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Poker in a Nutshell

“Alex, how do you play poker?”

My friend asked me this with a smile while we were on a business call.

On my podcast, we have an old joke. Whenever someone asks a question that is extremely broad, we call it a “how do you play poker?” question. It’s a fun way of saying, “how much time do you have? This might take a while.” However, this time, my friend was serious:

Choosing the correct hands to 3-bet as a bluff to balance your value range can be a difficult task. Many professionals of all levels fail to study enough to know the correct hands to bluff with in certain situations. Mistakes that are made in 3-bet pots are magnified due to the size of the pot being larger. Constructing a proper 3-betting range is the first step in minimizing those mistakes.

The smart man accepts. The idiots insists.” - Unknown

One of the most baffling parts of my job is seeing people repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this one:

“Oh, I was doing great in the tournament, then I tried to run a bluff on a guy and he called me down with one pair.” “Do they ever fold one pair?” “No,” the player says, laughing, “people don’t fold pairs anymore live.”

I sit there in silence. “Then why would you give your tournament away like that?”


One of the most common mistakes many amateur poker players make is that they only bet when they have a strong hand. They assume that the way to win at poker is to wait for a premium hand and then pile their money into the pot, hoping some oblivious chap pays them off. In reality, if you only put significant money in the pot with your premium hands, if your opponents are anywhere near competent, they will essentially never pay you off.

One of the most common mistakes many recreational poker players make is they limp (just call the big blind) far too often. They limp because they want to see the flop before deciding whether or not they have a hand that is worth investing significant money. In reality though, the vast majority of hold’em hands will rarely flop a strong enough holding to justify risking additional money.

I’ve been doing a series of articles on PLO, looking at some of the basics for new players. PLO is a big jump from No-Limit Hold’em, but if your Hold’em skills are solid, it’s an amazing experience that will benefit you as an all-around poker player. And best of all, it will even take your No-Limit Hold’em game to the next level, because you’ll be forced to think so deeply about concepts like outs and blockers, they will almost seem trivial when you return to Hold’em.

In my last article we talked about crucial PLO concepts such as position, blockers, and pot control. Today, I’m going to be talking about playing pocket aces, a (seemingly) trivial topic in Hold’em. Just get your money in, right? In PLO, it’s not so simple…


I recently asked for topics to write about on Twitter and had a couple questions regarding donk betting. Followers were interested in hearing when the correct time to donk bet is and what strategies should be used when implementing a donk betting strategy. Today we will cover what a donk bet is, equity and betting, donk betting later streets, and exploits.

By definition, a donk bet is leading into the aggressor in the hand from out of position. This goes for any street. So, on the flop, it is leading into the pre-flop raiser. On the turn, it is leading into the player who continuation bet on the flop. The donk bet sometimes gets confused with the probe bet. The probe bet is leading the action after a check-check situation. For example, the pre-flop aggressor chooses to check behind and now the BB bets from OOP on the turn. These bets are quite different because the ranges in play are different.

Do Not Call Too Often at the Poker Table

One of the most common mistakes many recreational poker players make is that they call too often with hands that have little to no chance of winning by the river. To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at a hand that a recreational player recently told me about from a $1/$2 cash game.

They Want to Feel Good

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” – Henry Ford

Most poker players do not want to make money at the poker table. They want to feel better about themselves. They might think they want to make money, but the way they play doesn’t reflect that. There is no data to support that. Poker, by its very nature, is a game that rewards contrarians.

Remembering versus Knowing

“But this teacher says I should do this play in that situation.” “Why did he say that?” I ask. (Sound of crickets)

The above exchange is worrying to me. When I am talking to aspiring poker players, I am struck with an impression:

They want firm answers. They want a poker trainer who they can trust 100%. They want to take his words as gospel. Then, if his strategies do not work, they want to assail him for their lack of success.

Blaming any poker coach for your own failings is misguided, unless you can prove the error of his ways. Remember, no poker coach can control conception to execution. You’re the one who has to go onto the field and play ball. You cannot execute correctly if you’re relying on simple maxims. There are no panaceas in poker.

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