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Breaking Poker Rules | Podcast Episode #310


Sky Matsuhashi

on September 22, 2020

If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.

– Katherine Hepburn

Stealing from the cookie jar before dinner was fun and satisfying, right? Running red lights when it’s safe to do so (like when there aren’t any other cars around) saves time, it’s exciting and it’s better than waiting for green.

Here's a poker example: “You should never fold AA pre-flop!” Well, let's say it’s the stone bubble of a $200 super satellite into the WSOP Main Event. The top 8 finishers win the $10,000 entry, and you're at the final table and #4 in chips. A short stack shoves, a mid-stack re-shoves, and a big stack calls, and you look down to see AA? Yep, folding those lovely AA is absolutely the right play.

Poker is a game of constant adaptation and sticking to hard and fast strategy rules is a sure way to be exploited by those who don’t burden themselves with someone else’s lame ass rules.

Listen to episode #310

Of course, you don’t want to break logistical game rules like ‘one player to a hand’ or folding in turn. I’m talking specifically about breaking strategy rules.

I'm about to give you 5 common “rules” that many of us follow, but sometimes, they can be broken with good reason. But here's thing about breaking rules, you must be aware of the consequences. If you run that red light, a cop might see and give you a ticket.

So, I'm going to discuss breaking these 5 poker rules, but I'll also tell you the possible consequences that you must be aware of.

Breakable Rule #1: Only 3bet With Premium Hands Pre-Flop

This is a rule that Fish and Nits follow. If you only 3bet with AA and KK, you can easily be exploited. All they have to do is fold versus every 3bet you make. Or, they can call with speculative hands and deep enough stacks and only commit more post-flop chips with any 2 pair or better hand. But, if they’ve seen you 3bet with 76s and A5s and 88, it’s harder to put you on a range.

Beware the Consequences: A large preflop 3betting range can lead to tricky spots post-flop where you could be dominated by stronger hands. But, this is where good post-flop skills, hand reading and understanding your opponents will allow you to make great decisions.


Breakable Rule #2: Play Only Push/Fold in Tournaments at 15bb’s or Less

If you only play push/fold at 15bb’s or less in tournaments, you’re missing out on steal opportunities that DO NOT require you risking your tourney life. When raising less than all-in with a 15bb stack, many players will think you’ve got a premium hand and you want action. This can help you steal blinds and antes and quickly build to a 20bb stack. Plus if you get called, you can still take the pot away on the flop with a cbet. And you don’t even risk your tournament life.

Beware the Consequences: Non-all-in raises can lead to a dwindling stack when your opponents re-raise and you fold, or they call and you fold versus their flop bet. Be prepared to fight back as necessary against this.


Breakable Rule #3: Never Cbet In Multi-way Flops Without The Nuts

“The Rules” may tell you that cbetting into a multi-way pot is a death sentence without a very strong hand because with many players, there’s a good chance somebody hit a strong hand. But, on hard to hit or scary boards like A92r or 2c 5c 8c, a cbet can often take it down even against 3 opponents. If they didn’t hit anything great, they’ll assume you have a top pair or better hand and will fold. Run this type of board through Flopzilla against different calling ranges to see how often the ranges hit solid hands. The less often they hit, the more likely they’ll fold.

Beware the Consequences: Cbetting into multi-way flops can be like throwing money away, especially against non-believing calling stations. All they see is their pair or draw and they hate folding. Bluffing non-folders isn’t a good strategy, so watch out if your flop cbet gets called by one or more players. You’ll probably have to give up on the hand.


Breakable Rule #4: Stick to Strict Bankroll Management

Following good bankroll management rules will keep you alive and preserve your money through the ups and downs of poker. But, occasionally breaking this rule won’t kill you, as long as you have some self-control. If your rule is to have 40 cash game buy-ins, that’s great, but taking shot at bigger games can be exciting and rewarding. Are you a 10nl cash game player looking to move up to higher stakes? When you’re playing your a-game, close down a 10nl table and open a 25nl table. For one thing, this will give you some insight into the play at higher levels (which surprisingly is often pretty close to your own levels), but it will also give you a good shot of excitement. And as a bonus, if you win, you’ll get a nice boost to your bankroll. Losing wouldn’t be so bad either if it’s just double your normal buy-in.

Beware the Consequences: Doing this too often or playing in far bigger games than normal could easily lead to blowing your entire bankroll. So, just break this rule occasionally.


Breakable Rule #5: Never Show Your Hand Unnecessarily

I very rarely show my hand unnecessarily. If you keep it a secret, they’ll never know how you play. But, there could be times when showing your hand can help you at a table. Maybe you know the player two seats to your left plays super nitty in the blinds and folds most of the time against steals. If you think he’s catching on to your stealing tendencies, show him a strong hand next time. Give him some confidence that he’s making good folds so that you can continue stealing from him.

Beware the Consequences: Showing your hand can give the entire table insight into your play, giving them a slight advantage over you. Rarely break this rule.


Keep an Open Mind

A benefit of being a poker rule breaker is keeping an open mind. When presented with new ideas through podcasts, videos and books, sticking to the rules will prevent you from seeing the value in these new plays and strategies. If you’re open to new strategies and practice them, your poker tool box will overflow with ways to exploit your opponents.

Some ideas that seemed to spring from nowhere and eventually took the poker world by storm:

  • Small Ball Poker – playing with baby connectors and pocket pairs and keeping the pot small
  • Calling almost ATC out of the Big Blind
  • Flatting 3bets with ATC in position to take it away on the flop or turn

When you hear someone talk about the rules they follow, they might say, “I never…” this or “I always…” that. These are their rules that you can now exploit (assuming you believe what they’re saying).

“I always 3bet with AK.” Great, now I know you don’t have AK when you call me preflop.

“I never cbet without a pair or a draw.” Great, now I have a better read on your cbetting range.

Support the Show

Post-flop Online Poker is now available in PDF, Kindle, Paperback and Audio! Thanks to Martin McCrum, Serhan Karaca, Bill, Murry Thurman, Massimo Gramegna and Pedro Chaves for picking it up in various forms!

Matt Godfrey, BJ Marshall, Torsten Rauen, Anton Snellman, Pablo, David Barclay, Archie Mackay, Anand Lyer, Colin McIlhinney, Tim Petipren, Aditya Bengali and Jim Clark picked up PokerTracker 4 (get it here to support the show), the best poker tracking software.  I love it and use it everyday!  In appreciation, I sent each of them a copy of my Smart HUD for PT4.  With an ever-growing database of hands to study and all the helpful features, PT4 is the go-to software for serious poker players.


Sky Matsuhashi

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