Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Stop Misplaying Small Pocket Pairs

Stop Misplaying Small Pocket Pairs

When you get dealt a small pocket pair in a poker tournament, do you react with fear, confusion, joy or ? I believe small pocket pairs are an opportunity to accumulate a big increase in stack size.

Recently I sat down with a poker player to talk about his game. One of the things he said really surprised me. He stated that he entered a deep stack tournament and in the first round, he folded pocket 4's after a really good player raised pre-flop. His thinking was that he didn't want to get involved with this super aggressive player since if he hit a set, he would probably lose against a better set. In fact, when his opponent revealed pocket Aces, it confirmed his belief his fold was the right decision.

I was quite surprised and by his thinking. It is all wrong.

How To Play Small Pocket Pairs

Pocket pairs, even small pocket pairs, provide an excellent opportunity to stack your opponent when you hit a set. Poker tournaments are about winning. Winning is about accumulating chips. You can't accumulate chips unless you take smart risks with small pairs.

Here are the things to consider when you are dealt a hand like pocket 3's.

1. The stage of the tournament
2. Stack sizes of your opponents and your own stack size
3. Your position and the action in front of you
4. Your table image and the table image of your opponent
5. How your table is being played

Let me give you a couple of examples:

Calling early in an event
I was at the daily event at the Venetian. We had played one round and the table was playing ABC poker. I was taking advantage of this situation by making pre-flop raises after a lot of limpers. I had 12,000, while most opponents had 8-10,000 in chips.

I was in the big blind with pocket 9's. Pocket 9's are not a small pocket pair. They are a premium pair. 6 players limped. There was 750 in the pot, so I raised to 1,200. Everyone folded except for the button. I put this player on a small pair or a suited Ace.

The flop came 9-6-2 with two spades. I bet out. I was raised, so I re-raised. My opponent moved all-in and I called. He had pocket 6's and lost his stack.

The fact is that he played his hand correctly even though he lost. I had 12,000 in chips and he had 10,000. He called my raise because there was no more action pre flop, the stacks were big so the implied odds were excellent, and hitting a set would more than likely double his stack.

While the outcome was not what he wanted, the fact is that he played his hand correctly.

Re-raising in the middle or later rounds of an event

Small pocket pairs are also an opportunity to re-raise pre flop. An example is when an overly aggressive pre flop raiser, raises again in a back position. If you have position and get dealt a small pocket pair consider the re-raise here, if:

  • Your opponent has been raising pre flop too frequently
  • Your both deep stacked
  • You have a tight table image; that is, you haven't been raising pre flop often and almost never three bet pre flop
A re-raise here should get your opponent to fold. Now, some opponents won't fold their Ace-x hand against a three bet. That is okay. If the flop is not dangerous-for example three rags--a continuation bet should take down the pot. If the flop has high ranking cards and coordinated, checking is a good option to take a free card.

Too many players view small pocket pairs as chip bleeders. That is only true if you play them scared. Small pocket pairs are a great opportunity to double up your stack or increase your stack size significantly. In fact, when I am holding a small pocket pair and my opponent raises pre flop I am hoping he has pocket Aces.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Top 10 Things Martin Staszko is Doing With His New Fame and Fortune

Top 10 Things Martin Staszko is Doing With His New Fame and Fortune

Please note: This post is not meant to offend. Only to provide a chuckle or perhaps two chuckles from the reader. If you are one who gets offended with poor attempts at humor, please do not continue reading...but if you do read on, please accept my aplology.

Top 10 Things Martin Staszko is Doing With His New Fame and Fortune

10. Opening a plaid fashion store on the Strip

9. Avoiding the constant calls from Matt Giannatti's girlfriend

8. Upgrading his home's dial-up connection to the Internet

7. Getting texts from Howard Lederer to be the new face of Full Tilt Poker

6. Buying the Czech Republic

5. Hiring Jason Bourne to liquidate Pius Heinz

4. Sacrificing two virgins to the poker gods for his success but having to leave Vegas to find them

3. Taking Rosetta Stone courses to learn how to say in 36 languages: "Damn, I should haven't called all-in with a lousy flush draw!"

2. Ending his 1-2 Koruna home poker game with Boris, Bogdan and Dudek

1. Making a sex video with Kim Kardashian
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Friday, November 4, 2011

November Nine: My Experience Playing Against Heinz & Staszko at the WSOP.

Poker chip with the WSOP logo.Image via WikipediaNovember Nine: My Experience Playing Against Heinz & Staszko at the WSOP.

I was fortunate to have finished 71st at the WSOP Main Event and play against Pius Heinz and Martin Staszko: two of the players at the November Nine final table.

On Day 4, I spent the entire day having Heinz seated next to me, on my right. Here are my observations about his game:
  • A successful online player who obviously has figured out how to play live.
  • He is super aggressive, and will two, three and four bet preflop in order to the take the initiative with a c-bet on the flop, or better yet, get his opponent to fold before the flop.
  • He was very lucky as he doubled up against a new player at our table with a big stack. This guy sat down and lost all his chips on two hands against Pius' two premium starting hands.
  • In a leveling war against another aggressive player at the table, Pius hit his draw on the turn and got paid off big on his river bet.
  • I learned a couple of moves from watching Pius play, which I have used in my game with some success.
  • He is young, super aggressive and a really nice guy at the poker table.
How will Pius do at the final table?
While I will be rooting for him to win, my hunch is that he is going to get it all-in against an opponent's premium starting hand like pocket Kings and lose a big pot. Just a hunch.

On Day 5, Staszko was also seated next to me, on my right. Unlike Heinz, I only got to play against him for around 3 hours. Here are my observations of his game:
  • A cautious player who uses his tight image to steal pots.
  • He will enter a pot with a range of hands if he has been inactive for a while.
  • My impression is that he likes to see flops and then evaluate the situation.
  • An opponent's continuation bet will not get him to automatically fold, even if he only holds an Ace overcard to the board.
  • He doesn't say a word at the table.
  • It will be incredibly difficult to win chips from him.
How will Martin do at the final table?
Unlike Pius, I believe Martin will more cautious given his chip lead. My hunch is that he will finish in second or third place, as his lack of aggressiveness will hurt him when the game is short handed.

My selection to win it all: Phil Collins.

Who are you picking to win it all?
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

10 Specific Poker Tells You Can Cash-in On

hellmuth at wsop 200610 Specific Poker Tells You Can Cash-in On

I may not be the best card player but I believe I am fairly good when it comes to reading my opponents. My ability to read players is about being able to differentiate when an opponent is strong or weak. Am I perfect at this skill? No. But, I have learned quite a bit that I want to share with you.

The one area that usually gets overlooked is the tells you provide your opponents. If you don't believe you
may signaling your hand strength to opponents, think again.

Recently, I moved all-in on the turn with a flush draw and an Ace overcard believing my opponent would fold since I showed strength pre-flop and flop, and calling my bet would cripple his stack. My opponent took quite a while to decide, but he did make the call. He said, "I know you're weak." I got lucky and I sucked out on the river. But, to me it meant I had a tell I needed to eliminate from my game.

One way to catch yourself giving a tell is to learn from these situations. Immediately think about what you did that gave away the strength of your hand. Perhaps at times you speak your bets and other times you are silent. Or, at times you slide your bet into the pot and other times toss them into the pot. Or, perhaps it was how you breathed after placing a big bet. It is not easy to find your own tells but you MUST do it to be a winning poker player.

Above I posted a picture of Hellmuth at the WSOP. The pose he is using is the one suggested by Joe Navarro to hide your tells during a hand. It may be something you should try.

