General concepts

Points of Play

Tournament Play

Playing Hands

Any time you are involved in a poker hand, you are faced with a multitude of decisions.

If it is up to you and no one else has yet bet, you must decide whether to bet or check.  If someone else already has bet, you must decide whether to call, raise, or fold.

Obviously, if you knew all of your opponent’s hole cards, you nearly always make the right decision.  Unfortunately, even the best players cannot always be exactly sure of what they are up against.

Thus, even the best players are apt to make errors when deciding how to play poker hand.  (when it is regarding of “error” in this case, it really mean that they are playing the hand differently from the way they would if they knew their opponent’s hole cards.)

Since good players tend to be better at deducing their opponent’s hands, they are less likely to make an incorrect decision about how to play their hands.

However, in certain cases, this may be their downfall. This paradoxical fact stems from the reasoning that all errors are not equal.

Basically, there are only two kinds of errors that can be made in a poker hand:

  1. An error that costs you one or more bets.
  2. An error that costs you the pot.

Error No.2 nearly always is much worse than error No.1. The only exceptions are when the pot is very small or if it is no-limit poker or pot-limit poker.

Ina typical limit poker game, an error that costs you the pot is much worse than an error that costs you a bet or two, especially if the pot is fairly large. 

For this reason, it frequently is correct to make a play (usually betting or raising) even if it is probably the wrong play (in that it would be wrong if your opponent has what he appears to have). 

This can occur when the play can win you the pot when it is right, but only costs a bet when it is wrong.

For example, if some play will cost you an extra bet 70 percent of the time and win or save you the pot 30 percent of the time, it certainly is better in the long run to make this play if there are already several bets in the pot.

You now understand what it mean when it is said that some good poker players may cause their own downfall by making the “correct” decision about how to play their hands the majority of the time. 

They may save a bet three out of four times but blow the pot a good portion of the remaining times. When they do blow a pot they have made a catastrophic error.

There catastrophic errors usually fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. Failure to bluff on the end when there is a reasonable chance of getting away with it.
  2. Failure to bet a mediocre hand with more cards to come if it possibly may win the pot right there (or possibly set up a steal on a later round ).
  3. Failure to raise a bettor on your right when you have a pretty good hand, in order to force out players behind you.

It should be clear that each of these errors may cost you the pot while avoiding them can cost you two bets at most. Let us examine them one at a time.

Error number one is the easiest to see. Suppose there is $ 100 in the pot and you think a $ 20 bet has about a 30 percent chance of stealing it. (It is assume that your hand cannot possibly win a showdown.) 

This is a clear-cut where a play that will usually cost you money is still the right one. If this situation were to arise ten times, you should lose $ 20 seven of those times but win $ 100 the other three times. This gives you a net profit of $ 160 for an average of $ 16 per time.

The second error occurs quite frequently even in tougher games.  A player is afraid to bet a mediocre hand on an early or middle strategy round of betting since he fear that he is already beaten. 

He is trying to save a bet.  However, if there is a reasonable chance that his opponent or opponents might throw their hands away when he bets, it is worth taking a fairly large chance of betting the second-best hand if it will occasionally win the pot right there. 

You will cost yourself an extra bet more often than not, but it is still worth it. The third error is along the same lines as the previous error.  However, this third error is even made by otherwise excellent players. 

There are times when you must raise a player who has bet even if he probably has you beaten!  This error occurs when there are expert poker players in the hand and there are still more cards to come. 

If your raise will knock out the other players and thus keep them from drawing out on you when you do have the best hand, you have gained a lot. 

You have gained so much, in fact, that it is worth taking a large chance of raising a hand that is better than yours in order to increase your chances of winning poker pot.

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