Poker: Now What?
By Mike Shields
You may be asking yourself this question after seeing the WSOP on TV, and going to a casino and attempting to win millions just like they do. I say attempting, because you probably failed at your first few tries. But you think you’re good enough to do really well, so you’re asking yourself, “Now What?”
Well, if you’re like me, you start reading. And reading and reading. And then, reading some more. A Yahoo search on the term poker turns up approximately 189,000,000 results. You’ll only really need about five or ten of those. Going to Amazon will give you another two hundred plus results, of which, you can choose about two or three just to get yourself started. In addition, there are several magazines at your local newsstand, including this one, with various hand strategies and analysis.
I could make specific recommendations here, however, as I believe there’s more than one way to win, which poker guru speaks to you the best will depend on what type of playing style you’ve developed. There are four basic styles, and roughly two or three variations on each. You’ve probably already developed your own style and just don’t know what to do with it.
Without reprinting several books and websites here, what I can tell you is that given two sets of ten players each, they will almost invariably play the same hands differently, with wildly differing outcomes. As for myself, after reading a couple of books and several of the articles I found on various websites, I’ve developed a specific strategy that fits my table image. But I’m not recommending that you play like I do, as you might have different results or worse, take yourself out of your comfort zone.
At some point, you have to put yourself out there. There’s no substitute for experience. However, what I can tell you is that according to the previously mentioned sources, poker is about making correct decisions. Most of these decisions are based on what to do with the cards you’re dealt once you have them. Some of them have nothing to do with the cards, but with what others are doing with their cards, or, how big (or small) your chip stack is compared to the other players at your table. Throw in your position relative to the dealer button, as well as whether you’re the small or big blind, and you’ve acquired a whole other set of decisions.
How should a player new to the game make these decisions? Well, by now you’ve probably found a starting hand chart somewhere, so I won’t go into the whole thing here. As for me specifically, I’ll usually play any pocket pair or suited connector, as well as Big Slick (AK) or Big Chick (AQ). That’s really only about 20% of the hands that you’re dealt, and if you find you’re paying a lot of money to see several flops, and then folding, maybe you want to rethink your starting hand requirements.
One of the decisions that you’ll find yourself making is when to go all-in, which I believe are the two most powerful words in the English Language when it comes to the poker table. Why, you ask? Because now you’ve put the onus of the decision on him. You may also be making this move to protect your hand. Or, you could simply be on a blind steal. If someone moves all in against you, the first question you should ask yourself is, “Why?” Followed up quickly with, “Does he have me covered?” Meaning, does he have more chips than you? This may affect your decision to call his all in or not. Should you call? (Remembering of course, that it takes a better hand to call than it does to bet.)
When should you go all in? Pre-flop, after the flop, on the turn or the river? Well, in poker, the answer to all of these questions is, “It depends.” Should you go all in at all? Once you’ve gone all in, you have no more decisions to make and your opponent only has one. If you feel you have the nuts, which is the best hand, you might want to extract maximum value from your opponent. A healthy raise might get him to call and as a result, lose more money to you. Poker is like baseball; you don’t have to hit a homerun every time you’re at bat. Crippling your opponent chip-wise might be enough to make him go on tilt. Which we can talk about next time.
72 and sunny in Redondo Beach.
See you next time...
Disclaimer: Mike’s views probably don’t reflect anyone else’s that you know, and sometimes, not even necessarily his own. If you have an opposing view, by all means, write a letter to the editor, or you can email him direct at: Batman@azteca.net, or, you can leave a comment for him at SOAKWorld: soakmag.com/BATMAN, and recommends that you play poker online at: GothamCityPoker.net.