Now, here are 10 specific poker tells you can cash-in on. Almost all of these tells are subconscious tells-- the player does not realize he is doing it. These subconscious tells often become habitual and indicate strength or weakness.

1. Preflop: Check the Player to your left
-The player to your left will often look at their cards when it is your turn to act and you check your hole cards. Pause when you do these and peek to see what he does when he plays a hand versus when he folds a hand.

It may be where he places a card protector. Or, it may be how he holds his cards in preparation of his action. Or, it may be how he leans slightly forward or back.

I can not stress enough how important it is to get in the habit of noticing your opponent's differences when folding or playing a hand pre-flop.

By the way, just because someone does not look at his hole cards until it is his turn at the start of a tournament does not mean that he will not start peeking an hour or more into the event. Keep checking.

2. Flop: 3 Cards of the Same Suit
-The most obvious tell on the flop is when the board comes with three cards of the same suit. 99% of the time if a player checks his hole cards after this flop, you can be sure he does not have a flush yet. He is checking in hopes that one of his hole cards is the same suit as those on the flop.

3. Speed of a Call on Flop
-A player who calls a bet quickly on the flop means that the decision to call is not a difficult one. These quick calls usually indicate the player has a piece of the board or is on a draw.

4. Speed of Bet on River When a Scare Card Hits
-Watch the player who has taken the lead in betting on the flop and turn, to see how quickly he bets on the river when a scare card hits. If the player does not miss a beat and bets, it usually means that he is not strong. Why? Because a scare card will make a player think for a while before deciding to bet or not.

In fact, there is a rhythm to the series of bets that simply does not make sense:
  • flop: card on board, reach for chips, bet.
  • turn: card on board, reach for chips, bet.
  • river: SCARE card on board, reach for chips, bet. Huh?
Even if the player has been betting his draw and hit it on the river, he will usually pause before making that river bet.

5. Breathing after making a final bet
-I find it difficult to notice someone's breathing pattern. Instead, if I am trying to decide to call a big bet on the river or an all-in move, I will look at a person's chest. I need to pause about 10 seconds or so to see what happens. If after the pause, the person's chest starts to move in and out more noticeably, I take that as a sign of non-strength. It does not mean he is weak, but he is not strong.

6. Looking away after making a final bet
-This is almost a sign of strength. Let's say I find that the player is breathing more noticeably as above. If I have a good hand I am inclined to call. But, if the player looks away at any time after making the bet, I will use that as a more reliable indicator of strength. The reason is that a player who looks away usually does not want to give away any sign of the strength of his hand. Now, instead of calling, I will muck.

7. Torso Bobbing after making a final bet
-Navarro talks about how someone's feet is the most reliable poker tell. Well, I've never peeked under the table to check out an opponent's feet. But, if a player has happy feet, his torso will start bobbing quickly above the table. This is a sign of strength.

8. How bets are placed in the pot
-You may notice that the way you make a bet differs. Perhaps at times you slide in your bet, toss in your bet, toss in your bet with force, and/or bet palm down or palm up. Correct these mistakes and be consistent in how you place a bet in the pot.

Of course, you need to notice those same differences in how your opponents place a bet. These differences having meaning--strength or weakness. Make sure you have a consistent pattern before using these tells to make a decision.

9. Speech after making a bet or when making a bet
-A player who speaks after making a bet usually means strength. This player can not hold back his excitement of a strong hand and wants to tell everyone.

A player who speaks a bet may have meaning. Here, you need to see if there is a correlation of the strength of a hand when speaking versus not speaking a bet.

10. Posture after making a bet
-By posture I mean anything a player does with his hands and body that are different when strong versus weak. Let me share with you a couple of these:
  • A player who put his hand over his mouth when he was strong but did not do this pose when he was weak
  • A player who rested his head in his hand when he was strong but did not do this pose when he was weak
Of course, in all these tells, it is important to realize that every opponent is different and you are looking for consistent pattern.

Finally, there is something about having a "feeling" when getting a read on your opponent. Trust your feelings above all else. Recently, I was in a hand where I had pocket Jacks and had to decide whether to call an all-in bet pre-flop. I knew my hand was better than my opponent but I had a feeling that the last player yet to act had a stronger hand than me. I dismissed this feeling and called. It was a mistake as that last player had pocket Queens.

Trust your feelings!
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Monday, October 3, 2011

Poker Tells: What Caro and Navarro Don't Tell

NC19Image by Bahi P via FlickrPoker Tells: What Caro and Navarro Don't Tell

When I started playing poker I followed the basic concept of "fit or fold." This means that if your starting two cards hit the flop with a pair or better, or if it provided you with a draw, your hand is said to "fit" the board. If it did fit, you would have a reason to play on.

After a while, though, I realized that this fundamental approach to poker was really just a more advanced game of bingo.

Next, I learned about poker tells. My definition of a poker tell may be broader than most. I believe that a poker tell is anything your opponent does that provides a reliable signal to you about the strength of his hand.

Learning about poker tells and putting them into practice makes poker more fun and more profitable for me. I hope this article does the same for you.

Mike Caro and Joe Navarro: The Best at Providing Poker Tell Advice

I find that these two poker authors do an excellent job at providing poker players advice on tells.
Mike Caro's top advice is about how players tend to consciously act in a way opposite of their hand strength. Essentially, if a player acts strong, he is weak and if he acts weak, he is strong.

Joe Navarro uses his FBI background to provide advice on how players subconciously act in a way to give away their hand strength. Examples include watching an opponent's face for minor facial expressions.

Of course, when was the last time, Caro or Navarro won money in a poker game? Or, even played poker? And, if they are playing, how come they are not killing the competition?

My Recent Experience at the WSOP

On Day 6 of the Main Event, I was in the Amazon ballroom of the Rio. The Amazon room is the size of a football field. For the tournament, there is a large area set apart for the ESPN featured and secondary tables. I was seated at one of the other eight poker tables, spread out in the ballroom. What you don't see at home on TV are the camera crews, press and officials who surround these tables watching and recording the action.

When you get to the final 100 players there is quite a bit of pressure as every decision can cost you a shot at winning close to $9 million. Given the importance of every action at the table, things slow down. With those all-in decisions, your tournament life is at stake and the action stops as a player thinks. The ESPN cameras focus on the face of the players involved. Inevitably, one player will study his opponent for a long time. It can be a glance. It can be a glare. It can take minutes.

I found it funny.

I wasn't laughing inside at the importance of these decisions. What I was laughing about was how often a top professional player, who spent all this time studying his opponent, would make the wrong decision. It seemed that the more time the player studied an opponent, the more likely his read was wrong!

I found it very unfunny when I was sitting with pocket Kings, my opponent studied me for a long time, moved all-in with his Ace-Ten hand, and knocked me out with an Ace on the turn. Not funny at all.

Guidelines to Poker Tells That Work

First, I do not pretend to be the best poker player in the world. If I was the best poker player, my Kings would have held up.
Second, I promise you that these poker tells work for me but are based on tournament poker.
Third, you have to decide what will work for you.

My advice is to take just one guideline at a time and try it out at your next game. Using poker tells is so much more fun, especially when you see the results in your bottom line.

Guideline #1. Look at your first two cards as soon as you get them, so you can study your opponents.

Today, most players wait until the preflop action gets to them before they peek at their hole cards. I believe this is a mistake.

By looking at your cards right away it allows you to do the following:
-Study your opponents actions when they first see their hole cards. Often you will notice a slight difference when someone has pocket Aces.
-Gives you time to think over your decision before the action gets to you.
-Gives you an opportunity to provide a reverse tell to your aware opponents. Example: You can behave exactly as you have in the past when you folded to get action from the player to your right when you have a premium hand.

