I answer a listener question about breaking “poker rules” and give 5 specific “rules” worth breaking at the poker tables.
Breaking Poker Rules
Question 1 from Martin (1:30)
Sometimes when I’m at a LIVE table, people love to give unsolicited opinions and treat their ideas and plays like poker rules that everyone should play by and if you don’t you’re a fool. Recently, this one guy was telling someone else at the table that he should never raise small pp’s and you should just limp and call to set mine. But, I kept my mouth shut and didn’t say anything as I don’t talk strategy at the tables. I know that this player is very poor, and I don’t want to say anything about these rules he freely tells all. What do you think about this? Would you say anything to him?
Thanks for the podcast, Martin
Never talk strategy at the tables. You don’t want to disabuse a weak player of their incorrect notions
If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.
– Katherine Hepburn
I want you to be a person willing to break poker rules, to play by your own standards and to forge your own poker strategies. Poker is an ever adapting game and to stick hard and fast to strategy rules is a sure way to be exploited by those who don’t encumber themselves with someone else’s lame ass rules. Of course, you don’t want to break casino rules like ‘One player to a hand’ or etiquette rules like folding out of turn or slow-rolling players. I’m talking specifically about breaking strategy rules.
Here’s a list of 5 common “rules” that should be broken, but beware the possible consequences.
Breakable Poker Rules: #1 Only Re-Raising With Premium Hands Pre-Flop (7:30)
Committing to the “poker rule” of only re-raising w/KK+ and AK allows your opponents to exploit you. Especially in position, anyone can call your raise and take it away post-flop on scary boards. But if you’ve been seen to re-raise with suited connectors, pocket pairs and off-suit broadway hands, your range will be much harder to pinpoint.
Possible Consequence: Raising with less than strong hands can lead to tricky spots post-flop where you could be dominated by hands that call your pre-flop open. That could happen, and that’s where good post-flop skills and reading your opponents will help you.
Breakable Poker Rules: #2 Playing 15bb’s as a Push/Fold Game Only (8:40)
If your only moves at 15bb’s or less is push/fold, you’re possibly missing out on some great steal spots without risking your tourney life. When opening or 3betting less than all-in with less than 15bb’s, many opponents will think you’ve got a premium hand and will fold. If you just shoved instead, you’re only getting called by the tops of their ranges. Plus, you can take the pot away on the flop. How often does a 257 flop hit an opponent who called your 2.5bb open? Run this on Flopzilla a few times and see. He’ll fold to your cbet more often than not.
Possible Consequence: Regular opens or small 3bets w/15bb’s can lead to a dwindling stack when your opponents re-raise or take it away on the flop with a big donk bet. Just be ready to fight back and practice this strategy plenty in lower stakes first.
Breakable Poker Rules: #3 Never Cbet into Multi-way Flops Without the Nuts (10:35)
“The Rules” state that a flop cbet into a multi-way pot is known as a death sentence without the nuts. But have you ever tried it on baby mono-tone flops? Cbetting 1/2pot into a 2c 5c 8c flop can often win you the pot outright, even against 3 opponents (your 1/2pot bluff needs to work only 33% of the time). They’ll all assume you’ve got the nuts, or AA with the Ac and they’ll fold unless they’ve got a flush or nut flush draw themselves. Run this type of board through Flopzilla and see how often it hits different hands that your opponents may be calling you pre-flop with.
Possible Consequence: Cbetting into multi-way flops, especially out of position, can lead to spewing chips when you double-barrel on good turn cards
Breakable Poker Rules: #4 Sticking to Strict Bankroll Management (12:30)
We know that “The Rule” of strict bankroll management is one intended to preserve your bankroll through the never ending ups and downs of poker, but occasionally breaking that rule won’t kill you, as long as you’ve got a modicum of self-control. If your own rule is to have 200 buy-ins for whatever you play, that’s great, but there’s nothing wrong with taking the occasional shot at bigger games. Are you a $20 MTT grinder looking to move up to the higher levels? Then play in $30 and $60 games a few times a week. For one thing, this will give you some insight into the play at higher levels (which surprisingly is often pretty close to your own levels), but it will also give you a good shot of excitement. And as a bonus, if you win, you’ll get a nice boost to your bankroll. Losing wouldn’t be so bad either if it’s just double your normal buy-in.
Possible Consequence: Going too far outside of your bankroll management could lead to ruin by blowing off your bankroll in games that are too big for you
Breakable Poker Rules: #5 Never Show Your Hand Unnecessarily (14:40)
You’ll often hear “The Rule” saying to never show your hand unless you have to. “Keep it a secret, and your opponents will never know what you’re playing.” But, there could be times when showing your hand can help you at a table. Maybe you know the player two seats to your left plays super nitty in the blinds and folds to 80% of steals. If he’s wising up to your steal attempts and might fight back, it may be a good time to show that Ace of spades after your next ‘steal’. Give him some confidence that he’s making good folds so that you can continue stealing from him.
Possible Consequence: Showing your hand can give the entire table insight into your play, giving them a slight advantage over you. Break this rule seldomly.
The Benefits of Breaking Poker Rules (15:55)
One of the biggest benefits to being a “Poker Rules Breaker” is keeping an open mind. When presented with new ideas in forums, videos and books, sticking to “The Rules” will prevent you from seeing the value in new plays and strategies developed by others who are actively thinking about the game. If you’re always open to new ideas, you’ll find strategies and plays to use to your advantage before your opponents adopt them.
When you hear someone say, “I never…” or “I always…” regarding some nugget of poker strategy, take a listen for a way to exploit that opponent. “Always” and “never” should not be said in poker (or in life for that matter). Poker’s an ever evolving, flowing game with imperfect information. You task is to move and flow with it, and if that involves playing outside the box, then do it.
Explore all of your options, and remember what Katharine Hepburn said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.”
Please leave any CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK, COMMENTS, QUESTIONS or REQUESTS in the comments section below.
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In podcast #84, I’ll answer 3 listener Q’s about playing in bounty tourneys, barreling your opponents off their hands and the perils of showing your hand unnecessarily.
Until next time, study smart, play much and make your next session the best one yet.
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