I have had the time recently to play a few live, poker tournaments. While I’ve had one nice cash of $3,000, there have been three times where I ended up just out of the money finishing 21st and 24th.
I have been so intent on playing ABC poker with a few moves thrown in, I have forgotten the need to play against myself as well.
What does it mean to “Play against the player and not your cards?”
As you know, I believe one of the most important keys in winning poker is to play against the player rather than just playing your cards.
One way to simply define “playing against the player” is to evaluate what range of hands you think your opponent holds and playing in a way to beat him by using his bets, his table image and the conditions of the board/hands.
A simple example: A player who raises pre-flop way too often and always follows with a c-bet when his hand does not improve. Then, he will either try to bluff or suffer a big loss when an alarm bell goes off.
It sounds easy and simple, but if you are struggling with this style of thinking, I recommend taking a few days off from poker, going outside and just thinking about the difficult decisions for a while.
The important thing to remember–and this applies to all forms of poker, not just No Limit–is that you are playing a player, not cards.
Sure, you want to know what range of hands you opponent has before you decide to make a decision. But, you also have to realize that the player is playing a wide variety of hands.
In other words, he could be playing Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, or A-K. And, on any given hand, you can pretty much be in the same position as he is.
It doesn’t matter, play your own cards, or consider any information concerning your opponent’s hand before you make your decision. If you both have similar holdings, it doesn’t matter what your cards are–a King high, and a Jack high. If he has a Q, play around him. If he has a 10 split in a pair, I will stay in the hand.
In other words, play your own cards and do not worry about what your opponent’s cards are.
There are a couple of other reasons for this rule of thumb, but to make it work for poker, the cards have to be well suited. Both cards have to be the same suit. Otherwise, there is no downward force on the handicap.
As far as satellite tournament strategy, if you have already won a tournament and you have less than 12 Big Blinds, I will play any hand with an ace or king in it as long as it is a marginal hand, meaning it could be a drawing hand–like jack-eight. It should also be a hand that you want to see the flop with. An A-9 suited in middle position is an invitation for trouble.
In other words, when you have a hand like ace-seven, if you can see a flop with that hand, you should play it. This rule also applies to middle position. If no one has raised the pot yet, my rule of thumb is to see the flop with all hands that could improve me. If you call to see the flop with ace-rag, that is a call you do not want to make. There is a very good chance you will be better in the hand than your opponent.
Here is an example: You have gone “all in” before the flop with rags. You are called. The flop comes. Q-7-2. You have not improved your hand, yet your opponent bets out and you call. What hand could you possibly be behind here?
In a situation like this, if you have a hand like ace-rag, the possibilities are they will have a better kicker or an Ace. Alternatively, the raise could have been an attempt to steal the pot since it is unlikely you would call a bet like that if you held a strong hand like ace-king.
When you are called you have some options. If you hit the flop, you could get out a play a weak hand. If you do not hit the flop, you still have a chance of getting out a hand weak and getting a raise in there with a good hand. The fact that you called the bet (even though you should not have) convinced you that there was some sort of hand behind that bet. The same can be said for a call you make with a weak hand after you have been re-raised.