Claim or retake initiative

The Importance of Claiming and Retaking Initiative:

It is wrong to believe that some poker hands win themselves, because in an overwhelming majority of cases the player who wins the hand does so because he was in charge all the time. Claiming the initiative early is a sure way of dictating the rules of play but if this is not possible due to poor starting hands, you need to do your best to retake it. In most cases it is better to fold the hand if you realize that you don't have the means to control the way it is played, to avoid being drawn into a trap letting luck decide.

Knowing which starting hands should trigger an aggressive play and which are the positions at the table that favor this kind of attitude, is only the first step. If you are blessed with a premium hand, the standard play is to make a significant bet pre-flop, to prevent players from limping in.

There is always the choice of checking from an early position and then re-raise some else’s raise, but there are certain risks involved. Especially in shorthanded games, it is possible for the strategy to backfire if no one raises after you. When the entire table chooses to call the blinds, your pocket aces or Kings lose a lot of their worth and unless you hit a set on the flop you can assume that you are still favorite to win. Many of those who choose to slow play their hands pre-flop, end by being pot committed and lose their stacks against marginal hands. Poker players should massively bet their hands if they think they got the best combination and always try to avoid getting conquered by bluffs.

Betting is a wise choice for several reasons, with the most prominent one being the fact that such an action helps players maximize value. If you have a strong hand, you have all the reasons to wish for a large pot, one that you can then take down with relative ease. Betting for value is something that all poker pros do routinely, but at the same time they try to figure out what kind of hand the opponent holds. An accurate guess will enable them to make the right move on the flop and turn, because they can estimate the range of hands the opponent would call or fold with.

Surprising as it might sound, there is a good reason to bet even when your hand is good for nothing or at least has slight chances of growing into a solid one. Bluffing is an excellent way of winning pots and if you can preserve a healthy ratio for successful bluffs, your gains at the poker table will be substantial.