I play a great deal of poker, so I’ve heard quite a bit of bad advice about it. For this page, I’ve decided to put together another article on poker tips.
Blackjack has a limited number of decisions, which is a smaller number than poker players need to make. But the game of poker has a finite number of playing decisions, and many of the decisions come up over and over again.
When you master the common decisions, it goes a long way toward winning poker play. One way to do this is by avoiding bad poker advice.
Here is some of the worst poker advice I’ve heard and how you can learn from it to improve your long-term poker profitability.
Playing Ace King
I know where this bad advice comes from, but it doesn’t help much to know where it comes from if you don’t do anything about it. Many Texas holdem players play ace king like they’re pocket aces. The reason for this is because they see poker pros do it in poker tournaments on television.
If the poker pros do it on TV, how can it be a bad play?
The thing that most players miss is the context where the pros are playing the hand. You don’t see poker pros playing ace king like pocket aces in the early stages of a tournament or when they have a decent sized stack.
You can play ace king aggressively, but risking all of your chips with it is rarely a good idea. It almost always has to improve to win, and sometimes, when it improves, it still loses. By playing it aggressively, you can win by improving to the best hand or when your opponents fold. But when you end up all in with it before the flop, you’re rarely a big favorite to win the hand.
Years ago, I decided to start playing ace king like I play ace queen, and I stopped losing money on the hand. The same thing happened when I started playing pocket jacks like pocket eights.
The important thing is to not overvalue hands like ace king. It’s still a fairly strong hand, but it’s not nearly as strong as a high pocket pair, so stop playing it like pocket aces or kings.
Early in my poker career, I read a piece of advice talking about bluffing. I don’t remember who wrote it or where I read it, but one of the things it said was if you don’t have any other way to win the hand, you should bluff. The idea is that if you miss your draw and can’t possibly win at the showdown, your only chance to win is to bluff.
On the surface, this might not sound like bad advice, but in action, it usually just costs you money. Most poker players bluff too much, so their opponents tend to call them more often.
This is also one of the reasons why you should usually call a reasonable bet on the river, even if you’re not sure you have the best hand. Winning poker players know that, for the cost of a reasonable bet, they only have to be correct about their opponent bluffing a small number of times to show a profit.
Here’s an example:
Instead of bluffing more, start bluffing less. Build a reputation as a player that doesn’t bluff, so the few times that you do bluff, you have a better chance of pulling it off. Reserve most of your bluffing to semi bluff opportunities where you have a hand that can improve, but may also be the best hand currently.
Never Show Emotion at the Table
The problem with the advice to never show emotion at the poker table is that it doesn’t go far enough. You should rarely show your true emotions at the poker table, but you should show false emotions every time it helps you win.
One thing you need to understand is that, against the top competition in the poker industry, trying to use false emotions can be costly. But against most players, it can be quite profitable. When you’re playing against good players, the best plan is to try to avoid showing any emotion, so you don’t give any tells.
I was playing in a no limit Texas holdem and game and was in a hand against a decent, but not great player. He had position on me and he was paying attention to the table. I flopped a set and there were two suited cards on the flop.
I bet into him and he called. The turn was a blank, and I bet into him again. He called again. I was fairly certain that I had him on the right hand, and I was sure that I had the best hand both times I bet into him.
I decided to try to fool him if the river paired the board and completed his flush. A paired board gave me a full house, but if I acted right, I thought I could fool him into thinking he had the best hand with a flush.
The river paired the board and completed his flush, and I immediately sighed and slumped my shoulders. I quickly straightened up like I was giving away information and checked. He moved all in and I called for a big win.
You could argue that the hand might have played out the same if I hadn’t done anything before checking. But the results were exactly what I wanted, so I was glad it worked.
The next time you’re gambling with real money in poker, watch for opportunities to use false emotions to your advantage. If you can act like you’re on tilt after a bad beat while not being on tilt, it can help you win a few big hands. You can find other ways to use false emotions for profit if you watch for opportunities.
You Don’t Need to Learn Pot Odds
The truth is that you don’t need to learn what pot odds are and how to use them, but if you want to be a winning poker player, you need to know everything there is to know about pot odds.
Once you learn how to use pot odds, most of the time, you won’t have to determine them exactly on every hand. You eventually learn the numbers on the situations that come up often, so you just know if you’re getting the right odds.
But until you reach this point, the only way to maximize your returns is to run the numbers to make sure you make the best play. The way you do this is to practice until you can run the numbers quickly and accurately every time.
At the lower limits, you can make consistent profit by combining the smart use of pot odds with tight starting hand requirements. It’s fairly simple to be a profitable player at the low levels. Once you start moving up into the middle limits, you need to improve other areas of your game, but the only thing standing between most poker players and profit is their failure to understand and use pot odds.
I know I only covered four things on this page, but if you learn from my advice and ignore the bad advice you hear, it’ll instantly improve your results. The most important thing you can do is start using pot odds.
When you combine smart use of pot odds with bluffing less, using emotions at the right time, and stop overvaluing weak hands, your profits are going to quickly move in the right direction.