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Poker News | Casino Poker | Tournament Reports

Teaching the Poker Masses

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We've all heard the old imperative, "Never give lessons at the poker table," but sometimes we forget that a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing. In many cases the student simply picks up an excuse for bad play. How often have you heard, "I had the right odds to call," or some other excuse as an opponent makes a horrible play.

I remember one game in particular once in Las Vegas. Six tourists showed up and wanted to start a new table so they could play together. I was first on the list and got the 8th seat. The 7th player was on his way. It doesn't really matter but they called him Kevin and he definitely looked like Costner. He showed up from the craps table and tossed everyone a black chip except me and the dealer. The game was seven card stud but it might as well have been showdown. They called every bet and looked upset if someone raised. At the end all 7 turned over their cards and the best hand won. In this game the only way to win was to have the best hand at the river. There was no way a skilled player could increase his win rate.

Note: The most foolish thing I have ever heard is, "I can only win against good players. I just can't beat bad players." You may have a higher win rate against better players, but the skilled player should be able to beat bad players.

When you find yourself regularly in one of these novice games, imparting a bit of knowledge could actually increase your win rate, if you can impart just a little bit of knowledge. For example many home games are simply 1st level games. The players are only aware of their own hand. Bluffing in this poker game has a negative expected value (EV.). If you can enlighten them about 2nd level play, "What does your opponent have?" then you can increase your EV by employing 3rd level play, "What do they think I have?" You do have to work harder for the wins but they tend to be more substantial and rely less on getting the good cards.

Should the lessons occur at the table, definitely not, but during smoke breaks or lunch breaks it might be a good idea to impart a little wisdom to those players that want to learn, and might be considered controllable. You can teach them everything they know. Just never teach them everything you know. Never forget you get a lot of your EV from the stumps, but the extra EV is gleaned from the marginal players that are susceptible to expert play.

Good Luck


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