Sunday, January 31, 2010

Daniel Diffenderfer's Guide to Poker

Dear Mystical Reader,

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been playing Texas Holdem Poker quite a bit lately. This post is going to be my field guide for how to win at it. It basically just takes everything I've learned the last three weeks and condenses it down into five categories’.

1. Fold Often. The mistake that people make the most often is simply not folding. If you were dealt a great hand like a jack and an ace of clubs but on the flop there are three low cards suited differently than yours, there is no point in staying in. If anyone raises it a dime, you should fold without a second thought. A huge problem that people have is that they get so emotionally invested into their two cards that they simply let the logical decision to fold evade them. Also, don't be afraid to fold before the flop. Even if you have a relatively good hand (say, nine queen off suit), there is rarely an instance in which it ends up being worth it too invest too much before the flop. The exceptions are if you have suited royals or a pair of royals.

2. Bet Sparingly. One of the worst things that can happen in a game of Texas Holdem is that you scare off the competition. Even if you are dealt a pair of aces, you should be hesitant to raise it. Generally speaking, your goal should be to bet as little as possible but to achieve the maximum results. One of the best strategies I have come up with I actually borrowed from my brother John. His theory is that you are better off checking all the way through so that way you won't arouse suspicion. If you have a great hand (say, three of a kind, flush, straight, etc.), your goal is to not be seen as a threat. In theory, if they don't suspect you have anything because you checked, they may be inclined to raise it, go all in, or suspect you of bluffing when you jack it up at the end. At the end of the day, your goal is to keep as many players in the game as you possibly can. There have been many hands where I've had the winning cards--and known it--but I've waited until the last round.

During the last round, there will normally be that one guy who has a mediocre hand who tries to buy the pot by raising the bet drastically. If that occurs, you have a perfect opportunity to capitalize. Whatever he bets, you need to double--or triple depending on the person. Odds are, he will either think you are bluffing or will be too committed to his bet to fold and will match you.

Granted, there are exceptions to this. I've played many hands where you have no choice but to eventually begin the betting. If everyone checks after the flop--yourself included--then you are going to have to do something after the turn. At this point, I would introduce the double-triple rule.

3. The Double-Triple Rule. If you have got a good hand but one of your opponents isn't kindly raising the pot for you, then you should make use of the double-triple rule. The basic idea behind the double-triple rule is that people are hesitant to fold when they've already invested a decent amount of money into the hand. People get hooked. The double triple rule basically plays out like this:

If after the flop I can see no one is raising it but that I've got a decent shot at the hand, I double the blind. If we're playing with blinds of ten, then my next bet should be twenty. People have already committed fifty percent of my bet into the game, and twenty is seen as a reasonable raise that ninety percent of people will call. On the turn, I double my bet again to forty. Once again, people who otherwise would have folded if you had raised it sixty in single round will continue to call despite the status of their hand. Now, the bet on the river card should triple the previous bet. If the previous bet was forty, then you should raise it to 120. Most people will continue to match--or hopefully raise you. By following the double-triple rule, you will end up getting the most money from the most people. If you're playing in a large game, these bets can often become quite large in no time. You can also do this on a raise at any point. If most people have called a raise, feel free to double it and then triple it on the next bet. Of course, you should only do this if you have a hand that you are fairly certain will win the round.

4. Check Your Ego. When I was playing in the tournament at Lee, there was a guy who came over to my table that had just completely knocked out two other tables. At this point, he had probably ten times the chips of the next closest guy--me. He came feeling bulletproof. After just five hands, he walked away from the table without a single chip. The fundamental error that he made was that he began to think he couldn't lose. Winning is a drug you can't get hooked on. If you win one hand by getting lucky on the river, you are no more or less likely to win the next hand. In fact, I would argue that getting lucky twice in a row is much less likely--so you're more likely to lose. Don't ever read more into the cards than actually exists, and never assume that you're going to get the cards you need. If you don't have anything off the flop, don't bet. If raised, just fold. Of course there will be a hand or two that you'll wish you could have taken back, but on the whole you will be glad to have folded nine times out of ten. One thing that I've actually taken to doing is directly after I get a big win simply folding on the next hand regardless of how good of a hand I'm dealt. This keeps me from feeling bulletproof and gets my head back down where it needs to be for the next round.

5. The Flop. One last note is that you really don't know the quality of your cards until the flop. There have been many times where I will fold instinctively on what I feel is a poor hand (like a nine-five off suit) and then ended up having a straight right off the flop. I even once had a four of a kind in tens off the flop once that I folded on. My general rule is that your goal should be to make it to the flop as cheaply as possible and as long as doing so doesn't cost more than ten percent of your total chips. However, when you are trailing--especially in a competition--your goal needs to be to get as many hands as possible and only to play the very best. If you are in the lead, then you should simply play as many hands as you can for as cheaply as possible. Also, even if you get a great hand, raising it before the flop can be disastrous. If you have suited royals and you raise it before the flop, you run the risk that the flop itself may totally ruin your hand. In this case, call but don't go all in until you've at least seen the flop and are confident that you will win.

Hope it helps,


  1. Bro, we need to play poker soon. I was not aware that you were a player. I'll bring the chips.

  2. I would love that! I'm crazy busy this week though. Maybe Saturday?

  3. This soooo helped me!! You're a genius, Daniel! :)