10 pieces of poker advice you shouldn’t ignore Part 1

This two-part series will take a light-hearted look at some poker axioms, quotes, and simply amusing anecdotes I have come across in my many years in the poker world. While the ideas themselves may be a bit cynical and satirical in nature, the advice is actually spot on, and capable of improving your poker game (as well as your thinking about poker). So with that in mind, I hope you can gain something from these two articles, as well as enjoy it and possibly get small chuckle at the same time!

#1 — Don’t get creative when two (or sometimes more) other players start pushing back

This should go without saying, but if you open a pot, get raised, and then the pot gets popped again, this is probably not the best time in the world to try and get “creative”. Even in this hyper-aggressive world of poker, three different players raising typically signifies at least one of them has a real-hand; it’s best to save your 4-bet bluffs for when you are heads-up with another opponent.

All too often I see someone decide to either make a stand, or try to push two or more players out of a pot when it’s obvious that there is little chance that BOTH players are making a move –I even see players do this against complete nits! Trying to justify their decision by saying they are using their image when they ALWAYS show down a monster!

#2 — If you’ve gotten to the point that you think a certain dealer is bad luck it’s time to call it a night

I know a lot of poker players can be superstitious, but if you start asking for new setups, or sit-out because of a certain dealer, your superstitions are affecting the way you play poker. If it gets to this point you should seriously think about just calling it a night, as you are without doubt on tilt and playing off of your emotions.

Innocent superstitions are fine as they do not make you feel unlucky (take Sammy Farha’s penchant for putting a new unlit cigarette in his mouth after losing a hand for instance), but when your superstition gets to the point where you feel Lady Luck is actually against you there is a serious problem.

In the case of Farha’s superstition the NEW cigarette is considered lucky until proven otherwise, not the other way around! Unfortunately, most players do the reverse dreading bad luck instead of courting good luck.

#3 — Know the rules

The rules of poker are put in place to protect each player, especially the ones who are unaware of the rules! That said, it’s very important for serious poker players to know all of the rules inside and out in the card-room –keep in mind that rules can vary from card-room to card-room as well! For instance there are plenty of card-rooms where players must declare their hand or allow the dealer to, and plenty of other card-rooms where “cards speak” and any player can point out what a player may have –whether it’s overlooked by the player or the dealer.

By knowing these rules you can help dealers and floor personnel reach the right conclusion in challenging situations (that you are involved in! Don’t get involved in a decision that doesn’t concern you unless asked or prodded), as they are unlikely to make a bad ruling, or show favoritism to another player, if you show a strong understanding of the rules.

Knowing the rules will also allow you to keep from making a foolish mistake, or being taken advantage of by an angle-shooter. Players who know the rules of the gamed make far fewer errors than players who take them for granted.

#4 — When it comes to sizing up a new player it’s the little things that matter

A PokerStars hat or a fancy card protector shouldn’t factor too much in your opinions about an unknown player’s skill level (especially since these items are practically given away by the sites and can be found on EBay if you really want one), nor should a young player wearing sunglasses with a stern face make you think you are up against an online pro, but there are plenty of clues that will give you some insight into this person’s experience level.

The way they handle their cards and chips is a dead giveaway, as it’s very unusual for players to deftly move their cards and chips around without plenty of experience. Another surefire sign is the way they first sit down, where everything from the way they un-rack and stack their chips to their overall comfort level at the table will give you some clues to the player’s experience. People who sit down –in what you consider a “bad” seat– and ask for a seat change button have obviously been watching the game and know what they are doing; players who inquire if the game is a must-move, or ask the floor to put them on another list are not participating in their first rodeo.

So with nothing else to go on, make sure you pay attention to the little things a new player does.

#5 — Against casual players a raise means a good hand a call means he has kicker problems

When you are playing against experienced or serious poker players you need to take a variety of factors into consideration when they bet, call, or raise, as these actions could mean several different things. However, when you are playing against a casual poker player the best advice in the world is that their actions will match their cards until proven otherwise.

Rarely have I seen a casual poker player float bets on the flop, or check-raise bluff the river. About as fancy as they get is semi-bluffs on the flop and bluffs on the river. So until your opponent proves he has the poker acumen to make advanced plays respect their best and raises.

Preview of Part 2

Here is a look at the five topics I will discuss in Part 2 of this series:

  • #6 — Trust everyone, but always cut the cards
  • #7 — The difference between involvement and commitment is like a ham and eggs breakfast; the chicken was involved and the pig was committed
  • #8 — Every hand has its own problems
  • #9 — Poker is a hard way to make an easy living
  • #10 — A person should gamble every day, because think of how bad it would be to walk around being lucky and not know it.   


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