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Best of Fred Renzey

Gaming Guru

 

Winning at Poker Requires Playing Above and Beyond

8 October 2006

When you play poker, theoretically your cards are supposed to be no better, yet no worse than your opponents' - over the long haul that is. Your goal each time you sit down, however, is to turn a net profit with presumably average cards – an interesting challenge. That can be done, but to make it happen you must do three basic things better than your opponents. Let's review them one at a time.

Save bets with your losing hands: No matter what kind of poker you play, it's critical that you recognize when your good hand is no good and fold it. Don't get stubborn and call all bets, then have somebody show you a better hand that in your heart of hearts, you knew he had to have. Let the other players make that mistake when you've got the goods.

Let's say you've got pocket Queens in Texas Hold'em and the flop comes down 6-6-J. You bet and get called, then somebody check-raises you on the turn. What now? Give it up. Your beautiful Ladies are no good. Save those last two bets.

Similarly, if you flop the nut flush in Omaha Hi/Lo, but the board pairs on the river and somebody bets into – you're beat! The thing is to see what is, and act upon it right now. When full houses become possible in Omaha, somebody usually has one.

You've got to save those losing calls that your opponents won't have the discipline to save when the shoe's on the other foot if you want to come out on top.

Earn extra bets with your winning hands: A winning player knows how to extract the maximum from his victims when he has the best hand. Although you should usually push full steam ahead with a good hand, if your hand is extra strong for the situation, it can be more profitable to slow play a bit.

Suppose you're playing 7 Card Stud and you start out with A-10/10, so you come in raising, just like you're supposed to. A player showing ?-?/K re-raises and you call. Right on the fourth card you catch an Ace to make Aces up. Your correct play is to check, let him bet and then just smooth call. Don't raise him until fifth or sixth street where he'll be psychologically committed to the pot. This will usually earn you a couple of extra bets with your bigger two pair.

Now instead, if your opponent showed something like ?-?/Jh-Qh, you'd better just bet right out because he might more easily be building something that could beat Aces up.

Win an occasional pot that your cards couldn't do on their own: This is the most sensitive poker trait of all. Most players think it refers to outright bluffing. Truth is, an outright, stone cold bluff very seldom works. To win often enough, your bluffs need some extra help to go with them. That comes in the form of additional "outs" to improve your hand.

Suppose in Hold'em you've got the 10d/Jd and the flop comes Q-10-3 with two diamonds, then the first player bets. Chances are, he's paired his Queen, but not necessarily. If all you had was your pair of 10s, you should probably fold rather than call three more bets to see if he really has what he's supposed to. But since you've got a flush draw too, you might well end up with the winning hand anyway. So your proper play is to raise. This is called "semi-bluffing" and it's much more productive than outright bluffing.

Now, your aggressive play will likely cause your opponent to check to you on the turn and if the diamond didn't come, you get to check along. Yet, if the turn card is a diamond, you keep right on betting and have earned extra money with your flush.

To boot (and this is the bluffing part), if the turn card is a King or Ace and you continue to bet after your opponent checks, he may now fold the best hand (Queens) fearing there are just too many ways you could have him beat. But you needed those extra outs to give this play more ways to work.

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

Blackjack Bluebook II

> More Books By Fred Renzey

Fred Renzey
Fred Renzey is a high-stakes, expert poker player. On a daily basis he faces--and beats--some of the best players in the country in fierce poker room competition. Now for the first time, Renzey offers his perceptive insights on how to play winning poker. For Fred's 13-page blackjack booklet "Ace/10 Front Count", send $9 to Fred Renzey, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL, 60009

Books by Fred Renzey:

> More Books By Fred Renzey