"Superior" Poker: Possible to eliminate the endless waiting in Hold 'Em?

I honestly can’t remember when I first heard about Texas Hold 'Em, but it was certainly long after its introduction – I’m (dare I say it)…well, older than 29 and younger than 31. Anyway, back before me and my friends all knew (and bragged about how early we got into, just like with anything) Hold 'Em, we mostly played what I assumed to be the “classic” Poker variants, namely Five Card Draw (include any major draw-Poker game), and Seven Card Stud (similarly, along with other variants of stud). Draw-Poker was always vastly more popular than Stud, although it would occur to me years later than Stud was actually the superior game, in terms of presenting a “winnable”, strategic game.

But I digress.

I love Hold 'Em, but I’ve noticed something – to play even halfway decently (and I make no claims to any such lofty status :smiley: ), you find that you’re basically required to sit out…I dunno, 9/10 hands? I think thats fairly close.

Basically, if you’re at a table with ten players, and bluffing isn’t much of a factor (and since I play low-limit, bluffing is rarely a factor), the basics of strategy demand that you fold most hands dealt.

And, dare I say it? This really kinda sucks. Sure, its fun to watch people waste money on crap, and you can smugly note that at least you didn’t LOSE anything (besides a blind or a half) during that hand – but let’s face it: anyone who knows basic poker strategy has to deal with the fact that you’re forced to sit out most hands – and, frankly, that’s both boring, and an awful temptation to play bad Poker.

Here’s my question – and I admit, I’ve thought about this on a casual basis for a couple of years, without coming up with a decent answer: is there any possible set-of-rules (of Poker) in which an average player can play more hands – heck, let’s say you can play every OTHER hand, 50%, instead of 10% of hands – and still be sticking to a realistic strategy?

Or, to put it another way: is there a way to make Texas Hold 'Em less effing boring? I truly both love and hate the game, and this is why: the waiting. I’ll get that suited 8-9, and think, “dammit! i know the odds say I shouldn’t play this, but…I wanna play!”.

If you come up with this one – well, you’ve got my word as a gentleman and a Poker player that I won’t bite your idea without due credit. If you’ve got a wonderful idea, but truly feel its too valuable to state publically…I’ll understand, but might I ask that you at least note that there is a better way? In other words, a Poker variant that allows you to play far more hands than you can play during Hold 'Em?

I’m trying to think of even a rudimentary idea to toss out here…hmm…ooh! My half-arsed suggestion: same rules as standard Hold 'Em, but if a player’s two hole cards are of the same suit as the middle card on the Flop…aww, no, that skews it. Damn. I got nothing!

Any ideas?

Ack! Trying to find the “request forum change”/“Contact Mod” link, and…I’m stumped. Apologies. Meant this for “Game Room”.

I stopped playing for that exact reason, and would love to hear suggestions.

What if instead of blinds you simply required everyone to anti up the way 5-card-stud requires.

ETA I suggest this based on the assumption that when you fold 9/10 times the time you aren’t folding is when you’re big blind.

ETA 2 The obvious problem is that you don’t want everyone playing every hand, it makes for worse poker. The reality is that the person with the shittiest hand will win way too frequently.

ETA 3 Play with few people at a time?

There are several things you could or should consider:

  1. Playing short-handed. Optimal strategy for a ring game (9-10 players) means playing 13-18% of hands. For short-handed games an optimal strategy might mean playing up to and around 30%. Basically twice as many hands, since hand value is relative to the amount of players.

  2. Assuming ring game, you optimal strategy is actually >10%, I’d say at least as high as 14%. Your post indicates that you don’t consider position enough in your own game strategy. That 98s has a +EV (positive expected value) in many situations in a ring game. Best pre-flop outcome would be several limpers while you had the button, acting early or against a raise is a mistake, but stealing the blinds (for example 25% of the time) is +EV.

  3. You can play more hands and still have a total positive value for your game. You won’t earn as much as if you played optimally, you will basically increase your variance and lower your EV, but you’ll still make a profit. Your profitable hands will be subsidising your unprofitable, but playing suboptimally also has a (usually very over rated, especially at low limits) “advertising value”, which will make your profitable hands slightly more profitable. Basically, someone who has noticed you play (aggressively) with 98s will be more likely to pay you off when you have AA.

  4. Point 1 and 3 also work together. If you play shorthanded you can play an even higher amount of hands suboptimally pre-flop as long as you don’t compound your losses (ie: play poorly) on later streets.

In stud you have a forced bring-in which opens the betting, this would in hold’em simply mean that you playing with ante AND a big blind, but no small blind. The added EV of stealing the BB+ante (rather than just SB+BB or BB) should create more raising preflop. I don’t think that changes the preflop value of the cards though.

You usually measure by the times you voluntarily put money in the pot (VPIP). So playing from the BB in an unraised put usually isn’t included in “amnount of hands to play” discussions since not playing when it is called to you in the BB is impossible.

