Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Albert Einstein Can Improve Your Poker Game

Albert Einstein during a lecture in Vienna in ...Image via Wikipedia

How Albert Einstein Can Improve Your Poker Game

Albert Einstein said that "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

Let me ask you a question: Is your poker game so routine that someone watching you would describe you as being insane?

Stop the Insanity!

Stop playing the same way if you are not getting the results you desire.

Let me give you some specifics to help you get out of a losing poker rut.

1. No Limit poker tournament

Let's say that you are a solid player when it comes to tournaments. You often survive deep into events, but unluckily you take a bad beat or two that knocks you out.

Happen often?

You need to be more observant. Check out the players who have big stacks and learn from the moves they make.

Here is one of my favorite moves: It's in the middle of the tournament, the player to my right has been more aggressive than other players, but not super aggressive. He has shown down some big hands but usually he's taken down pots with c-bets.

I am on the button. Everyone folds to the player to my right who makes a standard 3x the big blind raise. He has $18,000 and I have $10,000. The blinds are $300-$600. He raised to $1,800. I will re-raise here to $5,400. Why?

I have been playing a solid game so my image is that of a solid player. He will see that re-raise as a premium hand like AA, KK or QQ. Unless he has a premium hand, I will take down the pot.

Do I feel uneasy making that play? Yes. Especially since all I have are the 10s-7s.

But, my opponent knows that no matter the flop, I am going to move in the rest of my chips. That $5,400 raise may actually cost him $10,000.

This is just one play you can make to take advantage of a poker situation that is not dependent on the strength of your starting hands. Try this one or try others. But, do something different to get better results.

2. Limit Cash

Here is an example for a limit ring game.

Let's say it's $2-$4 and you are playing online. The table is playing tight. Everyone folds to you. You are two off from the button (called the power or hijack position). You look down and find Ks-6c. Easy fold, right?

Yes. You can fold. But, why not try to steal with a raise?

You raise to $4. The small blind and the big blind call--not what you were hoping for.

The flop comes Qd-4c-3d.

The small blind bets. The big blind folds. What should you do?

Please don't auto-fold. Think about how you can play this hand to win the pot.

If your opponent had a Q would he bet into you? My guess is no. My guess is that he either has a hand like a middle pocket pair or maybe A-4 or A-3. Or, maybe a flush draw.

What is your best play?

Raise. Does that make you feel uncomfortable? Good. It's a sign your game is improving.

Your opponent calls.

The turn is a 5h.

Your opponent checks. What should you do?

You can take the free card, of course, but, I prefer to bet since it signals you have top pair.

Most likely, your opponent will fold or call. If he raises, you have outs, so you can call.

What happens, though, is not important. What is important is that you are trying new moves to improve your game.


I know getting out of your comfort zone is difficult. But, you must do it.

If you don't believe me, take it from Albert Einstein. Insanity is not profitable in poker.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Another Huge Bad Beat Jackpot at Casino 101-Over $200,000+

anger. hostility towards the oppositionImage by assbach via Flickr

Another Huge Bad Beat Jackpot at Casino 101

Back around November I went to visit Casino 101 having this feeling the bad beat jackpot would hit. I had not been to that club in years. The Jackpot hit that day for $150,000+, but I was playing in a tournament. The policy of the club is that everyone in a cash game gets a piece of a bad beat jackpot.

Tonight, I felt it would happen again so I drove back up to Casino 101. Funny thing, I was off by one day. The Jackpot hit yesterday for over $200,000! Even players at other tables took home $6,000+ each.

Now, I was stuck at this casino and the only game open was $3-$6 hold'em.

Limit Poker Fun

I bought in for $100 and I lost every hand I played for about one hour. One player was drinking too much and the player next to him was pretending to be somewhat wasted. They both were winning most of the hands. It was your typical no fold'em hold'em game.

Down to my last few dollars, I bought in for another rack. Two hands later I was dealt pocket Kings in the small blind. 6 players limped and I raised. Everyone called.

This was the first time I played live limit after that awful run where I lost 8 times in a row with pocket Kings. I really thought it was due to hold up.

The flop was K-J-10 with two hearts. I bet and everyone called.

The turn was a 10. I bet and got raised, another player over-called. I re-raised and both players called.

The river was a 9 of hearts.

I bet and one player re-raised. I re-raised and he called.

