These days, it seems like you can't walk
through a bookstore without tripping over a
poker strategy book. How do you play A-K in
early position short-handed? Should you
raise with suited connectors on the button
after the big stack smooth calls? When is it
right to slow play pocket aces?
There are now dozens of books written by
expert poker players that will answer all of
those questions. I've seen entire chapters
devoted to playing certain hands in
particular circumstances. And while it's
useful to understand why these authors make
the suggestions they do, it's more important
to realize that all of these questions have
the same answer:
Poker is a game of infinite complexity.
Players like Chris Ferguson can calculate
the odds of almost any situation, but there
are no hard, fast rules for how to play a
specific hand. The math matters, but if you
want to take your game to the next level,
you need to start working on three things:
Creativity, imagination, and flexibility.
There are many successful styles that
work in poker. From the seemingly reckless
manner of Gus Hanson (there is a method to
his apparent madness), to the tightly
disciplined systems of David Skalansky, your
goal should be to experiment with different
ways of playing. Once you've started doing
that, you need to figure out which style
will work best for you and the situation at
If the game is too loose, it's often
right to play fewer cards. If the table is a
rock garden, you can sometimes get away with
bluffing more. The key is not to b stuck to
some plan that is "always right,"
but to redefine yourself in each given
Learning how to adjust your play takes
practice. Shorthanded play is a great
opportunity to test your creativity because
you have more decisions to make. You can
also invest time playing single table sit
& gos, where the increasing blinds force
you to play more hands against your
Imagination is at the heart of the game.
Just as there is no right way to write a
song or paint a picture, there is no right
way to play poker. The best players are
experimenting and adjusting all the time.
The beauty of the game lies in this
ever-shifting landscape, and it keeps us
interested each time we sit down.