There’s nothing better than the feeling you get after seeing your pocket cards and then watched your pocket cards win the pot. Of course you know there’s always a bit of luck involved, but how often do you get those two things? Normally, not often, and when you get them both you can’t help but have a good time. So knowing how to hold back a winning hand requires discipline.
First, see the actual hand you’re holding after all, if you’re not sure, fold. Don’t call or anything just yet, just let the hand play out. If you’re holding two low cards, two suited cards, or some other combination of the two, you want to see if you can connect with the flop. That is, hope your straight or flush, or to be more specific: your outs, don’t work, and not guarantee your loss.
Completing your flop is also wisely dependent on your opponent. If you’re certain there won’t be many players after yours in the pot, you can let the pot ride for a bit, hoping your hand will improve. You also need to dissect what other players might have into the hand, and the likelihood that the person to your left will call or raise. Expect to be calling or raising, even from players not in the hand yet.
With a starting hand of 9, on the flop you can improve to either a straight or a flush, or to a full house with an Ace or King. But you’re not likely to have an Ace or King on the flop, and while a pair of six’s might make a strong hand, you’d better.* You can also draw a ten to fifteen, and the odds favor hitting the flush on the turn or river.
For this strategy to work, you need your opponents to have less-than-unks in their hand. You can’t rely on having a Queen for a set, for example pokerrepublik.
But at low-limit play, you can afford to really let the hand play out. You’re not likely to knock out others in one big pot. And if you think someone’s holding a monster, you can get out and wait for another hand. Low-limit players have little experience and play lots of hands.
When you’re either waiting for a big hand or getting a big hand, you’re waiting for two big cards. If you’re on the button, this is especially true during semi-deep boring draws. You have to be very, very selective. Too many hands in a short period of time and you’ll anew set upon your own destruction.
When you have a big hand, you should be aggressive. Raise or reraise when you can with a very wide range of hands. When you’re up against less experienced players, you can bully them into thinking you’re weak by overaggressive betting. If your hand looks really good, you should try to make every other hand work for you, since those who want to represent their hand with a raise will be positioned to call, if nothing else.
There’s nothing wrong with checking, but you should be very careful about when to check. Do not check when you have nothing. If you have a bad hand, you should force yourself to fold. But you also have to be cautious about when you check, because any card might just drop. If you have a good hand, you have to bet. Raise overly generous amounts when you have a winning hand, and you’ll be sure to either force your opponents to discard, or win the pot.
When you’re in the blinds, you should definitely be focusing on your own cards, not your opponents’, especially when you’re in the very early stages. The blinds are minute forces relative to your stack. You want to eliminate as many opponents as you can before they get any better hands. There’s no point in wasting a bunch of chips when there’s a lot of action and you’re the first to act.
In other words, you should be looking for a reason to play, and a hand to play. If you’re not getting that, you should fold. This may seem like obvious advice, but it’s very easy to get carried away with your hand and utterly destroy your chances of winning.
Just remember that getting the right cards doesn’t guarantee a winning hand. Bluffing, and using other deception, are simply tools to be used for different purposes. Don’t let a bad hand make a bad decision and ruin a good play.
When you’re not sure you have the winning hand, you should recognize that fact immediately. Don’t let pride or fear sway your decisions. If you have a good hand, be sure to play it strongly. Predict your opponents’ moves and take advantage of any patterns they may show.