Saturday, January 31, 2009

How Ironic: Pocket Jacks Knocked Me Out Today.

I entered the $330 NL event today at the Oaks.
Only 85 entrants. Starting chips $6,000

At the start of the event, I like to put 20% of my chips aside to play speculative hands like suited connectors. I didn't hit any of these hands today.

In the first round, there were 5 callers and I limped with pocket 2. The flop had a 2 and the turn was a 2. Four deuces! There was no action on the hand, so it was a little disappointing. It was also the only hand I won for the first three rounds.

I got moved, thankfully, to a new table. My chips were being bled out, until I found A-K and doubled up to $3,500. But, I was card dead and with players pushing all-in, there was nothing to do but wait.

I was down to $1,600. And pushed again when I found pocket Queens. I tripled up to about $6,000. I finally was even with the buy-in of chips!

I got moved again. We were down to 3 tables, and I was low in chips. There was nothing to do but be patient. When I was down to $4,500 I pushed all-in under the gun with A-K. I got two callers. One had A-Q, and the other A-J. The K flopped and I tripled up again.

I called from the small blind with pocket 9's--the raiser was tight, and tended to make all-in calls. The flop came Ace high. We both checked. And the turn was a Q. I checked-folded. Perhaps I should have used the stop and go on the flop, but I didn't feel the time was right.

Two hands later, I moved all-in with pocket Queens and won most of my chips from the prior hand.

The blinds were now $800-$1,600 with a $200 ante. I was in middle position. Everyone folded to me. I had about $17,000. I found--those freaking pocket Jacks. I flashed back to the blog and the discussion about this hand. We were down to 17 players.

The right play is to push all-in. Which I did.

The player to my left insta-called with A-K.

The flop hit the Ace and I was out.

I did get back $265. Oh well...a win in that hand would have probably put me in the final table.

Do you have FPS in Poker?

What is FPS?

My guess is that 80% of poker players believe they are in the top 20% of all poker players. It often results in poker players getting a little too cocky, and getting a little too tricky. After all, why not show everyone at the table how clever a player we are?

The result is FPS. Better known as Fancy Play Syndrome.

Don't Overestimate Your Statistical Edge

The most obvious form of FPS are the cash players who play backwards. They check their good hands and bet their bad hands. Good opponents notice this tendency.

In poker tournaments, the FPS players are the ones who check a big hand hoping to trap their opponent. Instead of setting a trap, they are trapped when their opponent catches up and wins the pot.

Don't overestimate the statistical edge you have in any poker situation. The simple reason is because that edge is usually not that big.

For example, you flop a flush with a King as one of your hole cards. If your opponent holds an Ace of that suit, you are not that big of a favorite. On the flop you are about a 2-1 favorite. And even if your opponent misses on the turn, you are only a little over a 5-1 favorite on the river. (If you've ever bet on a horse race, you know a horse that goes off at those odds is no long-shot.)


Of course, it's important not to be predictable. And you need to mix up your game. Just don't start to get too clever or you will lose hands you should win, and lose more chips in pots you shouldn't have even entered.

If you spot an FPS player, take advantage of their predictable style. In tournaments, these FPS players will do the opposite--calls will mean big hands, bets will mean draws or nothing at all, and checking is a sign of a slowplay.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Pre-Flop Raises: Does Size Matter?

Does the Size of your Pre-flop Raise Give Away Your Hand?

One of the things that is clear from the Twitter responses on what to do with J-J is how pre-flop action differed (here are the results from a prior post on Pocket Jacks).

The key, I think, is that however you played your J-J is not to be a predictable player during the event. If you knew what your opponent has as his hole cards, you'd never lose. So why give away your hand with predictable pre-flop plays.

The other day at the card room a player just limped from an early position and won the pot with a bet on the flop. He revealed pocket Aces before he mucked. As he was stacking his chips, one opponent said "I knew you had aces because you never limp upfront." That was not a complement.

In fact, I think the easiest thing for your opponents to notice is the size of your raise as it relates to the relative strength of your hand.

Pre-Flop Action: Size Matters!

1. Vary your raises based on your position at the table.

I read an article where the author recommended making bigger raises in an upfront position, and smaller ones in the back. I found that to be bad advice since no limit tournaments are a battle for the blinds and antes. Instead, make smaller raises upfront since someone behind you can find a premium hand. And bigger raises in the back position to give the blinds worse pot odds to call your raise.

2. Don't vary your pre-flop raises at all. Be unpredictable by being predictable.

In some tournaments I will raise three times the big blind, whenever I am the first player in a pot. In one of those events, I opened the pot four times in a row with a 3x BB raise. The next hand, another player raised pre-flop the same amount and announced, "Hey, it works for him."

3. Calling is better than limping after the first few rounds of an event.

Let me make a distinction between calling and limping pre-flop, just this one time. Limping is only when you call the big blind or another player who has limped in front of you. Calling is when you call a pre-flop raise.

Since you are battling to win the blinds (and antes), when the blinds get bigger go on the attack and put in a pre-flop raise. If you limp into the hand, you are going to have to make a decision on the flop. If you raise, you may take down the pot without seeing the flop. That is one of the reasons that small ball is effective as a tournament strategy.

Calling is different since you are making a play to win a big pot. For example, a player upfront makes a pre-flop raise and you know they have a big hand. You find pocket 6's. What should you do? Don't fold right away! I will first look at my stack size against my opponent's stack size. If we are both deep in chips, my implied odds are huge, so I will be thinking about calling.


If you decide how much to raise pre-flop based solely on the strength of your starting hand, you are making a mistake. You need to vary your game, and keep your opponents guessing. You win the most chips when your opponents make mistakes.

Remember a raise pre-flop has an opportunity to take down the pot uncontested, while a limp will always result in seeing a flop.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Twitter Answers to Poker Question on Pocket Jacks

Here is the question I asked last night: How would you play Pocket Jacks in a no limit poker tournament? Assume 1st hand of event. You are first to act after the big blind, $25-$50.

Here are the answers--you need to click on the photo to enlarge the visuals:

My favorite answer is from trishwebb who tweeted: "Of course, there are just 3 ways to play jacks and they are all wrong.:)"

I think pocket Jacks is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult hand to play in no limit poker tournaments. A main reason it is so hard to play is that you will usually get a flop with a card higher than your Jack--it's like 65% of the time.

