Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!
More than any other game, Poker depends on your understanding your opponent. You’ve got to know what makes him tick. More importantly, you’ve got to know what makes him tick at the moment you’re involved in a pot with him. What’s his mood … his feeling? What’s his apparent psychological frame of mind right now? Is he in the Mood to gamble … or is he just sitting there waiting for the nuts? Is he a loser and on tilt (playing far below his normal capability) … or has he screwed down (despite his being loser) and begun playing his best possible game? Is he a cocky winner who’s now playing carelessly and throwing off most of his winnings…or is he a winner who’s started to play very tight so he can protect his gains?
Concentrate on everything when you’re playing. Watch and listen … remember you have to do both, and relate the two. You listen to what your opponent says, but you watch what he’s doing independently of what he says because a lot of players talk loose and play tight, and a little later they’ll reverse it on you. So you look at a man every time he’s involved in a hand. You judge him every time. That’s the way you get to know him and his moves. If you aren’t learning what you want to know just by watching and listening, create your own opportunity. Try to bluff at him the first good opportunity, and see if he’ll call you or not what kind of hand he’ll call with, and what kind he’ll throw away. Of course, anybody with a lick of sense is trying to keep you from reading him. But you can still figure him because it is very, very difficult for any man to conceal his character
There’s a very well known Poker player, a man who enters the World Series of Poker every year, who has a talent for figuring out exactly what your hand is. But when he decides that you’re holding a Pair of Jacks (in Hold ‘em) and his own hand will not beat the Jacks, he’ll try to make you throw your hand away. To me, that’s not being aggressive … that’s being stupid. It works sometimes, but should you jeopardize your money when you think your opponent’s got a good hand? Let him win the pot and wait till you think he doesn’t have much of anything. That’s when you can try to bluff him out of the pot. Or wait until you think you have him beat. Everybody in Poker thinks he knows what a tight player is, but I’m going to define it again because so many people confuse the term “tight” with “solid”. “Tight” means conservative. A tight player is a player that is tight pretty much all the time. But a “solid” player is a player who’s tight about entering a pot in the first place … but after he enters the pot he becomes aggressive.
Most good players, by the way, are solid. The opposite of the tight player, as you would imagine from the name, is the loose player. He’ll play most of the pots. Often he’ll be drunk. You need patience to play him, and you require a good hand to bet because he’ll call you with extremely weak hands. The perfect opponent to face is the Calling Station. He’s similar to a loose drunk player, but he rarely bets. Most of the time, he just checks and calls. And if you cant beat a man who always checks to you … you can’t beat anyone.
Timid players don’t win in high stakes Poker
TELLS - look for them…and you’ll find them Once you’ve pegged a player’s basic style, don’t make the mistake of assuming he’s going to play that same way every day of his life. Sometimes a player makes a conscious effort to change his manner of play. More often, however, his current mood affects his play Almost all players have Tells … those giveaway moves that are almost as revealing, to a rival who has spotted them, as actually showing him your hand.
Another time, Amarillo Slim Preston pointed out to me that I was counting my chips off and betting them when I had a hand, and when I was bluffing I would just push them in without counting. That’s the only Tell anyone had on me that I know about, but I’m sure there have been others. All top Professionals have a defense against people using Tells against them. Sometimes when I’m bluffing I say some particular thing, like “gee whiz”, so that people will connect that with bluff. But the next time I say “gee whiz”, I won’t be bluffing. With a great deal of experience, you may learn not only whether a man is bluffing or has a quality hand, but the actual cards he holds. This is what people mean when they say a particular player can “put a man on a hand”
Other players have patterns that, while less pronounced, are definitely visible to a Poker Professional. You take into account the way they are sitting, their previous playing habits, how they bet, and often even the tone of their voices. It’s the totality of everything about them rather than any one particular thing.
Changing gears is one of the most important parts of playing Poker. It means shifting from loose to tight play and vice versa. Don’t do it gradually…it works better to switch suddenly. Once they catch on, change gears again. If you’re playing with a lineup of people who have played you before, do this even more often. When you really think they know you, change gears several times in one game. In a No Limit game, the gear to stay in most of the time is the one that most people at the table are not using. In other words: Play mostly tight in a loose game, and mostly loose in a tight game.
I also vary my play according to how I’m going. If I am losing badly, I play tighter. If I’m winning, I try to play looser. Players are more apt to be intimidated by me when I’m winning
You have to pick your players to bluff. You can hardly bluff a Sucker at all, whereas any good player can be bluffed. But always bear in mind the player’s mood that particular day … if he’s anxious to play, you handle him more cautiously than you would otherwise.
Bluffing is the main reason I believe No Limit Poker requires more skill thin Limit. Bluffing in No Limit requires real strategy, and the ability to size up your opponents every time you sit down to play. Yet, paradoxically, Poker becomes easier the higher the stakes of the game, at least in games where Professionals are involved
In No Limit, you’ll usually want a bigger bankroll for a game of the same general size. In a No Limit game with two Blinds of $5 and $10, I’d say you need at least $2,500
When I buy into a No Limit game, I want to have as many checks in front of me as anybody else at the table, or more. I’m not afraid, and you shouldn’t be afraid, of getting drawn out on a hand and going through the whole stack. All your efforts in Poker are directed toward getting in a position to bet the maximum amount you can on the hands that are worth it. When those opportunities do occur, you don’t want to be limited in the amount of action you can accept
One of the elements in a player’s courage is the realization that money you have already bet is no longer yours regardless of how much is involved. You no longer own any money you’ve already put in the pot. It belongs to the pot.Your decision must be based on the current situation. If you feel that large bet is now necessary to win the pot, then that’s what you should do. If you think that there’s no way for you to win the pot, then you have to give it up even if you’ve already committed a large amount of money. It’s a cliché, but true anyway, don’t throw good money after bad
Never play when you’re upset
The strategy of tournament play differs from the strategy of ordinary play
In No Limit Hold ‘em, position is … well, it’s the name of the game. It’s everything. If I had position all night, I could beat the game … and I’d never have to look at my hole cards. In Limit play position’s not nearly so important
In No Limit (and occasionally in Limit), the reason you see so many big pots won on a draw out is because it’s a big hand against a big draw. You’ll rarely see a big pot played when it’s a Pair versus a Pair. Unless you have a Pair of Aces or Kings (and sometimes Queens) … you simply must not play your Pair too strongly. If you do and you’re up against a bigger Pair - you’re going to be a big underdog. What’s more, when you have a Pair and your opponent has two overcards, you’re a slight favorite.
