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Poker Strategy With Rep Porter: The Changing Value Of Cards

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At the end of January, I was at the Poker Night in America cash game and tournament at Thunder Valley Casino outside of Sacramento, California. As I was getting ready to play, a gentleman who is a student at ThePokerAcademy.com came up and introduced himself. He asked me a few questions about poker, but one of those questions really made me think. He said, “What poker concept do you think is the hardest to grasp for people who have been playing for a while, if they don’t already understand it?”

This made me pause and think for a minute. I eventually said that the concept of your hand having very different values in different situations was probably the toughest. Poker is one of the few games where this concept is true. Sometimes A-Q and 9-9 are great hands, other times you should just throw them in the muck without much thought. This isn’t true in most games. If you play a card game other than poker, particularly a trick-taking game, the value of the cards doesn’t change much at all. An ace is an ace, a king is the second-highest card of that suit, and deuces almost never have value. But in tournament poker, the circumstances you find yourself in have a huge impact on the value of your hand.

After I finished talking with this gentleman, I went over and registered for the tournament. I was a little bit late, so I got seated at a new table with all new players. I decided I would see if I could find some examples of the changing values of hand for this article. When we started, everyone had 30,000 in chips and the blinds were 100-200 with a 25 ante, making us all 150 big blinds deep to begin.

The first interesting hand I had was K-Q offsuit two seats off of the button. When I look at this hand, I think if it folds to me, I will open this pot with a raise and have a good situation. I might win the pot now, or if I get called, I will have two high cards and likely be playing with position against one of the blinds. When the player two to my right decided to open the pot to 450 though, my thinking had to change. I can’t open the pot and win the blinds and antes anymore. This player has a decent holding to be opening from early/middle position. I still plan to play the hand, but I think I would be calling about 80 percent of the time and three-betting about 20 percent of the time. I also think my overall situation has gone down in value a little bit.

My thinking had to change again when the player on my immediate right three-bet to 2,100. Now I promptly picked up my cards and threw them in the muck. So this K-Q offsuit went from a hand that I wanted to raise with to a hand I was mostly likely calling with (not super excited about, but worth playing), to an easy fold. And this was all because the circumstances of the situation had changed. My actual hand remained the same throughout.

The next interesting hand I had was 9-7 suited on the button. I would raise if it folded to me. It isn’t a super exciting spot if you get played back at from the blinds, but it is a nice solid expectancy raise if you get to open the pot. Then a player I know to be solid and pretty tight opened to 550 in first position (nine-handed table). Now I am probably going to fold. Tight, solid players are hard to get a lot of value from after the flop, and they usually have something in this spot. That changed again when three people called before it got to me. Now I get to be the fifth player into a multi-way pot with a good speculative hand. It is likely one of the blinds is coming along as well. Suddenly, I have an easy and profitable call on the button. So again, I have a hand that changed in value from raise to fold to call just based on the circumstances.

The last hand I want to talk about is getting 10-10 in the big blind. I look down and think I have a big hand. I am certainly thinking that I am going to get some chips into the pot, and most likely, I will be taking aggressive actions. If the opening action comes from late position, I can comfortably and profitably three-bet. Now the player under the gun opens to 600. A raise from that position at a full table is typically narrow, so now my hand, while still strong and very playable, isn’t quite as special.

Then the second player flat calls. These players are both solid. I am looking at two good hands, and I am going to be out of position. The value of my hand is slipping. The player on the button calls, as does the little blind. Now here I am, looking at a five-way pot with a hand that has changed suddenly from a strong hand to a speculative hand. My best option with this hand has gone from raising or reraising, to calling and playing cautiously after the flop.

All three of these hands demonstrate how the circumstances really impact the value of the cards you have. Understanding the differences in the situations you are in, and how valuable various hands are in different spots will make you a much better poker player. ♠

Rep Porter is a two-time WSOP bracelet winner and is the lead instructor at ThePokerAcademy.com, whose mission is to help poker players achieve better results through better decisions and that is done by teaching poker in a way that makes learning easy and enjoyable with high quality courses taught by professional players.

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