It turned out he misread his hand. He thought he had a full house.

It was a big win.

I Made A Player Curse, Slam His Cards Down and March Off in Anger

A few hands later, I am dealt Ac-9c. Again there are numerous callers. I am on the button, so I raise. Everyone calls.

The flop is the 3c-4c-Qd.

Everyone checks and I bet. There are three callers.

The turn is a 8d. I bet after everyone checks. Probably a bad play on my part. There are three callers.

The river is a 7c.

The first player (the drinker) checks, the guy who misread his hand earlier bets into me. I raise with my flush.

The drinker thinks for a while and calls. The other player calls.

I show the flush and the drinker yells "Fuck!" Slams his cards over--the 5d-6s. And marches off pissed. He came back about 10 minutes later and left the casino. I guess he couldn't put me on the flush since I bet all the way?

But wait there's more!

I am now up about $200 and a new player sits down. He has never played before. When I arrived at the club--now about 2 hours ago--this player asked me if he could win here. I told him that you can win or you can lose.

As he sat down he told the dealer that he didn't know how much to bet or about the blinds. The dealer said that he would tell him.

The funny thing--this new player and I go to the river heads-up about 7 out of the next 9 hands. He hits the river on all but one hand. He was hitting his inside straights, two pairs, etc. I kept telling him good hand.

He ended up taking about $100 of my winnings. The game broke up and I left.
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

My Worst Experience Playing Poker and More Learning

Bob Barker and a contestant at the "Poker...Image via Wikipedia

My Worst Experience Playing Poker and More Learning

I entered a $15-$30 limit game yesterday. I am not sure the odds of this happening but I have never been dealt so many premium hands and lost so much!

I had pocket Kings eight times and pocket Queens one time. I lost them all.

The thing that was sadly remarkable was that on the flop I was heads-up or against two opponents, and on the river I was always just against one opponent.

Here is what happened with the pocket Kings:
  • I lost twice on the flop when an Ace flopped. I got away from those hands.
  • I lost once when my opponent hit a set of 8's on the flop.
  • I lost the other 6 times on the river by flushes, straights, trips, and two pair.
I estimated that I lost over $1,000 on these hands. At the end of the night, I was down $500.

Disclosure: I did get dealt pocket Aces one time. I was heads-up on the flop and won. A small win.

More learning:

1. There are lucky seats in poker.

Many poker players say there is no such thing as lucky or unlucky seats in poker. In the short term there are good and bad streaks in all forms of gambling. The craps player will lose long term. But, it are those lucky short term streaks that make the craps player believe he is a winning player or will hit it big again.

Heck, if it wasn't for luck, Phil Hellmuth would win all the poker tournaments.

Yesterday, the player in seat 10 went on an amazing hot streak for the first 40 minutes. After he lost the next two hands, he left. He was ahead $800.

A new player took that seat and the seat was still hot! When I left the game, he ahead about $2,500. The hands he showed were all premium hands.

2. Winning betting pattern? Raise, bet, bet, bet.

The player to my right was also winning big. He rarely had to show his cards, since he was clearly playing his opponents.

95% of the time he came into the hand, he did so with a raise. He would just fire away on the flop, turn and river. He bet 100% of the flops, about 90% on the turn, and 80% on the river.

The weird thing to me was that I don't believe anyone was noticing. Everyone was so fixated on their hand and to see if the flop fit their hole cards.

Of course, maybe he had big hands all those times, but I don't think so. He did get called a few times on the river. He showed good or great hands every time, which helped his image.

I did bluff him twice when I was heads-up and knew he had to be weak. I also flopped a big hand against him once. But, overall, he was ahead about $2,000 when I left.

3. There are unlucky seats in poker.

Sometimes you just have to be smart enough to know when it's just not your night.

Frankly, despite this incredible run of bad luck with those pocket Kings, I was down only about $50 most of the night. It wasn't until I got KK for the 7th and 8th time, yeah, and lost, that it effected me.

I guess I should have left earlier... oh well, bad streaks do happen. It is called gambling.
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Friday, March 12, 2010

5 Things I Learned From Watching Phil Hellmuth Play Poker at the Bay 101 WPT

5 Things I Learned From Watching Phil Hellmuth Play Poker at the Bay 101 WPT

hellmuth at wsop 2006Image via Wikipedia

The Bay 101 Shooting Stars event had a webcast where you could watch the action live. The camera was fixed and you got to see play at only one table. Overall, it was excellent! If you are a poker club and want to attract more players to your tournaments, this is a great way to do it.

