Sunday, August 30, 2009

Poker Quiz & Answer: River Play-What should you do?

Poker Quiz and Answer

It is the 2008 World Poker Tour Championship. You buy-in for $25,000 and you get $50,000 in chips. Sounds like a deep stack tournament to me=)

Because of the deep chip stack players are coming in with all sorts of hands. Including you!

Blinds are $100-$200, two players limp and you have the 6c-3s. A power house of a hand. Instead of raising or folding, you call. There are lots of callers. Seven see the flop. The pot is $1,400.

The flop is Qc-6h-3c. You hit two pair. There is the potential flush draw.

After three checks, the solid player in front of you, bets $1,200. You call.

The real loose player next to you, raises to $4,200.

Everyone folds back to you. What does your opponent have? He is a loose player, so who really knows for sure. But, I'd guess anything from a set, two pair (doubtful), a flush draw, and maybe even a straight draw--after all it is a loose player, with players coming in with any two cards.

You don't fold. You just call to see the turn. The pot is now $11,000.

The turn is an Ah. You call. Your opponent bets $10,000. What does your opponent have?

Hmm...maybe a set, a flush draw, a straight draw...what about if the Ace helped his hand..maybe A-Q? At this point, I am thinking that I can either fold, or move all-in and just go home. I don't really want to see another card because if it is a club, it will be a tough decision.

Instead you just call. The pot is now $31,000.

The river is the 7d.

What should you do?

Answer

This is an actual hand. You are playing Marcel Luske's hand in the WPT event at the Bellagio Las Vegas.

Marcel L├╝ske in 2006 World Series of Poker - R...Image via Wikipedi



Marcel bets out on the river for $5,000. He says it is a value bet as he puts his opponent on a flush draw. His opponent folds.

Now this is one of those hands which I think is being played poorly. I truly don't get it. If Luske puts his opponent on a flush draw, move all-in on the turn. You are an 84% favorite, and those are nice percentages if your opponent is crazy enough to call. If he folds, you win the same amount. (Maybe he calls if he has the nut flush draw since you would be moving all-in with such a big overbet?)

Could Marcel's opponent have pocket Q's, 6's or 3's? Yes. If so, you are going to be losing a ton of chips on the river anyway.

Risk is good.

By just calling on the turn, what was Marcel going to do if the club hit on the river? Fold? That is a big loss in chips even with a starting stack of $50,000.

Also, if you do call, why not check the river and see if you win more from your loose opponent? Or maybe it wasn't really a value bet. Maybe it was a blocking bet that didn't get called.

What do you think? What did you decide to do in this situation? Were you right or wrong? Is my thinking right or wrong?

It is interesting that I read so many poker articles that try to present an idea, but just doesn't work for me. At least by turning them into quizzes, it helps to demonstrate whether the thinking in these articles are right or wrong.

Patrick Antonius loses over $200,000 in one hand of NL poker

This must hurt, right? Well, I'm in pain just watching someone lose over $200k.

Replay this hand at www.pokerlistings.com

Poker Quiz: River Play-What should you do?

Poker Quiz-River Play

Gambia River in the Niokolo-Koba National ParkImage via Wikipedia



It is the 2008 World Poker Tour Championship. You buy-in for $25,000 and you get $50,000 in chips. Sounds like a deep stack tournament to me=)

Because of the deep chip stack players are coming in with all sorts of hands. Including you!

Blinds are $100-$200, two players limp and you have the 6c-3s. A power house of a hand. Instead of raising or folding, you call. There are lots of callers. Seven see the flop. The pot is $1,400.

The flop is Qc-6h-3c. You hit two pair. There is the potential flush draw.

After three checks, the solid player in front of you, bets $1,200. You call.

The real loose player next to you, raises to $4,200.

Everyone folds back to you. What does your opponent have? He is a loose player, so who really knows for sure. But, I'd guess anything from a set, two pair (doubtful), a flush draw, and maybe even a straight draw--after all it is a loose player, with players coming in with any two cards.

You don't fold. You just call to see the turn. The pot is now $11,000.

The turn is an Ah. You call. Your opponent bets $10,000. What does your opponent have?

Hmm...maybe a set, a flush draw, a straight draw...what about if the Ace helped his hand..maybe A-Q? At this point, I am thinking that I can either fold, or move all-in and just go home. I don't really want to see another card because if it is a club, it will be a tough decision.

Instead you just call. The pot is now $31,000.

The river is the 7d.

What should you do?

Answer tomorrow. Yes, this is a real hand. And I got it wrong, because I'd move all-in on the turn and get ready to party in Vegas, or keep playing. Risk is good.

So...now, it's up to you...

Good luck.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Poker Quiz and Answer: An Excellent Poker Challenge

Poker Quiz and Answer

This quiz question is taken from an actual hand played at the 2008 WSOP Main Event. The player is Jordan Morgan (that is a different Jordan in the photo) and he is faced with a difficult decision when his blocking bet on the river is raised.

Here is the situation again:

Jordan Bulls9Image by Vedia via Flickr



You are down to $15,000 in chips from the starting stack of $20,000.

The blinds are $150-$300, and you are in the small blind with Kc-7s.

Everyone folds to the player in the cutoff position. He is a passive player and just limps into the pot. The button also limps. You decide to call for a half-bet. The big blind calls. There is $1,200 in the pot.

The flop is 7c-3s-2h. You have top pair with the second best kicker.

You bet out $600. After all it's doubtful anyone has a big pair, your opponents probably have calling hands like mid-rank suited connectors, and you only have to worry about a big blind special.

Only the player in the cut-off calls.

The turn is a Jd.

Now what? This kind of overcard is expected on a flop 7 high. You check.

Your opponent bets $750 into the $2,500 pot. What does that bet mean? It doesn't look like much of a bluff. Your opponent could have a monster or he could be making a small value bet with a hand like...what range of hands do you put him on?

It's such a small bet, you call.

The pot is $4,000. This pot is starting to get rather big relative to your chip stack. You don't want to be crippled with a pair of 7's.

The river is a 6s.

You don't want to make a call of a big bet, so to control the pot size you make a blocking bet of $1,000.

Your opponent raises to $3,000.

Have you figured out what hands your opponent may have?

Based on what you are thinking here, what should you do?

a) Fold
b) Call
c) Re-raise
d) Move all-in

Answer

Jordan called the bet on the river since he couldn't put his opponent on a hand that beat him.

Let's review. His opponent called his small bet on the flop. When the Jack hit on the turn, he check-called a small bet bet by his opponent.

If his opponent had a better hand on the flop, he would have likely raised. For example, A-7 or a pair higher than the 7's He would not want Jordan to get lucky on the turn and he'd want to know where he stood on the hand.

When the turn was a Jack, his opponent bet like he had something but nothing he was too proud about. My thinking would be that he has a hand like A-3, A-2, or a pocket pair between 4's, 5's and 6's. A $750 bet into a $2,500 is one that tells me he fears a raise since his hand can't beat top pair. If he had a set, he may bet this small or bet more for value. And if he had a Jack, he would most definitely raise--but J with what other card to call on the flop?

When the 6s comes on the turn, I like the blocking bet. The raise is a small one which could mean his opponent rivered a big hand, but you have to make the call for two reasons:

1) you are priced in to make the call for another $2,000 into a pot of $6,900 and

2) you need to think about what your opponent is probably thinking about your hand! You bet out small which could mean you may only have hit second or third pair on the flop. You check-called the small turn bet which would confirm that thinking. And now you are making a small bet on the river which again suggests a hand like second or third pair was hit on the flop. In all those cases, your opponent may think he has you beat with A-3, A-2, pocket 4's or pocket 5's.

Well Jordan Morgan called the raise and his opponent showed pocket 5's to lose the pot. The answer was b to call.

You can't play poker always fearing your opponent's small bets means he has the nuts. In fact, it is usually better to think the opposite and take him at his word that he is not strong. Monster hands don't come along that often--well, at least not for me, so why assume that they happen more often for your opponents?

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Tournament Poker: What should you do when your blocking bet is raised?

A Difficult Poker Question

Here is a difficult question for you. It involves hand reading and a blocking bet that gets raised. Good luck!

The 2007 Virginia Tech Hokies football team bl...Image via Wikipedia


You are playing in the $10,000 WSOP main event. You are down to $15,000 in chips from the starting stack of $20,000.

The blinds are $150-$300, and you are in the small blind with Kc-7s.

Everyone folds to the player in the cutoff position. He is a passive player and just limps into the pot. The button also limps. You decide to call for a half-bet. The big blind calls. There is $1,200 in the pot.

The flop is 7c-3s-2h. You have top pair with the second best kicker.

