The necessity of playing tight, e.g. to enter a hand only with a good starting hand is an essential part of a good poker player’s strategy. Tables and lists of starting hands are a great help, and as a beginner you should stick to the recommendations that those lists give. On the other hand, when you play poker, no two hands are the same. Sometimes, you find yourself at an extremely loose ring games table, or you are sitting at a final table of a tournament and there are only two players left. Each situation requires a different play, and as an advanced poker player you must learn to judge each situation independently and adapt your play accordingly.
To make this clearer, look at these two examples.1. Example:
A limit poker cash game, $0,50/1,00, a table of ten players.
You have the button with 98 offsuit, and 5 players have already called. 98o is not a good starting hand normally, but this not a normal situation. The pot already has a size of $6,50 already, so you are getting pot odds of 6,5 to 1. That justifies making a relatively loose call here. Even if the SB or BB raises behind you, the situation will most likely not change, because all thos limpers will still call that raise and the pot odds will still be high. Add to that the fact that you have the best position to play from later, and you have a call.
The decisive factor in all that though is that you have a hand which will give you a very easy decision after the flop. You will find yourself in one of these situations:
- The flop has missed you totally, or you have a gutshot or low or middle pair – you have a clear fold now because there is little chance of winning this hand against so many opponents.
- You flop an open ended straight draw – now you should have good pot odds all the way to the river, along with a hand that can beat multiple opponents if you hit on the turn or river (you do need to watch out for flushes and full houses though, as normal).
- You flop a split two pair, trips or even a full house – no doubt about it that you have a very playable hand.
What makes 98o (or even more so, a hand like 56s) playable in this situation is the fact that it has the potential to beat multiple opponents for a big pot if it hits, and that you will have a clear fold if you do not hit the flop.
Compare that to a hand like A6o against the same seven opponents: now you have a major problem even if you get a flop like AJT. You do have top pair now, but with 7 players seeing the flop, there is an excellent chance that someone with another ace has you outkicked. That means that unless you hit two pair or the flop comes something like K66, you will lose money with that hand. A6o is a good hand short-handed or heads-up, but a clear fold against multiple players.2. Example:
Final phase of a poker tournament, only two opponents left, everybody has app. 5000 chips, the blinds are 500/1000.
In a situation like this, all hands with high cards go up in value. A hand like A3o is a clear Raise now, since against only two players you will have a winning chance of 50% or higher almost all the time. The chance of winning a pot unimproved with ace high against one caller is rather high as well.
And then there are two other aspects now: initiative and aggression. If you have a chance to act first and act aggressively, you have a good chance to steal the blinds, which is very important in this phase because the blinds are relatively high vs. the chip stacks. A player that waits for real good starting hands now will be blinded out.
So, the conclusion
must be that every poker hand must be seen in context, and when you decide, think about what the hand is likely to look like after the flop and whether it will give you an easy or difficult