Dachimpy's Basic Poker Guide
|The topic of this article is subject to personal opinion, and does not represent any one absolute truth.|
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This guide will be in two parts, first a brief overview of a basic guide intended for 2-20k tables. Secondly a more detailed one aimed for the 20-200k tables.
Never reveal your hand until all play has stopped. If other people are doing this then it is a public disturbance and you can blackspot it to prevent it happening further AFTER A WARNING. The first time they do it simply warn them that it is wrong and the consequences of them doing it again, after that you can use the blackspot.
If you lose just think of the long run rather than respond with out of line comments. If they got lucky smile and know that they are the kind of people that make it so easy to make a large profit from poker.
During the article I will use various poker terms, which I will describe here.
Check Re-raise This is an act where you either check or call the blinds with the intent of letting someone else raise, followed by you doing another raise.
Odds = The odds of your hand hitting
Pot odds = The odds of your hand hitting relative to how much you are having to pay vs how much you could potentially win.
Implied Odds = Your pot odds PLUS what you think you could win if you make your hand on the turn or river.
Pocket Pair = Two cards of the same type in your hand
Three of a kind terms
Trips = Three of a kind using two cards from the board
Set = Three of a kind using a pocket pair
Four card flush = You have four cards of the same suit and need a 5th for a flush
Open ended straight draw = You have four cards all in a row and need one of two to complete your straight
Inside straight draw = See above but with only one possible card to help.
Value Betting = Betting the amount that you think they can call
The first stage to becoming good at poker is developing a strong pre-flop starting hand.
What are the requirements to call something preflop? Simple, you should be calling preflop if over the long run you will win more than you will lose on that hand. For example 27 on rare occasion might flop trips or a two pair but the amount of big blinds that you will have to call to justify this is too much. If you have to call 27 offsuit 50 times to catch a strong pot, and only win 20 big blinds then you are fighting a losing battle with that hand. If you think you will profit from the call in the long run, then it is a good call.
Developing your starting requirements
This is something that most people would do in their head, but you should create a table of what you will call and then stick to it. Here is an example.
Hands to go all in with
AA, KK, QQ, JJ, AKs
Hands to do a large preflop raise with
AK, AQs, AJs, KQ, 10 10, 9 9
Hands to call a 4xBB raise
Any other two face cards, any pocket pair, any suited connectors
Hands to call the BB
King or Queen with a kicker above 6 or suited, Connecting hands above a 5
Please note that this is a very simplified version of starting hand requirements aimed to give a brief introduction.
How to play monster hands such as AA or KK
There are two ways to play these hands that I use.
You can either slow play and check re-raise or be aggressive. The choice is normally determined by how loose the table is and your position. If you are late to act then you will almost always either re-raise someone or raise yourself. If however you are one of the first to act, just call the blinds!
The reason you would just call is that alot of the time people raise preflop. So your aim is to just smooth call and then let someone else do the raising at which point you raise them again. You now have a much larger pot than if you just raised yourself and got called. If they are a very loose player you could even all in, alot of players defend their money far too much even on the biggest tables. A very common scenario: Someone raises 4 big blinds, people think their mediocre hands are worth it in their minds. Someone then comes along and bets another 8 big blinds, well they just called four preflop so of course they have to call this extra 8! Before they know it they are in big pots with weak hands all because they refused to let go.
How to play strong hands such as AK, QQ, JJ, 10 10
On a 2-20k table you might consider going all in with these hands aswell given the loose nature of the table.
Usually however i find it much better to raise and develop a pot. Here is my reasoning.
AK - It is nothing until it hits, and is beaten in odds by any pocket pair beats any other two cards 3:2 in odds, such as QJ vs AK - AK is only a 3:2 favourite!!! This is not a huge glory situation. So why not wait and see what you can flop? Three of your five chances are there to make your ace or king.
QQ, JJ, 10 10 - These pocket pairs automatically become useless if an overcard falls so seeing the flop can make you get away alot cheaper or make you alot more confident in your hand if the board is all low cards. Imagine 10 10 going all in, what will it be against? Most likely two face cards which put 10 10 at only a slight advantage. The situation is similar for jacks but gets better as you move up to queens since there are less overcards that they can face.
