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More On LHE Tournaments

Mike Schneider is a Lead Instructor at CardRunners.com and was the winner of the PartyPoker Million V for $1M USD.

After reading Ian's thoughts on LHE tournaments, I am writing this article to touch upon what ways my thoughts differ from his on limit holdem tournament strategy.

In today's LHE tourney structures, to me the first three hours are some of the most important of the entire tournament. They are the hours that either let you become a potential force in the tourney or else quickly send you to the rail so you can be well-rested for the next day's tournament (or cash games). It is unlikely you'll ever play in a LHE tourney where 4-5 hours in, the average stack will be larger than 8 or so big bets. Heck, most of the time by 4-5 hours in, the average stack is right around 5 or 6 BBs. So, by understanding this simple pitfall, my whole goal when I enter a LHE tourney is to try to accumulate and never stop.

My entire mindset, presented as an analogy, would be like thinking about if you were storming into a dark house in pursuit of a dangerous, armed convict. You'd rather enter the house with 5 bullets loaded into your gun than 2, right? It's my goal to make it so by the 4th hour, if I'm not bust, that I have several bullets loaded into my gun. By the 4th hour, the people who have 5BBs left have, in essence, two hands left to raise preflop (two bullets). I don't want that. I want several chances to continue accumulating while also being able to withstand hits in case I miss.

This brings me to my second large thought regarding LHE tournaments: your table draw is HUGELY important. For this non-stop attacking strategy to be effective, you need your table draw to be a tight table. I have had great success in LHE tournaments the times I get tight tables, and I succeed by running it over. Brandon Wong, who finished 2nd, 10th, and 16th in the three 2007 WSOP LHE events, agrees with the strategy of essentially playing like a preflop maniac, doing a ton of continuation bets, and once played back at finally playing poker and making your postflop decisions (oftentimes folding since you usually won't have much).

So now, assuming you get a tight table draw, how loose is loose enough? I will open with probably close to half my hands from just about any position. If someone else is opening with what I'm guessing is a range larger than Sklansky's preflop charts suggest to do in 10 handed games, I will 3-bet those guys very lightly too. I will keep this up until someone plays back at me. Once someone plays back at me, I will continue doing this STILL.

If anyone begins to consistently play back at me, I will then and only then begin to tighten up and hope to catch a monster to punish the person(s) who is playing back at me. In my experience though, especially in $1000+ buy in LHE tourneys, the majority of the players are playing at a level where they know how to play tight, but they don't know how to deviate from it. Most the opposition is basically waiting for primo cards, or else sitting around folding and muttering about how the first four levels of LHE tourneys are worthless and should be eliminated.

Alright, lets say that you do succeed at getting 2x the average stack as you head into the 4th hour. Your strategy does not change at all; the only difference is that now half the table is getting to the stage where they're "picking" their hand to take a stand with. This means you'll probably succeed at stealing the blinds a couple times an orbit and then end up taking a flop once or twice versus an opponent. The goal here is for the blind steals to keep you afloat and pay for the times you raise and don't steal, so the times you do end up seeing a flop you're basically freerolling with your chips from the blind steals, since even though you're going to be an underdog against the opponent's range, you're still going to end up winning the hand sometimes (and you'll often fold on the flop or turn the times you don't hit).

It's pretty easy math: steal twice, and you're +1.5BBs. Raise once and get three-bet by someone, call, check/fold. You've broken even. Sometimes you don't check-fold, and you end up winning the pot. Sometimes you're lucky enough to get played back at when you do actually have a legit holding, and you win much larger pots than the guy that has been folding 50 minutes straight and now finally raises UTG+1 with his aces and then moans loudly when everyone folds and all he gets out of it is .75 BB.

By the 4th or 5th hours, 2/3 of the table is so small stacked that they're folding everything but huge holdings, and because of your hard work and diligence in the first three hours, you continually chip-up through constant, unrelenting blind steals (while keeping tabs on your image and others' images… You may throw away 85 suited UTG+2, for instance, if you've raised from there the past two times and the BB has defended both times and then played tough postflop).

The quick summary for the fourth hour and on is for you to continue to attack (as already described plenty) while applying the idea of only occasionally backing down if/when people begin to consistently play back at you.

So then, lets say you end up with a table draw that isn't so tight. What's that mean for you? It stinks. Now you're in no man's land and at the mercy of the card gods, because now you're treating this whole dilemma like a cash game, and basically playing fairly tight, though still loose enough to give yourself a shot at hitting a few big pots and accumulating some chips by the 4th hour. On these looser tables, though, you're much more at the whim of how the cards fall, since you're going to need to make some big hands to get yourself into a position to have a shot.

By applying some of what I say and what Ian has said and seeing what you're most comfortable with, you should be on the road towards LHE tournament success.

