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A 5-Step Plan for Making Good Poker Decisions

21 October 2010, By:
An easy-to-use decision model for poker players.
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Photo courtesy of Sigurd Decroos

In previous articles we've explained techniques that are involved in making good decisions at the poker table, such as pot odds and EV.

Now we'll put it all together into a clear and simple method that guarantees that every poker decision you make will be properly thought through and hold a certain quality.

1. Calculate Pot Odds

How much can you win and how much can you lose if you make a certain play? This question is the basis for all thinking in poker.

Example: There's $100 in the pot. The opponent bets $50. You risk $50 to win $150. The pot odds are 3-to-1.

2. Calculate Winning Odds


What are your chances of winning the pot? Either you already have a good idea of your winning chances, or you need to count your outs.

Example: You have a straight draw on the turn. The odds for making the straight on the river are 8:38, a little better than 1:5.

3. Compare Pot Odds and Winning Odds

Figure out if your EV is positive or negative.

Example: With pot odds of 7:4 and winning odds of 2:3, your EV is slightly positive. You should probably stay in the hand unless you have additional information (see below).

4. Adjust for Complications

Often, the above steps overlook some information you have that is hard to quantify, such as bluff equity, consequences of continued betting or your gut feeling.

Example: A raise seems right in theory, but there's something about the other guy. You feel that he's just waiting for you to raise. In the end you choose to just call and he turns over a monster. You saved yourself a big bet by adjusting the "theoretically correct" decision.

5. Make a Decision

You've processed all the available information and reached an opinion. Now you must have the courage to act on it. This can be scary, but since it's the best you can do, it should be scarier not to do it.

If you follow through on your analysis and win a big pot, the feeling is great!

Feeling great, isn't that what poker is all about?

/Charlie River

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