Tip of the Day

by snoopy
Submitted by: snoopy on Thu, 13/09/2007 - 2:13am

Whilst scouring through the poker section of Waterstones last week, I came across a book entitled ‘The Little Book Of Poker Tips’ – ‘a pot of golden advice for poker players of all ability, as useful for online players for those sitting at non-virtual tables.’ 

Although I’m no Phil Ivey, it was quite obvious that the advice was aimed at beginners, but as I was flicking through, I read a few phrases that not only led me to purchasing the book, but also to my penning of this article.

What provoked me into this sudden pivot towards the cashier was, unfortunately for the author, several pages of what I considered to be poor and potentially destructive advice.

Made up of 50 tips on all things poker, the book is quite correct in conveying messages such as ‘be patient’, ‘position is a vital part of the game’ and, most amusingly, ‘watch the board’ (doh, I knew there was something I’d been forgetting). However, whilst these points are all perfectly valid, they are accompanied by tips that should be left to a little more subjectivity than the author allows.

For example, Tip 14 adamantly informs the readers to ‘Never slowplay AA or KK before the Flop.’ Now, although slowplaying can be dangerous, to suggest that you should never do it seems to me to be rather rash.

In both cash games and tournaments, slowplaying these hands can be highly profitable. Perhaps you’re on a super aggressive table, maybe you wish to disguise the strength of your hand by flat-calling a raise, you may even just fancy mixing up your game to avoid predictability, but either way, to rule out the slowplay altogether would be somewhat hasty and ultimately rather naïve.

And just 2 pages on, Tip 16 tells us to ‘Always fold a drawing hand against a single opponent’ adding ‘The odds are never good enough against one player to justify chasing a flush or straight draw’. This may be true to an extent, but it completely eradicates the potential for bluffing, insinuating that you must fold if all you have is the draw.

Whilst this will be applicable in some cases, often you may wish to utilise the semi-bluff. By re-raising with your draw, not only do you give your opponent the chance to fold by playing your hand aggressively (ironically, Tip 17 says ‘Poker is an aggressive game’), but you also leave yourself outs if you are called. Additionally, many players may smooth call with a draw with the intention of bluffing the next street, especially if they sense weakness in their opponent.

Nearing the end of the book, the pearls of wisdom continue with Tip 48 and ‘Don’t bluff on the internet at low-limit poker’, justifying the comment with the line ‘The main reason to bluff is so that you will get action when you really do have a hand. This just isn’t a problem at low limits online.’

Yes, there are a lot of weak players at low stakes, but to tell your audience ‘not to bluff’ surely isn’t wise as the bluff can be a crucial tool in poker, whatever the stakes. True, you are more likely to be called by the weaker players (that is, of course, assuming that the weaker players do indeed play predominantly at the lower limits), but whilst they may make poor calls, they could also be playing in a predictable manner, one in which can be exploited by thorough notetaking and, subsequently, the occasional bluff.

Okay, so I’ve highlighted a few questionable words of advice, but what’s the real agenda here? Well, the important thing for me is not necessarily that these tips are incorrect, but that they don’t allow any room for subjectivity, using words like ‘never’ and ‘don’t’ as if they are orders to be obeyed.

For me, poker is all about being open minded and experimental in your approach. It’s a game where everyone has an opinion. Some people play conservative, others aggressive, some like to play their draws strongly whilst others prefer to handle them with caution, some always continuation bet, others sometimes check – it’s a game of different views and, most importantly, different styles, and whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, you should treat advice as nothing more than another opinion, one in which you should read, study and consider the pros and cons of, but never adopt as gospel.

So therefore, I’d like to add Tip 51 to the book – Books are a vital tool in learning about poker, but be careful with what you read. Remember that no one is perfect at the game, and any advice given is just someone’s interpretation. What is important, however, is that you recognise this by not absorbing their words as rules of thumb, but as something that increases your knowledge of the game and makes you more aware of the options available to you.