Guideline #2. Study the player to your left.

This is obvious. Some unaware players tell you if they will fold or play pre-flop by their actions.
This is valuable when you are on the button or small blind. Notice any difference in how they hold their cards, where they place a chip to protect their cards, if they glance at their chips after looking at their cards, or anything that signals a change.

Of course, if they don't peek at their cards before you act, none of this will happen.

Guideline #3. Study the most aggressive player at your table and look for any difference in his actions.

The most aggressive player will be the easiest to read as he will be the most active. This player will be the one you will most likely be playing hands again.

Watch to see if this player has any changes in his actions when he is in a hand. Does his pose change when the is strong or weak? Does the way he place his bets into the pot change? Does the speed or force of a bet change?

You are looking for any differences. When you spot these differences, you want to associate a strong or weak hand when the final hand is revealed.

While you can do this for all your opponents, it is easier to focus on one player as a starting point.

Guideline #4. Watch for betting patterns and bet sizing.

All players have a betting pattern that tells you if they are strong or weak.

Here is a common pattern: a preflop raise, followed by a cbet on the flop, and a check on the turn. It is a sign of weakness.

Players often show fear by the size of their bets, especially on the turn. Here is a common bet sizing pattern: a preflop raise, followed by a cbet on the flop, and then a turn bet which is slightly bigger than the cbet. It is a sign of weakness.

Guideline #5. Watch for how fast or slow a player acts before he makes a bet.

This is missed by many players who are too involved with their own cards.

If you make a preflop raise and then a cbet on the flop, notice the speed of an opponents reaction to your bet. If a player calls you without missing a beat, it tends to mean he is on a draw. Why? It is an easy decision--no time is needed to make a call.

But, if your opponent thinks a while before calling your bet, it means the flop fits his hand. It is a sign to take notice act accordingly on the turn.

Another example is when a player never slows down in his betting. For example, if you called an opponent's bet preflop, flop and turn with position, and now a scare card hits the river, observe how fast your opponent bets. The fact is that unless your opponent is dead, he has to slow down for a second or two before deciding if to bet and how much to bet when a scare card comes on the river. If your opponent bets out without missing a beat, this is often a sign of weakness.

A popular tell is when your opponent takes longer than normal to place a bet into the pot. Often, this is a sign of a players who is acting weak when he has the nuts. Most often you will see this long poker pause on the river, before your opponent moves all in.

Guideline #6. Personal Appearance

Most poker players believe they are better players than they are. Often, these guys dress the part, especially the younger guys. When you are in a hand with these professional wanna be players, you can make a weak/small bet that indicates fear when you have a monster hand.

Of course, your personal "table image" effects the effectiveness of this play. If you look like a young poker pro, your opponent will be more suspicious of a small bet.

Guideline #7. Use reverse tells.

Some players are aware of their opponents actions and table image, and others are not. Use reverse tells to your advantage on these aware opponents.

Frankly, on that last hand at the WSOP, I induced my opponent to move all-in on me when I had pocket Kings. Here is how I did it. A few hands earlier the player to his left reraised me preflop. I was going to fold, but I waited untill I knew other players were looking at me. I made a subtle facial change to signal weakness and folded. In this hand, I gave the same slight facial change when my opponent looked my way. My guess is that he picked up this change subconsciously, thought I was weak, and moved all-in.

Finally, ask yourself after each poker session if you learned something new. If not, you are not working to get better. And, if you are not working to get better, then why did you even bother to read this article?

Best of luck!
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Online Poker In The U.S.: Time To Do The Right Thing

Cover of "Do the Right Thing [Blu-ray]"Cover of Do the Right Thing [Blu-ray]Online Poker In The U.S.: Time To Do The Right Thing

Given the Full Tilt Poker disaster, I believe it will be more difficult than ever before to get the U.S. Congress to approve legalization. Never the less, I would love to see online poker be legal so millions of U.S. citizens can play poker anywhere and anytime via the internet.

I believe that the online poker companies should be aggressive in putting together a plan of what they will do to make sure that online poker is good for the U.S. economy, good for its citizens, is a fair game, prohibits underage gambling, and addresses problem gamblers.

Here are 11 areas that I would like online poker companies to promise to the U.S. Congress and poker players:

1. All companies must be headquartered in the U.S. to operate a legal online poker site in the U.S.

2. Jobs to operate online poker companies must include U.S. citizens in a similar percentage to the revenue anticipated from the U.S. poker players. If 70% of revenue is from U.S. poker players, then the online site must hire 70% of their total employees from the U.S.

3. No top executives, directors or major shareholders in online poker sites can have a criminal record.

4. Online poker companies must pay a U.S. tax rate that is similar to brick and mortar casinos.

5. Online poker companies must issue 1099's for all players that cash over $5,000.

6. The online poker industry must fund and create an independent agency to monitor their sites. This agency will have the power to penalize or shut down sites that do not adhere to the rules. The funding for the agency will come from an annual fee per online site based on total revenues.

7. The online poker sites must take adequate steps to prevent gambling by U.S. citizens under the age of 21.

8. There must be one universal poker dealing program that all sites use. This poker dealing program must be developed, tested and proven to replicate the randomness of live poker dealing. While each site will have its own design, format, promotions, etc., the dealing of poker hands must be fair and true to the game.

9. Online poker sites must identify the types of cheating that is possible by online players and agree to the best practices to try to prevent and stop these practices. Each poker site must have an internal group to audit the poker tables, investigate player complaints of cheating, and to act promptly.

Money lost by players due to cheating will be returned to players. The players caught cheating will be banned for life at all online poker sites. The names of these cheaters will be made public.

10. Online poker sites will not allow players to use online poker tools that provide data as to the betting habits and trends of individual poker players. This type of information is not available in a live poker game and will not be allowed online. Players caught using these online poker tools will be banned for life at all online poker sites.

11. Online poker sites must provide information to their players about responsible gambling and where to go if there is a problem. An online poker site can prohibit a player from continuing to participate on their site, if they perceive a player as a problem gambler.

I believe it is time for the online poker sites to take the initiative and go above and beyond what has been done in the past in order to get online poker legal in the U.S.

What do you think?
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

How To Improve Your Poker Tournament Results

Mutual fundImage via WikipediaHow To Improve Your Poker Tournament Results

Let me share with you a way to improve your tournament poker results. It may change the way you think about your tournament game and how you play in your next event.

Here is a question for you:

Let's say you enter your local poker tournament. The event has 80 entrants. You start with 8,000 in chips. The blinds are 25-50. The rounds are 20 minutes. (This is a typical structure in SF Bay Area ). First place is $5,000.

It is the first hand. You have Kc-6s in the big blind. Everyone folds to the small blind. He picks up his cards to see what he holds. When he lifts his cards up, he holds them so high that you can see that he has 9h-8h.

He calls. You check.

The flop is Kd-4h-2h. You have top pair. Your opponent checks. You bet 100. Your opponent moves all-in with his flush draw. What should you do?

You state aloud. "I have to call."

You call as you are a big favorite with your top pair. The turn card is not a heart, but the river is a heart and you are eliminated. You shake your head, walk away from the table, and tell anyone who will listen about your "bad beat."

Does this sound familiar? Maybe this has happened to you?

I believe you made a mistake if you called this all-in bet. Let me explain why.

Risk in Poker: Don't Worry No Numbers Here!

When evaluating stocks in a portfolio, there are different kinds of risks that are measured to determine it's performance.

One kind of risk is market risk. This is the risk of the entire mutual fund compared to the market as a whole. Called Alpha.