How to play two face cards
2-20k Tables are very loose, so any two face cards are worth playing up to around 4 big blinds (which would be around a 1k raise) If the raises are always bigger than this you may want to just go for the premium hands to ensure better odds of winning unless you have a large amount of money.
How to play suited connectors and low pockets
56 diamonds, 78 clubs etc are suited connectors which have a nice chance to hit flushes and straights.
Low pockets and suited connectors are hands best suited to pots with alot of people in them, to play these you need alot of people involved. The reason is their odds of hitting are low but when they do hit its almost always the best hand. So try and see the flop as cheap as you can.
How to play face cards with a good kicker
These are hands like k9, j 10, q 10. Usually i favour just limping in with these hands and aiming for top pair on the flop.
How to play anything else
The simple answer is you don't. If your hand is not covered in the above categories fold it.
Players on 20k tables are very very loose, so on the flop if you make no pair at all - FOLD automatically. This includes hands such as AK, if you don't make anything on the flop you probably won't make it by the river so trying to defend these pretty looking hands is a losing proposition. The best way to go is to be tight, bluffing has virtually no place to a winning style on a 20k table.
Top Pairs with a good kicker
Your aim for a 20k table is to make a top pair with a good kicker at minimum. The way you should think about calling/betting on the flop is not oh its only a small bet but you should think ahead. If the pot is at 2k and they bet 1k when you have a mid pair, you shouldn't just be thinking about that bet but the fact that after you call he will probably fire 2k, then 4k so by the river you have just called 7k into a 1k pot on a mid pair.
A basic strategy would be top pair = bet 2/3 of the pot, you will get a large amount of callers the large majority of the time. Notice I say 2/3 OF THE POT. There is no such thing as raising a set amount with a hand, everything is relative to the pot.
Drawing hands are those that are almost a strong hand but need one extra card. Calling these requires some calculation.
Good odds draws
Open ended straight draw / Four card flush
Odds from Flop --> River just under 2:1
Odds from Flop --> Turn / Turn --> River 4.2:1
These are the two most common draws that you will find on a poker table and you will make them about a third of the time by the river. So how do you work out whether you should call or not? I will leave complicated explanations and just simplify it. An open ended straight or four card flush is worth calling if either there are three players in the pot you can call up to the pot size (Including yourself) or if there are only two players, it is half the pot or less. Both of these general rules will allow you to about break even on calling, the profit will then come on any bets you make should you hit your hand (Implied odds which will be covered in the 200k article)
Inside straight draw / Mid pair improving to two pair The odds at each stage are about 10:1 as a rough guess!!! This is tiny!!! Sure you will make it some times and kick yourself but every time just tell yourself how much money you have saved yourself in the long run by folding. Inside straight draws and midpairs are NOT valid draws unless you are getting very very generous odds to call.
Over cards are things such as holding AK against a low board hoping to pick up one of them. There are two things to remember with these hands.
1. Your odds for improving your hand are fairly low
2. Your cards may form someone elses two pair!
You can pick up any of six cards to make your hand which looks shiny but in reality you are getting about 3:1. Another thing that will kill you is this scenario.
You raised preflop on AK and refuse to let it go after the flop comes 4 5 q. Likely hands that you could face are idiots with 4q, 5q, 4a, 5a or tighter players with qk/qa. This is a recipie for disaster which is one of the biggest reasons to not call if you miss. If a king or an ace hit you could either still be behind and think you were just the luckiest person in the world / You are an overly confident person that thinks justice was just served because AK always deserves to win. Or that card could give you top pair top kicker and someone else a two pair.
A famous poker quote from TJ Cloutier: Texas Hold'em is a game of top pair top kicker, this is your aim in most hands! In the others let it go! You have the choice between folding the flop and getting away cheap, or chasing it and paying very heavily.
Low pockets are fairly useless on their own, your aim with these hands is to hit three of a kind or a set. So if you don't make a set on the flop with a low-medium pocket pair FOLD. If you do make a set there are a few things to examine.
1. Are there any obvious drawing hands?
2. Do you think someone else got a piece of the flop?
3. Are they maniacs or tight players?
4. Who had the initiative preflop?
Drawing Hands? - yes One of the biggest threats to flopping a set are flush and straight draws. So your aim will be to make calling these kinds of hands unprofitable. Look up to see the odds for a straight or flush draw and what you should call - make it so that they have to call outside of these odds! If people will call the full pot on a flush draw they will get lucky some times but in the long run they will be feeding you money. So don't slow play if someone could have a draw - Attack that pot!
