"I call"... not!

Originally, I was planning to write on betting. However, upon further reflection, I decided I needed to focus more on hand selection, and can maybe start on betting on Monday next week.

As usual, these posts are not meant to replace any book that we discuss, but instead its meant to suppliment these books. I highly suggest running to the store or ordering online "Small Stakes Hold'em" by Ed Miller, et al. from twoplustwo publishing. Additionally, the posts are meant to be read in order, so I suggest first reading the post on basic poker hand groupings, and then on position.

The two biggest mistakes one makes before the flop is playing weak hands and calling raises with mediocre and potentially dominated hands. One needs to identify what kind of hand they hold when looking at your cards. Is it a hand that plays well with many opponents? Is it a hand that can stand on its own, and likes few opponents. Is the hand just straight up crap?

In the early positions, you should avoid playing hands that are not among the best hands out there. Specifically, this means avoid playing Ax (suited or not), kt, kj, q10, small pocket pairs, etc. Additionally, one should avoid "calling" with these hands. A raise typically says, "I have a strong hand." Unless you're in the big blind, you should be playing only hands that a normal skilled player would be comfortable reraising with. Hands such as kj, Ax are easily dominated and often make second best hands (especially when the raiser is holding AK, AJ, KK, JJ, etc. Don't just think about what you're holding next time you face a raise, think also about what your opposition is holding and how badly you could be dominated. You want to speculate (cheaply) with your speculative hands - which means throw them out to a raise and in the early positions. You'll selectively play your "top pair" hands when facing a raise - varying with calls, and reraises. Same will stand true with the powerhouse hands, generally speaking.

Mailbag is tommorrow, as is the CheckRayz Leaderboard Challenge, where we'll be giving away $100 and a free activated copy of pokertracker courtesy of the Beer Man, CheckRayz, and River Belle Poker. See you there!