That’s actually untrue from two perspectives

  1. If a “shitty” hand has a +EV (ie: if will have a positive expectation in the given preflop context) it is not a “shitty” hand.

  2. If by “shitty” you mean what is traditionally thought of as “shitty” hands, ranging from 72o (the shittiest of them all) and T7s (somewhere between “shitty” and “you shouldn’t expect to win money with this hand but hey if you want to mix up your play…”.)

Why not just loosen up a little?

(Important note, this is relevant for cash games. Tournaments or even STT are a different animal)

I used to play for a living a few years back, scraping a few pound together at low stakes. What worked for me was basically, continually chipping away at the table. I was seeing a lot more pots than the experts would deem healthy, using a wide range of hands, but I was seeing them cheap, and jamming the pot when I hit a big hand (Thats the vital part of all this, when you get paid, you need to get paid with stacks). It worked well, and it was the social aspect that finally made me get a real job, rather than the financial aspect.

Try changing your hand range. Forget about the usual ten hands that new players are taught to stick with. Pocket aces and AK are nice and all, but as I heard it said, they will win you small pots, and lose you the big ones.

Learn how to play low suited connectors. Learn Set-mining, it is the ATM of the poker world. Learn implied odds. Learn how to spot when other players have pocket kings or aces, and when they do, call their raise to the flop. Because if you hit that flop, chances are that you are getting every penny they have. If you call a raise with 85s, how many people do you think will be able to put you on that hand?

None of this is orthodox, and others will probably tell you to ignore this as a load of crap, but if you are already bored with the basic ABC, TAG poker, then why not give it a go.

There’s something that one online site offers called “Rush Poker” where instead of being at a fixed table with the same people every hand, tables are constantly forming for a single hand then breaking up, and the moment you fold, even if it’s not your turn to act yet, you are instantly whisked away to a new table. So basically, even if you’re folding 90% of hands, instead of it being

(wait for hand to play out)
(wait for hand to play out)

fold fold fold fold fold play a hand

Are you playing fixed limit, pot limit, or no limit. I have not read any poker strategy books, but IMO, fixed limit offers far greater range of hands that PL or NL.

IMO, In fixed limit, almost any reasonable starting two cards is worth calling an un-raised pot in late position. Particularly if there has been a couple of “limpers” into the pot. Even if the pot has been raised once, I think there is still some value to calling with suited semi-connecting cards.

My opinion might go against the grain of wisdom of poker strategy and but considering implied odds, it can’t be too much of a loss.

Is Hi-Low poker now extinct or something? Or does it not work well in Hold 'Em? Hi-Low would ostensibly see more people calling-maybe (the pot odds would be half or so of what they would be with winner-take-all). Seems the most straightforward solution to me.

I have never seen hi/lo hold’em. I don’t think I would want to play it.

BTW, this is a good opportunity to pimp the Straight Dope Poker Club.

Try it, you’ll like it.


I came in here to say - Position. Position. Position. :smiley:

Recliner, look into a poker variant called Omaha. It’s Hold’em but with four cards in your hands rather than two. At the showdown, you use the two best cards in your hand and three on the table.

This gives a much higher potential for good starting hands.

Or, even more, Omaha Hi-Lo Split. I think that one approaches your goal of playing 50% of hands. Built hold on to your sanity with your teeth…

Stoneburg covered it very well. If you want to play more hands your only real options are to play short handed or to not be a winning player.

In a 9 or 10 handed limit game the guy who is playing 16% is the guy who is paying his bills with poker winnings … and that goes for Omaha, too.

No Limit is somewhat different. Most of the older players are still very tight (in that same 14% to 16% range) and they have earned a living for years, but there is something to this Young Guns Super Aggressive thing. It isn’t really clear whether their style will last; a lot of the early adopters who scored big wins have lost back a lot of it and many more are now in the process of giving it to the older, tighter players … so I would say it is possible that many of them are just statistical flukes who have had a lucky run against other wildly loose and aggressive players. In poker, it is possible to run good or run bad for a long time, perhaps as much as two years of full time live play.

Actually the reverse is true. Since the amount of money you can score after the flop is smaller compared to your preflop investment in FL (Fixed Limit) than in PL/NL (Pot-Limit or No-Limit), it is more important to be ahead in expected value preflop. This means you have to play tighter in FL than in PL or NL, because you won’t be paid off as much when you catch up.

This is actually a common and very dangerously faulty advice.

Hand values are relative to other hands. Yes, you got four cards to play, but so did your opponents. Now you’re not building two-pairs or trips, now you’re building Ace-high flushes and (big) full houses, nut hands.

Hi-lo is the same, it is relative to the fact your opponents got as many hands. On top of that, people usually find it harder to estimate hand worth, so even if they are playing the right amount of hands, they may be playing unprofitable hands and folding profitable ones.

