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The Worst Poker Advice I’ve Ever Heard

| January 1, 2018 12:00 am PDT
Man Scratching His Head About Poker

Poker rooms are filled with people who like to tell other players how to play. Sometimes they give good advice, but often it’s just plain wrong.

I’ve put together a list of the worst poker advice I’ve ever heard so you can learn about it and find out why the given advice is bad.

When you learn about poker, it helps you avoid taking advice that costs you money.

1. You Should Never Draw to an Inside Straight

An inside straight draw, also called a gut shot straight draw, is when you have four cards to a straight and need a single ranked card to fill a gap to complete the straight. It’s usually a losing long-term play to draw to an inside straight, but at times it’s the correct play.

When you face a situation where you have an inside straight draw and face a bet you need to determine if it’s profitable or unprofitable to call the bet. The good news is that you can use mathematical calculations to make this determination.

You need to compare the amount of money in the pot, the size of the bet you need to call to remain in the hand, and the odds that you’re going to complete your straight. It’s not easy to do, but with a little practice you can determine if drawing to an inside straight is the correct play.

Here’s an example:

After the turn card has been dealt in a Texas Hold’em no limit game you have the ace of hearts and king of spades in your hand and the board has the jack of clubs, 10 of hearts, three of diamonds, and six of spades.

The pot has $380 in it and your lone opponent bets $20. This means the pot now has $400 in it and you need to call $20.

The deck of unseen cards has 46 cards left and four of them, the four queens, complete your straight. This means that four cards help you and 42 cards don’t. This creates a ratio of 10.5 to 1.

If the ratio of the pot and the amount you need to call is better than 10.5 to 1 it’s a profitable call and if the ratio is worse than 10.5 to 1 it’s not a profitable call.

In this example the pot has $400 in it and you need to call $20. This creates a ratio of 20 to 1. This is better than 10.5 to 1 so in this situation it’s profitable to call.

You can see why this works by seeing what happens if you play the exact same situation 46 times, receiving each of the individual remaining 46 cards once.

The total cost to play the hand 46 times is $920. You multiply the $20 call times 46 hands to determine this. The 42 times you lose the hand you receive nothing back. But the four times you receive a queen you get back your $20 call and win the $400 pot.

This means that the four times you hit your straight you win a total of $1,680. This is more than the $920 you need to invest so it’s profitable in the long run.

You can take this a step further and divide the difference in wins and losses by 46 total hands to determine the average amount you win per hand. This is the expected value every time you call.

$1,680 minus $920 is a total profit of $760. When you divide this by 46 hands the average win is $16.52.

It’s clear that the advice that you should never draw to an inside straight is wrong. It might not be a good play to do it often, but you’ll be in situations where it’s the correct play.

Any time you hear advice that says you should always do something or never do something while playing poker you should be wary of the advice. Rarely is a decision at the poker table always or never something you should do.

2. You Should Never Limp with Pocket Aces in Texas Hold’em

Pocket aces in Texas Hold’em is the most powerful starting hand. Most of the time when you have the best starting hand you want to raise with it before the flop. This gets more money in the pot when you’re a favorite to win the hand and it forces many weaker hands to fold who might hit a long shot draw to beat you.

But limping with pocket aces occasionally can be the correct play. If you play frequently with some of your opponents and they learn that you never limp with pocket aces they can use this against you in hands you limp with.

But if you limp one out of every 20 or 30 times you have pocket aces they can’t be sure that you don’t have them when you limp.

The other situation where limping with pocket aces can be correct is if you’re playing at a table with a couple of hyper aggressive loose players who are betting and raising almost every hand. When one or two of these players is set to act after you it’s often a good idea to limp and let them raise the pot.

When you limp and they raise it can get one or more players between them and when you have to act again to commit money to the pot, which builds the pot, and you can come back with a big raise when it’s your turn to act again.

Pocket aces in Texas Hold’em are profitable in the long run just about any way you play them.

You shouldn’t limp with them often, but the advice to never do it is wrong.

The closest this advice comes to being true is in low limit games filled with poor players. If your opponents aren’t paying attention to how you play you don’t gain value by trying to trick them. In this case it’s usually better to simply raise every time to maximize the pot size.

3. You Should Bluff More

I love to play poker, especially Texas Hold’em, against players who learn how to play by watching big poker tournaments on television. They think that the best players bluff all of the time and they should always move all in with ace king.

They learn this behavior because these are the types of hands that are exciting so when the television shows decide which hands to show they often include these ones. They don’t show most of the boring and straightforward hands that make up a high percentage of the total hands played.

Most losing players bluff too much, and the advice that you should bluff more is just going to make you lose more. The opposite is better advice.

Almost every poker player should bluff less. When you rarely bluff it means that you win most of the tie when you have to show down your hand at the end and it trains your opponents that you usually have a strong hand.

When you train your opponents this way when you do bluff they automatically think you have a strong hand. If their hand is weak in this situation it’s an easy decision to fold and let you steal the pot.

4. In Omaha 8 Low Only Hands are Big Winners

Many Omaha 8 players seem to be infatuated with low only starting hands. Some of them pay any hand with an ace and a two.

While it’s good to have a possible low hand, you need to remember that a low hand that doesn’t offer a high hand possibility can still only win half the pot. And when you have the best low hand you can still split the low half of the pot with another hand.

You also don’t win anything when you don’t improve and the pot ends up as a high only hand.

Instead of focusing on low only hands in Omaha 8 you should start looking at your starting hands for high only possibilities. Then consider if they have any hot at the low half of the pot when the pot is split.

With a high hand the chances of getting quartered are much lower and you have the best chance to scoop the pot on a high only board.

