Thursday, May 29, 2008

Winning No Limit Hold-Em

It's been awhile since I've played some live poker, but I went to the casino an hour up the road over the weekend. I turned $100 into $850 at the $1-3 NL table in about six hours. Not bad! Although I'll have to admit, there were some frustrated people at the table, and I'll tell you why.

To several of the players, I seemingly played junk cards most of the time, and took down some very large pots with them. I can see how this can be frustrating when you have solid preflop cards, raise with them, get called and get taken by a lucky flop. But there is a method to the madness, and I'll try to explain.

First of all, I like to show down a big bluff somewhere in the beginning of my game. I'll raise preflop with junk, bet the flop, bet the turn, bet the river and turn up next to nothing. Now they have a perception of a loose foolish player at the table. It works even better if I get lucky and hit two pair or something. I just make sure my betting made no sense. I'll do this now and then, especially if the table is changing players often. I like to keep the loose image. This helps my strong hands make more, and also keeps them guessing.

Now, in my observation of the game of No-Limit (especially at these smaller stakes,) cards like pocket aces or pocket kings will typically win a small pot or lose a large one. On the other hand, cards like small suited connectors, small pairs, small one gappers are the opposite: they will typically lose a small pot, or win a large one.

One reason is the difference in starting strength of the hand. If pocket aces gets no help on the flop, it's going to be hard to fold that hand in any event. Whereas something like 56, if the flop isn't strong, it's an easy fold.

Another is deception. You call preflop with 56 and the flop comes 56T rainbow, the aces aren't going to be too concerned about losing with that texture of a flop and they'll likely pay you off nicely. Whereas the flop comes 9TJ, the aces will be a bit more cautious if they get re-raised.

Holding small cards, the flop that helps you is not likely going to be helping another player in the hand. When you call a preflop raise, you are typically going to be up against stronger starting hands, and that helps when you hit the flop right. You don't have to guess if you have 2nd best, such as a hand like TJ might be doing with a flop of TJQ.

If you are going to try playing this style, remember implied odds, that is the most important thing. That is, if you are going to call a preflop raise with little cards, make sure you have a bankroll to back it up, as well as the guy you are calling. You want sufficient implied odds so when you hit the flop, you get paid off.