When a person first starts playing poker seriously, he is often taught to memorize a set of rules and actions, often without understanding the rationale behind each action. This often ends up stifling his progression. In this article, I will attempt to explain common strategies and bet sizes.
1. Aggressive Poker is the most profitable way to play.
Aggressive poker is good poker simply because it is difficult to make a hand in poker. An unpaired hand like A6 flops a pair approximately 33% of the time, while a suited connector like JTs flops a pair or draw about half the time.
When we take into account the distribution of Preflop cards, we should notice that only 23% of our starting hands are suited and 5.8% of our starting hands are pocket pairs, leaving the vast majority of starting hands as unpaired offsuit cards.
In a headsup game between two players, if Player A always bets, and Player B either folds when he has less than a pair, or calls/raises when he has a pair or draw, we can expect Player A to win over 60% of the time.
2. Your Preflop Strategy should involve raising at least 70% of the time and calling less than 30% of the time.
This ties in nicely with point 1. It is much easier to win the pot with aggression when you have the initiative as the Preflop Raiser. You would technically be showing the most amount of strength with an uncapped range, assuming that the other callers would have put in a preflop re-raise instead of call if they had a strong hand like QQ or AK. On the Flop, if you have the initiative, you can often take down the pot with a continuation bet.
3. As the Preflop Caller, you should always check to the Preflop Raiser.
This is linked to point 2. Since the Preflop Raiser would have a very profitable bluffing spot on the Flop, we can expect him to bet on the Flop really often. The right counter-strategy would then be to check regardless of whether we have a hand or not and then react appropriately after he bets. Leading out after calling from the blinds makes little sense with a strong hand, because you would be better off checking and allowing your opponent to bluff. At the same time, you could always opt to check/raise as a bluff if you had nothing as opposed to leading out.
4. Standard Preflop Raise Sizes should range between 3-4bb
A 3bb raise size makes a lot of sense for several reason. Firstly, it gives a good balance between risk and reward for stealing the blinds. When you risk 3bb to win the blinds (1.5bb in total), you would need your bluff to work 66% of the time.
Secondly, a 3bb raise size allows for sufficient pot building. Assume that all players start with 100bb. If the Button raises to 3bb and the Small Blind calls, the pot will be 7bb on the Flop. If the Button continues betting the size of the pot on the Flop, Turn and River, the pot will increase to 21, 63 and 189bb respectively. This means that Button would be able to put in most of his stack without overbetting, if he has a strong hand and wishes to build the pot.
Thirdly, a smaller raise size of 2bb would give the other opponents really good odds to call. Such plays could be good in tighter games but will almost always end up disastrous at loose passive games where seeing the Flop with five or more players is extremely common.
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