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Found 230 results

  1. Wanting to do something and actually doing it are two different things. After last week's column about taking a leap and learning a new game, I received a few e-mails from players saying they wanted to learn a new game, but were unsure how to go about it. Some of the common questions were along the lines of, "How experienced should I be at No Limit Hold'em before I try a new game?" and "What stakes should I play when I try a different game?" The good thing about poker is there are very few, if any, hard and fast rules. Everything is fluid, changing, and situational. As far as learning a new game, it is all about you and what fits well with your style and situation. If you play for profit and a significant portion of your income, then limiting your exposure and making sure to not kill your earn rate are important and have to be factored in. If you play recreationally for profit and don't really count on your poker winnings, then you are in a different situation. If you play to win, but can handle regular poker losses, then you can take another approach all together. For the person playing to pay his or her bills, branching out into a new game is dangerous. I would suggest that this type of player stick to their regular routine and budget some of their entertainment money to play new variations of poker. You will be putting in more hours at the table and not getting to do some of your normal away-from-the-grind activities, but this way you can maintain your regular monthly schedule without any added risk to your income on top of an already volatile profession. Dropping down to lower stakes may be necessary, but push yourself to play at a level where you care enough about the money involved to play your best and make good decisions. For the part-time profitable player that doesn't count on poker money for day-to-day bills, time is a more precious resource than money and I would suggest allocating some of your poker time to playing a new game and mentally accepting that you may go from being a winning or breakeven player to a losing player for a month or two until you start to reap the benefits of learning the new game. For this type of player, playing in similar or slightly smaller stakes games should be fine at first. If you feel like you are bleeding money early on, you can quickly drop down to lower stakes, but playing at a level you are familiar with will help you adjust and pick up the game as quickly as possible. For the purely recreational player that has no expectation of winning, picking up a new game is simply a matter of deciding to play. You are already budgeting money to play poker, so just take some of this and put it towards a new game. Depending on the limitations of your budget, you may want to drop stakes to minimize your losses so you can continue to play as much as you normally do. The key here is to continue to enjoy yourself and play at a level such that when you win, you are excited to win and when you lose, it hurts a little, but not too much. As far as your experience in your game of choice before you branch out to new games, there is no set level at which you are ready. If you are a total novice and just learning the game, you may want to focus your efforts on one game at a time, but once you are comfortable at the table and understand the mechanics and some basic strategy, there is no harm in starting to pick up new games. If I were forced to pick the optimal time, I would say when your learning curve starts to level off a little bit would be the perfect time to add in new games. When you first start to play Hold'em, you improve quickly and regularly, but then at some point your game starts to level off and while you may still be improving, the increments are much smaller. At this point, adding a new game can give you a different perspective and jumpstart you back into regular and noticeable improvement in all of the games you are playing. Learning a new game is more than just playing hands, so make sure you are spending some time reading material about the game, discussing hands and theory with other players whose games you respect, and spending some time thinking about the game and why you are doing the things you do. As you get the mental juices flowing, you will start to see all poker games in a little different light, and the increased perspective on the game will make you a better player across the board. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at PokerRoadCourt@gmail.com.