Pocket Jacks is a premium hand, and you don't want callers. I believe you must raise in this situation. But not a big raise. If you make a big raise you may be committing yourself to call a re-raise. (A lot of times players in this spot will raise 5 times or more the big blind to protect their hand--which may signal you have a pocket pair like 9's, 10's or J's.)

If you like small ball raise 2 1/2 times the big blind. If you want to tell people you are strong, bet the standard 3 times raise. If you really don't want to commit, raise 2 times the big blind. My objective with pocket Jacks is to eliminate opponents and keep the pot small.

Just don't call. It is hard enough to play against one opponent when you have this hand. To invite more callers, well, is that much more difficult.

Thanks for your response.

Skill #3: Embracing the risk in the game

The third skill to winning a poker tournament is embracing the risk in the game.

I would guess most Americans believe that hard work gets rewarded. So, it follows, that if you study the game of poker, work hard at getting better, you will win in the long term. In fact, you've read that poker is a game of skill and in the long run the better players win. So why not you?

Unfortunately, a poker tournament is a short moment in time. It is not a long term event. If it was, Phil Hellmuth tells us he would win every tournament.

Once you realize a poker tournament is a short-term event in your poker life, you can still have an edge against your opponents if you have better skills.

But, with all due respect, you are not that much better than the level of your opposition. My guess is that 80% of the poker players, think they are in the top 10-20% of the players at any given event. Of course, that is impossible. And even if you are in the top 20% of the players at a poker tournament, you still need to get lucky to win.

A poker tournament is a short term event, where luck plays a significant role on who wins and loses.

Think about the times when a player gets premium pocket pairs way too often, or a player who hits a set on the flop against his opponent's pocket Aces. And, if you play online poker, I know you've seen (and experienced) more than your fair share of bad beats. Did these players have better skills?

Luck plays a role in each poker tournament. Instead of hoping to get good luck, embrace the luck in the game. And learn to be the player who is feared at the table.

In his book Making the Final Table Erick Lindgren wrote:

"You want to be a great poker player? Stop thinking you're better than the randomness of the game. Embrace the randomness. Let people think you're a wild risk taker. And start taking advantage of those afraid to risk their own chips."

How do you become feared at a poker table?

Winning a WSOP or WPT title is one way. Another way is to be the player who is looking to get involved in lots of hands, and pressing the action with raises and re-raises.

Daniel Negreanu puts pressure on his opponents by playing small ball. In general, it means that he is raising pre-flop with a wide range of hands (usually small raises), and from the flop on he plays your hand. It takes a lot of skill to do what Daniel does at poker. Since poker is his life, he is going to be great at reading his opponents and using his strategy to win.

Gus Hansen is another player who gets involved in a lot of pots with a range of hands. A lot of people who watch Gus play thinks he is an aggressive, wild player who gets involved with way too many hands. Maybe so. But he wins as well.

Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, I played in as many no limit poker tournaments I could find in the Bay Area for 3 months. This was before online poker. I did this to prepare for the WSOP.

I entered a $1,500 no limit event. I was aggressive. I won lots of pots. I accumulated chips. I had more than twice the number of chips as anyone at my table.

We were about three quarters of the way through the event, when the Tournament Director broke up some other tables. We had two empty seats to my left. Two players with huge chip stacks filled those chairs. I mean they had at least 4 times what I had--it was very depressing.

I looked up to see who were carrying those huge trays of chips.

One of them was Phil Ivey. The other player was Erick Lindgren.

They sat down and destroyed our table. They were aggressive, intimidating and when someone moved all-in pre-flop, it seemed like one of them would have a premium hand. Did they lose some hands? Yes, of course. But, they only lost small pots. They picked up a lot of hands uncontested, and won the big pots.

I was impressed. I knew I was not in the same league with these guys.

Erick knocked me out. I believe it was on a pure bluff.

What was their secret to accumulating chips?

They were aggressive. They were willing to enter a lot of pots. Their goal was to accumulate chips. They played to win the event not finish on the bubble.

If they were going to enter a pot. They would raise pre-flop a lot more often than call. They picked up blinds and antes over and over again. And if someone called their raise, they knew how to play their opponents from the flop on.

They put pressure on their opponents with bets, raises and re-raises. They pressed the action because they knew that they had two ways to win--their opponent would fold, or they would have the better hand.

Once or twice they pressed the action too much, and wound up losing a coin flip. But, it didn't really matter, because they had accumulated so many chips they could absorb a lost coin flip.

Their mentality was to play to win, and be the aggressor.

Embrace the Risk

When you see a player winning a poker tournament, the reality is that he/she had the skills to win but also got some luck. The better your skills, the better your results will be long term. But short term, you will need to accept that luck plays a role in winning and losing.

Embrace the risk. For example, don't think these thoughts:

"I might get knocked out with A-K, so I only call with A-K."

"I avoid suited connectors because I don't want to chase."

"I never re-raise pre-flop unless I have a big pocket pair."

Learn to come out swinging. Get involved in more pots than you have ever done before, and learn how to play your opponent's hand from the flop on. You don't need a hand to win a pot. If you know what your opponent holds, you'll never lose.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Radio Interview: Ashley Adams House of Cards

Here is the radio interview I did with Ashley Adams. Ashley read the book and he thought it was an "excellent, excellent" poker book!

He interviewed me about my book Tournament Poker: 101 Winning Moves.

I hope you enjoy it. It lasts about 20 minutes--after a few minutes of ads.

Click on House of Cards interview.

Or, the url is:

Let me know what you

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Interviewed by a Poker Web Site:

If you have some time, please check it out. It is an article where I talk about my background, and a little bit about both Tournament Poker and Razz.

The site also has many other poker strategy articles, and all kinds of special deals and promotions.

To go direct to my interview, just click on

It's My Birthday: But This Gift is For You

If you go to my Tournament Poker Book website, and scroll down, you'll see a call-out on the right column that offers
10 free moves and 5 free tips from my book.

When you click this, you are taken to another page where you submit your email address, and in return you automatically get these plays.

It is totally free: The 10 plays and 5 free tips from my book.

