Time to kick off some poker content on the blog. As you might know, I've been playing all sorts of card games ever since I was a young boy on summer vacation with my grandparents who taught me all sorts of solitaire variants, and a delightfully evil game they called "Spite and Vile" (more on that later). As a teenager, I left card games behind for the most part as I graduated to board games and other forms of strategy games. Then in my early twenties, collectible card games hit the market and I was hooked again by the bug. I began to compete in L5R tournaments, booking some impressive results and doing some playtesting for AEG, the game's creator. I still keep my hand in as a volunteer with them, but my main competitive focus has shifted to a much more traditional card game nowadays: poker.
Why poker, you ask? Simple! It's a hobby that pays for itself. Why shouldn't I be the one to outwit and outsmart other people at a card game and get paid for it?
I've been studying and learning new things about the game of poker with an eye towards becoming a long-term winning player, with aspirations towards funding a few big tournament entry fees and a shot at eternal glory. Consequently, I've embarked on a course of study that has led me to read more than a few poker books, to a few low-stakes home games with friends and fellow poker addicts, and to some local casinos. I've also played a bit online. Overall, I have had mixed results, and I've learned a lot along the way.
So, let's kick off a strategy series about the most popular form of poker, no-limit Texas hold'em. This is the game you see televised in the mainstream media all over the place as the poker craze has taken hold.
I played this hand the other day at an online poker website.
50 NL, 6-max
Hero ($46.75) [your friendly neighbourhood crime-fighter]
Button ($75.55) [hapless victim]
Preflop: Hero is UTG with T, J.
Hero raises to $2, 1 fold, Button calls $2, 2 folds.
- Raising with two large suited connectors in early position short-handed is one of my preferred plays. You gain initiative and deception if you hit your hand on the flop, and if you're re-raised you can be reasonably comfortable with a flat call depending on the relevant stack sizes involved.
Flop: ($4.75) 7, 8, 2 (2 players)
Hero bets $4, Button calls $4.
--Not a bad flop to lead out with a c-bet. I have an inside straight draw, a backdoor flush draw, and two overcards. I have significant pot equity, plenty enough to continue with this hand.
Turn: ($12.75) Q (2 players)
Hero bets $8, Button calls $8.
--I certainly want to keep the pressure on; I can represent pairing the queen.
River: ($28.75) T (2 players)
Hero bets $32.75 (All-In), Button calls $32.75.
-I finally hit second pair. I decide to fire again with a pot-sized bet on the river (note the careful bet-sizing all along which left me this much money behind for the final bet!) in hopes of making quite a few better hands fold. I don't want a call, but at least I have some showdown value.
Final Pot: $94.25
Hero has Td Jd (one pair, tens).
Button has Jh 8d (one pair, eights).
Outcome: Hero wins $94.25.
NB. I don't recommend this line of play most of the time, but it was golden against this calling station who felted with third pair. I was more than a little surprised with how lightly he called down. Chalk up another mark in the positive side of the ledger for betting your tricky draws strongly. The moral of the story is to know your customer; against better opponents this would be suicidal.
An additional benefit of this hand was the simple fact that I sent this hapless victim on tilt. Unnerved, he stacked off two more times to me with horrific plays later in the session before leaving the table. Inducing mistakes and bad play from your opponents is a key skill which can dramatically increase your bankroll at others' expense.