It’s an interesting question isn’t it? And perhaps one that tends to be overlooked by the majority of average poker players. It is important for players to understand as well as accept that you can play a certain poker strategy against players at one table and make money, while playing the same strategy at another table it may cost you money. A good poker player realizes this and will be able to adapt to their surroundings and play many different styles of poker in order to pull an acceptable return for time spent at the tables. While other average poker players stick to the same predictable strategies and cost themselves money in situations where they should really be making money. Knowing your table and their tendencies is extremely important, and in this article you will find a perfect example of a player who failed to adapt to his surroundings, and ultimately cost himself over $150 in a 2 hour session of playing limit texas holdem.
Let us first try to understand the difference between playing no limit texas holdem versus playing limit texas holdem. When playing no limit poker, you always have an opportunity to take most if not all of your opponents chips on the river. Versus limit texas holdem, you only have a certain amount of bets to take as many chips as possible from your opponents. So it is imperative that you know the tendencies of the players at the table and which strategies will work against such players, so you can adapt when a particular strategy isn’t making you money.
Now let us take a gander at what a check raise is. A check raise is basically when the betting is on you and no one else in the hand has raised the pot yet. You check it in hopes that someone else will make a bet, and then you can raise him when the betting comes back around to you within the same round, thus called the check raise. This is a very good strategy and can make you a lot of money if you’re playing with a bunch of fish. However, if your not paying close attention it may be costing you money instead of making you money if you are playing against a better group of players.
Let’s take a closer look at some specific examples I saw last time I was playing a $5-$10 limit ring game. I always pay very close attention when I play online poker. One of the things I noticed during this particular session was a player that was continually costing himself money by trying to check raise the other players at the table, but they weren’t falling for it.
We have 8 players at the table, and player A who we will call John who is first to act just calls the blind, then it comes around to player B who we will call Brian and he raises $5 preflop. Everyone else at the table drops out including the big blind, so we are left with 2 players. John and Brian with Brian being in position. Now I am going to tell you what each player is holding in order to better illustrate this concept. John is holding 3d 3c and Brian who is in position is holding Qh Jh. Now the flop comes out 10c 5h and 3s. John has now flopped a set and has a player that raised preflop hopefully betting into him. It is the perfect situation for a check raise right? Well normally it would be, but not in this situation and I will tell you why in a moment. Let’s continue the hand. John checks his set and Brian who raised preflop bets $5. John just smooth calls and the turn is 8d. John checks again hoping Brian would bet so he could check raise him, but instead Brian checks this time. Now the river comes, no help to anyone and John bets, and he of course Brian folds.
The reason John played this hand wrong is simple, but you would not realize it unless you were paying close attention at the table. This is the 5th time I had seen him attempt to trap a player to no avail. The players that were at this particular table were extremely sharp and were very tough to trap. So over the course of about 2 hours I saw John cost himself nearly $150 in bets by trying to trap the player instead of betting his hand strong. Some players think they are really playing good poker when the once in a blue moon they are able to trap a player and get the extra $10 out of him. What they fail to understand is the other 9 times it didn’t work and they cost themselves $90 by missing the bet on the turn, not to mention the extra $45 they missed by not raising on the flop. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist here to figure out that John’s playing strategy for the check raises was actually costing him money instead of making him money. John probably makes money most times with this check raise strategy as a lot of us do, but he failed to understand and accept that his strategy was not making him money at this table, therefore he should have adapted to his surroundings to find a strategy that would work, such as betting his hands strong.
I am not saying you should never smooth call to set your players up for the check raise. This is actually a very good strategy and with the right players at the table you will make money time and time again. However, if it is not working you should be betting your hand strong and not missing any bets. For poker players such as myself who are in it to make money, $150 is a lot of money for 2 hours work, and this is what I saw John cost himself if not more over my 2 hour session. That’s $75 an hour just in mistakes. You just have to study and know the table and be able to accept that if a strategy is not working and making you money, you need to switch it up to find a strategy that will.
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