Specific Poker Skills: Folding Aces

Specific Poker Skills To Make the Game Easier

Last week we asked “Is poker easier than we think?” In that post, we talked about some general approaches that reduce the difficulty of poker for any player. Today, we’re going to talk about some specific poker skills to improve your game without hours of study or expensive online programs.

Specific Poker Skills To Make Poker Easier

Opening Pre-Flop With a Raise

Let’s assume you are trying to be profitable when you play poker (as opposed to treating it like a hobby, as we discussed in our last post). When everyone folds to you and you want to enter the hand: raise, do not limp! This is Poker 101, I know. Nonetheless, a huge number of recreational players still play “I just want to see a flop” with their marginal hands. They might as well announce that they have suited connectors, a small or medium pair, a suited ace, or a couple of Broadway cards that aren’t AK or AQ.

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Is Poker Easier than We Think?

Is poker easier to play than we think? At the highest levels of the game, the answer is certainly no. Professionals bet their ranges rather than their cards and calculate complex equations to determine whether their plays are justified. GTO strategy is definitely not easy to follow.

The rest of us, however, play a different game in card rooms across the country. Not that we are unskilled, or our opponents weak (at least not at the rooms we have played). Here, the game is based more on fundamental knowledge of solid play, basic math, and a level of experience and instinct that guides our decisions. However, there seem to be a lot of players, even experienced ones, who make fundamental mistakes both in their general approach to the game and in specific techniques.

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Omaha Poker Training

A Chat About Omaha Poker Training

As we have mentioned previously, Paul and I do some writing and other work for Advanced Poker Training, an excellent poker training website created by Steve Blay. After two years of development, this spring Steve launched a new poker training site to help players learn how to play PLO well. Omaha Poker Training has some of the same great features as APT, including a choice of 9-max or 6-max PLO cash games and multi-table tournaments.

The wide range of OPT game options allows you to customize training to target your home game, local card room, or even a $10,000 championship event at the World Series of Poker. Opponents can be selected from easy, moderate, or expert play in order to model training at a level that is right for the individual’s typical circumstances. You can even set starting hand ranges that are particularly troublesome so as to focus and improve on the exact situations currently causing you difficulty at the tables.

Recently, I sat down with Steve and talked to him about his love of chess, programming, and poker. I also asked him about Omaha Poker Training (OPT) and its development.

 Interview with Steve Blay on Omaha Poker Training

Heather: When did you start playing poker and what drew you to the game?

Steve: I remember playing a lot of poker with my brother Allen in college, and never realizing how much skill there was to it.  It wasn’t until I saw a special about Phil Hellmuth on TV, and I was stunned.  You mean this is a skill game?  Here’s this somewhat nerdy looking kid, who dropped out of college and went to Las Vegas and beat all those guys from Texas with cigars in their mouths.  I want to be that guy!  I bought David Sklansky’s “The Theory of Poker” the next day.

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He's got poker skills

Hidden Poker Skills

Poker players typically spend their “training time” learning specific poker skills related to playing hands. Skills such as reading boards, calculating equity and pot odds, and understanding ranges, are all core to becoming a better player. However, players (particularly recreational players) are less likely to attend to  other aspects of the game that are equally critical to success. In order to develop a rounded game, you also need to develop these four hidden poker skills.

Hidden Poker Skill I: Honest Self-Assessment of Your Physical State

Heather and I generally play poker on weekends. Given that we largely play tournaments, we often have just a single window of time to play.  Sometimes when pulling out of the driveway, one of us will say “God, I’m tired.” The other will offer an insincere, perfunctory “We don’t have to go if you’re exhausted.” However, we know full well that the response will be “Shut up and drive.”

We’ve never tracked whether these low energy days correlate with poor performance. We probably should, but likely won’t for now, because our weekly poker tournament time is sacrosanct. However, if you have the ability to play frequently, and certainly if you play at higher stakes, you should make sure you are rested, alert, and at full capacity before deciding to play. Peak performance is unlikely when you’re tired or sluggish.

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You Can’t Escape the Poker Rake

Every player knows that the key to profiting at poker is playing well.  If you don’t play well, you’re toast long-term. Unfortunately, playing well is not enough. Equally important is understanding how other factors impact your potential profitability. As we have discussed before, there are many ancillary costs of playing poker, and it is important that you make a plan to combat them.  Most importantly, however, card rooms don’t survive on good cheer. They take a piece of the action out of every hand. Understanding how your card room takes their piece of the action, the poker rake, is critical in determining how your potential wins, or losses, will be impacted.

Cash Games and Poker Rake

Poker Rake

Let’s imagine for a moment that a 10-handed table has started with each player buying in for $200. Our imaginary casino’s poker rake is $1 for every $10 in the pot, up to $5 total (fairly typical). If the median pot is $30, the average hand loses $3 in every pot. Although there is some variation, on average, there are about 30 hands dealt an hour. We’ll also assume that nobody busted and re-bought or left and was replaced by a new player. The overall rake paid is $90 (30*$3) in that hour; thus, the “average” player will lose $9 in poker rake (or 4.5% of his/her stack) per hour.

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