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The Best Tip

by Michael Cappelletti |  Published: Feb 22, 2012


Michael CappellettiWe have all heard many old maxims and tips about winning at poker. For example, “don’t throw good money after bad,” and “play tight in a loose game, play loose in a tight game.” But, perhaps the best tip that I ever received was from “master-of-all-games” Oswald Jacoby* who advised me, “Open your eyes, look around the table, and notice opportunity.”

Of course, the most classic example of opportunity is “the unwanted pot.” When no one else seems to be interested in betting, you can often win the pot with even a relatively small bet. Note that there is a big difference between pots that have not been raised before the flop and pots where the preflop raiser does not bet after the flop.

In a simple checked-out pot, even a minimum bet has some chance of buying the pot. And a two times or three times bet is even more likely to buy the pot. If you do get one caller or more, then you might have a tough decision as to whether to invest more or not. By looking at your opponents, you can sometimes judge whether or not they will be calling you down.

When a preflop raiser apparently doesn’t like the flop and chooses to check, it is often right to “pick up the dropped ball” and make a probing bet. Keep in mind that the preflop raiser is often psychologically committed and is quite likely to call a small bet. If you decide to push a lesser holding such as a medium pair, you would strongly prefer to fold the competition; so generally make a larger bet. On the other hand, if you actually have a good hand (for example, a set), then a small teaser bet rates to keep more players in the pot.

While attending a recent bridge tournament in Orlando, I frequented the Seminole Hard Rock Casino near Tampa almost every night after bridge. Playing limit Omaha eight-or-better, I found myself in a situation which I had written about over 20 years ago (“The Rare Counter-Counter Bluff”, Card Player, Sept. 7, 1990). A pot which had been raised before the flop produced a deuce and two face cards. In five-way action, no one bet after the flop. When a four turned and there were four checks around to me, I chose to bet holding an ace-three (nut-low draw) and pocket sixes. There were two callers. Unfortunately a nine rivered so I had nothing. There were two checks to me so I bet hoping to buy the pot.

One player folded, but the other player, a very aggressive player, raised me. I was about to fold – but instinctively, I decided to look around the table first. This particular player had probably never checked a good hand in his life; he certainly hadn’t that night. I thought he was bluffing. But did he have my sixes beat? At the risk of throwing good money after bad, I reraised. He grumbled and threw his hand away.

In poker, it is often right to be adventurous. And sometimes when you look around the table, you just might notice a good opportunity. ♠

  • Oswald Jacoby (1902-1984) authored Jacoby on Poker (1940), was a leading bridge expert, won a world backgammon championship, and was considered the best gin-rummy player on the planet.

Formerly a career lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice, Mike Cappelletti has written numerous books on poker and bridge, and is considered to be one of the leading authorities on Omaha. Mike has also represented the U.S. in international bridge competition, and he and his wife were featured in a four-page Couples Section in People magazine. His books include Cappelletti on Omaha, Poker at the Millennium (with Mike Caro), and Omaha High Low Poker.