Poker – The Most Basic of Strategies
There’s a series of Second World War British propaganda posters on the theme of ‘careless talk costs lives’, anyone who grew up in the British education system and learnt any history will be familiar with them. The situation in which these posters were printed and displayed were of a seriousness incomparable to what I’m writing about, however they do proffer a basic premise that can be applied to a number of things in life, not least of all poker. The basic idea is, keep quiet about what you know in order that the other guy will be unprepared and unable to equal you. As Francis Bacon said; “knowledge is power”.
This is brought in order to introduce an idea in poker that is so simple, so straight forward that I feel a little foolish to be writing about it. However, it has come to my attention recently that people will look for complicated theories regarding poker tactics, they will devour books and skim through websites without an understanding of the fundamental basis of poker betting, without which nothing makes much sense, and with which one frankly doesn’t need much else.
Poker betting tactics can be whittled down to the answers of three very basic questions:
· What does my opponent have?
· What does my opponent think I have?
· What does my opponent think I think he has?
You will answer these questions based on the cards on view, as well as an assessment of your opponents betting. However you must bear in mind that your opponent may be manipulating his betting in order to fool you regarding what he has. It is precisely to throw your opponent off course that slow-play, fast-play, and bluffing are used; you must learn how to use these tools to your advantage. For example a large bet on the flop even when you have nothing may indicate to your opponent that you have something; this may effect a later discussion whether to stay in or not.
The psychology of poker should not be under rated and it should not be relegated to second place after mathematical ability. Betting is a law unto itself, and a players approach to betting is reflective always of what he has, and what he thinks you have. Therefore, don’t give anything away, don’t allow your opponent to read anything about your hand from the cards he can see, assess the possible hands that your opponent has, and form your betting and indeed bluffing tactics around this information. You will find that these three questions will open up tactical betting to you, and enable you to enter into psychological playing which at the end of the day is what enables a good player to become a great player.