One of the most difficult
things for the average poker player to do is to make accurate
decisions at the games in the heat of a hand. Many good and
bad players alike simply decide what they think their opponent
has and then go on to determine their best play on the assumption
that their opponent has the hand they're assuming he has.
However, as we saw in the page on reading hands, this
is a bad and potentially costly way of going about the business
of decision-making. There is a better way, which is employed
by most good players. They ask, "What are the various
hands my opponent could have, and what are the chances he
has each of them?" They determine the best play for
each of the possible hands, and they usually choose the
best play against their opponent's most likely hand or hands.
Sometimes it works
out that no matter what your opponent has, you wind up with
the same best play. This is especially true in the relatively
easy decisions - for example, deciding to fold when you
have nothing in seven-card stud, the pot is small, and your
opponent with an open pair of aces bets on the end.
If, on the other
hand, the pot were large - hence the reward would be large
- you might want to determine the chances of a bluff raise
working if your opponent has nothing but two aces. And,
of course, those chances depend upon the chances that your
opponent has in fact only aces.
a different play becomes correct depending upon what your
opponent has. For example, a bluff raise might have a reasonable
chance of working if your opponent has nothing but two aces.
It has less chance of working if that opponent has aces
up. It has little to no chance of working if he's made a
straight and no chance whatsoever against aces full. Therefore,
determining whether the risk of two bets (calling and raising)
is worth the possible reward of the pot depends:
the chances that your opponent has only two aces rather
than any of his other possible hands.
whether that opponent is the type of player who would
fold them if you raise.
Let's say you decide
there's only about a 25 percent chance that your opponent
has two aces and a 75 percent chance he has aces up or better.
Furthermore, if that player does have only aces, you think
there's only about a 50 percent chance he will fold if you
raise. Then the reward of the pot is probably not worth
the risk of two bets, and you should fold. In general, when
you have alternate plays dependent upon your opponent's
hand, you choose the best play against his most likely hand
Let's say you figure
an opponent to have Hand A 40 percent of the time, Hand
B 35 percent of the time, and Hand C 25 percent of the time.
Usually you would pick the best play against Hand A, which
is your opponent's most likely hand. However, if Hand A
requires one play, while both Hand B and Hand C require
quite another play, you would ordinarily make the second
play since it would be right 60 percent of the time - 35
percent of the time when your opponent has Hand B and 25
percent of the time when he has Hand C.
When analyzing a
poker situation, you go through four steps in deciding on
your best play.
the possible hands your opponent may have.
||Assess the chances
of his having each of his possible hands.
best play against each of his possible hands.
||In most cases,
pick the play that will most often be correct.