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Always Look Both Ways

by Jonathan Little |  Published: Jul 28, 2021

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Jonathan LittleWe are constantly thinking ahead in life, and when you are playing poker, you should make it a point to do the same.

When you cross the street, you don’t just blindly wander into traffic and hope for the best. You stop, take a look in both directions, and hopefully have a plan if you suddenly see a bus heading straight for you.

In poker, before you make any bet, stop and think about what the result of that bet will be, both in the current betting round, as well as the future betting rounds. From there, you can determine if the probable results are in your best interest.

Suppose someone raises under the gun to three big blinds out of their 100 big blind stack and you are in second position with AHeart Suit 10Diamond Suit. Cheap spot to see a flop, right? Not so fast. Again, you have to look both ways before you cross the street.

While A-10 is normally a decent hand, in this situation, it is an easy fold because of the many bad things that can happen on the future betting rounds. A holding like A-10 could certainly be the best hand at the moment, but you must consider how the hand will play out.

Before the flop, you could easily be dominated by the initial raiser, putting you in bad shape. To make matters worse, someone yet to act could three-bet behind you, forcing you to either put in more money behind or to fold without seeing a flop.

If you happen to flop an ace and the initial raiser has a better ace, you will lose a lot of money. If an ace flops and your opponent does not have an ace, you will win a small pot. If a 10 comes and they have an overpair, you will lose a lot of money. If a 10 comes and they have worse than a 10, you will win a small pot. If you miss, you will probably lose the pot when you fold to a continuation bet.

As you can see, you are essentially dodging cars on the interstate by playing this hand. You are likely to either lose a large pot or win a small pot, making a fold the clear best play.

Suppose instead of A-10, you had JClub Suit 10Club Suit. Now, you will not lose your whole stack if you make one pair because it will be a marginal made hand. But if you flop a premium hand or a good draw and improve to a premium hand by the river, you will often win a large pot.

You will also find numerous semi-bluffing opportunities, which will allow you to win some pots when your opponent misses. This is a situation where you will either lose a small pot or win a large one, which is a fine outcome.

Poker, like all games, is about trying to figure out the optimal decision for each situation. Each decision in poker is not made in a vacuum. Because of this, you need to constantly think about how each decision will impact the next. As long as you think ahead and always have a plan, you will rarely find yourself too lost.

If you find that you are consistently confused, you are either making poor decisions on the earlier betting rounds or you have not studied the game nearly enough. To learn about numerous other ways where thinking ahead can greatly improve your win rate, check out my book, Mastering Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em and my training site PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer. Good luck in your games! ♠

Jonathan Little is a two-time WPT champion with more than $7 million in live tournament earnings, best-selling author of 15 educational poker books, and 2019 GPI Poker Personality of the Year. If you want to increase your poker skills and learn to crush the games, check out his training site at PokerCoaching.com/cardplayer.