Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: Four Plays I Never Make
Miller Takes A Look At Some Popular Moves He Never Uses
A good mantra in poker is never to say never. If you never do this or you never do that, it’s very easy to become predictable. At the same time, I see plays that some players make that I literally never make. Some of these plays I eschew in an effort to simplify my strategy. Other plays I never make because I think they are wrongheaded. Here are four popular plays that I never make.
Bet Or Raise For Information
I never bet or raise to “see where I’m at.” Never. I think it’s a bad play.
First, if your opponent doesn’t fold to your bet, you often don’t actually learn where you’re at. Say you have A-8 and you bet a J-8-3 two-tone flop. Your opponent raises you. Did you find out where you’re at?
With most opponents, the answer is no. Your opponent could have a set or an overpair or top pair or a flush draw or a straight draw. You still don’t know where you’re at, and now you’re in a bad spot.
Or, even more often, you raise to find out where you’re at, and your opponent just calls. What does he have? Is he calling because he’s got a big hand? A draw? A bluff-catcher? You don’t know.
People don’t raise for information when they have the nuts. It’s always with a marginal hand. What happens when you bet or raise for information is you build a big pot with a marginal hand, and you still don’t know where you’re at.
It’s OK not to know where you’re at in a hand. Your opponent doesn’t know where you’re at either, so you’re on equal footing. It’s much better to play the hand through normally with a balanced strategy and accept the uncertainty with open arms.
Shove The Turn To “Go With A Hand”
I see players do this all the time. Say the flop is A-9-6. Someone bets, and the button calls. The turn is a queen that puts a flush draw on board. The player bets again, and now the button shoves all-in for nearly a pot-sized bet more.
The button shows A-10 for top pair, marginal kicker. The thinking here is that the player with A-10 on the turn has to either commit to the hand or fold it. If they commit to it, the thinking goes, it’s better to be the aggressor than to be the caller.
None of the above thinking is correct. Calling the turn does not obligate a call on the river. It just doesn’t. If you are playing a balanced strategy, you will sometimes call the turn only to fold the same hand to a river bet. It is not at all a foregone conclusion that your opponent will bet the river if he bet the turn. (If you do find a player who always bets the river after betting the turn, you should certainly not be raising the turn. You should just call down.)
Sometimes you will call the turn, it will go check/check on the river, and you will win.
Yes, you want to shove the turn with some hands. But A-10 is perhaps the worst hand you could pick to do it with. You either want to shove with a very strong hand or a bluff. On this A-9-6-Q board, you can shove with Q-Q and you can shove with 8-7, but please do not shove with A-10.
Donk Bet The River After Calling Flop And Turn
This one is a little more complex. A player checks and calls the flop. The same player checks and calls the turn. Then the river comes, and he shoves all-in.
I never do this. I don’t think this play is wrongheaded like the last two, but I can’t think of the sort of hands it makes sense to play this way.
Such a river bet is very polarizing. To make the bet, you should either have a huge hand or you should be bluffing. But when you check and call the turn, most often you have a middling hand, somewhere between a monster and nothing. What hands, then, do you do this with?
It might make sense to play this way when the river card changes a lot. Say the river is the one card in the deck that completes all the straight and flush draws.
The thing about that, however, is that such a card is usually very bad for the person playing from out of position. Most of those middling hands you call the turn with are now junk. So if you’re removing the few good hands you still have from your range by donk betting with them, then when you check you will almost always have to fold to a bet.
I could be convinced that this is the best way to play in some circumstances, but in most cases it seems to me that checking the river will be preferable.
Finally, when I see players make this play, I find that they are rarely bluffing. So they are doubly shooting themselves in the foot. When they donk shove the river, I can just fold. While when they check, I can bluff and pick up the pot far more often than I should.
Unless you really know what you’re doing, my advice is not to make this play.
Open Limp Preflop Outside The Small Blind
Unless I’m in the small blind, if I’m the first to enter a pot, I never open limp. Never. In most games, I believe that it’s always preferable to give myself a chance to win the blinds unchallenged. In some loose games, you will almost never pick up the blinds. But in these games, I almost always want to build the pot preflop with whatever hand I happen to be playing.
It would have to be a very peculiar situation for me to want to violate this rule. I’d have to think there was little chance to win the blinds, and the stack sizes would have to be just a particular size, and I’d have to have exactly the sort of hand that wants to play, but doesn’t want to build a pot.
And, in that case, how do I balance my limps? It would (or should) be fairly obvious to any thinking player what sort of hand I must have to limp. So I’d have to limp some other hands to balance. And I don’t want to do that.
This is another one where I could be convinced that open-limping outside the blinds is a good play. But in practice, I just never do it. And I think 99 percent of the time when I see other players do it, it’s just a poor play. ♠
Ed’s brand new book, Reading Hands At No-Limit Hold’em, is available immediately for purchase at notedpokerauthority.com. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/edmillerauthor and on Twitter @EdMillerPoker.
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