Logic is the cornerstone of good poker strategy. To be a winning poker player, you need to be able to synthesize your mathematical studies with an understanding of psychological player profiling. There’s a lot that goes into it.
Context provides reasons for taking line A over line B. No matter what the situation, there’s always an optimal play—sometimes its pushing all in, and other times its folding.
Though there’s no golden rule for knowing whether to do one thing over another, there is one simple trick that you can use to make better decisions. Always have a reason.
The Good and the Bad
There are some good reasons for making a play. If you’re getting great pot odds on a nut draw, then you should probably call. If you’re playing against a nit who’s showing weakness, go ahead and fire that big bluff.
The important thing to remember is that you’re verbalizing to yourself why you’re taking these actions. There is a justification behind everything you do. You have a reason, so, even if you’re wrong, you can learn from your play.
What you shouldn’t do, on the other hand, is make plays just because you feel like it or because you’re bored. These aren’t good reasons! Don’t open a mediocre hand just because you want to get in the pot.
Whatever you do, don’t play thoughtlessly. Throwing chips into the pot without having a reason is a surefire way to lose chips and not improve.
Deviating from Your Strategy
The most important time to think through all the reasons for making a play is when you deviate from your default strategy. For instance, limping is generally a bad play. If you do decide to limp, however, you need a good reason for doing so.
Perhaps you’re in late position with a mediocre hand and the blinds are weak players who won’t pressure you—see the flop and maybe you can extract some chips from them if you hit.
The key here is that you’re not just going to limp because you’re bored. The deviation happens for a very good reason.
Try this exercise in your next game. Whenever you take any action, ask yourself why you’re doing so. This will go a long way towards making you a better poker player.