You bet out $600. After all it's doubtful anyone has a big pair, your opponents probably have calling hands like mid-rank suited connectors, and you only have to worry about a big blind special.

Only the player in the cut-off calls.

The turn is a Jd.

Now what? This kind of overcard is expected on a flop 7 high. You check.

Your opponent bets $750 into the $2,500 pot. What does that bet mean? It doesn't look like much of a bluff. Your opponent could have a monster or he could be making a small value bet with a hand like...what range of hands do you put him on?

It's such a small bet, you call.

The pot is $4,000. This pot is starting to get rather big relative to your chip stack. You don't want to be crippled with a pair of 7's.

The river is a 6s.

You don't want to make a call of a big bet, so to control the pot size you make a blocking bet of $1,000.

Your opponent raises to $3,000.

Have you figured out what hands your opponent may have?

Based on what you are thinking here, what should you do?

a) Fold
b) Call
c) Re-raise
d) Move all-in

Answer tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

If You Have Ever Gotten Angry Playing Poker This May Help

Anger and Poker

I admit I have a temper. While it runs in the family, it's my responsibility to control it.

The first few years I started playing poker tournaments, I never got angry when I took a bad beat. Never. I used to find it stupid for players to get so mad about losing.

ANGRYImage by Akbar Simonse via Flickr


The tournament director at one of my local clubs used to tell people I was the nicest guy at the club. I think he may have got confirmation of that opinion when the following situation came up:

I had arrived on-time to a Sunday afternoon poker tournament at Lucky Chances. It takes about 45 minutes for me to get to the club. The buy in was $220. Everyone gets seated as the first hand is dealt. I am in the 6 seat, and the big blind is in the 3 seat. The blinds are $25-$50, and everyone has $2,000 in chips.

I get dealt A-K offsuit and I'm the first in the pot with a raise to $150. Everyone folds to the big blind who calls.

The flop is K-7-2 rainbow. I like that flop.

The big blind looks at the flop and does nothing for about 20 seconds. Then he says, "all-in."

Uh-oh. What could this guy have to move all-in with that flop? What hands can he possibly be holding to make a play like that? I am also wrongly thinking that I just got to the club, and I'd feel stupid driving home after a few minutes of play. I'm thinking and thinking.

Now my opponent says to the dealer, "clock."

The dealer calls over the tournament director. He walks over and tells me I have one minute. I really didn't know what to do.

And then it hits me. This is the guy who did the same thing about one month ago. When his opponent folded, he showed a total bluff.

"I call!" I say it loud to make sure the TD hears me.

I turn over my A-K and my opponent turns over Q-6 suited. The players at the table react by poking fun at this guy. He's got nothing. No backdoor nothing.

The turn is a 6.

The river is a....Q!

Now the table reacts with that "Oh!!" And start laughing. I don't get angry. I joke to my opponent, "you're good," as I get up from my chair and calmly walk away. I guess the tournament director expected me to storm off.

While it bothered me that I lost that hand, it's just poker. I actually felt good about making the call.

The point is that I never got angry playing poker. It always seemed a stupid waste of energy.

And then internet poker arrived.

Internet Poker

I did not jump into playing online poker at first, since I only had a Mac. Internet poker only worked on PC's in those days.

I was a winning tournament player at the clubs, so my Dad kept pushing me to get a PC. I finally relented and got a cheap PC laptop on ebay. It was a horrible computer.

When it arrived, I signed up with Ultimate Bet. I had to sign up with one of those deposit services, I think it was called firepay. It took a couple of days to get the money into UB.

Anyway, when I finally had money in UB, I entered my first online poker tournament. I had been playing for $200+ at the club, so I entered a $105 event. I could not believe how bad everyone was playing. As it got down to the final table, I was in third place.

After another 15 minutes, it was down to 6 players and I was tied for the chip lead. I knew for sure, I was going to win.

The next hand was dealt and I was under the gun. Pocket Aces! Since a couple of players were low on chips, I was thinking about slow-playing. But I decided to raise. I selected the amount of my raise. When I went to press the button to raise, the computer screen goes dead. As does everything else in my apartment.

In fact, the power to my area of town goes out. Unreal! What am I suppose to do? This never happened to me at a card room. I was going to call UB, but I didn't have the internet connection to find out their phone number.

After about one hour, the power goes back on. I log in to UB as quick as possible. I can't even find the game I was in anymore!

I call up UB. The person tells me that I was blinded off, and ended up in 5th place. That sort of pissed me off.

In fact, the more I played online poker, the more I got pissed about playing poker. So many unreal, stupid things happen all the time. Bad beat, after bad beat, after bad beat. It's so absurd. Did I feel like breaking the mouse, keyboard, and computer? Yes, yes and yes.

That anger about the game was present even when I played at the card rooms. I would be pissed when I lost...not some of the time, every time I lost. The funny thing is that I was a winning player overall!

Despite the winning, I couldn't take the way I was losing. It was just so stupid. It would just get me so pissed.

The result was that I just stopped going to any local major events, and cut back on my online play. Of course, it did give me time to write a book or two.

Why My Anger Is Practically Gone

The past year I have been playing a few more tournaments. One thing I have learned is that poker tournaments really are a combination of skill, luck, luck and luck. Players today are much better than they were before. The skill difference among very good and great players are not nearly as wide as they used to be.

My understanding of the game is deeper than before. And it has resulted in my being able to put anger aside in these events. There is no reason for you or me to get angry when you realize the following is true:

1. You are never that big of a favorite in any heads-up, all-in situation.
No one is a big favorite. Is 4-1 really that big of an edge? No! In horse racing a long shot is 20-1 or higher. The guy with the small pair will beat your pocket aces one out of five times. (One out of three times online:))

2. You have to play to win. Which means you have to push the action.
You will rarely get enough big hands to take you all the way to a win. (I think it's happened once where I got pocket Aces six times in a tournament--I still only finished 2nd!) Pushing the action results in being in more precarious situations and risking all your chips. It makes the game a lot less emotional when you know that anything can happen.

It used to be that I never put a bad beat on anyone because when the chips went into the middle I was always ahead. Now, I actually put bad beats on players...and get called names. But that's what happens when you embrace the risk in the game.

3. The top poker stars don't win tournaments that often.
Check the stats on the name players. The top poker stars today are getting better results in tournaments that are not the no-limit events. Why? They have a lead on knowledge and experience on these other games, like they used to have in no limit events. Also, there are fewer players to beat.

Chris Ferguson took $0 and turned it into $10,000--which is amazing. But you know what..it took him 7 months to win enough money in a tournament to play in games higher than a buck or two.

4. The top poker stars, the best players online and the best players at your local club have a big edge: it is their net worth.

For top poker stars, if it wasn't for their financial ownership and/or sponsorships with online poker sites, they would be having a much more difficult time and not be taking as many risks in a tournament. You may not know it, but there is a lot of deal making going on in major events.

It's like that player at the 2008 WSOP who told Hellmuth...it was something like.."No, you are an idiot! I put in my $10,000 and play my way. You risk nothing, you put up no money to play. You shut up!"

The fact it is an uneven playing field.

It's also true online and at your local club as well. Online players will have bigger bankrolls and will enter hundreds of events in a year. They play multiple events at the same time, so at a few of those events they can get enough chips later on, which can put them in an excellent position to win. They can use their chip lead to bully opponents in the later stages of the event, and it gives them a big edge.

You and I will be playing one event and put all our attention and effort into that one game. If we get knocked out, we shut off the computer.

You may not know it but it's also true at your local club. The players who have the biggest net worth, are the ones who can afford to take the biggest risks. More risk equals more reward. There is this one player (he dresses like he's homeless) who gets knocked out more often than other players, but he will also get to the final table with more chips, more often than other players.

I thought he was a great player, until I jokingly said to the tournament director, "That guy plays like he already won the main event." The TD replied in a serious tone, "Mitchell, he's one of the richest men in the Bay Area." I was shocked.

By the way, I am not saying that these star poker players are not the best poker players. I am saying that the top players have an edge but not as big as used to be in no limit tournaments. There are a lot more "best" or "almost as good" poker players, which results in luck being more and more of a factor in any one event.

Suggestion


I no longer get angry when I get knocked out with a bad beat. I am disappointed, but not angry. I mean it's just part of a game that is filled with skill but a lot more luck.

Now I try to be the player who is a little more aggressive and pushes the action a little more than my opponents. I will get knocked out sooner, but I will get more chips faster.

Give it a try. Embrace the risk. Take chances. Don't be angry if it doesn't work the first time, the first 10 times or the first 20 times. It doesn't matter, it's only a game...learn from it and improve your game.

