Common Poker Strategies
Monday, 7. September 2009

While some may believe that poker is a game of luck, this couldn’t be any further from the truth. Poker is a game of probability, a game of strategy and a game of attitude.

Of course, there is a certain degree of luck involved in poker. Regardless of a player’s ability, if they were lucky enough to be dealt the “nuts” on every hand then no amount of skill or attitude could defeat them. Unfortunately, hoping for the “nuts” on each and every hand is not what one would call a productive strategy. The following is a list of some of the more common poker strategies utilized today:

The Gap Concept
The Gap Concept, first defined by David Sklansky in his book “Tournament Poker for Advanced Players”, basically says that if you are thinking of entering a pre-flop pot that has already been opened by a bet from another player, you will need a stronger hand to call than you would need to open the pot yourself from the position you are sitting at. For example, if you hold A9 off-suit sitting in middle position and all players due to act before you fold their hands, you may consider A9 a minimum good enough hand to open the pot with. But if one of those players in early position opens the pot with a bet ahead of you, is your A9 still good enough to call? The answer is: No. The distance between the hand you need to call an opening bet and the minimum hand to open a pot yourself is called The Gap and its width depends on various other circumstances.

Continuation Bets
This is a play you will need in your standard repertoire, either to use it yourself or to retort when other players seem to be using it. It is a bet placed after the Flop by the pre-flop raiser based on the conditions that he has missed the Flop and none of the remaining players has bet in that round. The goal of the Continuation Bet is to indicate continued strengths making your opponents lay down their hands and pick up the pot right there. The size of the Continuation Bet should be about half the size of the pot, although you should vary your bets slightly around that figure to keep your opponents guessing. You can find more about this subject in Dan Harrington’s excellent book “Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments, Vol. II” alongside many other advanced concepts.

Probe Bets
The Probe bet is yet another concept described in Dan Harrington’s “Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments, Vol. II”. Here’s a brief insight into this clever play to employ into your game.
A Probe Bet works similar to the Continuation Bet, but is made when the pre-flop raiser has not made a bet after the Flop came on the board. You can now bet about one-third of the pot size, which will either win the pot immediately for you or help you define you own and your opponent’s holding if he is calling or raising. In case he is calling don’t put anymore money/chips into the pot unless you hit something strong; if he is raising then consider carefully whether to call or fold your hand.

The Zone System
This is a concept that only applies to No Limit Tournaments and is extensively explained in Dan Harrington’s most recent book “Expert Strategy for No-Limit Tournaments, Vol. II”. Both Volumes of “Harrington On Hold’em” are in our view the best books ever written about No Limit Hold’em Tournament play.

The Zone System basically determines your playing strategies during a tournament and is defined by a figure called “M”. Your M is the amount of your chips divided by the sum of the current Blinds and Antes and reflects the amount of rounds you will be able to play with your current chip count. Here’s an example: You are playing in a Multi-table tournament and have $6,000 in chips in front of you. The Blinds are $150/$300 with Antes of $25; there are 10 players at the table. $150 (SB)+$300 (BB)+$250 (10 Antes from each player) = $700. Your M is therefore 8.5 ($6,000/$700).

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