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PRACTICAL WINNING HOLD’EM CONCEPTS

The Blinds
  When choosing a game to play in, the blind structure and amounts are two things you should consider, even though you won’t be able to do anything about it.  These factors are already predetermined by the house rules and the player who understands their impact upon the game will be money a head.

  In $ 1-$ 4-$ 8-$ 8 Hold’em, the blinds are $ 1 and $ 2, for a total of $ 3 per round  (assuming you don’t call the other dollar when you’re the small blind ).  Since you can play as many as four rounds per hour, the blinds alone will cost you $ 12 per hour even if you don’t play any other hands.  If you plan to play for six hours, for example, then you know before you even a $ 3-$ 6 game, the blinds are $ 1 and $ 3, and in a $ 10-$ 20 game, the blinds are $ 5 and $ 10.
  The larger the blinds are, the more it will cost you to play, and of course, the smaller the blinds are, the less it will cost you. This means that the size of the blinds dictate the degree to which you must play conservatively or loosely.  If you have a very large blind and play very conservatively, your buy-in will be eaten up by the blinds because you won’t be playing any hands.  Obviously, that won’t work.

  On the other hand, imagine that there were no blinds and you entered the pot with only the absolute best hands: A♣ A♦ , K♥ K♦ , Q♠ Q♣, A♥ K♥ , A♥ Q♦ and K♣ Q ♣.  You’d be able to sit there all day, looking at cards and never risking a dollar unless you had one of these great hands.  Theoretically, you could look at 320 hands in eight hours and never pay a dime for the privilege.  And if you did enter the pot, you’d be a heavy favorite to win the hand.
  So, somewhere between having no blinds and playing for free and having a very large blind and having to Play Poker many hands to keep from being blinded to death, there is a happy medium.  The blinds determine how loose or tight you should play.  The specific advice in later chapters regarding which hands to play in which positions will provide a proper balance between playing to tight or too loose.
  When playing the small blind and trying to decide whether or not to call the other dollar, a good rule of thumb is: don’t limp in to see the flop for the other dollar unless you have a hand that you would voluntarily pay $ 2 for.
  All too often a player will have something like J♠ 6♠ in the small blind, call the other $ 1, make a god hand in a huge pot and then lose the hand along with a good portion of his chips.  And what’s the first thing he says?  “Damn, I never would have called with that hand, except it only cost me one more dollar.” If you wouldn’t pay $ 2 for it, don’t pay $ 1 more for it, either.
  Of course there’s an exception to every rule.  An exception here would be if almost everyone has called and you have a hand that is not that great in itself, put has the potential to make the nuts if you get the right flop. Some examples of this types of hand would be  A♣ 5♦ , J♥ 7♠ , T♣ 8♥ , 8♥ 5♠, 7♥ 6♣ and especially 6♠ 5♦ .
  Here’s a good seating tip that saves me a lot of easy gaming money in the long run.  If you’re a fairly conservative player and you don’t like to have your blinds raised, then sit to the right of the oldest player in the game if you can.  In typical casino games the older players usually like to see the flop as cheaply as possible, even when they A♦ A♥ , K♣ K♠  or A♦ K♦ in the pocket.  They like to see the flop before they put any real money in the pot or take any chances in the hand.  And if you do get a raise from this player, you’ll always know where you stand.  Give him credit for a super hand.

  Here’s a miscellaneous thought about playing in the blind.  The blind will always have an average, random hand.  If the pot has been raised pre-flop and there are a lot of callers and you get a non-descript flop like 2♦ 5♠, 7♣ or 3♦ 6♥ 8♣ beware if the blind bets it right out.  He’s in the worst of all possible positions: He’s betting into a large field, he’s betting into raisers and he knows he’s going to be called.  It’s been my experience that the blind has a great hand in this situation, even though it was statistically unlikely before the flop. Usually, the blind has flopped two pair or even a set when this situation occurs.

Straddling
  Sometimes the player to the immediate left of the big blind, for example in a $ 1-$ 4-$ 8-$ 8 game, will put $ 4 in the pot before he even gets his cards.  This is called a straddle  and what he is doing in effect is raising flop poker the big blind $ 2 “in the dark.”  This raise has the effect of creating three blinds ($ 1-$ 2-$ 4) and does not count against the maximum number of raises allowed.  When the action comes back around to the straddle he then has the option of raising himself and this time his raise does count against the maximum number of raises allowed.
  This is what you should keep in mind when playing against a straddle:

  • The straddle will have a random hand since he raised before he saw his hand.  Statistically speaking his median hand will be around a Q♣ 6♠.  That means that half of his hands will be better than that and half will be worse than that.
  • You should pass ordinary drawing hands such as J♣T♦ and Q♥ 9♠ and play only premium hands.
  • You should come in raising if you decide to play.  The $ 4 straddle, plus your $ 4 straddle, plus your $ 4 raise will give you leverage to drive out the other players behind you and go head-up with the straddle.  This will pit your excellent hand against the straddle’s random hand and gives you the best chance to win the pot.  If other players have called to see the flop, you should still be a favorite in the hand.
  • If another player reraises behind you then you are usually facing a genuinely powerful hand and you should revert back to your usual strategy.
  • Don’t ever straddle the blinds yourself.  You’re just giving your money away for no good reason.

The Rake
  Theoretically poker is a zero-sum game.  Your loss is another player’s gain.  The total amount of money put into the game remains the same, it just gets redistributed as the game goes on.  If ten players with $ 100 each sit in a game it is possible for one player to eventually win all $ 1,000.
  But that’s not possible when you play in a casino because of the “rake”.  The rake is a percentage of the pot that the casino takes out of each pot to compensate them for the cost of providing the dealers, chips, the poker table and all the other overhead.  If you play long enough in a raked game, the house will eventually have all the money.  Now, instead of one player winning the $ 1,000, the house will win the money, $ 2, $ 3 or $ 4 at a time.  The house will have all of the money on the table in three or four hundred hands.

  An excellent example of the impact of the rake on a game occurred when the President Casino opened in Biloxi, Mississippi in August, 1992.  There was a $ 15-$ 30 and /or a $ 20-$ 40 Hold’em game nearly every day.  The games were full most of the time and the rake was $ 5 maximum per hand.
  In a big-limit game like that it was easy to build a $ 50 pot to qualify for the $ 5/10% max rake.  Well, at forty hands per hour for an average of twenty hours per day, the house was taking $ 4,000 per day out of the game.  That’s $ 28,000 per week, per table.  This money was lost forever and would never again be available to the players to put into the game.
  Soon the game started later and later in the day, it broke up earlier and earlier at night, it began to be spread shorthanded and eventually there weren’t enough players with enough money to start the game at all.  The same thing started all over again with a $ 10-$ 20 game and when there weren’t enough players with enough money to keep that game going the same thing started all over again with $ 5-$ 10 game.  By Spring 1994, they hardly ever had a Hold’em game at all.  If they would offer a Hold’em game with a $ 2 maximum rake, they could fill every Hold’em table every day.
  The rake is taken out of the winner’s pot.  Remember that every time you enter a pot you’re exposing yourself to the house rake, the jackpot drop and the dealer’s toke if you win the hand.  You need to play pretty good poker to beat all that, and nine other players too