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This is one area of poker where I find even the leading authors seem to disagree.

In the Course by Ed Miller, he seems to say that you shouldn't worry about draws getting there since your overall EV is still positive if you have more showdown equity:

When you flop a good hand, you don't want your opponents to fold so you can win the pot. You want to get the hand to showdown. And along the way, you want your opponents to pay you. ... What if you get drawn out on? Don't sweat it. It happens. That's part of the game.

He gives an example where a player has a strong hand but overbets a wet flop to get opponents to fold so that they don't draw out and says this is bad play.

But now I'm reading Applications of No-Limit Hold 'Em by Matthew Janda and he says the complete opposite:

We do not want to delay our raises with strong hands which can be outdrawn by our opponents bluffs when many turn cards will give him the best hand, and some which don't may still cause us to lose action.

He gives an example where he calls an open from middle position on the button with JcTc and flops two pair. The board is JhTh5c. He recommends raising to prevent the opponent drawing out.

We must keep in mind not only whether or not our opponent can outdraw us on the following street (the turn), but also if he can runner-runner the best hand.

I'm trying to develop an effective play style for live poker and I'm not really sure who to trust.

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The problem I see with Matt and Ed's examples are they are at polar opposites and more importantly they are at extremes. (They are really good examples to frame your question.)

In my experience whenever I am going to an extreme it is typically a symptom that my games is off. I think either of these two extremes are inherently incorrect. One might call it style of play, however, what makes these "styles" incorrect is that running everyone off a hand is sometimes right and keeping them paying and in is also sometimes right. And it is not finding a middle ground between the two that is going to be right all the time, picking up a style of play in the middle is as useless as the extremes.

Another bad thing about developing a style of play where one is tending strongly toward one extreme or the other, one philosophy or the other, is that one's play becomes a lot more predictable. Playing back in the 80's and 90's when there were only a few good poker books out there, mainly "Poker for Advanced Player" (2+2 publishing) you knew the players that where playing by the book. Reading the book back than would give you as much information about some of your opponents as it did about the game.

A much more dynamic and granule approach is going to be more optimal then either extreme or general style. Optimally the plan is to get a player whom is behind to pay as much as possible to catch up or hopefully not. Only two mistakes you can make are not charging all someone will pay, or killing the deal with bad terms by over betting. Neither style is correct all of the time to achieve this.

So really the only suggestion or answer I can give you is learn them both, and play accordingly. This way you don't need to trust anybody.

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  • It makes sense to charge as much as they're willing to pay. But then wouldn't raising the flop as Janda suggests be an inferior play since you likely won't get three streets of value that way? As opposed to just betting/calling half pot each time. I'm basically trying to evaluate whether the rest of this book is worth reading. He seems well regarded in the reddit community but I can't find much about his performance as a poker player.
    – Maros
    Jun 29 at 17:35
  • I have not read either book you mentioned. With perhaps the exception of basic beginner books, all poker books should be read with a critical eye. especially those published during the poker boom, a lot of garbage (and gems) were pushed out. I met Lou Krieger at 2002 WSOP (Poker for dummies) and he said to me, poker books are just jumping off the shelves.
    – Jon
    Jun 30 at 21:43
  • Pre flop raising is a big subject. I am going quote your comment in a second answer and see what I can do.
    – Jon
    Jun 30 at 21:49
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Maros and I started getting into a comments conversation, and he said

It makes sense to charge as much as they're willing to pay. But then wouldn't raising the flop as Janda suggests be an inferior play since you likely won't get three streets of value that way? As opposed to just betting/calling half pot each time. I'm basically trying to evaluate whether the rest of this book is worth reading. He seems well regarded in the reddit community but I can't find much about his performance as a poker player. – Maros

Let me disect a hand I played about 15 years ago at a Venetian daily tournament. I was in the big blind and was dealt pocket Aces. Everyone called and nobody raised. I the brain farting genius I was that evening, checked. My poker playing buddy when I told him about my play laughed and laughed and laughed at me. (I finished 6th, AKA on the day as bubble boy a few hours later.)

So what was he laughing at, or what did I do wrong? And in our context "wouldn't raising the flop as Janda suggests be an inferior play since you likely won't get three streets of value that way?" * I do not recall if it was 9 or 10 handed, or if we had antes at this time, to keep it simple we will say 9 handed no antes.

So I came to the conclusion that raising was the inferior play. *Tommy Vu won the pot with 7-4, he was on the button and made a straight to win. I think anyone intuitively knows that my play here was a mistake, and if I told this as a bad beat story I would sound like a dumbass.

Any raise here on my part from all-in to doubling the blind would of had better EV then checking.

