Poker Tips by George: Don’t Be Predictable

It’s one thing to win at poker; it’s another thing to win CONSISTENTLY – well beyond your fair share. No matter how skilled you are, the element of luck (probability) is bound to get involved. You may be highly skilled but luck is beyond your control. However, you can influence it. That can be important. For example, suppose you are playing low-stake limit hold’em at one of the Canadian online casinos and are dealt pocket Aces. That is easily the best starting hand you could hope for.

Before the flop, you are favored to win the pot – with one provision: If four or more opponents stay to see the flop, your A-A becomes an underdog. Your best strategy is to thin the field before the flop so your hand can remain the favorite all the way to the showdown. Likewise, you should raise with pocket Kings or Queens. Of course, in limit hold’em you can’t guarantee many player will fold to your raise, but it’s the best you can do; and if you get three-bet, you need to re-raise once more.  There is one other problem with this strategy: Assuming the hand goes to the showdown, opponents will observe these raises and correlate them with your starting hands, and thus be able to predict your holding henceforth. And there goes the big pot you had hoped to build…



What is predictability?

Predictability is the repetition of an action or behavior, making it possible to know in advance what to expect.

Applied to the game of poker, being predictable can cost you a fortune. In effect, it is not much different than when an opponent can see your hole cards. Think about it… The damage you do to your poker results when you are predictable can easily break you. When your opponents know exactly what you’re going to do, it prevents you from maximizing your winnings and also increases the likelihood that you’ll lose more to their holding or be bluffed out of pots more often due to their ability to know precisely how aggressive to be in every situation.

How can you avoid being predictable?

In principle, it is simple. Vary your play so you do not act the same way every time you are dealt a particular hand or range of hands.

By way of illustration, consider the situation when you are dealt one of the top three made hands – A-A, K-K, and Q-Q for which you usually bet or raise to thin the field. Recognize opportunities to play that hand without being aggressive.

If it is a tight game with few players entering the pot, there is consequently not as much of a case for you to raise it up to thin the field.

If you are in a middle/late position and only one or two opponents have called to see the flop, just go along with them; chances are you won’t have to compete with more than three or four opponents. Just limp along to see the flop.

If you are in a late position and most of your opponents have mucked their hands before the action gets to you, most likely you don’t need a raise to limit the number of opponents vying against you.

As the game progresses, make it your business to raise on occasion with a weaker hand. Win or lose, be sure your opponents can observe the showdown.

By way of example, suppose you were dealt 10-9 offsuit in a late position in a $4-$8 limit hold’em game. Several opponents have limped in to see the flop. No raises. You are inclined to limp along. (Your hand does have potential, and it meets the criteria of the Hold’em Algorithm.) With avoiding being predictable in the back of your mind, instead of just betting $4, make the raise to $8. Then, if the hand plays out so that you are in until the showdown, be sure that your opponents get to see your starting hand. A few hands played that way during the session can help to make you unpredictable.

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George Epstein

After a long and productive career as a leader in the aerospace industry, upon his retirement in the 1990s, George Epstein chose poker as his “second career.” George has been widely recognized for his many significant accomplishments and contributions to our society. These include pioneering and innovations in various materials, testing and manufacturing technologies for […]

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