One of the things that makes poker such a great game is the fact that there are very few things that are correct 100% of the time. Pocket aces beat seven-two off suit most of the time, but there are some situations where the bad hand wins. Most answers to casino poker gaming questions actually depend on the situation.
Have you heard or read advice like you should always play tight and aggressive or you should always raise with pockets kings and aces? At first, advice like this seems useful, but is it always true?
In this article, I evaluate seven poker myths I’ve heard over the years that are supposed to be true. As you read each section, you’re going to learn which pieces of advice you should be following.
1 – Always Raise With Pocket Aces
The advice that you should always raise with pocket aces is aimed at beginning and poor poker players. It’s hard to misplay pocket aces. And if you’re not a strong player, the best way to play them is to enter the pot with a raise.
But if you’re a strong player, there are times where you can make more money with pocket aces by not raising when you enter the pot. Before continuing, you need to know that if you play limit Texas holdem, you should raise every time you have pocket aces. The only time you can possibly make more money not raising to enter the pot is in no limit or pot limit play.
Here’s an example where calling with pocket aces can be more profitable than raising.
You’re in late position in a no limit Texas holdem game, and everyone involved in the hand has deep stacks. You’re known as a strong player, and most of the players at the table respect your play. A loose but fairly good early position player enters the pot with a raise and one middle position player, who is particularly tight, calls.
If you raise, the early position player will probably see the flop with you, but the tight player in middle position may fold. If the tight player calls your raise and sees the flop, and if you get any play from them after the flop, the odds are high that they hit a big hand.
On the other hand, if you call instead of raise, neither of your two opponents can put you on a hand. When you call, and the loose player opens with a bet on the flop, the middle position player will call with a wider range of hands because they know the early player is loose.
By playing the hand this way, you can extract extra bets from the middle position player and often from the loose player in early position as well.
Does all of this mean you should stop raising with pocket aces? For most players, you should continue raising with them every time you get them.
The way you’re going to know that you’re ready to consider not raising is when you start seeing how the hand can play out before the flop and see more opportunities for profit by calling. The truth is, most poker players never reach this level of play.
2 – Always Raise With Pocket Kings
I actually raise with pocket kings more often than I raise with pocket aces. Pocket kings are a strong hand, but I don’t want to let anyone with a weak ace see the flop for cheap and outdraw me. But pocket kings can be played without a raise in a few situations like the ones I covered in the last section.
This is a play that only the best players should try to make, and even for them, it should be a rare occasion.
3 – Always Play Tight
Tight play is usually the best way to play poker because it means that you fold weak hands. If you were able to track all of the starting hands that you could possibly play, and assign the average profit or loss to each hand over millions of hands of poker, you could clearly see why playing tight is more profitable than playing loose.
The player with the best starting hand to enter the pot has the best chance to win. Of course, the flop, turn, and river changes things sometimes, but the best starting hand wins more than any other hand in the pot.
Your abilities after the flop also come into play, and superior post-flop players can play a few more hands than weaker players. But even the best poker players tend to play tighter than most.
So, should you always play tight?
The answer is that you should play the way that is the most profitable. If playing tight is the most profitable way to play in the situation you’re in, then play tight. But there are times when the tightest player at the table doesn’t make the most profit.
The most common situation where being the tightest player isn’t profitable is when you’re playing at an extremely tight table. When everyone at the table is playing tight, it’s often more profitable to loosen up a little bit. But you need to be careful not to play too many more hands.
Most poker players will be more profitable if they play tighter. This is because most poker players play too many hands.
4 – Always Play in an Aggressive Manner
The type of play suggested by many experts is tight and aggressive. I covered why tight play is usually the best option in the last section, but what about aggressive play?
Aggressive play is usually better than passive play because of two things. When you play aggressively, you can win when your opponents fold or by having the best hand at the end. When you play passively, the only way to win is by having the best hand.
When you play aggressively, you also force your opponents to make more decisions under stress. Every time an opponent needs to make a decision, he or she can make a mistake, and every time an opponent makes a mistake, it’s profitable for you.
But all in all, both of these reasons are good, and they’re why most players are better off being aggressive. But just like tight play, there are times when taking a more passive approach can be more profitable.
The best time to consider passive play is when you’re playing at a table with one or more hyper aggressive players. You can let them lead the betting when you have a big hand, because more players will stay in the pot with them.
5 – Never Slow Play a Monster Hand
I’ve actually seen and heard advice about never slow playing a monster hand and always slow playing a monster hand. But a monster hand is like many other things in poker, because you need to do whatever has the best chance of maximizing your profits.
In limit play, I always bet and raise at every opportunity with a monster hand. I don’t want to miss a single bet, so I never check or just call in limit play.
In no limit play, the only times I slow play a monster is when it’s so strong that it can’t be beat, like four of a kind or a straight flush, or when a maniac is doing all of the betting and raising for me.
At the lower levels, most players aren’t sharp enough or paying enough attention to recognize when you have a monster hand. This means there’s no reason to slow play. As you move up in levels and the competition gets better, there are limited situations where slow playing may be more profitable. But you have to remember that as your competition gets better, they’re more likely to realize you’re slow playing.
6 – Play Against Better Players to Get Better
While I agree in general that one way to improve your poker skills is to play against better players, the problem I have is that it’s costly to play against better players. In other words, this is an expensive way to get an education.
There are many ways to improve your poker skills, and only one of them involves playing against better players. It’s much more profitable to find tables with weaker players.
You can read books and good poker strategy articles to improve. You can take a break from playing on gambling sites and watch videos of better players. You can take a shot against better players from time to time, but I avoid them as often as possible so I can maximize my profits.
7 – Never Play Free Poker
I don’t like to play free poker online because the play is so bad that it can mess with my game. I’ve even read advice that you should never play free poker. But I think free poker has a place, and I think it’s a great way for new and inexperienced players to learn how to play.
Once you learn how to play and adopt some simple poker strategy, I suggest moving to the real money tables. Even the online micro limit tables are better than the free tables. One thing you should know is that if you can’t beat the free money tables, you aren’t going to be able to beat the real money tables.
The strategy you use to beat the free tables won’t work as well at the real money tables, but it’s where you need to start.
Whenever you hear someone say that you should always do a certain play at the poker table, take a minute and think it through. Rarely should you do something 100% of the time playing poker. There are a lot of myths surrounding poker, and most of the time, you’re better off changing up your play a small percentage to maximize your profits depending on the situation.