A second kind of risk is specific stock risk. This is the risk that is specific to a given stock compared to the market as a whole. Called Beta.

I believe in poker, there is an analogy which will help you make the "right decision" at any point in time of an event.

Think of market risk as the "tournament risk" you are taking that uses your relative chip count and the number of chips you will win as it compares to your chances of winning the event.(Lets call this your PokerAlpha)

While specific stock risk is the "hand risk" you have or probability of winning a specific hand of poker. (Lets call this your Poker Beta).

How to Use These Risks in Poker

Lets take that poker hand where you flopped top pair and you knew your opponent was on a flush draw. Your probability of winning a specific hand of poker was very favorable--about a 66% favorite.

But, your market risk was extremely high: If you lost the hand, you are eliminated. And, you have only increased your chance of winning the event by a small margin if you win the hand.

Given this risk analysis, I believe the best decision is to fold.

Now, if you think your opponents are much better than you, you should forget about using the Poker Alpha. Just evaluate your odds of winning a specific hand and play accordingly. But, if you think you are as good or better than your opponents, consider both types of risk.

As you get deeper in a tournament, your risk assessment will change. In fact, that is why it is often best to move all-in when your stack is low relative to the big blind; for example, 10x's or less. Your tournament risk is such that it is better to make a move all-in now and take the hand risk to double-up.

Does this Poker Risk Concept Work?


I used this concept in making my poker decisions at the WSOP Main Event.

For example, on day 2, I was under the gun and raised pre-flop. Only the big blind called. I flopped top pair, and after I bet the flop, I was check raised all-in. Even though I was 90% sure my opponent was on a flush draw, I knew that losing this hand would cripple my stack. I folded.

I believed that I was one of the better players at my table and I would get these chips back. (It turned out that I won those chips back and more from that same opponent later that day.)

Does this Translate to Online Poker?


If you play online poker, your risk reward analysis is very different than a live event. Online, you may be playing multiple events and you know you can enter a new tournament in seconds. This means that the overall tournament risk is practically nil early in an online event.

I know others have written about risk in poker before, but I wanted to provide for a simpler and possibly a new way for players to understand them.

By the way, if you don't agree with this post, don't use it in your game.

Good luck!
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Monday, September 5, 2011

How to Win A Poker Tournament: 10 Concepts You Must Master

How to Win A Poker Tournament: 10 Concepts You Must Master

After doing well at the WSOP Main Event, I am getting more questions than usual from people about how to improve their tournament poker game. I have outlined 10 concepts below that should help your game.

1. Understand how the structure of a tournament influences your play.

The WSOP Main Event may be the most favorable structure in the world as it gives you 30,000 in chips, 2-hour rounds, and a slow increase in blinds. Your local event probably provides 5-10,000 in chips, 20 minute rounds, and a a level or two where the blinds jump up.

Adjust your game to the structure of your game.

2. Poker is about the players and not just about your cards.

Your cards are important, but knowing the players is just as or possibly more important. You need to figure out how your opponents play. Are they aggressive or passive? How do they play on each street as a pre-flop raiser or caller? Do they always make a c-bet? Do they 3-bet with a range of cards or does it only mean they have a premium hand?

Do not assume your opponents play like you.

3. Get out of your comfort zone.

When you started playing poker, you may have seen charts of which starting hands to play and from what position. If you follow these charts, I can promise you will never win a poker tournament. Why? You won't be dealt enough of these hands in the right position to make it to the end of an event.

You must learn to open up your game. The way to do this is test different moves or ideas, and to learn by watching or reading from others. For example, have you ever 3-bet an opponent pre-flop without a premium hand? If not, try it. In fact, if you are going to 3 bet an opponent in may be best to try it with a trash hand than a hand like K-J. (Do you know why?)

Now, if you've played a lot of poker, you may think you play good enough to win. But, you are not winning. Why? You may have a better understanding of the game, and a new comfort zone, but you need to continue to work at your game.

If you are not one of the November Nine, I can promise you that you have a lot more to learn. I know I do.

4. Know your own table image.

Players who are good at getting a read on their opponents, forget about how other players are viewing their style. If you know how an opponent will read your playing style, you can take advantage of that information.

And, you should realize that not all opponents will read you the same way. Oh yeah, there are even a few players who don't even care.

5. Chip Stacks

Always be aware of your stack size and those of your opponents. It is important in so many decisions you have to make at the table.

I will give you an obvious example that too many players still don't get it. Let's say the small blind has 1,000 and the blinds are 200-400. The big blind has 30,000. The small blinds moves all-in when everyone folds to him. What should the big blind do? Hint: The big blind peeks at his cards and finds 7-2 offsuit.

Call. It doesn't matter what the big blind is holding.

6. Variance

Simply, you want to manage your risk based on the stage of the tournament and your chip stack. Early in an event you want to reduce your risk, since you can't accumulate enough chips to win an event in early round. Later in the event, you can take on greater risk if your stack size declines too much or you see an opportunity to win a big pot.

7. Position

Position is always important. And, a back position is a favorable one since it allows you to risk less, and win. Some examples:

If you are in a back position, and everyone folds to you preflop, you should look to raise.
If you are on the button, and have a speculative hand, it may be a good play to call a pre-flop raise. Why? Because even if you miss the flop, if other players flop, your bet her may win.
If you want to squeeze players with a 3 bet, it is easier to do it in a back position.
You can also float an opponent by calling a raise from a back position.

Of course, if you are in the small or big blind, you will be out of position which will make it more difficult to play a hand.

8. Learn how to play with a short stack

I took one chip in a WSOP satellite and turned it into finishing 71st in the Main Event. Did I get lucky? Of course. But, I also have a good understanding of short stack play.

To me a short stack is when you have to decide to move all-in or fold. Here are some things to consider:

First, have an idea of what is a short stack in your game. Is it when you are 20x's the big blind ? 15x's? 10x's? This is the time, where you have to move all-in or fold?

Second, you need to have your own guidelines as to when to move all-in by your position at the table.

Third, you should determine if you need to adjust these guidelines if there is any action that happens in front of you.

Here is an example that I witnessed the other day. This event pays out 14 places. We are down to 20 players. The blinds are 400-800 with a 100 ante. The player under the gun has 6000 and raises to 2000. It is folded to the big blind who moves all-in (he has 10,000). The under the gun player folds! He shows K-Q, and the big blind shows J-J.

The under the gun player's mistake is that he had a short stack with less than 8x's the big blind and only raised. He has to move all-in or fold.

Too many players make raises pre-flop short stacked and then fold to an all-in move. This is a major leak.

9. Tells

If you know if your opponent is strong or weak, it would help your game immensely, right?Most poker players do things either consciously or subconsciously that give you this answer. You have to work at developing your skill. But, frankly, it can be a lot of fun and very profitable.

Caro and Navarro are two authors who have written excellent books on spotting tells. I have written a lot about how to spot tells, and how to get better at it.

Here is one simple exercise: Look at your opponent seated to your left. Find out what he does pre-flop to signal if he will or will not enter a hand. Now, you will find times where you can alter your play based on knowing his actions.

10. Play to win, and not just to cash.

The money in most events are in the first three spots. If you are playing to survive in order to cash, you are not understanding how payouts work. It may be why that player folded his K-Q in the example above (Note: he did not cash in that event).

The next time you play in a tournament, look at the payouts. Let's say you finish 10th, 10 times in a row. Now, look at how that compares to one win.

I hope this helps!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

At The World Series of Poker: The Rest Of The Story

Lady GaGaImage by ama_lia via FlickrAt The World Series of Poker: The Rest Of The Story

I thought I would share some interesting notes and observations from the WSOP.

