Filtering Poker Advice

...and Creating Your Own

by Scott Buono


Poker AdviceIím convinced the best kind of poker advice is general in natureÖ thematic. No "words of wisdom" can ever hold true 100% of the time (even coming from the best of the best), as there are just so many variables to consider when trying to tackle a "simple" (specific) question. "How do you play pocket sixes in middle position?" Got a week to discuss it? Nope. But, I WILL recall solid poker advice about "small pairs" in general, and adapt it to my specific situation intuitively. Itís like a light beerÖ great advice, with half the confusion.

How many articles have you read in poker magazines that use the word "depends" when trying to address a specific hand situation? We read so many "it depends" that the answer ultimately no longer addresses the specific question asked because there are too many variables ("depends") that have been introduced in an attempt to come up with that "concrete" right or wrong answer that even the author knows cannot be written in stone. "It depends" is not a cop out on the author's part either. He/she is just being responsible in pointing out that you can't reply too specifically to a question without introducing factors that can greatly influence the answer. "Depends" means: "Letís broaden the question to begin with and maybe weíll get a better understanding of it." The average, aspiring poker player will be WEARING "Depends" by the time he can fully remember and apply every "depends" considered possible for a given situation.

But, we (the less than professionals), as the "advice-ees", are just as responsible for making the "advice-ors" job successful. We canít expect to learn everything there is about a broad subject by asking a specific question about it. Itís like a novice chess player with the black pieces asking an expert player, "So, whatís a good defense to whiteís opening move of pawn to King four?" Answer: "Well, it dependsÖ" Thousands of books have been written, covering every possible known answer to white's opening move "pawn to King four" -- but is it practical to try and explain each and every one to a novice? I think not. The "expert" has to sit the novice down and make him understand why the question is virtually impossible to answer. But, there are a few good "general" ideas when responding: "Develop your pieces quickly, control the center of the board, castle early, etc., etc." Only after getting a feel for sound principles will we be able to develop a style of our own. We canít become too preoccupied with "knowing it all" too soon.

The idea of learning themes and general ideas is how most people improve in any field, not just poker. How many times have we heard the professional athlete (weíll use baseball as an example) interviewed after their team has gotten out of a bad slump with a few wins, and one of the first things they always say is "Well, we just had to get back to the basics of playing good baseball". You never hear them say "Well, too many times in the 6th inning after a rain delay, with men on first and third, and a count of 3 and 1, we werenít adjusting our infield to make a potential play at the plate because the pitcher is a lefty and he was spitting his chewing tobacco at the same time the catcher gave the signal toÖ Forget that. You see, it really dependsÖ" We all understand (and can learn from) "the basics". You just played better baseball, and the results are more wins than losses. Enough said. Spare us the "details" that change with every game (hand), and help me understand the "basics"!

Okay thenÖ We learn to ask thematic questions. Which school of thought is the correct one to accept answers from? Well, "it depends". No, forget I said that. ALL schools of GENERAL thought about poker probably have solid foundations to different degrees. There are too many different styles of successful play that confirm that notion. Iím sure the Doyle Brunson school of thought and the Gus Hansen school of thought are founded on "slightly" different "basics" -- but they are both very successful players. One "old school", and one "new breed." Which is better to learn from? At over 70 years of age, Doyleís methods are still winning him major tournaments. This self-professed dinosaur is as popular with the younger generation of players as is the young, brash Hansen who is tearing up the WPT circuit like heís been around forever. But, we must remember that the first ever World Poker Tour event was Gusí FIRST final table. Thus, his comparatively young career and incredible success begs the question: Whose poker advice did Gus take? I may never get to ask him in person, but I suspect that Gus took Gusí advice. Which leads me to...

How good a player does someone have to be to teach others anything valuable about the game of poker? Ah, "valuable" is the key word there! Donít forget that. What is of great value to one playerís style might be less meaningful to anotherís. That is the beauty of our game. The diversity of tactics used by so many different personalities to achieve the same goal: winning at poker.

Personally, all the most valuable poker lessons Iíve been taught are very general in nature. For example: Iíll publicly thank our hostess Shirley Rosario for an important lesson garnered from her Journal on this website. Again, it is not something even addressed as a specific subject -- but a recurring theme throughout many of her writings, perhaps never intentionally thought of by our "Poker Babe" as a lesson at all. Itís the idea of being happy with ourselves, and our game, as long as we feel in our hearts that we played our hands correctly. Luck (the bad kind) will undoubtedly crush our tournament dreams all too often, but that is only temporary. The feeling that stays with us longer (and is more satisfying) is the "positive one" -- that everything within OUR control was done correctly. We made no (or fewer) mistakes, and each better performance improves our future chances. There is always tomorrow. To me, that has been a very valuable piece of advice, which has changed my demeanor in a very positive way and greatly improved my results in the past several months.

While we can undoubtedly find sound poker advice from anyone, whether professional or novice, we should not only live by the poker ideas of "those who came before us". We must have enough faith in ourselves to apply our own growing experiences into the mix of those themes and ideas proven successful by, and for, others. The beauty of the game of poker is that no two players will think exactly alike in the same situation. Yes, many of us will play AA pre-flop to the river in a very similar way under a variety of circumstances. It is the marginal, less clear, situations that only trial and tribulation will eventually allow us to more clearly choose which path to take in the future. We cannot doubt our own emotions, intuition, faith and common sense, nor put aside our own ideas just because they are untested.

All the great players didnít become successful simply by reading poker books and asking questions. They jumped into the very waters they knew ran deep, and trusted their ability to swim against an ever growing current, despite all the poker advice to the contrary. That is what creates legends. Will you be the next one? "It dependsÖ" But one thing is for sureÖ You canít worry about being "technically correct according to the gods" every hand. So strive to learn the basic themes and concepts; the proven ideas. Keep it simple. The rest will come on your own!


Strategy Articles by Scott Buono:
Poker Advice
Poker Focus
Sit N Go Strategy
Multi-Tabling Online Poker
Taking Notes Online: I Remember You!



(c) Shirley Rosario

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