Poker for Advanced Players

Beyond the Textbooks

by David Huber


Advanced Poker PlayingThanks in no small part to an extremely high demand, poker information is more abundant than ever. Textbook strategies that were effective just five years ago have become poker’s equivalent to an 8-Track cassette tape… outdated and a source of nostalgia. Before the days of the modern poker boom, some strategists actually suggested folding pocket Queens to an Early Position pre-flop raise in Limit Texas Holdem. While you may not find such “Tight” suggestions in today’s poker universe, there are still plenty of guides that can point you in the right (or wrong) direction.

But what comes after comprehension, and subsequent application, of textbook strategies? Many beginning players (along with quite a few “veterans” of the game) struggle to encounter ways to exploit edges, or increase expectation, after hitting the books. With well-known pros churning out more strategy-based information than ever before, it’s not surprising to find a higher percentage of players following the same “rules” when it comes to which starting hands to play, and in which situations to re-raise, etc.

The fact is that following a guide (especially when it comes to starting hand selection) is a piece of cake. Good players, bad players, great players, and horrible players alike seek out poker knowledge at some point in their career. If someone hands you a chart and says “Here, play these hands!”, that’s fine… but don’t kid yourself and think you’ve made a huge leap in your game. It’s the players who are able to come up with their own answers and justifications for making specific plays who continually pound the Dickens out of unimaginative bookworms.

Case in point: You can take 10 players of varying skill, place them at a deep-stacked cash game table, and arm them with a starting hand chart. Over the long run, the better players will have a higher expectation than the worse players, regardless of starting hand restrictions, or any other generic strategies that require a player to act the same way every time a certain situation presents itself. A practical comparison to this fact can be achieved by reliving old-school 5 Card Draw games, where players could only open with ‘Jacks or better’, and comparing the winners and losers of those games to the above theoretical gameplay.

Textbooks can be an important resource when increasing one’s expectation, but any player who aims to maximize potential must make that all-important leap of faith and trust him/herself to learn from trial and error. This means actually thinking about the situation you’re in… and it also means putting together all the pieces of information available to you, and turning them into an educated opinion.

If an opponent of yours has entered a large percentage of pots recently and has gone to showdown with mediocre hands on a few of those occasions, it might be prudent to reconsider 3-barrelling with bottom pair. Likewise, if a different opponent has only entered a small percentage of pots and has only gone the distance with premiums, you might want to come up with a few options in advance for playing Ace-Queen against him/her. Educated guesses are far superior to clueless actions at the poker tables… just make sure your estimates are based on information and not emotion.

Poker is not a game where one can concentrate solely on one’s holdings. Throughout the poker world, you can find a multitude of uninspired players who concentrate on playing their own hands, and nothing else. The majority of textbook information still focuses on what YOU have, and for the most part disregards what YOUR OPPONENTS have. This is a major flaw in general methodology that makes it impossible for a player to realize any potential. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to confront your opponents… and when that happens, it would serve you well to have at least a general idea of what they are holding. Having a reasonable idea of what your opponent has is a sure-fire way to maximize expectation… because you can act and react accordingly.

Simple strategies do possess some value to a beginning player, but they are aimed more at “losing less” than “winning more”. Keep that in mind the next time you’re faced with a tough decision with nothing to guide you except emotion and an over-simplified hand chart that leaves you twisting in the wind. You might find yourself paying less attention to starting hand requirements and more attention to your opponents’ tendencies… and this is a positive step in the right direction.

Wherever there’s money to be made, there’s work to be done. Poker just happens to be one of those professions where the consequences of poor job performance go far beyond the unpleasant stench of complacency. There aren’t many people who can say “I went to work today, and lost a ton of money”. However, that statement is a fact of life for professional poker players as they weather the ups and downs in order to achieve a positive return on investment. As long as you don’t say “I went to work today, and lost a ton of expectation”, you’ll be better off than 99%+ of your opponents. Motivate yourself to go beyond textbook poker – and discover where the real money resides in this game.


Other strategy articles by David Huber:
Online Poker Tells
Poker Expectation
Playing Pocket Pairs
Basic Loose Aggressive LAG Poker Strategy
Basic Tight Aggressive TAG Poker Strategy
Sit N Go Strategy - Part 1: Early Stages
Sit and Go Tournaments - Part 2: Middle Stages
Single Table Tournament Strategy - Part 3 End Game



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