Thursday, November 11, 2010

Poker Quiz: Guess What Your Opponent is Holding

Circle-question-blueImage via WikipediaPoker Quiz: Guess What Your Opponent is Holding

I was in an interesting hand the other day at the club. See if you can guess the hand your opponent is holding.

You are in a $15-$30 limit hold'em game. You are in early position and get dealt Js-Jc.

The players in front of you fold and you raise the $15 big blind to $30. It is folded to Bob in the cutoff who re-raises to $45. Bob is a betting station, that is, he likes to take the lead by betting and raising. Debbie, who is on the button, re-raises to $60.

Debbie is a typical player at these middle limit holdem levels.

You call and Bob calls. There are three players in the hand going to the flop, as both blinds fold.

The flop is Jh-4d-2d.

Excellent! You have the nuts!

You bet the flop wanting to get multiple bets.

Bob dutifully raises, and Debbie re-raises. You cap it. Both players call.

The turn is a 7h.

Excellent! You have the nuts and bet out again. Bob doesn't seem to care and he raises you. Debbie calls. You re-raise and now both players call your bet.

The river is an Ace...uh oh..

You check, Bob checks, and Debbie....yeah, Debbie bets.

You call. Bob folds.

Guess what Debbie is holding?

Guess what Bob was holding?

Insert Jeopardy music.... :-)


Debbie shows pocket Aces.

Bob states he had pocket Kings.

You lose over $200 on the hand. Ouch!
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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

4 Main Poker Playing Styles and How to Beat Them

Луи Вэйн - ПокерImage via Wikipedia4 Main Poker Playing Styles and How to Beat Them

There are all sorts of playing styles when it comes to poker. While you can cast poker players as a mixture of tight-loose/passive-aggressive, I think it is more complex.

Here is what I have found while playing at my $15-$30 limit game and some thoughts on how to beat these players:

1. Props and Pros:
The toughest players you will find at a poker room. Why? It's their profession.

The Props are easy to find since they wear a badge to identify they are working for the card room. While the Pros are harder to spot you can pick them out by how they are interacting with the dealers and staff and other poker players--the familiarity is evident.

These players are very similar in that they "think they know" all the moves in the game. The Pros tend to play more hands than the prop players as they want some action and believe they are far superior than everyone else.

Both groups share the same weakness: Habits. Each one of these players have developed tendencies that even they are not even aware of. These habits can be on how they place a bet when they are strong versus when they are weak. Or, it may be how they always bet on paired flops or how they auto-bet after everyone has checked. One thing is for sure--expect a more aggressive playing style that is meant to create fear, uncertainty and doubt into your mind.

How to beat them: Study their betting patterns. Look for tells on how they place their bets, and even facial expressions. Take a shot by raising and check raising them, to see how they respond. Usually, it will slow these players down and get them to fold with a bet on the next street.

2. Attention Seekers:
There are two types of attention seekers. One type stands out because they love to talk. While the other type is quiet. Yet, both type of players want to be noticed for the bad beats they can put on their opponents.

The loud ones will mix things up in the cards they will play and when they raise and re-raise. They can get lucky and win a lot of money in a hurry, and, of course, they can lose a lot of money just as fast. When you find the guy who loves to talk, you've found an attention seeker.

The quiet ones like to stand out in the same way, but without the loud chatter. They will win pots with rags and that perfect runner-runner.

How to beat them: You have to realize that your swings will be larger going against these guys. They bluff more often, and can get paid off big when they pick up premium starting hands. Are they going to put bad beats on you? Yes. The key is not to lose your composure, as long term they are going to give you their money. Be patient.

3. Station bettors:
There are two kinds of station bettors:
-Calling stations: If there is any hope in winning they will call all the way to the river, regardless of what action has taken place on any street. Short and long term a calling station is a losing player. I don't know how they can afford to lose so much money.

