Sometimes it is Better Not to Know

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The unbreakable rule if you want to be a successful poker player is to maximize your winnings and minimize your losses. It does not matter whether you are a ring game player or prefer multi table poker tournaments – get as many chips into the pot as possible when you have the best hand, and build a wall around your stack when you don’t.

Unfortunately, there are times when poker players forget this. Times when you narrow down your opponents range of hands, and still call their bets even when you feel that your hand is second-best. The desire to know what the other guy has is so strong that you waste chips – sometimes your whole stack – just because you have to know that you were right by calculating his hand was better than yours. Of course, if you are wrong, and actually hold the best hand, the payback is that you pick up a stack of chips. Great for the short-term, however chasing down a second-best hand in the long term will be a big money loser for you.

The game in which you will see this happen most frequently is Fixed Limit Texas Hold’em. Once you have followed your opponent to the river, it is difficult to “let go” and fold you cards when you have already committed so much to the pot – and after all, it is only just one more call, isn’t it? It is not as if you are playing No Limit and about to lose your entire bankroll. Well, you can carry on calling the river bet and endure a slow deterioration in your chip stack or you can do something about it.

The best way to deal with this problem is immediately after the flop. Fixed Limit Hold’em is a notoriously difficult game to gauge pre-flop no matter which poker site you play on as many players will aim to get their marginal hands to the flop as economically as possible. Once the flop hits the board, you can influence the betting action depending on what you hold, and the number of players still in the hand.

Here is an example-
You are holding Kc Qc, and the flop shows Ah Ks 9d. On a full table with half a dozen other players involved in the hand, you can be assured that there is an ace out there and you best action is to fold, but in certain circumstances, you may yourself up against just one other player. Despite the fact that he may be the one holding the ace, it is worth betting into him to see if he simply calls your bet (implying he has an ace with a low kicker) or raises – in which case he has caught two pairs or trips.

If he has the ace with the low kicker, you may be able to bet him out of the game after the turn, or catch the best hand yourself on one of the two later cards. However, if he has raised your post-flop bet, you know to fold now and save those chips you would have spent following him to the river just to muck your cards against his set of aces.

Beware any slow players you may have identified on the table. If they are quick to call your bets in each round of betting, it is a tell that they may well re-raise you after the river when you know that you still are still holding the second-best hand. Although it is never advisable to give away free cards, if you suspect you are being slow played, check through and see what action they perform. If you subsequently get bet into yourself, it is always better to fold. Don’t allow your natural inquisitiveness to call his bet. You are just wasting your chips, and there are times when it is better not to know.

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