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PLAYING TIGHT POKER
One of the most common mistakes among those who are new to poker is playing way too many hands and seeing too many flops with weak or marginal hands. Newcomers expect a lot of excitement and action in a game of poker.
They see bluffing as one of the essential elements in the game, and they want to use it early on. However, becoming a winning player requires one crucial quality: being disciplined. It is true that a loose game may have its justifications and brings advantages in certain situations, but until you come across those cases, you should focus on being disciplined and learning to play tight. The reason why this is the choice style of many experts is its efficiency. Even those professional poker players who seem to be playing loose in many occasions have first mastered the tight play, and they consciously select the situations when they can play a larger selection of hands profitably.
Tight play refers to the number of flops you see in a game: the fewer of them you see, the tighter you play. This concept also refers to the kind of hands you play and it means that you will only keep those that have the highest value. If you are not sure which hands you should play, then the best solution is to look at a starting hand chart before you sit down at a table. In case you play online poker, then you can have the chart in front of you at all times and this will help you avoid bad decisions.
There are many arguments in favor of a tight approach to the game. The most obvious one is that folding those marginal hands will save you money in the long run. Uninformed casino players tend to remember the times they got lucky and won with a bad hand, so they will play it over and over again. Instead of relying on such ideas, which will cost you money in the long run, you should learn the odds and play according to them. Money that you don't lose is just as good as the money you win, so try to focus on this and congratulate yourself for every folded hand that may have caused you to lose.
Another reason for a good pre-flop hand selection and a tight play in general is the fact that it will make decisions easier later on in the game. They lessen your chances of being outdrawn on later streets and allow you to be confident when you go to the showdown. Obviously, there will be cases when you lose holding even a pair of aces, but most of the time choosing only the best hands will pay off.
You pre-flop hand selection should include top pairs and hands like A-K, A-Q, K-Q, A-Q. You may think that these don't come around very often, and you will be sitting at the table doing nothing most of the time. Indeed, if you follow a strict hand selection, you will be folding most of the time, but this is a good thing. Experts say you should only go to the flop with about 20% of the hands dealt to you. The time in between should be spent studying your opponents and trying to figure out how they play and what kind of style they have. This is a very important part of the game, and learning to interpret your opponents behavior, understanding their betting patterns and the way they play certain hands will bring you a lot of benefits later on. You may not get as much action when you play tight, but when you do have a monster, you will be able to make the best out of it.
Of course there may be instances when you fold a hand only to see that it would have won the pot if you had kept it. You should never beat yourself up about these things, or alter your strategy on account of them. Poker is a game where you never have complete information, hence the need to rely on odds and probabilities. You made the right decision in the first place, and that's all you should care about.
Playing tight is just one aspect of the game and it will not guarantee success. In order to achieve this, you should couple tightness with an aggressive approach. There are players who will enter a pot with a small number of hands, but when they do it, they simply call or bet. They are usually referred to as tight-passive players, or rocks. This cautious approach has many downsides, the most important one being that it allows other people to see the flop cheaply and improve their hand later on in the game. There are two ways in which you can win in poker: you either have the best hand at showdown, or all the other players fold to you. By being passive you eliminate the latter opportunity and this will make your play unprofitable. This is why you need to be tight and aggressive.
It may seem like it is fairly easy to follow these principles and be a tight player, but the fact of the matter is that poker can be a highly emotional game where even the experienced find themselves in situations that make them lose their heads and go on a tilt. This happens to the most level-headed players from time to time and can lead to disastrous results. Acquiring the discipline to think through every decision early on and to fold when the odds dictate it is one of the things that sets apart the good players from the rest. Being tight is not a one-time decision. It is an attitude that you need to keep up throughout the game and with every hand that is dealt to you. If you want to achieve this, you will also need to think about the way you played after the game is over. An honest analysis and evaluation of you performance will help you improve and recognize the times when you made mistakes. See whether you have followed your strategy all the way, and if you didn't, try to understand what made you alter it. The next time you find yourself facing the same problem, it will be easier to deal with it if you have given it some thought.
Learning how to play tight is not the final stage of becoming a winning player. In order to succeed, you will need to bring variety into your game, to avoid others figuring you out and folding to you every time you get a decent hand. There will also be situations where a looser attitude is more advantageous, or you will have to use techniques such as bluffing or slow-playing a hand to deceive your opponents. But a tight play provides a good starting point and foundation for a beginner, that will allow him to master the more advanced techniques later on.
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