Would You Like to Learn Something about Poker?
Welcome to our Juicy Stakes Poker Guide. We will cover a range of poker topics starting at the most basic level. Even if you have played poker for many years, we will add some useful insights to your knowledge of poker thereby making you a better poker player. Enjoy our guide!
Juicy Stakes has both a poker room and a fully stocked online casino. We are happy to be able to begin running these articles which will be a combination Juicy Stakes poker review, tutorial, poker information, news, history and trivia, and just good, sound downhome advice for the poker player in everyone!
We hope all of our gamers are as excited about reading these twice-weekly poker articles as we are about writing them. We also hope that even seasoned poker players will get something new from these articles even though we are starting truly at the most basic of poker basics.
Fundamentals are as Important in Poker as they are in All Sports
We hear about coaches of team sports talking about “getting back to the fundamentals”. Sports in general are part raw talent and part adherence to the fundamentals—the most basic of the basics.
A quick lesson from chess—another sport that most people see as a geeky intellectual pursuit rather than as a sport—is appropriate here. A chess teacher, Irving Chernev, wrote a book in the 1960’s called “Logical Chess Step by Step”.
Chernev was not a great chess player in the mold of international grandmasters but he was a good chess teacher. He began the first illustrative game in the book with the first move. The nomenclature indicates just how long ago he wrote this book: P-K4 or pawn to king 4. He followed with two exclamation points to indicate how good this move was!!
He then followed with two pages about why it was such a good move. In short, it controls the center of the board and opens a lane for the king’s bishop. An opening move couldn’t be expected to do more! The first move you make in any poker game cannot be expected to do more than control the center of the board, so to speak, and to open a lane for the king’s bishop, so to speak.
In other words, it gives some information but the range of the information could be anything from “he’s a totally inexperienced player who bets on anything, to he’s bluffing, to he has to have at least a high pair to make that bet in that position."
It tells us something but not really all that much.
Position is One Key to Poker Excellence
In every poker hand, there is one player who has to bet first and one player who gets to bet last. The last player has an advantage over early players. First, she sees every move the players made before her. Second, she can continue in the hand cheaply if the other players don’t bet high. Third, she can intimidate players by betting high as a bluff if everyone before her has bet low.
The Structure of the Game is Also Important
In Texas Hold’Em, there are two “blinds”. These are the players who have to put money in the pot before the first cards are dealt. The money they out in is in effect the ante in those hands and the blinds are the only players to ante. As the dealer’s hand moves around the table, the blinds move around as well.
Every player has to at least call the big blind or fold. The big blind doesn’t have to bet at all if everyone who stayed in the hand before him simply called. In that situation, the big blind gets something of a free pass to see the flop while all of the other players needed a reason to call.
The Ante Changes Everything
In other poker games, everyone antes. In these games, a player can pass after the cards are dealt. This gives players with a weak hand the chance to continue until someone actually bets. If they can see more cards “for free” they might actually win the hand with what started out as a very poor hand. With a very poor hand in Texas Hold’em, most players will have to fold before the flop.
It is said that in Texas Hold’em good players fold about 80% of the hands they are dealt before the flop! In ante games, the number of players who fold and don’t see any other cards is a lot less than 80%!
Study Your Opponents
This is a cliché but it is so fundamental that the fact that most poker players don’t do it is a key to long-term poker success. We need to study our opponents. This is a lot more than paying attention. When we study a difficult subject we understand that it is important to do more than just to pay attention; we have to study!
In poker, you can study theoretical decisions. You can study the value of hands. You can study the science and math of poker. These are certainly important topics. But the most important topic to study is other players!
Studying theoretical hands is valuable as theory but it is a lot less valuable in practice. That’s because our opponents might not play according to the theories. Poker pros might fold poor hands before the flop a very large percentage of the time but every so often they will bet with a poor hand.
They do so because they have to show that they can’t be studied! We have to study our opponents because poker is a game of eternal bluffing and only through studying our opponents can we hope to be able to “guess” when an opponent is bluffing or telling us that she has a good hand.
Knowing Our Opponents is Comparable to Writing Stories
Two of the most famous authors, Ernest Hemingway and W. Somerset Maugham wrote about the need to study people. The plots are the least important element in a story; the characters are by far the most important element in a story. The longer the story, the more important it is to get the characters right.
Poker is like a massive novel in the sense that the plot is actually quite mundane: cards are dealt, bets are made, someone wins and someone loses—ho hum. The characters are far more salient to the story. Who makes cleverly hidden bets with good hands? Who makes cleverly hidden bets with poor hands?
Betting is the Key in Every Poker Hand
This is such a fundamental point that it is overlooked by even the most sophisticated poker players: every hand in poker involves betting. Well, of course, you say. But it follows that every bet is a world unto itself. Every bet is like a mantra, or a bird calling out in the morning, or the smell of a sweet flower early in the day or toward night.
We take betting for granted. When we see that every bet is a deep and portentous moment, we can learn to study every angle of every bet. Seasoned poker pros do this automatically. New poker players have to do this consciously.
To be Continued…
We feel like the great Charles Dickens who wrote weekly short pieces that taken together formed his immortal novels. We will take it slow, speaking about poker from several angles. Next time, we’ll diverge a bit and talk about the history of poker.