Poker Tips for the Novice
Learn the Odds
Learning the odds at poker is a prerequisite for good play. This may sound like a sizeable job, but if you are a regular poker player the few hours invested in committing the odds to memory will be a minuscule labor when compared with the number of hours you will spend at the poker table. Think of how much these few hours will profit your winnings.
On every play of the game in poker the mathematics change. It is these mathematics that determine the probability of getting or not getting a certain hand. This may seem obvious, but it is fact that this simple axiom is too often neglected by the poker addict who thinks his luck will guide him through. Suppose a player has a pair of 8s. He decides to hold a kicker, that is, a third card, on the hopes that he will draw himself two pairs. How are the odds behind such a choice? If he knew them he wouldn't hold so tight to his kicker. For the odds tell him that if a player has a pair it's 2 ½ -to-1 against his drawing another pair, while at the same time, if he retains the kicker it's 8-to-1 that he'll draw a card to match it and get two pairs. The folly of keeping the kicker is now obvious, but more obvious is the fact that if the player knew these odds in advance he wouldn't have even considered holding onto a third card in the first place. Of course, the player may be planning to bluff by indicating he has three of a kind. This might work, depending on his knowledge of the other players and the general course of the previous betting.
Another example: suppose a player is holding a four-card straight open in the middle. What are his possibilities of getting the fifth card? He doesn't know. He's in the dark. It's the wrong way to play poker. If he knew he'd know that the chances of getting what he needs with a four-card straight open in the middle are 1 in 11.8, and if by chance he is holding a four-card straight flush open in the middle the chances are 1 in 47 of getting the fifth card. The greenhorn, of course, receiving four such beautiful cards finds it hard not to gamble for the fifth. Of course, there are another eight cards that would give him a flush and another three that would give him a straight. But the seasoned poker player knows exactly what these odds are and takes into account the amount of money in the pot and the amount he would have to pay for the outdraw.
When You're Beat, Drop Out
If you're in a game of stud and you're holding a pair of queens this generally means you'll take the pot. But poker is a game for the flexible and for those who can bend with every wind. Just because you're holding queens doesn't mean you should get complacent. The minute you see your opponent has something higher, kings perhaps, then play it smart and drop out. The odds say you're going to lose. Remain loose and wait for the next hand. Poker is a game for the patient.
This also holds true with the better hands, of course. The exhilaration of receiving three-of-a-kind or something even better can make a player heady. He feels confident, so confident, in fact, that he forgets there are other players in the game. The minute another player gives an indication that he has something better, no matter how good your hand is it is best to fold and fight another day.