Friday, April 16, 2010

To Win at Poker Take Off Your Handcuffs!

What you can do to win more often at poker.

Handcuffed , TokyoImage by mskogly via Flickr

I have been playing mostly limit poker cash games and a few no limit poker tournament the past two weeks. The one thing I've learned is that my opponents seem to limit their pre-flop raises and re-raises to big premium starting hands like AA, KK, QQ, AK, AQ. If this is the way you play, my advice is take off your handcuffs!

Let me explain it this way: Raise and Re-raise preflop with a much wider range of starting hands.

1. Limit Poker:
When I am playing online poker at a nine-handed table, I find that players are tighter than at a poker club. When a late position player raises pre-flop, I will re-raise with dicey hands like K-J or J-10. What happens when I make this re-raise is that I tend to have position and the lead. On the flop, I hold my nose and I make that continuation bet. It works a lot more than you'd think.

A late position player raises with pocket Jacks. I re-raise with K-J. He calls.

The flop comes A-8-4. I bet and he calls or folds.

Let's say he calls. I don't like the call, but if he doesn't have an Ace, he will have to fold to my bet on the turn.

Let me make this clearer. You are on the cutoff and raise with pocket Jacks. I re-raise from the button. You call. The flop is A-8-4. You check. I bet and you call. The turn is a 2. I what are you going to do? Let's say the turn is a Q. I what?

Another example is when I do hit the flop; let's say it is J-4-2. My opponent calls me down with those pocket 10's. Now, any opponent paying attention is going to think I'm a poor player to re-raise with K-J or J-10.

And my table image results in my good hands getting paid off with bigger pots. The other advantage is that tend to have control of the hand, so I can even check the turn and see the river for free.

Give it a shot if you play limit cash poker online.

By the way, a lot of players like to make this re-raise with small and middle pairs. Frankly, I am not a fan of this play. I mean if you re-raise with pocket 6's and end up heads-up what are you going to do when your opponent calls your flop bet, and the flop has cards like 10-J-4. If the turn is a 9, now what? Are you really going to keep firing away hoping to hit a two-outer. A lot of players do just that.

2. Poker Tournaments:

In poker tournaments, players are not raising often enough to accumulate chips. You can't just sit there hoping to move all-in with AA against KK.

My suggestion is to widen the hands you raise with pre-flop. First, widen it a little and then keep widening the hands. Learn from these situations. Personally, I like to randomize between a 2 and 3x raise pre-flop. And, I try to find situations to steal with little risk with my raises.

In addition, just like in limit poker, widen the hands you will re-raise with pre-flop. The re-raise pre-flop will get your opponent to fold. If not, make that continuation bet on the flop and it will work more than you'd expect.

Yes, you may end up being trapped. But, that's okay, because you are going to improve your game. You will find that your ability to read your opponents will get better.

When you play aggressively like this, you will find that when you get deep in a tournament you won't worry about the bubble because you will have enough chips to have a shot at winning!

The fact is that Daniel Negreanu's small ball is all about making a lot of those small pre-flop raises. And, if you watch the new breed of poker tournament winner, you will see these guys making a lot of pre-flop re-raises.

Learn from them and try it yourself. It will improve your play and eventually, your results.
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