A revealing discussion
would like to discuss some poker myths that I have heard over the years. I think
you also have heard most of these phony maxims of poker. Many of them are
half-truths, but some have no basis in reality at all, as far as I can see.
The first of these myths has to do with perceived pot odds. When everyone plays, this is called a "family pot." As one of these pots is developing, the last few callers often jump in without giving any thought to the fact that they hold a piece of trash. The more garrulous of the calling crew can often be heard to say, "I have to play; look at the pot odds." These players are staring at all of the money in the pot. What they should be staring at are the large field of players and the hand they are backing to beat all of them. Since there is no dead money in the pot, they are betting that their trash hand has a better chance to win than most of the other hands. The simple truth is that when there is no dead money, you need a better hand than most of the other players have to be a money favorite in the pot.
When someone such as Santa comes along and puts $100 into the pot and the blinds are $5-$10, this is dead money, and you may well have an overlay, even with trash. However, Santa money is quite rare, whereas a bunch of callers with no dead money is the standard situation. Be aware of the difference.
There is another myth that is somewhat related to this one. It is, "When there are a lot of players in the pot, the flop is likely to come with small cards." The idea, of course, is that all of the other players in the pot are playing decent hands, which usually means high cards. The deck will then be "low-card rich," so you and your little trash hand can smugly enter the pot with a better chance of getting a favorable flop than the misguided individuals trying to play decent hands. Usually, the flop comes with one or two big cards. After you see the other hands that got involved, you will see that you were not the only player who was hoping for an all-low flop. Some of the others, especially those who were stuck, seemed to be thinking along the same lines as you. It is often said that "great minds think alike." Believe me, the saying "small minds think alike" is just as true. Of course, sometimes the flop does come with all small cards. Even when it does, your 9-6 suited may be looking at a flop of 8-3-2, rather than the desired 10-8-7 or 9-6-3.
Here is one of those half-truths: "Don't ever be a caller." It is easy to understand how that myth keeps circulating. Most people who play poker by calling a lot also reach back into their wallets a lot to purchase more ammo. People who play many bad hands do not like to fold and seldom have a hand of sufficient quality to bet. With all of the other possibilities eliminated on most hands, they "have to call." What I am saying is that weak poker players give the call a bad rap. The call is an item that comes in every poker player's toolbox. Why throw away a useful tool? If you use it sparingly, rather than as a device to stay in the pot when you do not belong there, you can make it work for you. I know a couple of very good players who do quite a lot of calling. In fact, both of these players have a way of playing that puts a real damper on the "you check, I bet" guys. They often call when they play, but they are not often in a pot and not often holding a "calling hand" when they do enter. Here's a word of warning: "Check" does not always mean "take it" in poker.
Here are some of the poker situations in which you may wish to use the call. Preflop, when you have a speculative hand and the stacks are deep and you have position on your opponent, calling is a normal play. During a hand, when you think your opponent has a good hand that he won't lay down but you are getting the right price to be drawing, you call. Obviously, on the end, when you think you may have the best hand and your opponent has bet, you call. Then, there is my favorite, calling with position and a strong hand in order to get the opponent too deeply involved. The call is a good tool when it is used correctly.
And now, here's my favorite sage piece of poker advice: "You've got to give action to get action." How can you play no-limit hold'em without giving some action? You raise the pot with A-J suited, get one caller, and the flop comes K-7-3 rainbow. So, you bet with no hand. You call a raise preflop with A-K and the flop comes J-10-9. Your straightforward opponent checks, so you bet. You are drawing and bet the turn, getting a genuinely agonized call. You miss, but run a bluff on the river. Yes, you do stuff once in a while with no hand, but is that "giving action"? To me, that's just playing the game. I try not to give action, but I sometimes get caught without a hand. I am not trying to advertise; I am trying to play my hand correctly.
Now let's look at what many of the players are actually doing who use the expression, "You have to give action to get action." They raise up front with the 9 7, then bet the flop into four callers when it comes A-J-3. They call a raise out of the small blind when holding the J 8 when there are five opponents who limped in and the button raised. They reraise preflop with 9-9 because now they have a "real hand." The game plan was to look like a wild player and then play solidly afterward, but they unfortunately got stuck so much in their advertising mode that they were emotionally unable to stick to their game plan. To me, they look like they are auditioning for the poker version of Death Wish III.
Some of these expressions have a ring of truth to them, but when you see who says these things and the kind of poker they play, you get a different picture - and it's not pretty.