You should never re raise with two Queens or two Jacks (all the way down to a Pair of Deuces) before the flop expecting to get all your money in the pot in No Limit. You don’t want to … because if you get played with - you’re either a big dog or a small favorite. Unsophisticated players tend to play Pairs (especially Queens) much more strongly than they should. Another time they give far too much value to a hand is when they flop the bottom Two Pair. An example is when they play small connecting cards such as a 87 and the Flop comes K 8 7. Well, if they’re up against an AK … they’re in a very dangerous situation
It comes to a point where you have to take a chance. If you want to be a winner a big winner at No Limit Hold ‘em … you can’t play a solid, safe game. You must get in there and gamble
You should never start out bluffing at a pot and keep bluffing at it without an Out. For example, whenever I raise the pot before the Flop., I’m going to bet after the Flop about 90% of the time. So if the Flop comes completely ragged (one that doesn’t look like anyone can have much of it) … I’m going to bet at the pot and try to pick it up even if I don’t have a piece of the Flop. But, if I get called … I’m usually going to give it up unless I have some kind of an Out [even as little as Third Button (a Pair made with the lowest card on the Flop) or an inside Straight draw]. Sometimes, you can keep hammering on certain players and drive them off even when you don’t have an Out. But, you’re usually better off when you have some kind of escape hatch
A very interesting thing about that particular hand of 76 is that I’d rather have it than a 98. The reason is that when you turn a Straight with a 98 … you’ll frequently find that somebody is on top of you. A good example is when the Flop comes Q J 10. An AK will have you nutted and even a Sucker who plays a K9 will have you beat. I’ve turned many a Straight with a 98…but when a Q J 10 falls, I’m always real cautious with the hand. Because people play the higher cards more frequently than the lower ones, you’re less likely to be in trouble when you turn a Straight with a 76 than you would be with a 98
It’s possible to turn a double belly buster with any two cards that are part of a Straight such as a 76, 86, 96 and a 10 6. Also, two cards with five gaps between them such as a Q6 can also turn a double belly buster draw. When you turn a double belly buster draw, you should very carefully note which of your possible Straights will be the nuts. For example, if you have a J9 and the Fall is K 10 7 … both an Eight and a Queen will make you a Straight. However, only the Eight will give you the nuts. If a Queen falls on Fourth, someone with an AJ can beat your Straight. So you must be careful especially in No Limit play and you must know how to read the Board perfectly (to see what hand is the absolute nuts)
- An easy way to determine whether your Straight is the nuts is by using one of the following observations. You’ll have the nut Straight if:
- the high end of the Straight is made up with the highest card in your hand; or
- the high end of the highest possible Straight is already on the Board
You’ll have to be able to categorize your opponents as to the quality of their play … and you’ll have to play very differently against strong players than you do against weaker ones. This is of crucial importance in No- Limit play
Against a low grade player … you simply make the obvious play. That is, you don’t try to get fancy when you’re in a pot with a weak player. You don’t try to make subtle moves that’ll be far beyond his capacity to understand or appreciate. You play fundamentally better (rather than strategically better) than a weak player. In a word, you outplay him
Against a higher grade player … (someone who could be thinking along the same lines as you)…you must mix up your play. Sometimes you make an obvious play against a strong player (as you always would against a weak player) … and sometimes you go at it another way and make a play that’s not so obvious. Most of the time … you have to put a play on (outmanoeuvre) a strong player
You simply can’t bluff a bad player … because a bad player will play when he’s got some kind of a hand and will pass when he doesn’t have a hand. I mean … it’s clear cut. You don’t have to be an expert psychologist to figure out what he’s doing. All you have to know is if he’s in the pot.. he’s got something. And you’re not going to get him out of the pot by trying to bluff him
Above all … you don’t want to gamble with a weak player. Forget about that … show him a hand. You do very fundamental things against a bad player. Obvious things. That is … no tricks … no strategic plays … nothing fancy. Play straight forward Poker against a weak player. For example, if a weak player raised the pot coming in (before the Flop) and then checked it on the Flop and checked again on Fourth St. well, I would automatically bet (regardless of what I’ve got) because I’d know he didn’t have anything at all. It’s simple to outplay him because his actions tell me whether he’s got something or not. There’s no mystery about it
I could also outplay him by adjusting my style to his. For example, I noted that I’m always stabbing around trying to pick up pots. I could still do that with a weak player in the pot … but I’d adjust my play because he’s in there. Like I might raise him without looking at my hand. Now, here comes the Turn and he checks. Well, I’m going to bet at that pot in the dark … because I know he doesn’t have anything and I also know he’s probably going to pass. He checked, didn’t he? If he had something, he would’ve bet. Of course, I might have to make a further adjustment. If he checked (on the Flop) and then called me … I’d give him credit for something. If there’s no Straight or Flush draw out there … he’s probably got a small piece of the Board. (If he had a big piece…he would’ve bet.) If he checks again on Fourth and calls me again … then I’d know I’m going to have to show him a hand on the end unless I thought he was drawing and missed his hand. Only then would I think I had a chance to steal it on the end. Another way I’d adjust my style when I was in the pot with a weak player is when I turned a real big hand say, a Set of Trips. As you’ll learn, I don’t slow play that hand. I always lead with it. But, against a weak player…I would check it because I’d know that if he had anything, he would bet. And I’d get to break him anyway. If he didn’t have anything, I wouldn’t mind giving him a free card. I want him to improve his hand. I want him to make something so I could break him there
It’s more difficult to outplay a strong player. You can’t do simple things against better players you’ve got to put a play on somebody who knows what’s obvious. And if he does something that’s obvious like I think he’s trying to pick up the pot … well, I’ll put a play on him and raise him with nothing because he might throw his hand away. But if a weak player bets at me, I’m not going to raise him… unless I’ve got something. Since a good player will understand the obvious, I must try to deceive him. I’ll even put a play on more than one good player. For example, if someone brought it in (raised it) in an early position and three players just called it … I might try to pick up that pot. I might move in with nothing. Against a good player, you’ll have a lot more tools to work with … many different strategies to use. You’re effectively restricted to a “pickaxe and shovel” basic, fundamental things against a weak player. Never forget that
In this situation, there’s a principle I always apply in Hold ‘em. I always make it a habit to lead into the raiser whenever I turn a big hand.