Mehr über LHE-Turniere

Mike Schneider ist der führende Trainer beiCardRunners.com und gewann das „Million V" von Party Poker mit einer Million USD.

Nachdem ich die Gedanken von Ian über LHE-Turniere gelesen hatte, begann ich diesen Artikel zu verfassen, um deutlich zu machen in welcher Weise sich meine Meinung über die Turnierstrategie bei Limit-Hold'em von seiner unterscheidet.

Ich finde, dass aufgrund der heutigen LHE-Turnier-Strukturen die ersten drei Stunden zu den wichtigsten des gesamten Turnieres zählen. In diesen Stunden entscheidet sich, ob Sie ein potentieller Gewinner im Turnier sind, ansonsten werden Sie rasch rausgeworfen und können sich dann für die Turniere (oder Cash-Games) des nächsten Tages ausruhen. Es ist unwahrscheinlich, dass Sie jemals in einem LHE-Turnier spielen werden, an dem nach 4 bis 5 Stunden die durchschnittliche Anzahl an Chips größer ist als etwa 8 „Big Bets". Nein wirklich, meistens ist die durchschnittliche Anzahl an Chips nach 4 bis 5 Stunden ziemlich genau um die 5 bis 6 BBs. Nachdem ich also diese kleine Tücke erkannt habe, konzentriere ich mich darauf, wenn ich bei einem LHE-Turnier mitspiele, meinen Chipstack weiter zu vergrößern ohne mich auszuruhen.

Meine Gedankengänge als Analogie präsentiert würden so sein, als ob ich einen gefährlichen bewaffneten Verbrecher verfolgend in ein dunkles Haus stürme. Würden Sie nicht auch vorzugsweise das Haus mit 5 Kugeln in Ihrer Waffe erstürmen, als mit nur 2? Mein Ziel ist es, dies bis zur 4. Stunden zu erreichen, wenn ich nicht vorher Bankrott gehe, damit ich mehrere Kugeln in meiner Waffe habe. In der 4. Stunde haben Spieler mit verbleibenden 5 BBs, im Wesentlichen zwei Versuche übrig um den „Preflop" zu erhöhen (also zwei „Kugeln"). Das will ich vermeiden. Ich will mehrere Chancen haben um mein Guthaben weiterhin zu vergrößern und außerdem will ich auch Niederlagen überstehen können, falls ich mich verkalkuliere.

Somit bin ich bei meiner zweiten großen Überlegung zu LHE-Turnieren angelangt: der „Draw" am Tisch ist ABSOLUT wichtig. Damit diese permanente Angriffs-Strategie erfolgreich ist, muss der Draw an Ihrem Tisch „tight" sein. Immer wenn ich in LHE-Turnieren an Tischen, die „tight" waren, gespielt hatte, war es ein großer Erfolg und ich gewann indem ich ihn einfach überrannte. Brandon Wong, der den 2., 10. und 16. Platz in den drei Veranstaltungen des WSOP LHE 2007 machte, stimmt mit der Strategie überein, dass man im Wesentlichen wie ein „Preflop-Maniac" spielen sollte, der ständig die Wetten weiter erhöht und wenn es dann endlich zum Poker spielen kommt und die Spieler ihre Postflop-Entscheidung treffen, so legt er oft seine Karten nieder, da er gewöhnlich nicht viel hat.

Nehmen wir nun an Sie bekommen einen Platz an einem Tisch wo der Draw tight ist, wie „loose" (locker) ist nun loose genug? Ich werde ungefähr mit der Hälfte meiner Blätter eröffnen, aus welcher Position auch immer. Wenn ein anderer Spieler mit mehr eröffnet als die Preflop-Tabelle von „Sklansky" für 10 Blätter empfiehlt, so werde ich kaum ein drittes Mal erhöhen, da dieser Spieler vermutlich ein gutes Blatt hat. Ich werde so weiterspielen bis ein Anderer die gleiche Strategie anwendet. Und wenn es dann ein Anderer tut, so mache ich trotzdem so weiter.

Sollte allerding ein anderer Spieler diese Strategie ständig gegen mich anwenden, so beginne ich tighter zu spielen und hoffe irgendwann ein Monsterblatt zu bekommen, mit dem ich die Person(en) bestrafen kann, die so gegen mich spielt/en. Nach meiner Erfahrung, speziell in LHE-Turnieren mit einer Anmeldegebühr von $1.000 oder mehr, spielt die Mehrheit der Spieler auf einer Stufe, wo sie bereits wissen wie man tight spielt, doch sie wissen nicht, wie man davon wieder ablassen kann. Im Grunde warten die meisten der Gegenspieler also auf gute Karten, ansonsten sitzen Sie herum, legen die Karten nieder und lassen sich darüber aus, wie nutzlos doch die ersten 4 Stufen eines LHE-Turnieres sind und dass diese Stufen abgeschafft werden sollten.

