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Poker Betting

Betting before the flop

You are going to be folding a lot before the flop a lot. Even with the starting hand suggestions here (which in many ways are not appropriate for a higher limit game) you will be playing very few hands, especially in early position.

•  This is going to be very difficult.

Next to picking a table where most of the people are worse poker players than you, the most effective thing you can do is play well before the flop. Most of your opponents will not play well here. They will see the flop with cards that almost never win (you will see 7 2 in a showdown at one point or another during a game).

This pre-flop play is fairly easy to describe, and technically easy to do, but mentally it is very very difficult. It takes practice and it takes discipline and it takes patience.

Most poker books you read will suggest some rules for playing before the flop, usually with very good advice about starting cards and how to handle position, but then they move forward to whatever the next chapter is and you are already set up to fail because you just flat out won't be following those instructions.

•  Think About Your Starting Hands

Positionally the general rule is that you want to be as close to the last person to act as possible. The closer you are to that sweet spot (in Hold 'em the dealer button) the more information you will gain on every betting round before you have to act.

This information allows you to play your hand more effectively to maximize the amount you can win (or often more importantly minimize the amount you lose). The free card, for example, hinges upon you being in late position.

So, it may be helpful if your general plan is not to play any hands in early position, basically you are waiting to get within one or two of the dealer button to put your money into the game all the time.

If you make this your mantra then you will find yourself doing what is almost correct because we all know when you get AA under the gun you are going to play it regardless of what your general plan was (as you should) but when you get KT offsuit you'll easily throw it away because you aren't playing cards until you get close to the dealer button.

Another useful thing is to have something to fill time with between hands.

Betting at the turn

•  The turn is the place where your AKs is beaten by K2 offsuit. Remember that .

The turn is a great place to pump it up or get out of dodge. If you felt you had the best hand on the flop and check raised it there you have a choice. Usually you should bet out the turn but sometimes, if you hand was further improved and if that improvement likely improved one of your opponents as well, you can check and raise again on the turn.

You might think that after checking and raising on the flop that no one would fall for it again. Think again.

Another tactic if you have an especially strong hand on the flop is to just go with the flow of betting and then check-raise on the turn. Because the bet is double-sized on the turn you can get some extra money in the pot.

You can often check and raise again because any Ace out there is going to bet into you and you want to make any J or Q that is contemplating continuing their gutshot draw to be making a mathematical mistake.

Be careful if you are re-raised in this spot (top two pair vs. a possible straight). Don't throw your hand away but call and then check and call on the river (unless YOU improve to kings or aces full in which case use your best judgment--usually bet out on the river unless you are SURE your opponent will bet).

•  Getting People Out vs. Getting Money In

The way you bet your hand on the turn (coupled with your position) will influence whether people with marginal hands will stay in or dump their hands. You should know whether you want to knock out the marginal hands or keep them in before you check or bet on the turn.

This influence is weaker in a typical loose low limit game. If you've ever driven a rental U-Haul truck you know the difference between steering one of them vs. steering a "normal" car. Low Limit Hold 'em is your U-Haul truck when it comes getting people out of the pot. Often the best you can do is influence the amount of money that goes into the pot, and most times you can't influence even that by more than a bet or two per player at the showdown.

Of course if you are going to fold then your play is much easier, but be considerate of the rest of the table don't muck your cards out of turn.

When you bet out on the turn your opponents will often react cautiously especially if the turn card is a "scare card"--usually one that allows for a straight, flush, or a card which pairs the board.

The second option (check and call) is viable, but should you make your flush on the river and bet out you may not get many callers. The advantage here is lower variance since you can easily dump your hand on the river if a club, ace, or five does not hit and if there are multiple callers.

If you check and raise in early position here you will cause weaker hands (8, 2 or 5 with weak kickers or gutshot straight draws) to fold their hands instead of calling two big bets. This is not advisable here because you may or may not have the best hand right now but chances are you do not. Anyone who calls your check raise here probably has you beat.

Betting the turn on this hand is probably the best choice because people will be cautious about re-raising you (unless they have a bigger hand than a pair of tens), on the other hand many low limit players will call your bet with as little as a gutshot straight draw.

If you make a flush on the river and bet out again you stand a good chance of being raised by anyone else who made their flush as well (in addition to anyone who made their gutshot straight draw)


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