Drawing Hands? - no If there are no drawing hands then you should look on to the other questions.
Do you think someone else got a piece of the flop? There are TWO components to getting a lucky hand in poker. First you must hit a strong hand, secondly someone else must have a hand to call you. Compare these two flops when you have pocket tens assuming they are a rainbow flop (All different colours)
2 2 10
2 10 a
The hand was raised preflop and you are jumping up and down because you have made your tens, but which hand is better? There are things both for and against each of these flops.
2 2 10
++ You have a full house! Only a 2 2 is better!
-- It is most likely that nobody had a piece of this flop whatsoever, so you have to rely on being paid off either by maniacs or pocket pairs. In the unlikely case that an opponent does hold 2 2, you are likely to lose a lot of money.
2 10 a
++ You have a set AND someone else probably has an ace - So you can play agressively and make them pay you off.
-- It is only a set rather than a full house, so there are still draws out that can beat you such as runner runner flushes, or inside straight draws.
So the general principal is if you think someone has had a piece of the flop, BET! If you don't think they got a piece of the flop and there are no dangerous draws LET THEM CATCH UP!
for the 2 2 10 hand imagine this scenario.
You have 10 10, someone else has ak and a third has jq. If you bet they have nothing other than thin air (Which doesn't occur to most players however) however if you were to check and let a free card come off it is very likely that one of them can river a pair which would allow you to get paid off.
Are they maniacs or tight players? 2-20k tables in my experience have two breeds of player. Firstly the uber tight kind that will never play a pot unless they think they have the absolute best of it and have no style or skill whatsoever, and secondly the complete maniac that will bet anything.
The best style to use against a maniac is tight and passive. Tight means that you are very selective in what hands you call and passive means that you let THEM do the betting. Think of it this way, which is more likely to happen from a maniac? Betting or calling? It is alot easier for them to bet and think they are bluffing you out of the pot than it is for them to call a raise from you. So let them take control of the pot until the turn then perhaps check and re-raise them after they try to bet into you again to really make them pay for it.
The best style to use against a tight player is loose and agressive, the way that they lose is via blinds which is fairly impossible on this kind of table so you just have to bet fairly small and hope they got a piece of the pot or let them catch up a tiny bit. Poker is a predatory game, it is NOT about trying to beat the best player on the table. The aim is to take it from the people that are weaker than you are in player ability.
Who had the initiative preflop? The person with the initiative is the last person that made a raise. A standard play is to bet again on the flop. So if there is someone else who did the raise preflop and you limped into the hand then it is more than likely that they will bet again and you can just passively call or check-reraise
An overpair is a pocket pair that is bigger than any card on the board. These are the kind of hands that can be drawn out on so the best idea is always to push the pot aggressively or aim to check re-raise all in with a maniac player.
DO NOT BE BLIND
One of the hardest things you may have to learn to do is fold pocket aces. It is a hand with very strong ODDS, it is not pre-destined to win. If there is no possible hand they would push on other than a hand that has you beat then lay it down! One of the most important things with high pockets is to crush people's odds preflop and to get people out of the pot, the flop should generally be down to the luck of what the other person hit if you have developed your odds correctly.
Any other hand
Fold. Do not call mid-pairs unless the bet is tiny, do not call no pairs in any circumstances, do not call bottom-pairs. Get away cheap and wait for a better hand knowing that 20k table players are loose and you can get a much better opportunity to take their money, why risk it on a bad hand?
MOST of your decision making is made ON THE FLOP, so post-flop is less important.
For drawing hands follow the same principal as on the flop. If you have a top pair or other dominating hand carry on betting relative to the pot unless you have a good reason to be scared, such as a flush draw coming out or straight draw hitting. If this does happen re-play the hand in your head! Did his play seem like he had a flush draw on the flop? Often you won't be able to tell with these class of players. A safer solution is usually to slow down and just check and be prepared to call rather than risk being re-raised. However be aware that this makes it very obvious that you were afraid of that turn card. If you have nothing, well you shouldn't have even made it to the Turn unless it was free. In which case you check and prepare to fold.
By the river you should have made up your mind on if you have the best hand or not. At this stage you aren't trying to make people pay to see their draws or push people out of the pot. River strategy is about VALUE betting or folding.