Na gut, nehmen wir also an, Sie hätten es geschafft Ihre Anzahl an Chips zu verdoppeln, als Sie Ihre 4. Stunde beginnen. Ihre Strategie verändert sich nicht im Geringsten, der Unterschied ist nur, dass nun die Hälfte der Spieler am Tisch nun an der Stufe angelangt sind, wo sie sich ihre Hände sehr genau aussuchen um damit im Spiel zu bestehen. Das bedeutet, dass Sie wahrscheinlich im Laufe der Runden ein paar Mal die Blinds stehlen können und sich auch ein zwei Mal gegen einem anderen Spieler im Flop behaupten. Das Ziel hier ist es die Blinds zu stehlen um auch weiterhin im Spiel zu bleiben und die Möglichkeit zu haben dafür zu zahlen, immer wenn man erhöht und nicht stiehlt. Das ist so als ob Sie jedesmal wenn Sie bis zum Flop mitgehen, Sie eigentlich Freeroll spielen, mit den Chips die Sie von den Blinds gestohlen haben. Selbst wenn Sie mit Ihren Chips im Vergleich mit Ihrem Gegenspieler unterliegen, so werden Sie trotzdem manchmal das Blatt gewinnen (und Sie werden beim Flop oder Turn angelangt, die Karten oft niederlegen wenn Sie keine Chance haben.

Das folgende ist ganz einfache Mathematik: 2x stehlen und Sie haben +1.5BBs. Erhöhen Sie einmal und gehen Sie danach mit. Wenn von anderen Spielern dreimal erhöht wurde passen Sie. Nun sind Sie wieder dort angelangt wo Sie waren. Manchmal passen Sie nicht, sondern Sie gewinnen am Ende noch den Pot. Manchmal haben Sie Glück und es wendet jemand diese Strategie gegen Sie an, doch Sie haben ein gutes Blatt und gewinnen so einen viel größeren Pot als der Typ, welcher seit 50 Minuten ständig foldet und jetzt endlich UTG+1 erhöht mit seinen Assen und sich dann beschwert, wenn alle Anderen folden und er nur 0.75 BB gewinnt.

In der 4. oder 5. Stunde sind bereits 2/3 der Spieler am Tisch so knapp bei Kasse, sodass Sie jedes Hand niederlegen, die nicht gerade ein Monster ist. Und durch harte Arbeit und Ihren Fleiß in den ersten drei Stunden haben Sie Ihre Anzahl an Chips durch ständiges unnachlässiges stehlen der Blinds laufend vermehrt (während Sie sich Notizen machen wie Ihr Image und das der anderen Speiler am Tisch erscheint). Vielleicht müssen Sie ein Blatt bestehend aus 85 UTG+2 wegwerfen, zum Beispiel wenn Sie von dort aus die letzen zwei Male erhöht haben und der Spieler in der BB-Position hat sich beide Male verteidigt und nach dem Postflop dann sehr stark gespielt).

Hier noch einmal eine schnelle Zusammenfassung für die 4. Stunde und danach: Greifen Sie weiterhin an (wie bereits ausführlich beschrieben), während Sie von Zeit zu Zeit aussteigen sollten, wenn andere Spieler beginnen die gleiche Strategie zu verfolgen.

Nehmen wir an Sie landen an einem Tisch, wo der Draw nicht so tight ist. Was bedeutet das für Sie? Das ist schlecht! Sie sind nun mitten im Niemandsland und dort der Gnade der Kartengötter ausgeliefert, da Sie dieses Dilemma wie ein Cashgame behandeln und im Grunde eher tight spielen, doch trotzdem loose genug um auch die Chance zu haben ein paar wenige große Pots zu gewinnen und so bis zur 4. Stunde ein paar Chips anzusammeln. An eher loosen Tischen jedoch, sind Sie viel mehr dem Zufall ausgeliefert, wie die Karten verteilt werden, da Sie ein paar gute Blätter zusammen bekommen müssen um auch nur eine Chance zu haben einen guten Gewinn zu landen.

Wenn Sie das anwenden, was ich und Ian Ihnen hier erklärt haben und wenn Sie sich das heraussuchen, was Ihnen am besten passt, dann sollten Sie auf dem Weg zu LHE-Turniererfolgen sein.

Multiform Tilt and Other Poker Failings

This article was written by Andrew Wiggins, AKA “Muddywater,” an instructor for CardRunners.com.

Poker players obsess over questions about how to play poker but often ignore questions about whether or not they should play poker. If you’ve been around the game for more than a couple weeks, you’ve heard dozens of stories about bankrolls built slowly and lost quickly. Those should teach you that every minute you spend playing badly affects your poker success far more than every minute you spend playing well. Keeping yourself from playing sessions when you aren’t at your best should therefore be a high priority.

