The Two Keys to Good Poker: The video below sums it up.
Poker is a seemingly simply game on the surface. But, as many people coming to learn the game have discovered, it’s actually quite complex. However, every complex decision in poker can really be boiled down to two things, the two keys to good poker. So, without further ado, here are the two keys to good poker.
1. Accurate assumptions
2. Making the best decision
It’s so simple, but it really defines the decision process for players. This concept is the foundation of anything I do with poker and will really help beginners and experts alike put the game in perspective, create goals and analyze poker situations.
Let’s begin by defining these two keys. First, let’s look at accurate assumptions. I find it easiest to break this into two sections. One is concerning our opponent’s range of hands, and the other is how he will play that range. This key uses deductive reasoning to determine what hands are likely for the opponent to have. Players like to call this “hand-reading”. This key also uses deductive reasoning to predict what decisions (like betting, calling or folding) the opponent will make with those hands.
The second key is making the best decision. We’ll simply say this key involves making the decision that makes the most money. After we’ve determined our assumptions in the first key, the second key comes along with mathematics to show us what play makes us the most money on average. And, of course, that’s the focus of this book. We use mathematics to decide what play is best.
Let’s talk a bit about how to develop these skills. Take a few seconds to examine the figure below.
Notice I’ve shown that developing accurate assumptions is mostly improved through playing experience while making the best decision is mostly improved through away from the table work. I’m going to submit to you that making the best decision is the most important part to develop, especially for a beginner. Let’s take a look at a hand example to see this at work.
Hero’s hole cards – 6♦7♦
Villain’s hole cards – Unknown
Flop – 4♠5♦A♦
Looking at this flop, we can see our hand has a lot of ways to make a very strong hand. Any diamond will give us a flush. Also, a 3 or an 8 will give us the best straight possible. That’s a lot of cards that can give us a very powerful hand. Now, let’s pretend the pot is $75, and we have $1,000 left in our stacks. Villain makes a $60 bet.
Now, let’s go through the two keys to good poker and fill in the blanks. First of all, what are our assumptions about his hand range, i.e. what hands do we believe he can have? Just as we get started answering that, he flips his hand over for some reason and shows us A♠K♠. Well, no need for assumptions now. We know his hand. The next part is our assumptions about his strategy, i.e. how he plays that hand. Just as we start to think about that, he truthfully declares to us that he’ll not fold to any size raise we make. He’s ready to get all-in with the hand. Again, we have no need for assumptions. We know his strategy. So, the first key to good poker is covered. Now let’s change the rules to this game just a bit and say we can either fold or push. We have no other option. Which is the best decision of the two? Now, you may answer fold or push, but you need to understand why. Now let’s change his hand and make it K♦Q♦. We’ll use the same strategy and rules as before. Now are you going to fold or push? Why? Are you certain?
Notice that even though the first key to good poker is completely answered, we still are not ready to play good poker because we do not know how to make the best decision. And in real poker, all the hand-reading in the world will do you no good if you do not know what to do with the information you gain. So, making the best decision is the most important key to focus on at first. And notice it’s the key that’s most improved through time spent away from the tables. This means most of your time as a beginner should be spent away from the tables. Many beginners want to just play, play, and play. And while experience is important, you can now see how important it is to dedicate valuable time away from the tables working on your poker skills. The work you do away from the poker table involves math.
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