If you think they have a better hand than you, check and fold. If you think you have the better hand, how much better is it? What do they have?
Value betting is all about betting the amount you think you can get called for with the better hand. It takes alot of practice.
For example if someone has shown alot of weakness throughout the hand you don't want to put in a large river bet if you are strong, they may have a busted draw and your hopes for being paid off are low or they have maybe a weak pair. Bet an amount they can call! It doesn't matter what you have, if they have a bottom pair it is irrelevant whether you have a top pair or a royal flush. The bet is what THEY can call, irrelevant of your hand strength.
If you are unsure then just check and be prepared to call a reasonable amount based on what you think has happened in the hand.
One of the important things in poker is identifying the different types of players at a poker table. When you play higher stakes there are alot more things to consider but here are some basic profiles of poker players.
They bet anything and everything and are just generally bored. You can idenify these very easily by their amount of involvement in pots.
Can you bluff them? NO! If you identify someone to be a maniac forget any form of bluffing.
Will they chase bad hands? Yes, almost any form of draw a maniac will chase.
What range of starting cards do they have? They can call anything from 27 offsuit to pocket aces so this makes them very unpredictable.
How do you beat this kind of player? Very tight solid play, don't try any sort of fancy style.
These people hardly ever bet but will almost always call bets. Them putting money into the pots is almost a sure sign of strength and that you should avoid that player for the hand.
Can you bluff them? Generally bluffing these players is a bad idea, they like to call!
Will they chase bad hands? They will generally chase bad hands but only call - Therefore it is very obvious if they have just turned or rivered you alot of the time.
What range of starting hands do they have? Calling stations are fairly loose but they will have at least some sort of requirements and will probably fold the absolute garbage hands.
How do you beat this kind of player? Avoid their betting and put money into the pot when you think you have them beat - Again tight solid play.
These people hardly ever call preflop and will never call you without something strong. They love to know they have the best of the hand. This is the type of player that this guide tries to encourage you to be, since it works the best against the maniacs on puzzle pirates and doesn't involve too much skill.
Can you bluff them? Yes! Bluffing is the key to beating tight players, but only do it once! A bad habbit to get into is continually attacking the pot. If you think a player is tight then take one stab at the pot and then let it go unless you get to the river and you think they have a busted draw, then you might have another attempt.
Will they chase bad hands? In general tight players are alot less likely to chase hands
What range of starting hands do they have? Much tigher than most on the table, when they play they usually have a top hand.
How do you beat this kind of player? Eat away at their blinds and pre-flop calls with bluffs. Or wait for them to hit top pair while you get something better (They tend to overplay their top pairs).
Tight Aggressive Players
This category is the stronger players that have mastered the game.
Can you bluff them? Yes but they are good enough to pick up on this! They may play back at you.
Will they chase bad hands? They generally won't chase out of their odds however they might bet with them! Semi-bluffing when you have a draw might be a common move for this kind of player.
What range of starting hands do they have? They generally play quite tight preflop but pick up with aggression after the flop when they hit.
How do you beat this kind of player? They are very hard to beat, you generally have to be of the same type just better at it than them or get lucky. If you are starting out try to avoid this kind of player - Be a predator! Take the money from those weaker than you rather than aim for the strong players.
20-200k Table Guide
This guide will be a bit more in depth and introduces the things that you should start thinking about if you want to dominate these tables.
I covered profiling players in the last guide, In this one I am going to encourage a very in depth analysis of players techniques. As you play the game you should be filling this table in, at least in your head, about each player.
Identifying a players pre-flop strategy
This is one of the most basic things to try and identify, their starting hand selection. Here are the questions that should go through your head.