1. How players were selected for the featured tables.
I am not sure what was done the first few days, but everything was random for the Day 5 and Day 6 seats. At the end of the day, each table would high card for the button and the floorman would deal out table assignments for the next day.

It may be that when someone got knocked out at one of these featured tables, the floor would pick a poker celebrity or a big stack to move to the feature table. I was never selected--which was fine by me.

2. Women poker players.
It was funny how many women wore tops that revealed cleavage. It was even funnier when one of these ladies would wear sunglasses--like any guy at the table was checking out the color of their eyes.

Frankly, women poker players should have a big edge at the WSOP since they are such a rarity at the main event. I believe only 5%. But I guess they don't fully understand the mind of poker males. A friend of mine told me to start a school for women poker players.

3. Behind the scenes with ESPN.
It is interesting what happens at the WSOP to accommodate TV. When two or more players are all-in, the dealer stops dealing and he shouts "all-in at table number ..." One of the ESPN staff quickly decides if he wants this all-in recorded.

If not, the dealer continues the hand. If he does, the ESPN guy calls one of the camera crews to come to the table. The crew includes guys with a mike and two cameras.

After the crew is ready, the ESPN guy taps the dealer on the shoulder to deal the flop. The flop is done and the cameras focus on any player reaction. When ready, the ESPN guy gives the okay to the dealer for the turn, etc.

ESPN does a super job to make sure the crew arrives quickly so it does not slow the game down. Although, the reality is that there is more drama when the cards are dealt so deliberately.

4. ESPN and me.
I may appear on the Day 6 showing of the Main Event. Since I did not curse or go nuts when that Ace on the turn knocked me out, it is a long shot.

5. Mega satellite into the Main Event.
I went to Vegas with enough money to enter the three $550 mega satellites--one on each day. Frankly, I had a feeling that I was going to win a seat and get to the final table.

Day 1: I was very unlucky and got knocked out of the first satellite.
Day 2: I was very unlucky and got knocked out of the second satellite.
Day 3: This was my last shot at winning a seat. When we went to the first break, I was very unlucky and as a result, I only had enough chips to cover the small blind and 2 antes.

The first hand after the break, I was UTG+3. I was dealt 8-6 offsuit and folded. The flop was 8-8-6! Damn! I thought I blew my one chance.

The second hand UTG+2, I was dealt J-5 offsuit and went all-in. Enough to cover the small blind. I won when a 5 hit the flop and the other two players had Ace high.

After this hand, I got hot. It was incredible! "Never give up, never surrender!"

6. I was in Vegas for 14 Days!
I have never been in Vegas that long before. After the three days of satellite play, I played the next day in the WSOP Main Event. After I survived that day, I had to wait 3 days to play again.
And there was a wait after Day 2, and a day off after another day of play.

I made about three trips to a nearby laundromat. I went to see the Rat Pack at the Rio (don't waste your time). And, I went to a forgettable movie at the Palms.

Since I am very superstitious, I ate the same things every day. I am not going to have another Western omelette at the Rio or Ultimate Salad at TGIF again! Oh, well not until next year :-0

7. The competition in the Main Event.
Frankly, there was a very wide range of poker talent. The table composition was the most important factor in my performance.

The first days I was fortunate in that the competition at my tables were typical; meaning, the styles were consistent with what I've experienced in the Bay Area.

A lot of the players in the early days, though, seem to implode by Day 3 or Day 4. Perhaps it was the pressure. Perhaps it was the level of the competition, as the later days had a higher percentage of strong players.

Frankly, I felt the pressure the first two hours on Day 5, and frankly, all of Day 6.

8. What surprised me the most.
I was most surprised by the fact that the pros and internet kids were so bad at reading hands. It got to be so bad, I was laughing inside.

On Day 6, players who had to make a big decision would sometimes take one minute or more contemplating what to do. And after all that time, these players would make the wrong decision. It was funny, until...

My opponent made a terrible decision after studying my 3 bet pre-flop for a long time. He went all-in with A-T, thinking, I guess, that I would fold. But, I held pocket Kings and I was committed to the pot with almost 33% of my chips invested.

9. Can you win at the WSOP?
Yes. I believe anyone can win a WSOP bracelet. The thing is that most players continue to play in their comfort zone--without experimenting in order to get better. Get out of your comfort zone. Learn how the poker pros play. Learn how the internet kids play. Try these styles, and how to play against them.

Admittedly, I was not ready for the internet poker players who liked to 3 bet pre-flop with a wide range of hands. It took me until the dinner break to figure out how to play against them.

You can win it all. And, if you fail like me, you can still walk away with over $100,000.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How I Won Over $100,000 at the WSOP Main Event

Poker chip with the WSOP logo.Image via WikipediaHow I Won Over $100,000 at the WSOP Main Event

I thought I would share my approach to the 2011 WSOP Main Event since it may help you in your tournament strategy.

In many ways the Main Event is easier than your local tournament. The Main Event has 2 hour levels, a slow increase in blinds, is mostly played nine handed, and you get a deep chip stack of 30,000. While your local tournament becomes a luck-fest at the 6th level, at the Main Event the luck-fest is on the 6th day.

I re-read my book, Tournament Poker: 101 Winning Moves, as a reminder before I started playing at the Main Event. You have my poker book, right? :-)

Next, I set up my goal to double my stack each day. It would result in my taking the 30,000 in chips and turning it into 8 million for the final table.

My strategy was the following:
  • to present myself as a predictable ABC player to make it easier to steal pots
  • to play opposite my opponents table image to take advantage of their weakness
  • to avoid difficult decisions on any one hand so I could survive the event
  • to look for tells, especially if the player to my left would fold or enter a hand
  • to avoid getting knocked out by a clueless player--no bad beats at the wrong time, please.
Here is a brief review of my key hands:

Day 1 (July 8, 2011):

Starting chips: 30,000

An aggressive player raised in early position, I called on the button with QQ. The board came Jack high. He bet and I called. The turn was a rag. He bet and I called. The river was a rag. He checked-called my bet. He had A-J.

I misplayed KK against one opponent. I raised and he called in position. The flop was A-Q-Q. I checked and he checked. The turn was a rag. I bet and he called. The river was a rag. I bet and he called. He hit a runner runner flush.

One key tell was that I knew when the player to my left would play his hand pre-flop. I used this to my advantage in the following key hand:

I made a min-raise with 7-7, knowing this guy wanted to raise. He raised, but it was no longer a big raise, so I could afford to see the flop. The flop was T-7-4. I bet into him and he raised. I called. The turn was a rag. I checked and he checked behind. The river was a rag. I bet and he called with his J-J.

My observations from Day 1 tended to be true throughout the tournament:
- Players at my table were mostly playing ABC poker, as I believe they were afraid to make a mistake.
- I took a check as a sign of weakness, so I'd bet and take down the pot.
- Opponents still don't realize their own tells.
- Don't show your hand to an opponent who folds. The player to my left did this once, and it made me realize he liked to 3 bet with a wide range of hands.
- The best tell is noticing betting patterns; not just c-betting or not, but how they play on different streets.

Ending chips: 50,000 (-10,000 from objective)

Day 2:

Starting chips: 50,000

The Day 2 competition was easier than Day 1. I felt there was more fear at the table than Day 1. In fact, a few players pushed with garbage as if they were saying:
"I'm scared as hell. I can't take it anymore!"

I was mostly card dead, so I did not accumulate as many chips as I would have liked.

Ending chips: 86,000 (-34,000 from objective)

Day 3:

Starting chips: 86,000

On Day 3, the play started to get more challenging.