All in push, even if no one calls I would of made eight big blinds, with no flop, no beat. This is good in a cash game, even better in a tournament.

Small raise, IE a blind size raise. I would of doubled the EV of the hand. Aces against eight other random hands has an expectation to take a pot a showdown of about 1/3. I could if no one folds, double this EV of the hand with the small raise.

Reality is that neither push or small raise would be optimal. Something north of the middle, a large raise of at least pot size, maybe even larger like 15 big blinds or so would be much better. It has the advantages of leaving lots of dead money in the pot and of thinning the field to keep things more manageable. In a tournament one would want to make the raise larger, to thin the field more to lesson the chance of the hand loosing. With nine people seeing a flop at a table there is no such thing as a dry flop, almost every flop is soaking wet for somebody. There is no bluffing, there is no value betting the pocket aces. There is no way to get the tells you need and processing the data with any accuracy when you have eight opponents in the hand with you at the flop.

With these Aces raising is always better, and not raising should go into to your memory, as it is in mine, as the worst/dumbest mistake I ever made.

This is not to say that raising is always the best thing to do with every hand. However depending on the texture of the game not raising many of the hands you play can lead to far from optimal return.

To just add a little more extreme example, it is fair and accurate to say that preflop one should never ever call with 9-2. However this does not mean that once in awhile that raising with 9-2 is not the best play over folding.

So I think we are getting back to dynamics. Saying one should never raise is just as incorrect as saying you should always raise. Both raising and calling with strong hands fit the bill at sometime or the other, even with weak hands this is true. Tommy's 7-4, a great and proper call is an example of getting in weak with fair odds and implied odds.

Three streets of value? That is an interesting concept and to be honest I have never heard the phrase before. I am a little unclear what three streets are meant I am thinking flop turn river. But anyway, I think most experienced players are always thinking about where in the hand they can get good value. In super system Doyle talks about it all happening on the flop. Meaning that's where the draws are defined, some players have to give up, all players make their biggest decisions about a hands viability to continue or not on the flop.

I seem to get a sense here that trying to always get three streets of value might not always be optimal in all situations. Just like raising folding or calling in any particular situation, it is always dynamic and there is no winning formula based on doing the same thing always with any particular two cards in your hand.

Read the books, many are worth the read. You will pick up tips and tricks that help your bottom line. Keep in mind that the nature of poker is that there are an infinite number of hands and players. You will never see the exact same situation a second time. This makes procedural play really impossible. Thinking I could never raise this hand, or fold that hand, just leads to stubborn loosing play. (Watch the looks on players faces when somebody correctly folds pocket kings preflop). Grinders play more procedural poker then dynamic poker. As time goes on they become set in their ways and in the ways they play. They think they have figured something out. But it is impossible to figure out infinity, the best you can hope for is to see something familiar. I know I have been guilty of this. You start playing with head phones on and reading at the table, because you think you got the game down. These guys are playing way off optimal play. When the boom busted, the pond of fish dried up, this are the ones that went broke in order.

I was a damn good player in the nineties. I filed tax returns as "professional gambler". I knew I was good, I was young I was arrogant (OK old and arrogant now). Then I went broke. I found myself in deep depression, weeping spontaneously and uncontrollably for a month while I lined up my old job at the Mirage as a poker dealer. It took more then a decade to recover and start moving forward again. I never thought I was on tilt, I was never playing badly, I just thought I ran bad. But really, what it was is I thought I was so good (and I swear I was) I thought I had it figured out. I got bored, I wore big head phones and listened to music. I even read at the table. I became a f'ing grinder with no clue why I was starting to go downhill. That is really all I was doing wrong, believing I had figured something out. My tells were great, I could read the players but increasingly I could not believe what I was seeing. I lost my ability to play the dynamics, and just started grinding.

To be honest with you, lets say brutally honest with you your original question is almost kind of a stupid question from my perspective. Because either logical answer, one being Ed's answer the other being Janda's answer, will leave you busted. The poker books are great, but you can no more learn to win at poker then you could win at billiards from reading a book. It is all about understanding yourself, all about playing and gaining experience. Ones got to understand there are no formulas, it is simply about riding the dynamics of the game. In other words read the books and figure out what works best and than, apply, modify, repeat, win. The real battle is not figuring out the game, it is figuring out yourself.

  • Tommy Vu a poker player who sometime in the eighties was arrested and did some serious time for fraud in relation to his info commercials typically filmed in front of a mansion, with a Rolls Royce and hot chicks in bikinis around that ran in the 80's. After he got out he moved to Las Vegas and played poker at medium limits. I think he has since passed.

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