1. Do they fold the 2k blinds?
2. Do they constantly limp in when raised?
3. Do they refuse to fold to re-raises?
4. Do they like to play any two face cards?
5. Do they play nothing but the very best cards?
6. Do they play any two cards even for a 10k raise?
7. Do they appear to have any concept of position?
8. How do they play strong preflop hands? Do they hit the all in button? Trap? Just raise?
9. What range of hands do they all in on? Any pockets? Only aces?
10. Do they like having the initiative (Will only raise) or are they passive? (Will call alot)
11. Do they call any hands that have alot of players involved?
12. Are they on tilt?
When they have nothing
1. Do they make continuation bets?
2. Do they check and fold when they have nothing?
3. Will they try and chase overcards?
4. If they make continuation bets how big are they?
5. How big will they call or bet on overcards?
When they have a draw
1. Do they semi-bluff with draws?
2. Do they try to take control of the pot to limit betting?
3. Will they bet out on a drawing hand?
4. How much will they call on draws? Only within the odds? any amount? All in on a flush draw?
When they have a decent hit
1. Do they donk-bet hits?
2. Do they passively call?
3. Do they raise appropriate amounts?
4. Do they over-bet the pot?
When they have the nuts
1. Do they donk-bet the nuts?
2. Do they let you slowly hang yourself as you try to bluff?
3. Do they attack the pot?
4. Do they have a distinctive play that is different to their regular hits that you can pick up on that shows extreme confidence?
1. Do they automatically try and bet people out of the pot that have checked to them?
2. Do they only do this some of the time?
3. Do they only do this on safe looking boards?
1. Have you ever seen them faking something? Such as a check re-raise to show strength.
2. Do they use probing bets?
3. How good is this player? Three basic levels of skill could be: What do I have? What do they have? What do they think I have?
4. Are they playing with "scared money"?
1. Does this person have a very strong personality? If they have very good character this generally means that it takes alot more bad beats to put them on tilt than one with a weak character.
2. Do they complain about hands alot? Alot of complaining indicates they are loose players that aren't very good.
3. Do they always rub it in when they have had the best hand or bluffed you? You can use this to gather information about your opponents play.
1. Do they bluff twice?
2. Do they release misses on the turn?
3. Are they capable of calling the flop and then folding the turn?
4. Is the turn the time they make their move if they saw alot of checks?
5. Does checking both the flop and the turn indicate weakness for them?
6. Does smooth calling both the flop and the turn indicate a draw for them?
7. How often do they usually bet the turn? If you have seen them reveal hands what do they bet on?
8. Do they call to the turn just because they have put in their blinds?
9. Do they call very quickly if they have a draw?
1. Does your opponent reveal strength on the river?
2. Do they bet out of position with the nuts or slow play?
3. Do they try and bluff on the river if they have missed their flush/straight draw?
4. Do they overbet the pot or do they value bet?
1. Does this player mix up their strategy or do they stick to one thing all the time? (If they stick to one strategy continuously it is very easy to answer all of these questions, becoming a skilled player means making it as hard as possible to complete all these questions about someone)
2. Do they try and "holly wood" pretending they had a good hand before folding?
3. Do they take their time before calling strong hands or just do it instantly?
4. How often have they been raising?
5. Do they allow you to "play back at them" if you think they are bluffing?
The whole point of noting down all the things listed in the previous statement are that so you can pick up tells on your opponent. If you are just playing your cards then you aren't going to do very well. One of the most important things is picking up on tells from your opponent.
Remember these things are guidelines! They aren't true for every player just for alot of them, and even if one player does it one time it doesn't mean it will be the same next time.
Most of the tells will come in the form of noting how they acted in a certain situation and looking for the same betting patterns. For example there are alot of players that hugely overbet when they have the nuts and it is a very obvious tell because they do it on nothing but the nuts.
There are a few other things that might help with tells.
Speed of the action
The speed of the call or check is usually a very big indicator of what they have. A very common scenario is someone taking a little time to decide to call on the flop, followed by a lightning fast call on the turn. This the huge majority of the time is a drawing hand, the instant call shows they have made up their mind of what they want to do and are drawing to their cards. Therefore if a flush or straight is made on the river you might be in alot of trouble.
I find a very fast check also means that they have absolutely nothing, there was no decision process if it as an automatic check.
A very fast bet might mean that it is simply a continuation bet and they were going to do it regardless of if they have hit or not.
What has happened in the last few hands?
Has this player been on a losing streak or a winning streak? Both of these with weaker players can give you a large tell on how their play is affected.
Omg you freaking lucker! Is usually followed by loose maniac style play.
If they are on a winning streak they might seek to continue this by betting aggressively, but not quite as much of a maniac style as that of someone losing.
Preflop Starting Hands
This section for the 2-20k table was very simplified, I will expand on it here.
I will introduce two new concepts to the starting hands, which are Trap Hands and Position.
