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Examples of The Fundamental Theorem of Online Poker Games

Example 1

Suppose your hand is not as good as your opponent's when you bet. Your opponent calls your bet, and you lose. But in fact you have not lost; you have gained! Why? Because obviously your opponent's correct play, if he knew what you had, would be to raise. Therefore, you have gained when he doesn't raise, and if he folds, you have gained a tremendous amount.
This example may also seem too obvious for serious discussion, but it is a general statement of some fairly sophisticated plays. Let's say in no-limit hold 'em you hold the and your opponent holds an offsuit
You check, your opponent bets, and you call. Now the ace of diamonds comes on fourth street, and you bet, trying to represent aces. If your opponent knew what you had, his correct play would be to raise you so much it would cost too much to draw to a flush or a straight on the last card, and you would have to fold. Therefore, if your opponent only calls, you have gained. You have gained not just because you are getting a relatively cheap final card but because your opponent did not make the correct play. Obviously if your opponent folds, you have gained tremendously since he has thrown away the best hand.

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When to Try a Steal

Why is this art/science (and there are indeed elements of both, as you'll soon see) so important? Although there are certainly many things poker players can do to improve their chances of winning and losing outside of bluffing/stealing (for example, extracting extra bets from your opponents by trapping them with a check-raise, slow-playing a hand, setting up false tells, finding other players' tells), stealing is numero uno. When you get to the bottom line, you find that the only consistent way to get to final tables and win poker tournaments is by winning a fairly high number of pots to which your cards don't entitle you!

If you think about it, you'll soon see that this has to be true. If the player with the best hand always won the pot, the player who caught the best cards on tournament day would win the event. Poker would be a game of pure chance, no more difficult than betting on a coin flip.

The beauty-and danger-of poker lies in just how much skill is involved. There's far more skill involved than most players, even most very good players, realize.