Most players will slow play their hand in that spot … or hope to get in a check raise. When they do that, they’re playing it wrong … as you’ll now see. By betting right into the raiser, you make him think you’re either trying to take the pot away from him or you’ve got some kind of draw or a mediocre hand. Consequently, he’ll almost invariably raise you. At that point … you can get all your chips in. And it’s tough for him to get away from his hand because he has so much money already in the pot. The raiser expects you to check to him on the Flop. I mean, he knows you know he’s supposedly got a strong hand. He raised coming in, didn’t he? When most players turn a Set with a small Pair (or turn Two Pair with small connecting cards) … they do the obvious. They check … waiting for the raiser to bet. And then they put in a raise. That’s the wrong way to play it. That way they give the raiser an opportunity to get away from his hand at a minimum loss. But, if you lead into him … and he raises there’s no savings. He’s almost committed to get the rest of his money in the pot
In No Limit play, you must be very careful you don’t lose all your chips in an unraised pot. Here’s what I mean: let’s say you and six other players got in for the absolute minimum that is, you all limped in for a $50 force (the Blind bet). Everybody just called. Nobody raised … so the field wasn’t weeded out at all. Now, a J 4 2 flops. You turn 3 Deuces. In the previous situation with this same Flop you should lead right into the raiser with your Set. He’s probably got an overpair and will raise as expected. But, in the present situation, you must play it carefully. Very carefully. You turned a hand that’s easy to get broke with. There’s nothing in the pot … and you don’t want to get broke in a “nothing” pot. The six people in the pot with you tried to turn the nuts for free. And one of them might have the nuts. Or close to it. So when one of the players commits all his money when there’s only a few hundred dollars in the pot … you better watch out. Your 3 Deuces probably aren’t any good. You could be up against 3 Jacks, but that’s not as likely as 3 Fours since there was no raise before the Flop. That’s the hand you should be afraid of 3 Fours. I’m not saying you shouldn’t play the hand. That’s not the case at all. I’m just saying that you have to play it carefully because nobody showed any early strength. Therefore, you’re not likely to be up against a big Pair. However, you could be facing another Set. Nevertheless, if it’s checked to you, you’ve got to bet it. But you don’t want to get broke with the hand because it was a nothing pot to begin with. If you get raised, your own judgement in the particular situation will have to prevail. With the Third Set (Deuces), you might want to go on with the hand … and then you might not. With the Second Set (Fours) … you just could not get away from it. Someone’s going to have to show you 3 Jacks. That’s all there is to it . An important point for you to remember is that in a judgement situation you’re always better off sticking to your first impression. Once you decide what a man’s most likely to have especially in No Limit play you should never change your mind. You’ll probably be right the first time … so don’t try to second guess yourself
When a big pot comes up … I’ve usually got the worst hand. That weak player finally picked up the nuts … and that’s what I usually look at in a big pot. But, I’ve already paid for that big pot with all the other pots I’ve won. So I’m freerolling with all that weak player’s money (and the money of all the other weak players in the game). You can’t do that against a truly top player in No Limit … because he’s fixing to make a stand and play back at you. And that’s the big difference between a merely good player and great one. Another important difference is that a real top player can win money with a marginal hand. A weaker player can’t do that. They don’t know how … or they’re afraid to put any money in the pot in a borderline situation. They want the nuts (or close to it) before they’ll jeopardize any of their chips. They don’t want to do too much gambling…so they check a lot of hands that I’d bet for value. Betting for value is what it’s all about. For example, if it came down to a tough situation on the end and a tight player had Two Pair, but there’s a possible Straight out there … well, that tight player would probably check it trying to show the hands down. In that same situation, as long as I felt reasonably sure my opponent didn’t have that Straight I’d be more aggressive. I want to make some money on the end. I want to get value for my Two Pair. So I’d bet… and try to sell my hand for the most money I thought I could get. I don’t have to have the nuts to bet my hand on the end. If I feel like I’ve got the best hand … I’m going to bet it and get value for it. A more conservative player would check it on the end and he’ll get his check “called”. So he’ll lose that last bet
A very big part of winning consistently and winning big at No Limit is to get the other guy in a position where if he makes a bet he’s actually jeopardizing all his chips as opposed to you jeopardizing all of yours. That has always been the key to No Limit play as far as I’m concerned. I want to put my opponent to a decision for all his chips
- Being able to adjust your playing speed is a very important part of being a top player. There are a lot of reasons for this.
- You never want to get yourself stuck in an identifiable pattern. You must mix up your play. If you do … you’ll always keep your opponents guessing.
- As I said, you also want to create an image… the image of a loose, gambling type of player who gives a lot of action. But, it has to be the image of a good loose player not the image of a fool who’s throwing a party (giving his money away).
- Since you’ll most likely get off loser if you play as I recommend and start plunging around (playing very loose) almost as soon as you begin to play … you’ll have to gear down (start playing tight) after you’ve laid your (image creating) groundwork. Then you’ll start playing loose again.. and you’ll continue to vary your speed throughout the session.
- You’ll also want to adjust your speed to the varying speeds of particular players. If there’s a guy in the game who’s speeding around …then you do exactly the opposite by gearing down - and remember to play only solid hands against him. On the other hand, if you notice that a certain player is playing real tight… then you can start bluffing at him.
