Bad Players Win More Often - Accept it, and Punish Them!

Another rough day. Flopping top pair with top kicker isn't good enough, because three idiots call you down, one making their straight, flush, or two crap pairs to beat you. It makes you reluctant to bet when you flop a strong pair; you feel sure to get called down and fear it will just be wasted money. It makes you weak.

It doesn't just seem that way; it's true. Bad players really win more showdowns. . . but only because they see so many of them. Everybody gets random cards; everybody has the same chance of being dealt the eventual winner. There are no card decisions to be made in Hold 'em, so experts have no card advantage. The only advantage comes from the betting and folding. Experts fold hands which aren't profitable. And some of those "bad hands" will get lucky and win, but not for the expert, who will have thrown it away.

The ideal poker strategy to win the most showdowns is to call every bet. If you have 52o, flop KQ2, and the turn and river both come down as deuces, you will win, but ONLY if you hang in there with deuces / crap kicker to see it. No expert would pay good money to continue with such a hand, but it is the way to get the most wins in your column. Of course, this happens to also be the best strategy to lose as many showdowns as possible. You've got to be in it to win it, and also to lose it.

Incidentally, the best strategy to win the most HANDS possible is to always raise. It doesn't improve your cards, but it means people will sometimes fold out, so you get some extra winners. If you want the maximum number of wins per hour, raise it every time. This strategy is also excellent for losing money as quickly as possible. The only way to lose more money is to make sure to fold the river if you hit something!

Coming back to reality. . . We most always remember how the expert makes their money:

1. Winning more money on winning showdowns.

2. Losing less money on losing showdowns.

3. Taking down the occasional pot uncontested.

There are many people at low limits playing too often. At a table with a several 40% VP$IP players, any good poker player can expect to come out ahead in the long run. But how do you come out ahead, if there's always someone drawing against us? We have to hit them early, when we have the advantage, even though we aren't yet certain. You can't be reluctant to bet your good hands or your marginal winners. The worst thing you can possibly do is wait!

Listen, you already know to only come in with better hands. Sometimes the flop hits you. If you wait to bet until the turn (or worse yet, the river) to see if their threatening draws develop, you are letting their bad play be correct. EVERY hand is correct to draw when the draw is free, don't make them correct! You must give them the chance to make a mistake and pay you to make weak draws, and you can only do that by betting.

It can be psychologically daunting to bet a marginally strong hand into a field of three or four players who are too damn loose; many is the poker player who doubted the value of betting when many people are drawing. And it's true that if enough people are drawing, top pair is unlikely to win unimproved. But it's still correct to hit them for a bet.

Think of the expected value of your hand. The profit depends on the likelihood of being best and the amount of money that comes in when it is the best. It's true that for each extra player who calls to the river, there's another player who can draw out on you; this reduces the chance that your hand is best. But it's ALSO true that each individual usually WON'T draw out; what they do is put more money in the pot. Every time your top pair wins, each extra player adds more money to your win, but ONLY if you went ahead and bet it. If you waited until the river, you let them draw for free, and then, when they miss, they could fold for free. You are killing your own profit.

By failing to bet the flop, you will lose less money if you eventually lose, but you will also win less money when you eventually win. This kind of weak play is NOT going to make you the best profit.

This balance is important, so I'll say it again: each loose caller increases the chance that someone will outdraw you, but they ALSO increase the payoff when they don't. They have the chance to outdraw you whether or not you make them pay to play, and your failure to bet does not change that. But your failure to bet DOES decrease your own profit when you win.

Add to that this: you can make crazy draws, too. You should be betting your KJo when a flop of J97 gives you top pair, but you might draw out to a back-door straight. Or you could get runner-runner kings for a full house. If you DO get lucky, you would certainly want to have collected money all the way. Of course, if they missed their draws, they'll still fold on the river.

It's the worst feeling in the world to have a good hand become a river monster, to bet it, and to watch everyone fold because they missed their draws. They are willing to pay to chase bad draws earlier in the hand, that's when you must make them pay! Even the WORST player will fold a missed draw to a bet on the river; by then, it's to late to exploit their foolishness. In other words, it's too late for you to be a better player than they are.

That's right; if you don't hit them early, you're not a better poker player than they are, just tighter. You're as weak as they are. The tightness will prevent you from losing money on poor cards, but it won't make you profits, either. Exploiting advantage makes the profits, and that means betting and raising. Failure to bet -- weakness -- will not help you exploit the profitable situations any better than those loose fools you think are worse than you.

Those bad player will always win more hands than you. Accept it. You can't punish them for making their draws on the river, but you CAN punish them for trying.