Evaluating the Game

Before sitting down at the table, many expert poker players stop and estimate the game, especially when they have many poker games to select from as they do in Las Vegas , California , or New Jersey . On the other hand, a sober player must estimate a weekly private game before deciding whether to become a regular player.

To evaluate a game, there are two reasons. The first reason is to determine whether the game played is a profitable game. The second reason is to determine how to play in that particular game. When expert players consider whether the game is a profitable one, they evaluate their expected rate of hour and decide whether that rate is suitable.

The social players in a home game are normally not in connection with hourly rate. But, they do not want to become a regular player in a game where they have to lose much of it; nor do they want to enter in the game whose stakes are either too large for their financial position or too small to be interesting. In addition to, the social players should judge the game or games, if it is a dealer's choice - that are played and be confident they are cozy with them. They should also estimate the speed of the game. If they actually show interest in playing cards, they will likely not enter into the game where there is a new deal in every four or five minutes.

The two most significant aspects to determine whether the game is profitable one and how to play in a particular game are the structure of the game and the players in the game.

Evaluating the Structure and Adjusting to It

The structure of the game simply means the ante, the betting limits and the rules of betting. The structure may dissuade an average or even an above-average player from sitting down, but it should seldom dissuade a good player. The good player should know how to adjust his play to suit any structure he happens to tackle it.

There is one example where the structure may even affect the good player to be out of a game: When it has made reasonable players into good players unintentionally. Many players do not relatively change their pattern of play according to the structure; they are inclined to play reasonably consistent game. On the contrary, the structure sometimes, is clearly suited to the pattern of a group of players. Particularly the ante and/or the blind might by coincidence be an amount that makes these players' pattern of poker play almost correct. Suppose, there are some hostile seven-card stud players in Las Vegas who play slight loose in a normal game, but in a game with a very high ante, their pattern of play is approximately correct.

The Ante and Other Forced Bets

The important question to ask about the ante and other forced bets such as blind in hold'em is: How large are they with respect to their betting limits? As discuss in Chapter Four, when the ante is large, you must loosen up, try to steal more antes and never slowplay. When the ante is small, you tighten up; steal less antes and slowplay more. If you think you can do much better and comfortable in a tighter, small-ante game, that is what you should look forward and even the vice-versa. For instance, if you are good at concealing your hand, at slow laying and at trapping rivals then a small-ante game suits your pattern. If however, you are a hostile player with an eager sense of when to bluff and when not to, a large-ante is likely to develop the best results. Whatever your pattern of play, you should prevent a game where the ante is simply huge with respect to the betting limits. In that situation, the pot is so large to start with that it is worth calling with almost anything, and the game may almost be reduced to dealing out the cards and looking who has the best hand.

The essential aspect of the ante structure is the size of the initial bet and the size of the initial raise after the initial bet. Variation in these two bets can mean vital changes in strategy. To simplify, let's take the typical example $15-$30 razz game in Las Vegas and a $15-$30 razz game I have played in Reno .

Generally, a $15-$30 Las Vegas razz game has a $1 ante and the high card has a forced bet of $5. Then after that anyone can raise $10 to make it $15. With this structure, it is most of correct when you have the good hand to raise with the next-to-last low card if others have folded. If you call the $5 forced bet with a reasonable hand, the last low card is correct in calling behind you, even with nothing at all, because that player is getting almost 3 ½-to-1 odds on his $5 and wants to win if he chases a baby and you don't. On the contrary, by raising at this point, you reduce the last low card's odds to about 2-to-1. Now, if that player takes the chance of outdrawing you on the next round, he looses the worse of it except he himself has a good hand.

However, in the Reno $15-$30 game, the high card is for $10 and after that anyone can raise to make it $25. The structure indicates totally different approach in the case just discussed. In such situation, it becomes correct to just call the initial $10 bet with the next-to-low card when you have a hand. You expect an overcall behind you as the player is not getting enough pot odds to gamble to outdraw you.