On the first hand of play I was on the button and the big blind was missing. Everyone folded to the woman on my right, who raised. I had Q-9 and called. The flop was perfect K-J-T. She bet and I raised. She called. The turn was a rag. She checked and folded.

A few hands later, she raised again. I found Ah-Ad. I raised. She called. We were heads up. The flop was Kd-Td-4s. She bet into me! I put her on A-K since the bet was too big, I thought, to be a defensive one. I just called. The turn was a 6h. She bet big again. I called. The river was a 7d, completing a possible flush. She bet again, without hesitation.

What should I do? This was now a big pot, and I wondered if I had let her get her flush.

I thought for a moment, and it didn't add up. I mean, if she hit the flush on the river, she would have to think for a moment to size her bet. Especially since I could have the nut flush. I called. She had As-Jc and had damaged her chance to survive this day.

It was a big win for me. Except, later on, I ended up giving most of these new chips away when my flush lost to quad tens.

On Day 3, I was finally fortunate as I was dealt excellent starting hands.

In the BB, a player moved all-in. I found K-K and called. He made 22X BB all in move with A-J offsuit!? My Kings were ahead until the river, as the Ace hit. While it took my stack down by a third, I suddenly went on a mini rush.

The next hand I raised with 9-9. No one called.
The next hand I raised with A-A. No one called.
The next hand I raised with A-A again. No one called.
Back on the BB, I found A-K. 5 players called and I moved all-in. No one called.

A new player sat down to my right after the woman player was knocked out. He was a talker. And, he wanted everyone to know he knew the big TV poker stars and, of course, his stack was hurt due to bad beats. I was under the gun and raised with 9-9. Everyone folded to this guy in the BB. He called.

The flop was all rags with 2 hearts. He checked and I bet the pot. He moved all-in--which was about 65% of my stack. This was a tough spot since this was exactly the situation I was trying to avoid. A clueless player making a stupid play to knock me out. While this would not knock me out, it would be very tough to come back from a beat here. I folded.

The good news, though, was that the first hand back from the dinner back I was on the BB and found K-K. This guy moved all-in with A-J....he had over 25x the BB. I called. He got pissed when he did not improve and he started his speech about how unlucky he was.

Ending chips: 249,700 (+9,700 versus objective)

Day 4

Starting chips: 249,700

This was the most difficult table ever for me. Little did I know that four of the players who started at this table (including me), would end up finishing in the top 125 finishers in this event!

Seated on my right was Heinz (who made it to the final table. He is an excellent player and a good guy. I wish him the best in November). To my left were two other professional internet players.

After a while it was clear that these players loved to 2 bet and 3 bet pre-flop with a wide range of hands. Heinz was 3 betting players to his right. And, the players to my left were three betting as well. In fact, I believe the two players to my left 3 bet me like a ten times before the dinner break. Each time I folded.

At the dinner break, I was very very frustrated. I like to play flops and these characters were forcing me to fold. I decided that if it happened again, I would four bet.

Sure enough, in one of the first hands after the break, I raised and the player to my left 3 bet. It got back to me and I 4 bet. He folded.

The result of my doing this one time caused both the players to my left stopping that 3 betting of my raises. And, it led to my biggest pot win of the event....

I was in early position and raised with 7-6 suited. The guy to my left folded, but the next net pro just called. Heads up, the flop was 6-6-3 with a possible flush draw. I did not have the flush draw, but I knew my opponent would bet here with any hand, so I checked.

He bet. I now put in a big raise, as if on a flush draw. To my surprise, he re-raised! I moved in and he insta-called! He turned over 6-5 suited (no flush draw). The turn was a T. And when the river was a 2, rather than chopping the pot, I won big.

Ending chips: 757,000 (+277,000 versus objective)

Day 5

Starting chips: 757,000

Day 5 started with Erick Lindgren at my table. He made a bad play early on with pocket T's by moving all in after a raise from a player with A-A. However, he hit his T on the flop to double up.

I had some hands at this table and I was able to grow my stack a little. But...then...

I got moved to a new table, which was more aggressive. The player to my right was a nice guy, who spoke little English, by the name of Staszko. His playing style is much tighter and more cautious than Heinz. (Staszko is a good guy. And, I wish him the best at the final table.)

I was card dead here as well. And, almost every time I raised, the player to my left would call. The flop would miss me, and sometimes I would bet and sometimes I would check and give the pot up. The reason not to c-bet every time was to project strength, and take down the pot. Too often players c-bet the flop, get called, and then give up on the turn with a check-fold.

Unfortunately, I was card dead most of the entire time. It was very frustrating. On the last hand of the night, I doubled up with K-K.

Ending chips: 630,000 (-330,000 versus objective)

Day 6 (July 17, 2011):

Starting chips: 630,000

Lots of big stacks at the first table. While I was not one of the big stacks, I was confident I could make a comeback.

I raised on the SB, but the Russian player on the BB, moved all-in. I folded. Later that round, I was on the button with A-T and raised first in pre-flop. This guy re-raised and I moved all-in. He called with A-Q. I got lucky and hit my T to double up.

I got J-J in a middle position and raised. A woman who had not played a hand in about 2 hours, moved all-in. Good grief. If I lose this hand, I am as good as out of the event. I folded the Jacks.

I got moved to a table with Allan Cunningham who had about the same chip stack size as me.
Given my stack size, I moved in after a raise with pocket 4's and pocket Jacks. My opponent called both time and lost with K-J and A-3 suited.

For the next 3 hours, I did not play a hand. It was incredible how ugly the cards looked.

Right before the dinner break, a player raised in middle position. I found K-K and 3 bet about 3x his bet size. My opponent thought for a while and moved all-in. I insta-called. My opponent showed A-T suited. If I win here, I would have about 2 million in chips...and that was my chip goal for the day.

The flop was all rags, but the turn....

I finished in 71st place and won over $100,000. It was a great financial win, but I was very disappointed.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask.
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Sunday, June 5, 2011

My Trip To The WSOP & Full Tilt Poker Rumor

Money, Money, MoneyMy Trip To The WSOP & Full Tilt Poker Rumor

WSOP 2011

I fly into Vegas on Thursday night. It was rather quiet in the Rio for a WSOP.

It was around 9 pm, so I decided to play in a middle limit hold'em cash game. There was only one $5-$10 and $10-$20 game going. Oh my, how times have changed.

After a 15 minute wait, I sat down at the $5-$10 game.
I played for 3 hours...and incredibly I won $700. It is remarkable to win so much at a limit game at this low a level. Frankly, I got the right mix of good cards, luck, a few good moves and bad players.

The next day I entered the $1,500 limit hold'em tournament. I didn't even make it to the dinner break.

The players were making some surprising pre-flop calls of raises. For example, a player raised under the gun, I found K-K and re-raised, and the player to my left called. The flop came down A-A-3. I bet and he raised. He was predictable after the flop, so he had to have an Ace, right? We both checked the turn and river since four hearts were on board. He showed A-7 of spades. That was a loose call, in my opinion, but he won the pot.

I left the Rio and went to the Mirage to check out their poker room. It was rather dead. No limit holdem games only no limit games. I wonder where all those Mirage, limit poker pros are these days?

They were about to start a $70 sit n go, so I signed up. The players in this game were novice ones, except for me and one other guy. Sure enough, he and I were the ones left to play for the money. He ended up getting some great hands heads up and beat me. I cashed but I was not happy about it.

On Saturday, I entered the super satellite for $330 to win a main even seat. There were over 80 players and again, I was fortunate in that the competition was not that strong. The payout was going to be 2 seats plus a third place cash of $3,400.

