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Poker strategy essays

Learn how to adapt to diferent poker players

By David di Cristo

If you want to do well at poker and perhaps even earn a nice income, there are many things you need to know. There are many poker books that give you good guidelines on what poker hands to play and not to play pre-flop. The problem with following these books to the letter is that they don’t show you how to adapt to specific situations.

Sometimes the style of play and the different poker playing styles you encounter at your table dictate more of what you do than the basic hard and fast rules. There are going to be times when you are going to fold that middle pair. There will also be times it makes sense to play that speculative hand. The main problem with mindlessly following the basic rules is that they weren’t made for each individual situation you face.

Every single bet, raise, call, or fold that you make must have a purpose and be made for a reason. Playing in a tight table is not going to be anything like playing at a loose low limit table. Your decisions and actions are going to be vastly different. You need to adapt to the table and to the other player’s tendencies. The end goal is to make the most profitable decision, and that decision may deviate from what you’ve learned to be successful in other poker games.

For example, let’s say you are playing in a very loose cash game, you’re on the button, and as expected, a very loose player sitting directly to your right in the cutoff, enters a pot with a raise. You wake up with Aces, which you’d typically re-raise in this spot to build a bigger pot, however, considering the opener probably doesn’t have a hand he can continue with, you also know there is a huge fish in the blinds that will probably come along if you just smooth call, so instead you decide to deviate from what you may consider a "standard" play, because a re-raise will likely scare away the fish. With position and a monster hand in a 3-way pot - it’s going to create a great opportunity to win a big pot.

Another fundamental pre-flop strategy mentioned many times is to play ONLY premium hands, so there is less chance of being dominated and losing a big pot. While this is sound advice when playing in a tight game, in a looser game you need to adjust your opening pre-flop range, raising with a wider range of “value” hands, because more players will call, allowing you to build a bigger pot with a big hand. You especially want to increase aggression with position at the poker table, since you’ll have the benefit of being able to act last after the flop.

Adjustments in poker should consider the different players you’re playing against, and how you’d expect they would react. Betting aggressively with your strong hands will show a nice profit against weaker players, but you are not always up against weak players, and your decision making needs to take this into account. Say, for example, you’re involved in a heads up pot against what you consider to be a fairly competent player, and you don’t expect to get three streets of value with only a top pair hand such as A-J. By having a plan for the hand, you can consider checking one of the streets, if you think it would be more profitable to do so, since a competent player may fold to a second barrel, and therefore only giving you one street of value, as opposed to two streets they may have called, if you were to check the flop/turn.

When you sit down at the table one of the first things you want to do is determine what type of poker players they are. You can then adapt your play to best exploit your opponent’s weakness. Every time you take full advantage of a mistake from another player, you profit from it. You might not necessarily always take down monster pots, but you’ll be constantly adding more chips to your stack, and by the end of the session, there is little doubt you’ll have made a tidy profit.

If you’re a beginner and you’ve just started playing in online poker freeroll tournaments, there’s a few simple guidelines you should follow, and it’s not necessary to think on a deeper level like you would in real money tournaments and cash games. Most freeroll players play very badly (usually very aggressively because they're not playing with their own money), so if you stick to playing good hands and don’t bluff, you can progress to the deeper stages of these tournaments with some regularity.



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