General concepts

Points of Play

Tournament Play

Consider All Alternatives

One of the main things that separate the great poker player from the good one is the fact that he evaluates all of his possible plays before making a decision. He knows that the obvious play is not always the right one.

Whenever I encounter a situation where there appears to be an obvious play, I still always think to myself, “Wait a second David, might the apparently inferior alternative actually be better?” Then I check it out quickly in my mind before making a decision.

A good example occurs in heads-up situation against tough aggressive poker players.  You have been betting your hand all the way and your opponent has been calling. 

It appears that he has a “hand” rather than a “draw.”  You, however, are representing an even better hand. 

Thus, if you do have a very good poker hand it makes sense to bet it on the end. On closer analysis, however, it may be better to try for a check-raise when all the cards are out. 

Even though you have shown strength all the way, your check on the end seems to indicate that you are worried that you don’t have the best hand. 

This may very well elicit a bet.  Even if it doesn’t always work, it doesn’t mean you were wrong in trying. A successful check-raise only has to work half as often as a bet for it to make more money in the long run. Thus, whenever you have an obvious bet say to yourself, “Might trying for a check-raise be better?”

Just as an obvious bet might not be the right play, so too might an obvious raise, call, or fold be wrong. Anytime it seems clear that you should call, you should consider raising.  You will find that raising turns out to be better in the long run quite often. 

When you have what appears to be an obvious fold you should still consider raising. Don’t forget that even a raise bluff doesn’t have to work most of the time for it to show a profit in the long run.

On the other side of the coin, it is possible that a raise is wrong even when it seems like the obvious play. The only time you don’t have to consider just calling is when you have the “nuts” in a heads-up situation and it is the last round of betting. 

If it is an earlier round, you may want to wait in order to suck him in. If there are other players in the pot it might be better to try for an overcall even with the nuts.

Here is an example from my personal experience. I was playing $ 10-$ 20 Hold’em against good players. After the fop, I had an ace-high four-flush. Three of us put in a bet and three raises ($ 40) on the flop. 

On fourth street the player on my right bet and both I and the player on my left called. On fifth street my flush card hit. I had a cinch. The player on my right checked. Now I checked! Why? 

Because I thought the player on my left also made a flush. He did make the flush and, of course, he bet. The other player called and I, of course, raised. The flush called and the other player folded. 

I made $ 60 on the end. Had I come out betting, I would have made only $ 20 against these two good players as the other poker flush would just have called and the player on my right would have folded.

It was only necessary that my play work more than one time in three for it to be better than the apparently obvious play of betting. I was risking $ 20 to win $ 60. The obvious play only won the sure $ 20. 

It might have been obvious, but it was also horrible under the circumstances. Would you have made my play (against good players)? If not, you’re not considering everything.

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