Daniel was the at the featured table on Day 1a, while Phil was at the featured table for the last three days.

I spent a lot of time watching Phil play poker and spotted a few trends in his play. One caveat: you don't get to see hole cards or the community cards. Yesterday, they added a second shot that tried to show the viewer the community cards, but frankly, it was difficult to see.

Giving these limitations, here is my learning from watching the action.

5 Things I Learned From Watching Phil Hellmuth:

1. Players willingly revealed their hole cards to Phil way too often.

At the start of the event, Phil would ask a player what they had. Almost all of the players would not reply.

So Phil started to show his cards to loosen things up. And it worked. I have never witnessed so much sharing at a poker table. I am convinced Phil was getting more information on his opponents than they were getting on him.

A similar thing happened on Day 1a with Daniel Negreanu. But since the players like Daniel, he would just have to ask a player what they had, and often, the player would just tell him! Were all these players lying? Maybe. But, I don't think so.

Hey...it's tough to lie when you actually show your hand! It was amazing to me. Do these players think Daniel and Phil are going to be their new best friends?

2. Phil often says he has a "good" or a "stronger" hand than the other players.

It was funny how often Phil would say "I had a hand" after the hand had ended. He would sometimes even say what it was to his opponent (or show one or both cards.)

By doing this table talk, my impression is the following:
  • Phil added the perception of strength to every hand he got from the dealer.
  • Phil loosened up his opponents to make it acceptable to share information/hole cards.
  • Phil got his opponents to like him more.
At one point Phil even mentioned how his opponents always tell him how likable he is in person, unlike the way he is shown on TV.

3. Phil was the more aggressive and intimidating player at his table.

Phil raised pre-flop more often than his opponents. His opponents did not want to tangle with Phil, so he would steadily build his stack.

4. Phil played his opponents rather than his own cards.

Clearly, almost every time an opponent checked, Phil would take it as a sign of weakness and bet. Phil was great at playing his opponents whether in position or out of position.

Here is a typical sequence when Phil was in position:

Player A raises pre-flop. Phil calls. It goes heads-up to the flop.
Player A make a c-bet. Phil calls.
Player A checks the turn. Phil bets. Player A takes longer time than usual to decide his play before he mucks.

Here is a typical sequence when Phil was out of position:

Player A raises pre-flop. Phil calls on the big blind. It goes heads-up to the flop.
Phil checks. Player A make a c-bet. Phil calls.
Phil checks the turn. Player A checks the turn.
Phil bets on the river. Player A takes longer time than usual to decide his play before he mucks.

Was Phil floating all these times? I don't know if he had a big hand or not. But, if he had a big hand every time he said he did, than he was playing with a different deck of cards than everyone else:-)

It was like Phil was playing at a higher level of poker--and frankly, I think he was doing just that!

5. Phil was more cautious against the professional players.

When the tables got down to 6 players, Phil was playing against better opponents and a few pros. He was more cautious in his play. And, of course, the pots were going to be a lot bigger with the bigger blinds.

The one additional move he used more often was the pre-flop re-raise against an aggressive player. Phil would identify his aggressive opponent and allow him to win a few hands heads-up with pre-flop folds. However, eventually Phil would re-raise the aggressive players pre-flop, and take down a nice sized pot.


Phil has been playing great against his weaker opponents. He has also gotten lucky a few times where he found pocket Q's vrs pocket 10's, and a boat against a straight. Fact: You gotta be lucky to win a poker tournament.

It will be interesting to see how things go for Phil at the final table. Right now he is in second place in chips.

Since I play in the Bay Area, I think the local players were at a disadvantage in that we do not have much experience in tournaments with this kind of structure or this level of competition.
I believe that the longer rounds and more starting chips gave the local players a false sense of security; that is, you can just wait a lot longer for big cards. Watching Phil and Daniel play poker I can tell you that is not the case if you want to win.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

Sponsored Post: Limit Hold'em Myth About Pocket Aces

Pocket AcesImage by John-Morgan via Flickr

Sponsored Post: Limit Hold'em Myth About Pocket Aces

Another post from Rakemeback.com. This one reviews the myth about pocket aces in limit poker. Frankly, if you get pocket aces in a limit game, you should raise and re-raise pre-flop
in any position. Yes, even in the big blind.

