Posts Tagged ‘Strategy & Theory’

Bluff Catching

by , May 26, 2009 | 6:36 am

Often in poker you come across situations where although you think you may have the best hand, you want to try and check and make your opponent bluff. These situations often occur when you have a medium strength hand that you do not want to fold, and where you think that your opponent has either a monster hand or nothing.

Always remember that poker is a game where you have to think about the best route of action considering the most likely holdings of your opponent

Imagine that you call a raise from a loose aggressive player with ace ten from the big blind. The flop comes 10c9c2s. You bet around two thirds of the pot and your opponent calls. The turn is the 4h and you bet again, a bet which your opponent calls. The river is the 3d. What should you do now?


Firing Into Multiple Players

by , May 19, 2009 | 4:36 am

One of the things you will quickly notice about good players in any variation of poker is how they change their game depending on how many people are in the hand. That great aggressive no limit hold’em player who seems to batter you with bets every time you’re heads up in a pot will probably become a very different creature when they are playing in a four or five handed pot.

This is simply because the more people who are in a pot, the more combinations of hands there are out there, and the more likely it is that someone has a strong holding. As a result of this, you have to be much more careful about bluffing or semi bluffing in multi way pots – you will get played back at a great deal in these spots on the whole.


Knowing When To Quit

by , May 13, 2009 | 8:36 am

With the ever expanding popularity of heads up games, many of the best spots to play in are now one on one games. Weak players seem to be attracted to these games because the variance is extremely high, which means it gives them a realistic shot at making a big score through that massive double up.

“Mr. Moss, I have to let you go.”Nick the Greek, after playing a five month long poker match against the legendary Johnny Moss where he reputably lost close to one million dollars.

The reality is that these players will always lose over the long run, because they are not only weak in the actual game, but also because they do not adhere to adequate bankroll management standards and the variance will bust them over and over again. As a result, some of the best tables to sit at are heads up tables – you only need to encounter one or two of these players to expect a large profit over a session.


Poker and Greed – A Little Anecdote

by , May 7, 2009 | 4:36 am

When I first started playing poker it was predominantly in a medium sized club run by a local bookmaker.

The crowd all knew each other pretty well, and there was a decent mix of recreational gamblers, solid amateurs and a few pros. There were also a couple of extremely high risk gamblers, who basically would play any stake available to them for as long as possible.

One of these people was a character I will refer to as ‘Mark’, and his behavior on one particular day can teach us a lot about why and how certain things have to be adhered to in order to win at poker long term.

Mark was a very good poker player at nearly any variant. He was fearless in big bet games, methodical and clever in limit games, and understood high level tournament strategy well. Despite this, he always seemed to be broke, and one particular day of his life shows very well why.


Small Ball – A Deeper Analysis

by , May 5, 2009 | 7:16 am

Small ball and long ball poker fundamentally rely on the analysis and knowledge of different types of odds in poker. Long ball simply relies on the odds of the hands of poker.

If you need a brief introduction to exactly what the term ‘small ball’ refers to an introduction can be found here.

Long ball simply relies on the odds of the hands of poker. Long ball just requires you to understand that if you hold aces or kings then you will nearly always have a sizable edge over any hand at the table, and that if you hold any of the other very strong hands (ace jack+ and ten ten+) that you will most likely have at least a 50/50 chance against most hands. As a result you want to build big pots with these hands, and occasionally make a big bluff that trades on your very tight reputation. This is why long ball is by far the easiest style to play when you first begin – as it is not complicated, is pretty mathematically sound, and will yield good results in low buy in tournaments.

The problem with long ball is that it fails to take into account the other key odds principle in playing no limit poker – implied odds. The mathematics of specific hands is largely irrelevant when playing in very deep stacked events, as players can see flops so cheaply relative to their stacks that it gives players a chance to win a huge pot with a marginal hand (and thus cracking the long ball players long awaited aces or kings). As a result, in the higher stakes, deeper stacked events, small ball becomes a much more successful strategy in the right hands.


Brains and Balls

by , Apr 23, 2009 | 9:22 am

‘You gotta have two things to succeed kid – you gotta have brains and you gotta have balls. Now you got too much of one and not enough of the other’ – Paul Newman to Tom Cruise in The Color of Money.

“Being able to show players that you are willing to three barrel bluff, or call them down with a small pair, pays massive dividends in the long run as it makes your game much harder to exploit.”

Although taken from a film about pool hustling, this comment really applies to poker very well. From how you approach the game hand by hand at the table, all the way to the obvious divide between the new generation of hyper aggressive online players and the wily old school pros, poker is a game where balancing courage and intelligence is critical to long term success.

Another good analogy for this concept is in military tactics. Just as the SAS or other elite army unit do not just go tearing in to every combat situation, but instead exercise controlled, well thought out aggression, good poker players tend to use their brain to work out where they stand, then use their courage to make the most of that position.


