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When Good Poker Advice is Bad

1. In poker, you need to adapt. Whether advice is good or bad for a particular poker situation depends on (1) your opponents, (2) your image, and (3) your bankroll. Some proven plays may not be good ones against certain opponents. For instance, I advocate making many "value bets" at high risk when you're only a slight money favorite. When you do this, you're pressing your advantage to extract every possible penny of profit. Weaker players will not always press their advantages, and - worse - they will act aggressively with some hands that don't warrant a bet or a raise. 

That costs them money. But if you do know that a value bet is profitable (and it isn't really a value bet otherwise), I believe that you should bet. OK, but beware. If your image is not correctly suspicious, you're not going to get many calls, and you often shouldn't bet medium-strong hands for value. And if your bankroll is too limited, you should forego some aggressive plays targeted at small profit but involving great risk.

That way, you'll hang on to your bankroll and can use those funds to make more money when you have bigger edges. In poker, you need the right tool for right now. A hammer may be a good tool for driving a nail into a shingle, but it's not right for driving a meat thermometer into a roasting turkey. Today we'll look at some of the good advice from the previous 37 weeks, and explain when it's bad.

2. Betting second pair on the flop. I advise that often you can do this profitably in hold'em if (1) your foes are timid, (2) you have a big kicker, or (3) the top rank is small. But don't bet second-high board pair if your opponents look uninterested. If they're acting, this monumental tell means that they're waiting to pounce. And even if they're not acting, you have little motive to bet. So, bet second pair often, yes. Don't bet it against opponents who don't seem to be paying attention.

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3. Bet weak hands. On the last betting rounds, bet hopeless or nearly hopeless hands into opponents whose hands are apt to be equally bad. You'll often win with that bet and avoid losing to slightly better hands in showdowns. This concept suggests that whenever you're reasonably sure that neither you nor your opponent has a very strong hand, you'll make more profit in the long run by betting than by checking and risking a showdown. But, consider your opponent. Don't bet your weakest hands if you might be REbluffed. You won't be able to call, assuming that your opponent doesn't conspicuously overuse this tactic. So, try this play only against opponents with seemingly weak hands who are not aggressive or imaginative.

4. Be fun. If opponents enjoy playing with you, they'll usually give you more of their money. But sometimes you can build an image that's too carefree - and then your opponents may become inspired and play tighter and better, hoping that you'll be their salvation. I've seen this happen many times. Opponents are losing and playing badly. You try to encourage them to continue by playing a few hands even worse. Usually this works, but beware. If you're against opponents who do know how to play a strong conservative game, you might have just inspired them to come back to their senses - thinking that they can get even from you now. Remember, the object of a wild image is to get opponents to play loosely and carelessly, not tightly and selectively.

5. Tournament advertising. In a poker tournament, advertise before the limits increase. This gives you psychological value at a reduced price. But sometimes, advertising isn't right at all in a tournament. If the increasing limits are going to cause your opponents to be bluffable in the next higher-limit round, you often should take advantage of that by maintaining a solid image now. Also, you need to have a full table when you bluff; otherwise, you're paying for advertising that probably isn't reaching a wide enough audience. And make sure that your table isn't going to be the next one to break before you advertise. Otherwise, all of the people you've "set up" will be scattered around the tournament arena, and you'll get little or no value for your advertising.

6. Benefits of a wild image. A wild and reckless image not only profits from more calls, it tends to discourage bluffs through intimidation. Players don't like to bluff opponents who seem not to care about money. But sometimes, a fun-loving opponent will get caught up in your routine and will bluff a lot - just for fun. In this case, your image has enticed more bluffs from that opponent - and you should call more.

7. Playing against blind bets. You should tend to attack the blinds less when the players defending them are aggressive and unpredictable. "Tight and passive" are the best blinds to attack, for many reasons previously explained in my lectures. But, you sometimes should send a warning to aggressive and unpredictable foes on your left by raiding their blinds from late positions. Remember, these players to your left have a positional advantage over you on most hands, and you may diminish their will to maximize their positional advantage on other hands when they're not the blinds. So, although the advice to be less aggressive in attacking blinds of opponents who defend them is valid, there's also a time when you might want to attack those blinds, simply to make those opponents less aggressive in the future. Strange game, poker.-MC

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