One thing that separates top players is the ability to quickly calculate the odds of winning a hand, and to construct a reasonable idea of what sort of bet that hand is worth. You also must be able to master this skill if you wish to be a successful player in the long-term.
For example, a lot of players, facing a big re-raise will simply fold their hand unless they are holding a large pocket pair or Big Slick (which is awesome poker slang for Ace King). Not so fast! Here’s a simple fact that you may not know: A folded hand has NEVER won a pot. It’s true! Think about it! There have probably been thousands of hands folded in the history of poker (some of them have probably even been yours), and not one of them has ever scooped a single chip. Every time you fold, you’re just bleeding equity all over the place, and I just had the carpets cleaned. So knock it off.
The bottom line is, don’t be so quick to just throw that hand away. First, it’s important to count your outs and weigh the true strength of your hand.
Situation: A large field MTT online, a few minutes before the first break. You have been playing totally awesome and have nearly 10,000 chips. Player F is a total donkey and has barely played more than five hands. The lucksack caught a set one time and won a lot of chips.
Your hand: [9d3s]
Action to you: Player A folds.
Question: Do you raise a lot or just a little?
Answer: You have a pretty good hand, especially if the flop is like A33 or something, so you definitely want to play. That said, I don’t think you want to go all-in yet. Just make it about 500 to go.
Action: You make it 500. Players C, D, and E fold. Player F raises to 1200. The pot is now 1850. What do you do?
Answer: At this point, you have to use your powers of observation. First of all, Player F is a total rock, so he’s probably got Queens or better, or at least Ace King. An inexperienced player might be tempted to fold here.
Stop. Breathe. Count your outs.
You have a diamond and a spade, so those suits help bring you flushes. So count twelve diamonds and twelve spades for 24 outs.
Threes and nines help you, obviously. There are three of each, so that’s six more outs.
Aces, deuces, fours through eights, and tens through Kings all help make you a straight. There are four of each of these, so that’s 44 more outs. You have to count those spades and diamonds again, because of the potential for a straight flush.
So you have 74 outs. Now remember there are five cards on the flop, so you have to multiply by 5, and you see that you have 370% equity in this hand. Since you are only being asked to call 700 more into a pot of 1,800, you are getting 700:1800 on your money. Therefore you clearly have the pot odds you need to play this hand. Also, were you observant enough to see that your opponent caught a monster set the last hand he played? He’s not getting lucky again. Also, even if he happens to luck out on you, you still have almost 2,000 chips left. Just push all in.
Action: You push all-in, and Player F calls. He shows Aces, and you make a pair of threes on the flop and two pair on the river. Player F [Observer] berates you; he clearly doesn’t understand the finer points of pre-flop play. Also, it’s just $10. The dude really should relax. Seriously.
You can see in this example that folding would have been a costly move. It’s not just the chips you’d have lost from your initial bet. It’s the chips you wouldn’t have won.
[Excerpted from Stupid/System: Poker Strategy For Huge Donkeys, (c) Julius_Goat 2008, All Rights Reserved. Cover design by Mookie "Big O" Pokeroum.]