Enlightened Wisdom From The German Poker Finals
I recently played in the German Poker Tour Finals in Dortmund-Hohensyburg at the most prestigious casino in Germany. I eventually busted in 38th place with minimum cash (only double what I came in with) which, in my opinion, is not enough of a reward for 3 days of tough poker playing. However the practice was great and I did have an enlightened moment that has led to me changing my game and going for my own unique style.
Unfortunately, this revelation came too late on Day 3 to practice it since at that point most decisions were being made pre-flop and there wasn’t much poker playing left to work with. However, I am certainly going to work on and experiment with my own style of playing whatever that style may turn out to be.
Based on the games that I have been involved in, how I feel in the game, and what I have seen I have some pretty good ideas of how I want to play but it does have a downside…it’s too volatile! So I am going to work on making this loose aggressive style dependent on the table and switch gears between loose aggressive (if the table lets me get away with it) and tight aggressive. Then as I get deeper in the tournament my range will become tighter. I guess all of this is a rough start but it’s a good road map for the future.
I have banned the 2 weakest elements in poker.
Never call pre-flop, no matter what! You either raise or fold.
Never check the turn. You always bet.
Yes, in poker there are no absolutes and all is really dependent on the situation but if I use the words ‘never’ or ‘always’ I means 90% of the time. As in life, in poker there are always some exceptions to any rule.
One of which is calling a pre-flop raise with K-Q since this hand has tremendous post-flop value but if raised pre-flop and re-raised it has to go to the muck. So to prevent the waste of such a beautiful hand that often hits top pair on the board (it also has straight possibilities and if suited it even has flush possibilities) it is best to just call but NEVER limp! If you are first in the pot then it is always a raise!
On the turn, I only check if I am slow playing a monster and I want the other guys to catch up. Otherwise, if I am still in the hand on the turn I always bet. It is way cheaper than to check and call a river bet. It also makes tons of hands fold since the decision making in new area poker is on the turn because the flop almost always gets continued with a bet from the pre-flop aggressor. This is standard. Everybody bets the flop 90% of the time, if they are the pre-flop raiser, no matter if they hit or not!
However, the moment of truth is on the turn. There are lots of people who fold to a bet, or even better raise. If they raise then I re-raise because that throws most of them out of their comfort zone and they fear a river shove. They will only call the bet here if they hold a monster in their hand.
The bet or raise on the turn makes people lay down even if they have a top pair in most cases. If called there I can shut down on the river and give it up if I was on a float. But what this does is it gives me the river card for less than if I check and have to call a bet. Even more important is that a check-call there shows weakness whereas a bet, raise, or check-raise shows tremendous strength. Regardless of the holding, half the time I get a fold and that’s what makes this play highly +EV.
And now, without saying, here comes the 3rd rule (after all this is Poker Wisdom 1-2-3). Never just limp pre-flop! This is what so many players do in the hopes of seeing a flop for cheap. It NEVER works! There is always a raise somewhere before it comes back to the limper. Limping, getting raised and then folding is burning chips and highly –EV, as is just calling a raise and folding the flop if missed. This is the weakest play of all.
So that is my enlightened wisdom for the day. Oh and if you’re wondering, the hand I busted was my flopped flush. I had J-Q of clubs, which is a beautiful hand pre-flop but so weak post-flop. I flopped the world when the flop came 8-4-A, all clubs! Even though I was the pre-flop aggressor, I checked there for deception since I knew I was miles ahead on this flop. To my surprise the guy who called me pre-flop, and we were now HU in this hand, checked behind so no more money went in the pot.
The turn brought a deuce of hearts (“That card doesn’t change nothing nowhere in any poker game in the world on the turn” to quote Norman Chad, one of my favorite poker commentators). So I bet and the guy raises me. That was a surprise but a pleasant one since only the king of clubs and another club would give him the better flush. Everything else is smoked against my flush.
So I shoved on him with my near-nut hand and got a snap call from him. That was really surprising to me since the guy was 100% sure that he was ahead. However when he tabled his pocket aces and found out that he was way behind his face froze to stone. No kidding! He was frozen and pale…
The river was the case ace which gave him quads and sent me home. I took it very well. I know that such things can and will happen and so I wished him luck.
My money went in when I was a favorite to win the hand and that’s all one can do. It actually looked like a bad beat for a while but in reality I was ‘only’ a 65% favorite to win this hand. Why? Because any card that would have paired the board would have given him a full house that would have beat my flush after he flopped a set of aces.
It really is funny how we both checked the flop in order to trap the other…so he got the best of it at the end with the ace and it really was a beautiful hand.