If you like what you read, please consider buying my book.

There are only a few tournament poker books that are selling better than mine (Hansen and Negreanu--who are these guys anyway?). But seriously, I believe my book will improve your tournament poker game since it is the only reference book with the plays the Pros use to win.

More importantly, I get poker players thanking me every week who have won more money after putting my book into action.

Here is the link: or just click Tournament Poker.


Don't Look At Your Cards and Win at Poker

If you've ever played in a no-limit hold'em poker tournament you know that you can go a long time before getting good cards. As you wait and wait, your chips stack keeps getting lower and lower as the blinds and antes increase. What should you do?

Don't let your lousy cards ruin a smart play. Use the "No-Look" Blind Steal.

What is the "No-Look" Blind Steal?

It is when you are in a late position and everyone folds to you. Rather than looking at your cards, just raise to steal the blinds. The reason for making this move is that you need to accumulate chips to win a poker tournament, and you know that if you had 7-2 offsuit you would fold.

When is the right time to make this play?

1. Your chip stack is dwindling
2. You haven't raised pre-flop in a long time, so your table image is of a tight player
3. You know that if you see a lousy hand you are going to fold
4. You are in a back position
5. No one has entered the pot in front of you

Does this play work? Absolutely! Just don't get caught...

I use this move often, and I don't believe I've been caught doing it except for one time. The situation was right for the "no-look" blind steal. I was in the cut-off (one from the button) and everyone folded to me.

I raised the blinds without looking, and to my surprise the player in the big blind called me out and said, 'You didn't look at your cards.'

I couldn't believe it!

So, I told him that he was wrong and I did look at my cards.

But my opponent wouldn't let go. He called my raise and when the flop cards hit the table and my opponent checked, I resisted the temptation of looking at my cards and I just bet. My opponent wouldn't fold. He just kept looking at me. Did he expect me to confess?

Finally, I spoke up and said "I'm not an idiot, of course I looked."

He folded. I mucked without peeking at my two hole cards.

Now, whenever I make this move I just pretend to look at my cards.

Give this move a try when you are playing at a card room. You'll be surprised how this one play will make a difference in your tournament poker results.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The First Time I Played Against Daniel Negreanu

In November 2002, I entered my first World Poker Tour event at Lucky Chances in Colma, California. The interesting fact about the town of Colma is that it's filled with dead people; it's reported that 90% of its residents are buried in the surrounding cemeteries. It's always a little eerie and bizarre to drive past headstones to enter a card room named Lucky Chances.

It was the early days of the WPT so no one expected the huge crowd that descending upon that small casino on a Sunday morning. As I made my way to my assigned table, I spotted Phil Hellmuth being interviewed by the WPT announcer Shana Hiatt. And, there were poker pros all over the place-it was very cool.

By the time I sat down, the cards were in the air. As I settled in, seated immediately to my left was Daniel Negreanu, nicknamed "Kid Poker." His big smile signaled a champion who knew he was about to control the action. After all, Daniel's charismatic personality and winning style had won him fame and millions of dollars. Today, he is probably the most popular poker player in the world.

I viewed this as a prime learning opportunity. And, Daniel did not disappoint. He craved action, and entered almost every hand. I sat back as Daniel scooped pot after pot. He was beating everyone at the table, except for an older gentleman.

This grey haired fellow was unfamiliar to all. His style of play demonstrated that he was not experienced at poker. When he played a hand, he would limp and just call all the way to the river. Sometimes he'd win, but more times he'd lose. Surprisingly, the only player at the table he was beating consistently was Daniel.

Four times Daniel went to the flop heads-up against this player. The betting pattern was the same each time. The man would limp, Daniel would raise, and everyone would fold except this one guy. Daniel would bet every street, and the old guy would call every street. At showdown, the hands would flip over and the guy would beat Daniel with a monster.

The fifth time they were heads-up, Daniel just checked the river and asked, "Okay, what do you have this time? Another set?" Sure enough, this old man had Daniel's number, as he dutifully flipped over a set of 8's.

A few hands later, I was dealt 10-10. The grey haired novice was under the gun and he limped into the pot. I just called being in an early position. Daniel raised, and the old man and I called.

I was more than a bit nervous playing my first hand against Daniel. I've never played against a poker pro before. I don't know why, but I figured he must've had pocket Aces.

The flop came with three rags, all 8 and under. We both checked to Daniel, who bet almost the size of the pot. To my surprise, the older man folded. I had an over-pair, but I was intimidated. I wanted to fold. But, I called.

The turn was another rag. I checked again, and Daniel instantly bet the turn. This was not good. Now, I knew for sure he had pocket Aces. If I called this bet, I'd have half my chips in the pot. What should I do?

I thought about it for a while. I decided to try to find another 10 on the river. I called.

The river was a Q. I stared at that card, hoping it would somehow change. How could I possibly have tried to hit one of the two remaining 10's on the river? It's like a 25-1 shot. I realized that I'd lost half my chips on a poor decision.

Sadly, in a defeated tone, I said, "Check."

Daniel sighed softly. Paused. "Check."

Huh? Did I hear that correctly? Daniel checked his winning hand?

I'm stunned. I took too long to show my cards, so Daniel turned over his A-K. My 10's won.

Wow! I beat Daniel Negreanu.

I know it was just one hand. But, it was the first time I played a hand against a poker pro. I felt alive. Sure, I got knocked out later in the event, but as I drove past those dead folks and headed home, all I could think of was that one hand of poker.

Excerpt from: Tournament Poker: 101 Winning Moves

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Gap Concept and Two Exercises to Improve Your Poker Game

Avoid A Tendency to Limp

You don't want to get in the habit of being a limper in a poker tournament. Players like to see flops cheap when they have hands like suited connectors, small pairs, middle pairs, and those trouble hands like K-J and Q-J. While you want to vary your play, always think raise first. And, if you are past the middle rounds, try to avoid calling.

As a general rule when it gets later in a tournament, if your hand is good enough to play, it's good enough to raise. Accumulate chips. You are going to miss the flop two-thirds of the time.

The advantage to being the first raiser in a hand is that you are using what is called the Gap Concept.

What is the Gap Concept?