  2. After last week's column, "Act Like You've Been There Before," there was enough feedback from readers who thought I wasn't accurately giving credit to different financial situations of players. The part in particular they took issue with was when I opened the piece with an example of a player excessively celebrating in the first level of a $300 buy-in tournament. My point wasn't about the buy-in amount of the tournament. Instead, it was about the stage of the tournament. In the first level of any large-field tournament, if an entrant is running around celebrating, hooting, hollering, and generally making a scene, he or she is doing it as a cry for attention. Alternately, that player's emotional state isn't suited for the ups and downs of poker. I have always been a player who played well within my bankroll and have a lot of respect for other players who have done the same. Through discipline and hard work, they have limited their risk of ruin tremendously, while at the same time, they are successful poker players. Part of the emotional control I suggested in the previous article comes from playing at a level you are financially comfortable with. If you are playing a $300 tournament with the last $300 to your name, the pressure is tremendous and it is unlikely you can play anything close to your best. The same would be true for someone in a $10,000 event with no bankroll left. There is a fine line to determining the level where you should be playing. If the number is too big, your odds of going broke go up significantly, even if you are a long-term winning player. The stress of constantly being on the verge of broke makes it difficult for most people to play well and focus on the things they need to be focusing on. For many, if they play too small, it is hard to stay motivated. I have seen solid winning $5/$10 NL players sit down at a $1/$2 game and bleed off buy-ins because they can't get themselves mentally into the game enough to play well. I have never worked off of any hard and fast bankroll rules. Being financially conservative by nature, I was never drawn to play too big too soon and when I have decided to move up to bigger games, I was comfortable from a financial standpoint. I know there are some great players out there who thrive on the stress and pressure of having a large portion of their bankroll in play. There are no hard numbers to prove it, but my guess is the number of players who get by like this is a very small percentage of the number who have attempted it, went broke, and fell off the map. Even for recreational players who sit down at a game knowing, at least in some part of their mind, that over the long-run they will lose, it is important to play within a level you can handle. There is nothing wrong with playing at a negative expectation, and there are many reasons players do so. For many, it is simply paying for entertainment, but it is important to experience that entertainment at a level that is sustainable so you can continue playing and give yourself a chance to improve. Looking back, one of my most memorable moments in tournament poker, and one of the times I have been most excited in poker, was when I won a $100 tournament. At the time, it was the largest tournament I had played that was hosted at a country club. There were fewer than 100 entrants, but for someone very new to the game, making the final table and ultimately winning was a big deal to me. Even then, as a novice to the game, I didn't do much celebrating. And I certainly didn't make a fool of myself after winning a pot during the first few levels. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at PokerRoadCourt@gmail.com.
  3. Sitting around a poker game last week, the conversation turned to NCAA brackets and strategies for filling them out. Like anything else, there are a lot of elements to take into consideration and significant game theory behind how and why you make the picks you do. For most people, it is a very base-level process: pick your favorite team to win it all and then fill in the rest of the spots by haphazardly choosing teams, most of which you know nothing about. What caught my interest in the discussion, though, were not the parts about which team matched up well with whom or who had an injured player, but the more broad-scope considerations that go into picking brackets. For example, picking upsets in the first round is great, but you miss out on the value of having the better teams that are more likely to win in the later rounds where the points are much more significant. That quickly leads to the scoring of the league you happen to be in and another aspect most entrants never consider, the size of the pool. If you and eight guys from work are doing a pool, then you don't need to get too far out on a limb to have a shot, but in a national pool with thousands and thousands of entrants, going chalk isn't going to give you much of a shot at coming out on top. It is likely more prudent to take a few more risks than you would in a smaller pool. While we talked about it, I didn't really get too far into thinking about the theory behind bracket-picking, but I did start thinking a lot about the type of people who tend to view all events and situations in a strategic, game theory light. I grew up playing strategy games and, from an early age, was always analyzing and doing things to give myself what I thought was the best shot at victory with an understanding that just because in a particular instance my strategy didn't work out didn't mean my strategy was wrong. In a nutshell, being a strategic thinker should help insulate you from being overly results-orientedin individual cases. People who are analytical and strategic in real life are people I expect to be "naturals" at the poker table. They bring an approach to the game early on in their poker career that most players take years to develop, and many never do. Understanding the "why" behind what you are doing makes picking up new things easier. A lot of players have learned to play No Limit Hold'em reasonably well. A significant number of them know what to do in many situations, but lack any real perspective on why they are taking the actions they are. So, when they try to switch over to Omaha or another game, it is a tough transition in which they almost have to go back to the start and memorize what to do in each individual circumstance. In contrast, the more game theory-based players can adjust and adapt using the "whys" from their other experiences to help them figure out the "whats" in their new endeavors. I am always looking for ways to be better and more efficient in almost everything I do in life. If pressed, I would have probably said it was just my nature, but upon more thought, I think it is at least somewhat a result of me being involved in strategic thinking from an early age and participating in game theory long before I had ever heard the term. As I write this, the first of the Thursday games are just finishing up and I am two-for-two so far in my bracket (along with almost everyone else). Enjoy the games and spend a little time thinking about how you might fill out a bracket differently in a 30-man pool versus a 30,000-man pool. Then, you can justify watching basketball as a way to improve your poker game. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at PokerRoadCourt@gmail.com.