-Betting stations: They are similar to calling stations, except that if they have an opportunity to bet first they will. And they will fire on every street with any draw or any pair all the way to the river. Oh, and if the you turned one of these players into a calling station, they don't feel comfortable in that situation. So, you can expect that raise or check raise on the turn or river to get you to fold.

How to beat them: Overall, you can't bluff out these players.
Calling stations: Bet for value. Don't raise without the goods. And make sure you can beat a low pair before betting on the river.
Betting stations: Call with as little as a low pair. If a scare card comes out on the turn and a betting station ignores it, it is a sign they are not that strong.

4. Thoughtful and careful players:
They tend to be recreational players who have read that tight-aggressive is the way to win at poker. They tend to bet their hands, and call with draws. They may have a move or two at the poker table, but are vulnerable to raises and check raises. Of course, since they don't play poker for a living, they don't like to fold. The result is that if they call you on the turn when raised, they will lean to calling you on the river.

How to beat them:
Raising these players will slow them down. So go for that free card with a raise. Being aggressive on the flop or river can get these players to fold, especially if the board is coordinated enough. But, if they call you on the turn, expect that river call.

Note: I have found one or two players who are Flush Lovers; that is, they, will play any two two suited starting cards. For some reason, they relish in that rare win when their Q-6 suited either makes a flush or two pair on the river. The good news: Over time they will give you their money.

I hope this helps. Any other styles?
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Friday, November 5, 2010

3 Poker Bluffs That Are Essential To Winning Poker

The Cincinnati KidImage via Wikipedia3 Poker Bluffs That Are Essential To Winning Poker

Here are three poker bluffs that every poker player should know and use in both no limit and limit hold'em.

1. Steal Flops

My favorite bluff is the steal flop. I must give credit to Bob Ciaffone and Jim Brier, since I learned about this bluff in their excellent book "Middle Limit Holdem Poker."

A steal flop is one that is not coordinated and consists of one face card or Ace along with two rags. For example, a flop of Ks-6d-2h is a great steal flop. If you are against three or less opponents, this is an excellent flop to bet. The reason is that there are no flush or straight draws and an opponent needs to have a King (or better) to call your bet.

2. Paired Flops

A second favorite poker bluff is a flop that comes with a pair. When you are first to bet this flop, an opponent will fold since he believes he is way behind. It is difficult to call a player who looks like he is holding trips, especially when the pot is small.

Importantly, the rank of the cards is influential on if your bluff will work. For example, if the flop is Jd-5s-5h, you are more likely to win with a bet as few players hold rags (a 5 in this example). Also, if you are in a blind, it looks like you have one of those big blind or small blind specials.

On the other hand, a flop like Qh-Qs-6d is less likely to work since Queens are in the playing zone (9 to Ace) for most players.

3. Stealing Blinds

Most players know that if they are on the button and everyone folds, it is often smart to raise to try to win the blinds. This play works best if you evaluate the players in the blind as tight and looking to fold, rather than defend/chase after their forced bets.

Of course, the same play should be considered for those in the cutoff position and even the hijack or power position (two seats from the button). Again, knowing the playing styles of your opponents who act after you are vital.

My suggestion is that you set up starting hand requirements for stealing blinds from the button, cutoff and hijack positions and adjust based on your experience.

Here is an example of starting hand requirements for stealing blinds by position:

Button: All pairs, any Ace-x hand, and two cards that total 18 or higher (using blackjack values for cards)
Cutoff: Pairs of 77 and higher, Ace-8 suited or better, Ace-9 unsuited or better, and two cards that total 19 or higher
Hijack: Pairs of 88 and higher, Ace-9 suited or better, Ace-10 unsuited or better, and two cards that total 20 or higher

You can adjust these requirements to your opponents, your table image, the situation, etc. The key is to start with guidelines so you know before you sit down at the poker table your action without hesitation in stealing blinds.

I hope this helps your game.

If you have any favorite poker bluffs, please don't hesitate to share them. Best of luck!
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