Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Guest Post: How Poker Skills Can Help You Land a Job or Get a Better One

Guest Post: How Poker Skills Can Help You Land a Job or Get a Better One

If you or your friends are looking for a new job or trying to upgrade the one you have, see what POKERDIVAS CEO Ellen Leikind has to say about how the principles of poker can help you get what you are looking for. Ellen is the author of PokerWoman: How To Win At Love, Life, and Business Using the Principles of Poker. The book is available at Amazon.com as a hardcover or on Kindle.

Ellen has worked in escalating marketing positions at large consumer packaged goods companies including Pfizer and L’Oreal. She works as an Executive Consultant in the Direct Response TV industry and is a branding expert. She has an MBA in marketing from Fordham University and is a Native new Yorker.

Q. It’s a tough job market out there and people are either looking to find something new or upgrade what they have. How can Poker help you in this very tight Job market?

A. There are many valuable career boosting lessons based on principles learned at the poker table even if you have never played a game of cards. Poker rewards initiative, assertiveness, fearlessness and calculated risk taking all of which are needed for a successful job hunt. Real life stories in PokerWoman illustrate how poker has helped many women in business.

Q. What is the first thing you would tell women when looking for the right job?

A. The first thing I would say to them is stop betting like a girl. Women need to bold and take risk and play to win as opposed to avoid losing. They need to project more bravado and confidence and not be modest when it comes to selling their capabilities.

Q. What is the most important skill in getting ready for the job interview?

A. You can stack the deck in your favor by researching the company and people you want to work for. Poker Players are always sizing up the players at the table so they can play the right way against the right people. You need to know a companies objectives, products and financial situation before you walk in the door. And try to also find out something about the person interviewing you. With Google, face book and linked-in you can learn a lot. Be smart and be prepared.

Q. Once you are in the interview what is an important for the interviewee to be aware of?

A. Pay attention to non-verbal cues or “tells” during the interview both yours and the interviewer. Poker players are always looking for tells, to help get a read on another player. You have to pay attention to the cues you project. Do you make eye contact and sit up straight to project confidence or are your eyes down and hands fumbling projecting fear or lack of interest. On the other side of the coin, pay attention to the person interviewing you. If they look distracted or bored you need to look for ways to re-engage their interest. Women have good intuition in this area use it.

Q. What is the best way to bluff in an interview?

A. You need to be careful here. In a poker game you are expected to be deceptive but in a business situation your reputation is on the line. There is a big difference between a little embellishment and a total lie. If you have done something and are 70% proficient at it and know you can learn the rest it is fine to say you are good at it. But if you have never has any exposure to finance before don’t pretend you are an accountant. Remember if you are called on a bluff which is an out and out lie you have a lot to lose.

Q. What is the best way to put on a Poker face in an interview?

A. Save your poker face for after you have gotten the job offer. You need to be enthusiastic and animated during an interview to convey interest. Once you have an offer and are negotiating salary or benefits then use your pokerface to try to up the ante and get a better deal. The first offer is rarely the best offer they will give.

Q. What happens if you don’t get the job or interview you expected?

A. Remember not every hand is a winner. You are not going to get every interview or job offer even if you are the most qualified. In fact sometimes in life as in poker you do everything right and still lose. Make sure you do not let what poker player’s call a “bad beat” ruin the rest of your hands or job interviews to come. Going on tilt, or being overly emotional about your loss will hurt your ability to go on to the next opportunity. There’s always another hand or interview. Compose yourself and go on to the next. Don’t let your emotions undermine your intelligence.

Q. But it seems like I just keep losing one after the other.

A. There is a great poker story in PokerWoman about a man name Jack Strauss. He was playing in the 1982 World series of poker and thought he had gone “all in “ and put all his chips in the pot during a hand. He lost the hand and thought he was out of the tournament but when he got up to leave it turned out he had 1 chip left. He went on to win that tournament. Out of that experience came the expression “all you need is a chip and a chair.’ Keep motivated, keep playing and stay in the game and you will land something good.