The Gap Concept is the idea that you need a better hand to play against someone who has already raised in front of you, pre-flop. The thinking is that players want to avoid situations where someone has already shown strength, unless they know they have a really strong hand. It is the thinking of a player who wants to survive a tournament. But, if you play to survive, you will surely die.

Don't look to preserve your chips, look to accumulate chips. Use the Gap Concept to your advantage. If you notice players behind you folding too often to pre-flop raises, you should widen your range of starting hands and be the first to raise.

Importantly, if you notice a player in front of you raising too often, realize that this player may be using the Gap Concept to his advantage and probably doesn't need a strong hand to enter the pot first with a raise. Look to re-raise this player with calling hands. Make him fear your hand.

Counter the player using the Gap Concept with a re-raise. It will get him to fold his hand.

A few notes:

1. Poker players don't really talk much about the Gap Concept anymore. They tend to focus on the strength of their starting cards.

2. Respect pre-flop raises from the first three positions after the big blind. The reason is that the early position players know there is a greater chance of someone having a premium hand behind them who can re-raise. Of course, many players don't care about position and again, just play their own hand.

3. Give less respect to pre-flop raises from the button or the cut-off (one position before the button) as these are often stealing positions.

Two Exercises To Improve Your No Limit Tournament Poker Game:

The purpose of these exercises is to get you out of your comfort zone, improve your hand reading ability and get a sense of how it feels to control a table--where players react to you. You are not going to win the event, but you will learn from it. So, do these exercises with low buy-ins.

Exercise #1: Try this at the start of your next tournament: In the first round, play only premium hands and come into the hand with a raise only. In the next three rounds, only enter a pot by raising pre-flop and widen your starting hands to where it is not comfortable. If no one has entered the hand, raise pre-flop with hands as bad as 7-4 suited. If you get a caller, make a continuation bet on the flop. If you get called again. Decide if your opponent is on a draw or has top pair. On the turn, if you put him on the draw and he misses, fire away.

Exercise #2: Never enter any pot with a call, pre-flop. (The only exception is when you are in the big blind, and other players have called pre-flop.) That's right, if you decide to play a hand you are going to be first in the pot with a raise, or you are going to raise a caller, or re-raise a raiser. You will always be perceived as having the best hand pre-flop.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How To Play Suited Connectors In A Poker Tournament

Suited connectors are hands of the same suit which are close in rank.

For example, if you had the 10 and Jack of clubs you hold a no gap suited connector. A one-gap suited connector is a hand like a 9 and J of spades since there is one rank missing between the cards you hold. A two-gap suited connector would be a hand like a 4 and 7 of diamonds since there are two ranks between these cards. The more connected the cards the better your chances of making a straight.

Since suited connectors can be difficult hands to play in a no limit tournament, here are the best moves:

1. Early on in a no limit poker event, you want to see a flop cheap with these hands, and play against multiple opponents. You are risking a few chips with your call for the opportunity to win a big pot.

2. Starting at the middle stages of a tournament, you should be more aggressive with your suited connectors and raise pre-flop when first in the hand and in late position. The objective of this play is to steal the blinds as players tend to tighten up in the later the stage of a tournament. Even if you are called, your pre-flop raise allows
you to win with a continuation bet on the flop.

3. You can call a pre-flop raiser with suited connectors (if you don't think someone will re-raise behind you) since you are giving yourself an opportunity to win a big pot. For example, your opponent raises your big blind with Ace-King and you are the only caller with 6-7 suited. If the flop comes 6-7-A, you are going to win a big pot.

4. If there is a raise in late position from a player who is loose (raises too often pre-flop), you can even re-raise this player from the button or blinds with suited connectors. This play is an advanced move, but your opponent probably has a weaker hand than he is representing and your re-raise represents a premium hand. Therefore, you will win a bigger pot as he is most likely going to fold.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How To Take Advantage Of Poker Odds To Win Big Pots

You probably know what pot odds and implied odds are in poker, but do you know how to take full advantage of this knowledge in a no limit poker tournament?

As a reminder, pot odds are the ratio of the size of the pot to the size of the bet. If the pot has $400 in it, and your opponent bets $400, the pot is $800. Since you need to call with $400, the pot odds are $800 to $400 or 2-1.

Implied odds are based on the amount you believe you may win at the end of the hand, if you make your hand and win.

For example, the pot has $1,000 after your opponent bets $500 on the flop. You have a straight draw, and the pot odds are $1,000 to $500 or 2-1. Which is not favorable for drawing to a straight.

However, if you hit your straight on the next card, you believe that you may end up winning $4,000. Therefore, your estimate of your implied odds is $4,000 to $500 or 8-1 and you can call the bet.

While it's important to know these odds, it's even more important to know how to take advantage of the odds. Here's an example:

You are in a no limit poker tournament. It is the first hand with the blinds $25-$50. Everyone starts with $4,000 You are in the big blind.

The player under the gun raises to $150. Everyone folds to you. You have the pot odds of $100 to call the bet. Your pot odds are $225 to $100, or slightly over 2-1.

You look down at your cards and you have 8-7 suited. What should you do?

The correct play in this situation is to call the bet since you are getting excellent pot odds. If your opponent has a big hand like pocket Kings, and you hit your hand, you could win a much bigger pot.

What happens in this situation is that right before you call the raise, your opponent picks up his cards to look at them. By accident he flashes his cards to you. He has pocket Aces! Now what should you do? Does this change your original decision?

Not at all. Call the bet. While you are not getting favorable pot odds, you are getting excellent implied odds.

As a general rule, when you are in the big blind consider calling a bet if you are getting 2-1 odds or better, have much bigger implied odds and have a drawing hand or better.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Three Most Popular Poker Strategies You Must Avoid

There are three popular poker strategies that you simply most avoid if you want to win a poker tournament. I am sure you have read each one of the following poker gems many time, and now believe them to be poker truths. Unfortunately they are just plain wrong for winning.

Poker Strategy #1: "Play tight early in a no limit poker tournament."

There are many ways to start in the early rounds of a poker tournament, yet you may have read this poker strategy most often. Why is this poker strategy so popular?

Think about it. If you got knocked out early, would you trust this guy's opinion?

