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General Strategies

There are lost of saying or beliefs of old poker players and a couple are worth emphasizing here, since there is logic and truth behind them.

Do not throw good money after bad

It is hard for a player who has a good hand and has bet accordingly, and thus contributed several chips to the pot, to come to terms with the knowledge that he is probably beaten and that to bet on would only lose even more chips.  It is no god thinking, ‘I’ve put 20 chips into this pot – I’m not going to give up now.  I must risk just a few more to protect my investment.’  The point to realize here is that the chips you’ve put into the pot do not belong to you any more; they belong to the pot.

            A bet is a good bet or a bad bet according to its prospects of being a winning bet and the amount it stands to win.  A 3 to 1 chance that will win you six times your stake is a good bet, a 6 to 1 chance that will win you three times your stake is a bad bet – and neither fact is influenced at all by how much of the winnings (i.e. the pot) was originally yours to begin with.

Do not bet against a one-card draw

Assume you are holding three of a kind, and you are in a second betting interval with one other player who drew one card.  It is your turn to speak first.  The assumption is that your opponent ’s four cards were two pairs, in which case he might have drawn to a full house, or that he was drawing to fill a flush or a straight.  In each case, the chances are, as Table 10 show, that he will have failed, and that you hold the better had.  On the other best hand, if, against the odds, he succeeded in improving his hand, he has got you beaten.
            Whatever his fate in the draw, there is no point in you betting.  You should check and wait to see what he does.  If you bet, and he has failed to fill a straight or a flush, his hand is worthless and he will fold, so you will not win any extra chips from him.  On the other hand you risk losing some, because if he has filled a straight or a flush, he will raise, and you will lose.  So leave it to him.  If he bets, call- you can be no worse off than if you’d bet in the first place.  The only way you can lose out against him is if he fails to improve two pairs, and checks rather than bets.  You will win the pot, but could have won an extra chip or two had you bet and he had been silly enough to call.

Dealing with two pairs

In fact a hand of two pairs is a classic one in poker – one of the most awkward to deal with.   Table 4 shows that it is likely to be the best hand at the table after the deal, even with as many as eight players in the deal.  The trouble with two pairs is that the odds are more than 10 to 1 against improvement by drawing a single card, and while it may be the best hand before the draw, it seldom is afterwards.
            In fact poker player have calculated that it, after the draw, you hold a hand of two pairs you have the chances of winning shown in Table 12.  With more than three opponents remaining your chances of winning get progressively worse.

Strategy

Your strategy with two pairs at the deal will partly depend on where you are sitting.  Suppose one player before you has bet, and there are three or four players yet to speak.  On the assumption that your strategy should be to try to force out the remaining players, so your strategy should be to try to force our the remaining players, so you raise.  If they all fold, you have a good chance of taking the pot, whereas if two or three of them stay in with middling pairs, say, the chances of you taking the pot have diminished.  In fact many players fear holding two small pairs and if two players bet against them after the draw, will ditch them immediately.

TABLE 12 : Odds of winning holding two pairs after the draw

Number of opponents still in

Odds of winning

One

3 to 1 on

Two

Slightly better than even

Three

6 to 4 against

Bluffing

Much is said in poker literature about bluffing, and it is easy to come to the conclusion that bluffing is the most important element of the game.  Certainly poker is a game of skill rather than luck, because a good player will win consistently, and he cannot always be lucky enough to be dealt the best cards.  So where is the skill?  Is it from mathematical superiority, psychological superiority, or a combination of both?  The answer is that the best players need both these assets.

            We have dealt already with the numerical aspects of poker, of hands in terms of their likelihood, and the probabilities of improving hands in the draw, etc. and clearly the best players need a knowledge of these things.  It is not necessary to carry every fact in the tables in one’s head, of course, but a general instinct of what convey is essential.

* Yardley’s bluff

           one of the most outrageous examples of bluffing, claimed in his well-known book The Education of a Poker Player to have been successfully executed countless times by Herbert Yardley, relies upon a player building a reputation as a tight player, who bets only on good hands.  When the time is ripe, and he is the dealer, or near to the dealer ’s right (i.e. one of the last speak), and one or two players have bet, Yardley would raise, even with a hand containing not even a pair.  Seeing a man who only bets with a good hand going in with a raise was calculated to encourage the players left in to fold which they frequently did, and Yardley collected.  If one or even two called, and drew cards, Yardley, speaking last, would stand pat.
            This was calculated to scare further any players who remained in, who would usually do no more than check, at which Yardley would bet the maximum.  This, according to Yardley, was enough, time after time, to persuade all other players (there was usually at this stage no more than to fold rather than to match his bet, since they were certain that he held at least a straight.  In practice, of course, his hand might have been nothing better than, say, Jack high.
            This bluff works best when the card game is one of variable limit, pot limit or no limit, since it is the size of the bet coming from a notoriously tight player that deters the others from contesting it.  In a limit game a player might be good enough to call you.

 

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