Just please remember that you should not be playing with money you can't afford to lose. A reminder that is especially pertinent in today's economy.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Poker Quiz & Answer: You Are Johnny Chan

Poker Quiz and Answer

In this quiz, you are going to be Johnny Chan. You are playing in the WSOP main event. You started with $20,000 in chips and you just sat down at your starting table.

The tournament director says, "Shuffle up and deal."

It's the first hand. Yes, you bought in for $10,000 so make sure you don't lose it all on hand #1=)

Blinds $50-$100. You are under the gun and find Ah-Ac. You are Johnny Chan, so it makes sense you'd find pocket Aces, right? And, since you are Johnny Chan you are going to raise, right? Wrong. You limp with Aces.

Four players call as well. The pot is $550.

The flop is 4d-3d-2h. No you don't have the Ace of diamonds.

The big blind checks. You bet $250. There are three callers. The pot is $1,550.

The turn is a 9d. The big blind checks, you check, one player bets $4,750. The big blind calls. What should you do?

a) Fold
b) Call and go for a straight.
c) Move all-in. You are Johnny Chan, and players fear you.

Quiz WhizzImage via Wikipedia



The answer is c) you are Johnny Chan so you move all-in and everyone will fold. Not!!

The answer, of course, is to fold.

Chan bet the flop to see where he was in the hand. But once he got called in three places he knew he was in trouble. With three diamonds on board, and not having the Ace of diamonds, it is an easy fold.

Frankly, it was an easy lay-down. I wonder how he would have played the hand if he had the Ace of diamonds. It seems to me that he would have made the call especially when the big blind called that overbet.

What do you think?

The Rest of the Story....

What happened in this hand was that the first caller had Qd-Qh. The second caller and the one who made that big bet on the turn had 6d-4h. The big blind had Jh-Jc.

The hand went to the river with the player with 6d-4h and the player with Jh-Jc. Chan folded as did the player with the pocket queens.

The river was the 8d. Both player checked, and the player with the 6d won with his flush. The player with the pocket queens would have won, since he had the Qd.
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How Chris Ferguson turned $0 into $10,000 in 16 months

From $0 to $10,000

I picked up this information from the Full Tilt Site.

Looking at their write up, Chris Ferguson used very strict guidelines and had to start playing in freerolls. It took him 7 months to have enough of a bankroll to play in cash games!

Chris Image via Wikipedia


When he finished 2nd at a MTT he won $100+. From there it took him 9 months to take that $100 and turn it into $10,000.

I wonder if it was harder to get out of the freeroll level and into cash, or to go from $100 to $10,000?

You can check out the article on the Full Tilt website: http://snipurl.com/r2qne

I posted his guidelines here in case you wanted to give it a try:

* He never bought into a cash game or a Sit & Go for more than 5 percent of his total bankroll; the only exception was at the lowest limits: he was allowed to buy into any game with a buy-in of $2.50 or less
* He didn’t buy into any multi-table tournaments for more than 2 percent of his total bankroll; the only exception was $1 MTTs
* If at any time during a No-Limit or Pot-Limit cash-game session the money on the table represented more than 10 percent of his total bankroll, he had to leave the game when the blinds reached him

I wonder what Chris did to pay the bills during those 16 months=)
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Poker Quiz: You Are Johnny Chan

Poker Quiz

In this quiz, you are going to be Johnny Chan. You are playing in the WSOP main event. You started with $20,000 in chips and you just sat down at your starting table.

The tournament director says, "Shuffle up and deal."

John Chan in 2006 World Series of Poker at Rio...Image via Wikipedia



It's the first hand. Yes, you bought in for $10,000 so make sure you don't lose it all on hand #1=)

Blinds $50-$100. You are under the gun and find Ah-Ac. You are Johnny Chan, so it makes sense you'd find pocket Aces, right? And, since you are Johnny Chan you are going to raise, right? Wrong. You limp with Aces.

4 Players call as well. The pot is $550.

The flop is 4d-3d-2h. No you don't have the Ace of diamonds.

The big blind checks. You bet $250. There are three callers. The pot is $1,550.

The turn is a 9d. The big blind checks, you check, one player bets $4,750. The big blind calls. What should you do?

a) Fold
b) Call and go for a straight.
c) Move all-in. You are Johnny Chan, and players fear you.

Answer tomorrow.

My Johnny Chan story


Okay, I picked this quiz just so I could tell you my Johnny Chan story. I was playing in the WSOP $1,500 buy-in event many years ago. At my starting table was Johnny Chan. It was pre-internet poker, so everyone was playing very conservatively; whomever raises pre-flop tended to win the blinds uncontested.

In this one hand, near the end of round 1, a player in early position raises the big blind of $150 to $450. Everyone folds to Johnny Chan in late position. He moves all-in for $1,500. The pre-flop raiser insta-calls with his $1,000 and shows pocket Queens. Chan shows A-K. The flop has the Ace and Johnny Chan doubles up.

On the very next hand, another early position player raises to $450. It's folded to Johnny Chan. He moves all-in. Again, an insta-call. This time the raiser has A-K, and Chan shows pocket Queens. Yeah, Chan wins again as this player gets no help.

Sure enough, someone at the table speaks up on cue with "That's why he's Johnny Chan."
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Monday, August 24, 2009

Answers to the Poker Quiz

Answers to the Poker Quiz

Here we go to the answers. I will explain later why I think this is such a stupid article on poker. Hey, maybe you'll think I'm the dummy after reading this post!

The DummyImage via Wikipedia


You and I have entered a $10,000 buy-in event. It is early in the event. The blinds are $50-$100. We both have $12,000 in chips. You are in the cut-off. I am in big blind.

A player in early position raises pre-flop to $300. You have 2h-2d and call. I am in the big blind and call as well. The pot is $950.

The flop is Qs-10c-2c. You have a set.

I check, the other guy bets $600, and you just call.

(My comment: Please note that in this major tournament the player who hit the set on the flop did not raise. With that flop, not raising can be asking for trouble. Anyway, back to the quiz...)

Question 1:
If I make a big check-raise to $2,500, would you:
a) Fold
b) Call
c) Raise

Question 2:
If you called or raised in question 1, is there any action I can take to get you to fold your set?
a) Yes
b) No

Answers: If you hit a set and I check-raise, you can not fold your hand. Yes, I may have a set. But if I do have a set, you are just going to lose a bundle here. Frankly, the correct answers to me is to move all-in and there is no action to get you off your hand.

In this article, though, the poker author/expert is going to show how smart this player is by just calling....?

The turn is a 3c. Possibly completing someone's flush. I check, the other guy checks, and you check.

The river is a 4s. The pot is $2,750.

Question 3:
How big a bet do I need to make on the river to get you to fold your set?
a) I bet a small amount, $1,200.
b) I bet the pot, $2,750
c) I over-bet the pot, $4,000.
d) I move all-in putting all your chips at risk.
e) You are going to call me, no matter what I bet.

Answer: I believe even if I move all-in, you will find it tough to fold. However, if I move all-in, and the next player also moves all-in, folding a set of deuces would make much more sense.

Conclusion

I selected this poker quiz because this syndicated article is so stupid. This hand was selected to demonstrate how smart the player who hit the flush was in 1) just calling on the flop to hide the strength of his hand and mostly 2) overbetting the pot on the river to suck his opponent into calling.

The facts are that calling on the flop is a typical play and maybe the wrong one. This player has to know he has 14 outs and probably a slight favorite. Getting all-in in this situation is a way to double up early on or get knocked out. You've got to be willing to die to survive...and thrive in tournament poker!

More importantly, the article does not demonstrate that overbetting the pot is some brilliant play because the guy with a set of deuces is not folding to an overbet--except perhaps in the situation I mentioned above. In fact, moving all-in on the river looks a lot weaker to me than an overbet of $4,000 and therefore, even more likely to be called thereby winning a bigger pot.

I hope you enjoyed the quiz!

You may find this interesting:

Yesterday I entered the local tournament. I was late, again. I had $2,500 and it was the third hand. I had Ah-Kd. I raised the $50-$100 blinds to $300. Two players called.

The flop came down 9h-6h-2h. I checked. The next player bet $600. The other player folded.
What should I do?

I figured I had 15 outs, so I moved all-in. My opponent insta-called. He had a set of 9's.

The turn was a Jc.

The river was a 4h. I hit the nut flush and doubled up early.

When the event got down to 40 players, I was one of the chip leaders. I was dealt A-K suited 3 times in the space of 6 hands. I lost against 7-7, K-K, and J-J....I'm out.

The player with 7-7's took 20% of my stack.

The player with Kings re-raised me, and it only cost me less than half the original size of my bet, so I had to make the call.