The variation in the approach is depended on the Fundamental Theorem of Poker. If you call, you have not only persuaded your rival to make a mistake with a weak hand but also you have given the impression that your hand is weaker than it is. If your rival calls, you gain. If he raises, it is much better than that.

The working of different structures and approaches can be observed by distinguishing between the old $10-$20 hold'em game in Reno and the $10-$20 hold'em game in Las Vegas . The first bet is $5 in Vegas and the raiser can make it to $10. The first bet is $4 in Reno and the raiser can make it to $14. The first consequence of these variations is to make you play much tighter in Vegas as your initial investment is a dollar more. On the other hand, you have a better hand to raise in Reno as you are investing a sum of $14 - $4 more than a raiser in Vegas invests - and the initial pot that you are raising is smaller. That means, the ratio of the raiser's money to the first bettor's money is $14-to-$4 as compared to $10-to-$5 in Las Vegas . Therefore, in Las Vegas it is often correct to give in a $5 raise to deceive your rival and get them to check to you on the flop; but in Reno it is basically too costly to raise for deception. Furthermore, when you call the initial $5 bet in Vegas, you are always ready to come in for a second $5. But, in Reno you may have a hand that is worth a $4 call but should be thrown away before calling $10 more.

The Betting Limits

The important thing to evaluate about the betting limits is whether you can afford them. Still if you think you have the best of it, you should not play in a game whose limits are big with respect to your finance that you cannot play your hands correctly because you do not want to risk going broke. However, when you think you have the best of it, you should play at big limits you can afford whenever possible.

Jay Heimowitz from Monticello , New York , an expert nonprofessional player, tells the story that how he started playing in a 25-50-cent poker game in the early 1960s. He said, "I was winning about $20 a week and with that me and my Carol used to go for a dinner," He continued, "After that, it strike into my brain that if play in a $1 limit game, I might win $40 a week and we both can go to dinner twice a week." Today Heimowitz, a famous Budweiser beer distributor, plays no-limit hold'em for ten of thousands of dollars against the expert hold'em poker players in the world but the main reason to this story is that, everything else being equal, when you have the best of it, the higher you play, the more you will win on average.

Suppose you are playing at a limit that suits you, the significant thing is about the ratio of bet sizes from early round to the last round. If the betting limits grow enormously from the early round to the last round, you should play differently than if the limits remain reasonably constant. In word of mathematics, the greater the growth of the limits, the higher your implied odds on early rounds. Therefore, you play looser in games where you may win larger bets later. By saying looser, we mean you take the chances with hands that have some chance of improving to big hands. You do not play with an average hand that can only improve to somewhat good reading hands. However, if you are not sure that a hand is the best hand, even if it improves, that hand should not be played. But, a hand such as high inside straight draw, which you would not play if the bets remained reasonably constant, might be worth playing if you want to win a big bet later on when you hit.

Quite obvious, the games with the greater growth in limits from the early rounds to last rounds are pot-limit and no-limit. No-limit poker does not have the growth limit as anyone may bet any amount from the beginning, but the bet increases as the hand advances. Therefore, as discussed in Chapter Seven, in pot-limit and no-limit games implied odds - not the odds a player is getting from the pot - fairly becomes the basic factor in betting or calling a bet.

When a game has reasonably constant betting limits - common limits such as $2-$4, $5-$10, $10-$20 which increase only two fold from the early round to the last - you must begin off with a good hand and give away the hands that need you to get fortunate. It will be costly for you to stay in, in proportion to what you might win the few times you hit. It is extremely essential to avoid such hands in games where there is a big deal of raising on an early round. You often find people putting in two or three raises before the flop in limit hold'em games. In such games, it is necessary to play high pairs and high cards and be far away from the hands like:

To make the play profitable for such starting hand you need a game with low early betting and high later betting. It means you need a game where it doesn't cost you much a draw to a big hand that can make you earn more in the later rounds of betting.