I’ve been playing quite a few low- and mid-level buy-in tournaments and cash games recently and am still a bit shocked at the high number of players who still just limp into pots regularly. I know I played just like that when I started in poker, but I quickly realized how awful and unprofitable it was to simply just rely on my cards and the board while hoping for the best.
Did you know 76 percent of no-limit hold’em hands don’t go to showdown? That means only 24 percent of the time the cards in your hand are relevant!
Just knowing this fact should really drive the point home on how much more position and aggression play into the game than your cards.
The most important thing to know to take advantage of this? Play fewer hands out of position and focus on playing more in position. I know I’ve written a lot about this (as has anyone else who writes about poker strategy), but you must be playing in position to exploit these players. When playing out of position, your cards and how they fit with the board are much more relevant because you don’t have the advantage of knowing what your opponent is going to do and you can’t properly control the size of the pot.
Also, you need to increase your raise frequency when weak players on your right are limping into pots in middle and late position. They almost always have a hand that they’re just hoping to see a flop with and will usually call a raise out of position and then check-fold the flop, or give up on the turn if they don’t have a really strong hand. Since you’re in position on them postflop, you’ll be able to gauge their hand strength with all the information you gain by their reactions to your betting, the board texture and their comfort level.
This also creates a looser image than you have. But have the discipline to back off when opponents give you a lot of resistance. Only play big pots when you have the goods. This way you’ll be active in more of the smaller pots while still playing a relatively tight game.
Start taking control of the pots other players are just hoping and wishing to win. Use aggression and position to help pick up these smaller pots and catch opponents by surprise when you crush a flop with a couple of random cards they are not expecting.
Implement these techniques slowly at first, just like anything new you’re working into your game and I bet you’ll be stacking chips much earlier in tournaments and not complaining so often about being card dead. Decide to Win!
— Lee Childs is a professional poker player and coach. He’s the founder and lead instructor of Acumen Poker and Inside The Minds. Check out his sites at acumenpoker.net and facebook.com/insidetheminds.