A common theme in poker lessons is that the strength of your cards is one of the last things you have to think about when making a decision. What makes poker so special is that it is both fun and beneficial to fool your opponents.
The crux of this poker lesson is how to play opponents who have a second or even third level of thinking. As a reminder, the second level of thinking is “what does my opponent have?” and the third level is “what does my opponent think I have?” In fact, to represent a hand your opponent must at least be able to think about your hand and not just yours. Also, to represent a hand you have to be able to reach the third level of thought yourself. This means that throughout the hand you have to be aware of all the factors that your opponent uses to make his decisions. This includes the image of the table, the image of your opponent, stack size, position and much more.
By definition, “represent” in poker means to communicate something false about your hand. There are two basic messages that you will communicate:
- You are stronger than you really are
- You are weaker than you really are.
Every bet and action tells a story about your hand and your job is to make that story believable. There are different tactics you can use to tell the story including the size of your bet, the street you bet on, the timing of your actions, and how much of your stack you commit to the hand.
Since we have mentioned continuation bets in many lessons, we will not dwell on this topic much. However, it is important to note that poker players have evolved in recent years and that just because you raised before the flop, it does not mean that you will automatically win by betting on the flop. What you bet or not and how much you bet should be based on several factors including your image, your position, the texture of the flop, the size of the stacks and your opponent’s tendency to play in a specific way against you. While it is generally correct to continue representing strength, it is more important than ever to tell a credible story through your bets.The size of your bet is the most important factor in representing the strength of your hand and will cement your future actions depending on how your opponent responds. For example, you raise in cut-off position (to the right of the button) and the big blind calls it and calls a flop of A79 with two hearts. If you had an ace, how much would you bet knowing there are strong hands out there? If you only bet 1/3 of the pot, will it be credible that you have an ace? Probably not. In this case an ace would rather be between ½ or 2/3 of the pot for a hand to have inappropriate odds.