Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Poker Gods 10 Commandments

The Poker Gods 10 Commandments

The Ten Commandments on a monument on the grou...Image via Wikipedia

1. We are your Poker Gods. You shall have no other gods before us; or you will be punished with more than your fair share of bad beats.

2. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of your Poker Gods. Blame "Jebus" and not us.

3. Remember the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas and keep it holy.

4. Honor your father and mother, since you may be asking them for money to get into your next poker satellite.

5. You shall not murder unless you catch someone cheating you at the poker table. Die cheaters, die.

6. You shall not commit adultery unless you are really, really horny.

7. You shall not steal. Beating up the fish at your table only feels like stealing.

8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. That means you Prahlad! Don't accuse someone of not putting in his ante, unless you are 100% certain.

9. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife unless she performs in internet porn.

10. You shall follow these sacreligious rules or your Aces will be cracked more often than the eggs at a Denny's Free Grand Slam Breakfast day.

Oh, hell, I think my blog just lost the religious right.
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Friday, February 26, 2010

Poker Quiz: What would you do?

How far away am I?Image by gak via Flickr

Poker Quiz: What would you do?

Since I've been getting a few emails about the poker hand in my last blog post, I thought it would be interesting to review different options players have suggested. See what you think. If you have additional moves you'd make, please let me know.

To Review: Pre-Flop

It is a multiple table tournament. The blinds are $100-$200 with a $25 ante. There are 10 players at the table. The player under the gun, with Q-10 suited, of spades, limps. He has $10,000 in chips.

The player to his right with A-Q and $7,000 in chips raises to $900.

It is folded to the big blind who has pocket 8's. He has $14,000 in chips. He calls and the limper calls. There is $2,800 in the pot.

The Flop: What would you do?

The flop is 6-6-5 with two spades.

If you are in the big blind, do you lead out? I think leading out is a good play since you may win the pot and at the very least, it may define the strength of your opponent's hand. But if you bet too will get callers.

What sze bet would you make here? Often, players auto-check to the pre-flop raiser. And often, the player in the blind auto-checks on the flop.

However, let's say, the big blind bets $1,400 into the $2,800 pot and you are the pre-flop limper. What would you do? While the pot odds are unfavorable, how about the implied odds? But, you do have one player behind you who may have a premium pair. You can't put the big blind on a trips or a premium pair with a $1,400 bet, right or wrong?

If you are the original pre-flop raiser, I think you will fold to a half-pot sized bet from the big blind. And if the limper calls, you are going to fold for sure, right?

An Alternative Line of Thinking

Let's say the big blind checks. The limper makes a small bet of $600 into the $2,800 pot.
If you are the pre-flop raiser, what would you do? At the very least you'd have to call. What about raise? A $600 bet can be a sign of strength or a defensive bet. I'd lean toward the defensive bet. Will a raise get rid of the big blind?

Let's say the player with A-Q raises to $1,800. If you had pocket 8's would you fold?

The pot is $5,400, and the cost is $1,800...nice odds except you may need to hit an eight on the turn to win. Let's say the big blind folds. If you are the limper, do you fold to this bet?

The limper only has to call $1,200. I think the odds are $1,200 to win $5,400 or over 4 to 1, so it seems to me that calling is the right play.

Now, when the turn is a 3 of diamonds, the limper will check to the raiser. If you are the player who made the $1,800 raise, do you bet the turn? Or are you afraid that your opponent has a better hand.

If you check the turn, your opponent can lead out on the river and take the pot away. If you bet here, you are now risking a large part of your remaining stack...but it may be your best chance of winning the pot with your Ace high.

One more scenario

On the flop, let's say the big blind checks, and the limper bets $600. The pre-flop raiser calls.

Now, you are the big blind. What would you do here?

Well, the small bet by the limper and the weak call by the other player, may seem like you have the best hand with your pocket 8's. Would you check-raise here? If so, how much?

If the big blind check raises to $1,800, and you are the player with the flush draw will you fold?

If you are the pre-flop raiser, are you going to fold to this check raise with A-Q? I think that A-Q is a folding hand with a check raise.


What really happened is that the pre-flop limper bet on the flop for $600 and got both players to call. When the 3 of diamonds hit the turn, the big blind checked and the player with the flush draw bet $2,400 into the $4,800. The result was that both opponents folded; opponents who both had a better hand.


It's always easier to make decisions when you know what everyone is holding. However, as you can see from the above, even a simple hand can end up with many different outcomes. What do you think? Maybe even discuss this hand with your friends. Better yet, what is your line of thinking on this hand? Thanks!
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

How Did I Play This Poker Hand--Good or Bad?

How Did I Play This Poker Hand--Good or Bad?

The Image by dhammza via Flickr

Wednesday night I entered a MTT at the Oaks Club in Emeryville, CA. Unfortunately, I went out on the bubble. However, an interesting hand came up that I wanted to share with you.

The blinds were $100-$200 with a $25 ante. There were 10 players at the table.

I was under the gun with Q-10 suited, of spades. I limped for the $200. I had about $10,000.

The next player raised to $900 (he had $7,000 in chips). It was folded to the big blind who called (he had $14,000 in chips).

There was now $2,100 in the pot and it would cost me $700 to call. I called.

The Flop

The player to my left had just sat down, so I didn't have a read on him. The player in the big blind had said things to me that indicated he thought I was a strong player; actually, it was like he thought I was a great player. It was weird.

The flop came down 6-6-5 with two spades. There was $2,800 in the pot.

The big blind checked. I didn't want the player on my left to make a big bet given my flush draw, so I bet $600. Both opponents insta-called.

Now, there was $4,000 in the pot.

The Turn

The turn was a 3 of diamonds. Bummer. I missed my flush draw.

The big blind checked again. It was up to me. What should I do here?

