If you are learning Texas holdem in the 2020s you have an abundance of content that purports to teach poker strategy – some are free, some are paid. However, unfortunately despite the good intentions of the authors the advice given is often somewhat or totally incorrect and/or somewhat or totally useless to your progression. Attempting to learn from these useless poker strategy routes will at best waste your time, or at worst teach you incorrect or bad habits.
It is true that all the information you need to become a winning poker player at low stakes poker, whether that be live or online, can be found for free on the internet. However, there is an awful lot of information out there that can also be unhelpful.
To understand the main reasons for this you have to understand the difference between the macro way of looking at the whole game from above (which is the strategic view), and the micro way of look at specific spots (which is the tactical view).
The biggest problem with a lot of advice is that it is purely tactical in nature. In itself there is nothing wrong in that if the author explains what assumptions they were making, and how the advice would differ if certain factors were different. This is particularly a problem with live poker hands, where a player asks for advice on a particular hand, but does not frame their question in the most useful way.
For example they may ask: In a live $2/$5 fullring game a tight player opened in middle position to $20. I called on the button with AsKh. We both started the hand with $1000. Then follows a description of the postflop action, and the hero wants to know if he played the hand right.
Already, there is a problem – a tight player could mean so many things. Often the person providing the answer to the question makes assumptions (without specifying what that is), and this may be different to what the hero understood by ‘tight’ – then all advice after this is exploitative tactical advise based on these assumptions.
Even if the questioner asks the question by describing their opponent as a TAG or LAG this isn’t much better – beginner players in particular mislabel players by comparing them to other players they play with, they may think of someone as LAG who is actually a TAG, based on the fact most of the other players are limping/calling a lot, and this player seems to do a fair amount of raising (but infact, he is only raising the amount a TAG would). TAG/LAG by themselves are also not that useful.
It would be better if the person asking the question was specific about everything. Then the person providing the advice should list his assumptions, any math they use, what the unexploitable strategy would be, and how he is choosing to deviate. That way it is quicker to check his advice for problems.
How to spot useless poker strategy
At UnfairPoker.com, we recommend you think about the whole game from above in a strategic way, and then think of specific tactics relevant to the games you play in. Learn the principles of unexploitable play, and then think how you can punish opponents who are making mistakes you can exploit, whilst at the same time being wary of how you are deviating from unexploitable play to exploit others’ mistakes (so that you can watch out to see if you are being exploited yourself, so you can re-exploit).