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i'm kinda new to poker and i have problem with making too fast decisions. Do you guys have any standard "in-hand thinking procedures"?

For example, when you're in hand, do you always think in the same steps like what's his stack, what's the pot size, what's his range, how much should i bet, and so on

I hope you understand my question, thanks in advance.

  • Since I think this is a very important topic and since I don't remember seeing it touched upon here, I'm really excited to see what answers you'll get :) – Radu Murzea Sep 16 '14 at 6:48
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    I just wanted to clarify if you are talking about live poker or online? – Daniel Sep 17 '14 at 10:59
  • Far too broad IMHO... – Robbie Dee Sep 25 '14 at 12:00
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    @RobbieDee Care to elaborate in a Poker-Meta discussion?! Could be useful. :) – Toby Booth Sep 25 '14 at 21:48
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Probably but these "thinking procedures" only apply when given a hand to analyse. When you're sitting at a table, you're aware of everyone's stack sizes, positions, previous actions, table image, etc. all the time so the only things that you really look at in each hand are the pot size and the two cards you put players on.

Then, depending on who's in the pot and how many players are in the pot, I think of what I want to do with that hand. Am I interested in this pot or not? If yes, then how do I want to take it down? How can I take it down?

When the flop comes down I can refine my strategy, maybe bet for value or bet to protect my hand by pricing out whoever is in the hand with a worse hand but chasing for a better one. Or maybe I can trap the other players and take down a huge pot?

A lot depends on the other players too. Do I recognize any betting patterns? What does my table image look like to them? Is bluffing an option?

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  • Thanks man that was really useful. By betting to protect u mean that u put a bet big enough so your opponent doesn't have the right pot odds/equity ratio? Do you still calculate those numbers or you already get sort of feeling for it? – Blaz Begovic Sep 16 '14 at 12:18
  • That's right, make your bet big so drawing gets harder. No, I don't calculate pot odds but I've memorised some rules that I use. If they're drawing for a flush or a straight, I want my bet to be bigger than the pot. If it makes me pot-committed, going all-in is an option... and you can't bet any harder than that. – Miro Lehtonen Sep 17 '14 at 12:32
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I think about my opponents range, my percieved range, previous action in this hand(Is the pot raised/limped preflop? What are their ranges for raise/limp preflop?), pot/stack ration, stack sizes, plan for future streets, timing. In tourneys/SNG you also need to think about other concepts: ICM, phase of tourney(early, bubble, in the money), NASH

Would like to write more deeply about the things above, but that would require book format, not just simple answer.

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First off, I think this is a GREAT question! I'm not sure if I have a procedure that I follow, but I definitely have reminders for myself. Little things that I tell myself to re-enforce concepts that I want to exercise. Some of mine include:

  1. "You're in early position, play tight, tight, tight!"
  2. "You're on the button, let's see if we can steal something here"
  3. "That player has played the last 10 hands. If he raises, I'm re-raising"

So I really just try to constantly remind myself of where I'm at and observations I've made. If I can do that successfully on a continual basis then I have a pretty good shot playing the hand well.

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There's a bunch of hard-skills (you mentioned some) which you will gain naturally as you play more poker. Specific plays, situations that always play out in certain ways, etc. But there are also a lot of soft skills which it's harder to figure out. (Note, I assume No-limit Texas Holdem below in concrete examples, but this applies to all versions of poker).

Never make an action (other than folding preflop) without thinking for some minimum number of seconds. Pick a number that's comfortable for you. Not only does this help prevent bad snap-decisions (when you're starting, things like "oops, there was 4 to a flush on that board!"), but it helps balance the times where you actually have to think, giving your opponent less information.

Think about how a decision will look if you described it honestly to a friend in an hour. Can you back up your play, even if it fails? For example: you're considering making a big bluff because you think he's weak. Why do you think he's weak? If it's a hunch, really try to work out what is driving the hunch. If you make the bluff and he has a big hand, there's a chance it was still a good bluff, considering what he may have played similarly given the situation.

Slow down even when you're nearly sure you're winning. Not for fear of losing, but to evaluate how you can make the most out of the situation. Is he willing to pay off your nut flush with his cards? If not, how much is he willing to pay? Will he misread an awkward all-in as a bluff and call, where he would have folded to a smaller bet?

Be willing to completely re-evaluate. Start by predicting what your opponent is going to do. If he differs wildly, don't try to fit his action into your previous mental-model. Throw away the model, keep the facts, and start thinking again. It's more important to correctly fold/call against the $150 river shove than it is to think "last time he bet $10 on the flop and he was weak, so he must be weak now". People hit inside straights, people river sets, and people make moves on the flop in multi-way pots that seem random or inconsistent because they are using their strategy, their reads, and their history.

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  • I'm all for your advocacy of thinking about your decisions, but it's also important to be a good table citizen and to help keep the game moving. People who arbitrarily slow the game down for every decision are extremely annoying. If you have a real decision, sure, take some time to think. People understand and are happy to accommodate, because they'd want the same consideration. But if it's pre-flop 4-bet in front of you and you have crap, cut the hollywood and just fold. If you have an easy decision, do it quickly. – Chris Farmer Sep 25 '14 at 3:42
  • @ChrisFarmer I agree; I was thinking on the order of 10 seconds. – Cory Kendall Sep 25 '14 at 6:06
  • There's a lot to like about this answer. Reminds me of a chess story where the tutor was angry that her student was taking decisions too quickly even if they were right. Also, it alludes to a thought process away from the table which I've no doubt every winning player will tell you is just as important as thinking habits whilst in a hand. – Toby Booth Sep 28 '14 at 2:48

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