If I checked it would mean weakness. Since neither opponent had raised me on the flop and the chance of one of them having any piece of this board was small, I decided to play the players and not my cards.

I bet $2,000.

The player to my left folded right away. The big blind, though, took some time to think about the situation.

Finally, he looked at me and stated, "you have a full house." I didn't reply, but it got me to think: Why would he think I had a full house?

A few seconds later, my opponent added, "you have pocket fives." He stared at me, for some reaction or sign. I didn't move, of course, and he mucked his hand. What was he holding?
Pocket 8's! The other player said he had A-Q.

What do you think? Good play or bad play on my part?

Frankly, my flop bet was so small that both players had to call. It did serve the purpose of a blocking bet that slowed them down and allowing me to take the initiative.

When both players called my flop bet, I thought that one of them may have had a better flush draw, like A-J, A-Q, or A-K suited and the other player had two broadway cards. I didn't expect either one to have an overpair.

Would you have folded pocket 8's in that situation?
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Sponsored Post: All About Razz Poker

Sponsored Post: All About Razz Poker

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You are getting sleepy. You are getting sleeping. You are now asleep. When I snap my fingers you will wake up, read this article and buy Play Razz Poker to Win....three, two, one...Snap!

Razz Poker Rules

Razz is basically 7-Card Stud played for low, which means that instead of making the highest possible poker hand, the goal in Razz is to make the worst possible conventional poker hand. Straights and flushes do not count in Razz, which leaves the wheel (A,2,3,4,5) the best possible Razz hand.

Before we jot down any strategy considerations, let’s take a look at the rules differences between Razz and Stud.

The Bring-In is the first difference between Razz and Stud. While in Stud, the player with the lowest upcard has to bring it in, in Razz, the player with the worst Razz hand is the one who has to make the move, which means that the player in possession of the highest cards has to bring it in.

The Ace counts as low in Razz, so the highest (and worst) card is the King. In case there’s a tie, suit is used as a tie-breaker, just like in Stud. In Razz though, the worst suit is the club, then comes the diamond, heart and finally the spade.

In the betting rounds, the action is started by the player with the best Razz hand. Again, Razz hands are low, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a 2-card or a 4-card hand we’re talking about. This means the player who has the lowest 2-card hand starts the betting. Two unpaired cards are always better than two paired ones. The rank of a 2-card hand is always determined by the higher card.

At showdown, no qualifier for the winning low hand exists. Regardless of its makeup, the lowest hand at the table wins even if it happens to contain paired cards and such. The 5-card showdown hands are always evaluated starting with the highest card.

Razz Poker Strategy

That about wraps up the differences between the two games, so assuming that you know your 7-Card Stud rules, I’ll move on to strategy. There are several things you can do to maximize your odds even before you sit down to the table. First of all: sign up for a rakeback or a poker prop deal. That’s correct: you can’t go wrong with that, regardless of the poker variant you play. It’ll keep delivering that 30-120% edge on every single real money hand you log.

Exercise proper table selection. Unlike Holdem, Razz (much like 7-card Stud) is not a suitable game for beginners. The edges here can be enormous and skill relegates the luck factor to a mere extra in Razz.

If you have your sights set on Stud though, you may as well begin with Razz. Razz is easier to learn than Stud and beginners will find it easier to cope with the rules in the beginning. Razz boards are easier to read. Keep your eye on your opponents’ upcards and act according to the reads you make. If you see a player needing one more card to make a better Razz hand than yours, you probably wouldn’t be correct going up against him. A made hand in Razz is a hand which doesn’t need a draw to further improve. Such made hands should be no-go zones for beginners, that is, they shouldn’t attempt to draw against such made hands.

Starting hand selection – though simple – is also important in Razz: only play starting hands which consist of 3 cards below 8. Start with only 2 cards below 8 and you’ll have to hit 3 of the 4 cards that will come, to make a competitive Razz hand.

Bluffing in Razz is done based on one’s upcards. If you have a A,2,3 in the window, fire away: it’s the perfect hand for a bluff, regardless of your hole-cards.

One more thing: you cannot play Razz with more than 8 players.

Now, go buy the book Play Razz Poker to Win. Oh, one very important fact about Razz. If you only play Razz online, you will find it is very different than playing in a poker club. The reason is simply the challenge of recalling your cards and opponents card are much more difficult when you've been trained on Razz using only online poker sites.
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Sponsored Post: Here's the Inside Scoop On the New Double or Nothing Poker Sit and Goes

Sponsored Post: Here's the Inside Scoop On the New
Double or Nothing Poker Sit and Goes

I really enjoyed this post from Mark at the Poker Bankroll Blog as he explains the Independent Chip Model (ICM) concept.

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun

The Double or Nothing poker sit and go (often abbreviated as DoN SNG) is a relatively new form of the popular sit and go online poker tournament format characterized by a preset (most commonly 6 or 10) number of players each buying in to the sit and go with a fixed amount of money in exchange for a stack of chips.

As the Double or Nothing term implies, you either double your buy-in or walk away with nothing. In other words, if 10 players buy-in with 5$ each, the top 5 finishes will win 10$ each.

The payout structure of Double or Nothing SNGs is therefore very different from standard 10 player SNGs where 1st place usually wins 50% of the total prize pool, 2nd place takes 30% and 3rd place 20%.

This difference in payout structure means that you need to approach Double or Nothing SNGs with a different strategy in order to become a winning player in the long run.

The Independent Chip Model

Before going into more detail with the basics of Double or Nothing sit and go strategy you will need an introduction to the Independent Chip Model (abbreviated ICM).

The Independent Chip model is a mathematical model constructed to give you an estimate of the monetary value of the chips you have in a MTT tournament or a SNG. The basic assumption of the Independent Chip model is that an individual player’s probability of winning the tournament is equal to the number of chips the player has divided by the total number of chips in play.

