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“The Most Valuable Skill at Poker” by Alan25main

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If you could master just one poker skill, what would it be? Alan25main poses this question below, sharing some of the ones he finds most important.

Poker may be the world’s most complex game that’s commonly played for money (real or pretend doesn’t matter, the principles are identical). Keeping in mind that world-class players master many or most of the needed skills, if you could master only one skill at the game, what would it be?

Would you pick the skill of knowing when to bluff? How a bluff is timed can make a huge difference to its rate of success. How about “who to bluff?” Some players are much more likely to fold than others. Another variation of that would be “what situations to bluff in.” Sometimes, a bluff is your only hope of winning.

Shift gears. How about knowing the correct amount to raise? Do you want to keep players in the hand or force them out of it? If you have the nuts, how can you get opponents to pay you the most they’re willing to risk?  What’s your objective and how do you get there?

Certainly knowing the basic drawing odds is a necessary skill, but does it help to know the chance of filling a flush if you suspect your opponent may already have a full house? How do you rationally balance that out? Say you have 48 chips left and your opponent bets 20. Are you better off to raise to 40 or to go all in for 48?

How about the basic mechanics of the game. Does every player need to be able to properly divide and apportion a tied split pot with side pots? (That one can quickly have you pulling your hair!) Or is that something only the Dealer needs to understand? 

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In a live game, how do you deal with an accidentally exposed card from someone’s hand? Does she get to keep it and use it in play or is it a dead card useful to no one? If a player has to pay 12 chips to call, and has only a 25-point chip, who gives the caller his change? Does the caller take the change from the pot himself or does the Dealer do it for him?

Might it be valuable to know when to call a bet? When you should expect your opponent to bluff so your call will be profitable? Knowing when the opponent is loaded for bear–and you’re only equipped for rabbit hunting?

Notice that so far, I’ve only asked questions. I’ve provided no answers. Don’t be fooled, though — I really do believe there is a most valuable skill. If you master it, it will serve you well, save you many chips, and keep you from pulling your hair too often. It will keep you out of endless trouble.

Here at Replay, it’s a single command button; in live games, it’s even easier. It’s the single most powerful command you can give at the table. It’s the skill of knowing when to fold. The chips you save will be your own.

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