- The game itself might dictate the speed at which you’ll have to play. If everyone is playing real loose and all the pots are being jammed … then you start playing real tight. Conversely, when the game’s so tight you can hear it squeaking … you should play loose and pick up all the pots you can.
- When players start dropping out of the game (and their seats remain vacant) … you have to move into “high gear”. As I said, you can’t sit back and wait in a short handed game. If you do, the ante will get you because the good hands don’t come often enough. So you must play …or you might as well quit the game.
- And, of course, there’s the ante. That’s the main thing that determines how fast you play. Actually, the absolute size of the ante is not what’s important. It’s the relationship of the ante to the amount of money you have. A $10 ante in a No Limit game would be quite high if all you had was $500. But, if you had $5000 … that $10 ante would be very low. In the first (high ante) game … you’d have to play pretty fast. You could slow down considerably in the latter (low ante) game
When I play in a game with three Blinds of $25, $50 and $100…I never sit down with less than $20,000. What’s more … I like to have as much as (or more money than) any other player at the table. If my stacks are not approximately equal to the guy with the most money then I couldn’t break him, could I? And … I practice what I preach. I start playing fast right away. I’ve always played like that. Even when I was just starting out. Back then I’d buy in for a thousand (in a small No Limit game) and I’d usually get stuck (lose) that first thousand. Then, I’d pull up and start playing tighter and I almost always got even … or won. About three out of four plays, I’d lose that first thousand … but, on that fourth play, I’d get on a rush (winning streak) and I’d more than make up for those first three losses. I mean, I’d be playing so fast and winning so many hands when I was rushing that I’d literally break every player in the game. It’s because whenever I hold a bunch of hands, I usually get action on them
After I’ve won a pot in No Limit … I’m in the next pot regardless of what two cards I pick up. And if I win that one … I’m always in the next one. I keep playing every pot until I lose one. And, in all those pots, I gamble more than I normally would
Unless otherwise noted, the way I’d play a specific hand at No Limit Hold ‘em is how I’d play it in a pot against other top Poker players … and not the way I’d play it against a weak player. All you try to do against a weak player is make the best hand and then extract from him the largest amount of money you can. Just outplay him
AA and KK: how to play before the Flop
- With a Pair of Aces or Kings in an early position before the Flop. . .I would probably limp in with them (just call the Blind) hoping that somebody would raise it behind me so I could re raise.
- In a middle position if nobody in the early seats came in I would play them the same way. But, if somebody in the early seats did come in … I’d put in a raise with them (of about the size of the pot).
- In a late position, I’d obviously raise with them and hope that somebody trailed their hand around to me that is, slow-played their hand so they could re raise me. If they did I’d play back, of course, and might move in depending on the circumstances. If I did play back and got about half my money in the pot before the Flop with two Aces or two kings … there’d be no question that I’d get the rest of it in on the Flop regardless of what came on the turn. Nothing could stop me. If my opponent didn’t set me in on the Flop … I’d move it all in myself
- A rare situation could exist where you’d consider throwing away two Kings before the Flop when you got raised. It’s a hard hand to get away from…but if a real tight player moved in on you a player you know to be so tight that he wouldn’t make that kind of play unless he had two Aces then, you might want to throw them away. Of course, you’d have to be almost certain about your man before you’d do that. One way I make this rare decision is to put myself in my opponent’s position. I ask myself if I’d re raise (if I were him) with two Queens (or less). If the answer is NO … I’d throw the two Kings away
- When you have two Kings and there’s a single Ace on the Flop … it’s complete judgement as to whether or not you should go on with your hand. If you put your opponent on an Ace* … that’s the end of the pot right there. If not … you play your two Kings as if you had the best hand
AA and KK: how to play on the Flop
- I play a Pair of Aces or Kings very cautiously from an early position when there’s three cards that’ll make a Straight or a Flush on the Flop. This is especially true if there are two or more people in the pot with me. The guys that called behind me are liable to have anything. In that position, they’ve either got a hand that could break me … or I’ll win a very small pot if I bet. So, in an early position, a bell rings (reminding me not to bet) when I see three to a Straight or Flush on the Flop when I’ve got Aces or King in the pocket. Consequently, I immediately start playing that hand slow … and usually I just check in a front position.
- Now, if I’m in a late seat … and somebody had trailed in in the early seats … I might go ahead and bet once. If I got called … I would immediately become defensive again with that hand. Anytime there’s three cards to a Straight or Flush, I play the hand with extreme caution
- You don’t want to he drawing for a Flush when there’s a Pair on the Board. A man could have a Full house. And, you don’t want to be drawing to a Straight when another man could have a Flush. If the Board comes three Hearts and you’ve got an open end Straight draw you don’t draw at that Straight. You throw your hand away. All the top players try to keep from ever getting their money in completely dead
- In brief … you don’t give free cards where that free card could break you. If there’s a possible Straight or Flush draw on Board … you don’t give a free card
- What it all boils down to is that with a Pair of Aces or Kings … you’re waiting until you get kind of a cinch hand before you really play a big pot.
- You’re not looking to play a big pot where you might have only a small percentage the best of it or one where you’re a big underdog
- The play of a Pair of Aces or Kings in the hole: In most cases, I play them slowly (not slow play them). That is, I play them cautiously. This is contrary (to my general style of play and) to the way most people play them.
