Rules of Thumb #11-15: Pearls of Wisdom

Continued from: Texas Hold'em Tips #6-10: Juicy Tidbits

And now for some rules of thumb for playing poker, with perhaps a few pearls of wisdom thrown in for good measure.

Poker Rules of Thumb

11) As a very general rule of thumb in poker you should play in a style that is the opposite of the rest of the table. If you're at a very tight table you will loosen your opening requirements because you will win more pots uncontested and it will be easier to win pots with continuation bets and bluffs against the player who does call you. You also need to tighten up against loose tables. At a table of loose players you will win few pots uncontested, and bluffs will have little effect. In this case it pays to just wait for really good hands and to push them hard. You will also not need to raise as often because they'll be doing it for you. Just remember that you'll often need to show down a strong hand at these loose tables, so start with good cards.

12) If you raised before the flop you should usually bet after the flop. This is called a continuation bet because it continues the show of strength you demonstrated by raising before the flop. As long as your opening bet thinned the field to no more than two other players and the action is checked to you, a bet is all but mandatory. The combination of your raise before the flop and your bet after will often be enough to win you the pot whether or not you actually improved your hand. If you use a continuation bet of about the size of the pot, it will only need to succeed one time in three to break even, and in my experience it does work more than one time in three. There are times when you might not want to use this bet, but they are exceptions and the follow up or continuation bet should be the rule.

13) Don't risk more than you stand to win. New players think NLHE is a game of big bluffs and all-in moves. The truth of the matter is that you should go out of your way to not get all your chips in the middle, especially in a tournament. You should almost never bet more chips than the pot contains. Your bets after the flop should be looked at as portions of the pot sized with 1X being your typical max bet, where X is the size of the pot.

14) Treat your cards being suited as a bonus. Many players play with an "any two suited cards will do" mentality, which is horribly incorrect. In general your cards being suited has very little to do with their value. The main exception to this rule is with the AXs hands, because having the ace and another card of the same suit can give you a draw to the nut flush (a hand that is absolutely unbeatable). Drawing to the nuts in NLHE is often a very profitable proposition.

15) Don't get married to your ace. Many players get very excited when they draw an ace in their opening hand. The truth is most hands that contain an ace are not even playable in most situations. I will rarely play an ace with a kicker lower than a ten unless the cards are suited, and even when they're suited I will only play if I can see a very cheap flop. When you draw an ace rag hand such as A4o and an ace comes out on the flop, you are likely to get very little action unless you are beat. And if you are beat with top pair, higher kicker, it will often cost you all of your chips. If you play every hand that contains an ace in it you will be leaking a lot of chips in the form of massive beats for large amounts of your chips.

You want to limit the amount of tough decisions you have to make at the table and one way to do that is to make sure both of your cards are high cards when you get involved. Of course there are times that you will play suited connectors that are not especially high, like 9d8d, and you will play small pairs sometimes trying to hit a set like pocket 3's or 4's, but in general NLHE is a game about big cards, and if you've only got one in your hand you're playing with half a hand.

♣ Continued at: NLHE Advice #16-20: Diamonds in the Rough

♣ Back to the index of Dead Money's guide to hold'em strategy.