Trap hands are the sort of hands where you are very often dominated, the worst possible thing you can get is flopping exactly what you wanted only to find out your opponent has a better kicker. These are hands such as Q 10 or J 10.
Lets examine the sort of hands they might be against. AK, AQ, AJ, A 10, JK, QJ. Immediately just from that short list of strong starting hands you can see the potential disaster for these trap cards. These hands are best avoided for the large raised pots, you are better off waiting for the stronger starting hands.
Position - Preflop action all depends on what position you have, it will govern the rest of your play throughout the hand to a large degree.
Blinds - These hands are last to act preflop and always first to act post flop. This means that after the flop you are able to gather almost no information about your opponents and are often betting blind.
Under the gun - The first person to act after the blinds
Early Position - The few places just after the blinds
Medium Position - The few middle positions
Late Position - The positions that are late to act
On the button - The person with the button, the last person to act.
It is a huge advantage to be able to see what everyone else wants to do in the hand before you make your decision, that is why position is so crucial. You should be playing very tight in the early positions and then starting to loosen your hand requirements as you reach the button.
Revising your starting requirements
Now that you are moving up, you need to revise what hands you start with. 20-200k tables are still very loose but not as loose as the 2-20k tables.
You should both play slightly tighter and factor in position, so your table of starting hands should be built as follows.
The hands to play no matter what
Hands that I will avoid in the blinds
Hands that I want to be in medium position for
Hands that I want to be in late position for
My general advice when you are starting out is to only go for the very strongest hands, if you aren't very good you will need that preflop advantage otherwise you will simply be outplayed too much.
Once you get comfortable with reading people and how to play you can start playing any two face cards for raises because of the loose nature of 20-200k tables this pays off quite well when you hit. But always consider your position! QJ might be a good hand to raise if you have the button but it is a very bad idea if you are in one of the blind positions.
Choosing where you sit for position reasons
When you first read this it might seem a bit stupid but where you sit is very important! Identify who you think looks like a loose player on the table, and sit to the left of them! This allows you to have position on them in almost every hand which becomes very valuable.
Another thing you may want to do if someone is really that loose, is to sit just to the right of them. This trades being out of position for knowledge on the restof the table. For example if a person is all inning like crazy, you might want to all in looser hands but what about the other people? If you have position on the loose all in maniac then you will call thinking you have the best of it only to be called by someone else behind you. Behind to the right of the maniac lets you see what other people are calling his bets before you act.
The importance of control
This wasn't so much an issue on the 2-20k table but now on the 20-200k tables I will strongly push how important it is to be in control of the pot.
There are two factors to a hand, first is position and the second is who has control. One of the most horrible things you can do is become a very passive player who only calls preflop and then folds when they miss, your bets will become a warning beacon!!!
Only call preflop if you were intending to make that very same raise yourself, It is much easier to bet than it is to call!
A general rule usually is that if both people completely miss the flop, which they will alot of the time then the person with control over the pot will win.
Continuation betting on the flop
This is a very important aspect of controlling the pot. If you raise preflop and have control you MUST raise on the flop no matter what 90% of the time! This is a very profitable style of playing and almost every single top poker player does it. Put the decisions on the OTHER person, they must decide do I call? fold? raise? If you do continuation bets you force off many people that have missed hands and also decrease their ability to read you, they will never know what sort of hand you have since it could be anything from aces to a continuation bet on jq that completely missed.
The only thing to watch out for is to not get yourself caught being overly aggressive. Continuation bets are a wonderful thing but do it ONCE, on the rare occasion if you have a good reason you might do it again. One of the biggest killers is people refusing to let go of a bluff so if you don't pick up a pair and someone calls your continuation bet then let it go!
How much to do a continuation bet? Well I like to do about half to two thirds of the pot most of the time. The exceptions would be cases such as:
1. There is an extreme calling station or maniac that I know is planning on calling regardless
2. There were a very large number of people calling preflop and I am fairly sure at least one of them will be able to call
3. The flop was absolutely hideous, such as pocket tens and jqa flopping or there are so many draws such as a j 10 landing on the flop that there is too much of a chance that he will call either on a draw or on a hit and I would have no idea which.
One thing that can catch you out alot is having a coloured flop and convincing yourself that they are on a draw causing you to bluff only to see them reveal top pair or pockets.