Most players feel that they’re so hard to come by that when they do get them
they want to win a big pot with them. So they play them real fast. That’s usually wrong. The fact is, with a Pair of Aces or Kings … one of two things will usually happen. Either:
- You’ll win a small pot or
- You’ll lose a big pot
You should always remember that the Flop is practically the whole game in Hold ‘em. That’s where your major decisions will be made. The play on Fourth St. and Fifth St. is pretty basic
If you think you’re beat, naturally, you check it … and if you think your opponent’s drawing … you bet. That’s the whole thing
On the end (Fifth St.), if it looks like your opponent has missed his hand … there’s usually no reason to bet any further. So you just show your hand over or you check it and give him a chance to bluff. That’s No Limit Hold ‘em in a nutshell
AK: how to play before the Flop
- An AK is a “better” hand than two Aces or two Kings for two very important reasons:
- You’ll win more money when you make a hand with it; and
- You’ll lose less money when you miss a hand with it
- The reason why you can make more money with an AK than with two Aces (or Kings) is because it’s a drawing type of hand as opposed to a made hand. I mean, you don’t have anything with an AK unless you flop something. So you can get away from it real easy. You’re not tied on to it like you might be with a Pair of Aces (or Kings). And that’s why you’ll lose less money with it. Another reason why you can make more and lose less with AK than with the very big Pairs is because when you have AK and you pair the Ace or King on the Flop … it’s much harder for your opponent to make his hand if he’s playing something like two connecting cards. For example, if someone’s playing a 7 6 and the Board comes A 9 8, he hasn’t made anything yet…because when you pair one of your hole cards there can be only two cards that’ll help him. But, if you had two Aces in the pocket … the Board could come 9 8 5 or any three cards that could help his hand (such as a Pair and a draw). That one extra card considerably improves his chances of cracking your Aces
- The reason why AK is more flexible than AA or KK is because you can play an AK in the lead or you can play it slow to raise with it. Also, I’d play AK from any position for a reasonable size bet. And, on occasion, I’d get all my money in before the Flop. Specifically, in an early position, I’d bring it in (raise the Blind) for whatever the normal bring in was for that particular game. If I was raised, I’d probably call … although I don’t like to call a raise with AK (as most players do). I like to raise with it. If I was in a middle position and someone else had brought it in…I’d just call with it. I wouldn’t raise because I’d probably be raising just one man. I’d want at least another player to come in. In a late position, I’d probably raise with it especially if I was on the Button.
- There are times I might even move all in with an AK. Let’s say I brought it in in an early position and a couple of people behind me just called. When it gets to the guy on the Button…he raises. Well … if he did that, I’d think he was trying to pick up the pot since he’d probably think the only person he had to come through (worry about) was me since the two people behind me showed weakness. So I might move in in that situation. Or, if I was on the Button, and three or four people were already in the pot … I might move all in. At that point, I’d be trying to pick the pot up … even though I’d know if I got called I’d probably be an underdog
- An AK is a “better” hand than two Aces or two Kings for two very important reasons:
AK: how to play on the Flop
- If I was the bettor to start with … or if I was the raiser I’d bet from any position. If I called with AK I’d check … or if there was a bet in front of me I’d pass. As I’ve already said, I play (almost) all my hands that way because if I was the bettor or raiser before the Flop then I’ve represented a hand. So, I’ll bet on the Flop regardless of what comes. I’ll do it nine times out of ten
- With two Aces or two Kings if somebody plays back it puts me to a decision. But, when I have nothing, I can bet AK with confidence because I’m gone if I get raised. I just throw my hand away because there’s nothing for me to think about. Now you can see why you’re less likely to lose a big pot with AK than with two Aces or two Kings. When I do go ahead and play the hand (when there’s nothing on the Flop that’ll help me), I’ll make a reasonable bet somewhere in the neighborhood of the size of the pot
- That also explains why I’ll bet on the Flop 90% of the time (and not all the time) if I played my hand strong before the Flop. There are times when you know somebody must have flopped something. And bluffing at a pot in that situation will rarely succeed. So you just give it up. If I get some help on the Flop (by catching an Ace or a King), I’d make a reasonable bet at the pot from any position. The only time I might check raise in this situation is when I had called in a middle position before the Flop and the original raiser (before the Flop) was behind me. When someone plays back at me in the above situation I’ll either move in or release my hand. It would depend on what flopped. In order for me to move in … I’d have to put my opponent on a hand where I thought he was drawing, For example, if the Turn came Ac 10h 9h. I’d put him on a Flush draw (or maybe a Straight draw) and I’d move in. On the other hand, if it came off ragged like a Kh 8s 2d … I might release my AK. My thinking would be that he possibly turned a Set and I might give up
- The important thing to remember is that anytime there’s a possible draw on the Flop … you should almost never check you should almost always bet
- If I was a caller (before the Flop) … I’d also raise it with AK. I wouldn’t slow play it. I’d raise because the original raiser figures to have a hand that would fit that Flop ( Q J 10). He could have two Aces or two Kings … or he might have 3 Queens or 3 Jacks … or a Pair of Queens with an Ace or King kicker. He’d be subject to go all the way (to Fifth St.) if he had any one of those hands … and he’d get all his chips in the middle. When the Flop came like a J 10 2 where I’d have a belly Straight draw and two overcards with an AK … I’d call a reasonable bet. I’d really be trying to catch a Queen … because if I caught an Ace or King, I’d have to be careful with it. It might’ve made someone else a stronger hand than my own say a Straight or Two Pair. But, if you flop two of your Flush cards when you have AK suited … you’ll have a very powerful hand. At that point, you’ll be a favorite over any other overpair with the exception of a Pair of Aces or Kings. I’ll lead with that hand, of course, and I’d also lead off and bet if I actually turned a Flush with AK suited. You should not check raise with your Flush because your opponent doesn’t figure to have made much on the Flop. But, he might call you with one Pair … or he might accidentally have a small Flush
- AK: how to play on Fourth and Fifth
- The way you’d play A K on Fourth and Fifth Sts. (if you made a Pair on the Flop) is almost the same way you’d play a Pair of Aces or Kings in the pocket. If you think your opponent made the hand he was drawing at … you check. If you don’t think he made it … you bet. The only exception would be when you thought you had a man out kicked.
