July 11, 2005
Once I am involved in a hand, many of the
actions I take after the flop are automatic, or
nearly automatic. Therefore, the most important
decision I have to make in No Limit Hold 'em takes
place before the flop:
Should I play the two cards I've been dealt?
When I first started learning how to play, I
reviewed the standard charts that suggest which
two cards to play from each position. But while
they provided useful guidelines, the charts don't
tell the whole story.
Poker is not a game that is best played by the
numbers. Poker is a game of situations.
In blackjack, there is always a correct
decision to be made - a "perfect
strategy." Once you have compared the
strength of your hand against the dealer's
"up" card, the odds will -- or at least
should -- dictate whether you should hit, stand,
Poker, however, is a game of incomplete
information. There are many factors to consider
that go above and beyond what "the book"
tells you to do. Some of them include:
- My opponents' tendencies
- My state of mind
- My opponent's state of mind
- Our respective stack sizes
- My image at the table
Computer programs can look up hands in a chart.
Real poker players analyze situations and make
their own decisions after processing all of the
available information. I might raise with A-J from
early position in one game, and fold the same hand
from the same position in another.
A good chart can help give a very specific set
of circumstances, namely:
- You are the first person to voluntarily put
money into the pot and are going to come in
for a raise of about three times the big blind
- You don't know much about your opponents
- All the players at the table have an
- The blinds are relatively small in relation
to the size of the stacks
When the above things aren't true, you'll want
to look beyond the charts.
If you're a new player, these tables are a
great place to start. The more poker you play,
however, the more comfortable you will feel
letting your experience and your instincts serve
as your guide.