In the middle of the event, I took a tough beat with my K-Q vs 9-7--it cut my stack almost in half. The action was that he moved all-in pre-flop and I called on the big blind. I had just moved to this table and it was clear that players were pushing with a wide wide range of hands.

Fortunately, I came back to be at the final table. I believe of the times I moved all-in, I was only called once throughout the entire event. It was at the final table. I had 5-5, moved in, and was called by K-J. I won that pot.

When it got down to 5 players we agreed to a chop. One player was way ahead since he recently found pocket aces on the big blind after the small blind moved all-in with K-Q. The rest of us were about even in stacks so we agreed to the chip leader having the seat and the rest of us chopping things based on chips. It took 6 hours and it was a nice cash win.

One bad note about the satellite was the guy who was the WSOP satellite director for our game. The guy was bad news. It was like the Rio was the last place he wanted to be at the moment. He made one really bad decision at the final table and he useless when we wanted to calculate the payouts for chopping. The guy needs a major attitude adjustment.

His poor decision was the following. A player with a big stack raised in early position. Another player with a smaller stack pushed all of his chips into the pot and then said "Ok, I call." The first player, believing that his opponent had more chips, says "I'll call whatever is in there." The dealer turns over the cards and the original raiser wins.

Now, the dealer counts the chips of the small stack and realizes that he put out more than the original raise. He calls over the tournament director who says "verbal is binding" so the small stack doesn't lose all of this chips. Not correct. Verbal is binding when there is no action. There was action before he made his statement. Anyway, it was no big deal as this small stack eventually got knocked out, but still it should not have happened.

After that event was over, I went to Aria. I had not been there before and I wanted to check out their poker.

I arrived a little after 11pm. The poker room was packed. The hotel was packed. But, the restaurants adjacent to the poker room were both closed. And, if you wanted to order from the table it was at least a one hour wait.

Who is the genius at Aria who decided no one wants to eat after 11pm on a Saturday night in Vegas?

Anyway, after an hour wait, I sat down at the $2-$5 no limit cash game. I don't care for this style of poker even if it is the most popular now. It is boring to me, since the action often slows to a crawl. And the play is so predictable. But, I thought I would give it another try since it is almost the only game in town.

I played for 2 hours and I couldn't take it anymore. I won $100 but the whole thing is so boring to me.

The guy who was the worst player lost the most money--but he was some rich guy with a stack of hundreds in his pocket who wanted to play stupid starting hands to surprise his opponent with a stupid hand to win the pot. Everyone at the table won because of his play.

Brad Garrett, from Everyone Loves Raymond, sat down and played at our table for one round. The man is tall and has hands that are huge. He wore earbuds so he did not interact much--which is totally understandable. He was very polite. He had his tall, blonde girlfriend with him.

Net, I ended up adding to my Sunday Oaks win with this trip. I may try to head back for some more action at the WSOP. Overall, it did appear that fewer players were attending probably due to the economy, the end of online poker and, of course, not getting their money back from Full Tilt.

Full Tilt Poker Rumor

Here is what I heard. I did not substantiate this information, although my source is fairly reliable.

Phil Ivey is suing Full Tilt since they are not paying the players back, and he is not attending the WSOP. This has already been in the news. Now, for the rest of the story...

Ivey owns about 10% of Full Tilt. He has made millions and millions of dollars due to his ownership. (Does that mean he is suing

I was told that the owners, including Ivey, had a vote about paying the players back. Ivey voted against paying the players since he wanted to get his money out of Full Tilt before the players would see a penny. When that was not approved, Ivey was not happy. Instead, he decided to play the publicity game and sue...not really on behalf of the players but really just wanting the money he is owed. What a gem of a guy, if this is true.

It seems that Full Tilt may counter sue, of course. (I wonder where all this lawyer-ing will take place?)

Overall, Ivey sounds like a real jerk here. Who knows maybe he needs the money for all the money he loses playing craps.

More importantly, I think this is another bad sign for players getting their money back. It smells more and more like these guys ran a Ponzi scheme on us.

Oh yeah, my source told me that no one has heard from Lederer or Ferguson, and they may not make an appearance at the WSOP.

That is the rumor I heard. If you know the real story, please share. Thanks!
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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How I Won Sunday's Oaks Tournament

I Get MoneyImage via WikipediaHow I Won Sunday's Oaks Tournament

Overall, I was very lucky. Yeah, I used a few moves from my Tournament Poker book. But, the truth is that I don't recall having such a great run of luck at a poker tournament.

It didn't start well, as on the second hand of the event, I flopped top pair holding K-Q but my opponent flopped a set of 7's. From that point on, my luck changed for the better...much better!

Here is a summary of how I won:

1. I put a couple of bad beats on my opponents.

K-Q versus A-K. The flop was K-K-7. I bet out in the big blind and one player called. I check raised all in on the turn. My opponent thought for a while and called with his A-K. I hit my Q on the river taking down a big early pot.

When we were down to three tables, I raised with 9-9. My opponent moved all-in with J-J. Flopped the 9.

2. Key flops hit my hand hard.

I had pocket sixes, and hit a 6 on the flop. My opponent missed but he made a continuation bet. I won a decent sized pot when he folded.

I called a raise from the button with T-9 offsuit. My opponent was aggressive and had a big stack, as did I. The implied odds in these situations make it the right play. If you don't take these risks, it is a mistake.

The flop was K-Q-J....I moved in after he bet out. He called with K-J and did not improve. A huge pot for me.

I limped with T-2 in the small blind. The big blind called. The flop was T-7-2. I bet out and the big blind, with a decent sized stack moved all in. I called. He had J-T and did not improve. His over sized push all-in was an awful play (this is not online poker:-) )

When it was three handed, the button raised my big blind 2x's. I called with Q-4 clubs. I would have called with any two cards given the implied odds. The flop came with three clubs. He was aggressive so I checked and raised him all-in on the flop. He called. I don't know what he had, as I didn't bother to look. I knew I would win.

He had a huge stack, as did I. It made me the big chip leader. It was a bad pre-flop play on his part.

3. Timing of my big hands

I had K-K and raised. Another player moved all in with A-K. He did not improve.

A player moved all in with 8-8. I called in the big blind with J-J and won.

Timing in these situations is key to building a chip stack. And, having your hand hold-up, of course.

4. The hands I lost were to players pushing with much smaller stacks.

When we were down to three tables, I had a big chip lead. So, I could gamble a little more with the big stacks.

For example, I could call with K-7 in the big blind against an opponent who was desperate and moved all-in with A-5.

5. I did not experience that bad beat that cripples your stack or knocks you out.

This is the way we all get eliminated, right?

6. The tough calls were easier since the pot odds were present for me to make the call a no-brainer.

When you have a big stack you don't want to get hurt. But players push with a wide range of hands when they don't have a big enough stack compared to the big blinds. I had one tough decision when I player with a big stack moved all-in with a big stack. I thought about folding until unrealized that I had to call given the odds.

I called and he had K-J. I had raised with an A-8. I called since I was getting 2-1. Neither one us improved and I added quite a few chips


Frankly, I did not play extraordinary poker. Things just worked out for me. I was able to steal in late position more often since the players to my left tended to be very tight or afraid of being knocked out due to my big stack.

But, the reason for my win was, well, I give credit to the luck granted to me by poker gods. Good thing these gods don't require attendance in anything other than a poker room or I would go to hell.
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

List of Poker Pros Who Are Shareholders in Full Tilt Poker

Full Tilt Poker logoImage via WikipediaList of Poker Pros Who Are Shareholders in Full Tilt Poker

Howard Lederer

Andrew Bloch

Phillip Ivey

Christopher Ferguson

John Juanda

Phillip Gordon

Erick Lindgren

Erik Seidel

Jennifer Harman-Traniello

Michael Matusow

Allen Cunningham

Gus Hansen

Patrick Antonious

You have to wonder what the U.S. Department of Justice is going to do with these pros. Jail, fines and/or both? Or, nothing at all, as the pros position themselves as simply "shareholders." (Earnings from being a shareholder probably starts in the millions of dollars and goes to the hundreds of millions of dollars.)

