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Poker Strategy | Advanced Poker

Poker Betting Strategy (part 2)

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*This is Part II of a Two Part article referring mostly to tournament play.*

Information bets are not modest bets. They are bets that should seek to eliminate the drawing hands. We make them when we aren't sure where we are at. This is not a passive value bet. Many players play a session and never make them. It helps separate the term aggressive from passive. And it is a play that we have to be ready to concede a pot on. If you avoid this you will never move up another level in your game.

Commit with the believed best hand. That usually isn't top pair and lousy kicker. I make no apology and suffer no embarrassment when I am taken down by a suck-out. I was right and he was lucky. And bless the poker gods when it is my turn-that is typically going to happen a minimum of two times a tournament.

--Bluffing is betting too--

You cannot bluff a calling station. That they should have folded with that ratty hand is a lot different from ‘did fold'.

Based on most tournament play, take the number of times you bluff and divide by 2 and it is probably still too high. Bluffing with a short to average stack is a study of frustration. There are always online players that could not make a read if the other guy's hand was exposed.

If you plan to bluff the flop then you should be prepared to continue bluffing on the turn.

One can often just call the flop bet with the objective of bluffing on the turn. This is often the stronger play. When an aggressive player expects to have his bet take down the hand, and it fails; the wheels start to turn. This will often see him check on the turn and give one the opportunity to bluff with a less aggressive bet that now looks like a value bet.

-- Implied Odds --

This can separate the men from the boys. Holdem is really about post flop play. And to get to that we must see a flop-often in a raised pot. We usually do this from position with a lot of information at our disposal. We move from playing our cards to playing the player. The type of player we are looking for is an ABC type. And we want him to have a nice stack in front of him. He has a straight-forward, aggressive game. He either didn't pay attention to the entire above image or has become lazy.

We hold a good drawing hand that is often a fold in an unopened pot; or maybe cards that can create concealed strength. This type of hand is best played in a family style pot. But it is an advanced play to go heads up with at times - more in ring games than tournament - but it works when we hold a decent stack in tournament play. The play is a ‘negative expected value call'. Its justification is its potential for winning a large pot. It is a hand you will usually fold later but when it hits, you have huge expectations. Understand how to do this and you move up one level in post-flop play and get to pass Go and collect $200. (This is a ring game staple and has only selective value in tournament play.)

-- Avoid Over betting --

Only bet enough to win the hand. You hold what you believe is the best hand but, with more cards to come that can change. The texture of the flop may give us concerns. What position are we betting from? What is normal aggression on this table and who is still in the pot? What is my image from the times I've gone to a showdown? This and more comes into play whenever we are reaching for chips.

One's objective isn't served if their action serves another player. When that happens they regret the size of the bet-especially one that is an over bet. This is where feel and experience comes into play. Over bets happen for a variety of reasons. Analyze why a bet fails and what alternative bets might have been. If you have a hand analysis tool, you may find a pattern that isn't optimal. If you play a lot of cash games, that may be influencing your action. Never ignore the impact of how your bet affects your current stack.

-- Location, Location, Location --

It is the mantra of the realtor. Position, position, position is our mantra. Position should go into our accounting of what our opponents are holding. Position gives us knowledge that we can use. Our opponent's position and style gives us information about his potential holdings. The classic example is a 'broad way flop' of, say A-J-T. We may have entered the pot with A-J and hold top two pair. Position either gives or denies us information for what we feel would be the appropriate bet. The best possible hand on this flop would be held by someone with K-Q - which a loose player might enter the pot with from early position - while a tight player might fold the same hand from poor position. We may still feel we have the best hand at this point. Playing position makes our options are clearer. The size of our stack against the opponent's is a consideration and the size of the blind enters the picture. We need to ask ourselves the questions we've gone over. In time that becomes intuitive. So how are we playing this hand? Out of position the answer is: with great difficulty. With position it still isn't a slam-dunk. Our objective is to show strength while minimizing risk. The betting answer ranges from being willing to fold to pressing our opponent's entire stack. But, we still have a situation that is greatly helped by position. This may be more of a play than betting conundrum but we entered the hand with our pre-flop bet and betting is a continuation of goals that are heavily impacted by our position and that of our opponent.

-- B&M vs. Online --

While this article applies to both, the shades of gray expand to Technicolor when we move to a real table. Putting on your Oakleys or digging out that Stetson doesn't prepare us for the transition. We are not hiding behind a static avatar. Reads expand to the physical. My starting piece of advice is put your hands in your lap when you aren't moving chips. Hand movements often give away the B&M novice. And we don't have the read experience on the physical acts that come into play. Online players are used to a timer bar sliding toward an auto fold. They tend to react more quickly than they need to. Making your read is a whole new world and one uses the slower play to improve the read.


We've looked at generalities with little regard to specific situations. We've asked a lot of questions and provided few answers. Each of the things discussed will come into play in every session with different situations altering our response. It is something we need to enhance in every session. Often we must ignore our ideal response. Learning from our mistakes is often the benefit we receive and that how our game grows. It is too easy to play a bad player with a bad hand and win. While this benefits our stack it does not benefit our game. Good betting can be ignored at times but that does not improve our game to any degree. The idea of proper betting is to make the constant risk/reward of poker work to our benefit. The less a player understands betting, the more he must risk in the all-in move that is actually the antithesis of superior play.


You are welcome to add more questions/answers in a thread on the PokerWorks poker forum. This is only a start. But it does point out that betting is a series of questions with incomplete answers. But so is poker.

This article only hints around all the issues. Harrington's Volume I on Holdem is a master's dissertation on betting. If I'd just quoted/plagiarized him here, I'd look a lot smarter or at least more positive. What comes out of his book is not a vanilla player, but selective aggression and the use of position. Position is always to be considered and can change any set of betting options you might see for your hand. And the size of blinds affects betting in a massive way.


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