Fixed Limit Poker (FL)

Fixed Limit poker is the ancestor of all other poker betting structures, and as such it should be respected. These days, with NL Holdem firmly ruling the roost, Limit Holdem is more and more marginalized. With most rookies going into business at the NL Holdem tables, the list of Limit Holdem haters grows longer each day.

The truth about these haters is though that their attitude reflects nothing but ignorance. Ask any good poker player whether he/she hates limit Holdem or not. You’ll probably be told that while Limit Holdem does have its peculiarities, there’s absolutely nothing to make it less attractive then NL, or PL for that matter.

Most haters base their attitudes towards the game on myths. There are countless myths surrounding the game, mostly spread by those who have never spent enough time at the FL tables to really get to know the game.

Pocket Rockets: A Myth

One such myth is the one about pocket rockets losing value dramatically in FL. Some people will tell you that because a player has his hands tied when it comes to protecting a starting hand, all solid starting hands lose value. Some will even go as far as to tell you that you should not commit anything on pocket rockets because they’re guaranteed to be cracked.

I’m here to tell you though that pocket rockets represent the best starting hand in Holdem, regardless of whether it’s FL, PL or NL we’re taking about, and that they’re equally valuable in all three betting structures. The way that value manifests itself is different though.

With that in mind, my advice to you is to stuff that FL pot the best you can when you pick up pocket rockets, and I’ll prove to you why that’s indeed the reasonable thing to do.

The Value of Aces

I’ll start from the premise that everyone calls everyone in FL poker all the time: the very reason why haters say there’s no value left in the game. This is obviously a theoretical premise only, it won’t happen in real life, but I’ll start from a worst-case scenario just to make my point easier to comprehend.

At a 10-handed table, (going up against 9 other players) your aces will win about 28% of the time against non-random hands like K,K, Q,Q, A,K and some suited connectors and suited one-­gappers. If we are to consider 9 random hands, that percentage climbs to around 30%. What that means is that your pocket rockets will win 1 out of 3 confrontations against 9 other players, on average.

There’s your explanation to why it looks like your rockets lose often: because that is the case indeed. The only thing is, stuffing the pot on pocket rockets still remains profitable and here’s why:

Suppose you invest 10 units on every pocket-rocket hand that you play. That means after 3 hands, you have 30 units invested of which you lose 20. You win the 3rd hand so that’s not a loss for you. Considering that your opponents call you all the way, that means the third time you book a clean profit of 90 units. 90-20 = 70: that’s a very handsome profit over those 3 hands of play indeed. As the number of players goes down, your odds go up, so you’ll always be able to book a nice profit on your pocket rockets.

The conclusion: pocket rockets are just as profitable in FL Holdem as they are in NL. It just takes longer for your edge to yield palpable results. On top of that, you do not risk dropping your entire stack on a cracked pair of aces like you do in NL.

The bottom line: playing well pays just as well in FL as it does in NL. Make sure that you stuff the pot on those rockets every time and sign up for a rakeback deal or for a poker prop deal for cryin’ out loud. Because of the peculiarities of the betting structure, your stack is going to last longer, and you’ll have to eke out your profit over more hands than in NL Holdem. More hands mean more poker rake though and you need to compensate for that somehow.
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

More: How to turn things around in poker when things go bad

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

Working on turning things around in MTT's

As I stated in my last post, I have been hitting a bad streak in MTT's. I'd like to declare that after re-reading and studying Harrington's and my books, that I won the next 3 poker tournaments I entered. I did not.

My results (about 100 players in each event):

1. A-K
I lost with my A-K against A-7 with 24 players left.
The situation was that we were 8 handed and everyone folded to the button who raised about 3x's the big blind. I moved all-in on the small blind. He risked two thirds of his stack with A-7 offsuit with an insta-call! I don't understand his play. He was getting 2-1 but there was no way he would be getting the right price.

By the way, if I win with A-K I am the chip leader!

2. A-6
When we got to the final table, I was one of the lower stacks. But I got lucky getting to the final table.

When it was 20 players, I was moving all-in a lot since my stack was low. I probably moved all-in about 6 times. Each time I was able to steal the blinds and antes. The 7th time I pushed I had A-10 and my opponent called with A-9. I won--but it was not a lot of chips since he was low stacked.

