Monday, December 17, 2012

Some Quick Exercises to Make You a Better Player – Part One

These are the posts I wanted to write last week when life intervened.  I realize that if you’re like me, you’re getting itchy to play poker online again, but…you can’t.   It’s obviously not going to happen this year, but 2013 might see one or two states start some intra-state play, and maybe once the Feds get done pulling us off the fiscal cliff and enacting some sensible gun control, they’ll finally get around to scuttling the UIGEA and make internet poker available to all Americans.

I KID! It was very hard to write that last sentence without laughing out loud.  Or crapping my pants.

Ok, seriously, some of you might get to play poker online legally next year, so now Is a good time to get serious about your game.  And since you CAN play for free online now, you can use your play money for some learning exercises where you don’t have to worry about your bankroll in lieu of actually learning to play better.

So let’s get with it with today’s simple exercise.


A reminder – these exercises are designed to help you at tournament play, mostly Sit ‘n’ Gos.  And they involve play money instead of the real thing because you’re going to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do at a cash game, or a tournament for real money.  At least, I don’t think you would.

Today, you are to play in a tournament and never call.  You can only do one of two things – fold or raise.

I realize that good play suggests just this, mostly.  Either your hand is good enough to make a raise (especially true if you have position), or not good enough to raise (especially when it’s a re-raise and you don’t have position).  Fair enough.  But the purpose of this exercise is hand selection, and that’s why you can’t call, even though it might be strategic to do so.  Either fold it, or raise the stakes.

What you’ll get out of this exercise (and others to follow) is a sense of what cards are really worth the investment.  The pots you play for will be, simple to see, bigger.  Therefore your stack will either (a) get bigger quicker, or (b) get smaller faster.  Since (a) is usually the desired result, I am hoping that (a) becomes the rule here for you.

And I hope you see that there’s a couple of ways this can happen, which is the other part of the exercise.  One, when you raise (or re-raise) rather than just call, there will be times when no one plays back at you and you take the pot uncontested.  Not a bad outcome.  The other thing that can happen is that you gain more respect at the table.  Your raised indicate a strong hand, and, if your hand holds up, you win; plus, you gain more respect.  This means that more of your raises may go uncontested. See above as to whether that’s a good thing (hint: yes).  And again, when you raise and your hand hold up, you win.  Again, a good thing.

And finally, by playing good starting hands, you stay out of those times when you call with marginal holdings and then worry about whether to call a re-raise when your 8-7 offsuit hits a 10-7-2 rainbow board.  Decisions become a bit easier, and more correct decisions means more winning.  Again, a good thing.

So try this simple exercise a few times.  Only raise or fold in a SnG or two, and see what happens.  If nothing else, you’ll learn something about yourself.  And that’s a good thing, too.

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