Unfortunately, the worst poker advice for no limit tournaments is to play tight early. Poker is about gambling. Poker tournaments are about winning. Embrace the risk in the game because you need chips to survive those bad beats. You are not going to outplay the luck in the game.

The right strategy early in a no limit tournament is to put at least 20% of your chips at risk with drawing hands like suited connectors, so you can win big pots.

Remember this: No one has ever folded their way to victory. Never.

Poker Strategy #2: "You need to be selectively aggressive to win a poker tournament."

Oh my. Is this nonsense or what? Being aggressive is bad, but being selectively aggressive is right.

I guess that key word "selectively" means that if you are aggressive and win you are being selective. But if you are aggressive and lose you are not being selective enough.

What if you go card dead for an hour and are bleeding out your chips? Are you being too selective by not being aggressive.

Forget this nonsense strategy. You need to be aggressive to win a poker tournament. You need to accumulate chips. Raise and re-raise by making the right plays.

Poker Strategy #3: "It depends."

This has got to be the biggest joke of a pseudo-poker strategy ever. It depends. It depends on the stage of the tournament, the chip stacks, the opponent, the table images, etc. Duh!

So now that I've told you all that information, what's the answer? It depends…

I think we should put "it depends" next to "Depends"'s all wet.

The leaking is over! Make the right play at the right time.

Of course, sometimes in poker you make the right play at the wrong time. Yeah, you take a bad beat. But other times you will be wrong and make the wrong play at the right time. Yeah, you put a bad beat on your opponent.

Don't think "it depends." Ask yourself what is the right play at that moment. And if you still are not sure, err on the side of being aggressive by asking yourself the following:

"What move will put fear in the heart and mind of my opponent?"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Is This Gus Hansen's Tournament Poker Book Handbook?

This is a 4 page article I wrote after studying Gus Hansen's book "Every Hand Revealed." If you want to read the document please click on "Open Publication."

Skill #2: Have A Plan Before You Enter A Poker Tournament

Here is the second skill you need to win a poker tournament and have a shot at a WSOP bracelet:

Entering a tournament poker event with a plan--when will you play tight, loose, aggressive, solid, etc

You always need to plan ahead in a poker event.

Before the event begins, you need a plan based on the following:
a. How fast is the tournament given the buy-ins, the chips, the time for each round, the number of players?

As a general rule, if the event is one time rebuy event I like to play tighter during the rebuy period. I'd rather be seen as a tight player by my opponents so I can steal later on after the rebuy period ends.

I won't even enter tournaments where the structure makes an event a total luck-fest. A few years ago, I went to a low buy-in event at Harrahs and it was silly. By the third round, you are forced to move all-in.

I think The Venetian has a great tournament in Vegas with their deep stack events. Most poker players love deep stack events since it allows for more play and a better opportunity to outplay your opponent with skill.

Even the WSOP events don't have a structure that is as favorable as The Venetian. Of course, they have a good reason for that decision--they have to weed out thousands of players!

b. Do you have the time needed to commit 100% of your concentration to the event?

Have you ever entered a tournament and realized that it is taking longer than you thought? It has happened to me online more than once. One time I just started playing stupid, moving all-in in every hand. I wanted out, and finally, a player took me out.

Another time, I entered a Full Tilt tournament around 9pm and I ended up playing till 3am....and I didn't even win! I shouldn't have entered the event because at the end I was exhausted and the next day I was not at my best.

c. Are you rested so you can make the right decisions?

When I'm tired, I don't play as well as when I am rested. In the Bay Area I have had to skip a lot of tournaments because they take place too early in the am. I don't believe any tournament should begin before noon. This is poker, for heavens sake.

d. Are there other things on your mind that will distract your attention and affect your play?

This is another reason not to enter an event. Focus. Thirty minutes before I entered a WSOP event, I got a call from my family with stressful news. Needless to say, I didn't last the first hour.

One time at the WSOP, there was a player at the table when he got a call, and found out his wife went into labor. The funny thing is that he stayed and played the next few hands until someone called his repeated all-in bets, and knocked him out.

e. Are you going to go into the event limping with a lot of hands, trying to see flops cheap or are you only going to play ultra-conservative, only entering the pots with premium cards?

In Every Hand Revealed, Gus Hansen writes that he prefers to limp with a lot of hands in a major tournament with a slow progression of blinds. But he doesn't think there is a right approach.

My suggestion is that you should try both styles of play and see which one not only makes you feel more comfortable but which one gives you better results.

Next: Embracing the risk in the game and realizing that you can't beat the luck inherent in poker

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Tournament Poker Mistake By Me...

I was knocked out today in the Sunday event.

At $50-$100, I had $4,000 and in the big blind. The player under the gun raised to $300, and only the small blind called. I had 9c-5c. It was $200 to win $900, so I called.

The flop was 9d-6c-4c. The small blind checked and I checked. The big blind moved all in for $3,000. The small blind folded. What should I do?

I had a flush draw, an inside straight draw, and I could hit another 9 or 5. Lots of outs so I called.

I got no help, and I was down to $700.

Not a good spot to be in. But, I was able to climb back to $4,000.

At the $100-$200 with $25 ante I was in the small blind. Everyone folded to the button, who raised to $700. I moved all in. The big blind folded, and dejected the button who had $3,000 behind called. He showed pocket 3's.

I got no help, and I was down again.

A few hands later I went all in with A-2. I got called by Q-9. My opponent hit a 9.

I got no help, and I was out.

What was my mistake?

Clearly I should have thought about the A-J hand more. I knew my opponent was not stealing--so if he did a big hand, I would have been the dog. Also, I could have called and outplayed him on the turn if he checked the flop.

Overall, some very general rules about most tournament poker players. Most of these players have the following basic moves down pat:

1. They know to raise pre-flop--and the range of hands usually depends on the player and position.

2. They know to re-raise with a premium hand or A-K pre-flop.

3. When their raise is called pre-flop, if they are the pre-flop raiser they know how to make a continuation bet. If you call a continuation bet on the flop, they are stuck trying to figure out what to do on the turn. Therefore, you can check raise on the flop and see where you are cheaply. Or bet the turn if another rag hits.

What this means is that you want to avoid pre-flop all-ins, unless you know your opponent doesn't have a big hand, and/or unless you are pot committed, and/or you know they will lay down their not that big of a hand given their style and chip stack.

