The following lecture was the eleventh Tuesday Session, held December 8, 1998, and later appeared in Card Player magazine.
Classroom Lectures: Sophisticated Ways to Earn More Profit
By the time you read this, the 30th Tuesday classroom session will have been concluded at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. Those happen every week and, by special agreement with Card Player magazine, I’m greatly enhancing the simple one-page notes that are passed out at those sessions and turning them into full columns.
So far, everything that I’ve taught you in this series has been fairly straightforward. All the logic made sense. Today, I’m going to ask you to rely on my experience and accept a few theories about how to play against opponents that are more controversial. Some of these tips people could debate, and their arguments would sound quite reasonable. That’s why I’m asking you to trust me. After all, I care about you more than they do. Don’t snicker – I really do.
The following is based on Tuesday Session #11 which took place December 8, 1998. The topic was…
“Pro Tricks for Extra Profit”
A basic game plan is your lifeline for survival in an endless ocean.
A simplified basic strategy demands fewer decisions. Well, OK, this isn’t one of those controversial pieces of advice that I was telling you about. But it is important.
Suppose you’re just playing simple, good poker. Nothing fancy. Imagine it. There you are, sitting at a poker table day after day, playing just about as solid and simple a game as any human ever played in history. And you’re winning. Got the picture?
Fine. Now, you start to alter your pace a little. You try to adjust to your opponents. You raise a little more whenever the urge comes. And these adjustments help to humble your opponents and bolster your bankroll. So, as you begin to make more and more exceptions in order to obtain ever greater profit, you find yourself straying farther and farther from your original game plan. You’re drifting away from where you started.
But you’re drifting deliberately, and you hope that doing so will improve your profit. But what if you drift in the wrong direction? What if the adjustments you’ve made have put you off course? What if you’re no longer making a profit? Well, if you don’t remember your original strategy, you can’t return to it. You can’t grab that basic-game-plan lifeline, and you might drown in the ocean. Therefore, you need to define a basic strategy for survival, a lifeline – so you can always return to it. It’s always best to be conscious of when you’re making an exception and why. That why needs to be “to make money,” not “to show off” – which is how, unfortunately, many would-be pros misuse additional knowledge.
Your advertisements will lose most of their value if the play seems reasonable to loose opponents.
Therefore, reducing your starting-hand requirements a little to advertise is often a poor idea. Make most advertisements sparing and noteworthy.
It’s simply a bad idea to try to make loose opponents think you’re not tight by playing hands that appear a little worse than average. That seldom gets noticed and won’t make an impression even if it does. Loose players don’t see your slightly weaker hands as substandard. They see them as stronger than what they play, and they won’t be impressed. They’ll just yawn. If you’re going to advertise, advertise!
Most players are afraid to raise with a weak hand on the last round.
But they would willingly call a pot half that size with a very marginal hand, hoping the opponent were bluffing. Well, a raise costs no more in relative size than a call would if the pot were half as big. In fact, if your hand is absolutely hopeless and you think your opponent may be bluffing, a raise is often the best choice! It’s scary, and it will lose money most of the time, but it earns profit overall.
I very often use this play with broken straights and flushes, when my opponent may be bluffing and a call is unlikely to win even if he is.
Find opportunities to “bet with impunity.”
Betting with impunity is one of my favorite concepts. It means that you can bet for value without worrying about a raise from a weaker hand. This happens when you have a moderately strong hand and your opponents fear that you might have an even better one.
It’s always easier to make a value bet if you know you’re unlikely to be raised. For instance, you should use flush cards as a smokescreen to bet a strong pair or two small pair. Betting with impunity can be effective before the final betting round when you’re last to act. Then, whenever you are checked into on the next round, check along if you don’t improve and bet if you do.
It’s all right to check and just call with extremely strong hands.
This is half of a sandbag – what I call a “Slippery Sandbag.” Instead of checking and raising, you check and call. It is especially useful if your opponent might be bluffing. Wait until the double-limit betting rounds, or even until the final betting round, to raise.
A key advantage of the slippery sandbag is that if your opponent is bluffing, you won’t lose future-round profit by raising too early and chasing him out of the pot.
On the final betting round, be careful about raising in the middle position.
If you’re in the middle on the final betting round, only raise with (1) extremely strong hands (and not always) and (2) weak hands when you’re bluffing. Most semi-powerful hands tend to make more long-range profit if you either call (usually) or fold (occasionally).
The reasons for this is not obvious and goes beyond the scope of today’s discussion, but analysis shows again and again that this very common raise – when you’re in the middle of two opponents on the final betting round – is seldom your best choice when you hold a fairly strong, but not extraordinarily strong, hand.
Tend to “cap” from the final position.
Often the limit-poker house rule stipulates a four-bet maximum number of allowable bets (a bet and three raises) in multi-way pots. The final raise is called the “cap.” On all but the final betting round, there is much more incentive to cap if you’re in the last position than in an early position. That’s because, even if you don’t think you’re a big favorite to have the best hand, you can still make that final raise without fearing a raise in return. This leaves you with the prospect of having everyone check to you on the next betting round. If that happens, you can either take a free card or bet. It will be your option as you exercise the power of position. You earned this luxury by capping from last position.
With borderline hands, when you’re last to act, fold unless your call closes the betting.
Otherwise, you’re often in too much jeopardy.
I talk a lot about borderline hands. Those are ones that are so marginal that there is no obvious best decision. When the borderline choice is between calling and folding, I often look to a single consideration to help me decide. What is it? If my call will close the action, I’ll call. Otherwise, I’ll fold. What do I mean by close the action?
Well, if I bet and there’s a raise and then a call, my call will close the action. Nobody can raise again after my call. But if I bet and there’s a call and then a raise, I have to be very careful. If I call, the original caller can still reraise. The raiser may even then raise again before the action returns to me. This close-the-action factor is especially valid in blind games when you’re in the big blind. Before calling with that borderline hand, ask yourself if that call will close the action. If the answer is yes, go ahead and call. If the answer is no, fold.
Early round advice.
On early betting rounds, from the last position, tend to be very liberal about betting marginal hands back into players who seldom sandbag (check-raise). You can take tactical control of the pot by betting. In fact, you can often save money by being last to act on subsequent betting rounds, because opponents will frequently check to you. Then you get to decide whether to take the next card for free or to wager. – MC