Tuesday Sessions 34: Strategies for extra profit

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IMPORTANT NOTE: While most of the concepts below apply to both no-limit and limit forms of poker, some are specific to limit games. This was written before no-limit games were common.

Some of the most important strategies are not obvious. Today I want to share a few of my favorites.

The following is taken from the 34th in my series of Tuesday Session classroom lectures at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy and later appeared in Card Player magazine. The lecture was held on June 1, 1999. The title of the lecture was ….

Bonus Strategies for Extra Profit at Poker

Bonus strategy No. 1:
When to “thin the field” by reraising and hoping to share what’s already in the pot with a reduced number of opponents is a complicated issue. I teach that this strategy often is wrong. But sometimes it’s right, and you need to keep this in mind: Often reraise with medium-strong hands when weak foes already have called and strong foes remain to act. This increases your profit by forcing the weak foes to call one more bet, often solidifies your last position, and chases away stronger opponents who otherwise might call the raise with hands that might beat yours.

As I’ve said many times, thinning the field is a righteous ambition, but actually attempting to thin the field often costs money. This is because you too often chase away the opponents with the weak hands you would like to play against, and limit yourself to facing the stronger hands who refuse to be thinned.

But one really good opportunity to thin the field happens when you hold a marginally strong hand and can reraise a potentially weak hand. By reraising, you often can make it too expensive for more sophisticated opponents to enter the pot behind you with semistrong hands that might beat yours. You always should look for this opportunity. I reraise quite liberally on the first betting round when weak opponents have routinely raised the bring-in bet or blind and more challenging players are waiting to act after me.

Bonus strategy No. 2:
Seldom reraise with medium-strong hands when strong foes already have called and weak foes remain to act. This reraise pushes your luck against possibly superior hands while chasing away the weaker foes whom you’d often like to see call the pot. This strategy works for exactly the opposite reason as No. 1.

Bonus strategy No. 3:
There are five basic reasons why you might choose to reraise: (1) to drive foes out when you’re vulnerable; (2) to win more money with great hands; (3) to bluff; (4) to send a message; and (5) to leverage position. If you’re reraising for any other reason, you probably have either “entertainment” or “ego” on your mind.

I believe very strongly that even sophisticated players sometimes lapse into the bad habit of raising “by feel.” It can be a very profitable self-discipline to ask yourself why you’re reraising and make certain that the reason matches one of those sanctioned above.

Bonus strategy No. 4:
Usually don’t reraise when you have a very strong hand and you will force opponents to call a double raise or to fold. Analysis suggests that you’ll make more long-range profit by just calling and “inviting” opponents to also call.

Bonus strategy No. 5:
This illustrates one of the governing truths about chasing down hands in hold’em. It’s often correct to call a bet against a lone opponent and keep calling until you see the river with just an overcard and an inside straight draw. However, you shouldn’t do this if two suited cards flop – unless you hold an ace of that suit. Having the ace has benefits, such as: (1) If both final cards are of that suit (“runner-runner”), your flush will win, even if your opponent has two of that suit, and (2) it’s less likely that an opponent even has a flush draw, because you have the ace and that’s the most motivating card for playing suited hands.

Let’s say that your hand is AC 4D and the flop is 7-6-3. While it depends on your opponent, you usually should call a bet. The main reasons you should call are: (1) Your ace might win against a bluff; (2) the ace and inside straight draw generally are better than just two overcards, which many are more likely to play (because there are four matches for the inside straight and only three for a second overcard); (3) you can get lucky and win with a pair of aces; and (4) a bluffing opportunity might arise for you. Put these factors and more together and it becomes clear that you can’t just routinely fold against a lone opponent with an ace and an inside straight draw. If you do and your opponent knows it, he’ll run all over you. This applies to similar “chasing” hands, too.

Bonus strategy No. 6:
In seven-card stud, don’t be afraid to bet three of a kind or two big pair on the river into what might be a straight or flush draw. Often, the opposing hand is something else, or the flush or straight will be missed and the opponent will call regardless with secondary strength. If you check, you’re going to call the bet anyway, so you gain nothing, and lose a lot of profit opportunities. True, you might get raised if you bet, but the risk usually is well worth the price. If you couple your bet with my magic words, “You’re not going to believe this!” – well, you’ll almost never be raised.

That latter quote is taken directly from my collection of statements designed to be worth thousands of dollars a month! That one forces your opponent into “either … or” thinking – that you either made something huge or you’re bluffing. The fact that you’re just betting two pair for value seldom occurs to your opponent, and you often can bet this hand with impunity, not having to fear a raise.

Bonus strategy No. 7:
In high-low split games on fourth and fifth streets (or on the flop and sometimes on the turn in Omaha high-low), you should tend to fold in a three-way pot with a one-way hand when an opponent probably going the same way bets. This often is true even if you think your prospects are slightly better than those of the opponent who wagered!

Bonus strategy No. 8:
On all but the final betting round, when you hold semi-big hands, you should tend to raise when you (1) already have last position secured or (2) can gain last position by chasing players out behind you. This constant quest for position should become an almost automatic part of your strategy when you have medium-strong hands. – MC

Next Tuesday Session


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Mike Caro

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/mikecaro FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/caro.mike Known as the "Mad Genius of Poker," Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority of poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full biography at Poker1.com.

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  1. all these tips sound so nice, but no help when someone getting 4:1 on money and knows they need a one outer and makes it.

    1. Hi, Bob —

      When that occurs, you should be proud and pleased. You’ve accomplished your mission of getting an opponent to play at a big disadvantage against you. After that, the rest is fate, and you shouldn’t care how the story of that hand ends. That’s because what you earn comes from all the times opponents get lucky and the times they don’t averaged together. When opponents play badly and you don’t, you eventually win. Which hands helped you and which hurt shouldn’t be a concern of yours. Let the poker gods worry about that. It’s not your job.

      — Mike Caro

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