So if you have 32% of the chips in play, your probability of winning is 32% and so on.

Keep in mind that this is an underlying assumption of the ICM model and as such these probabilities of winning should only be treated as estimations.

The ICM model will also calculate the probability a player has of finishing in all other places in the tournament based on his chip stack, the total number of chips in play and the chip distribution among the other players in the tournament.

By estimating the probabilities a player has of finishing in all the positions in a tournament the Independent Chip Model can assign a monetary value to the amount of chips you have.

Here’s an example that demonstrates the principle:

You are playing a regular 10 person SNG and have the chip lead. Based on the amount of chips you have, the number of chips in play and the chip distribution of your opponents, the ICM model has estimated your placement probabilities as follows:
1st place; pays 50$ 55%
2nd place; pays 30$ 30%
3rd place; pays 20$ 15%

The monetary value of your chips at this particular stage in the SNG is then simply the sum of the placement probabilities multiplied by the prizes for each placement. In the example above this amounts to 39,5$ (0.55*50$ + 0.3*30$ + 0.15*20$).

The mathematics behind the ICM model are not overly complicated, but nevertheless totally unrealistic to calculate by yourself within the typical 30s time limit available on online tables. As a result there are several pieces of software available which can show your chip stack equity in real time.

Simply Google “ICM calculator” and you will get a ton of hits.

Using the ICM model to formulate a winning DoN SNG strategy

Due to the flat prize pool structure in DoN SNGs, there is a big difference in the monetary value of increasing your chip stack as compared to regular SNGs and multi-table tournaments. If you for example end up all-in early in a 10 player 10$ Double or Nothing sit and go and double your chip stack, the equity of your chip stack will only increase roughly 5$ from the 10$ starting point to 15$. The remaining 5$ equity from the player you knocked out is divided among the remaining players on the table.

In order to make a profit in the long run from a 10$ bet where you win 5$, you need to have a probability of more than 67% to win the the bet (I have written a series of articles that explain more about the relationship between odds, probabilities and EV in poker).

Therefore in Double or Nothing Sit and Goes, you should not enter a pot unless you have more than a 67% probability of winning the pot. This means that you should play tight and wait for good hands. Take advantage of those players who do not understand the mathematics of the game and as a result have a much wider range for calling.

What the ICM model basically tells us is that Double or Nothing poker is all about preserving your chip stack. As a consequence, calling raises with small pocket pairs aiming to hit a set or with suited connectors to hit draws are to be avoided when playing Double or Nothing poker. Calling in general is actually a bad move from a mathematical point of view in these SNGs. Your actions should be dominated by raising or folding.

Playing a large stack in Double or Nothing sit and goes.

If you manage to double your chip stack early on, the equity of your stack will be almost equal to the prize in the tournament. This means that gaining additional chips has almost no added monetary value and as a consequence from a mathematical point of view you should be folding all hands where you are not at least an 80% favorite of winning. This is even more true when you reach the bubble and have a larger than average chip stack. Remember it is not your job to eliminate players when you have a large stack. It is your job to finish in the top 5.

Playing a small stack in Double or Nothing sit and goes.

If you find yourself with a smaller than average chip stack during the middle or late stages of the tournament, picking up the blinds and antes becomes important. When stealing blinds in a DoN SNG, the trick is to pick out players who have decent size stacks and seem to know the mathematics behind the game. They will almost never call an all-in from you because they know they have to be a more than 80% favorite in order to make the call.

This is where the power of preserving your chip stack really comes into play. Notice also how the dynamics of a DoN SNG are very different compared to a MTT. In MTTs it is often mathematically correct for the chip leader to call short stack all-ins with marginal hands.

You could be posting your articles on the Poker Bankroll Blog. Read all about it here.
Check out our Poker Freeroll and Tournament League.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Sponsored Post: 10 Ways On How Not To Build a Poker Bankroll

Sponsored Post: 10 Ways On How Not To Build a Poker Bankroll

A homeless man in ParisImage via Wikipedia

Another post written and submitted by Mark from the Poker Bankroll Blog. My #1 "Not to" when it comes to building a poker bankroll:
Do not forget to be sponsored by an online poker site! :--)

I’ve tried to put together a list of my top 10 “not to do” when it comes to poker bankroll building. If you disagree or have anything to add (perhaps you have your own recipe for building a poker bankroll) please feel free to add a comment.

1. Do not start your poker bankroll building project without a plan

Planning is crucial in order for any project to become a success (I should know since I work as a project manager for a living). When it comes to poker bankroll building you need to lay out the foundation before you start. Are you aiming to copy Chris Ferguson, starting with 0$ and grinding it out in freerolls and micro limit SNGs or No limit Hold’em? Chris Ferguson succeeded in building a 10000$ bankroll this way. Are you going to build your bankroll through cash games, MTT tournaments or SNGs? What is your plan? You need to have this sorted out before you start.

2. Do not play out of your profit zone

Your profit zone is the limit where you can comfortably grind it out and make a regular profit (e.g. 5$ 10 max SNGs, 0,25$/0,50$ 6 max NL Hold’em etc…). If you’ve never played poker before you don’t know yet what your profit zone is and hopefully it will move up in limits as you get better. If you’ve played poker before you probably have a pretty good idea what your profit zone is.

Here’s my point when it comes to poker bankroll building projects. If possible start up your poker bankroll building project in your profit zone as this will give you the best start. If you start out below your profit zone you run the risk of getting bored and if you start out above your profit zone you run a serious risk of loosing your bankroll.

Keep in mind that people play in games beyond their skill level, buy-in level and outside their profit zone because:
  • They are attracted to the potential of the one big pay off
  • They think they’re a better poker player than they really are
  • They think anyone can get lucky once
  • They figure the fastest way to re coop money lost at the lower levels is to win one big game
  • They think poker is a game of pure chance
  • They think they play better when up against better opponents (i.e. fewer donkeys)
  • They have more money than brains
Don’t be one of these people!

3. Do not start your poker bankroll building project without (realistic, but at the same time ambitious) goals.

Setting goals for your poker bankroll building project is equally as important as the initial planning. Without goals you’re destined for failure. They are what will keep your motivation up and give direction and meaning to your projects. Be ambitious but realistic when setting your goals. Building a large enough bankroll to pay for your dream holiday for example, is in my opinion an ambitious but realistic goal. Make sure that the goal is something you really want. Often this is not the actual money itself but the stuff we can buy from it.

4. Do not carry out your poker bankroll building project without motivation

If you take care with your planning and choice of goals you should not experience long periods with lack of motivation during your poker bankroll building project. Short spells of low motivation however are unavoidable. I have often found that blogging about my poker bankroll building projects has helped me keep my motivation high. Therefore consider starting your own blog about your project or find a forum with equal minded poker players to share your ups and downs with.

5. Do not carry out your poker bankroll building project without discipline

Here’s a great definition of the concept discipline:

...persistently act in the direction of a goal regardless of external adversity or internal state.

Many associate discipline with pushing yourself hard to achieve a certain goal. But this is not the way to succeed in the long run with any challenge especially Bankroll Management. To succeed it is essential to maintain the joy of playing poker.

Discipline in this context is the ability to persistently act in the direction of a goal regardless of adversity and the emotional state while keeping in mind that you are doing it because it’s fun.

Discipline is what will keep you on track in your poker bankroll building project with regards to bankroll managements and avoiding tilt. In my opinion you will never succeed in a poker bankroll building project if you do not have discipline.

6. Do not carry out your poker bankroll building project without proper bankroll management

Bankroll management can be defined as:

...the continuous adjustment of your playing limit according to the size of your Bankroll while factoring in your poker skills and the level of risk you are willing to take.

Obviously this is important. Without proper bankroll management you run a high risk of ruin. In addition if you do not use bankroll management you might not realize that your bankroll is large enough to move up in limits.

There are a few rules of thumb regarding bankroll management, but I recommend you do your own research here because there are a lot of different opinions on this subject.
  • For No limit cash games your bankroll should be 20-50 times the maximum table buyin on the limit you play.
  • For SNG’s I would say your bankroll should be 40-100 times the buyin you’re playing
  • For MTTs (multi table tournaments) you will need more than 100 times the buyin you’re playing (the reason for this, is that you due to the large playing fields in MTTs will not win them nearly as often as SNGs
7. Do not play at a poker room without a rakeback or bonus deal

Having a rakeback or bonus deal while you play will add $$ to your bankroll building project while you play. So there’s really no reason not to sign up through a rakeback site and get this added value.

If you’re a break even player against the opponents on your limit, a rakeback or bonus deal will ensure that your bankroll continuously increases. Since anyone can become an affiliate of a poker site and start promoting rakeback and bonus deals, there is almost no end to the number of online poker rakeback pages available today.

If you decide to get a rakeback or bonus deal for your poker bankroll building project, I recommend you check out Here you’ll get better than average deals and the added benefit of a free online poker tournament and freeroll league.

8. Do not play poker outside your poker bankroll building project

This point on my list might sound strange to some of you, and I’m not even sure I agree with it. My thought was that if you play poker with your friends once in a while, chances are the stakes will probably be higher compared to your poker bankroll building game. I have a poker buddy and during our poker weekends I usually spend more $ in tournament buyins than I would during two months, when I just play alone. If you’ve just paid 200$ to play in one of the large Sunday tournaments, won’t the transition back to 5$ SNGs be difficult? As I wrote earlier, I’m not sure about this one, so any input from you guys reading this article would be greatly appreciated.

9. Do not go on tilt

This is a no-brainer. You tilt, you loose. So don’t do it. There are thousands of online articles giving good advice on how to avoid tilt. I like to throw my water bottle through our living room, but I don’t know if that will work for everyone.

10. If you go broke do not start a new poker bankroll building project before you’ve analyzed what went wrong in you first attempt

Did you play outside your profit zone? Did you lack poker skills in the games you played? Did you lose motivation?

Find out what you did wrong and learn from it so your next poker bankroll building project has a higher chance of success.

Thanks to Anders and JGiles for providing some of the material for the list.
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sponsored Post: Limit Hold'em Myths

A pair of aces is arguably the best hand to be...Image via Wikipedia

Sponsored Post: Limit Hold'em Myths

The claims and opinions expressed in the following post are those of the sponsor and not necessarily the views or opinions of How to Win a Poker Tournament blog, its staff or its advertisers. LOL.

Limit Hold'em Myths

With online poker’s popularity explosion, NL Holdem became the king of the virtual green felt, relegating the good old fixed limit version of the game to sidekick status. Still, one must not forget that Limit Holdem is the original starting point in the game’s evolution and that there used to be very solid reasons behind its popularity. It is still the preferred betting structure of most casinos, because it allows beginners to amass some short-term winnings and it keeps them from busting out within a couple of hands, which means they’ll stick around and generate more poker rake for the house.

Online though, there are apparently countless haters of this battle-tested betting structure. I’d dare assume though that most of these haters are NL Holdem players who may have tried FL at one point or another, but who never took the time to study and to really get to know the game. Most of the haters’ arguments are therefore based on false beliefs and myths.

