How many potsDavid Apostolico is the author of 'Machiavellian Poker Strategy', and 'Tournament Poker and The Art of War,' and his latest title 'Poker Strategies for a Winning Edge in Business.' David's website is www.holdemradio.com/blog/ have you won by calling when you did not have the best hand? Of course, the answer is none. If you answered anything else, please call me as I want to join your game. While this is an obvious question, it underscores a more fundamental issue. If you are playing a tournament and you only win those pots when you have the best hand, you are not going to advance very far. Furthermore, if you find yourself frequently calling with the best hand, you are not extracting maximum value for your strong hands.
In a perfect world, you should be either folding or bluffing when you are beat but never calling. On the flip side, you should be betting or raising at some point (even if you are trapping) when you do have the best hand. Of course, poker is a game of imperfect information and there will be times when calling is appropriate. However, if you do it frequently, you need to take a serious look at your game to find out what you are doing wrong. If you like to play a lot of pots, then I would suggest you play far fewer and when you do enter play with strength. When you take the lead in the betting, you give yourself two chances to win. First, you can force your opponents to fold. Next, you could end up with the best hand. When you are passive and insist on just calling, you have no chance to win. That second chance to win by forcing your opponent to fold is commonly referred to as your “fold equity.”
For instance, say you are sitting on about 7 times the big blind late in a tournament. Everyone folds to you in the cutoff position and you look down and find J-10 suited. This is a great drawing hand so you think about calling. At this stage of the tournament, though, that is the wrong move. If you are going to enter, you should raise. This way you give yourself the chance to win the blinds and antes by forcing your opponents to fold. If you just call and miss the flop completely, what are you going to do when your opponent bets out? In tournament poker where the action is forced by increasing blinds, you do not have the opportunity to sit back, you must be proactive.
If you need a confidence builder, here’s a little tip. Next time you play, count how many hands you win without a showdown. I’m willing to bet that the number will surprise you. It will surprise you in how high it is. The point of the exercise is that presumably in the great majority of these hands you are winning without a showdown, you have the best hand or an excellent draw. Yet, it really didn’t matter what you held since your opponents all folded. Your bet or raise won the pot for you. All the cards did were give you the confidence to make that bet or raise. Once you go through this exercise, hopefully it will give you the confidence to make that bet or raise without having the crutch of the cards.
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