heres a post i made on another forum, figured id put it in here as well
let's say you are betting a friend $1, even money, on the flip of a coin. each time it comes up heads, you win; each time it comes up tails, you lose. the odds of its coming up heads are 1-to-1, and you're betting $1-to-$1. therefore, your mathematical expectation is precisely zero since you cannot expect, mathematically, to be either ahead or behind after two flips or after 200 flips.
but let's say some imbecile is willing to bet $2 to your $1 on the flip of the coin. suddenly you have a positive expectation of 50 cents per bet. why 50 cents? on the average you will win one bet for every bet you lose. you wager your first dollar and lose $1; you wager your second and win $2. you have wagered $1 twice, and you are $1 ahead. each of these $1 bets has earned 50 cents.
its in the same way we gamble in poker with positive expectations and force our opponents to take the worst of it. say we hold AA and we somehow know our opponent has a flush draw on the flop. the pot is $50 and we bet $50 into it. if our opponent calls this bet, we are making money, whether he hits his flush or not in this particular hand. he is about a 3 to 1 underdog to make his hand, yet he is taking 2 to 1 on his money, which is a losing bet for him. now say the pot is $50 and we bet $10, now he is making money if he calls this bet, because he is getting the right price to do so. hes still about a 3 to 1 dog to make his hand, but he's getting 6 to 1 on his money, which in the long run will obviously make him a profit. and thats what this game is all about, the long run.
ranges - reading hands
we've all seen the movies, where some schmuck twitches his ear or scratches his eyeball and this somehow tells our hero he must be holding exactly the A of clubs and the J of hearts... this is NOT how real poker is played. sure, body language can tell us things about our opponents. but we do not put our opponents on ONE HAND. we put them on a RANGE OF HANDS, and then act accordingly. that is, we make the move that is the best move at this time vs that RANGE. we are able to narrow this range the more info we gather during a hand. for instacne if an opponent raises on the button, his range is very wide, meaning he can do this with a shitload of hands. so we dont really know anything yet. but say someone from the big blind (BB) calls and the flop comes T-7-3. BB checks and button bets. BB now checkraises 3 times the buttons bet. the button now calls. this narrows that range of his significantly right? we know he cant have nothing like KJ. he doesnt have a small pocket pairs like 44. his range here mostly consists of overpairs like KK, QQ, JJ. top pairs like AT, KT, QT, JT. middle pairs like A7 or 87 are possible, or maybe a draw like 98. or maybe he flopped a set with 33 or 77. so when he raised on the button, we didnt know anything about his range, just that is was very wide. now after the flop action we were able to narrow that range substantially. i know it looks like we still dont know anything, looking at the sheer number of hands he could have here, but its a great impovement from before the flop. we do the same thing on the next card, narrowing his range even further and further as the hand progresses and more information becomes avaialabe from his actions and the board cards.
there are different 'levels' people are thinking on
level 0: what do i have?
level 1: what does my opponents have?
level 2: what does my opponent think i have?
level 3: what does my opponent think i think he has?
etc etc. the key is thinking one level above your opponent. most players at lower stakes just look at their hands and nothing else when making decisions on what to do. its easy ti play vs these guys. it becomes tougher vs better opponents who think about what is going on and what you could have, what you think they have etc.
we assume we are playing in a cash game and everyone on the table has 100 big blinds
from the small and big blinds, you want to make it a habit of playing very very tight. that is folding nearly everything. it is a LEAK to play too many hands from these positions, as you will be out of position for the entire hand, and too many things need to go just right for it to be profitable in the long run. you might catch a full house with your 7-3 from the small blind once, but all the other times it will cost you money by completing and not folding.
position is one of the most important things in this game.. it is paramount. you want to play more hands IN position, and less hands OUT of position.
say you are on a 6 handed cash table w blinds of $0.50-$1.00. there are always poor players to be found everywhere, say you are on the button with a J-T. and some loose-passive guy just wants to see flops alot. he limps in (calls) before the flop from early position. these are perfect spots to relentlessly ISOLATE these kinds of players. he calls for $1. you raise to $4 or $4.5 or $5 in position. it folds around to him, and he calls cause he wants top see a flop and hes an idiot. flop is K-8-2. he checks, you CONTINUATION BET $8, he quickly folds. this is just a quick easy example but it is one of the most profitable plays availabe in most hold em cash games where plenty of these kinds of players are around, who will be donating money to you like this.
the continuation bet is a bet you make on the flop after you have raised preflop. the above flop was very dry, meaning there are hardly any draws possible. which made it an excellent flop to C-bet on. on the other hand, a board like 6 of hearts (6h) -7h - 9s or 9c - Tc - Qs are very drawy boards that are usually less easy to make these Cbets on, simply because there are so many more ways for an opponent to hit something, anything on these flops as opposed to that K-8-2 or something like A-3-2, or Q-Q-6. so take a look at the textures of flops and ways they could be helpful to your opponent before making your Cbets. the one guy described above in the example hand, plays way too many hands and will for that reason, miss more of his flops then someone who only plays premium hands will. generally, you do not want to be Cbetting with nothing into multiple players
big hand - big pot. getting value
generally, dont slowplay! say you raise with 66 and some guy from the big blind calls. the flop comes Q-6-5. he checks to you, you really want to bet here almost always. you would bet your AA wouldnt you? you'd bet your AK or other hands that have missed usually. so also bet your monsters. your oppponent could have a Q, could have a pocket pair like 77, 88, 99, TT that hes gonna stick money in with. he could have some straight draw.
you want to WIN A BIG POT WITH A BIG HAND. the only way to win a BIG pot is to BUILD a big pot. the only way to build a pot is to get money in by betting. say you dont bet, but check behind. turn is Q-6-5-A. what if your opponent held that KQ, or them TT? he is now scared as shit and will hardly put money in the pot, whereas would you have bet the flop he would have.
so slowplaying can kill you by letting your opponent draw out on you for free, but just as important, it can bring ACTION KILLERS in the form of scare cards that will slow your opponent down, which you dont want.
getting value from your best hands is where we make most money laying this game... it is of utmost importance to value bet correctly
if you always get all your money in with top pair, 100 big blinds deep, you are probably overplaying your hands, and will gegnerally lose lots of money this way. pot control is where we control the size of the pot, to not let the size get out of hand. say you raise with AQ, the big blind calls. flop is K-Q-2. opponent checks. this is a spot where sometimes a check behind is a very optimal play. think about it.
things our opponent could have: pocket pairs 33,44,55,66,77,88,99,TT and K-something. if we bet here, essentially we could be turning our hand into a bluff. we are hardly getting called by anything worse except maybe a draw like JT which we will take in our stride. by checking behind here we:
-induce potential bluffs from air hands
-gain value by letting our opponent think his 77 or whatever is good and make him call us down on later streets with weaker holdings then ours that would have folded to our flop bet
-get one step closer to a showdown without bloating the pot
-lose less money vs a K!!!
note that we dont have a BIG HAND, so we dont really want to play a BIG POT either. so checking is no shame at all. to balance this against good opposition, it rewards at times to also check behind there with all kind of other hands, like Kx, draws or even AA sometimes, just to balance your range
this is one adjustment i made when moving up in stakes, as players get better and better.