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Know your hands – and your games

By Jim Feist


After a warm summer around the nation, the signs of fall are already apparent in Las Vegas. Fall means it’s time to shed bad habits and things that hold us back, which is a great time to focus on what games you are best suited for. In sports wagering, some people have grown up digesting baseball stats and players all of their life and are most comfortable ready to identify baseball dogs and totals. Others prefer the NFL to college football. It’s all about a comfort zone regarding sports you have a better feel  for, and wagering is all about trying to gain a slight edge.

Poker is about identifying edges, too, and one must start by picking the right game, skill level and even bankroll.  For instance, if you are comfortable playing a two-dollar/four dollar poker game, be careful about suddenly jumping up to a five-dollar/ten-dollar limit game. The stakes are much higher as is the skill level of the average player. Like a college curriculum that builds from beginning to intermediate to graduate level courses, poker plays are also at different levels. And if you have a series of wins and think you’re ready to jump to a higher limit game, be careful—bigger sharks will be waiting to try highly skilled tactics you may not have faced before.

And look at it this way: If you’re making decent stacks of chips at a lower level game, why move? The swings up and down at higher limits are much bigger, and one day’s huge haul won’t last long at a high-stakes game if you’re in too deep. You can start losing your money—and you confidence when getting outplayed, which means trying tactics and risks you probably shouldn’t. Know your game and know your strengths and weaknesses.


Quantity of Hands

Understand that you don’t need to play every hand. Newer poker players are certain that the more hands they play the bigger their chances to win are. Well, sure—if you’re hot. But that’s not always the case. Because the more hands you play the more money you are risking. Don’t be afraid to fold up shop and take a small loss if the cards simply aren’t there.


Quality of Wagering  Decisions

Think before you bet. In fact, think before you do anything in poker, including sitting down at the table! Decide how high your hand is and what other hands it can win. Always watch your opponents and keep a mental list of their plays, style and tendencies. Try to predict what hands they have. Take into account the odds, your winning probabilities and what risks and betting options are available. If it is your turn to bet, examine the pot amount and the size of your bet; think over the possible winning amount compared with the risk to lose if you long to bet or raise. One of the best poker tips say that it is better to secure the win in the games with the small pots rather than risk to lose in the games with large pots.


Hole Cards

Hole cards, or pocket cards, are the cards that are face down. After you are dealt hole cards think over the opening odds and decide whether to stay in the hand or fold. Where is your position at the table? What are the others doing before I’m up? Take inventory of all these things, instead of just waiting. I mentioned earlier that you don’t need to act on every hand, so by all means use the pocket cards as the basis when you decide whether to play or fold.


These are tips Vegas and world expert poker players utilize constantly to gain an edge on the person sitting across from them at the table. They may appear nice, hiding behind dark glasses or pulled up lapels, but the fact is they can’t wait for you to slip up. Any opening by you creates opportunity for them to legally steal your money. If you want to regularly turn a profit at the poker tables, treat the game like a job and not a place to burn off steam for a few hours of fun. ´



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