The last player was desperate and moved all-in first. I was now desperate as well and called.

Oh well...that's poker.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Is This a Stupid Poker Article, Poker Quiz?

"You, sir, are an idiot!" Phil Hellmuth at last year's WSOP

Phill Hellmuth in 2006 World Series of Poker a...Image via Wikipedia


I often share Phil's thought when I read poker articles that demonstrate how smart a winning player is in the way he handles a poker situation, when really it is nothing of the sort.

Heck, I am sure, I have written articles where you think the same about me.

I thought it may be fun to use some of these articles and turn them into a different kind of quiz. You not only have to decide on the right play, but you also have to figure out the point of this poker hand situation in the first place.

Here goes..

Is This a Stupid Poker Article Poker Quiz?

You and I have entered a $10,000 buy-in event. It is early in the event. The blinds are $50-$100. We both have $12,000 in chips. You are in the cut-off. I am in the big blind.

A player in early position raises pre-flop to $300. You have 2h-2d and call. I am in the big blind and call as well. The pot is $950.

The flop is Qs-10c-2c. You have a set.

I check, the other guy bets $600, and you just call.

Question 1:
If I make a big check-raise to $2,500, would you:
a) Fold
b) Call
c) Raise

Question 2:
If you called or raised in question 1, is there any action I can take to get you to fold your set?
a) Yes
b) No

In this article, I am going to show you how smart I am by just calling.

The turn is a 3c. Possibly completing someone's flush. I check, the other guy checks, and you check.

The river is a 4s. The pot is $2,750.

Question 3:
How big a bet do I need to make on the river to get you to fold your set?
a) I bet a small amount, $1,200.
b) I bet the pot, $2,750
c) I over-bet the pot, $4,000.
d) I move all-in putting all your chips at risk.
e) You are going to call me, no matter what I bet.

Answers tomorrow.

But think about what hand I have and why I am such a smart player...and why it ends up being such a stupid poker article.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Play Razz Poker To Win: A Best-Seller on Kindle!


Razz Poker and Kindle
(click on image to enlarge)

A couple of weeks ago, I finally released my book Play Razz Poker to Win for the Kindle. To my surprise it became a best-seller in a number of Kindle based categories.

The most surprising is: # 3 selling poker book on Kindle. Does Razz poker and Kindle ownership have some relationship?

#1 is some guy named Gus Hansen has a book out--I think he plays poker a lot.
#2 is Poker Tips that Pay: Expert Strategy Guide for Winning No Limit Texas Hold em by Jonathan Gelling

#1 Sports-Gambling Category
#3 Card Games Category
#3 in Poker category

Of course, these rankings change daily...but it doesn't hurt.

Thanks for your support!

How to Set a Trap With Top Pair in a Poker Tournament

A Basic Trap on the Flop

This is a very simple poker play. Some poker pros used this play a lot a few years ago. The play is this: When you are heads-up, in position and flop top pair with an Ace or King, check your hand. While this is a risky play, the reward can be a bigger win. Of course, this is a play that should be limited to flops that are not coordinated since giving a free card could cost you the pot.

Example

Trapped (2002 film)Image via Wikipedia



You have A♠-J♥. It is the middle of the tournament. You have $38,000. The blinds are $400-$800. A player in the middle position, with $45,000, raises to $4,000. You call on the cut-off. Everyone folds. It’s heads-up. The pot is $9,200.

The flop is A♣-10♦-6♥. Your opponent checks his hand. What should you do?

Check as well. It is true that your opponent could have a straight draw, but why not take a chance to win a big pot? If the 10♦ was the 8♦, the flop is even safer for this play.

In fact, your opponent’s big pre-flop raise may indicate that he has a pocket pair that he was trying to protect. So if he has pocket Jack’s, your bet on the flop will get him to fold. However, the check may give him the green light to make a play for the pot.

The only caution is that you want to avoid making this play if the board is coordinated and has many draws. For example, if the flop is A♣-10♦-9♦, your opponent could be working on a flush or a straight draw. Checking would give him a free card. You should bet your top pair to protect your hand.

Suggestion
This trap is not used as often as it used to be. Now top players will bet their hand on the flop, and if they get called, these players will often check the turn. The reason for the check on the turn is to keep the pot small and possibly win another bet on the river by looking weak on the turn.

Razz Update

I doubled up again on Friday late afternoon, but gave it back when I came back to play around midnight. The only way I can lose like that is if I lose my temper or I start wheel potential, such as A-2-3-4 or 2-3-4-5. Well that happened to me within the space of 9 hands, three times! I whiffed all the way down. It was unreal especially since I was heads-up and only one exposed card was one of the cards I needed for an 8 low or better. Yeah, I left that seat.

On the game where I doubled up, it was interesting since I played for 2 hours and this one seat must have had 8 players go bust during that time period. Two other seats at the table were hot as can be. I was pretty much slow but steady in building my stack, while everyone else mostly fed these two very very lucky players. When I checked back one hour later, these two players were still there--you can't blame them.

There was also one Razz poker player who kept getting wiped out. He'd lose all his chips, leave and come back to play a few minutes later. I think in the two hours I was at the game, he lost $800. He was an awful player since he believed in playing catch-up. He would enter a pot with even a King showing hoping to win. He did this a few times, but what a way to lose money fast.

What was unusual for online poker was that no one was calling him a donkey or worse. Because everyone wanted him to come back and donate more money. Losing $400 an hour has to take a bite out of your budget.

The best player I've seen at Razz on Full Tilt is pepperman7. This guy calls down opponents who show an 8 high, and pepperman just has a 10. His opponent ends up with Q low, and pepperman wins again. Unreal. It's like he sees the guys hole cards. Hmmm...I might get suspicious if this was Ultimate Bet=)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Funny thing happened at Razz tonight...

Razz poker and tips

I played again, and fortunately I was able to double up.

TipsImage by Lucas Janin via Flickr



Razz poker tips:

1. If you get a bad seat, it's okay to move. I believe that some seats are just hot and others are not.

2. I misread my hand 'cause I wasn't focused. I was reading some sports news and playing in a hand...mistake! When it got to 5th street, I called a bet heads-up thinking I was on a good draw. I noticed when 6th street hit--I shouldn't have called on 5th. But I was forced to go all the way to 7th, because the 6th street card helped. Of course, 7th street was no help and I folded. A big loss at the $10-$20 level. Doh!

3. I lost some patience tonight. Some guy hit perfect to beat me, which got me pissed. I proceeded to play a hand I shouldn't have played, which made it worse.

4. I did beat this one opponent in three heads-up situations. In each case he thought he was ahead, and he was behind. But he just bitched and moaned about how unlucky he got. All he has to do is look at the hand history and he'd see he was way behind. Razz poker players are just not as good as they think. I'm not even that good, but I know how to take advantages of my opponents' weaknesses.

Funny thing happened...


When my Razz poker book came out, most players liked it. One of the Full Tilt Razz pros, Pepperman told me he liked it. I was interviewed by Lou Kreiger, Ashley Adams and the AnteUp guys even like my book.

Katja Thater recommended it as well. As a Razz bracelet winner her recommendation led to PokerStars Intellipoker (the educational site) buying the rights to translate it into many languages. Later I found out why Intellipoker took her recommendation so seriously--she is married to the head of the company=)

Now, there was one Razz expert who blasted my book everywhere. The guy went way overboard. I think he really thinks he is the best Razz poker player in the world.
In fact, he told everyone that he was going to write the definitive book on Razz, my book is awful, blah, blah. Anyway, he never did write that book.

The funny thing is that when he sees me playing Razz, he must play at my table. Does he say anything to me? Nope. It's like he pretends I don't know who he is. I always say hello to him. I never get a reply.

I know he wants to beat me real bad--it is a typical ego thing, I guess. The last time he did this (months ago) we never went head-to-head--but he lost hundreds of dollars in like 20 minutes. It was ugly. I think he was trying to show-off or something how he can catch a bluff in Razz. It wasn't working.

Tonight, he was back...this time he lost again...but not as much. It was funny because I knew what he was trying to do and the first two times we went heads-up I won. The third time, I misread my hand and he won. Overall, he lost $100 and left.

The lesson is: When you make poker personal, you will surely lose.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

5 Reasons Why You Should Play Razz Poker Now!

Razz Poker Today (photo is Katja Thater--she won a WSOP Razz bracelet)

I hadn't been playing much poker at all with everything going on in my life the past few months. I decided to play Razz poker tonight after probably 6+ months away from the game.

I entered a middle limit game of Razz. I played for almost 90 minutes and tripled up. It really wasn't that difficult. And I suffered a few of those really annoying Razz hands where you start way ahead and some guy sucks out with a runner-runner-runner. Ugh!

