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


Before sitting down, good poker players stop and evaluate the game, especially when they have many games to choose from as they do in Las Vegas, California, or New Jersey.

However, a serious player should evaluate even a weekly private game before deciding whether to become a regular.

There are two reasons for evaluating a game. One is to determine whether the game is worth playing. The second is to determine how to play in that particular game.

When professional players consider whether a game is worth playing, they estimate their expected hourly rate and decide whether that rate is satisfactory.

Social players in a home game are not generally so concerned with hourly rate.

However, even they do not want to become regulars in a game where they have mush the worst of it; nor do they want to get involved in a game whose stakes are either too high for their financial position or too low to be interesting.

Additionally, social players should consider the game or games, if it’s dealer’s choice that are played and be sure they’re comfortable with them.

They should also consider the speed of the game. If they’re really interested in playing cards, they probably do no want to become involved in a game in which there’s a new deal only about every four or five minutes.

To determine whether a game is worth playing and how to play in a particular game, the two most important considerations are the structure of the game and the Players in the game.

Evaluating the Structure and Adjusting to It

By the structure of the game, we mean principally the aent, the betting limits, and the rules of betting. The structure may deter an average or even an above-average player from sitting down, but it should rarely deter a good player.

The good player should be able to adjust his play to suit ay structure he happens to confront.

There is however one instance where the structure might cause even a very good player to stay out of a game: When it has made fair players into good players by accident. Most players don ’t sufficiently alter their style of play according to the structure; they tend to play to play a fairly consistent game.

However, sometimes the structure is exactly suited to the style of a group of player. Specifically the ante and/or the blind might by coincidence be an amount that makes these players’ style of play approximately correct.

For instance, there are some very aggressive seven card stud players in Las Vegas who play a little bit too lose in an ordinary game, but in game with a very high ante, their style of play is almost perfect.

The Ante and Other Forced Bets

The key question to ask about the ante and other forced bets like the bldins in hold’em is: How big are they in relation to the betting limits?

As we saw in Chapter Four, when the ante is large, you must loosen up, try to steal more antes, and almost never slowplay.

When the ante is small, you tighten up, steal fewer antes, and slowplay more. If you find you do better and are more comfortable in a tighter, small-ante game, that’s what you should look for, and vice versa For example, if you are especially good then a small-ante game suits your style.

If on the other hand you are an aggressive player with a keen sense of when to bluff and when not to, a large-ante game is likely to produce the best results.

However, whatever your style of play, you should avoid a game where the ante is simply enormous in relation to the betting limits.

In that case, the pot is so large to begin with that it’s worth calling with almost anything, and the game may almost be reduced to dealing out the cards and seeing who has the best hand.

An important aspect of the ante structure is the size of the initial bet and the size of the initial raise after the initial bet. Changes in these two bets can mean significant changes in poker strategy.

To illustrate, we will use the standard $15-$30 razz game in Las Vegas and a $15-$30 razz game I’ve played in Reno.

Usually, a $15-$30 Las Vegas razz game has a $1 ante, and the high card has a forced bet of $5. Anyone can then raises $10 to make it $15. With this structure, it is almost always correct when you have a good hand to raise with the next-to-last low card if everyone else has folded.

If you just call the $5 forced bet with a decent hand, the last low card is correct in calling behind you. Even with nothing at all, simply because that player is getting about 3½-to-1 odds on his $5 and figures to win if he catches a baby and you don ’t.

However, by raising in this spot, you cut down the last low card’s odds to about 2-to-1. Now if that player wants to take the chance of out drawing you on the next round, he is taking the worst of it unless he has a good hand himself.

In the Reno $15-$30 game, on the other hand, the high card brings it in for $10, and then anyone can raise and make it $25. That structure dictates a completely different strartegy in the situation just described.

Under these circumstances it becomes almost always correct to simply call the initial $10 bet with the next-to-last low card when you have a hand.

You are hoping for an overcall behind you since the player is no longer getting sufficient pot odds to gamble on outdrawing you.