Of course, this brings up other issues that pertain to the integrity of poker games on their site and when these pros compete in live events. But, that would be speculation on my part, and right now, they are probably in deep shit over the illegal activity pertaining to breaking the US laws that allowed the FBI to close down Full Tilt.

Frankly, I have my doubts that us players are ever going to get their money back, but I hope I am wrong.

What do you think?

List Source:

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Friday, April 8, 2011

Guidelines for Beating the Limit Hold'em Poker Game

A pair of aces is arguably the best hand to be...Image via WikipediaGuidelines for Beating the Limit Hold'em Poker Game

I believe that a limit holdem cash game is a more skilled game than a no-limit holdem cash game. The reason for my belief is that in a no-limit holdem cash game, the luck element of poker has too much influence as to your hand by hand results.

Of course, few people agree with me because they enjoy the higher risk-reward outcome in no-limit. These folks are geniuses when they win, and unlucky when they lose.

Anyway, let me provide you with guidelines on how to beat the limit holdem game. My guidelines are based on live play at the $15-$30 level. I believe they hold true for other levels of play as well.

1 Table Composition
I believe this is the most important factor in your winning or losing at limit holdem.

You have to adjust your game to the players at the table. And, the composition of the table can change anytime a new player enters. If the table is too tough, you should change tables.

The table composition is key as it effects your starting hands.

A table that sees a lot of flops with limps will result in having to beat multiple opponents. That means that suited connectors and pairs are stronger hands. The same is true if the table likes to see a lot of flops even after one raise.

If your table folds to one raise--meaning that there are few players who see a flop--you want to stick with premium starting hands.

2. Table Image of Each Player
Next, you want to decide on the table image of the players at your table. Don't make this a difficult exercise as players tend to be very consistent as to how they play.

Pre-flop: Simply identify a player as tight, loose or aggressive.
Flop: There are mostly three types---tricky players, players who like to play draws, and ABC/predictable players. Tricky players on the flop will raise when last to act after there is no action has taken place in front of them or if they determine the continuation bettor missed and raises his bet.
Turn: Tricky players on the turn tend to be those who bet their draws.

3. Your Table Image
It is important to determine your own table image and to play opposite of it against players that observe your style. Some players just don't have a clue and stick to their cards. Better players will notice how you have played before and try to take advantage of your style.

4. Flop Play
Here are some key factors to note on the flop:

-how many players see the flop and if it was raised or not pre-flop. (frankly you should know this before the flop hits the board! If there are 4 or more opponents, don't look to bluff. If there are 3 or fewer opponents, bet your draws and top pair. If a lone opponent, be aggressive and/or slow down to win more chips.)

-what is the best hand and the best drawing hand (one or the other will often win)

-what is the flop composition--is it coordinated or a steal flop (a steal flop is a rainbow flop with one high card and two rags). Also notice if there are cards in the playing zone (Ace-9) or not. Cards in the playing zone are more likely to hit someone else's hand. While rag flops provide an opportunity to show strength with a bet or raise, since they are more likely to have missed your opponents' hands.

5. Flop Moves
The flop round is often the phony betting round. Don't respect those flop raises if it comes from players who like to bet draws or set up bluffs on the turn and follow-up on the river.
A re-raise on the flop usually indicates a strong hand like two pair, a set or a made hand. If it is a tricky player, though, you have to widen his range quite a bit here.

Raising for a free card move:
If you are the pre-flop raiser, bet the flop and get raised in late position (with a flush draw on the flop possible), realize that this is probably a flush draw bet. You can re-raise here and try to get heads-up.

Betting out on the flop with a draw:
Consider betting out on the flop with a draw, and then follow through all the way to the end if you miss. If you get re-raised, you can slow down. Again, the number of opponents is key here--two or less it should be considered. 4 or more opponents, is a time to hold back that bet.

Check raising on the flop:
This is a strong play, and often indicates two pair. I like this play when the pre-flop player has late position and I can get heads-up with him going to the turn. Your cards don't matter. Bet the turn and river. Some opponents will call you down with with Jack high--so again, know your opponents.

6. Turn Play:
If you are the lead bettor on the turn, keep the lead and bet again unless the board has become too coordinated or you have three or more opponents. Heads-up this play is a no-brainer. Against 2 opponents, you should be inclined to bet as you have shown strength.

If you do bet, and get raised after a rag hits the turn, you have to decide if you are beat. And, if you can catch up, is the pot big enough to call? Clearly, against a tricky opponent, don't fold. Again, an ABC player it is time to consider that fold.

If going to the turn, you are the caller versus one opponent, think of the turn as an "ahead or behind" situation. If you can win, call his bet. If you can't win, just fold. A tricky player consider a raise here. The same thinking is valid against multiple opponents. Here, even if you have a draw--but it is a weak one--you may have to fold unless the pot is big.

7. River Play:
Once you get to the river, the pot tends to be so big, you will make some bad calls. But folding can be a disaster if you fold a winning hand on a big pot.

As to that A-K you've been betting all the way and don't improve upon...check call on the river versus one opponent.

Good luck!
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Should Razz Poker Win A Razzie Award For Worst Poker Game?

Should Razz Poker Win A Razzie Award For Worst Poker Game?

Every year there is an award for the worst achievements in motion pictures. It is called the Razzie, and they are now on year number 31.

The big winner this year was M. Night Shymalan's The Last Airbender. M. Night is the guy who did the movie Sixth Sense back in 1999. I know everyone loved that movie, but I did not. The reason was that I knew that Bruce Willis was dead from the beginning. We just witnessed Willis getting shot point-blank in the first scene, so when he is on that bench in the next scene, I mean, what is everyone thinking? That they missed the super, "Four days earlier" or what?

When you know the surprise ending in the first minutes, the rest of the movie is rather silly. I sort of enjoyed how the audience reacted at the end of the movie.

(By the way, I was proud of myself for resisting the temptation of telling my date that Willis was dead. And, after the movie ended, I told her I knew he was dead from the start. Of course, she didn't believe me, and that led to Sixth Sense being a bad date movie for me as well.)

Anyway, back to the Razzie awards.

Not only do the Razzies happen pre-Oscar award night, but they tend to add in a new category now and then. This year they added in an award for Worst Eye-Gouging Use of 3D. And, the winner for Worst Eye-Gouging Use of 3D is....

Oh, I forgot, the nominations, for Worst Eye-Gouging Use of 3D are:

And, the winner is: THE LAST AIRBENDER. (Thankfully, I missed all of these great movies.)

Back to my point...If they added in an award for Worst Poker Game, would Razz Poker win?
(I don't know if it is true, but the rumor is that the guy who started the Razzie awards, lost his shirt playing Razz poker, and that is how the award got it's name :-))

I am biased, since I wrote a book on Razz poker, so let me start with nominations for worst poker game.

The nominees are:
2 -7 DRAW

I hate Mexican Stud since I've never won at that game. I don't know how to play 2-7 Draw. Anaconda and Follow the Queen are entertaining home games. And, online poker is a criminal act that is punishable by watching The Last Airbender or death, whichever is worse.

And, the winner is....

You tell me, which poker game deserves a Razzie award for the worst poker game, in 2 or 3D?
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What's Your Poker IQ?