustrating suck-outs and bad beats.
Observing your opponents’ decisions is a method of determining the quality of your hand against them. If you can make quick, accurate decisions, you can essentially always guess what your opponent holds. If they raise you all-in before the flop, then you can pretty much be assured that they have the better hand, unless you have the nuts (the best possible hand given the nine cards on the board). This is known in poker terms as “arguing the pot.”
Playing poor starting hands is another important method of determining if you have the best hand pre-flop or if you need to call. If you don’t have the best hand, you aren’t going to win the pot. If you have the nuts, you obviously need to call, or raise, in order to better your position.
However, since I don’t hold many tens or face cards, the only hands I play aggressively pre-flop are ones that have high equity against many other potential hands, in addition to high positive EV. Those hands are: A-A, K-K, Q-Q, and if the flop includes the Ace as well, then it is also high positive EV.
This is also a very tight style of play, since it is precisely when you call that you raise, so there is a slight widening of the range for hands that you can play from pre-flop. Additionally, since you will have a very strong hand that will be difficult for your opponents to call a raise with, you will typically win the small pots left to you, thereby further enhancing your EV.
You can raise all-in with approximately 25% of hands pre-flop that you should in fact, in this situation, call, since your hand is very strong pre-flop, providing you don’t get unlucky and lose to a very strong hand that you may have expected to get a call from. When you make these assessments prior to placing a large bet, you are competent in both increments of coin flipping over your bankroll.
- Hands that have a high pre-flop TD against a low pre-flophetically suited other holding. Examples would be hands such as 10-10, 9-9, 8-8, 6-6, 5-5, 4-4, 3-3, 2-2, where the VP is lower than the SB.
- Hands that have a high pre-flop TD against a suited card. Examples would be 8-8 suited, or K-Q suited.
- Hands that have a low pre-flop TD. In other words, the pre-flop investment is small, relative to previous hands, or the SB is a high numbered card. For example, if the SB are 3 and the pre-flop investment is only 2, you have a negative 17 points pre-flop, and a TD of 6. You obviously need a strong hand to play aggressively, but with hands that are risk free, you can earn a reputation for being a tight player, and as the blinds rise, hands become more valuable, and add to your stack for later rounds.
- Hands with an especially high flush equity. Let’s say, for example, you have a set of 7’s. The flop? Q-7-4. You have just made a fantastic play, by going all in, and currently hold the biggest stack at the table. If no one has called with a big raise, you probably need an all in wager to win. However, if one person has made a big raise of 4x the BB, you now have nearly half the pot. This should give you an okay added value in playing, but it’s still uncertain if you have the best hand. You need an answer quickly, or you might find you have the worst hand, and in a hand like this, very often, the pot is just too big.