My preferred approach to this problem seems paradoxical: play your best poker by limiting the effect of poker on your life. When you’re playing too much, it’s easy to lose your concentration and get into a rut. This is because “keeping your concentration” means something different here than it does when we’re talking about, say, driving a car. There you just have to maintain basic competence in one activity. Poker concentration is not only high function in specific kind of decision-making but also a thoroughgoing control over your psychology. Think about how you’re tempted to gamble in close spots and to avoid embarrassment by folding when you should call. Then realize that it’s not just anger and fear: practically any emotion can, in the right poker situation, cost you money. It’s deceptive that we call this phenomenon tilt, as if it were just one thing, when in fact it refers to almost every possible human mental state.

It’s not just extreme steam-out-the-ears tilt that hurts you. Because marginal spots are so important to your winrate, anything that affects your ability to make those close decisions can cripple you–and remember, almost any aberrant feeling will impair your performance in at least a few marginal situations. That’s another reason to review your hands after a session: it both improves your game and helps you realize when you’re suffering from the sneakier, subtler kinds of tilt.

It’s good to be able to identify when you’re playing badly, but it’s better not to have slipped in the first place. As I said, I’ve found that the key is to keep poker in its place. Too much poker makes burnout inevitable. You’ll enjoy the game less, and you’ll play worse. It’s always worthwhile, for example, to make sure you’re getting exercise. It’s both prevention and cure: physical fitness greatly affects your ability to play long sessions, and it also gives you a non-tilting outlet for your emotions. More simply: exercise will make you feel better, and that will make you play better.

Also, reinvest some of your poker winnings in your life. Many people think so much about how to invest their resources in poker that they forget that poker should, in turn, be a positive thing in their lives. You’ll generally want to keep what you win for your bankroll, but spend some of it, too. The money you make will seem more real, and that will help motivate you. It will also enhance the time you spend away from the tables: one of my favorite poker-to-life investments is tickets to sporting events. It’s social, it’s exciting, and it’s an effective way to enhance your life with your poker.

Poker is addictive, time-consuming, and thrilling. It’s hard to keep your results in perspective, and it’s hard to know exactly what you do and don’t want poker to be in your life. Everyone I’ve ever met who has said that it’s easy was either lying, or terrible at the game. Which all means that it’s not only OK, but absolutely necessary, to spend time thinking about when and what you play, and about how you want your life to affect your poker and vice versa. Energy you spend regulating yourself and staying healthy will more than repay itself, both at the tables and throughout your life.

When You Run Out Of Goals

This article was written by Andrew Wiggins, AKA “Muddywater,” an instructor for CardRunners.com.

When you start playing poker, your first big struggle is to break even. Then you try to become a winning player, then to move up, then to maximize your win rate wherever you settle. Not everyone states their goals this way or sets them in this order, but they’re basically the same for everyone: stop losing, start winning, play bigger, and win as much as you can.

When you get nearer and nearer to the end of that chain, you face new psychological difficulties. You aren’t playing with different-colored chips; you aren’t trying to turn your bottom line from red to black; you aren’t squinting through datamined statistics from that bigger game you’re trying to move up to. You’ve found your game, and you win at it. It’s cruel, but all this success doesn’t really put a player at the top of a mountain, but rather in tricky and unforgiving psychological terrain. The wins get less and less euphoric, but the losses hurt just as much. You risk becoming complacent, stagnant, and unhappy.

I’ve spent plenty of time now grinding it out at the medium stakes, so resolving this problem has been one of the biggest challenges of my professional career. My favorite solution is to create artificial incentives. I create some sort of goal and make it both achievable and tangible, so that I can again focus the way I did when I was working toward being bankrolled for a bigger limit. I’ve sometimes devoted a certain part of my winnings to a project or purchase; if you try this strategy, you might decide that 25% of your profit next month will go towards a new TV. You’ll have something to work for, and if you’re like me, poker will become more fun. It will spur you to play your best game and to put in hours. There’s never a guarantee that you’ll have a great month, but having tied your results to something immediate is enough to get the desired effects on your game and mentality. A fancy dinner or fun vacation will immediately affect your life in ways that a mutual fund investment won’t.

You can also create specific challenges for yourself; these can be either win rate goals you set privately or competitions you set up among your peers. A limit player might try to win three bets per hundred hands over his next 250 hours, and two friends might race to be the first to make $1,000 at $50 sit-n-go’s. If you’re doing a solitary challenge, you might want to start blogging, as that way you can get feedback, and you face public embarrassment if you tilt and play badly. I’ve done several challenges with a friend of mine, and each time it refocused my game and let me have a lot of fun.

For now, though, I’m working for my liquor cabinet. I’ve decided to devote part of my winnings to stocking my new apartment. I wouldn’t normally spend that much money on booze, but it’s fun to think about, and if I have a good month I’ll celebrate it in style. If you’ve found your game and are grinding it out, I hope you make sure you have something to work for too.

