Any guidelines suggested for poker play must always take into consideration that every situation is very much dependent on various factors. However, as you play, you will learn to adjust your play to deal with each situation. For example, you can play AA many different ways. If first to act, and you know that it's likely to get raised by aggressive players in later position; try just calling. You can then get an extra bet from each player by re-raising. If there is no raise after your call, you have disguised your hand perfectly and may well benefit later on in the hand.
When in late position (on the button for example) and there has already been a raise; you can either raise or just call and keep your aces disguised (slow play), for greater action after the flop and turn card. It really is down to each individual situation. Although there is some risk attached to slow playing Aces, it can sometimes pay dividends.
When calling raises, make sure you are not asking for trouble by calling with hands that will cost you money. You can only do this if you pay attention as to who the raiser is. With loose players, you can call with your AT, KJ and KQ. However, these are trouble hands when calling against tight and solid players. Also, pay attention to your position as even AQ when first to act, is not a premium hand. However, in late position when there hasn’t been a raise, it is a fairly strong hand. This principle also applies to medium pairs like 66, 77, 88, and 99. So don’t look to raise with these hands from early position.
Big suited cards like KQ, AJ, AQ and AK always look pretty. But be careful not to fall madly in love with them as they are only drawing hands. Very often, with AK you will hit either a pair or a draw. For example, a flop containing TJ, TQ or JQ. With these flops you will tend to feel that you can win the hand by either hitting the straight or your AK. But be warned, although the straight will be good, the A or K could give someone else two pairs or a straight.
Overall, try to portray a tight image by being very selective with your starting hands. This will give you respect from the other players and therefore, the opportunity to steal a few pots when the situation is right.
In the next article we will look at making bluffs in Limit.
Until then - play well, get lucky and enjoy life!
Peter “The Poet” Costa