Some Concepts for Beginners

There are two common mistakes which are made by the beginner poker player often. They tend to bluff a lot and they tend to slow-play a lot but those aren't the only common mistakes. Another mistake which again they develop at some point is playing very aggressively. Beginners also have the tendency to call "just one more bet" to "see what the next card is."

Bluffing is betting when you do not have the best hand, expecting that you will not be called. Slow-playing is not betting (or not raising) when you actually have the best hand, expecting that you will attract others to bet or call.

There are two forms of deception bluffing and slow-playing and they both are very important part of the poker player's arsenal. Both are easy to overuse, often till the time that become predictable that they lose all hope of deception.

Playing aggressively is not actually an overrated concept but the discussion of overaggressive play has been given here because it seems to fit as a common mistake. In Hold'em, aggression in poker is usually a good thing. Betting and raising still win more money over time then calling - but it can be overdone.

Bluffing

Many novice poker players bluff too much and call too frequently because "he might be bluffing." Both constitute mistakes.

Why Do You Bluff?

Beginners tend to bluff when they think it is the only way they can win the pot. Their mental focus is on winning the pot but winning pots is not all in poker. As mentioned earlier, the players who win the most pots are seldom the players who win the most money. Many don't win money at all.

Sometimes you are just beaten. You don't have the best hand. You won't be able to win the pot. Bluffing might be your only way to win in these situations, but it is often such a small chance that a bluff is in vain. Do not bluff merely because it is your only chance to win. However, this doesn't mean you should not bluff. You should bluff. In some poker games, against some rivals, you should bluff often - but have a good reason. You should bluff when you have a reason to think that your rival will not call. If the pot is big you don't need much of a reason. You don't need to be successful with a bluff very often if the pot is big in order to gain some profit, but hope that your rival will not call is not a reason.

Reasons to Bluff

As mentioned bluff when you have good reason to think your rival won't call. There are other reasons in which you should be able to read your rivals.

Stealing a Bluff

There are two ways to catch bluffs - reading a players' body language and behavior and reading cards. In reading the body language and behavior, the rule is that strong means weak. That means that players will intentionally behave in ways to try to pass deceptive information. If they are putting on an apparent act of heavy aggression then they actually have the weak hand. They almost try to use the behavior to threaten you into folding.

Reading poker hands often requires an analysis of the entire play of the hand. To recognize bluffs by reading hands you need to determine the answer to the question: Is everything he's done up to now consistent with his holding the hand he's currently representing? If the answer is no, then think he is bluffing.
Either of these two approaches to catching bluffs requires experience good poker skill and judgment. If you are new to the game then you haven't acquired either of those to be a consistent reader of either people or cards. There are some situations where many players do have a tendency to bluff. When you find any kind of situations, you should suspect a bluff.

The common bluff occurs when an Ace falls. In Hold'em, many players will bet frequently as a bluff when an Ace falls on the board as the river card. Whenever an Ace falls, and a player who has been playing passively up to then bets, suspect a bluff. It is not always a bluff but it occurs often enough that you should be aware of it. If you will think about the play of the entire round (especially the early betting rounds) you can conclude not only that it is unlikely that the bettor has an Ace but also that they have a reason to think you don't have one either.

The main thing to know when considering whether a rival is bluffing is consistency of play.
The example is a hand that was played lately. In a typical game, with a little lose and mostly weak, predictable rivals, I had QJ on the button. Everyone folded to a late position player who is fairly aggressive. He limped in and I raised. The small blind called, the limper called a raise. The flop is A94 which completely missed my hand but I suspected this flop missed everyone. The small blind checked and the original limper bet. What was he having? This was an aggressive player and he had just limped before the flop. From the late position, with any Ace this player would have started with a raise. But he hadn't. I thought at that time that the best hand he could have was a 9. I called. The small blind folded. The card on the turn was a second Ace. Now I was sure that he doesn't have an Ace. Anytime two of a rank is on the board, the statistical chances that another player holds one of that ranks are reduced. He checked. Now I don't even think he has a 9. I bet at this point. He folded. His bet on the flop was clearly a bluff attempt to win the pot right then.

Only looking at the cards, my call on the flop might appear to be a weak call. I had two overcards to second pair. My hand didn't have a lot going for it. Why did I call? I call because his play hadn't been consistent with what I knew of his playing habits. With callers in front of him, this player would have raised before the flop with any Ace. So, even though his bet now might suggest he has an Ace. I was sure he doesn't. It just didn't fit and I doubt a bluff, calling to see what happened next.

Whenever your rivals past actions are not consistent with the hand he seems to be trying to represent now, suspect a bluff. However the important concept involves protection yourself against bluffs. Look for inconsistencies and when you find any, exploit the probable weakness of the player displaying them. Whenever you see a player who plays consistently doing otherwise, exploit it. It is important to learn your rivals' habits. In the example given, the only habit needed to have observed was the player's tendency to be aggressive.

Slow-playing

In Hold'em, most new players slow play a lot. There are three problems with slow play. One is that your hand is often not as strong as you think. For example, players will often slow-play hands like the bottom two pair and the bottom set, even when the board is two-suited. These plays are apparently always wrong against typical players.

While playing poker in one of the large card rooms, one man cam and said, "The problem with slow-playing the nuts is that there might be somebody else slow playing a hand they only think is the nuts."
He was actually right. Most players slow play a lot and it can cost them very much at times. A slow play is a deceptive play where you play a strong hand weakly. The fact is to allow someone else to get cheap draw to a second-best hand but there are many different ways a slow play can go wrong.

One way is the case where that man told me. That's when you don't need to let someone draw cheaply to get a second-best hand. It is when they have actually one, but they don't know it is a second-best and are slow playing themselves. This case might cost you a lot of missed bets. The second way slow play which can cost you money is when your hand isn't as good as you think and the free card you give someone a better hand, not the second-best hand. This is worst kind of result from this slow play, costing you both extra bets and the entire pot.

Slow playing can be best occasionally but not always as many other players think of it. If you have got any doubt, whether slow play is the right move - you should possibly bet. The reason to avoid slow play is that it is not as deceptive as you might think.

Continue : Over Aggression

 

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