Default Poker Fundamentals

Published on Feb 23rd, 2013

In my most recent article, I talked about the effects that Black Friday has had on poker in the U.S. It seems that the level of poker played in the U.S. may have regressed due to the fact most people are playing more live than online, and probably a lot less often.


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Over the past couple of years, I have been surprised by the number of mistakes I have seen made by decent players involving poor fundamentals and a lack of a solid default for several situations. Too often, I would see a player break a very common fundamental that they should know is -EV due to overruling common sense with a supposed read or emotion.

I think it can be too easy for players to justify making a bad play by overplaying what they think is a read or style of play by a villain. To keep ourselves playing solid and +EV, we need a very solid base of default fundamental plays that we do not break without very good reasons and/or a solid read. I think a simple decision to stick to our fundamentals without a strong read will limit several -EV plays and help players learn to think before they act instead of coming up with justifications after making a mistake.

I would like to explain some of the defaults that I think are important. I think, for the most part, that the majority of players have open sizing figured out when they are first in the pot, but I have been surprised by how many mistakes I have seen when players are trying to open after a limp, or two or three.

The general thought on this is to add 1x per limper to the open. For example, if you commonly open for 2.5x but there are two limpers in before you act, the open should be 4.5x. Failing to add 1x per limper to an open will result in multi-way pots more often than desired.

Flatting, especially out of position, is the next fundamental I see taken for granted way too often. I try not to flat, especially out of position, but that doesn't mean I never do it. I will tell you that I try never to do it without a reason. This is one fundamental that can be broken occasionally, as there will be reasons to do so, but having a strong default of not flatting will help reduce the number of -EV spots we get into, especially out of position.

Another default fundamental that deserves some attention is the 5% rule. The 5% rule states that a player should not pay more than 5% of the effective stack to see a flop with a speculative hand. This fundamental should not be broken often, as paying larger percentages with speculative hands will result in negative expected value all too often. If you feel as if you are behind and need to hit the flop to continue, paying more than 5% of the effective stack is generally a mistake.

One of the last things I want to point out is something that I think everyone should make sure they have on their mind when playing poker: chip stacks. Ours and our villains' chip stack sizes will help decide a huge chunk of our decisions. Any time we are about to make a poker play, we should have a plan for every person left in the hand.

One of the biggest deciding factors on how we will react to plays by these players is their chip stack sizes. Far too often, I see a player open and a short stack shove on them. Now shoved on even though they should have expected it, they are surprised and don't know what to do.

At no point in time should we ever open, raise, or call and be surprised by any action of the players left to act. Before making our action, we should have a plan for any action of each player left to act. This is a very important fundamental and should never be taken for granted.

The last thing I want to point out is shove charts. It's truly hard to believe how many players who play often have yet to see a shove chart. The number would surprise most of you. If I had to guess, I would say that fewer than 25% of the players at any given WSOP Circuit, MSPT, or HPT stop have ever seen a shove chart.

Luckily, with some experience and common sense, most players get a rough idea of how wide to shove in most spots and when to tighten up their shove range in others. But, a very important tool in poker is confidence, and I want you to think about how much more confidence a player will have when they switch from guessing they know a shove range to knowing the exact range to shove that is +EV.

I can tell you from experience that when a player goes from guessing to knowing, their confidence soars. When we go from thinking we know something to knowing it strongly enough that we could teach it, our confidence takes flight. In my opinion, everyone who plays poker should be familiar with a shove chart.

This article was written by John cracker9ball Reynolds, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are interested in taking poker lessons or would like any information, contact him at or visit

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  1. I agree and see some of these same mistakes made. Most frequently the out of position flat. Nice write up cracker.

  2. Any chance of a link up to one of these charts as i'll be honest and say i don't think i've seen one?

  3. thanks Hawkdwight. MintyADL, they say the best thing to do is make your own. Supposedly takes about a day. But you can find some online, but I will say some are better than others. I make sure all my students are very familiar with shove charts.

    Thread Starter
  4. There are copies of these charts available in the PocketFives Training. This info is available to all members.

    Edited By: zarger11 Feb 24th, 2013 at 01:00 AM
  5. nice post...i see the fundamentals online desolving as well. Seems like alot more people are trying to make the hero calls these days

  6. Thanks zarger11, much appreciated bro. Yea blufmchn6912 I agree. Good luck all

    Thread Starter
  7. Good read.

  8. Nice article John. Pretty much agree with all the fundamentals you described, though I will deviate sometimes with regard to bet size when isolating pre. This is especially true in early levels when you will so often see 3, 4, 5 callers after an iso. So I might 6x it after just one limper in the early stages. And in later stages, where antes are a factor, I might occasionally iso small in position if I think flatting/folding/jamming are suboptimal but a larger raise size might commit me to things I dont want to commit to or leave me less flexibility postflop than Id prefer. Not really sure how /- EV these deviations are though.

  9. This may as well be written in Chinese. I just see a button and press it.

    Originally Posted by blufmchn6912 View Post

    nice post...i see the fundamentals online desolving as well. Seems like alot more people are trying to make the hero calls these days


  11. How about this one:

    Shove chart(s)

    Better Than Nash Shoving Equilibriums
  12. Most shove charts are solid. Just learn the info

    Thread Starter
  13. good read man

  14. Thank you Dannydunks

    Thread Starter
  15. Nice Post Cracker 2+2-1/27=(9)Ball

    Edited By: willmccoy Feb 26th, 2013 at 05:06 PM
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