Mixing It Up – Trying Different Games

This article was written by Andrew Wiggins, AKA “Muddywater,” an instructor for CardRunners.com.

Serious poker players have turned to online play in such high numbers because so many games are available around the clock and because multitabling is so beneficial. These same qualities, however, can turn poker into a grind, and that can be damaging both to your psychology and to the quality of your play.

Live play is often disparaged among online players because you see so few hands, but the slower pace of live play gives you more time to process information. You’ll also have to rethink some basic situations. Preflop situations that are automatic online can be closer live, where I think you often need to play tighter. You also have access to different kinds of information live; you can, for example, keep much closer track of each player’s mood. Online, where you can’t see your opponents and might have played thousands of hands against them, it can be easy to neglect the day-to-day and minute-to-minute changes in their styles. This is more obvious live, and sensitizing yourself to this type of information can improve your attention to game textures when you get back online.

Another advantage of playing live is that it focuses you on not only on your opponents games but also on your own. Due to the fact that you are seeing less hands than online, you must ensure that you minimize any mistakes you may make in a hand. While one mistake during an online session can hurt your results, it likely will not destroy the overall session. However, during a live session, one mistake can have an enormous impact on your total results. Developing the mindset to focus on every individual hand and eliminate mistakes is a skillset that is sometimes overlooked by multitabling online players. If put to use, it can greatly improve your results.

Putting in hours live isn’t the only way to mix up your games. A cash-game player can also begin playing tournaments. One immediate and obvious benefit is that because tournaments present new challenges and situations, you’ll have new things to learn. Feeding your urge to learn about poker, whatever the format, is great to do, and it will likely carry over into your main game. Look at Phil Ivey live and “mr. menlo” online; they both play tournaments and cash games. Brian Townsend is even picking up limit Omaha-8.

Mixing up your poker games has other advantages besides keeping you fresh. Learning other forms of poker can greatly assist in your ability to read hands. Reading hands is one of the most important abilies to have in poker. When you are presented with different situations in other games, you will be forced to learn your opponents’ range in new conditions. Being able to accurately put your opponent on a specific range of hands is invaluable in any form of poker.

All poker players need to work on their game constantly in order to be successful. By trying new games, I’ve enjoyed myself, found holes in my game, and increased my desire to learn about poker; you can do the same.

The Myth of the Socially Non-Redeeming Activity

This article was written by Bill "Zimba32" Seibert, administrator of the popular poker training website CardRunners.com.

A couple recent events spurred me to write this article. On a recent family holiday to celebrate my father's 70th birthday, I received another version of "the talk," where my conservative, religious father informed me once again that poker is just "gambling" without any socially redeemable value. The other event was reading Gaucho2121's In the Spotlight interview as I put it together for CardRunners where he states poker is "inherently unproductive from a social perspective." Both individuals have been steadfast in their assertions that poker is not a positive activity that benefits society. My counter assertion is that poker is no better or worse than any other activity. What defines your personal redeemability within society is how you conduct yourself, not what you do (assuming its legal).

Many people are influenced by what "greater society" deems responsible and choose careers accordingly. Their goals are generally two fold; wealth accumulation and status. Wealth accumulation can be achieved many ways, but often the common denominator is hard work and applied skill. I would assert that poker is certainly one of the best for wealth accumulation for those that have what it takes. Status comes from participating in an activity that society values highly. It can be a socially noble career like a teacher, scientist, or social worker of some sort. It can be the status and enriching careers like doctor, lawyer, business executive, financial area or even professional athlete. Poker player never seems to come up in either list. Why is that?

I believe poker isn't considered socially redeemable because it is considered "gambling" with all of its negative connotations. I looked up several definitions of "gambling" online.

-Gambling (or betting) is any behavior involving risking money or valuables (making a wager or placing a stake) on the outcome of a game, contest, or other event in which the outcome of that activity depends partially or totally upon chance or upon one's ability to do something. – Wikipedia

-Illegal participation in games of skill or chance for money and/or other items of value.

-The voluntary risking of a sum of money on the outcome of a game or other event.

My understanding of poker doesn't comport to those definitions listed above. It is a legal game that combines skill and luck in a competitive game of cards versus other individuals. You are not guaranteed to lose to the "house" as in all casino games and the preponderance of the skill edge defines it as separate from games of mostly luck. My father argued that at best it was the same category as horse racing where some skill element in selecting the horse effected the luck element, but it was still gambling. The difference I see is that you are are betting on yourself and your skill edge versus your opponents in your competition. In the short term, that skill edge can be negated by the luck element, but skill overcomes luck in the long term. In that respect, it is similar to competitive sport. In poker's case it is more a mental and psychological battle versus a physical battle, although it takes considerable stamina as well. In sports, the ball may bounce the wrong way or the referee may make an incorrect call ithat influences the outcome in the short term but in the long run the better team/individual prevails, the same as poker.

The more important factor to me is that if you neutralize the negative social status of poker, then what are you left with to define your activity, status and nobility? As I stated before, what defines your status should be how you conduct yourself in society. As long as the way you accumulate your wealth is legal, then how you choose to spend it defines your legacy and standing in society. Some of our societies greatest figures accumulated their wealth in sometimes questionable fields, but what they did with their wealth defined them as noble and admirable. Alfred Nobel accumulated great wealth making dyanamite in all its destructive forms but endowed the Nobel Prizes which have changed the world. Andrew Carnegie made great wealth from industrial revolution industries that preyed on the poor but endowed many educational institutions around the country. Many would argue that Bill Gates has become the world's richest man by creating non-optimal software and stifling competition, but he has endowed the richest non-profit the world has ever known which is doing many great things.

Using examples that are closer to home, what attracted me to CardRunners as a member initially was the relative nobility of its owners. Certainly Taylor Caby and Andrew Wiggins could have kept their skill edge to themselves and profited playing poker for years to come. While there was definitely a profit and experience motivation in starting CardRunners, they also had a desire to give back, to share their knowledge with others. When opportunities have arisen, they have reached out to others in need because they can afford to due to their success poker playing and CardRunners. They see CardRunners as a springboard to other socially responsible activities. They want to develop other businesses. They suffer the social stigma of being poker players but are able to have a vision to make CardRunners the best it can be. CardRunners has helped enrich hundreds and thousands of other poker players. The cumulative social effect of having these people conduct themselves nobly in society would be quite an impact.

To sum up my points, what defines your status and social redeemability is not the mode of wealth accumulation but rather what you choose to do with the wealth you create. There are so many people with good hearts who accumulate little wealth in their lifetimes. They may contribute on a daily basis in their actions and careers. There are others who may achieve great wealth in socially accepted and status-filled fields like doctor, lawyer, business, or athlete who never think to contribute back. For those fortunate enough to profit as successful poker players, you have the luxury and responsibility to give back. Giving back may take many forms; you can donate, invest, help others. It has a three fold benefit; you benefit society, you improve the status of the poker player within society, and ultimately you feel good about your actions. Poker is not an inherently unproductive or socially unredeemable game or profession. Do your part to prove me right!

Disciplined Poker

This article was written by Andrew Wiggins, AKA "Muddywater."

Over the past few years, many online poker players have enjoyed the luxury of playing poker for fun while making money at the same time. However, with the ever changing landscape of online poker, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to win without taking a disciplined approach to the game. Many players do not employ all available options to improve their chances of winning.

With the makeup of the games today, you must use every advantage possible to realize and maximize wins. Some may seem obvious, but they are often taken for granted. This article is meant to be a reminder for those that have become lazy and for those that have not done everything possible to gain an edge.

The most obvious advantage one can gain is playing in a favorable environment. This is fairly easy for new players. These players are uncomfortable multi-tabling and typically enthralled by the new experience of online poker. On the other hand, players who have been grinding online games for a prolonged period of time may find it more difficult. Veteran players often get bored with the endless hours at the tables and therefore do not fully concentrate. It is essential to eliminate anything that can be a distraction while playing. Some common distractions are browsing the internet, talking on an instant messenger service, or watching TV. If a person is not completely focusing on their games, valuable information will be missed. When you are playing poker to make money, you should treat the game like a job. Poker won’t always be the most enjoyable thing you could be doing, but it’s probably the most profitable.

Two other beneficial additions to one’s playing experience are PokerTracker and a display such as PAHud or Gametime+. Players can easily get lazy and stop referring to their PokerTracker or loading up their PAHud before a session. There is no reason not to use these every session you play. It’s impossible to keep track of all your opponents. Any added information on an opponent will help your chances of winning. In addition, PokerTracker provides an unparalleled tool to allow one to analyze their game. Poker players are infamous for thinking they are bigger winners than they are. PokerTracker keeps people honest about their results. The win rates that were attainable in the past are not as reasonable any more. Everyone must come to the realization that games have gotten harder, and they must adjust accordingly.

Every serious player should review important hands after every session. Doing this is one of the best ways to improve as a player. It is inevitable that you will have difficult and defining hands every session you play. It’s impossible to always play every hand correctly, and there is often more than one way to play a hand. Taking 10-15 minutes to review your hands will help your game immensely. Furthermore, it’s very beneficial to get the input of respected peers and to post hands on message boards. The more diverse perspectives you can get, the more your understanding of the game will grow.

These are all things that every good player knows. It is just too easy to get out of the habit of actually performing all these tasks. There are up and coming players that are likely playing more than you while taking the game more seriously. These players can make up for lost time fast and obtain an edge. As long as you are playing the game for money and not solely for fun, you should do everything in your power to maintain your advantage. Be honest with yourself, and take a look at your game. Make sure you are completing every requirement to ensure your dominance.

