Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published (2011) in Poker Player newspaper.
I couldn’t quite figure out what the topic for today’s self-interview should be. I thought about comparing the features of photo editing software and about my worst restaurant experiences. Those would probably be difficult to tie into poker in meaningful ways.
So, I thought and I thought. And then something brilliant blasted my brain. How about tips! Sometimes I explain poker concepts in great detail. And sometimes I just provide the essence of profitable poker advice, otherwise known as tips. Let’s do that. First question, please…
Question 1: What is your first poker tip for today?
I love the way you phrased that question. It makes my job easier. Here’s my first tip, from my Poker1.com archives…
What’s the weakest hold ’em hand you can have and still end up on the river with an absolute certainty of victory? A small straight, an ace-high flush, what? Think about it.
The answer is three queens. As an example, if you hold Q♥ Q♠ and the board is Q♦ J♦ 7♣ 4♣ 2♥, you can’t be beat. There’s no straight or flush possible. And there’s no rank higher than your queens showing that would allow someone to hold a superior three-of-a-kind.
Anything lower than three queens never has a guarantee of victory. That’s because there will always be some bigger hand possible: Bigger three-of-a-kind, a straight, or four of a kind. And, remember, your three queens must include two in your private hand. If two are on the board and one is held privately, any opposing pair matching the board will form a full house and beat you.
When you’re sure you have the absolute best hand after seeing the river, we say you have a “lock.” Three queens is the weakest possible hold ’em hand that can ever be a lock.
Question 2: What’s your second poker tip for today?
Another great question! Let’s try this…
I teach that you should be very selective about the hands you play. But often, once you commit to a pot, you should bet and raise aggressively, taking advantage of small edges.
Fine. But you should sometimes abandon your aggressive play when you’re losing. That’s because other players unconsciously feel they can beat you. They then become inspired and play better. This little understood concept means that your normal value bets and raises will suddenly be unprofitable! One of the great secrets to poker strategy is that you can play much more aggressively when your opponents are intimidated by you than when they’re not.
Question 3: What’s your third poker tip for today?
That’s an excellent and probing question. I hadn’t really expected it. Let’s see…
In poker, the time to hesitate is when you really need more time to resolve a close decision. Often things will occur to you given a little extra time. Or, under the extra pressure, your opponent may provide you with a tell. You might occasionally also hesitate for deception, so that alert opponents can’t determine that your pause always means you have a close decision.
Also, sometimes when you make a final bet with a big hand, you’ll be more likely to be called if you don’t bet too quickly. So don’t bet instantly when bluffing. Remember that both a bet delayed for a few extra seconds and an unreasonably quick one are apt to make your opponents suspicious and are more likely to be called.
But, unless there’s a specific reason to hesitate, you should usually make all your bets, calls, and raises crisply and confidently — because this enhances your image and speeds up the game.
Question 4: What’s your fourth poker tip for today?
Your question is right on target again! I hope this answers it…
Anytime you feel “glued to your seat,” get up and take a walk.
Players often find themselves so absorbed in the excitement of the poker game, that they stop thinking objectively. I teach students that the best way to cure this is to simply get up from the table when they feel it’s difficult to do so.
Question 5: What’s your final poker tip for today?
This is best interview I’ve had in years! You seem to be truly focusing on what’s important. Since this is the final tip today, I’ll choose this…
One of the most widely discussed strategies by professional poker players is called “shifting gears.” As an example of shifting gears, you might change suddenly from very aggressive, loose play to very defensive, conservative play. The theory is that you put opponents off balance, because you always make the adjustment before they recognize and try to adjust to it.
While I agree that shifting gears can be important, you need to do it for a specific purpose. It’s always better to stick to your most obvious and profitable decisions, if your opponents will allow it. Remember that if opponents aren’t observant or don’t react incorrectly — by calling too much when you shift to tight gear or by folding too much when you suddenly shift to loose gear — then you’re wasting your time shifting gears.
In particular, it’s usually a mistake to shift gears in loose, small-limit games where opponents treat poker like bingo and make decisions more on the strength of their own cards than on how they perceive you. If your poker opponents don’t adjust unwisely to your gear shifts, don’t shift. — MC