At the final table, I lost 33% of my stack with my K-Q lost to T-9. I finally had to make a move with A-6 in a back position. The big blind found pocket tens. I finished in 10th place and won twice my buy-in.

3. A-A
In the middle of the event, I had about $4,000 in chips. One player moved all-in for $1,500 and another one moved all in for $2,500. I found pocket Aces. The first player had K-J and the second one K-10. The flop came down with 2 Kings and the turn was a T.

With the next blind jump to $300-$600, I had to take a stand and it was over quick.

More Learning

Despite these disappointments, I feel pretty good about things. I really believe that reviewing Harrington's Inflection points and my book has helped. My book reminds me to be aggressive and Harrington's book provides solid guidelines using M.

However, I don't believe Harrington has gone far enough in his book. It seems to me that there are different levels of Red Zone play (M of 1-5) that is key to end game strategy. My experience is that there are three segments within the Red Zone: M of 4-5, M of 3, and M 1-2. And, that pot odds may be something to be ignored.

Anyway, I will look at developing these three segments and providing you with some suggested ways to incorporate them into your game.

If you use Harrington's M for your play, how have you done?

Any learning from following his M and Zones?

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What To Do When You Are Running Bad in Poker.

89 - Cry Baby!Image by eyeliam via Flickr

What To Do When You Are Running Bad in Poker.

Lately, I've been running real bad in poker tournaments. I play on average about twice per week at different clubs in the Bay Area where buy-ins range from $180 to $225.

For the past month, I have been getting knocked out at the final two or three tables. Usually, when I get all-in I am in the lead. But, it doesn't matter as I continue to get busted. For example, in the last game I moved all-in with pocket 10's and got called by pocket 7's. The 7 hit on the flop and I was out in 24th place.

We all go through these periods and a lot of players just say it's bad luck. While that is probably true, I believe that you need to go back and work on your game.

What I Do When I Am Running Bad

Let me share what I do when the poker gods are against me.

Step 1. Read Harrington's book Volume 2.

I go back and read Harrington's book with an emphasis on the chapters about Inflection Points. This is really an excellent review of how to use the concept of M in your play. He reviews the Green, Yellow, Orange, Red and Dead Zones based on your M.

After he reviews these zones, he has many excellent poker problems. The problems throughout Volume 2 are quite good. I used to get a lot of these wrong, and even disagreed with his advice. But, frankly, now I follow his thinking and may only get one or two problems wrong in each section.

Step 2. Read Tournament Poker: 101 Winning Moves

I know this is my book, but the book is not really about my plays. The book is a reference that I compiled from so much material by poker pros over 20 years. I like to review the book to see if there are plays I should be using that I may have forgot.

Just because I wrote the book doesn't mean I can recall all 101 plays at critical moments in a tournament.

Step 3. Play a tournament online

After I complete the first 2 steps, I buy into a MTT online at either fulltilt or bodog. After reading the first two books, I feel re-energized and ready to win an online event.

After I read these books again, I played online at full tilt. Unfortunately, I ended up finishing in 12th place and out of the money. Bummer!

Never the less, I felt like I was ready for Wednesday night's event at the Oaks.

Results from the Oaks

I was doing well, as usual in this tournament. There are quite a few weak players, which allows me to take advantage of their mistakes.

When it got down to 30 players, I was moved to a new table. It was unreal because I was moved to the same seat where I had been knocked out the last 4 times I played at the Oaks. But rather than thinking negative, I decided to think about how "I was due" to win in this seat.

Sure enough, things were going well for me in this "unlucky" seat. I was up to $17,000 at the $400-$800 level and had won two nice pots with pocket Queens and A-K.

After the break, the new blinds increased to $800-$1600 with a $200 ante. I was in the small blind. There were only 8 players at the table as we were down to 24 players.

Everyone folded to the button who raised to $5,500. He has me covered with $25,000. I looked down and found A-K again. I moved all-in and after the big blind folded, my opponent insta-called.

I turned up my A-K and he moaned. He revealed A-7.

The flop hit his 7 and I was out....in 24th place again....in the same seat.

Next Steps

So much for my advice on what to do when you are running bad in poker tournaments...lol.

What do you do when things go against you?
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