Q. What can I do if I have a job but I am very unhappy and need to find something better.

A. It’s a tough economy out there but sometimes you have to have to know when to fold’em. Getting out of a bad job is sometimes a necessary evil in helping you preserve your sanity. Yes, it is a risk but sometimes you need to take a risk to up your odds for a long term win. Best to look for the job while you are still working but don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and acknowledge that it is time to move on to the next game.

Q. Anything else we can learn from the principles at the poker table.

A. In poker and in life the prizes go to the bold. Be confident, have no fear, show some bravado and bet on your self to become a winner.

Ellen, thanks for your great insights on landing a new job!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Limit Hold'em: Should You Go For A Free Card With a Draw?

How the West Was Won (TV series)Image via WikipediaLimit Hold'em: Should You Go For A Free Card With a Draw?

One area that I have been experimenting with is to develop a guideline for playing draws in limit poker. I believe that drawing hands are an area that most limit players lose most of their money.

One reason for these loses is that these players hit a flush draw a few times, win a big pot, and decide that they know how to play these hands. But, in reality, they
are making the wrong plays and it is costing them big time.

Here, I want to address the notion of raising in position on the flop for a free card when you have a draw, most often, a flush draw.

The Free Card: Example

An example of a taking a free card is when you are on the button with As-5s and you limp in against 3 opponents. The flop comes Ks-Ts-4h. The small bets out and the next two players call. Here, the standard "free card" play is to raise since your opponents are likely to call your bet and check to you on the turn. If this happens, you can check the turn and get a free card.

A couple of key problems with this advice:
1. The initial bettor may re-raise your flop bet. This re-raise will cost you more, may get other players to fold, and reduce your expected return if you do make your flush.
2. When you check the turn when you miss your flush, you essential reveal your hand to your opponents. In fact, some authors suggest you should bet the turn as well, since the odds of making a flush are 36% and you are getting 3 to 1 on your money. I think is a bad play.

A Better Approach To The Free Card

A better approach is to plan ahead before you blindly go for that free card raise. You should consider the number of opponents, the composition of the flop, the style of your opponents, and your table image. (Note: Position is also critical, but in the example, you are on the button with the best absolute position.)

The number of opponents:
Since you have three opponents, you are in a situation where you are getting 3 to 1 on your money. That is, for every one bet, you can earn 3 bets, or 25%. This appears favorable as your odds of making a flush are higher. However, I think that your bet on the flop is to make your flush on the turn. It may cost you more on the turn. The odds are actually less than 25% to hit your flush on the turn.

In addition, as stated before, the more opponents the less likely you are to get a free card on the turn.

The composition of the flop:
In limit poker, the cards that are most often in play are in the playing zone of between 9 to Ace. If two cards hit the flop which are in the playing zone, the more likely your opponents are going to stick in the hand. In fact, I believe, a ten on the board is even stickier, as this card is needed to make a straight.

You really need to understand the composition of a flop. A coordinated flop tends to keep players in a hand as it presents opportunities to hit draws. So, if you believe that a raise on the flop and a bet on the turn (when you miss your flush) will get players to fold in a highly coordinated flop, you are usually mistaken.

The style of your opponents:
If your opponents are good, you have to worry about that small blind holding a hand that hurts your probability of taking down the pot. The small blind has bet into three players which usually means he has a King with a decent kicker, a set, or two small pair. Of course, he could be betting a straight draw or a flush draw. And, a flush draw here would mean your odds are not as good as you believe.

If you are playing in a low limit game, where players just play their cards, then your opponents can hold any two cards. But, at middle limits, I would read the small blind bet (assuming he is a typical player) as most likely being a bet to a top pair or a drawing hand.

Your table image:
If your opponents have seen you make this raise to get a free card before, it is more likely that you will be re-raised by the bettor. If you are seen as a tight player, it will more likely get your opponents to call your bet.

How I Would Play this Hand

In the example above, let me share with you my thinking. Again, you are on the button in that classic, free card play situation.

I would only call the flop bet as I am concerned the small blind will re-raise me and even if he doesn't, if I check the turn when I miss, I may as well show my cards to my opponents.

I know that if I hit my flush on the turn, that third spade on the board will scare most of my opponents into folding or slowing down. If I hit my flush on the river, at best I will only get one caller. Of course, if I miss my flush on the turn and river, and no one else bets, I only put in one big bet on the flop by raising for a free card.