  4. When I go to the World Series of Poker, I plan out a schedule of events and know ahead of time that those are the tournaments I will be entering. I often buy in early to avoid waiting in lines. But just because I am playing the events doesn't mean I don't take advantage of the opportunities available in the satellitesthat are constantly going on around the WSOP. This year, I played four satellites and was fortunate enough to win two of them. I played a $550 2-7 NL Single Draw satellite and a $550 No Limit Hold'em satellite that I did not cash in. The first one I won was a large-field $1,000 buy-in satellite the day before the Main Event's Day 1A. Out of the 700+ players, there were 70 seats being given away. Those tournaments are perfect for me, allowing me to often do well without ever really having to make a hand or take many chances. Early on, they play much like normal tournaments, as you try to accumulate chips, but you don't have to have all the chips to win. Finishing with one chip left gets you the same result as being a monster chip leader. I was able to pick up a few chips early, but never had a big stack and was content to hang in there picking up pots nobody seemed to want and taking advantage of good situations. The next thing I knew, I looked up at the board and we were down to 160 players with 70 seats being awarded. At this point, it was all about survival. At one table, I had to be patient because the player on my left had a pile of chips and even though he shouldn't have been willing to gamble, he was. At one point, he risked about half of his stack calling off with pocket tens against a player's A-K. Luckily for me, he held and busted another player, getting me one spot closer to a seat, but the risk he took was not worth the reward. He may have been to a point where he could fold to a seat, but short of that, he could definitely have found better spots to pick up small pots, take the blinds and antes, force players with mid-stacks to fold almost any hand, and win pots without seeing a flop, much less an all-in showdown where anything could happen. That table was going to break soon and when it did, I found myself in a better spot with two mid-stacks to my left that were willing to fold most hands and not get too involved. The short stacks on my right missed a lot of chances to move in and get chips and instead, they let themselves blind down to a point where they were going to get called. In one orbit, I had some interesting hands come up in terms of satellite strategy. In middle position, I picked up pocket sixes and with 25 big blinds, open-folded. Then, a hand or two later, I had pocket eights and also open-folded. Under the gun, I picked up pocket nines and continued with the strategy of open-folding. I had too many chips to just move in hoping not to get called and with a few erratic players at the table, I was somewhat concerned that they may call even with hands like J-J or A-Q. That, combined with being able to pick up the blinds without much contest, made folding mid-pairs a pretty easy decision with my stack size and the table dynamic. Raising and giving one of the big stacks the chance to move in and make me fold would have been a mistake, while just moving all-in was too much risk from middle or early position with the other dynamics at the table. In one hand, the button player raised and the big blind called. Both had been more active than their stacks warranted and both were in spots where they should have been moving in or folding in most circumstances, but that was not how they were playing. The hand between them played out with some betting, but neither got all-in. At showdown, both players had 10-7 offsuit for the same hand, middle pair with a bad kicker. They chopped the pot up and we went on to the next hand. The way that hand played out, along with my other observations, made me confident that the button player was opening and then passively playing too many hands by a large margin. The big blind player was calling with almost anything, but was not willing to get too committed after the flop. The next hand, I was the big blind and the first 10-7 player from the previous hand raised. The other 10-7 player just called and it got to me. Before looking at my cards, I was pretty sure I was going to move in for my 20 to 25 big blind stack. Unless the initial raiser had A-A or K-K, I thought he was folding, and felt like my image along with his play and table talk made it likely he would fold hands as strong as Q-Q and A-K and would definitely fold all other holdings. I also had a bit of a read on him that any hand he was willing to get all-in with, he would have moved all-in with to begin. When he raised, he wasn't willing to put all of his chips at risk. The second player in the pot I was certain would fold based on his actions and the feel I got for his understanding and thoughts on satellite strategy. So, in the middle my chips went and after briefly thinking, the first player folded and the second couldn't wait to get rid of his cards. After picking up that pot, I was much more comfortable and had the chips to put myself in a great spot to win a seat without having to take on hardly any risk for the rest of the satellite. The other satellite I won was a $1,000 single-table winner-take-all tournament. It was nothing special, just a standard sit and go with all of the money going to first place. I played near the end of the night on the last night for satellites before the Main Event. Other players were tired, frustrated, and making last-ditch efforts to win their way in. Luckily for me, the one really good player at the table busted. After that, I was in a good spot to play solid sit and go strategy to give myself a big edge over the field. I was able to chip up without showdown enough to gamble with the shorter stacks without ever putting myself at risk for my tournament or even for a large percentage of my stack. This year, the WSOP satellites are over, but as I do every year, I find myself heading home from the WSOP thinking I should spend more time playing satellites next year to take advantage of the value that's available. Some of the massive value there is limited to certain times, but satellite strategy is not something that many of the players around the WSOP are well versed in. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com.