Some players think that a hand with ace two has a chance to scoop the pot because they complete a wheel. A wheel is an ace low straight, or ace to five.

While it’s true you have a chance to scoop when this happens, it’s a rare occurrence. Even if you hit a straight another player with an ace two will split with you and six and seven high straights can beat you for the high half of the pot.

You should value hands with an ace two, but you shouldn’t over value them.

With an unprotected ace two you can get counterfeited when an ace of two lands on the board.

5. If You’re Good at Hold’em You’ll be Good at 7-Card Stud

The best poker players are able to play well in just about any poker game. But just because you’re good at Texas Hold’em doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great 7-Card Stud player. The same is true for Omaha, Omaha 8, or any other form of poker.

It’s easy to learn the rules for different poker games, but each game requires different strategies if you want to be the best player possible. You need to spend time learning how to be a winning player and studying each type of game.

When you’re learning how to win the best thing you can do is focus all of your time and energy on one game. By specializing, you give yourself the best chance to do well.

If you want to be a 7-Card Stud player then only play it. Don’t jump from Stud to Hold’em to Omaha. When you do it can cost you money. Every mistake you make playing poker, no matter how small, costs you money in the long run.

6. You Can Play Great and Ignore Math

This advice usually comes from a player who doesn’t like math or is scared of it. They convince themselves that they can be a great player without thinking about or using math.

It’s possible to memorize everything you need to know about poker and play well enough to win without doing any mathematical calculations, but it’s hard. And even when you do this you’re still using the math that someone used to determine the best plays.

In the example in the first section you learned how math can tell you if a call is profitable or not. The example didn’t teach you how to use math to guess what play is best. It used math to determine an exact answer based on facts and odds.

The math involved with being a winning poker player can get confusing, but if you can learn how to play you’re capable of learning how to use the math you need.

Start with the simple things like figuring out how many outs you have to complete your hand. Then start tracking the ratio of the pot size to the bets that are being made. Then start to practice figuring out the pot odds in comparison to your outs.

Soon you’re going to see the same situations come up again and again. When this happens, you can remember how you were supposed to play the last time and skip the math because you’ve already done it.

Even if you struggle with math you can learn what you need to know to help you win more at the poker tables. Just take it slow and practice in your spare time.

7. Always Bet the Maximum Amount When You Have the Best Hand

On the surface this seems like good advice. When you have the best hand, you want to build the pot as high as possible. But the thing that this advice misses is that you have to have an opponent, or opponents, who are willing to put more money into the pot.

If you have the best hand and bet too much your opponents might fold instead of putting more money in the pot.

It’s not an exact science, but you need to learn how to make bets large enough to build the pot while keeping your opponents in the pot when you have the best hand. But you still want to maximize the pot size so you don’t want to bet too small either.

Here’s an example:

You’re playing in a no limit Texas Hold’em game and just hit a straight on the river. It’s the best possible hand based on the board so you know you’re going to win the hand. You have two remaining opponents in the hand and each of you has deep stacks.

From the way the hand has played out it doesn’t appear either of your remaining opponents have strong hands. From the board you know that the best possible second-best hand is a set, and two pair or top pair is more likely.

In this situation if you move all in both of your opponents are likely to fold. The only way one of them calls an all-in bet is if they have a set and they might still be able to get away from it. In addition, if one of them has a set and you make a reasonable bet they’ll probably raise, building the pot for you.

In this situation the best play is to make a raise that looks like it’s trying to steal the pot. It needs to be just big enough that it looks like a bluff but not too big to scare off both opponents.

When you’re the first to act and make a bet that looks like a bluff the first opponent may call with a weak hand and the other player may raise. This is the best possible outcome, and an opportunity you miss if you bet too much first.

8. Play Lots of Hands to See Which Ones Work Out

On most poker hands it’s relatively inexpensive to enter the pot in comparison to the total amount you can win in the hand. This makes it seem like good advice when you hear that you should play lots of hands.

But the problem with this advice is that all of the times you enter the pot with a weak hand add up to a large loss. Playing weak starting hands drains your bankroll and reduces the amount you can invest to win bigger pots when you have strong hands.

The opposite advice is more profitable in the long run. It’s better to play fewer hands, concentrating on the ones that give you the best chance to win.

Winning poker players usually play tight and aggressive. They pay fewer hands than most players and when they play they bet and raise more than most players.

9. It Doesn’t Hurt to Watch Sports on Television While I’m Playing Poker

Anything you do while playing poker that takes your attention away from the game is costly. If you want to be a winning player you need to pay attention to everything that happens in the game whether you’re involved in a hand or not.

It’s fine if you want to be a recreational poker player who just plays for fun. If this is the case, feel free to watch sports on television and talk while playing. But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can be the best possible poker player if this is the way you play.

You can choose to do everything possible to be a winning player or have fun. The two don’t often mix. Of course, it’s also fun to win, so once you master the game and become a consistent winner it can be fun. But skip the distractions if you want to have the best chance to win.

Conclusion

You can learn from the worst poker advice I’ve ever heard. As you read each section and learned why the advice is wrong you saw why you should ignore the stated advice.

Don’t ever blindly accept advice about poker. Any time someone tells you how to play, take the time to think about it and decide if it’s good advice or not.

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  1. SamY February 5, 2021 at 8:42 am

    Worst poker advice I’ve heard is from that overappreciated Kenny Rogers song: “You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.”

    In fact, you should always know how much you have in front of you. It determines how much you can bet, how likely it is that other players will call you, whether (in a tournament) you’ll be risking elimination . . . and lots more.

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