- That is, you might keep betting with AK if you put your opponent on a hand that’s a little bit worse than yours. For example, you think he might’ve paired Aces (or Kings) with you … but, he’s got a smaller kicker. In this case, you’d try to sell your hand (bet the maximum amount you think he’ll call). You wouldn’t try as hard to sell a Pair of Aces (or Kings) in the pocket because he might’ve been drawing to beat them. With AK, however, there’s a good chance he’s got the top card (an Ace or King) paired with you … but your sidecard (kicker) is higher. The important point to remember when you have AK is that it’s a drawing type hand where AA (or KK) isn’t. It’s therefore a much easier hand to get away from than the very big Pairs
- Playing QQ
- When I get two Queens in the pocket … I play them very carefully. I try not to play them too strongly from any position. Unless a good situation arises … I don’t want to move in before the Turn with two Queens. By a good situation, I mean that I’m in a very late position (possibly on the Button) and four people have called a raise in front of me. Here, I might try to shut them out by moving in. I’d be using the combined strength of my pair of Queens and my position. If you’re up against two Aces or two Kings with a Pair of Queens … you’re about a 41/2 to 1 underdog. And, if you’re up against A K … you’re only a little better than a 6 to 5 favorite. When people go all in before the Flop…they usually have one of those three or four hands.
- So, your money’s in a lot of jeopardy when you get it all in before the Turn with two Queens. If you get called, you’ll usually be up against AA, KK or AK … in which case you’ll be a big dog or just a small favorite. You can pick a better spot than that to get all your money in. That’s not to say two Queens don’t have a certain amount of value. They do. They’re a considerably better than average hand. But, for the reason I just mentioned, I seldom raise back with a Pair of Queens from any position … unless it’s an unusual situation. But, I will raise (the Blind) a reasonable amount with two Queens from any position if nobody else raised in front of me. In a middle position, if somebody raised in front of me … I’d just call as I would with any Pair. I’d just call with them in a late position, too. I wouldn’t re raise (except as I mentioned). I also play two Queens very slow on the Flop. Whenever I play them … I’m really trying to catch a third Queen. If either an Ace or a King came on the Flop … I’d play the hand as slowly as possible. If anybody bet with any degree of authority … I’d probably give them the pot. As long as an Ace or King didn’t fall … I’d play two Queens almost exactly the way I’d play two Aces or two Kings and that includes the play on Fourth and Fifth Sts., too. So, you might want to re read the way I’d play those two hands. Excluding the times when there’s an Ace or King on the Flop, the only time I’d play Queens differently from two Aces or Kings is when there’s a Flush draw on the Flop. In that case, I wouldn’t be eager to get all my money in. A man with a Flush draw could also have an overcard (an Ace or King). If he did … it would make his hand practically as strong as mine. Whereas, if I had two Aces or two Kings against only a Flush draw I’d be about a 9 to 5 favorite. Keeping these differences in mind, you can play two Queens on the Flop, Fourth and Fifth as if they were Aces or Kings. In fact, I play all Pairs in the pocket in very much the same way
- Playing JJ, 10 10, 99
I also have a breaking-point that I use in my play with a Pair of Jacks, Tens and Nines. I mentally segregate them from the other small Pairs and I play them a little stronger than the others. I do it simply because they’re bigger Pairs and it’s pretty easy for three Rags to fall. When that happens … you’ll have an overpair. But, if you’ve got two Fives or two Sixes, it’s hard for a Turn to come without there being at least one overcard. And, with an overcard out there, your hand is kind of dead so you don’t want to get too much money involved. Progressively, then, each Pair is a little bit better than the others … but I play them all as if they were a small Pair
- Before the Flop, with any of the small Pairs (except Jacks, Tens and Nines) …I’d limp-in (call the Blind). If somebody raised it from an early or middle position … I’d call it. I wouldn’t re-raise.
- I’d almost always take a Turn with any small Pair. I’d be trying to turn a Set so I could break somebody. With a Pair of Jacks, Tens or Nines … if somebody raised from an early position, I’d probably just call. But, if it was raised from a middle or late position … I might re-raise with two Jacks, Tens or Nines if I felt the raiser was weak. The reason I might do that is because (as I noted) the probability is good I’ll have an overpair on the Flop. In that case, I’d play the jacks just like I’d play two Queens. The same strategy would apply. However, I want to note a very unusual exception I make in a special situation. One of the reasons I like to play the small Pairs from any position is because they give me an opportunity to slow-down and not appear to be overbearingly aggressive when it might work against me. They also give me a chance to show a little respect for a particular opponent. As you know, if I raise a pot before the Turn … I’m going to bet on the Flop (whatever it is) about 90% of the time. So, if I raised the pot with two Nines…I’d bet on the Flop nine times out of ten
- I’d never stand a re-raise when I have a small Pair before the flop. I won’t take any pressure with them. If someone puts a play on me … I throw them away
- If I had called a raise before the Turn … and the raiser bet on the Turn…unless I turned a Set, I’d probably surrender the pot. That’s especially true if an overcard flopped. So, right there, you can see the strength of being the raiser. He made me lay down my hand. That’s why I like to be the raiser.
- When you don’t help your small Pair on the Flop … the important points to remember are these:
- You’re through with them, if you just called before the Flop … and you don’t put any more money in the pot from there on; and
- If you raised with them, you should generally bet on the Flop trying to win a small pot, but, if you get called … you don’t want to bet again (on Fourth and Fifth) and you try to play showdown from that point on - unless you think your opponent is on a draw, in which case you continue betting; and
- If you get re-raised … you throw away your hand
- It’s a different situation entirely when you turn a Set. That’s what you played for. And you should play them fast. That’s what I do … in almost all cases. I don’t always raise with them … but I never check them. Needless to say, if I was the raiser and I turned a Set … I immediately bet right out. As you know, I wouldn’t need a Set to do that.
