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7-Stud: They’re More Likely To Be Bluffing, Not Less Likely

In reading poker tells, one of the most important things to do is watch your opponents look at the final river card. If it helps them, they’re very likely to only look for a short time. Then they’ll quickly place the card facedown and try to look uninterested, perhaps staring away from the approaching betting action. This is a ploy to make you think the card wasn’t a good one, and whenever you see this mannerism, you should be wary, and you should not bet or call with marginal hands.

Conversely, if the opponent keeps staring at the card longer than necessary, that’s an indication that it didn’t help. He’s trying to make you think that he’s interested in it. He isn’t, and you can bet medium-strong hands for profit.

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A Check Can Cost Money

Why is it so often better to bet than check and call? When you check and your opponent also checks, that usually means you lost an opportunity to profit by either (A) being called with a worse hand or (B) winning the pot outright without being called. Check-check means the second check is more apt to be satisfied than the first.

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A Good Time To Bluff

One of the best times to bluff is when an opponent is staring you down, reaching for his chips, or otherwise threatening to call. While opponents who are trying to discourage your bet by threatening to call, MIGHT actually call, they don’t have hands powerful enough to raise. So, what remains are usually hands that they will be reluctant to call with. They will either call — reluctantly — or fold. Usually, in limit poker games where the size of the pot dwarfs the size of the bet, an opponent acting in this matter will fold often enough to give your bluff attempt an expectation of profit.

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A Quick Bluff Is More Likely To Succeed Than A Hesitant One

Of course, there are exceptions, but on average…

If you bluff fairly quickly — without pondering — you’ll succeed in stealing the pot more often than if you hesitate and seem unsure. I was able to further support this theory by programming my artificially intelligent Orac poker player in 1984. I learned while testing that opponents were much more likely to fold against fast bets than against pondered ones — even against a computer!

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Adjusting To Wins And Losses

Many of your opponents will treat you differently when you’re winning than when you’re losing. That’s because they’re conscious of luck and fear you more when you’re “running lucky.” When this happens, everything is as it should be in the universe, and your opponents are easier to control. You can bet marginal hands for value that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise — because you’d be afraid that these same opponents would be inspired by your losses and would raise aggressively or play deceptively.

It’s true. When you’re winning, your foes are apt to be docile and well behaved, and this allows you to press every hand for maximum value without fearing that they’ll get maximum value for their hands, too. But, wait!

What’s the best way to adjust, depending on whether you’re running good or bad? Simple. Most of your decisions in poker will be “borderline,” meaning that the decision isn’t especially clear.

Do this: When you’re conspicuously winning and faced with a borderline decision between checking and betting, bet… AND between calling and raising, raise.

But… when you’re conspicuously losing and faced with a borderline decision between checking and betting, check… AND between calling and raising, call. These adjustments works like magic, and they’re pure profit.

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Aggression In The Blinds

With all but the most powerful of hands, you always can justify just calling, rather than raising, when you’re in a blind position. Remember that you will be in poor position throughout future rounds of betting (except if you’re the big blind against only the small blind). This gives you less of an advantage than it may seem, and makes a raise questionable.

Also, when you’re in a blind, it costs you less voluntary money to call than it costs other players. This means you’re often getting a good deal to call, based on pot odds (the amount in the pot versus the amount it costs to call). But when you raise, the proportion of the money you’ve already blinded becomes less significant, and your pot odds diminish. It’s hard to justify reducing pot odds with marginally strong hands when you’ll have poor position on future betting rounds.

Do this: When you’re conspicuously winning and faced with a borderline decision between checking and betting, bet… AND between calling and raising, raise.

But… when you’re conspicuously losing and faced with a borderline decision between checking and betting, check… AND between calling and raising, call. These adjustments works like magic, and they’re pure profit.

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Always Be Pleasant To Play Against

Yes, you can get opponents to “go on tilt” and lose additional money by aggravating them. But that’s the wrong way to go about playing poker. In the long run, opponents will continue giving you easy money only if you make the experience as pleasant as possible. Never ridicule their play. If they beat you, be gracious. Weak opponents will give the most money to players who make winning with bad hands fun and losing painless. Try to be one of the players they don’t mind losing to.

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Are Kings Almost As Profitable As Aces In Hold’em?

Kings are nowhere near as profitable as aces in hold ‘em. Although the difference is much slighter between smaller adjacent pairs, such as eights and sevens, there’s a very large gap between aces and kings in terms of profit when played correctly. Averaging all situations together, figure aces to be worth about 40 percent more than kings.

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Are Small-Limit Games Too Loose To Beat?

Many poker players complain that small-limit rake games are so loose that good players with solid strategies can’t win in the long run. That’s wrong. You should never complain about these small-limit games being too loose. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be able to beat these games if you were against sensible opponents, even if you had a skill advantage.

Why? It’s because the rake in small-limit games is a larger burden compared to the size of the pot. While you might outplay more conservative opponents, you probably won’t be able to overcome the rake. You need those super-loose opponents to overcome the rake, even though it may be frustrating because they hang in there and draw out on you so often. Just remember, you’ll have to endure that frustration to win.

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Ask Opponents For Their Opinions

Nothing gives you more information about how an opponent plays than simply asking. Most people are flattered when you ask how they would play a hand. I’ve learned a lot of information about my day-in and day-out opponents simply by asking questions. Often an opponent will volunteer information about their play, while proudly answering your questions, that you might not learn in weeks of observation.

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