  5. On Saturday, July 7, the World Series of Poker Main Event kicks off with the first of three starting days. Poker players from around the world, each with varying skill sets and experience levels, will descend upon the Rio in Las Vegas for the $10,000 buy-in contest. Among those who will be on-hand this year is Chris FoxWallace (pictured), the founder of TourneyTracks.com, a longtime poker instructor, and a member of PocketFives since 2005. We caught up with Wallace to relive his Main Event experience and discuss his mindset in it. We hope you can take a little bit away from this article if you're playing in this year's WSOP Main Event. PocketFives: Tell us about your first time playing in the Main Event. We understand you had a short stay. Chris Wallace: My first time playing it was 45 minutes long. There was nothing I could do, either. I got it in as an 8:1 favorite on the flop. When you realize $10,000 is gone, you're pretty irritated. PocketFives: Ugh. What advice do you have for first time Main Event entrants? Chris Wallace: For people playing the Main Event for the first time, it's important because it's such a unique event to spend a little time at the table relaxing. You're not going to make 50,000 or 100,000 in chips in the first hour. You're not going to win the tournament in the first hour. If someone doubles up in the first level, the likelihood they're going to make the money doesn't increase that much. Even if you double up during the first hour, it doesn't matter that much for you in terms of equity. Instead, get used to the table and the environment. The money is great for a lot of people, but for other people, it's an experience, so think about what your goals are. If it's an experience for you, then don't take a bunch of stupid risks the first day. You can fold your way through the first day - I'm not advocating that, by the way, but it's possible. You can be cautious and focus on low-variance plays if you want to. If it's really about winning the thing, then you're probably prepared for that already because you're playing poker for a living and playing the game seriously. In any tournament I play, I take time to assess the table and try not to be too rash. If I start to play too many hands, it could cost me a ton of equity. Even when it's all about the money, I'm still very cautious, especially in a field that big. You won't know more than one or two people at the table, so it takes time to get used to how people are playing. PocketFives: What kind of turnout are you expecting in the Main Event this year? Chris Wallace: I think it will be smaller this year. The fields have been down this year overall. The fields in the bigger buy-in events have been down and with so many fewer qualifiers, all of that money is going out of the poker economy. You had people making money online last year who decided to go play poker in the WSOP to see what happened. Now, they've had a whole year to figure out what to do. You have fewer people this year. You have people playing smaller events in other series in town as well. That said, the Main Event is always filled with fish. However, I think you'll see fewer recreational players come take a shot this year. PocketFives: With what could be around $9 million for first place, is it best not to think about the money? Chris Wallace: Yeah, and some of that comes with experience. You start thinking about the money less with experience. If the $9 million affects your game, then it's a form of tilt. And with any form of tilt, I've learned to make the right play regardless of how I feel. With enough experience, you can focus on making the right play at the right time even if you're frustrated or elated about the potential of winning $9 million. You learn to make the right play regardless of how you're feeling. PocketFives: How did you bust from the Main Event in 45 minutes, by the way? Chris Wallace: It was aces against kings on a J-8-3 board with two clubs and my opponent hit a runner-runner flush. I was very disappointed. That was the only year my wife came with me to Vegas. I called her 45 minutes into it and she said, "You can't possibly be calling me right now." She asked me what I needed and I said, "A beer." We had a fun night and the Main Event was over. PocketFives: How are you going to buy into the Main Event? Do you have backing? Chris Wallace: I have backing in anything $1,000 and bigger. My backer is really easy to deal with. I get my own action below $1,000 and can make money and pay my bills. It works out really well. Backing hasn't changed how I play, though, and I probably wouldn't let it. I've been backed since the day after Black Friday. I can understand how backing would change how you play. Say you're $50,000 in make-up and you're at the final table. If $100,000 is first place and $50,000 is second place and you're an average stack, you'd play crazy and go for the win because that's the only way you make money. People who have make-up in their deals will tend to play bigger with bigger feels to try to get ahead of it rather than grind it down. That said, you really want to cash in the Main Event. And once you cash, you really want to keep playing and move up and win the thing. Even if you're $100,000 in make-up, it's nothing compared to the money at the top of the Main Event. I know players who have traded a bunch of pieces of each other as they got to 50 people left and 100 people left. That happens so much as you run deep in the Main Event and might affect some people's play too. PocketFives: Would you consider swapping pieces with someone? How can you hold the other person to the agreement? Chris Wallace: I would never swap pieces with someone I didn't know well enough to do it with a handshake agreement, but I know a lot of people who do anyway. I would recommend a text message or e-mail that says, "We're swapping 5% of our profits in the Main Event of the WSOP in 2012." That's a legally binding agreement. A judge can read English and you don't need a lawyer to write that up. Almost every deal I do is in a simple e-mail and judges can read that. You can tell people you only do it that way and they will largely be fine with that. If it's remotely a hassle for someone to do it, then just forget it. Swapping is fun, though. Having 20 people backed in the Main Event is just like having a bunch of horses you bet on. It's like having money on every NBA game one night. Some of the backers are like that - they love having all of those people in it. You can get the same thrill by swapping action with other players. What Main Event tips do you have? Let us know by leaving a comment here. HogWild Poker, a free, U.S.-friendly online poker site, makes PocketFives' WSOP coverage possible. The site is staking 10 players with $500 buy-ins to live events at casino tournaments of their choice every month. On top of that, each month, HogWild is throwing in a $2,000 staking package to a WSOP Circuit Main Event. Sign up for HogWild Poker for free today by clicking here. U.S. players are welcome.
