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Basic concepts you should know in poker

If you go to a casino for a day I think there are some basic principles you should probably follow. What are my credentials? Not much. In 1998-1999 I played poker from 8pm to 4am EVERY SINGLE DAY for 365 days straight, usually against pros.

It was before the TV made poker a national pasttime so poker "theory" has since gotten a lot more advanced. That said, I would often study poker during the day and then play at night. It was a weird period in my life but I loved the game and still occasionally play.

All that said, these tips are mostly for casual games. Like if you spend a day at the casino.

    1. Never/rarely bluff

    In a casino, the other players mostly want to have fun. They are there for the day and want to have "action". They want to be in a lot of hands.

    With correct poker play you might only play 2-4 hands an hour. But people want to play more than that. If 40 hands are dealt in an hour, maybe they want to be in 10 of those. So six of those hands will be inappropriate to play.

    So if you are playing casual players in a casino, a good strategy is to only play good hands. Because you will beat the people who are bluffing.

    2. Exception: the semi-bluff

    A semi-bluff is (roughly) a hand where you have a statistical chance of getting the best hand but you might not have a good hand yet. For instance, if you are going for a flush but only have 4 to the flush so far.

    You have some statistical chance of getting the best hand but it's not the best hand yet. If it's your turn to bet and nobody else has bet, you can throw out the first bet.

    A) you might end up with the best hand

    B) you might scare everyone else out so you won't even need the best hand.

    C) if you are the last person to bet, everyone will check to you on the next round of betting and you can decide to check also, giving you a free card. So a small bet on, for instance, the flop, will get you a free card on the turn

    You should semi-bluff pretty aggressively. You will win more hands this way. If someone makes a significant raise back and you don't have pot odds (see below) then you should probably fold. Remember you don't need to win every hand.

    3. Early position, only play strong cards

    If there are 9 at the table and you are one of the first to bet after the blinds, only bet out with a high pair or two suited high cards. Maybe AK unsuited or AQ unsuited but that's it for unsuited.

    4. Middle position you can start to play:

    Smaller pairs (nines, eights, sevens), KQ unsuited, AJ, KJ suited, J10 suited, maybe 9-10 suited.

    5. late position:

    Small pairs, Ax, 87 suited

    6. Know some statistics

    If you flop 4 to a flush you have about a 1 in 3 chance of making your flush by the end.

    If you flop an open-ended straight (two cards can help you make your straight), you have about a 1 in 4 chance of making your straight by the end.

    If you have AK and the flop comes 2 6 9 and you suspect someone has a pair of 9s, you have almost a 50% chance (but slightly less).

    All of this helps you make semi-bluffs better.

    7. Know what pot odds are

    If you have a 1 in 3 chance of having the best hand, making a bet is only a good decision if you can make at last 3x your money. Whether you win or lose the hand is not the point. In the long run, always betting with pot odds will make you money.

    Other things that effect the odds are the probability you think someone is bluffing or the odds you think everyone will go out by your bet (e.g. a semi-bluff).

    8. Know when to fold

    Example: if you have AK and the flop comes 2 9 K and you bet aggressively (you have top pair with an ace) and someone raises and then bets aggressively on the turn, then you are probably lost and should fold.

    The best way to win the game is to stay in the game.

    9. Don't slow play

    If you are dealt AA and the flop comes 2 5 J, then bet aggressively. Don't try to lure people in. In a casual casino game, people want to play. They won't think you were dealt aces.

    With any good hand, in general DO NOT SLOW PLAY. You either have customers or you don't and slow playing will rarely suck them in.

    10. Raise more than you call

    If someone bets and you have a good hand or a semi-bluff, then raise. You can't win the hand on the spot if you call.

    Pre-flop, only call the blinds with a small pair in your hand, otherwise raise. Put people on notice if they are betting against you that they are always at risk of getting raised.

    Never limp in (call the blinds) if you are the first one to bet. Again, when you are at the table, people need to be afraid you are going to mess up their lives.

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