And you want to bet whenever your opponent checks.

My mistake lately is that I'm pushing all-in too early in these events without premium hands. That is a mistake I need to fix.

Do you know your poker trivia?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Poker Social Bookmarking Site: Rounders Buzz

You should check out Rounders Buzz.

It is the best social bookmarking site I have found about poker. They break out the poker articles in different sections like General Poker, Tournament Poker, Poker Strategy, etc, to make it easier for you to find stories you enjoy.

Of course you can vote and comment on your favorites.

Here's the link to the site: Rounders Buzz.

Make sure you give yourself some time to explore and review, because there is a lot of good poker stuff on this site that is fun to read.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tonight I Played Heads Up No Limit Poker: Thoughts and Advice

I've been playing no limit heads-up poker cash on Full Tilt poker the past few nights.

It is certainly interesting since I've never done it before. That is, I've only played no limit heads-up with tournament chips never cash.

The tournament chips heads-up game is different in that the players are more aggressive with making big bets. I play $100 NL buy-in heads-up tournament chip games, so my guess is my opponents feel that they can push since they will either win or lose the buy-in.

The cash NL heads-up is different. At these games I've played the $1/$2 with my $200 buy-in. Since it's cash it is rare to see all-in bets. (Unfortunately, the only time I experienced an all-in move it was my first game, second hand and I had top pair and my opponent had a flush draw. Boom--I lost $200 when he hit the flush draw.)

In these games the first thing I noticed is that there may be 20+ tables where one player sits and sits. Clearly these players are specialists at heads-up play. So please be warned that you better be ready for some strong players.

As a rule, I look for a player that is not seated and waiting at multiple tables--although that can be hard to find. I also want an opponent who has the same amount as me--in this case $200 in play.

I believe I have a pretty good heads-up game. My approach to these games is to see how my opponent plays and adjust my style accordingly. In most cases, if my opponent checks I take him at his word and bet--even a min bet will get him to fold.

Therefore, I play straight forward for about four hands. I may even make a bad call on the river to see what my opponent raised with pre-flop. It gives me an idea on his playing style.

Tonight I had a tough opponent. I went ahead about $25 after about 5 minutes because I hit two pair on the river and called down my opponent. I was surprised to see he had nothing.

Ok, that changes things. Most of these guys love to raise when they act first pre-flop. They figure you won't have a hand so they can take down the $2, and even if you have a hand they know you'll miss two-thirds of the time on the flop and fold to any bet. Therefore, you need to raise them back some of the times to keep them honest. It tends to work.

Frankly, I got drek all night, which is quite frustrating. So I had to re-raise with some lousy starting hands, and raise pre-flop with zip. Also, I bet when he checked in almost every case.

After a while I was down $50, and wondering when I was going to get a hand. I knew I had to be more aggressive than him to win or finally get a hand.

I finally got a was pocket Kings. I just limped. You don't get a big hand like that often so I want my opponent to be the one who is aggressive. Sure enough, he raised me to $8. I just called--same reason.

I got a lousy flop. A-J-4 with 2 clubs...and I did not have the King of clubs. He bet out $12. I was not folding. I called.

The turn was a King--another club. He bet $30. I called with the set.

The river was a rag. He checked. I bet half the pot and he called.

I ended up winning a big pot, and ahead $50 for the 15 minutes of action.

What a Great Testimonial for my Tournament Poker book!

This reader sent me an email telling me that he has won over $20,000 including a $10,000 seat in the 2008 WSOP Main Event. Wow!

"I placed 1st in Harrahs Deep Stack tournament 2008. The buy-in was $150 with 105 entrants. July 2008.

Here is my March 09, 2008 win at Wheeling Island Casino in Wheeling WV. Buyin $130, field size 335. $8,000 cash + $10,000 seat in 2008 WSOP

March 10, 2008 another first place BACK to BACK! $897.00 in a $65 tournament.

Back to Back wins at Wheeling Island on April 16 (1st place) and April 17, 2008 (2nd place) $1395.00 in a $120 tournament and $438.00 in a $65 tournament." -Jon S.

Congratulations to Jon. Maybe I should have sold the book on a commission basis!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Do You Have The Right Mental Approach to Win a WSOP Bracelet?

The first skill to win a WSOP bracelet or any tournament is:

Playing to win and not just to cash.

Before you enter a no limit poker tournament you must put yourself in the right mind frame. If you are like most poker players you have heard Pros tell you: "In order to win, you have to survive."

In fact, you may have read many books and articles telling to play it safe early on, avoid confrontations unless you have a big hand, try to wait out and survive to make the final table. This is the advice that will keep you a loser. Guaranteed.

Here is a simple test to see if you have what it takes:

You fly into Vegas with friends to watch the WSOP Main Event with a $10,000 buy-in. After a night of partying, you wake up in the afternoon and discover a ticket to enter the tournament. You suddenly recall that last night you got drunk and paid $10,000 to compete in the WSOP Main Event!

You rush to the Rio and take your seat as the director announces, "Shuffle up and deal." You are on the big blind with the blinds at $100-$50. You have $20,000 in chips. The player under the gun shoves all-in, and the small blind moves all-in as well. With two players all-in on the first hand, you are ready to muck when you look at your cards and find pocket Aces. What should you do?

Play it safe and fold, or risk all your chips and your $10,000.

If you hesitated, you need to adjust your mental approach to tournament poker. You must push. You must take the risk of getting knocked out on the first hand. You are even a favorite to triple up!

Tournament poker is not about survival. Tournament poker is about accumulating chips and winning. Usually one win in a tournament pays for months of buy-ins for the same event.

Ok, that was an easy test.

But ask yourself this question:

"Are you one of the typical players who plays tight early-on in an event, or waits for premium hands before raising pre-flop, or believes you can always outplay my opponents, or calls pre-flop raises with A-K rather than risk getting knocked out or thinks that you got knocked out only because of a bad beat?"

If any of the above sounds like you, you are not alone. Because that's how most players approach the game. It is why most players never win a no limit poker tournament with 100 or more players. It is why most players never have enough chips to get past one bad beat.

