Poker is a game of situations, position, and opportunity. Top players take advantage of these to increase their wins, but you low rollers can do it too. If you play only “according to the book,” you’ll miss out on some of these money-making opportunities.
These are part of what I call “card sense”, defined in my best-seller The Official Dictionary of Poker (available on Amazon as a Kindle book) as…
in a poker game, an acute awareness of the totality of what is going on, not narrowing your focus to just what’s happening in your own hand. Card sense implies the ability to act on your observations, and to think on your feet. You must have imagination in playing your own hand, almost x-ray vision in being able to reconstruct opponents’ hands. It is card sense that causes a player to play the same cards differently in different situations. A player without card sense usually plays the same cards the same in all situations.
A few examples help here.
You’re in a low-limit hold’em game:
the player on your left has been complaining all evening about being haunted by a particular card, for example the 3 of diamonds, and he never wins when he gets this card, of course. It’s gotten to the point that he has offered to bet anyone at the table that he gets the card at least three times as often as anyone else. You’re to the left of the dealer, in the small blind, and the fellow on your left has the big blind. You already know you have deuce-seven-off, and have no intention of playing this pot. Everyone folds, including the button, somewhat unusual for this lively game. You’re about to dump your hand and surrender the blinds to the fellow on your left, when you notice that he’s showing one of his cards to the player on his left. Now what could that card be? Of course, the 3 of diamonds, and the fellow is showing it to corroborate his sad story. Quickly you come in for a raise, and, as you expected, the big blind disgustedly dumps his cards. Had you not been paying attention, you would have lost your one-chip small blind, but instead, you win the two-chip big blind, a difference of three chips. Considering that many experts are happy to win one big bet (four chips in this game) per hour, that’s a nice little profit.
This particular situation came up in a pot-limit Omaha game with blinds of $10 and $20, a bit higher than what I would normally classify as a low-roller game. Nonetheless, the principle applies in any game. The game was moderately tight. I was on the button. The player to my left, the small blind, had put in $10, and the player to his left, the big blind, $20. No one opened to my right, and the action was on me. I had a tell on the player to my left. If he was going to play in a pot, he held tightly onto his cards and waited patiently. But now he looked like he couldn’t wait to dump the cards and wished that I would hurry and do something so we could get on to the next pot. He was not one of those actors who feigns lack of interest to entice the unwary into opening, so I knew he really would fold if I opened.
Unfortunately, my cards consisted of a 9, a 6, a 4, and a 2 of different suits, normally not a playable hand. I would not normally try to steal the blinds with such a trashy hand, because the big blind was suspicious of me, and had called me earlier with substandard hands when she thought I was robbing the pot. I couldn’t profitably play my cards, because if she hit any part of the flop, she was quite capable of calling me down with almost anything, as little as a high pair. But she had not had any playable hands for some time, which she naturally blamed on external sources.
While I was thinking, she said, “Dealer, get a new setup.” Players could ask for replacement decks at any time, as long as the current setup (two decks: plastic cards came in setups of two decks each) had been at the table for at least one round. Such a replacement normally was necessitated only when one or more cards got bent or broken, and most players objected to the replacement because it took time to collect the old cards and shuffle thoroughly the new decks. Sometime superstitious players requested new decks because they thought that might change their luck. Why would this player be calling for new cards? Because her current hand was pure garbage. I was home-free.
I opened for the maximum, $70, and, as expected, both players folded. Normally in that situation I would not have played my garbage hand, not wanting to risk many — or even all — of my chips with substandard cards against one or two likely callers. Instead, I played the situation, and profited by $30.
Pay attention, low rollers,
situations will arise that allow you to win pots you might not otherwise. You’ll see the contrapositive, also, allowing you to dump hands that other, less attentive players would feel duty-bound to play to the bitter end, and lose. Keep that up, and you might even graduate from the low-roller class.
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash