Saturday, January 30, 2010

7 Key Tips on Playing Low Limit Cash Games in Hold'em Poker

7 Key Tips on Playing Low Limit Cash Games in Hold'em Poker

Ed Miller (poker player)Image via Wikipedia

It is difficult to win small stakes limit poker games since so many players play no foldem holdem. Rather than view this as a negative, consider it an opportunity to find an advantage against bad poker play. Here are a few important tips that can turn you into a winner long term. Most of these tips I learned from Ed Miller's Small Stakes Holdem book, which I highly recommend.

1. Don't sit down at any poker table unless you have the right mental attitude.

If you are going to play poker, you must believe you are going to win. You can't play in a small stakes holdem game and be thinking that you are going to be sucked out on. Even if it's in the back of your mind, it will attract bad results to you.

A player will suck out on you eventually in these games. Don't let it effect your attitude...or your play.

2. Post flop play is more important in winning these games than knowing which starting hands you should play from which position.

Small Stakes Holdem details starting hands guidelines for loose and tight play. You will find that pairs are almost always played since they can turn into a set on the flop and win big pots. Also, you will find that flush draws are powerful hands since if they flop a 4 card draw, they get completed 35% of the time (and you will often have 5 of more opponents in a hand).

3. Know all your outs, and not just the obvious ones.

Players know how may outs needed to make their straight, a flush, two pair, etc. However, many players don't take into account all of the outs--such as a backdoor flush or straight, or hitting a card to make top pair on the river. These additional outs are important since it can make a marginal hand a strong hand.

4. Memorize Swayne's Advanced Holdem Book chart below to make it easy for you to see if you have the right odds to make a call post-flop.

The minimum number of bets in the pot to justify seeing the next card:
  • Four flush=6 (for a flush)
  • Open ended straight=7 (for a straight)
  • No hole card paired, like AK=9 (for high pair)
  • One hole card paired=11 (2 pair or 3 of a kind)
  • Pocket pair=26 (3 of a kind)
But, again, you may have more outs when you consider backdoor flushes and straights.

5. Understand pre-flop which pots are likely to be big ones and which ones will be small one's as it dictates how to play your hands post flop.

Use the Small Stakes Holdem guidelines on which pots will be big ones:
4 players call a raise pre-flop or 6 players call pre-flop

And when you have a premium hand pre-flop, don't be afraid to re-raise and even cap the pot. That means if you are in the big blind with AA, KK, QQ, or AKs, and you have 5 callers, raise the pot. You have the right equity to build the pot and possibly win a big one.

6. It is critical to adjust your play to the size of the pot.

In big pots protect your hand and/or build the pot size by pumping the pot when you have the lead or a very strong draw. But don't make the common mistake of getting stubborn in small pots by calling with weak hands. It will end up eating into your profits.

7. Sometimes it is better to call a bet on the flop even though you have the lead, and wait to make the raise on the turn.

This is counter to typical strategy. For example, if you raise pre-flop with KK and the flop is coordinated like Q-10-7 most players would bet and raise. A raise on the flop will not get players to fold with a draw in big pots.

However, if the player to your right bets, consider just calling the bet. If the turn card is a safe one, here it would be like a 2, 3, 4, 5, when your opponent bets, raise his bet, so other players will be faced with 2 big bets to call.

Since limit poker continues to lose popularity, learning how to play smarter in limit may give you an easier opportunity to win money--but you need to commit to a deeper understanding of the game by reading, practicing, and learning.

What do you think?

Good luck!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tony G says, “Don’t play K-J”

Tony G says, “Don’t play K-J”

Tony G at the 2008 World Series of PokerImage via Wikipedia

The following sponsored post about Tony G is from pokerjunkie. It describes what happens in a hand with Tony G where he verbally abuses his opponent for calling his all-in bet with K-J. You can also view the video below.

Tony G. versus Ralph Perry-Intercontinental Poker Championship

Sometimes I like to go back into the vaults and watch my favorite poker-related YouTube videos. And one of my all-time favorites is a hand involving Tony G and Ralph Perry in the Intercontinental Poker Championship. This is of course before Tony Guoga stopped playing the game in an effort to plug TonyG Poker in all of the poker site reviews across the Internet.

The hand starts out with Tony G calling the big blind with A-2, and Ralph Perry trying to decide what to do when the action comes around to him. Perry is able to think past Guoga’s constant banter and raise him with K-J. Tony G then attempts to push Perry out of the hand by going all-in.

Interestingly enough though, Ralph Perry refuses to fold with K-J and decides to call Tony G; this puzzles the crowd and the announcers. Guoga is definitely sitting pretty even before the flop is shown since he is a 60/40 favorite over Ralph Perry. When the flop of 2-3-10 rainbow hits the board, Tony G is in even better shape with a pair of deuces.

After getting his pair, Tony G starts talking like he already won the hand and says, “This is not something, someone to learn from.” The turn and river come up 7 and 6, which sends Tony Guoga into an over-the-top celebration where he heads over to Ralph Perry. Once he arrives at Perry’s seat, he starts saying things like, “Look how ugly this is”, “You’re a professional player and I can do this to you”, “You’re a terrible player”, “This is disgraceful”.

He also manages to insult Russian players as a whole before telling Ralph Perry how stupid it is to overplay K-J. Somehow, Perry manages to smile through the ordeal and simply tells Tony G, “Good hand.” This doesn’t stop Guoga though since he’s still ranting even as Perry walks away.

I think Tony G should consider the hand he went all-in with though (A-2) before chastising Perry so much.

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sponsored Post: NL Holdem tournament poker strategy

NL Holdem tournament strategy

{{w|Dan Harrington}} Found at Blind Bet Poker,...Image via Wikipedia

The following post about tournament poker strategy is from rakemeback. It provides
a summary of Dan Harrington's system for playing tournaments.

The best way to approach a multi table tournament (MTT) is through the Harrington system. This system, devised by Dan Harrington, consists of a set of general recommendations, based on the relationship between your stack size and the ever escalating blinds.

Early Stages

In the early stages of a MTT, everyone is relatively deep-stacked (not in the traditional cash-game based sense of the word, of course), which means everyone has a multitude of options at his/her disposal. Holding more than 20 times the BB+SB in your stack is the ideal situation, and that’s exactly where you are at this stage. Your goal should be to maintain yourself in this situation all through the tournament, right up to the late stages when the whole game-plan changes. The best way to secure such an ideally sized stack changes as you go through the event.

In the early stages, your stack size allows you to play ABC TAG poker. That’s right, get that TAG style off the shelf, dust it off and put it to use. Make sure you’re even tighter than usual. Only act on premium hands and be extremely aggressive on those hands. This type of approach will give you the best odds to keep your stack above 20 BB+SBs, deep into the tourney.

Stack Size: 10-20 BB+SBs

In poker, things rarely go according to a general plan though. You may take a bad beat on one of the solid hands you commit chips on, or you may simply fail to follow the TAG style and you end up with somewhere between 10-20 BB+SBs in your stack. This is a less than ideal situation, in the sense that it’ll force you to take some chances. You will have to loosen up a little and to add to your stack as soon as possible in order to get right back to the above 20 BB+SB comfort zone.

Stack Size: 6 BB+SBs

If your stack happens to dip further (and because the blinds grow all the time, you don’t even need to lose to get to this point, it’s enough if you don’t keep adding to your stack), and you find yourself with about 6 BB+SBs in your stack, the noose tightens and you begin to feel uncomfortable. At this stage, your main problem is that you will not be able to use your stack to intimidate your opponents, and thus you’ll lose some of the strategy-weapons you had at your disposal. Don’t try to bluff anyone, just wait for a solid hand and pray that someone doubles you up.

Stack Size: 1-5 BB+SBs

When your stack sinks to 1-5 BB+SBs, you have arrived to the “do-or-die” zone. You need to do something to get your stack-size back up, or you’ll be blinded out soon. Unfortunately, your only remaining option is the all-in, something that you should generally avoid in a poker tournament. Pick the spot for your all-in well. Try to go up against a single opponent, as the involvement of several players in what could be your last hand, will ruin your odds.

Stack Size: Smaller than BB+SBs

Your stack is smaller than a BB+SB. In this situation, just shove it all-in on the first reasonable hand you pick up and start praying.

Late stage Tournament Strategy

Your late-stage tournament strategy is determined by one dominant factor: the money bubble. Your tourney goals will dictate the optimal course of action. If you’re content to sail into the money, you should tighten up, but if you aim for all the marbles, you should take advantage of the fact that most everyone else tightens up on the bubble. Right before the money bubble, it’ll be much easier to get your opponents to fold hands. They’ll often let go of really good hands too, just to make sure they don’t bust on the bubble.

Once the bubble bursts, you should be in a good position to make a deep run with all the chips obtained this way.

In the late stages of MTTs, aggression becomes more and more important. The blinds – which are huge by that stage – create favorable pot odds for everyone, for almost any two cards, so the action will degenerate into a coin-toss/crapshoot by the end of it all. A sufficiently large stack can still offer you a huge advantage here though. Make sure you whip your short handed and heads-up play into shape if you aim for the big one.

Sign up for rakeback too. Most rakeback deals (like the ones available at Rakemeback) give you a rebate on your tournament fees. In the long-run, such an edge can prove priceless.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Was This A Bad Poker Play On My Part?

Was This A Bad Poker Play On My Part?

{{Information |Description = Yankees shortstop...Image via Wikipedia

I had played $3-$6 limit cash game on ten previous occasions and had won eight times. On Friday night, I played again at the $3-$6 level and lost--I couldn't get the table to fold to any of my raises or bets..a bummer.

On Saturday, I decided to move up and play a $6-$12 limit cash game at the local poker room. I figured I could get a few more folds:-)

Here is the situation:

The table is 10 handed. I am on the big blind. The blinds are $6-$4.

Three players limp in and a player in middle position raises. Four players call the raise. I look down on the big blind and find 6-2 offsuit.

It's not that great of a starting hand, of course, but it will cost me $6 with a pot expected to be $90. I call. And the limpers call.

There are 8 players in the hand and the pot is $96.

The flop comes Q-8-6 rainbow.

The limpers fold to the raiser, who bets. Two players fold. But, the next player raises. It is $12 to me. The pot is now $120. It is one big bet to win 10 big bets.

Since I know I am going to get a few more callers, I am actually getting the right pot odds here to call (I need at least 11 bets in the pot for a positive expected value).

I also get this feeling that a 6 will hit. I call.

The three early position players call. The original bettor re-raises, and the next player caps the pot.

Now, it is another $12 to me. The pot is $168.

I pick up the chips to make the call. I mean if it is right to call off $12 for $120 then it's right to call off the same amount for a bigger pot, right?

I am about to toss the chips into the pot, when I start to think that someone already has a set. I put down the chips and think it over for a few seconds.

If I think I am drawing dead, then a fold is in order.

I fold. The moment I fold I feel stupid. The expected value for me is positive. I shouldn't fold unless I am like 99% sure that even if I hit my 6 I will lose. I am not that sure.

The turn card is a 7.

Everyone checks!

The river is a 6!!

Everyone checks again.

The winning hand is A-Q.

Would you have played this hand differently?

Overall Results for the Day

I played for 5 hours and won $500. Not bad. But the opportunity to take down a big pot was lost.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Is Joe Cada, WSOP Main Event Winner, A Donkey?

Is Joe Cada, 2009 WSOP Main Event Winner, A Donkey?

After ESPN televised the final table of the World Series of Poker (WSOP) main event, many poker players started to post negative opinions about the way Joe Cada played the game. The nicest of these opinions was that Joe was lucky and the most critical called him a donkey. In poker, calling a player a donkey is a sign of disrespect as it is reserved for only the worst of poker players.

Let’s analyze the three key hands at the final table where Cada has been called a donk.

Hand No. 1

Situation: It is down to the final five players. Shulman and Joe Cada are the low stacks. Shulman has $18 million. Cada has $11 million. The blinds are $300,000-$600,000. Shulman raises to almost $2 million with pocket Jacks.

Cada goes all-in with pocket threes. If Shulman calls, he will be risking almost all of his chips. He calls. Shulman is an 80 percent favorite. On the flop Cada hits the set and wins the pot.

Analysis: Cada has about six percent of the total chips in play. Shulman has been playing very tight poker and his pre-flop raise should signal a big hand. However, Cada has also seen Shulman fold to a re-raise earlier in the game.

Cada can’t fold a pocket pair being low in chips. A call is a bad play—he would be risking almost 20 percent of his stack in the hope of hitting a set on the flop. If he moves all-in, he is putting the pressure back on Shulman (if he has a hand like A-J, or K-Q he would probably fold) and even if he gets called, he has a better chance of getting a set by seeing all five cards.

One final point: If Cada had just made the call, Shulman would have lost the same amount of chips given the eight, four, three flop.

Hand No. 2

Situation: It is down to the final three players. Blinds are at $500,000-$1 million. Cada is the low stack with $39 million. He finds pocket twos and raises to $2.5 million. Antonine Saout is in the big blind with QQ and he re-raises over $5 million.

Cada moves all-in, risking his entire chips stack. Saout calls, risking half his chips. The pot is almost $80 million. Saout is an 80 percent favorite. On the flop Cada hits the set and wins the pot!

Analysis: When Cada is dealt pocket twos, there is only about a 12 percent probability that an opponent will be holding a higher pair. However, when Saout makes a re-raise, Cada should have slowed down. Saout had been playing a solid game.

I think a fold would have been a smarter play than moving all-in here. But, in a poker tournament, you do have to get lucky.

If Cada had called the re-raise, Saout would have lost the same amount of chips given the nine, seven, two flop.

Hand No. 3:

Situation: It is still the final three players. Blinds are $500,000- $1 million. Cada has A-K and raises to $2.5 million. Saout with pocket eights goes all-in for his final $47 million. Cada would risk half his stack with a call.

Cada calls. It’s a $95 million pot. Saout is a 54 percent favorite. The flop is five of hearts, four of spades, five of clubs. The turn is 10 diamonds. If Cada misses the river, Saout would be back in the lead. But, the river is the King! Saout is knocked out.

Analysis: This is really a typical all-in, heads-up situation in poker tournaments; an A-K heads-up versus a pocket pair. After Saout took a bad beat in the previous hand, it was even possible that he had a hand worse than pocket eights.


Overall, if you haven’t been in a WSOP tournament, you don’t realize how difficult it is to get to a final table. You not only have to be a skillful player, but you also have to get lucky to win.

There were over 6,400 players in the 2009 WSOP main event. There is no question that every player at the final table got lucky at some point during the eight days of play, and put a bad beat on an opponent.

Joe Cada is far from a donkey.

He is an accomplished online poker player and he won the most prestigious title in poker. While he got lucky at the end of the event, the fact is that anyone who criticizes his play doesn’t truly understand tournament poker.

Tournament poker is about winning all of the chips in play. This often results in risking all of your chips and putting your opponent to the test for all of his chips. Sometimes you lose. But by getting lucky and winning one major event, you can win millions of dollars.

Note: My article originally appeared a few days ago on the SF Bay Area Bleecher Report.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Most Important Concept in Tournament Poker

The Most Important Concept in Tournament Poker.

Kara Scott at the 2008 World Series of PokerImage via Wikipedia

One popular tournament poker concept is that you have to play to survive in order to give yourself a chance to win.

That notion is much like is like being reminded that you have to breathe in order to stay alive. This is sage advice?

I think the most important concept in tournament poker is the following:

Tournament poker is about winning, not surviving.

When you play in a cash game (where real money is bet on every hand), you can always buy in for more chips. The objective of a cash game is simple: you want to leave the game with more money than when you started.

Tournament poker is different.

The winner of a tournament is the one who wins all of the chips in play. The reward for winning an event is a significant percentage of the total prize pool, which at the World Series of Poker, can be substantial.

For some perspective, in last year's $1,000 buy-in event at the WSOP, there were 6,012 entrants and a prize pool of over $5 million. The event paid 620 players. Guess what the difference was in finishing 1st and 620th?

Over $768,000!

Guess what the difference was in finishing 1st and 10th?

Over $691,000!

You can play to survive, cash in and win a few dollars. Or, you can play to win and take home $771,338—which is what Steve Sung won in this event.

Playing to win and not just survive, results in a different approach to the game. It means that you have to adjust your thinking and strategies to tournament payouts.

You can’t sit back and wait for premium hands. You have to accumulate chips throughout an event, because if you don’t act, the blinds and antes will slowly, but surely, result in your chips bleeding out.

I posted this article a few days ago on the SF Bay Area Bleecher Report.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dream Big in 2010: Even You Can Win a World Series of Poker Bracelet.

Dream Big in 2010: Even You Can Win a World Series of P

Vanessa Rousso in the WPT Championship at the ...Image via Wikipedia

oker Bracelet.

It takes a lot of skill, experience, and luck to win a World Series of Poker bracelet. In the coming weeks I will share with you poker strategies, tips, and quizzes so you can improve your poker game and perhaps be ready to enter a tournament and win big.

In case you don’t know, the World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the biggest poker event of the year. The 41st annual WSOP will run from May 27-July 17 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. There will be 57 tournaments with the most popular events being the no limit tournaments, where buy-in fees start at $1,000.

Let’s get right into the action, with a simple poker quiz.

Poker Quiz:

You bought into one of the no limit tournaments at the WSOP and you have just taken your seat. All the players start off with the same chip amount. The tournament director announces into the microphone, “Shuffle Up and Deal!”

The first hand is dealt to all 10 players at the table (including you). The first player to act moves all-in for all of his chips. The second player moves all-in for all of her chips. You peek at your cards and find a pair of aces. What should you do?

a) Fold because you don’t want to risk all of your chips on the first hand.

b) Risk all of your chips and make the all-in call.

Would your decision be any different if you bought into this tournament for $100, $1,000 or $10,000 in cash?


It doesn’t matter how much money it costs you to enter a tournament. You have to make the play that gives you the best opportunity of winning. Pocket aces is the best starting hand in poker and you will be the favorite to triple up on your first hand.

Make the call. If you get unlucky and lose, well, I’m sure you can find something fun to do in Vegas.

Article originally appeared in my Poker column for the SF Bay Area Bleacher Report.

What's Your Poker IQ?