Have you heard the expression, "Making the wrong play at the right time?" It means that someone made the wrong decision on a hand of poker, but still won. It happens all the time. It is why poker is a game of chance.

The next time you play in a tournament, focus on the rewards of winning, not the penalty of losing your buy-in.

In his book Making the Final Table Erick Lindgren wrote:

"You want to be a great poker player? Stop thinking you're better than the randomness of the game. Embrace the randomness. Let people think you're a wild risk taker. And start taking advantage of those afraid to risk their own chips."

Get out of your comfort level. You are not a WSOP bracelet winner yet.

But you can be one if you understand that the way you are playing now is not the right way to win a poker tournament. Use your chips as weapons. Make bets that will put fear in the mind and heart of your opponent. Be a risk taker, not a safe player. And maintain that aggressive mindset throughout the tournament.

Next: Entering a tournament poker event with a plan--when will you play tight, loose, aggressive, solid, etc

Friday, January 9, 2009

Don't Play Online Poker Again Until You Read This!

I am one of those poker players who is skeptical about online poker sites. I almost never play online poker anymore because...well, I don't think it's a totally level playing field.

While there have been newsworthy cheating scandals by players (I have also run into collusion between players), I believe that something more insidious is going on.

On top of my list is that there are far too many big hands dealt and far too many bad beats as a result. I don't buy the nonsense that you see more hands dealt online. That argument is so bogus. You don't need to see many hands online to see that it's just not real.

It's one thing to complain about it and it's another thing to do something about it.

I discovered a company that may have actually identified why the poker sites have an incentive to cheat, how their RNG's can be manipulated and most importantly, they are going to come out with a solution.

You must check out this company before you play online poker again!

Note: I do not have anything to do with this firm, and no incentive to promote their business.

The Online Bad Beat Phenomena

An editorial from Gene Gioia, Founder of Gioia Systems, and architect of the Cut N’ Shuffle™ and Game Check™ systems

Many online poker players have observed noticeably more bad beats online then in live poker room games. The common explanation for this is that online players see more hands online then in live games.

Many online poker players believe that the starting hands online are noticeably better then their experiences in live games.

When taking these two factors into account, along with the fact that all online poker rooms generate their revenue from the size of the pots at games (the larger the pot, the more the rake), I can come up with an alternate theory for the seemingly larger number of “bad beats” and “draws” experienced by online poker players.

I am told that the Nevada Gaming approved that standard Random Number Generators (RNGs) have 12 lines of code. Online poker operators claim to be spending millions on the development of random number generators. Why?

Considering the recent news that Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet had software installed that gave certain players the ability to see other players’ hole cards, why should I think that programming random number generators to appear random while creating significantly more “draw” hands is out of the realm of possibility?

A random number generator is, after all, a computer program, that will do whatever it is programmed to do. Poker is such a unique game because it creates a virtually unlimited number of possible outcomes. This opens the door for any number of possibilities for anyone wanting to exploit this fact to their advantage.

What is preventing online operators from developing or using RNGs that are programmed to create, whenever desired, a series of hands that encourage a greater number of players participating in any given game, to stay in because of the possibility of achieving a really “monster” hand? If you have played online for any length of time, you probably can relate to what I am saying and why I am saying this.

By using computer programming to create desirable starting hands, it stands to reason that you would also be creating a significantly higher number of finishing hands. In the process, the pots for those games would be significantly higher; therefore the amount of rack per game increases.

Three years ago, Sports Illustrated published, in their May issue, an article about online poker. That article pointed to an April study by an online tracking company. This study concluded that there was approximately $200 million dollars per day being bet in online poker pots. It also estimated that online sites were generating about $5 million per day in rake revenue. At these levels of pots, an imperceptible change could result in a huge increase in annual revenue. If the average rake is 2.5% of the pot size (as the April study suggested), the effect of one quarter of 1% (very possible and easily done with programming) results in an increase of $500,000 per day or $182.5 million dollars annually in rake revenue. And who pays for this, the players of course. The rake is a necessary part of the game, but should not result from manipulation of any kind.

So, you’re thinking that random number generators are safe. Think again.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Let's All Work At Getting To The WSOP Main Event Final Table

I want to share my thoughts on how we can all improve our chances of winning a poker tournament, and maybe meeting at the final table of the WSOP main event. I have written a list of 20 key skills, and each week will expand on each area.

If you have time, please let me know how to improve these articles so we can all improve.

Tournament Poker Series: Let's Meet at the WSOP Final Table

Here is a list of 20 key skills that sets apart the winning players. When you go through the list evaluate yourself on a scale from 1 to 5 (with 5 being the highest.) Frankly, I didn't score very well when I broke things down this way.

1. Entering an event with the right mental approach to tournament poker--playing to win and not just to cash.

I tend to start with the right approach, but often weaken since I have read so much about "survival" in poker.

2. Entering a tournament poker event with a plan--when will you play tight, loose, aggressive, solid, etc

While your plan will change based on what is happening at your table. Even at the start of the event have a plan for how you will approach each event.

3. Embracing the risk in the game and realizing that you can't beat the luck inherent in poker

I often think that different cultures view risk differently. I believe in the US many players, myself included, believe that hard work, smarts and a little luck is all you need to succeed. Not true in poker. Poker is gambling, which means you are taking risks and need a lot of luck.

4. Identifying betting patterns of your opponents

I tend to get lazy after a couple of hours of play and forget to watch my opponents close enough to find betting patterns.

5. Identifying tells of your opponents

At the very least, I try to check out my opponents to the left to see if they look at their cards before action gets to them. I often pick up if my opponents will play or fold a hand.

6. Identifying your own betting patterns

I rarely think about this area.

7. Identifying the tells in your own game

Funny story: A friend told me he had no tells. So I watched him play for 30 minutes. I had never witnessed more tells by one player in my life! I shared what I found--and he was shocked.

8. Your skill at how to play pre-flop based on the strength of your hand

I tend to have a tighter approach in the first three positions than most players.

9. Knowing the importance of chips stack sizes on your decisions

This is something that I have worked on a lot in my play, especially after reading Ace on the River.

10. Knowing how to adjust your game based on your position

I actually gave myself a 5 on this area--which must mean I am missing something.

