At the final table in the 2005 World Series of Poker, I saw a young, top-notch professional gambler play what I think is a pretty brilliant game. He was in a no limit affair and had position on everyone, which is always an advantage. When it came time for the river, though, he made what I thought was a brilliant play.
He tried to bluff his way up the pot, but when the smoke cleared, it was quite clear that he had called off all his chips to showdown, his hand was mediocre at best. He had no idea what to do with the ace, and if he had realized that the only real threat to his improbable win was the king, he would have folded. But not him. He stood behind his hand, drew a new card, and realized he was holding the ace of spades.
He made one of the smartest plays I’ve ever seen a poker player make. Especially, not just making that play, but then talking trash to his opponent after the hand was completed. Normally, a player would be leading, not trailing, after the river in a no limit hand. Unfortunately for Casanova, the cards didn’t fall as expected.
You Can’t Beat The House
Aces and kings are beatable. Just about any hand can be beaten or at least successfully denied. The problem is in poker you don’t know what cards you’re holding until the hand is completed. You only know that you have a hand and you’re standing on a seven and an ace and a king. Once you see the cards in your hand, you might be surprised at how strong your hand actually is.
As a result of Casanova’s magnanimous play, I changed my mind about certain hands, especially the ace and the king. I wouldn’t play these hands aggressively unless absolutely necessary. Far too many players try to bully way too hard and risk too much, going “all-in” before the flop or making a big raise before the flop when they should really be careful and not doing any raising or re-raising until they know exactly how strong their hand is.
When playing these hands, especially the ace and the king, I waited for the ace or the king to come on the flop, usually against multiple players. Once in a while, other players would bet and he could call and possibly steal the pot. Against multiple players, though, if I thought there was a flush or straight possibility, I would call only if I had position.
Most good poker players will tell you when you should raise and when to basically lay the hand down. Casanova didn’t get that, he had to figure out what other players were holding and he had to try to figure it out while being aware that some of the players later would bet when he would have folded, so he didn’t really have as much tells as other players, and less information to go on.
The point is if you have the Ace or the King you can win. You need to get paid off. Raise and get paid off, unless someone re-raises you, then you need to fold. Being that you are the best hand, you will naturally want to protect your hand. Sometimes this means raising when you are first to act post-flop to try to get a little more money in the pot, especially if you are behind.
- Money management is very important if you want to make a success of poker. Money management is not only about what cards you play, but also how you play them.
- One of the problems I used to have with poker was my bankroll management. I would save up some money and then use 100% of it playing cash games. While this strategy is fine, you need to realize that a) you need a big enough bankroll to support your big bets, and b) you need to be able to withdraw a significant amount of money before you go on tilt.
- When I first started trying to play professionally, I started playing cash games and didn’t really know what to do. I would deposit a huge amount of money and then just hope I could get lucky on the flop or the river. Of course one strategy is to play opposite your style but other than that, you are just basically playing at any cash game. I got pretty good at winning money at holdem, but I was still losing at multitabling.