okay, so u've just been dealt ur cards. what are you thinking? if u said anything other than "i don't know, let's wait and see," ur wrong. rarely are initial impressions of playabilty any good. relying solely on reading one's opponents to determine what one should do with a given hand is not relying on enough data, ie. it is playing poker on a shaky foundation. what ur goal should be is to play ur hand in a "semi-vacuum". that is, use enough data about ur opponents to make an educated decision, but don't become ur everyday predictable player, who minraises every single suited connector and just limps with every pocket pair 8s or worse. u've got to mix up ur play constantly, and have a very good reason for keeping it the same.

this is so central to my "value-centered" approach that i believe i've finally come to the post that will explain what i've been driving at from the beginning. the cards define what u will be doing, but they don't hold u back, or limit u, to any level of creativity within reason. those who say the cards don't matter are wrong. those that say that poker is luck b/c it's all in what ur dealt are also wrong. u've got to take ur cards, push them to the limit of the situation, and make them worth ur while, ie. make the most money from them. it is a very vulitile strategy, but guess what? it picks up chips, and leaves ur opponents constantly saying "wtf?"

let's start with something easy: AA on the button. this spot is so incredibly grand that it figures to be the absoutle best spot to raise. and u know what? it is, taken from a strictly preflop position. what my opponents do doesn't effect this spot too often. it very well COULD (ie. i may want to limp a very small percentage of the time, or call a standard raise), but it often DOESN'T. now, what about 44 third to act? set mind 100% of the time? fold? well, it depends on ur read of its value potential. now normally, 44 isn't going far without a 4 on the flop. however, what are my opponents putting me on? do they play "flatly" ie. give up often after one bullet, or often fold 2nd and 3rd pair on the turn? if so, i can take a bit more risk with 44. now granted, cash games give me much more freedom. im certainly not getting too adventerous with 44 early in an MTT. playing MTTs well requires an ability to feel the ebb and flow and adjusting ur stategy properly to the ratio between ur chip stack and the blinds, as well as the chips stacks of ur opponents. however, cash games allow for these sort of "moves" im describing.

what about AJo on the hijack? the number of ways i can play this increases. based on what ive seen the opponents that act before me do in previous hands, i can adjust my stategy to fit this specific hand. depending on what's gone down in the hand before me, my choice of raise (or my decision to call, or my decision to fold) all depend on the value that exists in this hand. knowing how every 2 card hand plays postflop is vital to my stategy. i can raise this a number of ways. that's right--im not playing a static game where i only raise 3-4x. what i do depends on how i think i can get the most value out of this hand AFTER i make my play. in other words, for the most part, i take into account its postflop potential, and i raise an amount that manipulates future play in my favor. for example, if im on the hijack and only raise 2.5x, my opponents may decide to put me on AA, since in the past ive been raising small with this hand. however, if i normally have been raising AK 3.5x and then decide to do the same with AJ, AT, A9 hands, a solid opponent may again give me credit for a hand which i do not have. i may even be able to outwork players who hold 88 or 99 with a reraise preflop, which set me up for a nice cbet on the right kind of textured flop, since i have position. and, if i hit my hand big, like flopping the nut straight, i can fool the whole talbe and pick up a big chunk of change. if i play static, and always minraise this kind of hand, i can't expect people to fold when they got the better hand. in fact, when i play this hand the same way, i constantly have to catch a good piece of the flop to even safely continue with my hand.

cbetting furociously--generally with position, but not necessarily--makes ur opponents uneasy. it usually forces them to have to have something to continue. and, even if they do continue one more street, it expands ur opportunity to win the pot since u might hit ur hand. ever want a big payout when u hit ur gutter ball? this stategy can make it happen. u will be called a donk by an unknowledable opponent who simply doesn't understand the many ways that hands can hold value.

with this approach, u may do some dopey things. u may make some undervalues, ie. play too tightly--or u may make some overvalues, ie. play too loosely AND, consequently, too aggressively, since u may be double barrelling to pick up a pot and not be able to shake the guy with top pair, or 2nd pair who turns a two pair, etc. constantly forcing urself to make reads is hard, but makes the game more enjoyable, and puts u in the driver seat. u are in ultimate command of how u want to play, and it can get some good results with the right mixture of opponets.

anaylyzing flop texture is tought, but once the hand moves beyond the flop, it becomes smooth sailing. u've already given ur hand some relative value, and now ur betting becomes strictly "value betting" or "[semi]-bluffing" instead of "exploration" like it was on the previous two streets. see, what matters is the position to put urself in on the turn and beyond. it's hard to royally screw up preflop and flop play if u are a machine at reading flop texture and playing in a manipulative way--a way not defined by the cards, and not defined by what others are doing around u. no, preflop is truly about playing what u get, in a way that is adjusted to ur goal in the hand, and counteracting the others' methods in stopping u. the exploration continues when the flop rolls out, and futher adjustmets are made, and counterbalancing methods are used in ur play. now the turn and the river are the easy parts--they're ur train to value town.