11. Knowing how to make plays when you are card dead

Another area where I think I have improved upon, and sometimes get called an "idiot" by my opponents. I know that Harrington talks about M. Maybe I'll event something too--MC--for my initials.

12. Realizing the importance of and frequency to bluff successfully

I really need to work on my bluffing game.

13. Knowing the right time to push all-in

I think I do well in knowing when to push.

14. Knowing the right time to fold and realizing that sometimes it s right to fold when you are ahead.

I know this sounds wrong. But, I read a quote by Chip Reese that reflects this idea, and after thinking about it, I think what he says is applicable to tournament poker as well.

15. Accumulating enough chips so you can survive at least one bad beat

I have worked very hard at this skill. My weakness is when I bump heads with a player who has the same goal but is more aggressive than me.

16. Knowing how to play at the final table

Funny but sad story: A few years back I was competing in the big Lucky Chances Fall Series of Tournaments. On three consecutive days, I ended up at the final table. And each time I played so bad, I got knocked out in 7th place or worse. After that experience, I significantly improved my game for final table play.

17. Knowing how to play heads-up poker

I think I am in the top 10% of HU players. Although sometimes I try to get too tricky and knock myself out.

18. Knowing the 101 winning moves you can use in tournament poker

Frankly I may have written the book, but I don't recall all these plays.

19. Not letting your emotions influence your decisions and not going on tilt.

This is by far my biggest weakness today. I never went on tilt during my early years playing tournaments so I'm not sure why I go on tilt now. I usually try not too show my anger. And I never berate my opponents like Phil Hellmuth. But inside I am boiling.

20. Making the best decision for every situation that comes up in tournament poker


If you scored each area, what is your total score? Now take your total score and reduce it by 20%. You are not as good as you think. Almost every player over rates their own abilities in tournament poker. I know I do.

I am going to post on each area--probably once per week. I also will add some additional skills that I realize I forgot--for example, I should have an area on bet sizing.

Also my friends at Poker Bankroll Blog are going to post my articles as well. Check out their site.

See you at the WSOP Main Event final table this year--and I don't mean watching from the stands!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Please Don't Make This Tournament Poker Mistake

I was playing in the local Sunday no limit event.

It is down to two tables.

The blinds are $2,000-$4,000 with a $500 ante. There are 8 players at the table.

The player in the cut-off (one from the button) is very tight. He has $25,000. Everyone folds to him and he raises to $12,000.

An aggressive player who has $28,000 is in the small blind and he moves all-in.

The big blind has only enough to post the blind, so he is all-in.

The tight player thinks for a while and reluctantly folds.

Major Mistake! He is committed to this hand and can't fold. He has already invested almost half his chip stack. Plus, it will only cost him another $13,000 with $40,000+ in the pot. It's a no-brainer call.

The cards are turned over. The aggressive player has pocket 6's, and the big blind turns over Q-8.

After all the cards are out, the player who folded says he would have won the hand with his A-10. He is annoyed.

The next hand he moves all-in with pocket 10's. The same aggressive player calls with A-J, and hits his Jack taking this opponent out.

Even if this tight player was stealing with 7-2 offsuit he must call that all-in bet. He is committed to the pot when he raised for his half his stack.

In fact he made his first mistake by not moving all-in pre-flop as he has only a little over 6 times the big blind. His second mistake was not calling the all-in bet. And his third mistake--it changed the outcome of the event since I ended up being eliminated in 12th place rather than winning!

More Information Added to My Blog Using Widgets

Here are the new widgets I added:

1. SportCenter-Now
It really is about getting the latest news on video.

2. My Twitter updates
To follow me on Twitter

3. My LinkedIn Profile
Since I've been asked by visitors for a more complete profile.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Do You Have Any Poker Resolutions for 2009?

I am open to any suggestions on how to improve my list of poker resolutions. If you have any resolutions you think I should add, please let me know.

I guess the first one should be to win the Main Event of the WSOP, but that may be more of a dream than a resolution.

1. I will not go on tilt.
2. I will not go on tilt, really.
3. Damn, I will not freaking go on tilt.
4. Oh f-ck me! How f-cking unlucky can you get. I will walk away from the table to avoid going on tilt!
5. Pre-flop, I will look for a reason to play a hand and not fold a hand.
6. I will embrace the risk in the game and be aggressive.
7. I will look for pre-flop tells of the players on my immediate left--especially the players who peek at their cards before it is their turn.
8. I will move all-in even if it is a big overbet on the turn, so bad players will be less likely to make a bad play and call my bet.
9. I will review my book before I play in a tournament, since I always get better results afterwords.
10. I will focus more on winning a seat to the WSOP main event rather than only playing in events that pay-out in cash.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How To Make Poker Legal

I am reading this funny book The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs. The author writes about his learning and experience from reading the Encyclopedia.

I am up to the letter E and "embalming" when I read how we are always trying to find the loophole to get around a law, rule, or order.

Examples he cites:
* The Bible says that the men of cloth can not take up the club. But it seems that its perfectly OK with Jesus to bash in the head of an enemy using a long metallic blade.
* Monks were not allowed to eat meat on Fridays. So they decided that baby rabbits were fish, so they could eat them on Fridays.
* In colonial America it was illegal to play nine-pin bowling. So people added another pin and invented 10-pin bowling.

Here's my idea to make poker legal.

Let's change the name of the game to "River." And the change in the game is that the dealer must deal all the cards to the river, even if players have folded earlier. It doesn't change the outcome of a hand. It just changes the game so we can call it "River;" sort of like adding another pin to invent 10-pin bowling.

There are no laws against the game of River, right?

By the way, did you ever wonder why so much of society is against poker? The reason is found in our history. The Church found that people who gambled money and lost playing poker, had less money to contribute each week to their local church. Of course, the Church had to stop that from happening.

Poker is one of the twenty commandments. I believe number 19 read "Thou shalt not play poker" but that tablet of the commandments 11-20 was dropped by Moses. I know it to be true because I saw it in a movie.

Oh well, I am sure there will be loopholes in this stupid UIGEA act that is suppose to go into effect at the end of 2009.

Thanks again for reading my blog. And I wish you the best of luck in your poker play. And of course, Happy New Years!

What's Your Poker IQ?