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10/03/2006 No.38
he Guardian Poker Column
Victoria Coren
Friday March 10, 2006
How to play poker
(How to play has been running from issue 16)

Last week, we discussed mixing up your play. That is to say, I discussed it. Journalists should never use "we", should they? I'm the one who sounds off here. You just drink your tea, quietly disagree with my poker strategies, then flick over to enjoy Charlie Brooker.

Anyway: variety. It's very important in poker. A good opponent will be watching your betting patterns like a hawk (hawks being the shrewdest gamblers in the animal kingdom), ready to pounce on anything obviously readable. Don't be the fieldmouse in this scenario. Be the fox.


With that in mind, let's look at some near-compulsory betting scenarios, by way of example. One of these is raising before the flop with a pair of aces. You must do this, to build the pot and limit your number of opponents. And because you must raise, if you actually just call, nobody will read you for the hand. Every once in a while, simply limp in with your aces. The other benefit of this strategy is that when you limp in on other occasions with weaker hands, opponents won't know for certain that you aren't "slow playing" another monster.

Another time when you must bet is if you hit a good yet vulnerable hand on the flop. Let's say you have the king and ace of hearts and the flop is the eight and nine of spades and the ace of diamonds. You've got top pair, top kicker - but there is a straight draw and a flush draw out there. It is vital to bet, to protect your hand against these draws. But take a risk sometimes. Once in every few occasions like this, just check or call someone else's bet. Then it looks like you have the draw, rather than the made hand. If the turn card is a blank, you will probably make more money as a result of this deception. If the turn card is the seven of spades - unlucky, you will have to give up in the face of more betting. But it's only one lost hand. The bigger picture is still good: you have made your patterns hard to read.

Some people always check draws and bet made hands. Some do the opposite. But the best players don't always do anything. Mix it up, and keep 'em guessing