Playing Bad with the Best Hand

by , Apr 17, 2009 | 4:54 am

This is quite a complex principle to understand to most players, as it seems to go against the intuitive logic of how poker works. I have the best hand, surely getting my money in the pot in any way is the right way to play?

This is actually not true in many situations, as often in poker you face choices that make the strength of your hand largely irrelevant.

As an example of this, I want to look at a hand I once played deep in a large ten dollar rebuy online. We were down to 27 players out of a starting group of over a thousand. I had been playing extremely loose and aggressive, running over a table of stacks that basically ranged from twenty to thirty big blinds, with one stack that had around a hundred blinds on my left. This big stacked player had been causing me problems during the last few orbits, regularly re-raising my opens and forcing me to fold.


The Problem With Weak Aces in Poker

by , Apr 7, 2009 | 2:12 am

Weak aces tend to be the hand that you see bad players get in the most trouble with at the table. This is because weak aces are usually very far behind most good hands in hold’em, and weak players seem to misunderstand the mathematics of weak aces and habitually over play them.

“Although looking down at any hand with an ace instinctively feels like a good in hand, the reality of hold’em is that basically any hand below Ace-10 that is not suited can be extremely problematic to play.”

In terms of pre flop all in odds, a hand like ace seven only has a 25% chance of winning against a better ace, and 25% chance against any pair bigger than sevens, and is basically dead against aces. It is also only about 60/40 against any two cards between aces and sevens, so even when you are ahead of a hand like king jack, it is not by much. Against all pairs lower than sevens it is a classic 50/50 race, with the pair holding a slim edge.


The Re-Re-Steal

by , Mar 31, 2009 | 7:27 am

Frequently in tournament poker you will encounter players who are re-raising your opens at an inappropriate frequency.

At the lower stakes they tend to re-raise too little, either trying to fold to cash or just call and play passive pots without the momentum of a raise or a strong hand. As you rise up the stakes though, you will start to encounter players who re-raise too much, and against these players you must be prepared to make one of the boldest plays in poker – the re-re-steal.

“If pulled off correctly it can help someone hugely chip up and push on for the win, if it goes wrong it can just look like a massive spew as someone loses a massive pot with a weak hand”

This play can only ever be effective if both players have enough chips that fold equity can be created, as there is no point making a big bluff like this if your opponent is pot committed by the bet; and should only be made against a player whom you know is capable of re-raising you with a lot less than premium hands.


Folding the Ace Flush in Omaha

by , Mar 24, 2009 | 5:47 am

pot limit omaha

Pot limit Omaha is one of the only games where you can ever consider folding the ace flush on a non paired board.

This is especially true if playing deep stacked and the action has been very suspicious in front of you. Say you raise a hand like Ac7c8h9h and get three callers. The flop comes out 9c10cQc and it is checked around to you. You bet pot and get one call from a very tight player. The turn is a blank 2s and it is checked to you again, where you bet pot and get minimum check raised. You call and the river is another blank card – say the 5h. Your opponent thinks for a while and bets pot into you.

“Good Omaha players know that basically any hand that is not the nuts is always foldable in the right situation…”

This is a classic situation where you often want to be considering folding the ace flush if you know the player is solid (obviously against complete fish you should be usually be calling here). Omaha is a game that is usually played around nut hands – and regardless of what that nut hand is, whether it is a straight flush or a back door straight, when the big bets come out late in a hand it usually indicates the stone cold nuts.


Congrats, Allen Carter! – WPT Champ

by , Jan 18, 2009 | 10:59 am

After spending quite a bit of time as the small stack, Dallas’ own Allen Carter bested the most recent WPT Final table at the Southern Poker Championship in Biloxi, MS, taking home $1,000,000, an entry into the WPT Championship, and his first major bracelet. This win also marked his first 6-figure drag.

Allen is a member of a very elite group of poker players. Not because of his new bracelet or his arguable transition to pro ranks. It actually has little to do with how he plays, but more to do with why he plays. In my opinion, there are about 5 different kinds of players. Let me also note that I recognize that the majority of players belong to more than one of each.

1) Those who play for fun (Think Guy Laliberte)

Even his txt msgs have the right attitude.

2) Those who play for profit (Tom Schneider)
3) Those who play for action (Dan Michalski)
4) Those who play because of addiction (Endless list)
5) Those who play for lack of better options (Think tomorrow’s Madsen and other young guns turn college drop-outs of today)
…and finally…
6) Those who play purely for competition (Allen Carter)

I first met Allen in ’06 in the DFW airport, waiting to board a flight to the WSOP. He had won an entry into the Main Event through and online tournament. Actually, I should be clear,… He won FOUR entries. Pretty awesome in its own right, but totally redonkulous if you consider that he did all of it in only 6 attempts! And I believe that I remember he also came in 2nd in another one of those events.