Remember with continuation bets it very much depends on the sort of person that you are playing, if you are against the sort of person that is very loose preflop but must have a pair to continue then continuation bets must be a key part of your strategy. If you are against loose maniacs then you should be playing tight solid poker and forget about things like continuation betting - It doesn't pay off against maniac players!
Some common traps
There are alot of ways to get trapped, here are a few key mistakes that alot of new players might make.
Flushes/Straights on a paired board
If the board has paired a flush or straight is NOT the best hand, a full house is. If you are drawing to a straight or a flush you should generally abandon the draw if the board pairs and your opponent keeps betting, one of the biggest pay-offs is having a flush against a full house.
For example the flop is 236 all diamonds, you hold the ace of diamonds and the turn card is a 2. What if your opponent had pocket 6s? 32? 62? pocket 3s? You catching that diamond on the river is going to pay him off big. What if he doesn't? Well there is nothing he could possibly have that wouldnt be discouraged by a diamond on the river so your chances of getting paid off in that event are fairly low.
Alot of new players overplay AK, don't fall into this trap! AK is the same as any other two face cards usually if it doesn't hit don't put too much faith in this hand.
Drawing to the "dumb" end of a straight
Imagine the board is 456 and you have a 3, this is a really bad time to decide to try and draw to this straight. Avoid drawing to the dumb end of a draw! Things such as chasing the king high flush when the flop is all of one suit and you can be crushed by the ace or the lower end of a straight is equally as dangerous.
There are several reasons why you would want to beat each with a different reason.
Thinning the field
Certain hands do much better if you have fewer people to play against, These are hands such as AK, AA, KK where it spells disaster if you are in a pot with alot of people in it. These hands do not work well with alot of people!!! If you have pocket aces you must raise people out of the pot, if they call then it might mean you are in some trouble against low pockets hunting for a set.
Building value into the pot
Certain hands work very well multi-way. These are hands such as suited connectors and low pockets. The kind that have a low chance of success but when they hit its the nuts! You want as many people as possible in the pot when you have these kinds of hands.
Remember how I've stressed to lay down a draw if you aren't getting the right price? Make sure you don't present these situations to your opponents! If you have top pair and you think your opponent has a flush draw BET THEM OUT!
This is at the end of the hand when you are trying to extract as much money as possible from your opponent based on what you think he has.
These are the sort of bets where you are trying to find out where you are in the hand. Continuation bets might fall under this category. These kind of bets are say when you have a mid pocket pair and are betting out to test if your opponent has a part of the pot or not. The main aim of these bets is to gather information on your opponents hands.
When you are betting you should always be thinking about it in this way: What worse hand could they have that they can call? What hands could he have that I am beat on?
If you bet the river you should have your opponent on a weaker hand than you that you can get paid off on. Imagine this scenario: The flop comes 4 5 9 with two diamonds and you have pocket 8s, you raise and are called. At this point it is probably going through your head that it is either a person chasing overcards or the flush. The turn comes a 10 and you keep betting and just getting called with the river being a 2.
When you get to the river you have to sit down and analyse the hand, what worse hand could he have had that will call you on the river? The answer is pretty much nothing. So it is a much safer bet to just check the turn since they either had a busted draw and won't be calling you or you are beat.
Another good example could be 3 5 5 on a normal flop, you hold 56 and decide to bet it and get called by five people. At this point you should be sitting and thinking what they could possibly have, Are they just calling on a 3? pockets? Straight draw? Or in 5 callers it is very likely that one of them might have a 5 and have your kicker beat. This is another very good example of a situation where you should be betting but mostly to kill any sort of drawing hand since on the river you will probably find yourself facing another 5.
This is the style you should be using against people who are betting too agressively.
If you flop your hand and there is someone who is always betting, check it to them and let them drive the action. But be sure there is a good chance of this! Too much slow play is very bad because it lets people see free cards that could beat you. Normally slow playing is something when you have the absolute nuts and can't get drawn out on.
When you hit a flush DO NOT slow play the river! Attack the pot either with a value bet or a large bet. When there are 3 of the same suit on a board people are much less likely to bet, this also goes the same when you have the nuts. You can slow play the flop or turn but when it comes to the river you need to do your own betting!
You can also check re-raise when you have a very strong hand to make your move right there.