These days, it seems like you
can't walk through a bookstore
without tripping over a poker
strategy book. How do you
play A-K in early position
short-handed? Should you
raise with suited connectors on
the button after the big stack
smooth calls? When is it right
to slow play pocket aces?
Full Tilt Poker Tips from the Pros, Erik seidel
Full Tilt Poker Tips from the Pros, Erik seidel
Full Tilt Poker Tips from the Pros, Erik seidel
Erik Seidel
Lesson: 49
Book Smarts vs. Table Smarts
February 20, 2006


These days, it seems like you can't walk through a bookstore without tripping
over a poker strategy book. How do you play A-K in early position
short-handed? Should you raise with suited connectors on the button after
the big stack smooth calls? When is it right to slow play pocket aces?

There are now dozens of books written by expert poker players that will
answer all of those questions. I've seen entire chapters devoted to playing
certain hands in particular circumstances. And while it's useful to understand
why these authors make the suggestions they do, it's more important to
realize that all of these questions have the same answer:

It depends.

Poker is a game of infinite complexity. Players like Chris Ferguson can
calculate the odds of almost any situation, but there are no hard, fast rules
for how to play a specific hand. The math matters, but if you want to take
your game to the next level, you need to start working on three things:
Creativity, imagination, and flexibility.

There are many successful styles that work in poker. From the seemingly
reckless manner of Gus Hanson (there is a method to his apparent madness),
to the tightly disciplined systems of David Skalansky, your goal should be to
experiment with different ways of playing. Once you've started doing that,
you need to figure out which style will work best for you and the situation at
hand.

If the game is too loose, it's often right to play fewer cards. If the table is a
rock garden, you can sometimes get away with bluffing more. The key is not
to be stuck to some plan that is "always right," but to redefine yourself in
each given situation.

Learning how to adjust your play takes practice. Shorthanded play is a great
opportunity to test your creativity because you have more decisions to make.
You can also invest time playing single table sit & gos, where the increasing
blinds force you to play more hands against your opponents.

Imagination is at the heart of the game. Just as there is no right way to write
a song or paint a picture, there is no right way to play poker. The best
players are experimenting and adjusting all the time. The beauty of the game
lies in this ever-shifting landscape, and it keeps us interested each time we
sit down.

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