Avoid making zilch at the poker table



Over the years I’ve noticed an amazing transformation in all areas of our wonderful game of hold’em. I’m not talking about the television boom or the Internet boom. I’m referring to the number of good players that permeate the game with their ability to make money on a consistent basis.

There’s one area in the game where there hasn’t been much transformation for the average player: betting properly. You’d think with all of the written material available that betting mistakes would be rare. But seldom will you find a book of information written about betting. The fact is an entire hand would have to be explained from start to finish, helping players understand the most common mistakes, and how to avoid them. Here are several of the most common errors I see.

At a $5-$10 no-limit game the first to act limped for $10. The next three players folded. Then there was a call for $10 before a fold and a raise to $50 by the button. Total amount of the pot at this point is $85. Both blinds folded and the under-the gun player called the extra $40. The next to act, getting better than 2-1 odds, called to make the pot $165. With three players in, there’s a flop of {q-Hearts}{10-Hearts}H-{4-Diamonds}. First to act bet $50 making the pot $215. Next to act called $50 to play for a $215 pot, receiving better than 4-1 odds. The button (our preflop raiser) folded. Let’s examine the hand to this point. Preflop the first to enter the pot called the button raise to $50. Next player also called the button raise receiving better than 2-1 odds.

Obviously the first player liked his hand enough to call a raise out of position preflop. After the flop the same player bet $50, making the pot $265.

There are some hands we can assume this player holds: two pair (queens and 10s) and a set of fours make sense. I don’t think there would be a set of queens since there’s only a flat call preflop. It’s suspect this player would be on any type of draw (flush or straight) and betting out of position.

Next to act called $50 into a pot of $265, receiving better than 5-1 odds. This is where I knew there was a mistake in the $50 bet. When the $50 call was made I instantly put that player on a flush or straight draw; a proper call for the money while playing a drawing hand.

The turn card was the {3-Hearts}, making three hearts on board. The first to act compounds the betting error with a $100 bet, making the pot $365. The next to act called $100, making the pot $465. The river was the {9-Hearts}. Once again the first to act bet another $100, with total disregard for the potential straight. Of course the next player then puts in a nice value bet of $250, which is called and he receives a nice pot and payoff with his {a-Hearts}{j-Hearts} for the nut flush.

After the flop there was $165 in the pot. With two suited cards on board there are two plays I consider proper with top two pair: check (you’re out of position) or a $125-$165 bet, giving the flush draw incorrect odds to continue. Why would you want to give any player better than 5-1 odds to draw out on you?

The top-two-pair player, by betting incorrectly throughout the hand, ended up with zilch.

You should always factor the odds you want to give opposing players in all hands, but especially hands you play out of position. This has been Zilch 101.

— Antonio Pinzari is the former host of Poker Wars and has been playing poker professionally since the ’70s.

Ante Up Magazine

Ante Up Magazine