Katja Thater at the 2007 World Series of Poker...Image via Wikipedia



Don't get me wrong. It's not like I expect to sit down and triple up every time. But I do expect to win long-term, if I have the patience for the game like I had tonight.

5 Reasons Why You Should Play Razz Poker

1. Many of the poker players who play Razz really don't understand the game.


These players either like to be aggressive and try to steal too often, don't know when to fold a hand, and of course, you get those players who love to chase.

I wrote a book on the game called "Play Razz Poker to Win." I wrote the book based on computer simulations I ran with different hand situations and the odds presented. You can run these same hand simulations at the site www.propokertools.com and you'll most likely come up with the same conclusions I did in my Razz book.

2. You need patience and you need to take your emotions out of the game.

Frankly, there is nothing more difficult for me than to leave my emotions out of poker. But if you are in the mood to be patient and emotionally under control, when someone does chase and beats you, it won't effect your play.

Tonight, the player to my right lost in a hand to me, he thought he should have won. He started to write stuff revealing his anger. I knew right then and there that this guy was going to lose a lot more--and he did.

3. Use my Starting Hand Point System to stay out of trouble.

Razz poker is a 7 card game. It can get expensive if you go all the way to 7th street and lose. I developed a starting hand point system that takes into account the cards showing on 3rd street, compared to your position, and your starting cards. Is it perfect? No. There are no perfect systems where you follow which hands to play so you'll always win. But in Razz poker you have more information than hold'em at the start, so you can get a better idea if you should call, fold or raise.

Okay, I guess I'm pimping my book because the system is in the book.

4. Stealing is important in Razz poker but some players just get stupid about it.

Do you have an Ace showing? It doesn't mean you should always raise.

Do you have the 2nd lowest card showing, and only the player with the lowest up card separates you and the bring-in player? It doesn't mean you should always raise.

Do you have one rank lower than the bring-in player and you are heads-up? No, it doesn't always mean you must raise.

These are all good situations to try to steal some of the time. But not all of the time. Get a read on your opponents, and you'll know who to try these steals against and who not to bully.

5. Don't call someone just because you think they are stealing.

All this does is start the chase. There is no rule that you have to defend the King high of the bring-in player. Be patient.

Suggestion

No, you don't have to buy my book. Check out Sklansky's book that has Razz poker in it. Learn the game. It's not that hard of a game.

You should seriously consider learning how to play Razz poker. The expertise of your opponents in Razz poker is much wider than players in no limit poker tournaments. Enter Razz poker cash games slowly. In fact, you don't ever have to play against the highest limit Razz players since the middle and lower limits are great hunting grounds.

I continue to believe Razz Poker is the easiest way to build your poker bankroll.

Maybe Try This Tournament Poker System

A Tournament Poker System

I figured I would put together a simple system to playing a poker tournament. Use this as a "base;" that is, the system you will adjust as you learn more from your game.

Round 1: Try to get a read on your opponents.
Are there players who are loose and aggressive? If so, you are going to figure out how to try to isolate yourself against this player.
Are there players who are tight and passive? Ideally, you want these players to your left so you steal their blinds.
This doesn't stop after the first round as you always want to get a read on your opponents.

Early Rounds: Accumulate chips

Don't play tight. Play to accumulate chips. You want to open up your game and figure out how to play against your opponents playing styles.

If you are in an early position (1st 3 positions to the right of the big blind):
Small or medium pair just limp. If you get raised, be willing to put in 10% of your stack to see the flop. No set on flop, no bet. If you hit your set, just check or raise 2x's your opponent's bet on the flop.

A picture of a texas hold'em poker table, with...Image via Wikipedia


If you get a premium pair QQ, KK, AA or AK or AQ, raise 3x's the big blind. If you get re-raised, just move all-in. If you have a cooler so be it. If you get pocket 9's, 10's, or Jacks, just raise 2.5x's the big blind. If you get re-raised, you are willing to call 10% of your stack. If the re-raise is from a player who is loose-aggressive, just move all-in.

If you get a trouble hand in early position, you know those J-10, Q-10, K-J, K-Q type hands, just put in a min raise. Don't fold. You want to steal the blinds. If you get raised, only call with the suited trouble hands and it doesn't cost you more than 10% of your stack. If you miss, fold. If you hit, play against your opponent's bet size and your image of his play. Assume a small bet, means he misses and a 3/4th to pot size bet means he may have you beat. The small bet, raise the action. The pot sized bet you want to call and see the turn. It depends on your image of your opponent, on what happens on the turn. Few players can fire a second bullet.

In middle position, the pocket 9's, 10's, and J's, you should put in a 3x big blind pre-flop raise. If someone raises before you, you should call to see the flop if it only costs you 10% of your stack.

In middle position, those trouble hands are played the same way, except you don't want to call a raise unless it is a suited trouble hand and only costs you 10% of your stack.

Late Positions=Attack Positions
In late position, everything is the same except that you are going to attack players from the cutoff, button and small blind with any 2 cards when you are first in the hand if you know these players are tight, and even better if they are tight and passive. First in preflop: from the cut-off and button, put in a 3x's big blind raise. In the small blind, put in a 4x big blind raise. If you get re-raised, you will have to fold.

Middle to Late Rounds

In the middle to late rounds, you are no longer going to limp with small and medium pairs in early position. A min raise is fine. You will no longer limp into the pot when the game gets to the middle to late rounds.

Calling a pre-flop raise should only be done if you need chips, you have pocket Kings or Aces, someone has raised before you, and you can double up through that player.

Calling a pre-flop raise can also be done with any pair. Try to hit it big with a set.

Additional Guidelines:

Small blind play: call those 1/2 bets with any 2 suited cards and playable hands.
Big blind play: If you have almost any playable hand and you are getting 2-1 or better, call the raise to see the flop.

If a player raises in early position, give that raise respect.
If a player raises in middle position, give that raise less respect. If the player is loose with his opening hands, put in a re-raise.
If a player raises in late position, look to re-raise with a good to premium hand unless that player is very tight.

You are going to move all-in when you are 8 times or less the big blind in early position with A-J or better. You can adjust the strength of your hand downward as you are in a later position and first in the pot.

If you get to 5 times or less the big blind, look to play any Ace, King, or Queen hand, any pair, suited connectors, and any 2 cards that when added together equal a 19 or better.

Next Step

At the end of the tournament, figure out what worked and what didn't work and adjust your game accordingly. Write down notes and guidelines for your next event. Again, based on your results of that event, see how you can adjust the strategy to make your plan better.

Make sure you write down your learning and what is being changed, so you can finally uncover a poker system that works for your style.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

What do you think of a product similar to the WSOP Academy by it's at your desktop?

What's your opinion?

I thought that poker players who can't make it to a WSOP Academy might be interested in a similar product but done at their desktop or by phone. The survey is posted below...you are welcome to post comments...or you can take the survey here. Thanks for your feedback.

1. WSOP (World Series of Poker) Academy

The WSOP Academy has live poker training camps that are led by the world’s most winning professional poker players. The WSOP Academy offers you the rare opportunity to learn face-to-face from the poker players you see playing on TV and in high stakes tournaments and cash games in poker rooms across the globe. When you attend the WSOP Academy, you can expect a total immersion in the game of poker, in a friendly and encouraging, learning environment. You can expect to learn from expert poker professionals with a strong commitment to sharing the secrets and strategies needed to consistently win at poker.

The WSOP Academy class takes two full days of 8 hours each day, for a total of 16 hours. The instructors include Howard Lederer, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon, and Greg Raymer.

At the end of the WSOP Academy class, there is a free-roll tournament to win a 2010 WSOP seat.

The WSOP Academy is only offered in 12 locations in the US including Las Vegas, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

The price for the WSOP Academy classes is $1,899, but this price does not include the cost for transportation, lodging, and food.

How likely are you to attend a WSOP Academy session?

Extremely likely
Very likely
Likely
Unlikely
Very unlikely
Not interested

2. "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp: Tournament Edition

The "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp gives the same training you get at the WSOP Academy but all the instruction takes place conveniently at your desktop.

The classes take place in the evening for 4 nights, for a total of 3 hours each night. That’s a total of 12 hours of instruction. The instructors include Chris Ferguson, Dan Harrington, TJ Cloutier, and Mike Sexton.

The classes are conducted at your desktop in a teleseminar format (audio only), where you either call-in or go to the website to listen and ask questions. It all happens at the convenience of your desktop.

On the 5th day, there is a free-roll tournament at an online poker site to win a 2010 WSOP seat.

