In poker, you only can control what you can control

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One of the most basic hold’em strategies often overlooked by players regardless of skill level is control.
Let’s take a closer look. All players control whether they enter a hand and the position they must play under during the hand. When out of position, you can’t control your betting pattern. Do you bet or check? You’re at the mercy of all players behind you. You have no control when out of position.

Once you’re committed to a hand, you can control the size of the pot. Playing for a big pot usually will indicate a strong holding, playing for small pots usually indicates a drawing hand or one pair. You have control as to which you want to play.

You may be able to control your tells, which are as much a part of hold’em as position, betting, bluffing and folding. Some players feel they can read players and often the better players can do so. What they seldom realize is they also give off tells and don’t know it. Only you can control your tells during a hand or session. Trying to play with this understanding of your tells will give you better control.

Controlling joy and anger during a session may be difficult for emotional players or a player who can’t win or lose with style or grace. I hate losing more than I love winning; by understanding this I’m able to control both. Class will always come to the forefront when winning or losing a hand.

Controlling the amount of talking you do during a hand or session is the ultimate of control. I love to play with talkers who give more information during and after a hand than they realize. I talk when appropriate (loose friendly tables) and shut up on tough tables. I try to determine what information I can receive by doing either. Talking is a double-edged sword, so control what you can. Good luck.

— Antonio Pinzari has been playing professionally since the ’70s. He’s the creator of 23 Poker and Wild Tallahassee Poker, which you can learn more about at WildTallahasseePoker.com.