These two misconceptions is why PLO8 is a rare game. People who don’t understand these basic rules (ie: fish) will go broke so quick that the game becomes unsustainable. Basically, people who get this has such a big edge that people who don’t get this very quickly go broke, which is a strong disincentive for fish to keep playing. It’s no fun for newbies, because good players will crush them.

I think the success of the über-LAG-style (Loose Aggressive) was due to the majority of good players actually playing too tight. As soon as your opponent strays from optimal strategy you can exploit it, which means playing looser. If 5 out of six players are playing too tight, it is profitable for the 6:th player to play looser.

Bingo, you got me. The one thing I know I’m doing wrong is – well, just what you said. I do consider position, and I do know its crucial – but I’ve only got a rudimentary concept of where to “draw the lines”, so to speak. Assuming a full table of ten, I’ve worked out a basic “gut” calculation on whether my position warrants buying in…but I’m not doing the math, and I know that’s not good poker. Question on this: I’ve read but one book on “modern” (ie, post…Brunson?) Poker strategy, and its…darnit, can’t find it around, but I believe its called “Winning Low-Limit Hold 'Em”. Its fairly popular, and fairly thin, but it did teach me the basic principles; now I feel like I need a little cheat-sheet, or a quick calculator for pot-odds, and so on. Basically: for you good players, can you recommend any quickie formulas for calculating this sort of thing? Or recommend your personal favorite book that would describe them? I think I’m capable of building the speed of said calculations through practice, but I feel like I need a new starting point, essentially. (Its going to take me a little time to work through this thread, since I neglected it – long story, workplace crap, then a brainfart – but I like what I’m hearing, thus far. I was expecting to hear suggestions on rule changes, which obviously aren’t likely to occur…solid advice on good strategy is absolutely appreciated.

Oh, and as far as style-variance goes – this is the one area that I feel I’ve got some natural talent for. I’ve actually won many a hand through simply allowing my obvious naivete show, and then – well, I’m told this is “controversial” (via the one book), and I don’t watch TV Poker, but I find few things more satisfying than a well-played Check-Raise. That’s not gonna get me shot, is it? (I doubt it, online, and I’m not going to set foot in a live cardroom until I feel like I deserve a spot :smiley: )

INTENDED EDIT: That made it sound like I play strictly online; I don’t, and have played in casinos. Basically, right now I don’t feel I have either the bankroll or the talent to even make any fun, let alone any money, in a live game at a casino…and I don’t believe you can play “real” poker either with your friends (I can beat all of my friends; I don’t want to be the guy who loses his friends for a few bucks) or online (just don’t ever think it’ll be trustworthy – why not use a bot, online? Poker is a game of personalities, and if we’re talking about playing for matchsticks, well, that doesn’t work either…because nobody cares about losing, so they play sloppy.). Live tournaments are probably the best option in the future; for the time being, I’m playing with a Poker “Sim” called…<checking…> “Poker Academy Pro 2”. I kinda like it; it provides analysis, and you can quickly skip the current hand and let the AI play out if you feel like folding and NOT waiting.

But I digress. :slight_smile:

Lest I hijack my own thread, there’s one more thing I’ve always wanted to ask, and it seems we’ve got some people who know their spit. World-class poker players don’t appear to be math savants; they also don’t appear to be psychology savants (meaning: I’ve seen plenty of good players who think they’re fooling everyone with their various silly acts, and if you spend time in the casinos (or, presumably, cardrooms – its all casinos, here, this being Connecticut, USA – and I’m turning a blind eye to anything illegal, since that’s not my bag, baby, and also against the rules)…ahem, if you spend time in the cardrooms and casinos, you see that nearly everyone is – besides playing decent Poker – cultivating their “Poker Persona”. My favorites are the guys who actually get a little insulting…I know its an act, and I think everyone else does, and if anyone ever lost their cool, welp, there’s the door, sonny.

Man, can I ramble. Anyway: what is it that makes someone great at Poker? The card-counters (once they realize that counting ain’t worth it) never seem to be able to parlay their “human-calculator” skills into developing fast-paced, winning strategies; per above, the “Characters” don’t seem to be fooling anyone, and…well, ok, you can realistically only bluff “hard” (as in, with nothing – we all do a bit of bluffing every hand we play) about once or twice an evening. So…I’m guessing its a combo. The famous oldtimers seem to be able to maintain a cool head and a cooler hand; this, I reckon, is the true act (and you see it in a number of top-tier sports)…the “making it look easy”, the feigned casualness. Combine this with a solid understanding of strategy, honed to a gut-level (since, realistically, Hold 'Em appears to be too complex a game to always make the right decision – and thankfully so, or it’d lose its fun)…combined with unpredictability. Huh. Maybe I should write a book :wink: