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From the Big Screen to the Final Table: Goodfellas

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Modern cinema is a great tool for teaching players how to learn the game because it crosses cultural barriers in a way that few teaching elements can. All one needs to do is listen to the advice that can be found in the lines of a variety of films and then remember their relationship to playing poker. Now this doesn’t mean that you can repeatedly use a line from Goodfellas in conversation while playing, but it does mean you should keep in mind the concepts that go with the line.

In honor of this being the inaugural edition of this column, we are going to stick with the Goodfellas theme. Based on the real life story of the former gangster turned informant Henry Hill, this movie offers plenty of nuggets of wisdom in its witty writing. Arguably one of the best lines in the movie comes from, narrator and main character, Henry Hill while he describes the boss of his crew of mobsters.

“Paulie may have moved slow, but that’s because he didn’t have to move for anybody.”

Be cautious of the big stack at the table. Although this may seem self-explanatory you would be surprised how many players get themselves into bad situations because they decided to tangle with the table’s chip leader. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get into pots with the chip leader, but it does mean you should be prudent when considering risking your stack against a player who knows that they have you covered. Big stacks often make decisions that smaller stacks wouldn’t because they have the leeway to gamble more with speculative hands. You don’t want to lose your stack when you move all in pre-flop only to have your pocket jacks cracked by the big stack (who flops a set) because he was bored and wanted to see if he could bust someone with his pocket deuces.

If you are the big stack at the table, wield it as though it was a bazooka. Take advantage of the fact that you can put players to a decision for their stack. This doesn’t mean you should act stupidly and try to jack every pot, but it does mean that you have the muscle to push people around and you should take advantage of that when you're in certain circumstances. The strength of your stack gives you the ability to manipulate the action, so don’t hesitate to move into uber-aggressive mode if you want to be "The Don."

Slow-playing hands is a big part of the game. If you flop the nuts, try to get as much value out of your hand as possible. Extorting the most out of your opponents is crucial if you want to stay atop the chip counts. Instead of trying to move a player all in after the flop, why not check and let your opponent think you are weak? Consider checking the turn and letting your opponent bet. If they bet the turn, smooth call. Once the final round of betting starts, consider checking again and letting the other player bet out, provided there are no draws out there that can beat you. Fire away on the river by leading out, or trap them with a check-raise. They are doomed regardless of their actions. It’s the perfect mob hit.

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