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More No-Limit Hold'em Tips

by Bob Ciaffone |  Published: Jul 22, 2015


Bob CiaffoneHere are some more tips on playing no-limit hold’em that I originally wrote for myself and are now passing on to you.

(1) The loose players call on awful hands, but usually have a decent hand when they bet.
There are a number of different kinds of loose players. One type is the player who has a heavy hand for betting, since anyone who plays a lot of hands is a speculator who figures to have the weaker hand and needs to buy some pots to show a profit. Another type plays way too many hands, and will seldom have anything good. The loose aggressive player can have a wide variety of hands when betting. The loose passive player usually has a real hand when voluntarily putting money into the pot.

(2) Do not float the turn and try to steal on the final betting round. Bluffs work much better when you have the added leverage of threatening the added expense of a bet on the end in order for your opponent to see the hand through. Players (including me) hate to put money into the pot with the full cost of seeing the hand through as a strong possibility to consider. We do not like to lose a lot of money on a hand where the opponent may have a strong holding, and we do not want to put a sizable amount of money into the pot when we might not win even with the best hand because we cannot call a big river bet. So make your play on the turn when stealing, when you have additional leverage from the possibility of further betting.

(3) Holding a medium-sized pocket pair, avoid heads-up situations out of position vs a preflop raiser.

A medium size pocket pair is roughly even money against two overcards if you are ending the betting with five cards to come. If the two overcards are the preflop aggressor’s, then parity results with the pair are hard to attain. If the overcards bet, the pocket pair may throw in the towel right there. A sequence such as check-call on the flop and then checking the turn is seldom going to give a satisfying result. I usually bet the flop with the pair, then play the situation by ear afterwards. On my pessimistic days, I limp in with my pair and fold if raised.

(4) My guideline of betting the turn when the turn card helps me needs some refinement. I usually bet again on the turn if I pick up help from the new board card, but this concept of leading at the pot a second time when the turn card helps me should be a guideline, not an automatic rule. I need sufficient help to continue betting. Getting three new outs on the turn is a lot different than getting eight new outs, and three new outs may well not be a sufficiently good reason to fire a second barrel.

(5) Be careful about bluffing when the turn card is a big card that completes a straight.

What you are representing may be insufficiently clear, and there are many ways the card could help the opponent enough to allow a call. The bluffs that are the most successful are the ones where your opponent knows exactly what you will have if your wager is telling the truth. For example, when the third flush card hits on an unpaired board and your opponent makes a probe-size bet, the meaning of a raise by you is clear. At hold’em, it says that you have a big flush. (At Omaha, it clearly says you have the nut flush.) They either believe you or they don’t. In my case, they usually believe me, and I usually have it. But not always…My bluffs usually work.

(6) Be yourself in selecting plays. Before emulating a move used by a good player, realize that sauce for the goose may not be sauce for the gander. You are not Bobby Hoff, so do not try to play the cutoff seat by raising on junk like he did. Just call or fold on hands that are not of sufficient caliber to raise. (That was the extent of my note to myself, but let me elaborate on this subject, as it is of high importance.)

I got together socially fairly often with Bobby when I was living in Southern California in the early nineties. (Bobby was roosting in the L.A. area much of that time, usually terrorizing no-limit hold’em games at the Commerce Club.) Unlike some of my other poker friends, we talked about poker theory a lot. I definitely learned a lot of good ideas from him that made me money over the years. But sometimes, I had to alter or disregard some of the things he told me. We were poles apart in our poker style, and we both knew it. He was a Texan who was very aggressive, fearless in pouring large amounts of chips into the pot. I am from Michigan, and schooled in the value of playing excellent starting hands. Yet I am able to use my (well-deserved) tight image to muscle opponents once the hand-to-hand combat is underway after the flop has been dealt.

Bobby was able to run a lot of risks because he was excellent at reading opponents. This is a quality that is absolutely essential for success if your poker approach is to play a lot of hands and do a lot of stealing. The modern opponent is not likely to sit in his chair and absorb endless punishment. At some point, he is going to play back at you. If he picks a time when you have a top-quality hand, lucky you. But more than likely, you will have to judge whether he is making a move because he is tired of being pushed around or has finally got a hand good enough to go with. At this point, a wrong guess by you is going to be expensive.

I have experimented with the hyper-aggressive style on occasion, but it simply does not work that well for me. Once in a while, a hand played this way will give me a good result, but overall, it is less satisfactory than my normal way of playing. In the case of aggressive turn raises, I do not get paid off when I hit the way a super-aggressive player like Hoff did, because late-position preflop raising does not give me the same wild image as a player who is hyper-aggressive throughout a wide spectrum of situations.

I play very few starting hands, so aggressive play later on does not give me the same persona that someone has who sees the flop with a lot of hands. Furthermore, I admit to not being as good in reading people as a really strong player who has lots more experience than I in walking along the edge of a cliff. So now I am sticking to my normal way of playing, rather than trying to incorporate a new tactic that feels like trying to put a round peg in a square hole. I am who I am. ♠

Bob Ciaffone’s new poker book, No-limit Holdem Poker, is now available. This is Bob’s fifth book on poker strategy. It can be ordered from Bob for $25 by emailing him at Free shipping in the lower 48 states to Card Player readers. All books autographed. Bob Ciaffone is available for poker lessons.