When talking about betting approaches in poker, we can describe two extremes. One is the player who bets if he or she has a strong hand and folds if the hand is weak. The other extreme is envisioned in players who like to think of themselves of clever and deceptive, so they act completely opposite – when they are supposed to fold, they raise; and the other way round. As with most other things in life, extremes are never good – the truth is somewhere in the middle. So you should base your strategy on the first approach (betting when holding a strong hand, folding otherwise), but you should definitely be able to use the second approach (which is the basis for bluffing among other things) on some occasions that call for it. However, learning when to use certain approach is not that easy. Still, it is a skill that can be learned, and that is exactly the purpose of this book.
Different Betting Strategies
Blind stealing can be performed from the dealer’s position. When on the button, you are the last one to act; therefore, by raising, you will often cause all other players to fold, leaving you with the blinds. This isn’t really a strategy you can base your play on, because you will be on the button only occasionally, and besides that, the pot you are winning is usually very small. However, it is a great strategy to use when most players fold. That way, you will have a chance to make a small win, and end that hand quickly, skipping to the next hand, where hopefully, more players will be in, and once again hopefully, you will win a bigger pot.
The basic principle is simple to the blind stealing strategy. You are also the last one to act, but the difference is that most players didn’t fold, but checked. By raising in a situation like that, you will most certainly cause some players to fold, thus eliminating some of the competition for the pot. This strategy is best to use when you have a weaker hand, since strong hands make more sense to be slow played, bringing more money to the pot. However, do not do this every time you have a weak hand, since most players will realize what you are doing, and will immediately start calling to your raise, drawing you into the fight you will probably lose. Another occasion that calls for a steal raise is when you are holding a great drawing hand, like a nut flash draw for instance. Others will most likely check to you, you should pray for getting the card you need on the turn. If not, you can check, and wait to see if the river is going to get you the card you need. If you are lucky and make your hand, you will have a chance of winning a huge pot.
This strategy is applied when you are having a strong chance of winning, so you want your opponent to put as much money into the pot as possible. Raising straight away might scare off your opponents, causing them to fold, and leaving you with just small winnings. By checking to the opponent, you are hoping that he or she will raise, so you could re-raise afterwards, hoping that your re-raise might be called, making the larger pot for you to win. It is a deception strategy, aiming to produce a false sense of confidence among your opponents.
This is a textbook bluffing strategy. The player who is the first one to act makes a raise. The idea is to eliminate some of the competition, since after a raise, some of the players will probably be reluctant to check to the raise, unwilling to place the double bet amount. This tactic works best with small number of players in the hand. Most players will fold after the opener, whereas the ones that stay in the hand will be either bluffing or having a really strong hand. Many players like to call this strategy “betting for information”.
The squeezing is usually applied in shorthanded games. It is used when you are holding strong hand as it is, while fearing that some of the other players is having a draw hand – waiting for the card to make their hand. Your main goal here is to minimize those players’ pot odds. The example would be you holding a top pair, while there is a possibility that some of your opponents might draw a straight on the next hand.
ATTN: This might or might not work
Note that most examples above imply you are playing a Limit game. When it comes to Pot-Limit and No-Limit games, the entire strategy needs to be perceived from an entirely different perspective.
Furthermore, you should have in mind that every hand is a hand for itself. You are playing against different players, everyone’s holding different cards, so you need to be able to make decision in all different situations, with these examples serving just as a part of you Hold’em strategy. Note that the choice of the move you are going to make at any moment is strongly affected by your opponents (their mentality, skills, and so on), and of course, the hand you are holding. For instance, pocket Aces, Kings, as well as AK suited, are always a reason to raise pre-flop, or even do a re-raise, regardless of the position and other factors.
On the other hand, hands such as QQ and JJ need a bit more cautious approach, although with those hole cards, you will probably be the strongest one pre-flop. In this situation (QQ or JJ), if there were no raises before you, you should raise in order to scare off the players holding draw hands. If someone did raise before your turn to act, you should think carefully what you are going to do.
Knowing the opponent that made the raise will help you make the right choice (if it is a player that rarely bluffs, chances are he or she is holding AA, KK, or AK, so you should think twice before checking to that raise). When having strong hands, such as paint suited, the good idea to raise is in case you are in late or middle position. If you do this from a middle position, but the player who is in a late position does a re-raise, making a good decision once again requires knowing your opponent. He or she might be having a very strong hand, but it can also be a bluff.