You can’t enjoy success like that if you can’t commit yourself completely and exclusively to a single player category. And in case it isn’t obvious, the only two categories capable of supporting such are 1) Profit and 2) Competition. Allen has expressed to me multiple times that competition is his only reason for playing. Without that, he simply won’t play.

I understand that this philosophy almost completely contradicts the principles of the only other successful player category, profit, where you try to find the juiciest and softest game available. But maybe what Allen has figured out is that as long as you have enough water in the sports bottle (bankroll), you should always opt to play against the young, tall, black team, and never against the short, white, computer nerd, poker enthusiasts. Because with poker, unlike any other sport, you can put yourself or find yourself in the ‘big game’ at any time. This time it was a white, 40-something, former CPA from Dallas who prepared for and conquered the biggest game of his life. While he was preparing, you were checking your fish lists and looking for the softest SnG’s you could find.

Poker’s No-Strings Fling With Politics

by , Sep 2, 2008 | 8:19 am

Poker is having an affair with politics and the mainstream media, and it seems to be one of those flings…not sure where it started or where it will end, or even what it means, but enjoying it nonetheless.

Sure, the UIGEA was the first to act, but it was the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) who bought the drinks and started the bigger conversation. Most recently, the poker lobbying organization did something that didn’t seem like a big move in the beginning but is turning out to be an ingenious one. They established two charity tournaments to benefit the Paralyzed Vets of America, one to be played at each of the political conventions. The Democratic National Convention was the stage for the first, where none other than Ben Affleck won it. The second event will take place tomorrow in Minnesota, close to the site of the Republican National Convention. Both events are getting wide mainstream media coverage, i.e. Bloomberg, Politico, The Wall Street Journal, and The Denver Post.

The poker/politics affair goes even further, as poker has also become the analogy of choice for many writers and reporters well outside of the poker community. Terms like “poker face” and “all in” are finding their way into articles about Barack Obama and John McCain, either because Obama has been known to play poker or simply because poker is a good analogy. For example:

Chicago Sun Times: Does Barack Obama Really Have a Poker Face?

The Times Herald: America Needs a Decent Poker Player

Lastly, poker veteran Bob Ciaffone got a nice write-up in The Bay City Times when he recently traveled to Denver as an Obama delegate.

Winstar: TBR Live

by , Aug 20, 2008 | 7:06 pm

While I hate to push down Dan’s post on the HardRock, here’s some video goodness from the Pokerati people who still give a damn about Texas Oklahoma.

Chip Leader Chip Shmeader

by , Jul 1, 2008 | 7:24 am

Something interesting just came over the WSOP transom, with food for thought on when in a tournament you may or may not wanna get your chips:

• Eric Crain was the chip leader at the End of Day One in this event. He finished in 13th place. Through Event #48, the End of Day One chip leaders have gone on to cash 80 percent of the time — 36 of 45 occasions (the chip leader was not applicable on three events). Only twelve of these same 45 chip leaders (26 percent) made it to the final table. Only one chip leader went on to win the event. That lone wire-to-wire winner was Vanessa Selbst in Event #19.

• Marco Johnson was the chip leader at the start of this final table. He ended up as the runner-up. Through Event #48, eighteen of 43 chip leaders at the start of the final table (40 percent) went on to win the event. Twenty-six of 45 chip leaders (58 percent) went on to finish in the top three spots. Two events did not have a chip leader (Heads-Up and Shootout tournaments).

Going for Broke

by , Jun 1, 2008 | 7:12 am

photo: Jackie Endsley
Putting your last dollar toward a bad-beat jackpot may not have been the best career strategy for this guy.


I got a call yesterday at the WSOP from the Butler. I haven’t seen the guy for a couple months — not since me and my jiu-jitsu coach and heavy metal teacher got booted out of our sweet pad (pool table, poker table, dart board, 65-inch HDTV, Strip-view bedroom, fireplace/jacuzzi bathroom, no utilities) on the Eastside. We of course knew all was headed south when the Butler — the guy who set the whole housing arrangement up — walked into our casa unannounced to do a cocaine deal, and shortly thereafter got busted by The Boss (who owned the house, in theory, though not on paper) for stealing rent money.

(I met the Butler last year at the WSOP, as he was trying to sell his private concierge services to poker players and convince me to turn him into a recurring character on Pokerati.)

Anyhow, so I got a call from an unknown 973 number yesterday that I answered in the press box. “Hey, Dan, it’s John. Are you at the Series? How’s it going?”

“Um, uh, pretty good? We’re just getting rolling … so what’s up? Did you make it to Kansas City?”

“Yeah, and it’s not good. I’m calling because I need a stake.”

“Yeow, dude … can’t help you out. Wouldn’t know how to get you money if I could.”

“Western Union.”

“Sorry, man Have you tried Tom? His number is 602-97… .”