Poker Myth About Pocket Aces

One such myth is the one surrounding pocket rockets. All FL haters, quite probably without exception, will tell you that pocket rockets are no good in FL games because of the inability of the player to protect them. I’ll be frank. A few years ago I used to subscribe to the same theory myself, but I’m not the kind of pig-headed NL junkie who cannot be convinced through math and reason, and nowadays I know better. I also came to understand why NL players feel like their rockets are not good at the FL tables.

If you play at an 8-handed table, and you pick up pocket rockets, your hand will be a 28.4% favorite to win, provided you go up against the worst possible (the worst from your perspective of course) selection of non-random hands like K,K, Q,Q, A,K, a small pocket pair, a suited connector and a suited one-gapper. In reality, you’ll seldom have your rockets staring down such fierce competition, so your odds for winning will be around 31%.

What that means in layman’s terms is that on average, when you pick up pocket rockets, you win once in every 3 tries. That’s right, you lose more times than you win, and that there is the very source of the myth.

There are two sides to every coin though, and in poker one cannot afford to be near sighted. While you will lose once on every 3 tries, the one time you win, you’ll get 8-1 for your money.

Please remember that the original complaint was about how one couldn’t protect his rockets because all the opponents would call him anyway. That’s the reason why you get 8-1 on your money. Suppose you invest 1 unit of money on every one of your rockets. That’s a 3 unit investment. You lose 2 units, and you pick up 8. That leaves you with a pretty handsome investment.

If there are fewer players at your table, your money return rate takes a hit, but your odds grow. If you go up against 3 players holding random hands, your odds will grow from 31% to around 64%, so the value remains. Therefore, my recommendation is that you should do your best to stuff that pot when you pick up rockets. You may not win each and every showdown, but in the end you will walk away with a handsome profit.

In addition to all that, pocket rockets do not carry the risk of felting you in case of a loss in limit Holdem. You will live to stuff another pot and you will get you money eventually.

What about the poker rake that you pay? You pay more of that in Limit Poker, right? Because you stay in the game longer, you pay more rake too. Just sign up for a rakeback deal, or better still: a poker prop deal, and the poker rake will lose its bite before you know it.

My viewpoint: In low limit hold'em games, you will often get multiple opponents wanting to see a flop. With pocket Aces you should be raising and re-raising pre-flop. I believe it is clearly the best strategy. FYI: In my last $6-$12 session at the club, I was dealt pocket Aces three times in three hours. I lost every time--and one time I was heads-up going into the flop. So what do I know :-)
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

10 Reasons NOT To Play Online Poker

10 Reasons NOT To Play Online Poker

The previous post reviewed my 10 Reason To Play Online Poker. Now, here is my list of 10 Reasons NOT To Play Online Poker. You may not like my list, but that's poker.

1. Online Poker Sites Are Not Regulated or Licensed in the US.

Without some type of oversight, poker players can not be sure if the sites are cheating them. Some argue that it is not in a poker site's best interest to cheat, since so much money is coming in anyway. Unfortunately, greed can corrupt. And unregulated companies have proven time and time again, where there is a will (to dupe the people to make more money), there is a way.

2. The Online Poker Sites RNG (Random Number Generator) Ain't So Random.

RNG's are complex computer programs. However, software can be altered to create subtle changes that effect play and results. Are there more bad beats online? Are there more big hands, like quads and straight flushes that occur online? Does it seem that there are too many heads-up situations where one premium hand loses to another premium hand to create more excitement? Yes, yes and yes.

3. Online Poker Sites Support Their Integrity Claims by "Independent" Audits--Are They Really Unbiased?

The sites audits may be independent, but they have to be biased. Why? The firms who audit a poker site get paid by that site. In recent history, a top ten accounting firm closed down to their "independent" audits. And major US corporations have also been forced into bankruptcy due to fake accounting; e.g. Enron.

4. There Have Been Major Cheating Scandals Online That The Online Poker Sites Never Caught.

There have been a handful of major, public cases where poker players have been cheated by outsiders. Did the online poker site catch this cheating? No. The only reason that these cases became public is because other poker players did their own analysis of what had happened and reported it.

5. Other Cases of Cheating Are Happening Online, But No One Gets Caught.

There is so much money being gambled every minute, it is too juicy for unscrupulous people to take advantage of other players. For example, do you think collusion has ever occurred at an online poker site? What about other forms of cheating, like playing in the same event under different user names? Or, a top player who plays under a friend's user name to help increase his bankroll? It happens. It is usually transparent.

6. What About The Frequency of Stories Regarding New Players Getting An Edge or A Player Losing After Withdrawing Money From A Site?

It would make business sense to help new players have an edge. If a new player wins, s/he is more likely to keep playing--even if s/he loses it all a few weeks later. There are also complaints on how a player who withdraws money after winning at a poker site, seems to forget how to play and now loses.

7. The Sponsoring of Poker Players Results In An Uneven Playing Field.

Do sponsored players risk their own money? Reports are that sponsored players get 100% rakeback and get paid hourly at an online poker site. Is it fair that you risk your own money, while a sponsored player takes no risk?

8. If the New UIGEA Regulation Goes Into Effect, Will Your Bank Cash Your Poker Site's Check?

Now you have to worry about what will happen if you do win money at an online site. Assuming you play at a legitimate site and win, the site will pay you. It won't be able to transfer money into your bank account. It will have to use another method, which is most likely going to be mailing you a check. Will your bank cash that check if the new law goes into effect?

9. Are Online Poker Sites Causing A Brain Drain in Teens and College Students?

Joe Cada admitting to playing online poker before he was 21 and even dropping out of school to play poker. It worked out for Joe, but what about the majority of teens and college students who won't be winners at poker? The seduction of winning millions playing poker is strong for everyone. It is no doubt strongest in teenagers and college students, given the millions won in poker by 20-somethings. Online poker sites should not allow underage players.

10. You Play Online Poker Naked And You Are Not A Beautiful Woman.

You know who you stop it!

I realize this list will eliminate my chance of ever being sponsored by an online poker site. And I also realize that whenever I say anything negative about online poker, a few readers write how I am an idiot or worse.

Whether you do or do not play online poker, there is one thing I strongly believe. That is, that every adult in the US should have the freedom to play online poker and win or lose as much money as s/he wants.

The politicians who strive to stop this freedom will be voted out of office, as many were in the last election.

After all, there are only 40 million Americans who play poker. And while most of them don't play online, the thought that their Congress won't let them play poker, even if they wanted to play, is simply un-American.
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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

10 Reasons To Play Online Poker

10 Reasons To Play Online Poker

Since almost all poker players compete online, I thought I would write one column on 10 Reasons To Play Online Poker and another column on 10 Reasons NOT To Play Online Poker. My bias is that I enjoy playing at a club more, probably because my results are much better.

Here are my 10 reasons why you should play online poker:

1. Online Poker is the Most Convenient Way to Play Poker

You can play poker 24/7 right from your desktop. And you can even watch TV, read a book, or multitask while playing.

2. Online Poker is Fun

It's fun to play poker, and online poker is fun since it's poker with some interesting additions like avatars, faster action, the ability to play multiple tables, and chatting with players, and being anonymous at the same time.

3. It Provides the Widest Choice of Poker Games

Online poker lets you play the widest range of poker games possible. And most of these games aren't even available in a casino or card room. Only at online poker can you can be almost guaranteed to find Razz poker, Omaha or a mixed game.

4. There are at Least 100 Online Poker Sites To Choose From

If you don't like one poker site, there are plenty to test out. While you may run into the top players at Full Tilt and Poker Stars, you may find that smaller sites like Bodog and Doyle's Room have less skilled players.

5. You Can Learn How to Play Better, Much Faster

You can play for free online or for money. The more you play poker, the more your game can improve. The non-stop action at online poker allows you to get better. You can even play multiple tables at the same time.

6. It's Less Intimidating than Going to Play at a Casino.

Going to a card room can be risky. There is the trip to and from the card room. The location of the card room and the unknown characters you may run across. And, then, there is the intimidation of playing in person with a lot of strangers. With online poker, you don't have to worry about any of these things.

7. There are Advantages to Online Poker to Help Your Bank Roll.

Online poker has deposit bonuses, jackpots and rakeback. You don't have to tip the dealer. And you will find a lot more people playing poorly.

8. You Can Win Big Money Playing Online Poker.

Since there are more players entering events, the prize pools are bigger. The dream of a big win at the biggest sites is very alluring. In addition, many poker sites now have bad beat jackpots that can be worth $100,000+.

9. Online Poker Eliminates Your Poker Tells

Most players have poker tells that give away the strength of their hand. No one is going to pick up on your tells online.

10. You Can Play Online Poker Naked.

Or you can imagine that the women at your poker table are naked and beautiful.

I am not recommending you play online poker. In fact, I rarely play online poker for the reasons on my next post 10 Reasons Not To Play Online Poker. I know a lot of players will not agree with me, but that's poker.
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

More on Coin-Flips in Tournament Poker

More on Coin-Flips in Tournament Poker

Flipper!Image by eddie.welker via Flickr

A few thoughts on a previous sponsored post about coin-flips in poker tournaments. Let's go over a few situations and when it is right to be in a coin-flip and when to avoid a coin-flip.

Big Stack, Small Stack, Below Average Stack

1. If you have a big stack compared to the blinds, like 15+ times the big blind, you really don't want to be all-in for your tournament life on coin-flip.


When you are doing well in a tournament, you don't want to be risking all your chips on a 50/50 situation. You have some time to wait for premium cards or to make a play against weaker opponents. Patience.

2. If you have a small stack compared to the blinds, like 8 times or less the big blind, you really don't mind being all-in for your tournament life on a coin-flip. Of course, you prefer to be the one doing the betting and not the calling.


You should play tournament poker to win, not to survive. When your stack gets low, you want to double up. If you move all-in with pocket 9's and run into A-K, you may get knocked out but you may experience a nice jump in chips and perhaps, even in prize money.

Frankly, if a player moves all-in ahead of you and he shows you he has pocket 9's, you should call with A-K. You may be slightly behind, but tournament poker comes down to accumulating chips. You have to take risks to win. With a low stack, this is as good a time as any.

3. If you have a good chip stack compared to the blinds, but way below average, you really don't mind being all-in for your tournament life on a coin-flip. Ideally, though, you want to be the one moving all-in rather than the caller.


This is one of the areas where you will end up being the caller with a hand like A-K. While you have enough chips in front of you to survive more blind increases, the fact is that to win the event you need to double up. If a player moves all-in in front you, strongly consider risking your tournament life with A-K.

You may get knocked out, but you may win. Let the poker gods decide if this is going to be your day.

One caution: If you are one of the chip leaders at the late stages of a tournament, and the chip leader moves all-in in front of you, folding A-K here is a good play. You don't want to get knocked out if you are in an excellent position to possibly win an event.

Any other thoughts on coin-flips?


Thursday, February 4, 2010

Does Positive Thinking Effect Your Poker Results?

Does Positive Thinking Effect Your Poker Results?

ElectronsImage by swirlspice via Flickr

The more I play poker the more I realize that the mind has a lot to do with results. I don't mean knowing the strategy and the moves in the game--that is certainly important. I mean what is going on in your mind as to your expectations of what will happen both before and during the game.

How often have you heard a poker player call out the river card that will make him lose the hand?

How often have you witnessed a poker player take a bad loss on one hand, and get knocked out a few hands later?

How often have you heard a poker player talk about a bad beat?

Positive Thoughts Attract Positive Results. Negative Thoughts Attract Negative Results.

Let me give you some personal experiences and see if these are similar to your own.

I always try to enter a tournament expecting to win. But if I'm feeling tired or distracted or impatient, I have second thoughts about going since I believe I won't be at my best. Sure enough, I go to the game and my results are lousy.

Yet, there are other times when I feel ready and I just know that things will go my way. I will end up being that player who gives other players bad beats. My opponents may even call me "Mr. Lucky" or "a donkey." It's not lucky. It's just that I know I'm suppose to win.

In the late stages of a tournament, my positive feelings sometimes start to falter. I don't know why it happens. It won't be because of a bad beat or a lost pot. It is just my attitude about the game changes. Sure enough, I will end up one or a few places out of the money. I tell myself to be positive, but it just doesn't work.

If I don't go negative late in a tourney, it's because I know I can't be beat. In fact, if I don't win, I am shocked. I can be all-in against pocket Aces, and I know things will go my way.

I experience bad beats like everyone else. While I don't go on tilt usually, it does effect me mentally. And my negative feelings and thoughts attracts bad results.

In a specific hand, I can be in the lead on the flop and the turn, but I will think of the one card my opponent needs to beat me on the river. Sure enough, more times than I care to recall, that one lousy card appears.

Yet, with positive thinking, I may move all-in with a hand like A-9 suited of hearts and the chip leader will call me with A-K. I don't why but I know I am going to win. It is an attitude or a feeling I get.

Do any of my experiences ring true to what happens to you?

Mike Matusow and Being Positive

I watched Mike talk briefly about being positive during a recent WSOP main event ESPN telecast. He said that the change in his attitude from being a negative person to thinking positive improved his poker results.

I believe him! I don't think it is a coincidence. I believe that having a positive mental attitude will improve your results.

Maybe that is why "rushes" happen in poker despite the "math" guys telling us that they don't. \

An interesting story from two weeks ago. I was playing in a $6-$12 ring game at the Oaks. The game is going along like any other limit cash game.

After a player won a big pot, the woman to my right whispered to me that she would have won the last hand if she stayed in. But her cards were like 8-2, so she folded. After the next hand she told me she would have won again. Sure enough, after the third hand, she folded her rag hand which would have won!

I told her to play the next hand no matter what. She did. She played J-4 offsuit, and hit two pair on the flop to win a nice pot. She won the next pot as well.

When she folded the next hand, I asked her why? She said it was the worst hand in poker 7-2. I told her, it didn't matter. Play the next hand, no matter what.

On the next deal she looks at her cards, looks at me, shakes her head no, and reluctantly limps into the pot. I find pocket Aces and raise. She calls. The flop is 2-2-8. She bets. I raise. And she re-raises. I cap it. The turn is a 9. She check-raises me! I can't believe it (or can I?) She tells me to fold. I call. The river misses me. She bets. Again, she tells me to fold. I muck and she reveals 3-2 offsuit.

She goes on to win 12 out of 15 hands! I call that a rush.

Maybe a rush is the product of the expectation (positive thinking) that you are going to win, and the expectation (negative thinking) of your opponents that they are going to lose?

Next Step

The key for me, and perhaps you, is how to maintain positive through the 6+ hours of a poker tournament, or during the ups and owns of any poker session? Any ideas?


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Easiest Way to Understand Math in Poker

The Easiest Way to Understand Math in Poker

Math on the WallImage by alist via Flickr

I have read quite a few poker books. For me, if I can learn just one concept in a poker book, I feel the investment is a good one.

I have been reading Swayne's Advanced Degree in Hold'em and he has an excellent section on poker math. I think it may be the best I have ever seen. Here is a summary of this section.

1. Odds

Let's start with odds. In poker, if the odds are 14 to 4 it is shown as 14:4. The left hand side of the 14:4, the 14, means how many times something won't happen and you compare it to the right side, the 4, which means how often something will happen. Said another way, for every 18 events (14+4), it won't happen 14 times and it will happen 4 times.

Key: The left hand side is how many times something won't happen: the right hand side is how often something will happen.

The odds of 14 to 4 and be simplified by dividing the right hand side number, the 4, into the left hand side number, the 14. So, 14 divided by 4 is 3.5. Therefore the odds of 14 to 4 are the same as 3.5 to 1 or 3 1/2 to 1.

2. A Poker Example of Odds

Let's say you have two clubs in your hand, and the flop has two clubs. What are the odds against you getting another club on the turn?

Simply, it is "how often you won't catch a club: how often you will will catch a club."

Since there are 3 cards on board and 2 in our hand, the number of cards we don't know are 47. The number of cards that will help are the 12 club cards subtracted by the four club clubs we know about it, or 9.

Therefore, there are 38 cards that won't help: 9 cards that will. Or, 38:9. To simplify, 38 divided by 9 is 4.2 to 1. The odds against you getting another club on the turn is 4.2 to 1.

3. Probability

Probabilities are expressed as a percent. To convert pot odds into probabilities is simple.

If the odds are 3:1, it means that for every 4 events, it will happen one time. 1 divided by 4 is .25.

.25 is the same as 25%. Therefore, you now know that if the odds are 3:1, it means that the probability is 25%.

Now that you understand odds and probabilities, let's move to pot odds and how to use pot odds.

4. Pot Odds

Pot odds are the $ odds which the pot is offering. The $ odds the pot is offering is the amount of money in the pot compared to the amount of money you must pay to stay in the hand.


There is $50 in the pot and you must bet $10 to say in. The pot is offering you $50 for your $10 bet, or said another way, you are risking $10 to win $50.

In odds for poker, this is $50:$10, or 50:10 or 5:1. Therefore, the pot is offering you 5:1.

5. Using Pot Odds

To help you decide whether to stay in or fold post flop, you want to know the odds the pot is offering you compared to the odds of making your hand.

Key: If your pot odds are greater than your odds of winning, you stay in the hand.

Another way to say it: if the pot is offering you more than your odds against (assuming that you will win when you make your hand), you stay in the hand.


Earlier we figured out the odds for catching the flush card on the turn as 4.2 to 1. If the pot is offering you $50 for your $10, then the pot is offering odds of 5 to 1. Since the pot odds are more than the odds of hitting your flush, you stay in the hand.

If there were only $30 in the pot, and you had to bet $10 to stay in the hand, you would only be getting 3:1. Since the pot is offering you less than your odds against, you fold.

This makes it simpler to understand when you are getting favorable odds to call a bet, and when you are not getting favorable odds. You want the pot to be giving you better odds than the odds against making your hand in order to make a favorable call.

Another concept in poker is expected value or EV. Let's see how that works.

6. Expected Value (EV)

Expected value means the probability of winning times the amount you can win minus the probability of losing times the amount you must bet to see if you win.

A positive expected value means that over the long run you will win more than you will lose.


Again, assuming we have flopped a flush draw, what is the probability of making a flush on the turn?

Probability of catching the card=9 cards divided by 47 cards or .19
Probability of not catching the card is 1.00-.19 or .81.

The EV=(.19)(pot size)-(.81)(amount you must bet)
The EV=(.19)($50)-(.81)($10) or $9.5 minus $8.1= +$1.40

You will notice that the size of pot and the amount you must bet is critical in this calculation.

A positive value is good. It means that over the long run, you will win an average of $1.40.

Of course, it does not mean that you will win every time, but as long as you base your play on positive EV, you will win long term.

Using EV is the same thing as using pot odds.

Sponsored Post: MTT Strategy – Coin-Flips

MTT Strategy – Coin-Flips

:w:Jake Long, :w:Shawn Crable, Brandon Englemo...Image via Wikipedia

The following post about coin flips in poker tournaments is excellent and comes from rakemeback. In the next day or two, I will post my perspective on this issue of coin flips when it comes to tournaments where most of us compete; that is, where the increase in blinds increase every 20 minutes or less and forces the action a lot faster than in a major event.

Coin Flips

No player has ever won a MTT without having won several coin-flips during the event. Like it or not (and people mostly do not like it) sometimes that’s what your tournament life comes down to: a coin-flip, and it’s quite inevitable too. Regardless of the structure of the tournament and regardless of how well you play, you won’t ever even make it to a final table without gaining Lady Luck’s approval first, through a few lucky coin-flips.

A poker coin-flip is about getting your money all-in on 50-50 (or approximately 50-50) odds. Now, if it’s not obvious to you, those are not good odds on an investment on which you stake your tournament life. If may be ok in a cash game and it may carry a marginal EV+ there, but given the finite nature of your tourney stack, that is definitely not the case in tournaments. In a cash game, if you lose, you just repot or reload and you’re back in action, pushing your marginal EV+ and eventually walking away with the dough.

If you’re in a tournament though, once you’re felted, it’s all over. There’s no coming back: you’ve lost. That’s why it’s not exactly optimal to go all-in on such odds. None of the players who shove on such a coin-flip do it out of their own will though. They’re always forced by the circumstances to make the move. In a cash game, if you see the odds you get are no good, you can afford to just sit back and wait for another – much better- opportunity. In a poker tournament, such luxury is unheard-of. Is there anything you can do to better your odds at a coin flip? There sure is.

When to make the do-or-die move

Whether or not to go all-in on a coin-flip is not something you can choose, but you can choose when you make the do-or-die move. Every time a coin-flip comes about, one player makes the move and the other player calls him. A layman may think that it doesn’t matter who makes the move and who makes the call, the bottom line is that the player who’s all-in is neck deep in trouble. A poker player knows though, that things are not that simple.

There’s a little thing called the fold equity which gives the guy doing the shoving an advantage over the guy doing the calling. How is that? The guy who shoves all-in has two possibilities to win the pot: either his hand goes to a showdown and wins the pot hands down, or his opponent folds and he takes the pot without a showdown. The guy doing the calling has only one way to win: by winning the showdown. That’s a huge difference when it comes to staying alive in a poker tournament.

Pick your coin-flip spots well and be the aggressor rather than the caller. If you’re always the aggressor on coin-flips, you’ll win more such 50-50 match-ups than you’ll lose in the long-run and given how essential coin-flips are in tournaments, that will amount to a great edge.

Make sure the coin-flip on which you stake your tournament life is indeed a coin-flip. You do not want to turn your cards over and see that you’re a 30-70 underdog just because you misread your opponent. That there is no longer a con flip.

Sign up for rakeback. Rakeback deals and poker prop deals offer you a rebate on your tournament fees, which will save you a lot of money in the long-run. Rake rebate deals (like the ones Rakemeback has), are not just for cash game players. They work just fine in tournaments too.

By the way:
Here is a classic coin flip. What made this so funny is that when Bettis came off the field his coach was angry with him for not calling tails. And Bettis is heard yelling back in a frustrated tone, "I called tails!" Too bad the video did not capture this moment.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Found by Archeologists next to the Remains of the 2000 Year Old Man...A Poker Prayer!

Found by Archeologists next to the Remains of the 2000 Year Old Man...A Poker Prayer!

Cover of Cover of Skeleton (Pockets)

Dear poker gods,

Please give me pocket aces
and don't frigging let them be cracked.

I give thee powerful poker gods, thanks.
I just got dealt pocket Aces.
The flop looks safe,
the turn is uh-oh,
the river...F**K!

-Written by a poker player

P.S. If you'd like your very own poker
gods statue, so you can worship the
poker deities in the privacy of your home,
mail me your name, address and $49.95.

What's Your Poker IQ?