When to Double Barrel

This article was written by Andrew Wiggins, AKA "Muddywater."

One of the topics I am frequently asked about is when it is appropriate to double barrel. The term double barreling refers to a player making a second continuation bet without a made hand on the turn. The question of when to do this is an incredibly open-ended question that has countless variables affecting the answer. However, there are general guidelines that can be followed to determine when a second barrel can or should be fired.

Many low limit players tend to overcompensate and fire too many barrels. They feel that the LAG style requires them to run a lot of bluffs. In fact, playing a LAG style is much more about using position than anything else. The essence of LAG play is to create the illusion that you are playing looser than you really are. This means that, at times, you will need to make a bet on the turn with nothing, but it should be done with caution.

In most instances, after a flop continuation bet, it is best to surrender an unimproved hand. This is especially true at lower limits. Double barreling is more effective at the higher limits (5/10+). There are too many unsophisticated calling stations at the lower limits. Reads also come into play more in the higher stakes games. In these games, the opponents are much more observant. Often times, there is history between the players as well.

I typically only double barrel about 20% of the time. By only betting a fraction of the time, my bets are able to retain respect. At the same time, the occasional double barrel will allow doubt to enter the mind of my opponent. I believe there is more value in having added respect on the turn than having complete disrespect. A good player should be able to manipulate hands in his favor, allowing him to get paid off on good hands. When you don’t have a hand, which occurs more often, you will want respect. The fact that I know my second bet gets respect a lot of the time influences the situations in which I double barrel. If I felt my respect on a table was low, I would not double barrel at all. The opposite is true when I have a lot of respect.

The most apparent spot to make a second bet is when your opponent is obviously floating you. This situation applies more when you are playing the hand out of position. It is usually unlikely for a player to float out of position on a regular basis. When you notice that you are getting floated by a specific player, it is often a good idea to start making some double barrel bets. This will typically win you the pot, while sending a message at the same.

Unless you are constantly getting floated, you will want to consider the board texture and the speed of the game before making a second continuation bet. Most often, you will want a scare card to come on the turn. For instance, if the board reads Q72 and the turn is an A, you can often represent the ace and bet again. However, if the board read Q72 and the turn was a 2, you wouldn’t want to bet very often. In the former example, you can force out a pair of queens. In the latter, it is unlikely that queens will fold. However, one thing to consider is the second card. If the board’s second card is a card close to the top card, there is a reasonable chance that your opponent called your first continuation bet with second pair. An example of this would be on a KJx board. Your opponent would often call a flop bet with a hand like AJ, but would typically fold to a bet on a blank turn.

Situations where semibluffs are possible are also good spots to make a second bet. This situation, however, is more read based. The problem lies in the fact that if you bet the turn and are check-raised, you often have to fold the hand. The exception is when you have put in a lot of money and have a combo draw. Otherwise, you won’t be getting the right odds to call a push. Therefore, by taking a second stab at the pot, you eliminate your free card and chance of making your hand cheap.

You will need to keep an eye on your opponents' tendencies. Two important factors to consider are how often your opponent slow plays big hands and how frequently he check-raises. His timing can also play a significant role. Usually an instacall on the flop signals weakness. Opponents tend to hold a hand that is mediocre but not great when they instacall the flop. They know that they will call and not raise or fold, and therefore there is little thinking to be done, hence the instacall.

The most important thing to realize is that double barrel bets should be used with low frequency. Their purpose is to keep your opponents honest and also to build action for when you have a real hand. Even occasional use will plant the seed of doubt in your opponents' mind during future encounters.

Double barrel betting is a necessary tool, as long as it is used in the right scenarios and with the right frequency. The next time you find yourself mindlessly firing two continuation bets or convincing yourself that your opponent is weak for no reason, stop and consider if you are in a favorable situation to fire that second barrel. Most times, you probably aren’t.

Why Do You Play Poker?

As admin, moderator, and operations manager for CardRunners.com, I see this question played out every day with our members and pros. Obviously, the answer is different for everyone. In fact, there is no right answer. We all play for various reasons and motivations, but determining your own reasons why you play can help your game immensely. Not adjusting your game strategy and game selection to incorporate your reasons can be detrimental to your game. Ultimately, its about knowing yourself.

The main element that I distill from all the reasons most often given to play poker is ego. It has many manifestations, but often boils down to our own ego. The greater we can understand and control that aspect within us all, the better players we can be.

So how does ego manifest itself in the reasons we play poker? I break it down into several groups of reasons we play: money, fame, competition, and fun/entertainment. Your approach to how you play the game would and should be different depending on which combination of factors are important to you. Players who seek money often learn that cash games are where the most consistent money can be made and gradually build up their multi-tabling skills to maximize their edge. Players who seek fame generally focus on reaching the finish line associated with MTT's, hoping one day to win the big ones on the WPT and WSOP. Players who seek competition can find it at all levels and types of game and revel in the skill and strategy necessary to beat their opponent, no matter what. The last category makes up the most players; casual players with various motivations, but who all generally see the game as fun and entertainment.