The price for the "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp: Tournament Edition is $997, with no additional costs.

How likely are you to attend the "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp: Tournament Edition?
Extremely likely
Very likely
Likely
Unlikely
Very unlikely
Not interested

3. "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp with Mastermind Coaching: Tournament Edition

The "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp with Mastermind Coaching gives you the same training you get at the "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp plus:
a) One Mastermind Coaching session in a small, personal group with only 9 other players. You get to select your instructor.
b) Four additional weeks as part of the Mastermind Action Group that helps you achieve your poker goals.
All of these sessions take place conveniently at your desktop.

Here is what you get with the "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp with Mastermind Coaching: Tournament Edition:

During week one, the classes take place in the evening for 4 days, for a total of 3 hours each night. That’s a total of 12 hours of instruction. The instructors include Chris Ferguson, Dan Harrington, TJ Cloutier, and Mike Sexton.

On the 5th day, there is a free-roll tournament at an online poker site to win a 2010 WSOP seat.

During week two, you have the opportunity to test the strategies you have learned at your local home poker games or at online poker sites. This experience will help to get you ready for the next stage of coaching.

During week three, the Mastermind Coaching kicks-in where you receive personalized coaching with only 9 other players. You choose which pro you want coaching you for one 60 minute Q&A session. These personalized coaching classes will take place in the evening for 3 days (so you will have a choice of instructors from 9 total sessions.)

After the Mastermind Coaching is the Mastermind Action Group led by Warwick Dunnettt (author of Poker Wizards) and Mitchell Cogert (author of Tournament Poker: 101 Winning Moves) to follow through and help you achieve your poker goals. These action group sessions are once per week for the next 4 weeks, and will be 90 minutes to 2 hours in order to cover all of your follow-up questions.

All these classes and group sessions are conducted using a teleseminar format (audio only), where you either call-in or go to the website to listen and ask questions. It all happens at the convenience of your desktop.

The price for the "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp with Mastermind Coaching: Tournament Edition is two payments of $997 each, with no additional costs.

How likely are you to attend "No Balls-No Blue Chips" Poker Boot Camp with Mastermind Coaching: Tournament Edition?
Extremely likely
Very likely
Likely
Unlikely
Very unlikely
Not interested

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Sunday at the Oaks: Tournament: Survive or Go For the Win?

At the Oaks on Sunday

I entered the Oaks Sunday event. It had over 100 players, with a $125 buy-in and one $100 rebuy.

Survivor (novel)Image via Wikipedia



To start, I had a good seat in that the players to my left were super tight. I was not able to pick up any tells on them since I was in seat 10 and the dealer was in the way.

There were a couple of good players at the table but no one who I would call in the top 10%. One player liked to bluff or overplay his hands. A couple of others were transparent in that they never bluffed, and would move all-in on the flop or turn if they had a good hand and wanted to shut out any drawing hands.

I was building slowly thanks to the tightness of the players to my left. I could steal blinds by raising from the cutoff or button. I never got called. I did have a Q-x and J-x, so there was some flop potential.

A key hand was when I had pocket 9's under the gun. Since it was early in the event, a raise would not thin out the competition, so I limped. One tight but tricky player raised. I called. The flop came all rags under 7. I checked and he bet the pot. I moved all-in and he folded. I figured if I'm beat, I'd get lucky or rebuy.

Another round and I got dealt pocket Kings. The second most aggressive player at this table raised. He had a bigger stack than me. If I re-raised, he would fold so I called. One other player called. The flop came 5-3-2. The pre-flop raiser overbet the pot. If I called, I didn't have enough chips to protect the pot on the turn, so again, I just pushed all in. No one called.

The final round before the rebuy period ended and I got dealt pocket 8's under the gun. I limped, another player limped, and the guy who overplayed his hands raised about 4x's the limp bet. Both I and the limper called. The flop cam A-8-4 all hearts.
The pre-flop raiser bet half the pot, and I moved all-in. The other player folded but this guy insta-called. He had A-7 and no hearts.

Now I was the chip leader at the table with $15,000 and the blinds at $100-$200.

A solid player raised in back position and I called on the button with Qh-Jh. There was $1,700 in the pot. The flop came 8h-7h-3c. My opponent moved all-in. I thought I might have 15 outs. If I won this pot I would move my stack size to $23,000. If I lost I would still have about $7,000. I called.

My opponent had pocket 10's, and one 10 was a heart. Another player who was watching broke my new poker rule and says to me, "I like your hand." At that moment I knew I had lost. The turn was no help. He again says to me, "I like your hand." My guess in the Old West poker players never would say something this stupid or they'd be shot. The river missed me, and I was down to $7,000.

The break came and I got moved to a new table. I always like to project a tight table image when I join a new table filled with players who I've never seen before. Outside of one player, I didn't know the players.

I joined the action finally because as the blinds went up I needed chips! I had to steal blinds and antes to stay at 10 or more time the big blind. A couple of times I had to make an all-in move under the gun with A-x. Everyone folded both times.

I was not getting any help from the cards in my new seat. The players were being knocked out as I waited. In early position I found Kh-10h, and raised. Another player moved all-in and it was only double my bet so I called. He had pocket 9's and I hit my K to knock him out.

A few hands later a player moved all-in and I found A-J in the big blind. This looked like a monster to me so I called. He had pocket 9's. The flop came 10-J-10. The turn was a J, and the river a 9. He lost to my bigger boat.

It was down to 19 players and 15 were going to get paid. I was in middle position. The tightest player at the table was a woman and she raised pre-flop 3x's the big blind. I found pocket 9's. What to do? If I moved all-in, she may fold. But, I just had this gut feeling she had a huge hand and pocket 9's had been losing at this table.

Of course, I had just posted that you have to be super aggressive to win these events. I looked at the clock and I had been playing for almost 5 hours. Somehow the thought of 5 hours and driving home with no cash out, got in my head. I folded. I wanted to survive.

Was it a mistake?

In retrospect--yes. Because I ended up going out 15th and cashing some money back but it was a losing session. I left with $165, for a loss of $60.

Hopefully I will learn from this mistake. It's a move of a survivor rather than a winner.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Warning: This Post May Cause You To Quit Tournament Poker Forever

Making the Wrong Play at the Right Time

Like everyone else who plays tournament poker, I study, learn, play and work to get better. I talk to other players, who feel they are really good players. I happen to think that they are right--they are really good players. Unfortunately, really good players are not winning players.

Cover of Cover of Loser


Let me write that again...really good players are not winning players.

All these really good players have one thing in common--they blame bad luck, bad cards, and bad players making bad plays.

Heck, when I was at the bar in the Rio at the WSOP with all those losing poker players, all they could talk about was how unlucky they got, a bad beat, blah, blah, blah.

I have been fortunate to watch a few poker players in the Bay Area who won here and went on to win major events. And even today, I witness one of two locals who win more than their fair share of events and who I believe have the potential to win a major.

What do you think these winning players have in common?

a) They know the math of the game and the percentages better than everyone.
b) They know how to play their opponents better than everyone.
c) They just know more about the game than everyone.
d) All of the above

d--of course!

Got'cha! Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong!

What all these players have in common is that they make the wrong play at the right time. That's right. They make plays that are totally wrong, but they end up being right, due to their sucking out.

Example:

It is early in the event. I am on the cutoff. Everyone folds to me. The blinds are $50-$100 and I have $4,000 in chips. I find A-9 suited and raise to $300. The button calls and the big blind calls.

The flop is A-10-4 rainbow. The big blind checks. I bet $600 into the $950 pot. The button folds. The big blind who has $4,500, check raises me to $1,800. What should I do?

I know this player and he knows me. (Yes, he is one of those locals who wins way too often than chance.) He knows I will make a c-bet in that situation about 99% of the time. And I know he will play thinking that if he check-raise me here and I have nothing, I will be forced to fold. So...I move all-in.

Now my opponent goes into the tank. Uh-oh. I am thinking he has top pair with a bigger kicker, or he thinks I moved-in here knowing that he would check-raise me playing my cards. Finally he calls my bet risking most of his chips.

What hand does he reveal?

Ok...think about it. Keep thinking.

Got a guess yet?

K-Q. Huh?

He has nothing but a four outer. I am amazed and pleased with his crazy play, that is, until a Jack hits the turn...and for good measure another Jack hits the river.

Where are my car keys? That was a fun 25 minutes of poker.

Don't Play Stupid!

I am not suggesting you play stupid. But what I am suggesting is that you look at tournament poker as an event where you need to make the wrong play at the right time to win. If you don't believe me, check out how often Phil Ivey sucked out here on his way to the final table of the WSOP. No--I'm not saying Phil is just lucky. He is a great player (maybe the best player) and he wins due to his skill and his luck.

