Betting with Purpose: Advanced Poker Strategy
Placing bets in a game of poker is about so much more than just the cards you have in your hand, as any experienced player will know. The complexity of the game is one of its biggest draws and it extends throughout every hand, allowing players to get increasingly strategic with every bet placed.
A bet isn’t just made to fill a space in time – it’s made with purpose, and the best players are those that are able to use bets (even losing ones) to their advantage.
Two of the most important factors that will influence a player’s bet include; the bets that have been placed so far and the number of cards on the table. During each hand, a player will find themselves in a position where they need to take these factors into account and their resulting decisions will not only impact how the play continues, but how much they walk away with at the end of the game.
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Step-by-Step Decision Making
Poker can sometimes feel like a minefield, filled with decisions that could leave you better off – or substantially worse off – with every small step you take. To safely traverse this minefield, you need to always be thinking on your feet. This is where the flow of the game comes in handy.
The flow of the game pertains to the bets that have been made up to that point and they can tell you a lot about what the other players are holding. Remember, with every decision, you’ll want to keep situational factors, as well as previous tendencies of the other players in mind.
Many professionals believe that the decisions you make about how you want to act should come before you look at your cards. This allows your cards to influence your decisions, rather than basing all of your decisions around your cards.
At times, your bets will likely have little to do with your cards and more with trying to figure out what the other players are holding. This is where bluffing becomes an important part of game play. A player might raise after another has called simply as a way to find out what they would do next. In response, a player who isn’t holding a strong hand could decide to raise, bluffing their way to a win a hand, as happened when Dan Heinmiller and Benny Chen played the PokerStars Caribbean Adventure.
Determining the Strength of Your Hand
While your hand might only be a small part of what you base your decisions on, it is still an integral part of your play. Understanding your hand’s strength will help you to decide how you proceed postflop. If you’re holding an Ace High, you’re probably going to want to fold if you come across a confident opponent.
On the other hand, if you’re sitting with a really strong hand, such as quads, you won’t want to immediately increase your bets or you might give the game away and scare off your opponents. You could win less on a hand with next-to-nothing than when holding quads if you scare off any would-be betters.
In this instance, proceed slowly, and be sure to keep the flow of the game in mind. Suddenly going all in on the turn, you’ll likely wind up having everyone fold before you can work up a really good pot. Let the hand build up and keep your cool – you’ll find that you walk away with more in the end.
Remember that the strength of your hand will change will every card that is added to the table. Certain hands are stronger preflop, while others remain strong right up until the river. Quads are good up until the river, but you’ll want to play a straight a little differently.
How the Strength of your Hand Changes During Play
A straight generally gives players a good chance at the pot when it’s not completely obvious from the flop, but this is only until the turn or the river. In the event that the flop contains consecutive cards, you’ll find that the straight becomes a lot more obvious.
A flush postflop is a really strong hand, but the flop could end up benefiting your opponents, which means that unless you have an ace, you will likely want to check and call.
A player with a straight flush will likely want to bluff their way to letting other players think that they can beat this hand, otherwise, the pot will be worth next-to-nothing. Of course when you’re bluffing, you’ll want to use positional play to your advantage, otherwise you’ll have nothing more than body language to communicate to the other players. By betting using your position, you can check or use a small raise to pique another player’s interest by indicating that you don’t have a great hand. Once again, you’ll want to keep the flow of the game in mind when you do this – if you’ve been placing large bets up to that point, a small, deliberate bet could end up giving the game away.
The Importance of Position
Position not only allows you to bluff, but also gives you the chance to read other players, and this could let you take bigger risks. If you’re on the button and an ace turns up in a flop, you’ll be looking good with an ace in your hole cards unless someone else also has an ace or has a better hand. If everyone in the hand checks, it’s probably safe to say that they don’t (unless of course someone else is bluffing), and you can be more confident you’re holding the best hand.
Betting is a huge part of your strategy in a game of poker. Just like any part of your strategy, you need to bet with purpose and that means that you need to have a reason for every bet, whether that is to find out what the other players are holding, bluff your way to a larger pot or ensure your game play is consistent enough to lure other players into a well made trap.