Wednesday, September 29, 2010

An Interesting Hand of Poker: What would you do?

Ace of spades.Image via WikipediaAn Interesting Hand of Poker: What would you do?

I am playing in a $15-$30 live cash game of limit hold'em. It is a full table of 10 players.

In this hand, I am on the button with As-Ts.

Everyone folds to the player in the cutoff. This player is winning tonight and he has been super aggressive with many pre-flop raises.

As expected, he raises.

I already had decided that whenever he raises first in a pot in late position, I would re-raise him with a calling hand or better. My objective is to get heads-up on the flop.

I re-raise here.

The small blind is a selectively aggressive player. He has been having a losing session, though, and he may be a little on tilt after the last few pots he lost. He calls-which is a little surprising

The big blind is straight forward in his play. A little too conservative and predictable. It surprises me when he calls as well.

The Flop

The pot is $180.

The flop is Ad-7h-6h.

The player in the small blind bets out. The big blind calls. The cutoff folds.

I raise..Why? I think I am ahead, and this raise will help me to find out more on where I stand in this pot.

Well, to my surprise the small blind re-raises and the big blind caps it!

What the heck is going on here?

Would you call two bets with your hand here?

I take some time to think this over. I put the big blind on a flush draw since he didn't raise the first time the small blind bet. I put the small blind on top pair. The question is does he have me out-kicked?

Well, I take some more time to think about the small blind. If he had A-K or A-Q, he would have re-raised me pre-flop. That means that he either has A-J, A-T or worse. I doubt he flopped two pair or a set.

I make the call.

Three of us take the turn.

The pot is now $360.

The Turn

The turn is a 6c, pairing the board.

The small blind bets out and the big blind calls.

Okay, what should I do here?

What would you do?

I could raise--but I doubt I will slow down the small blind or get anyone to fold given the pot size. And, I won't necessarily get a free card either.

The pot is too big now, but I really don't want to see a river bet from my opponents. How can I get the small blind to stop from betting on the river?

I say out-loud ..."I'm either way ahead or way behind."

I figure that if the big blind misses his draw, there is no way that the small blind will bet as he has to believe that I may have A-K or A-Q now.

I call.

The pot is now $450.

The River and the Results

The river is a 2s.

My opponents check...should I bet here?

Well, given what I said on the turn, I check.

The small blind shows A-8. The big blind mucks.

I win with my A-T!

What a seems so clear now.
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Poker Quiz: See if you can catch this mistake in hold'em?

Yes checkImage via WikipediaA Poker Quiz: See if you catch this mistake in hold'em?

You are playing holdem--it could be a limit, no limit ring game or a tournament--it doesn't matter.

The blinds are $50-$100, and you have $3,000.

You are in the big blind with 10c-4h.

An early position player limps. A middle position player limps. And the button calls as well. The small blind mucks.

You check, happy to see the flop for free.

The flop comes Kd-Qs-2s.

You check. The early player bets. Everyone folds to you.

You fold.

Question: Did you catch the mistake?

Answer: Folding is certainly the correct play. The mistake is that you were not thinking ahead of what you are going to do in this situation if different flops hit. At the very least, you should know what you would do if you hit a pair, two pair, or trips here--and if the board is coordinated or not.

Most players do not anticipate what will happen and plan ahead. Don't be one of those players!

Before the flop, you should be thinking about:

how many opponents
your opponents' table image
how your opponents view your playing style
how big is the pot
what action to take if you miss or hit your hand--and
how the flop type will effect your play.

I sense this mistake all of the time in poker. The player who is first to act ends up hesitating if the flop somehow connects to his hand--and then, he doesn't want to give it away, so he checks.

Think ahead. What is the situation? And, what action should you take? This is key when you are first to act on any street.
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Monday, September 6, 2010

Tournament Poker: Do You Know This? I Didn't!

Odds Against TomorrowImage via WikipediaTournament Poker: Do You Know This? I Didn't!

Yesterday, I was playing in the Oaks tournament and my game plan was working very well.
We were down to 20 players, the blinds were $1,000-$1,500 with $200 antes, I had $30,000 and I was in a middle position.

With pocket 7's, I raised to $4,500. A tight player smooth called, and another tight player moved all-in for $12,000.

What should I do? What would you do?

The first thing I did was to put my opponents on a range of hands. I put the first player with a middle pocket pair like 8's, 9's or 10's or A-Q, A-J. The second player, I put on QQ, KK, AA or AK.

The second thing I did was look at the odds. It was going to cost me $7,500 to call. So if I called and the first player called, I was betting $7,500 to win the blinds (2500), the antes (3000), my bet (4500), the all-in bet (12000), and the first player's bet of (12000) for a total of $32,000. Therefore, it would cost me $7500 to $32000 or about 4+ to 1.

The final thing I did was look at how many chips the first caller had left. He had $10,000 more, so I thought I would probably have to call this amount as well. This reduced my odds a lot.

I figured my odds of winning this hand was now really poor, especially given the pot odds, so I folded.

What happened...

The first caller had pocket 10's, and the all-in player had pocket Kings. I felt like I made the right play. On the flop a 10 showed up, and I felt really smart. Of course, that changed when the turn and river revealed that I would have hit a runner-runner straight..Doh!

What I did not know....

I know that in a pair versus pair situation, the bigger pair is an 80% favorite. What I didn't know are the odds in a pair versus pair versus pair situation. I checked the Cardplayer hold'em calculator for the answer using the above situation:

KK: 66%
TT: 19%
77: 15%

My odds are 5-1...a lot higher than I thought.

Given this learning, do you think I made the right decision?

I did cash in the event, and my system is now 2 for 9, with one win.
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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Tournament Poker: My New System Update.

The Whirlpool Galaxy (Spiral Galaxy M51, NGC 5...Image via WikipediaTournament Poker: My New System Update.

I am feeling pretty good about my new poker system for no limit tournaments. I have only used this at my local card room, so I am not sure how it would work online.

I believe I have had better results than in the past because the system allow me to win bigger pots, minimize the size of my loses in a pot, and gives me a super tight image early on which I can change later in the event.

Learning from Early Stages:

In early stages, the approach requires you to be passive--very passive. You are looking to limp with even your strongest hands and hit big on the flop. You are not going to lose big or go broke with AK.

You do need a lot of discipline to play this way, especially the ability to laydown a premium hand when action is aggressive on the flop or turn.

A couple of other advantages that I have found is that you can spend more time evaluating your opponents playing style and you create a very, very tight table image.

Learning from Middle Stages and Late Stages

Here is where your tight image comes into play. The first time you raise, your opponents are going to respect that raise a lot! Even if you get called, a bet on the flop will usually scare your opponent into folding.

You do need to play solid poker, but you want to avoid calling pre-flop. This is a tough habit to get into but you can win bigger pots--or go home early. Put your opponent to the test with a re-raise with hands you usually call a pre-flop raise with.

The only exception: Consider the player, the size of the raise, and the position of the player. In these cases, it is okay to call or even fold.

The other key I take into account in these stages of the event is the size of your stack, and your opponents. If your stack is 12 times the big blind or less, just move all in if you are going to enter the pot.

If your opponents stacks are low, your steal raise is more likely to get called--so be aware.

The most difficult time of the tournament for me is when I get down below 8 times the big blind. Here, you have to take a shot to add chips. I like to play smart, which is a mistake. Let the poker gods decide your results.

My advice with low stack: Ignore your opponents play and just play your cards.

For example: I know if two players are all-in, I would fold a hand like T-8 suited. But, if I have only 4 times the big blind, I need to take a shot and just hope for the best.

Last night, I finally had a good hand, J-Q suited. The first player called and the next player raised. I only had about 4 times the big blind, and I knew I was going to have the worst hand pre-flop, so I folded. It was a mistake.

I should have just ignored the action, and hoped for the best.

Yes, my advice, in this stage--when your stack is low--is to only play your cards by asking yourself, "My stack is so low, I need to take a stand with any two cards. Is this the best hand I am going to get?" If the answer is maybe, go for it.

I hope this learning helps. I am only 1 for 8, but in two events I made the wrong play near the end which would have allowed me a decent shot at winning.
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