- If I had called before the Flop … and someone checks it to me … and there’s people behind me … I’ll always bet with a Set of Trips. As you know , one of my favorite plays in Hold ‘em is to lead right into the raiser with Trips (or even Two Pair) - especially when I think he’s got a big Pair in the hole. I overbet the pot right there … and, if the raiser has what he represented (a big Pair) - he’ll almost invariably go ahead and move-in on me
- If you turn a Set in a raised pot … it’s practically impossible to get away from it. I defy anybody, anybody, to turn a Set and get away from it if the pot was raised originally
- If I raised it before the Flop and I turn a Set … and a guy beats them … well, he’s going to win a real big pot from me. If we don’t get it all-in on the Flop … we’ll surely be down to the Green (no chips or money left) when all the cards are out
- How to Play Small Connecting Cards
- This is the hand I’m looking for when I play No-Limit Hold ‘em. Small connecting cards (suited) - the 7c-6c, 8h-7h, 5d-4d. That’s the kind of hand I want. It’s my favorite. And when I get it … I want my opponent to have two Aces or two Kings and to believe (as I don’t) that he should play them slow. If he holds that opinion he’ll give me the opportunity to get a Turn. And if I do… I can break him
- Small connecting cards are a hand that’s not designed to put a whole lot of money in with before the Flop. It is a hand that’s designed to take a lot of Flops with. You want to get a Turn with them to try to make a little Straight, a little Set of Threes, a little Two-Pair … or something
- I’m really looking to get raised when I come in with this hand in an early or middle position. In fact, I hope someone has a big Pair in the hole and raises behind me. Then, I can put a relatively small amount of additional money in the pot … and, if I get a Turn - I can break him
- The beautiful part about having the small connecting cards is that if you don’t get any help.. you throw them away. If the Turn comes 9-9-2, for example, you don’t get involved with a 7-6. You’re through
- Normally, I wouldn’t want to get more than 5% (maybe, 10%) of my money involved (before the Flop) with this type of hand. If I get as much as 20% of my money in with that hand … I’d have to be rushing. I wouldn’t do it unless I was on a streak
- The reasons I raise with the hand in a late position are because I don’t think I’ll get re-raised and since nobody’s raised in front of me, I’ll be able to give my hand some deception. And, the reasons I usually don’t raise in an early position are because I’d have to go through six or seven players without getting re-raised. With a lot of top players in the game … that’s not likely.
- Also, I like to be in the lead - and, if I make something with it, I can take charge. So, with players behind me … I usually call with it
- Another thing is that I don’t have to maintain my table-image (of betting on the Flop when I’m the raiser). If I just called (before the Flop) and somebody else raised … I very seldom try to pick the pot up or bluff into the raiser. The raiser commands respect. So, when I miss that hand completely when somebody else raised it…well, it’s their pot. That’s why I like to be the raiser.
- The only reason I don’t like to raise with small connecting cards is because when somebody has the hand I want them to have (a big Pair)…they’re going to raise me back. That’s one more reason I usually limp-in with them.
- When you limp-in with this hand in an early position… you’re actually playing it like you would two Aces or two Kings. So, there’s also a bit of deception there. And, if somebody raises in a middle or late position … you can pretty well put them on a hand - that is, big cards like A-K, K-Q or a big Pair. That’s what you’re also looking to do - you want to be able to put somebody on a hand so you know what you’re trying to beat
- I’m not going to take two small connecting cards and try to beat two Kings, A-K and so forth when I can’t win anything if I get a Turn. So, in a case like that, I throw my hand away
- If I had a 7d-6d in an early position and had decided to raise it before the Turn (when I was rushing, for example) … and the Ah-Ac-Ks flopped … I’d bet right out. A Flop like that wouldn’t “frighten” me. Why? It’s simple. My opponents don’t know I don’t have A-K or A-Q or K-K … or any hand where that would be a good Flop for me. They don’t know what I’ve got. In fact, if I raised in an early position they might think I did have a hand with big cards.
- If I had raised it from a middle position before the Flop … I’d also bet - unless someone bet in front of me. In that case … the pot’s theirs. I’d know they had something… and when I’ve got nothing with this kind of hand, I’m usually not going to try to make any great play (although occasionally I will bluff at it). If I was a caller before the Flop in a middle or late position and it was checked to me on the Flop … I’d check along. As long as I didn’t make anything…it would probably have to be checked to me twice (on the Flop and Fourth St.) before I’d bet (which would be a bluff). Of course, if I had raised it before the Turn from a late position … I’d almost always bet - particularly if it was checked around to me. I’d bet even if the Flop was as noted before (Ah-Ac-Ks) and it was probable that someone had an Ace. The reason I’d do it is just like I discussed earlier. I don’t want my opponents to get out of the habit of checking to me. Since they expect me to bet (because I was the raiser) … I want to fulfil their expectations. So I go ahead and make a courtesy bet for them.
- When I make that bet, I’m trying to do two things:
- I’m trying to win the pot right there. And I will many a time because they get into the habit of throwing their hands away.
- I’m also able to maintain my aggressive image. As long as I do, they’ll continue to check it to me.
- That’s the way I pick-up all the pots I do. Of course, if I get check-raised … I’m out immediately. That’s the risk I take. But, a guy really has to have a hand before he’ll put a play on me like that. So, when he does … I let him have the pot. But, they miss their hands more often than they make them. Because of that, I pick-up more pots than I give-up
- I’m never going to call a bet when I miss my hand completely. But, I might play back at a guy who I think’s putting a play on me
- With any good Flop to small connecting cards … I’d play the hand as if it was complete - whether it was or not. I’d lead with the hand in an early position … and I’d raise in a late position. I’d play the hand to get all my money in the center to start with - even if I turned a Pair with a draw. In the latter case, I’d play it that way because I’d have two chances to win it … when I bet or raise (and my opponent throws his hand away) - or when I improve (if my bet or raise is called). Naturally, you’ll be in some jeopardy - even when you get a very good Flop. But, you’re almost always in some jeopardy. So you can’t worry about somebody having the nuts all the time. If you did … you never would get to play a pot
As you continue to use my system of play, you’ll discover the many advantages it has. The situation above is a good case in point. If the Flop was, say a 5-4-3 (giving me a Straight) … my opponent would’ve let me know on the Flop whether or not he had a hand (Two-Pair or Trips). That is, if he’s a good player he would. The reason why is because he wouldn’t want another card to fall that would be one card off of a Straight. He knows if an Ace, Deuce, Six, or Seven comes on Fourth … he’s going to have to give the pot up. He knows I’ll bet in that case whether or not I have the one card that’ll make the Straight.