The next 10 times you play a tournament, push the action more than you have before. Don't play the game like you are playing smart poker. Think about making more aggressive plays that make you uncomfortable. You won't be playing by the book. You may feel that the play will require you to suck out. But, so what, your goal is to accumulate as many chips as possible as fast as possible.

Example:

Another event, another $225 at risk. We are about one hour into the game and I am in the big blind. A very tight player raises my $200 big blind to $650. Everyone folds to me. I have about $5,000. He has about $7,500.

I find 8-9 hearts. I call.

The flop is 10-7-4 rainbow...without any hearts. I am fairly certain my opponent has either a big hand like A-K or A-Q, or a premium pair from pocket Jacks to Aces.

Normally, in this situation, I would check and see how much he bets. From that bet and his actions at the table, I would either fold, call or check raise. Pretty standard stuff. And, I could bet into him and slow him down with a blocking bet.

Instead, I do something stupid. I move all-in. Hey, so what, if he has pocket Aces. I am making the wrong play at the right time. What happens?

He insta-calls with pocket Kings.

I get up out my chair.

A Jack hits the turn, and yep, for good measure a Jack hits the river. I'm a genius, my opponent views me as a jackass.

Suggestion:


I really do believe that the level of play among the better players at your local casino is fairly close. What separates the players that win, from those who cash or lose, is that they are willing to push the action. They are looking to accumulate chips as fast as possible so they can threaten their opponents--like you--with elimination if you play a hand against them.

All the top winning tournament players appear to hold a common objective: to accumulate as many chips as possible as fast as possible. If that means making the wrong play...hey, so what, someone has to be responsible for putting all those bad beats on you.

One win is worth more than a dozen cashes. These super aggressive players play to win or lose. They will make the wrong play at the right time because it's not about survival poker. They play to win or to go home.

Think about it. If you are not winning, maybe it's time to change your game. Don't give up what you learned. Just embrace the risk of the game like never before.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Inside Scoop About Poker Players in Vegas & the SF Bay Area from @BTarver

An email that is worth a post

I got this email from Bob Tarver, who looks like he should have his own poker blog! He provides some great observations from his experiences playing poker in Las Vegas and the Bay Area. If you live or plan to play in either area, you should read this post.
Thanks for your great insights! -Mitchell


Mitchell

I was reading your article with great interest. I had to chuckle a little bit
as you relate low limit poker in the Bay area (1-2 , 2-4 and 3-6) as "no-foldem holdem" because I have always called those levels...no foldem holdem. It didn't matter whether it was at Bay 101, Lucky Chances or Garden city, although Lucky Chances has more 3-6 holdem games than 2-4. There were so many people who thought they could watch TV and play like Gus Hanson....everyone knows that's just not possible.

Western Span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay ...Image via Wikipedia



When you hit the 6-12, 8-16 (some places have either a kill or 1/2 kill), 9-18 (Lucky Chances) level, one will find the level of players increases. I've seen more "grinders" play at those level than the lower levels, even though there are more "fish/donkeys" at the 2-4 and 3-6 level and one can really feed on them IF they have the patience. It's also a good training level to learn how to manage a bankroll and read people.

Of course what's really interesting is at the lower tournament level buy-ins (20, 40, 50 and sometime at the 100 dollar buy-ins) in the Bay Area (especially if they are re-buys) that there are many players who will "kamakaze" and play any 2 cards and rebuy at a moments notice before the first break. After that, these players will tighten considerably.

You also have to remember the difference between "ring games" in Vegas vs bay area
you'll see more grinders "off strip" (Sams Town, Orleans, Red Rock, and Green Valley Ranch) as opposed to the tourists that play at the strip casinos...although a lot of local grinders play the SnG's at the Mirage and tournaments at Caesars... although I know when necessary local grinders will play lower level 4-8 on the strip to pick up the tourists dollars.

By the time you reach the 3-100 (spread at garden city) 5-200 (spread at Bay 101) and 10-400 (spread at Bay 101) 20-40, 40-80, 80-160 limit level, one will find that "program bets" will be used to test the new players to see if they are willing to play anything "besides the

Doyle Brunson in 2006 World Series of Poker - ...Image via Wikipedia

nuts."

Doyle Brunson was once quoted as saying, "You have to have a total disregard for money if you want to play this game."

Of course this is easier said than done. He also said, "sometimes you have to go out on a limb....because that's where the fruit is."

I agree with your last paragraph about being emotionally detached and understanding "risk tolerance" and playing at a level you are most comfortable (used to call that a "gulp limit"...meaning what makes you go "gulp" or makes you uneasy).

Lately I've been having good results online....hopefully I'm working on building my bankroll and getting even better results. I'll have to see about getting your new book that's online.

Anyway, always enjoy reading your blog and posts on twitter.....keep up the good work.

Regards
Bob Tarver
@BTarver on twitter

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wanna Win More Money Playing Poker? Forget About The Money!

Poker Reality: Sure It's Money You Are Risking But...

While there is information about bankroll starting requirements and bankroll management, I think another important issue is the meaning you put into the money you are risking.

Gus Hansen at WSOP 2006 Rio, Las VegasImage via Wikipedia


What is your emotional state given the amount of money that you are putting in play at a specific game and/or in a specific hand?

You will be a much better player if the money you are gambling with is TOTALLY inconsequential to you. If the money has meaning to you, you will not play nearly as well. It is true in cash games and it comes into play even with tournament chips that have no face value.

Example:

A couple of years ago, I took a vacation and the flight had a 2 hour layover in Las Vegas (what a nice coincidence). I was not going to wait at the airport. I went outside, hopped on the first van and when the driver asked, "Where you going?" I replied, "Your first stop."

The first stop was the Monte Carlo casino. I walked in, found the poker room, and asked for a seat at any table. The seat was a $2-$4 limit hold'em game. I hate $2-$4 limit since everyone in the Bay Area plays no fold'em hold'em.

I took my seat, bought a rack and emotionally the money meant absolutely nothing to me. I was ready to lose the $100 rack.

To my surprise, players folded to my raises in this low level limit game. I could only stay one hour, but almost every play I made worked. If I had nothing at the river, opponents folded. If I had the nuts, I would get called. Without any great run of premium starting hands I won almost $200.

When I got back on the van to the airport, I asked myself, "Why did I do so well?"

Another example:

I read an article by Daniel Negreanu about Nutbar--his name for an exercise to improve your hand reading. In every hand you play, you raise pre-flop and try to outplay your opponents from that point. He warned that the money you were going to play with, would most likely be lost. But the idea was to learn how you could take control of a table, and the importance of reading your opponents in order to bet in a way to win pots.

I bought into a $6-$12 limit game and got a $200 rack. In the first 10 hands I was up about $150, but eventually I went broke .

Daniel was right in learning about Nutbar. But when I left that table, I realized that something else was going on. When I put that money into play, it was lost. I had no emotional connection. I could play better poker because of it. But I believe my game changed once I was winning. Now the chips became money. I actually started to think the money since I was ahead so much in such a little amount of time.

One more example in tournament play:

I see the same thing happen in tournament poker even though the buy-in of $20 or $200 is long gone. At a certain level of blinds, players get hesitant with their chips. It's like they think they can cash in the 10,000 in tournament chips for $10,000. There is an emotional connection to the chips that was not there before. "I'm getting close to cashing, so I better be more careful now." I am at fault as well, in thinking about the payouts as I get close to the bubble. That's why there has been so much written to bubble play.

Your Emotional Connection to Money

My point to all of these examples are this:

1. If you are playing poker and the amount of money you have in play has any consequence to you emotionally, then you should not be in the game. You just won't play at your best.

2. If you are playing in a poker tournament forget about the chips as something you should protect to survive and cash. They are chips and have no value. As you get deeper in the tournament, don't get emotionally involved with potential payour because it will effect your play.

Suggestion

Forget about having any emotional connection to the cash or chips you have in play. You will play better if you think of these things as, well, maybe just things. Heck, chips are suppose to make you forget about the cash backing them in the first place.

Do you think the top pros are linked to their money in the game like you or me? Of course not. I just watched Gus Hansen lose over $200,000 in an online game of Omaha, which maybe took 30 seconds. How would you feel? My guess is that Gus was bummed for a moment. You or I would be sick...a lot more than sick, really.

That $200,000 is going to buy as much stuff in Gus' pocket as it would in yours. But Gus is not linking that money to his emotions in the same way you would. You think and feel different. To Gus, they are just chips to be wagered. To you (and me), it's $200,000 freaking dollars just lost.

