Theories of Poker
Poker theory is a huge subject, whole books have been devoted to it. We don't intend to give a full review of poker theory in this discussion, but we do intend to introduce you to the important theories and show you how understanding poker theory will influence your winning strategy. Our first important point is that there isn't one single, all encompassing theory of poker. We'll introduce you to what we consider to be the important 'Big 7' theories in Texas Holdem. We'll explain why to be a winning poker player you must be able to shift your perspective from one theory to another as the game conditions dictate.
The Big 7.
- Poker is a game where money flows from bad players to good players If I had to choose one single most important theory for poker this would be it. Pretty simple stuff huh?! Poker is a game where money flows from bad players to good players. Say it to yourself a few times. You're going to be spending many hours playing this beautiful game, learning it's intricacies, developing new skills, and it's all because of this theory. In the short term (hours, days, weeks even) luck is a factor in winning. Over many, many hours of play luck does not enter the equation at all. The implications of this theory are huge: if you want to win money you better make sure you are better than your opponents. The good news is that all the information you need to become one of these good players is freely available at thepokerprof.com.
- Poker is a game of hand domination and kicker value. In simple terms: holding a higher card is better than holding a lower card; holding two high cards is even better. If you hold two high cards you are that much more likely to hit top pair when the flop comes. It's important to use this perspective in tight games, or whenever you are involved in a hand against a tight player. We can assume a tight player will only be playing premium hands, in order to win money from this type of player in the long-term you must have a better starting hand.
- Poker is a fight amongst the players for the rights to the ante. As you'll remember from our 'How to play' guide and Flash Tutorial at the very beginning of each hand, before a card has been dealt a small and big blind are posted. This means there is money to be won. This is a very important theory to apply to a winning preflop strategy, and influences what two cards you chose to play and what two cards you chose to fold. Later in this series we'll help you define which two cards you get dealt fall into the 'fold' category and which fall into the 'play' category.
- Poker is a game of money and odds. When we talk about odds we talk about how much it is costing you to stay in a hand in relation to how much you stand to gain if you win that hand. For example: it's costing you $5 to call a bet on the river and the total pot is already $30 we say you are getting 6 to 1 odds (30/5). This theory is particularly valuable when applied to playing in loose aggressive games, during these games you will often not have the best hand but will have a chance of having the best hand on the flop, turn or river. If you are getting the correct odds to call then folding the second or third best hand before the turn or river would be a mistake. Mistakes cost money.
- Poker is a game of strategy and deception. This theory focuses on outwitting your opponents to maximize gains. Good examples would be bluffing to win hands, showing your cards after a succesful bluff to establish a false table image, or using your position in a betting round to steal pots. This theory is applicable to most table conditions.
- Poker is a competition between a made hand and a drawing hand. This theory is applicable in contests involving one or two other players, where one of them has the best hand and the other(s) has a chance of becoming the best hand when all the community cards are dealt. This theory is extremely valuable when you are pretty certain you either have the best hand, or you are pretty certain you know what the best hand is.
- Poker is a game of manipulation and pressure. Similar to the theory of strategy and deception, with greater emphasis on false image and the importance of position. Playing fast and aggressive is one example of how to apply this theory; another is to use table talk to baffle and manipulate your opponents. At this early stage it's important you're at least aware of these various theories, they will help you develop a deeper understanding of the game. As you continue through our course we'll be looking at the game through each of the different perspectives. We'll show you exactly which theories to apply in which conditions and demonstrate by running through some typical holdem hands. Before we get too heavily into specific hands we need to learn about what makes a bad player and what makes a good player, remember "Poker is a game where money flows form bad players to good players". In the next installment we'll introduce you to 'player stereotypes' and how labelling your opponents is an important step to becoming a winning player.