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Poker Life: Learning from playing other card games

Fri, Oct 7, 8:28am by Poker Guru

There are many great poker variants and I must say that many of them are better than Texas Hold’em. I do not think No Limit Texas Hold’em deserves its nick name ‘Cadillac of Poker’. I think that name comes from when Limit Hold’em and Limit 7-Card Stud were the dominating games, and when player occasionally played No Limit Texas Hold’em it was such a scary experience for many. Only a few fearless players, like Stu Ungar and Doyle Brunson, could handle the pressure and others preferred the grind of limit poker.

Because of TV, No Limit has now become the norm and losing your whole stack in one hand is no big deal—that is just part of the game. Instead the different variants of limit poker are considered boring. Limit poker is a bit like action movies from the 1970’s or 1980’s—slow and boring.

Or is it? I think you can learn a lot from shifting between different poker games.  Value betting on the river, for example. That bet is such an important part of Fixed Limit Texas Hold’em. If you are a winning player, poker books say you should thrive for an average win rate of 1 Big Bet/hour. If you neglect to value bet on river once you basically need to work an extra hour to make up for it. However, no limit players are often afraid to make marginal value bets because they are afraid of a big raise. That is why many pots are checked down on the river. Spend a few days of playing limit poker and you will get a good feeling for when it is right to value bet, and when you switch to no limit you will naturally value bet more often.

Others games, like Omaha and Hold’em, are so different that you really need to forget about your habits from one game before you play the other. Here is an example: Omaha players often assume that someone has the nuts, which is very often the case. They will still bet big draws, of course, but if there are three spades on the board, many will automatically bluff if they hold the ace of spades (without a second spade). With a potential flush out there, very few players will call a pot-sized raise without the nut flush. In Texas Hold’em though that is not the case. Flush over flush situations are rare and players will gladly call a big raise with any flush so you cannot use a single Ace the same way.

I play a lot of bridge which is a completely different card game but I think poker players can learn from bridge too. There is an element of bluffing in bridge and just like in poker you need to tell a consistent story. You cannot just suddenly bluff and expect anyone to believe it unless it is consistent with what has happened earlier in the hand. It is just that in bridge there are more stages. You have the bidding and then you play 13 cards in a sequence (or 26 if you are the declarer). A story is bridge is longer and more complex than your action in four betting rounds of poker, and if you learn to bluff in bridge, bluffing in poker will feel easy.

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