Poker Growth – How Poker Has Changed

by Henry Jablonski
on August 5, 2017

Poker is an ever-changing and interesting beast, to say the least. I still remember back in the day when pre-flop raising to three times the big blind was standard and you only three bet pre-flop if you had a monster hand. Since those ancient days, the game has evolved and changed quite a bit.

Things that used to be standard are no longer standard or have been forgotten. Is this a good thing? Well, yes and no. There are some things that used to be standard that have disappeared as people have found more optimal ways to play. In this evolution, though, there are some standard practices that have disappeared that you really need to make sure are still included in your game.

This blog may seem like it’s all over the place, but it’s a collection of thoughts on the good and bad strategic evolutions of the game. Hopefully, this will help you to look at your poker game from a macro view and decide if there are areas of the game you need to work on.

Pre-flop Raise Sizing

This one is always a fun one for me to reminisce about. For those of you that are new to the game, you might not be aware of this, but there was a day that if you min-raised pre-flop you were the biggest fish on the planet. The table would literally laugh if they saw someone min-raise pre-flop. Now, as soon as you see someone do it, you assume they’re either really good or have at least learned from or watched players that are really good.

Is this a good development? I think it is. It all depends on your strategy. If you love playing tons of pots in position, it’s great. If you prefer to play fewer pots and are comfortable with occasionally just taking down the blinds and antes, that’s great too.

Here’s the part that does bug me a little with this, though. It bugs me when people that are min-raisers don’t adapt their style when they need to. If you are min-raising and getting seven callers every single time, you need to up your pre-flop raise size. At this point, you’re just playing Bingo and need to thin the herd a bit if you want to win without having to hit your hand every single time.

Respecting Under the Gun

In the “old days” if someone raised from under the gun, they almost certainly always had a monster hand. EVERY poker book ever written before 2010 would tell you that you should only open under the gun with monster hands.
Under the Gun
Well, the creative thinkers got a hold of this one and started experimenting with opening light under the gun. Most of them found a lot of success as people were giving them too much respect and just assuming that they had monster hands.
The problem here, though, is that the players successful with this were rock stars of the game. They could play pots out of position comfortably and knew when to get away from their hand if they ran into a real monster. They wouldn’t get married to top pair or overplay hands but would tread lightly.

So how does this translate to what you should do in your game? Well, I can tell you from spending a lot of time at the tables recently that people are running way too hard with this one. You have amateur players raising complete garbage under the gun and then stacking off as soon as they hit a pair. You also have people assuming that all raises under the gun are garbage and then stacking off and acting shocked when they realize the 90-year-old man that raised under the gun had aces.

The take away is this. It IS ok to raise light under the gun but only if you are prepared to get away from your hand if you face real opposition and only if the table conditions are right. If the table is loose and splashy and filled with top players, you are going to want to play snug from under the gun. If the table is playing way too tight and you feel comfortable playing the players out of position, go for it in moderation.

Also, don’t just assume that the player raising under the gun is doing so lightly. A large chunk of players still subscribe to the tight is right mentality from under the gun. If you don’t respect this, you’re going to run into a wall head first.

Aggression

Apparently, the entire poker industry has been taking steroids in gradually increasing doses for years. I’m not talking about physical aggression (though, that is another story). I’m talking about people thinking that the only way to win is to raise 200% of pots and you must 6 bet at least once per rotation, or you’re the worst.

It’s comical for me to watch these ego battles go down and watch people just piss away their stacks all in the name of being the king or queen of aggression. I can tell you exactly where this came from. It’s that dang-fangled TVs fault!!! Sorry, trying my best to sound like an old man.

In reality, though, it is the TV’s fault. People watch poker shows that only show 5 or 6 hands out of thousands and assume that every hand needs to be a massive pot or you’re doing something wrong. This has permeated all levels of the game, and you now have a big pissing contest between players at the table.

Aggression does have its time and place at the poker table and is most certainly rewarded over being way too passive. The thing is, though, it needs to be done when the conditions are right and in some sort of moderation. If you’re playing 10 handed with a bunch of fish that refuse ever to fold, it might be time to tighten down. If you’re playing at a table with a ton of aggressive sharks, it might also be time to tighten things down unless you’re ready to go to war.

Suited Connectors

Thank you, Daniel Negreanu for getting everyone in the poker world obsessed with suited connectors. I have no issues with suited connectors, and I love playing them but again, in moderation.
Daniel

Too many people LOVE to play suited connectors no matter how much it costs pre-flop or what position they are in. I am convinced that most poker players would sell their first born child for the ability to play J-10 suited from the small blind.

Suited connectors are great to play and can help you to win big pots. You need to be careful, though, because there are like a drug. It’s easy to overdose on suited connectors, and when you can’t get enough of them, you start looking for substitutes. What do I mean by substitutes? 7-8 suited might be great…but then you start looking at 6-8 suited…and then 5-8 suited…and then it all spirals down from there until you’re in suited connector rehab.

Play suited connectors but don’t play them at all costs. It’s way too easy to get carried away and find yourself sad and broke in a gutter somewhere. Ok, maybe I’m being a bit of a drama Queen, but you get the idea.

The Wrap Up

One of the things I love the most about poker is that it is always changing and is an evolving game. Games like Chess have already been cracked and figured out, and there isn’t a lot of growth in new and innovative strategies (at least as far as I know). Poker, though, is always changing and probably always will be. Thanks to the fact that it is so player dependent and situational, it’s hard to have a perfect answer for every situation.

Hopefully, this blog opened your eyes up a bit to changes that have occurred in the game. I really hope you also take a minute and analyze your current game and see if there is anywhere that you might have let some changes run a little rampant. Most everyone I talk to about these things immediately assures me they have no issues with any of them. However, after I review some of their hand histories, that is far from the truth.

You HAVE to be honest with yourself if you ever have any hopes of improving your game and taking it to the next level. Remember, only one player can ever be the best in the world, and unless you are that person, you still have room to grow.

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