Expectation And Hourly Rate The Fundamental Theorem Of Poker The Ante Structure Pot Odds Effective Odds Implied Odds and Reverse Implied Odds The Value of Deception Win the Big Pots Right Away The Free Card The Semi-Bluff Defense Against the Semi-Bluff Raising Check-Raising Slowplaying Loose and Tight Play Position Bluffing Game Theory and Bluffing Inducing and Stopping Bluffs Hands-Up On The End Reading Hands The Psychology of Poker Analysis at the Table Evaluating the Game


Like any other gambling game, poker is a game of risks versus rewards.

Any decision you make at the poker table can be thought of as a comparison of the risk involved in a particular play and the possible reward for the play.

There are three questions involved in arriving at a decision: How great is the risk? How great is the reward? Is the reward great enough to justify the risk?

When deciding whether to bluff, your risk is a bet. Your reward is the pot (as well as advertising value if you show the bluff).

When deciding whether to bet a mediocre hand before all the cards are out, you risk a bet.

If successful, your reward (when your opponent doesn ’t simply fold) is that you didn ’t give a lesser hand a free card to outdraw you.

When you check a big hand, you risk losing a bet on that round as well as losing the pot to a hand that would have folded if you bet.

Your reward is a check-raise or future bets on later rounds. When deciding whether to call, your risk is a bet, and your reward is the pot.

Any poker decision can be put into these terms. What do you have to gain (including future benefits on subsequent hands) by making a particular poker play? What do you have to lose?

The ability to evaluate properly the risk-reward ratio for any poker decision is the ultimate test on the road to becoming a champion poker pelyer.

The trouble is that unlike chess and many other games, poker is a game of speed.

Every once in a while you are allowed to think about a hand, but in general you have to make decisions in a few seconds.

You can ’t sit there for two minutes calculating odds, trying to read your opponents’ hands, trying to figure out what they are thinking, and then deciding upon your best play.

For one think the other players at the table wouldn ’t tolerate your dawdling.

For another, you would be giving away information about your hand, since any time you paused unduly long to reflect, your oppodents would know you had some kind of problem. (Consequently, when you find, despite your best efforts, you have to pause often when you’re playing, you should also pause when you have no reason, to throw your opponents off.)

Poker tends to be a game for quick-thinking people.

Some geniuses plodding thinks, unable to come to quick decisions, and they can never become great poker player.

On the other hand, some of the best poker players in world are no super minds, but they are super-quick minds and can remember any mistake they and their opponents make.

Some combination of quick thinking and instant recall has to be developed if you want to become a poker champion.


One of the most difficult things for the average poker player to do is to make accurate decisions at the game in the heat of a hand.

Many good ad bad players alike simply decide what they think their opponent has and then go on to determine their best play on the assumption that their opponent has the hand they’re assuming he has.

However, as we saw in the chapter on reading hands, this is a bad and potentially costly way of going about the business of decision-making.

There is a better way, which is employed by most good players. analysis in practice

They ask, “What are the various hands my opponent could have, and what are the chances he has each of them?”

They determine the best play for each of the possible hands, and they usually choose the best play against their opponent’s most likely hand or hands.

Sometimes it works out that no matter what your opponent has, you wind up with the same best play.

This is especially true in the relatively easy decisions for example, deciding to foold when you have nothing in
seven card stud, the pot is small, and your opponent with an open pair of aces bets on the end.

If, on the other hand, the pot were large hence the reward would be large you might want to determine the chances of a bluff raise working if your opponent has nothing but two aces.

And, of course, those chances depend upon the chances that your opponent has in fact only aces.

Frequently, then, a different play becomes correct depending upon what your opponent has.

For example, a bluff raise might have a reasonable chance of working if your opponent has nothing but two aces.

It has less chance of working if that opponent has aces up. small antes

It has little to no chance of working if he’s made a straight and no chance whatsoever against aces full.

Therefore, determining whether the risk of two best (calling and raising) is worth the possible reward of the pot depends:

  1. Upon the chances that your opponent has only two aces rather than any of his other possible hands.
  2. On whether that opponent is the type of player who would fold them if you raise.

Let’s say you decide there’s only about a 25 percent chance that your opponent has two aces and a 75 percent chance he has aces up or better.

Furthermore, if that player does have only aces, you think there’s only about a 50 percent chance he will fold if you raise.

Then the reward of the pot is probably not worth the risk of  two bets, and you should fold. In general, when you have alternate plays dependent upon your opponent’s bluffing hand, you choose the best play against his most likely hand or hands.

Let’s say you figure an opponent to have Hand A 40 percent of the time, Hand B 35 percent of the time, and Hand C 25 percent of the time. (Delaying one round to drive opponents out.)

Usually you would pick the best play against Hand A, which is your opponent’s most likely hand.

However, if Hand A requires one play, while both Hand B and Hand C require quite another play, you would ordinarily make the second play since it would be right 60 percent of the time 35 percent of the time when your oppoent has Hand B and 25 percent of the time when he has Hand C.

When analyzing a poker situation, you go through four steps in deciding on your play.
  1. Determine the possible hands your opponent may have.
  2. Assess the chances of his having each of his possible hands.
  3. Determine your best play against each of his possible hands.
  4. In most cases, pick the play that will most often be correct.

Analysis in Practice / Analyzing the Cost of a Mistake