Fundamentals of Poker
Authors Mason Malmuth and Lynne Loomis
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Excerpt from the Book Fundamentals of Poker : Elemental Poker Concepts
Although each individual form of poker has specific strategies that apply primarily to that game, certain basic themes and ideas are universal to all of poker. Consequently, a good understanding of the concepts that follow will be helpful, no matter what form of poker you choose to play.
Concept No. 1: Play in loose games whenever possible. Regardless of how well you play poker, to be a consistent winner, you must play in good games. And good games are usually those games with many players in most pots. The reason a loose game is considered "good" is that some players frequently will enter the pot with hands they should have thrown away. Incidentally, the majority of low-limit games are fairly loose.
Concept No. 2: Be selective of the hands you play. With a full table of players, there is an excellent chance that someone will make a good hand. As a result, if you play most of the hands you are dealt, you can't expect to be a winner in the long run.
Concept No. 3: Play aggressively. Poker is not a game for weak, passive players. If you neglect to bet, an opponent who might have thrown his cards away may get lucky and receive a card that beats you. Moreover, if you bet only when you have a very strong hand, your opponents will know you have a good hand and won't call you unless they also have a strong holding.
Concept No. 4: Bluff some, but not too much. This is actually a continuation of the concept just mentioned. If you never bluff -- that is, never bet a hand that has virtually no chance of winning in a showdown -- many of your opponents will learn that you bet only your better hands. Again, they will call you only when they also happen to be holding a strong hand.
Similarly, you shouldn't bluff too much. There are two reasons for this. First, bluffing typical opponents just a small percentage of the time gains the desired effect. Second, some of your opponents will call too much, especially at the lower limits. Bluffing this type of player can be suicide for your bankroll.
Concept No. 5: Position is important. Acting last is an advantage in virtually all forms of poker, as you will have gained information about your opponents' hands, but they will not have gained that same information about your hand. Good position allows you to play more hands, bet more hands, escape traps -- for example, you may throw away a marginal hand when someone else bets or raises -- and even bluff more.
Concept No. 6: Adjust your play, depending on your opponents. Poker is a people game. Who you are against and how they play can make a critical difference. For instance, against someone who bluffs a lot, you should be willing to call with weak hands; against someone who generally never bluffs, you should call only with very strong hands. In addition, an opponent's mood may change, depending on how he is doing in the game. When this occurs, it's as though you are against an entirely different person, and you should adjust your play accordingly.
Concept No. 7: The larger the pot, the more you should call. Just because it is unlikely that you have the best hand doesn't always mean that you should discard it. As an example, suppose that after all the cards are out, your opponent bets $4, which increases the pot to a total of $36. Since it will cost you only $4 to call, your hand needs to be the best just one out of 10 times for your call to be correct. In other words, you are getting 36-to-4 or 9-to-1 pot odds. Even if you have just a small chance of winning, you frequently should make this call.
Concept No. 8: Observe the action. When not involved in a hand, spend your time wisely. Observe those opponents involved in the hand in order to ascertain their playing habits.