When I was a younger man playing baseball I always remembered my coaches saying, “Before every pitch know where you are going with the ball if it is hit to you.” If you’re the shortstop and no one is on base, you knew any ball hit to you was going to be thrown to first base. If you were an outfielder and the tying run was on third base, you knew any fly ball hit to you had to be thrown home to keep that runner from scoring.
Poker is played the same way. Before the betting gets to you, and before you ever look at your hand, you should know what you are going to do when the play comes to you. You should know the following four things before you look at your cards:
1. Which of the four positions am I in…early, middle, late or the blinds (early position is seats 2-4 after the big blind, middle position is seats 5-7 after the big blind, late position is seats 8-button after the big blind).
2. Based on that position how strong does my hand have to be to play (in early position the hand should be very strong, in later position the hand selection can be looser depending on the situation).
3. What is the bet to me?
4. How much of a raise will I make if my cards fit the position I am in?
If you look at your hand before you answer these questions mentally you will tend to overplay bad hands.
For instance, a recreational player looks at K-10 offsuit (which is a very, very average hand) and decides they want to play the hand. A better poker player watches the action. The better player knows there is a raise and a call before the action gets him. He knows he is in middle position. He will need a pair of sixes on up or A-K, A-Q, or A-J suited to call. If he has J-J or better he will raise three times the last bet. Then he looks down at the K-10 offsuit. It does not fit the criteria of the hand he must have to play (question no. 2) and throws the hand away.
Ask yourself these four questions before you ever look at your hand. Be a baseball player at the poker table and you will become a better poker player.
Good luck on the felt.