One of the aspects that drew me to CardRunners a year ago (as a member, first) was that the ego of the pros and members seemed to be in check. These were very successful players who chose not to smack talk at the table, generally. They were players who won with class. They remained pretty humble considering the great sums they were winning at the tables, and yet each had the desire to share that knowledge with others. They recognized that having interests outside of poker—and having some balance in life—was important. And most importantly, they stressed that the greatest tool to keep your ego in check and prolong your days playing poker was to practice well-disciplined bankroll management.

Getting back to my initial question about why you play poker; is it to bash your opponents into submission? Is it to be a winner? Is it to be the last one standing? Is it to make lots of money or just a little? Is it to pass the time playing the latest 'cool' game? Is it a stress reliever, or perhaps a stress maker? When you can answer those questions and truly understand your inner motivation, then you can try to plot out achieving your goal in a realistic fashion.

In my opinion, it is the same element, our ego, that can contribute to our achievement of these goals or contribute to our failure. It can drive us to succeed or cause us to play above our roll and tilt away all our hard work. So how do we harness the good that our ego can provide and avoid the dark side? The answers have already been mentioned: knowing why you are at the table, having a plan/goal, and playing within your bankroll. Until you match who you are with what you want from poker, you are bound to struggle.

I will use myself as an example. There are several reasons I play; fun/entertainment, competition and making some money. I only started playing poker in my mid 30's as a result of watching it on TV. I've always enjoyed playing cards, competing in sports, and showing something concrete from my efforts. I am married with kids. I own a business and generally have many responsibilities elsewhere. While I dreamed early on of making it big, I quickly realized I couldn't be one of the young whiz kids who can devote all their time and energy to being the best possible player, because I had other priorities to balance.

Now, as operations manager, admin, and moderator of CardRunners, my days are filled with many emails, posts, and problem solving that don't allow a lot of time to play uninterrupted. Additionally, I have always been financially conservative, so the disciplines of good bankroll management always came easily to me. After evaluating my situation and priorities, I tried to set goals for myself within poker. One goal I set was to never have to redeposit ever again. Another goal was to keep studying and improving my game, which had led me to CardRunners in the first place. A third goal was wanting the experience of playing poker to remain fun and never become a grind, or work-like.

As a result of answering the questions of why I am playing and of setting clear goals, I have found an approach to playing that suits who and what I am. It is not as flashy or profitable a style as many other players, but I'm okay with that. I play cash games, as I rarely have the opportunity to play for long blocks of time. I tend to play a tighter version of the LAG style that CardRunners' successful pros advocate, because I find it more comfortable to minimize the tougher decisions at the lower levels. I play with a larger bankroll (50X) than necessary, because it gives me comfort when I lose a couple of buyins. I single table usually, because I have found I focus best that way. I look to grind out a respectable return and avoid big swings. Obviously, with this approach, I won't ever be the best or greatest, but I will continue to develop and play profitably, keeping it fun and enjoyable for years to come.

Through this process I have been able to remove a lot of the destructive force of my ego from the equation and accomplish my goals. I don't find myself playing above my roll. I don't usually play when tired. I spend time exhibiting good table selection. I can accept defeat at the hands of a better or luckier opponent.

Obviously your answers to why you play, what your goals are, and how to accomplish them will be different from mine, but the exercise of asking yourself these questions will further you along that path. Good luck at the tables.

This article was written by Bill Seibert, AKA Zimba32, who is operations manager for the popular poker instruction site,CardRunners.com.

Cardrunners Releases Video for P5ers!

Today, CardRunners.com is providing a sample video as content for PocketFives users. In this video, Andrew Wiggins plays four tables of 2/4 NL on Full Tilt Poker.

The power of position is an important concept that is well known but often misunderstood. Most serious poker players recognize the importance of position, but many do not apply this knowledge correctly to their game. CardRunners places great emphasis on position, and throughout all of the videos, viewers can see pros such as Andrew apply advantageous use of position through real life examples. Throughout this video, Andrew stresses how he deals with certain hands with regards to his position.

CardRunners posts at least three videos every week. The site is comprised of four pro players: In addition to Andrew Wiggins, the pros are Taylor Caby (Green Plastic), Brian Hastings (Stinger885), Jeff Garza (ActionJeff). However, since every player approaches the game in a slightly different manner, CardRunners often posts videos by Guest Pros. These videos allow for members to understand different approaches to the game. Most videos are between 40 and 60 minutes. There is a library of over 200 videos that contain priceless information for improving one’s poker game.

The video can be found on the front page of CardRunners.com in the grey box.

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