Poker Lesson 08

Most hands do NOT go all the way to the showdown!
What follows here is a really, really important lesson: Keep in mind that you are NEVER forced to enter the pot!

The difference between poker and many other cardgames, for example gin rummy or ordinary rubber bridge, is that in the latter you have to play the hand you are dealt, no matter how bad your cards are. In poker, however, you can always shrug and fold your hand, whenever you decide to. Nobody forces you to play on, in a situation where you judge your chances of winning the pot to be slim or none. Besides, in a minute you will be dealt another starting hand, which hopefully will prove to be better than the previous one.

Fact is, right from the start when you are dealt your first two cards in hold'em, you should as a rule exercise good judgement and fold over half of them. This has nothing to do with cowardice; instead it is simply smart money management to wait until you have been dealt two good cards – not just one – before going to war on the green felt.

The same principle applies to the following betting rounds. If you pre-flop correctly entered the pot with a good starting hand, but got no help from the flop, you should NEVER feel forced to play on if the betting indicates that the other players now have better hands. "Never throw good money after bad" is a tried-and-true principle in the business world – and it applies equally well to poker.

Another truth in poker is that among professional players, in large and important tournaments, over half of the pots are won pre-flop when someone makes a bet large enough to cause the others to fold. And only about one fifth of the pots go all the way to the fourth and last betting round, and the showdown.

When you do get involved in a pot, with a good starting hand, you should therefore usually raise or bet early: before the flop, or immediately after. And if you run into a re-raise, use your judgement as to whether to continue to play your hand.