Some years ago when I first started reading Poker books (too many to remember) then I would often see passages that discussed the reasons as to why we bet or raised in poker. Depending on which book you read then these reasons could be anywhere from between half a dozen and a dozen in number. This led to confusion and confusion is something that we need to avoid in our quest to improve our poker games to a level that gets us an edge against the masses.
One of the best passages that I have ever read on this subject was in the excellent Easy Game by Andrew Seidman. In that book Seidman breaks it down into just two key reasons as to why we bet or raise and those reasons are for either value or to bluff. Someone once said that “simplicity was the true genius” and in terms of wading through a potentially complex field like poker then simplicity is needed. If you look at a poker hand in a very simplistic way then certain obvious factors suddenly become much deeper in meaning and importance.
For example (accepting the rare occasions where we are tied with our opponent) in any given situation then we either have the best hand or we don’t. This is almost like a “heads and tails” situation. If we do conclude that we have the best hand then if we bet or raise then we are doing so for value most of the time unless having the “best” hand still means that our hand is weak as in if we hold A-Q on a 10-7-3 rainbow flop and our opponent holds A-J. In this instance then we are betting and raising as a bluff even though we hold the best hand.
Once you understand these basic but vital poker concepts then you will realise that they form the bedrock of all poker decisions. Just as Seidman says in Easy Game “suddenly poker will make a lot more sense”. As you gain experience then you will see situations where value betting and bluffing merge and this allows you to not only be creative with your decision making but it also allows you to bet and raise for the right reasons. I honestly think that chapter one in Easy Game will be revolutionary for millions of poker players worldwide who have struggled with their game.
I wished that I had access to this book years ago because I was betting for the wrong reasons. At the time then “betting for information” or probe betting as it was also known was a common so called “reason” for betting. It is only when you look back with more experience and knowledge that you can see the error and flaw in this way of thinking about poker. It simply leads to you betting for the wrong reasons on so many occasions.
Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and poker ambassador for 888poker