While bankroll management is important, maybe you need to think about your emotional connection to the money you put into play. If it has any consequence to you emotionally, then you will not play optimum poker. It doesn't matter that the $20 or $200 has no real meaning to you financially. It is the emotional connection that is underlying your decisions.

There is that expression "don't gamble with money you can't afford to lose." That's fine. But, maybe you shouldn't gamble at a level where your emotions are getting in the way of your poker decisions. You will never be a great player until the money you risk is TOTALLY inconsequential.

What do you think?






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How To Take Advantage of Scare Cards

Scare Cards

What is a Scare Card?

A scare card is any card that is dealt on the turn that appears to give a player a strong hand; usually, it appears to give that player a stronger hand than the one who took the lead on the flop.

Common scare cards are Aces, Kings, and the third card to a flush or straight draw.

An example is when you call your opponent’s bet on the flop holding a flush
draw. When an Ace hits on the turn, even though it doesn’t make your flush, you lead out and bet on the turn.

Example:

You have J♥-10♥. It is the middle of the tournament. You have $23,000. The blinds are $400-$800. You raise to $2,800 in middle position. The big blind, with $19,000, is the only caller. There is $6,000 in the pot.

The flop is J♠-8♦-4♦. The big blind checks. You bet $6,000 wanting your opponent to fold. He calls. There is $18,000 in the pot. You have $14,200. Your opponent has $10,200.

The turn is A♠. Your opponent moves all-in. What should you do?

This is a tough spot. What range of hands did you put your opponent on when he called the flop? What cards did your opponent call your raise with? Does he have a bigger kicker with his Jack? Is he on a draw? Is he trying to steal the pot since he has invested so much?

If you call his bet and lose you will be in real bad shape. But if you call and win the hand, you will almost double up.

You can see why this is such a strong play. In fact, other cards that might worry you on the turn are any diamond, a Queen, or even a 7. In fact, in this situation, your opponent may have figured out there are 15 cards on the turn that he could use to bluff.

Example:

You have Q♠-J♠. It is the middle of the tournament. You have $22,000. The blinds are $400-$800. A player in middle position, with $24,000, raises to $2,000. You call on the button. The blinds fold. The pot is $5,200.

The flop is A♦-J♦-4♣. Your opponent bets $4,000. You call. There is $13,200 in the pot. You have $16,000.

The turn is an 8♦. Your opponent checks. What should you do?

This is an opportunity to bluff your opponent off his hand. It is another example of why having position is so important. Your opponent has $18,000. Move all-in, and put maximum pressure on him. Unless he has a great read on your play, he will not jeopardize most of his chips on a call with a made flush on board.

Poker pros are always thinking about how they can take the hand away from their opponents. Turn the tables on them, and look for opportunities where you can take advantage of potential cards on the turn that can get your opponent to fold.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tournament Poker for Donkeys: Table of Contents and Foreword


Tournament Poker for Donkeys.
Expert Strategy Guide for Players Who Want to Stop Losing

Foreword

How to Win a Poker Tournament

It’s all about winning. Nothing else really matters when you play a poker tournament. The money is in first place. Play to win. Not to cash.

That’s the theme of this book: Play to win.

My objective is to help you significantly improve your chances of winning your next poker event. If you have been a losing player, this book will force you to rethink your game and come to terms with your why you fail. If you have been getting close to the end but bleeding out chips, it’s probably because you are playing survival poker.

Whether you are a beginner or intermediate level poker player, the time is now to look at winning as your only goal. Your attitude must change and you must stop being afraid of getting knocked out. If you go bust on the first hand, it’s not big deal. There will be another tournament.

You can cash one hundred times in a row and it will not be worth as much as that one victory. That is true in the small buy-in events, and it’s true in the major events. In a major event one win can change your life. Are you on the road to winning a WSOP bracelet? “Not very likely.”

Learning how to win a poker tournament starts when you no longer fear losing. If you get knocked out, it’s because you pushed the action. You gambled and lost. So what? What are you doing to do--sit there and wait for the nuts?

If you’ve been playing poker tournaments for a while, my guess is that you think you are pretty good. Guess what? 80% of poker players think they are in the top 20%. Yeah, I know that’s not possible.

Have you watched how the Pros play tournaments? Read through that chapter on Phil Ivey. He had to put a few bad beats on players to get to the final table. When was the last time you put a bad beat on a player?

The reality is that there is not a system to follow. Mike Sexton says that tournament poker takes a “lifetime to master.” He is right. But you don’t need to master the game to win a poker tournament. Want proof? Take a look at who just won your local tournament or that last online event.

You need an expert strategy guide that shows you how to stop losing! And start to win. It’s here. Let’s start…

Table of Contents

Foreword
How to Win a Poker Tournament

Introduction
Texas Hold'em Poker Rules
Tournament Poker Basics

Key Poker Concepts
36 Poker Why's To Improve Your Game
How to Play The Player and Not Your Cards
How To Take Advantage of Your Position
Table Image
Table Image in Action
Identifying Betting Patterns
Outs, Pot Odds and Probabilities Made Simple
How To Take Advantage Of Poker Odds To Win Big Pots
Poker Odds In Action
Gap Concept
Pre-Flop Raises: Does Size Matter?
Expected Value
Unexpected Value
Poker Domination-Does It Really Exist?
End Game Strategy: Concept of M
Using M To Guide Your Decisions
When is the Right Time to Move All-In?
Reading Hands
Three Ways to Spot a Bluffer
Bluffing
8 Poker Tells That Work (Usually)
Poker Tells

Stages of the Tournament
A Game Plan
Poker Quiz
A Simple Secret to Winning
Bubble Play by Jonathan Gelling
After the Bubble Bursts – Now What? by @ChrisKristofco
Heads-Up Play
Heads-Up Play in Action
What To Do When You Are Card Dead?
Card Dead Plays in Action
Card Dead Plays in Action #2

How To Play Specific Hands
Should You Slowplay Pocket Aces?
Did Phil Hellmuth Play His Pocket Aces Poorly at the 2009 WSOP?
How To Play Ace-King
How To Play Ace-King
How to Play Ace-King: Gus Hansen
How to Play Ace-King: Daniel Negreanu
How to Play Ace-King: Dan Harrington
When You Miss Ace-King on the Flop
How To Play Pocket Jacks
How to Play Small and Medium Pairs: Daniel Negreanu
How to Play Small and Medium Pairs: Gus Hansen
How to Play Small and Medium Pairs: Dan Harrington
How to Play Small and Medium Pairs: Chris Ferguson
How to Play Small and Medium Pairs: Kathy Liebert
Medium Pair in Action
Small Pair in Action
How To Play Suited Connectors

Winning Moves
Don't Look At Your Cards
How to Play From the Small Blind
How to Play From the Big Blind
How To Use The Isolation Play
Do You Know How To Float in Poker?
The Min-Raise
The Position Power-Raise
When to Make a Lead Out Bet
How to Set a Trap With Top Pair
Take Advantage of Scare Cards
How to Use The Naked Ace Bluff
The Blocking Bet
Fire That Third Bullet!
The Intimidation Factor

Inside the Mind of Daniel Negreanu
Small Ball Strategy
River Play
Small Ball Strategy in Action

Inside the Mind of Gus Hansen
12 Early Stage Strategies
How To Play Like Gus

New Trends in Poker
Pre-Flop Re-Raise Without A Premium Hand
How to Turn the Small Blind Into the Button by Angel "GiJoe" Valdez
Gap Concept Leads To Small Ball

Poker Leaks
FPS
10 Common Mistakes To Avoid
3 Popular Strategies To Avoid
“I Just Got Unlucky”
Don't Do Anything Stupid
Another Leak
Tilt

Online Poker
Danger, Danger
Thoughts on How to Beat Low Stakes MTT Online Tournaments by Mark owner of The Poker Bankroll Blog
Online Poker Is Different Than Brick and Mortar Play
Ka-Ching! 2 Online Poker Tells That Work
A Secret to Winning at Online Poker
My Bad
My Bad?

Poker Concepts in Action
How to Triple Your Chip Stack
How to Make Critical Poker Decisions
Pushing All-In Blind
Learning from Las Vegas
A PokerStars Win

Inside the Mind of Phil Ivey
Phil Ivey at the WSOP

Poker Quizzes
Poker Quiz #1
Poker Quiz #2
Poker Quiz #3
Poker Quiz #4

Fun Stuff
At the WSOP
Do you believe in ESP?
Superstitions Gone Mad
My New Poker Rule

Putting It All Together
A Reminder
Get The Right Mental Approach
Start With A Plan
Embrace the Risk
You Can Be The Next Poker Super Star
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What's Your Poker IQ?