Instead, I prefer to call the flop bet to keep those three opponents in the hand and to see how the hand develops. This is a coordinated flop, so all my opponents have some piece or draw to call that small blind bet. Granted, I may lose more if I miss, as it will cost me one one small bet and one big bet (the flop and turn--assuming no raises on the turn). But, if I do hit my flush on the turn, I can bet and/or raise here, or if I hit my flush on the river, I will probably get a nice pay off by keeping my opponents in the hand.

My belief is that while building a pot is a good play at times (especially with the nut flush draw), a key question to ask yourself in limit poker is "Will my bet get my opponents to fold?" Here, that is not going to happen. So, if you are trying to build a pot and take less risk with a nice return, why not just let the hand play out on the turn? The pot will build itself here on its own.

What do you think?
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Monday, October 4, 2010

How to Win and Not Just Play Your Next Hand of Poker

Bingo Card SampleImage via WikipediaHow to Win and Not Just Play Your Next Hand of Poker

I really think that a lot of people who play poker, play it like bingo. I mean they are trying to match their cards with those on the flop, turn and river--as if numbers on a bingo card. If there is a match they bet, if not they fold. How absurd!

The Bingo Player

Let me give you an example of what I see at the limit hold'em poker table. A player is in the big blind. Five opponents limp, and the player in the big blind peeks at his hole cards. He finds a Jc-5h offsuit. He checks.

The flop is Js-9d-4d.


He bets out into his five opponents.

He gets two callers.

"Uh, oh."

The turn is 7h.

He bets again, hoping his two opponents will fold.

He gets one caller.

The river is a 7c.

He checks, hoping his opponent will check.

His opponent bets.

He calls.

His opponent turns over J-10, and takes the pot.

Our hero loses.

What did he do wrong on this hand?

Answer: Everything!

Poker is Not Bingo

Let's take another look at this hand, played a much better way.

In the big blind, our hero should have been asking himself questions before he even peeked at his cards. Such as:
Player A limped. What does he limp into hand with? Is he straight forward or a tricky player?
Player B, C, etc. What does it mean when these players limp?

Yes, there are a wide range of hands they can each have, but start to formulate an idea of what is going on at your table. Perhaps, the player who limps in early position may be playing fewer hands and stronger starting hands than a player in a late position.

Our hero checks his cards and sees he has junk, so he checks on the big blind.

Before the flop, he should have an idea of what he will do if he hits top pair, low pair, trips, or nothing. This "idea" is based first on the number of opponents in the pot.

For example, he should be thinking "I have 5 opponents. If I hit top pair, it wouldn't make much sense to bet out in this pot with such a weak kicker. After all, they all limped, and players will limp with hands like K-J, Q-J, 10-J."

Note: If he had two opponents, betting out would make more sense. And, if the player to act last was aggressive, he could even check raise on the flop.

In this hand, when the flop hit, our hero should have checked. Now, when one player bet and another one called, our hero should be thinking about the odds to continue assuming he will win only if he hits a second pair. And, there is no guarantee that he will win, if he does hit his three outer! After all, an opponent can already have two pair, trips or a redraw to a flush or a higher pair.

Yes, there are a lot of things to be thinking about at a poker table! It is not bingo.

Ask Yourself Questions before, during and after each hand of poker

Who your opponents are? How do they play? What are their tendencies? Moods?
How can you beat their game?
What should you do with your hand, based on your position? Your chips stack?
How many opponents are in the hand? How does this effect your decision?
What are the pot odds? Implied odds?
Should I fold, bet, raise, check-raise, etc?

Think about writing down a list of questions to ask yourself. And, go through them in your mind, each time you play a hand of poker. Be prepared. Get into a routine so you are ready to win your next hand of poker and not just play it.

The Power of Poker Tells:

I was competing in a $15-$30 limit game last night, and I spotted a potential tell on one of the top players. However, I was not 100% positive. But, I knew if I was correct, I would be able to adjust my play to take advantage of his tell.

So, this is what I did to find out.

Hand #1: He raised pre-flop in a middle position. I had K-J and called. The flop was all rags. He bet and I called. The turn was a rag. He bet and I called. The river was another rag. He bet. I spotted the tell that he was weak.

I knew I did not have the best hand, and I thought about raising. But, I wanted to be sure about my tell. I decided to call, knowing I would probably lose to an A-x hand. He turned over K-Q. I mucked. Everyone was rather surprised I called all the way without being able to beat K high.

Hand #2: This player raised again pre-flop. I had 10-7. I called. Not because I had a good hand, but I was hoping to get heads-up and use his tell to my advantage. No one else called. The flop came down. I had zip. He bet and I called. The turn did not help me either. He bet. And again, his tell said he was weak. I raised. He mucked.

Hand #3: The same situation as before. However, when I raised him on the turn with nothing, he called. Uh oh. When the river hit, I had J high. He checked and once again I bet. He folded.

Unfortunately, this player left the table a few hands later.

The one thing about poker: If you can pick up on a tell on your opponent, you can literally own them at the poker table. I can't wait till I play him again!
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Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Poker Concept: Little Talked About, But One That Can Turn You Into a Big Winner

Galleria BorgheseImage via WikipediaA Poker Concept: Little Talked About, But One That Can Turn You Into a Big Winner

I have been playing a lot of middle limit poker and I believe that many players don't understand the concept of "Table Composition." Yet, table composition is often the the first and most important thing to recognize when you start to play in a poker session.

First, you must understand that table composition is not to be confused with one player's table image.

I would define "table composition" as the table images of all your opposition combined along with the circumstances that these players are experiencing at that session.

Table Composition

In limit hold'em you will find that the way the table composition should greatly influence your selection of starting hands. Usually in limit hold'em you will find that pre-flop the following will occur:

1. A lot of limpers.
2. A raiser and a few callers.
3. A raiser and a lot of callers.

A lot of limpers

If the table composition results in a lot of limpers in a pot, you must widen your starting hands to include drawing hands. Drawing hands are small to medium pocket pairs, and suited connectors. When it comes to suited connectors, I'd recommend playing only no-gap and one gap suited connectors. In addition, you can also play unsuited connectors in a back position for one bet--such as 6-5 offsuit.

However, you must realize that your premium hands go down in value. The reason is that A-K does not play well against 5 plus opponents. Even pocket Aces are vulnerable, and as far as pocket Jacks go--well, you better hit a set on the flop!

Overall, this is the kind of table composition you will find in low limit games and when players are playing by route, tired or stuck in a middle limit games.

A raiser and a few callers

Most middle limit games result in one player raising pre-flop with a few callers. This means that you need to play solid poker and fully understand the concepts of limit play. The premium hands go up in value, while the drawing hands go down in value.

Most flops in these games result in everyone checking to the pre-flop raiser, and the player on a draw raising the bettor on the flop. It is a case of hitting or missing, stealing, and some smart poker moves in order to be a consistent winner at middle limit hold'em.

A raiser and a lot of callers

When you sit down to a game where most everyone is playing to win a big pot with a wide range of hands, look out! This is gonna be a wild ride. The variance in these games is wide and you can walk away a big winner or a big loser.

You can expect players to be aggressive on the flop and turn with raises and check raises. The reason for this aggressive play is that it builds the pot for a draw, the player with the best hand and/or get an opponent to fold before the river. Frankly, the pots are often so big, that at times to chasing to the river is not a mistake or that big of a mistake.

The starting hands played will be similar to the game with a lot of limpers, except for a few differences.

When you have a drawing hand in an early position and the player raises under the gun, you are going to have to call and expect to get multiple callers. Hands like 7-5 suited are worth a shot, when you know you are going to be paid off if you hit your hand.

Also, you must understand that when you miss your A-K on the flop, don't just bet into 5 plus opponents. Check and hope for a free card.

And, if you raised with those pocket Aces or pocket Kings pre-flop, you must muck them when the board is coordinated and there is a lot of betting and raising on the flop. You may have an overpair but with multiple opponents and redraws you are taking the worst of it.

Again, these games are wild and it can be a very profitable or costly session to compete in. In fact, when the table composition is this aggressive and risk-adverse, you may want to move tables.


You will get much better results when you understand table composition. Often you can get a sense of how your table is playing after just a few hands.

Oh, and you should also realize, that as players change, the table composition may also change.
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