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Poker Strategy With Alex Fitzgerald: Are You Trying To Win The Most Pots Or The Most Money?

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When you watch inexperienced players play, it becomes obvious why they are not succeeding.

They are not playing to win the most money. They are playing to win the most pots.

If we are being honest with ourselves, we all want to be winning as many pots as possible, all the time. There is a dopamine hit associated with winning a pot. It feels good to stack chips. This is the feeling we are looking for when we get off of work and head to the cardroom.

The only problem is that chasing this dragon will have us playing disjointed poker. We will call with mediocre hands preflop when we are out of position. We will make thin river calls that we know are close to hopeless. We will raise preflop with hands that are better folded.

We can usually catch ourselves falling into this trap. If we find ourselves looking at a borderline hand and always finding a way to play it, then we know we are biased towards playing.

The hard part is dealing with the FOMO. When we fold a borderline hand and see it would have hit the flop, we get enraged with ourselves. Anyone else would have played that hand! If you tell someone else in the cardroom about your fold, they will likely give you a hard time, too. They’re not there to fold preflop either.

How can you make sure you’re not playing to win pots as opposed to playing for money?

• Make sure that most of your speculative calls take place on the button or cutoff where at least position will be helping you.
• Think back on your sessions and pay attention to all the thin calls you made when you knew you were beat.
• Focus on playing more solid hands in position as a raiser.
• If it feels like you’re folding just a little too much, then that means you’re probably doing it right.

Most of the people you are playing against in the cardroom are not beating the rake. You do not want to be playing like them. You want your style to be either tighter than how they play, or more aggressive than how they play. A solid style is the easiest winning poker style to play because it combines both of these elements.

How can you identify if your opponents are playing to win pots as opposed to playing to win? This is where things get fun.

If you see someone cold calling preflop more than normal, then that is likely someone who cannot fold anything halfway decent preflop. Versus these players you want to value bet more. They will keep chasing the dragon of a huge river call where they catch you bluffing.

The spot to capitalize on these players is with three-betting. If they open any halfway decent hand because they do not want to fold, then you want to reraise them liberally. You do not need a premium hand to do this. You just need a hand that beats the majority of their opening range.

If you keep reraising the same player at a certain point, they will take it personally. Most grown men especially do not take kindly to being bullied consistently.

At a certain point, they will decide they are going to call you down with any kind of mediocre pair. This is when you strike. This is when you triple barrel top pair for three streets.

Another person you can take advantage of is the player who has to be in every multiway pot due to “pot odds.” They’re not actually sure what pot odds mean, but it gives them an excuse to see the flop.

These players will hit some kind of pair on the flop and always call the first bet. They’re hoping you shut down on the turn and river. They likely have never flopped a pair before and folded to the first bet. This allows you to exploit them.

When you flop something that beats most pairs on a given board and you’re in a multiway pot with several recreational players, feel free to bet bigger than you normally would. Theoretically, they could do an exploitative fold with their pair, but most of them cannot do this in practice.

What happens most of the time is the loose player in question will call the first bet and then be surprised at how large the pot is on the turn. When you bet half pot into this inflated pot on the turn, they will be hard pressed to fold. Because they have so much already invested, it feels awkward to them to let the hand go at this juncture.

This, of course, leads you to the river. Any river bet you can get called will be large at this point. If you bet something like 40% of the pot they will feel ridiculous about folding after being so invested. It will only be after the pot is over that they realize how many chips they lost in one hand.

Those plays should get you started on the felt when you’re attempting to exploit players who want to win every pot. If you want to simplify your work, remember this.

Nits beat stations, stations beat maniacs, and maniacs beat nits. ♠

Learn how to play A-K when it misses the flop!

Alexander Fitzgerald is a professional poker player and bestselling author who currently lives in Denver, Colorado. He is a WPT and EPT final tablist, and has WCOOP and SCOOP wins online. His most recent win was the $250,000 Guaranteed on America’s Cardroom. He currently enjoys blasting bums away in Ignition tournaments while he listens to death metal. Free training packages of his are provided to new newsletter subscribers who sign up at