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Table Positioning


Like any other gambling games, poker is a game of risks versus rewards. Any decision you make at the poker table can be thought of as a comparison of the risk involved in a particular play and the possible reward for the play. There are three questions involved in arriving at a decision: How great is the risk? How great is the reward? Is the reward great enough to justify the risk?

When deciding whether to bluff, your risk is a bet. Your reward is the pot (as well as advertising value if you show the bluff). When deciding whether to bet a mediocre hand before all the cards are out, you risk a bet. If successful, your reward (when your opponent doesn't simply fold) is that you didn't give a lesser hand a free card to outdraw you. When you check a big hand, you risk losing a bet on that round as well as losing the pot to a hand that would have folded if you bet. Your reward is a check-raise or future bets on later rounds. When deciding whether to call, your risk is a bet, and your reward is the pot. Any poker decision can be put into these terms. What do you have to gain (including future benefits on subsequent hands) by making a particular play? What do you have to lose? The ability to evaluate properly the risk-reward ratio for any poker decision is the ultimate test on the road to becoming a champion poker player.

The trouble is that unlike chess and many other games, poker is a game of speed. Every once in a while you are allowed to think about a hand, but in general you have to make decisions in a few seconds. You can't sit there for two minutes calculating odds, trying to read your opponents' hands, trying to figure out what they are thinking, and then deciding upon your best play. For one thing the other players at the table wouldn't tolerate your dawdling. For another, you would be giving away information about your hand, since any time you paused unduly long to reflect, your opponents would know you had some kind of problem. (Consequently, when you find, despite your best efforts, you have to pause often when you're playing, you should also pause when you have no reason, to throw your opponents off.)

Poker tends to be a game for quick-thinking people. Some geniuses are plodding thinkers, unable to come to quick decisions, and they can never become great poker players. On the other hand, some of the best poker players in the world are not super minds, but they are super-quick minds and can remember any mistake they and their opponents make. Some combination of quick thinking and instant recall has to be developed if you want to become a poker champion.

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