Sunday, April 5, 2015

Bug's Poker Tip #46

Tight is Right


Far, far too many beginners play far, far too many poker hands. And yes, I know why this is true--I've come to play cards, dammit, so I'm gonna play my damn cards!--but this is a major leak. Said simply, you should play only a small fraction of the hands dealt to you, especially in early position and from the blinds. Something like 5-10% in early position, increasing to somewhere around 20-25% in late position at a standard full-ring table. Everything else should be folded-- somewhere around 80-85% of the hands you see. Yes, four out of five hands or more. And yes, that's a lot of hands, and yes, it may be a little boring at first to fold far more hands than you play, but it's one of the fundamental secrets the pro's employ to making money at this game. If you play too many hands, you will leak away your profits. Drip, drip, drip.

Think of it this way, when you're deciding to play a hand dealt to you, you're essentially deciding to pick a fight and/or join one already in motion. Wouldn't you want a high-quality weapon in hand when you jump into the fray of battle? As the Guru used to preach, "don't bring a knife to a sword fight." Isn't it better to battle from the high ground, where your card strength gives you an inherent advantage over the opposition, than face an up-hill slog holding inferior cards? Remember, two new cards are coming your way in just a few ticks of the clock. Pick your battles with the strong cards, and toss all the rest.

A good technique to train yourself to play a Tight-is-Right game is to implement the so-called raise-or-fold question in your preflop decision process. You literally ask yourself on every single hand dealt to you, "Should I raise this hand in this situation?" If the answer is "no" (which it will be most of the time), you should just muck the cards and move on. I've actually done training sessions with students where they are literally not allowed to call preflop with any hand. Of course this is not a long-term strategy during normal play, as there are definitely times to call preflop in poker (such as when you're dealt a small or medium pocket pair in late position and are facing an EP open-raise and are getting the right implied odds to set-mine) but for purposes of training, this kind of "raise-or-fold" technique can be helpful-- and enlightening. I wish I had a nickle for every time a student forced to play this way said something like, "Damn, I want to play this hand! But I know I shouldn't. Sigh. Fold..."

So, ask yourself: Do you want to play your cards, or do you want to make money? Only you can answer this for yourself, but I know what my own response is-- I like the green stuff. And raking in chips turns out to be not so boring after all.

All-in for now...
-Bug


1 comment:

  1. A not-very-good poker player told me once that it's no fun to fold every time. I replied that it's fun to win money.

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