The “It Depends” Rule

How should you play this hand? Well, that depends on a lot of factors, from the players at the table to the cards that you hold. When all variables are in alignment, the opportunity to play a hand will be obvious to you. A bad player has raised, I am in position, and I have a decent hand. It's not hard to decide how to play this hand.

It depends on your cards.

When we said "your cards don't matter," it doesn't mean to play any two cards. Your cards are just one variable of five that can help you determine whether or not to play a hand. The strength of your cards is obvious from the first time you look at them. Even strong cards, when the other variables are against you, are an easy fold.

It depends on their cards.

It's important to understand that their cards can be anything. People play bad hands, and that's okay. We love people who play bad hands. We make more money off them. You don't need to know their cards to decide whether to play against them, but you should know whether or not you have the skill and information to deduce their cards by the end of the hand.

It depends on the community cards.

This is where poker gets very, very complicated. The game here introduces tons of variables we can't predict or control. All we can do is make estimations. Because our opponents can have anything, you should respond, not react. Listen, don't talk. Think, don't assume. Your opponents will react. They will telegraph their hands. Any action or non-action they make will narrow their range. The more they narrow their range, the clearer the decision of whether or not you should play becomes.

It depends on your stack size.

It depends on the opponent.

What is your opponent's goal? Why is he playing poker? Is he here to make money, to blow off steam, to gamble, to be the "alpha" at the table? If we start to understand these things about our opponents, we can start to intuit how to play against them. The important thing here is that you should avoid playing hands against opponents who "win" by taking your chips. These opponents are often tricky. Try to play against someone who "wins" when he has a night of running over the table, because you can let him run over you and still win more chips than you lose. You both win.

It depends on the table.

The table is a two-variable combination: the location of the button and the seating arrangement of the players. Do you have good players to your left, bad players to your right, bad players in the blinds? Are you in early position or late position? These things come together to form the "table."


  • Ernesto says:

    Interesting video and definitely one that has to be watched several times.

    Understanding that every player has a strategy is essential to play poker. When you are able to determine who is good or bad at the table your decision making becomes easier when raising, folding or checking.

    The flop, turn and river are what make poker complicated, that is a fact. You can also understand them as the second, third and fourth rounds of bets. They make poker complicated because learning how to bet and determining what type of player you are facing is as tricky as it gets but way exciting.

    I liked the part of the video that talks about figuring out early if an opponent wants to play a big pot with you. This can be determined in big part by how a player acts-bets pre flop and by the position of the button.

    Also it is important for newbies to dedicate time to learn about stack/pot ratio. This will allow you to predict how big a pot will be at the river (fourth round of bets), depending on your bets and stack size in the first stages of the hand.

  • […] At Risk Oriented, we teach that the first rule of poker is, "Your Cards Don't Matter." […]

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