For that reason, all good Hold ‘em players do most of their gambling on the Flop… not on Fourth and Fifth Sts. Occasionally, you’ll see a big pot played after the Flop … but, in the majority of cases, all the money usually goes in on the Flop. That’s the reason the Flop is the most crucial point in the game
You should constantly be trying to get as much value for your hand as you can. And the way you do that is to bet
If you’re going to call… you might as well bet
If I made my hand early. ..I’m not going to try to sell him anything - I’m going to try to break him.
If I made my hand late and I haven’t been charged a lot of money to make it (like it was checked on the Flop and there was a small bet on Fourth and I make the nuts (in the end) … well, then I’m not going to try to break him -
because he probably won’t call a big bet. Then, I’d try to sell my hand for whatever I thought I could get for it
- TROUBLE HANDS (only when offsuit): Ace-Queen, King-Queen, Queen-Jack, Jack-Jack, Jack-Ten, Ace-Jack, King-Jack, Queen-Ten, Nine-Eight, Ace-Ten, King-Ten
- Two Important qualifications are that I don’t consider the trouble hands borderline when:
- they’re suited; and
- I get them In a short-handed game. As you’ll learn, I define a shorthanded game as one with four players or less and In such a game the trouble hands are actually big hands
- It’s extremely hard to win a big pot with those hands (offsuited) when you’ve called a raise. They’re definitely trouble hands. You’re much more likely to lose a big pot with them than you are to win a big pot with them. Even when I make a Pair with them on the Flop … I play them extremely cautiously - or about the same way I’d play when I had a Pair of Aces or Kings in the pocket
- For example, if I played a K-Q (offsuit) and the Board came K-4-2 … I’d be in a lot of trouble if the raiser’s got one of the three hands I’ve assumed he might have. He’d have two Aces, three Kings or a Pair of Kings (like I’ve got) but he’d have an Ace kicker. Or, if I played a 9-8 and the Flop was Q-J-10 … I still wouldn’t be too excited about my hand - even though I turned a Straight. It would not only be the ignorant end of the Straight … but it would have an additional weakness because the high-end of the Straight would be made up by a very strong hand that everybody plays - namely, A-K. Something else you have to think about with the trouble hands is that it’s not as easy to pick-up pots with them when you turn a Straight draw. You’ll remember that when I turn a Straight draw with small connecting cards, I play my hand real fast because I have two shots to win the pot. I can win the pot right on the Flop because, with small cards out there it’s less likely anyone else turned a hand. And, if I do get called, I’ve still got a second shot to win it if I make my Straight. But, if I turn a Straight draw with a K-Q (say, the Flop is J-10-5) … it’s highly likely somebody’s got a piece of that Flop - and I’m less likely to pick the pot up when I bet. So, I don’t have two shots to win it anymore. The same kind of reasoning applies to the times when you might turn the top Pair and a Straight draw with a K-Q when the Flop is Q-J-10. It’s not even a good hand then because you might be dead (as you would be with a 9-8) when somebody has an A-K. The best you could be drawing for would be a split
- Even when you turn a very good hand like Two-Pair or Trips … you could be in jeopardy. If the Flop was K-K-2… you could once again be in big trouble with K-Q when someone’s got A-K. The difference here is that you probably won’t be able to get away from your hand and you’ll have to go ahead and lose a lot of money. The important point to remember about the trouble hands is when you do get a Flop to them you don’t want to get heavily involved. You should just try to play the pot as cheaply as possible
- Two Important qualifications are that I don’t consider the trouble hands borderline when:
- Trash & Garbage Hands
- With the exception of an Ace or a King with any suited card … I consider any hand I haven’t already discussed to be a trash hand
- Other than the exceptional situations trash hands are just not playable
- Ace or a King with any suited card
- An Ac-8c or a Kh-4h are hands that I put in the same category as the small connecting cards and I play them approximately the same way. For example, if the Flop was 9h-6c-2c, and I had the Ac-8c … I’d have a Flush draw and an overcard. If I was in the pot against two Queens … I’d be about even-money to win it. So I’d play my hand in that situation like I would with two small connecting cards that were suited (say the 9c-8c). That is, I’d play it fast … and try to win the pot on the Flop because, once again, I’d have two shots to win it. However, the trouble hands suited or offsuit should be played the came way - slowly - unless you Flop a Flush or a Flush draw. Then, you can show some Speed. But that’s where I draw the line - with an Ace or a King and another suited card. After it passed the Ace and King … if the two cards don’t connect - even if they’re suited - I consider them trash hands. Hands like a Qh-4h or Js-6s are trash. Naturally, hands with non-connecting and offsuit cards such as Jh-5c, 1Os-3d, 9c-4h are obviously garbage. But, so are the offsuit hands such as K-9, Q-8, J-7, 10-6, 9-5, 8-4, 7-3 and 6-2 that a lot of people play because you can turn a Straight with them. I don’t play those hands because if I got the best Flop I could to them (outside of a Full House) … I could get broke with them by running into a bigger Straight. Consequently, I never play a hand when I have the top and bottom cards of a Straight - except when I’m in position
In a short-handed game, the trouble hands all become playable from almost any position. Also, position is probably the most important thing in a short-handed game. The reason that’s so is because you get to look at more cards and have to play more hands than you would in a Ring game. You also play your position more than your cards in a short-handed game. When your game’s down to four-handed, you need a better hand in the first two positions than you need in the last two. When you raise on the Button, the other man has to act first (on the Flop) and that puts him at a big disadvantage. It’s a great equalizer when the other man has to act on his hand first
So, in a short-handed game, you’d play your position along the same theories I discussed in a full game - except the values of the hands go up a few notches. The trouble hands become better hands because you don’t figure to be up against A-A, K-K or A-K nearly as often as you might in a Ring game
- You simply play more in line with a big-card theory in a short-handed game. I mean, the bigger your cards are … the better hand you’ll have. For instance, two Aces or two Kings is just a mountain in a short-handed game … and you could play them real fast. But, in a Ring game, you might play either hand a lot slower because there could be a lot of people taking a Turn to beat those big Pairs. That wouldn’t be the case in a short-handed game. Consequently, they’re much more valuable hands than they are in a Ring game. What you’re trying to catch in a short-handed game is big cards in position