Maximize the size of the pots that you win; minimize the amount of your money in the pots that you lose.
Pretty anti-climactic, eh? Expecting quite a bit more, weren't you? And why wouldn't you...to be told to expect the golden rule of your favourite game is bound to straighten you up to attention in your seat. And to be told something so simple, something so base that you already knew, has got to hurt. Before you hit your Back button to leave this page in disgust, I hold that half of home poker players have never thought of this point in its entirety. And of the half that do, I also hold that half of them do not keep this principle in mind when making every single observation and every single decision they make at the Poker table.
This rule of Poker is in fact so simple, that it is often overlooked. Every time you put money into a pot that you can't win 'just to see what comes up', you lose more money than you need to. Every time you don't maximize the size of the pot by folding players with a big bet who would have otherwise stayed in and called on a smaller bet, you win less money that you could have. It must be emphasized that individual hands are insignificant compared to your overall winnings/losings over the course of the night. Knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em is the smartest thing that non-gambler Kenny Rogers ever contributed to this game. Again, it's so simple, it's overlooked. I challenge anybody to come up with a single generic poker strategy that does not, in some way, branch off of this one golden rule of Poker. The fact is that this rule is the basis behind all intelligent Poker playing. In fact, as more golden rules of poker are put forward in the weeks to come, the truth is that they will all go back to this one rule. Therefore, we'll take this one with basic examples and illustrations.
In a Community Poker game, half of the players are live, and card-reading up until this point suggests that no player has a made hand yet. Everybody is waiting for their ticket on the board. Yours comes up. You decide that you are more than the likely winner, with few hands that can beat you. In jubilation, you bet the table's max. With still more cards to be revealed (and therefore, more betting rounds to come), you fold all or most of the players at the table. Was it worth it? From a mathematical standpoint, could you have increased the size of your pot with a soft bet now -one that would have kept more players in the game- and a big bet later?
In a game of Murder, you have two exposed pairs and remain in the game with one player showing an outside straight flush. Because of your pairs, half of the money in the pot is yours...worse still, you do not have the full house. The other player has not paired up once, therefore has invested little into this pot, may have the straight flush, and if he doesn't, could still beat you with a flush. You bet small, he sees, and re-raises. Things don't look good for you to win, but so much of that pot was yours that you'd feel weak to let it go. You'd be better off swallowing your pride and folding. Your money in the pot is already spent. Any more money that you invest into this pot -based on odds- is lost, especially since representing the boat didn't bluff him out. Every penny more you put into this pot does nothing to minimize your amount of money into a pot you will likely not win. These examples are basic, but critical. Future golden rules that stem from this one will go into a little more detail, depending on the ground being covered. But, take this piece of advice to your next game. Pay attention to whether or not your decision-making truly reflects the maximizing of wins and the minimizing of losses.
The only winnings/losings that count is the overall bottom line at the end of the night. Did you pull in more money in maximized pots that you put out in minimized losses?
To go to the "Common Sense Poker Rule 2" page, click here.