Jumat, 28 September 2012

Advanced Betting Techniques in Texas Hold'em Poker - Part 2 of 3

Winning poker comes down to being able to squeeze a profit out of marginal situations. The object is not to win every hand played, but to win every hand you play. The best way to do this is to out bet your opponents. Every bet made should have a purpose. Either it is made to induce a weaker hand to fold, or it is made to maximize the winnings on the hand.

Since there are many opportunities to outplay your opponents, you have to know which opponents you can outplay. It is difficult to finesse weak players. The slow play often backfires because one of the loose limpers will hit a hand. The bluff does not work, since these players call with any two cards. The following sections demonstrate many of the advanced aspects of the game and how best to play them.

Representing Your Hand

A strong bet can represent a strong hand. This is especially true when betting after the flop. If an Ace or King shows on the flop, you can represent an Ace or King in your hand by betting. Often, it is what you represent that is more important than what you actually have, especially if you have put your opponent on a medium or weak hand.

Shuffle Up and Steal

The most common place to steal the blinds is from the button. If no players have made a raise in front of you, and only the blinds are remaining in the game, a raise often accomplishes the steal. Statistically the blinds should fold unless they have a strong hand. If you do not raise, but simply limp in, the blinds normally check to see a half-price or free hand, since they already have an interest in the pot, whether they like their cards or not. It is a good place to pick up extra chips, but it is not going make you rich. It is often a way to end the hand quickly and have a new hand dealt with more players and more money available.

One thing to remember here is that some players, known in poker terms as defenders, are maniacal in their defense of their blinds. These players protect their blinds in situations that do not make statistical sense, solely to keep someone from stealing their blinds. Save your blind steals for other players who do not defend them as strongly, unless you have an extremely strong hand. With this strong hand, taking on the defender is often the correct move. A strong bet may entice the defender to free up a large quantity of chips. Though trying to take advantage of a maniacal defender is not always successful, it can be highly profitable in the end.

Stealing the Pot

Stealing the pot is easiest if you are the last player to act and the action was checked to you. At this point, a bet will reduce the number of remaining players or allow you to collect the pot without opposition. Do not use this ploy exclusively, as better players catch on quickly and begin check raising against your (most likely) poor hand. It is good to use this ploy to steal the pot when you have an excellent drawing hand, such as a nut flush draw. Players more often tend to "check to the raiser." If you draw to your hand, you now have a larger pot to win. If you do not hit, you can always check, hoping the final card makes your hand.

Check-Raise

A check-raise is declining to bet when you first have the opportunity with the intention of letting another bet, so that you can then re-raise. Your intention is to lure them into a false sense of security, allowing your raise to increase the pot. After they commit to a first bet, they are more likely to call a second bet. If your re-raise is strong enough, they may decide to fold.

Check-Call

The check-call is often useful when you have a mediocre hand and you are unsure of its strength against the other hands. It is also very effective early in a session to set up opponents for a winning check-raise later. When playing a moderate hand, especially in limit games, it is not a bad move to check first, and then call an opponent's raise, rather than raising on your own. After a few times, this pattern establishes a passive table image of a calling station. Opponents become confident betting into you and you can later make them pay when you aggressively play a solid hand.

The check-call, as well as the check-raise, is a great weapon with an extremely loose player to your left, allowing them to do all of your raising, thus masking the true strength of your hand. Unfortunately, the check-call can be dangerous for a mediocre hand when up against an opponent with premium cards. Another drawback is that, if no one else raises, the other players receive a free card.

Value Bet

When you are positive you have the best hand, a value bet may be your best move. This bet is one that is small enough to entice a call on the river. In a limit game, it is easy to add that final bet. It is only a single bet and does not cost much, and the second best hand nearly always calls. For many players in a no-limit game it can be much harder to call. You want to make the bet small enough to call, but large enough to punish your opponent for making it. Do not give your opponent a free showdown at the river. You do not want your opponents to think you actually want them to make a call.

By making it appear you did not want a call, you might get an opponent to pay off your bet on the river. Most players only bet on the river if they have a strong hand, or, less frequently, as a bluff attempt. If you do not get the call, that is fine. Do not show your winning cards, collect the pot and leave your opponent wondering if it was really a bluff.

The Continuation Bet

A continuation bet is one where you start out betting strong pre-flop and keep pressing the bet all the way to the river. This is most effective with premium hands that improve on the flop, but you can also use it successfully if the flop did not improve your hand. By showing strength when you have a premium hand, other players assume you are doing so when you are on a draw or making a bluff.

The Squeeze Play

The squeeze play is a tactic best made in a no-limit game. When a player re-raises after a raise, it makes the players between the raisers afraid of being squeezed "Between a Rock and a Hard Place." This is also known as "Stealing with Equity." Do a squeeze play when you have a good hand and you suspect another player is on a draw. For example, you have top pair with the best kicker. Making a large raise or re-raise could force others off their hands, since the odds are against them making the straight or flush draw. Your aim is to change their pot odds to make it inadvisable for them to call.

Raising Under the Gun

In a limit game, this is when the person under the gun (or the first player to bet) raises rather than checks the bet, forcing the other players to call two bets at once. In a no-limit game, it is a large over bet or an All In bet. Your intention is to limit the number of players left in the hand. This move amounts to a reverse steal, since normally only a player with an exceptionally strong hand would raise so far out of position. Players who are notorious bluffers often do this. The effect almost certainly causes players to fold, but the ones remaining are equally as aggressive or have a premium starting hand. Often, players raise under the gun as a means of betting to gain information. It is best to use this tactic when only a few players are left in the hand.

Daniel L. Cox is the editor of Poker Insider Magazine, an e-zine dedicated to poker. He is also the award-winning author of "Winning Blue-Collar Hold'em: How to Play Low-limit Ring Games and Small Buy-in Tournaments" and three upcoming books on poker. He can be found on Twitter at PokerInsiderMag, where he gives you a daily poker quote or pokerism.

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