  6. The game was our normal $5/$10 blind Pot Limit Omaha game and started around 1:00pm. Around 10:00am the next morning, the game was still going strong and players had been in and out all day. The game was still good, or great actually, but I knew fatigue was starting to set in. If I were going to keep playing, I would have to focus just to stay at a reasonable level of play and not make a huge mistake. Luckily, I had my bag in the truck with a change of clothes and the place we were playing had a shower I could use. I was able to miss a few hands and freshen up enough to feel rejuvenated to keep playing. The game ended up running until 9:00pm that night for a total of 32 hours played, with a handful of players being there the vast majority of the time. I ended up okay in the game and although I was exhausted when we finished, I enjoyed playing a long session like that. I wouldn't want to do it on a regular basis, but a few times a year, I would be up for playing long sessions like that if the circumstances worked out. The next day, I got to thinking about the game, my play, and how fatigue impacted my decisions as well as the decisions of everyone else. The fun of poker is that the circumstances and information available to you are constantly changing and never complete. After playing for 24+ hours, there are all sorts of new elements to consider. Many of the players were stuck and chasing. Some of them had been playing for many hours, while others had played for a little bit, went home and slept, and came back. The fine line comes in being able to accurately self-evaluate while being sleep-deprived and very tired. Not only do you have to factor in how much your tiredness is impacting your play, you also have to make that determination while you are not at your best mentally due to lack of sleep. It's a bit of a circular situation, but if the game is good and you want to keep playing, these are decisions that have to be made. As long as you feel like you are still playing with an advantage, keep playing, but know that you have to constantly reevaluate the situation. If your play starts to deteriorate, it is time to call it quits. Even one more round could be a disaster once you reach the point of no return and lose the ability to make good decisions. Long sessions at a casino are often unnecessary since the games are going all the time, but in local games, it often takes a long session for the game to get really good and the stacks to get exceptionally deep. With that in mind, I was in for the long haul unless I really got to the point of not being able to concentrate. As fresh players started coming back into the game, I had to be even more careful, knowing they were playing at an advantage coming in rested. But, I still felt like the general makeup of the game fit my style well and that my experience playing deep-stacked gave me a decent advantage. For now, I'm going to try to catch up on rest and don't want to jump back into a long game any time soon. But, if the opportunity comes up, I'm sure I'll be glad to hop in and play for many hours in a row again. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com.
  7. When making a bet, we need to ask ourselves two very important questions, the first being, "Am I betting for value or as a bluff?" Once we have the first answer, we must then ask ourselves one of two other questions: "If I am betting for value, what worse hands can I get to call?" and "If I am betting as a bluff, what better hands can I get to fold?" Asking these questions greatly improves the reasons behind our actions. And if you ask me, the biggest difference between good players and great players is the reasons behind their actions. To be a solid thinking poker player, we must practice thinking; asking ourselves these questions is the first step. Lots of our bets in poker seem very standard. We get an opening hand, so we open. Since we've opened, if no one raised, we generally c-bet most flops. Usually, whether we hit the flop or not, we do about the same thing. We are the aggressor, and the aggressive action will work a decent percentage of the time. But for the times we smack the flop or when we get board textures that we know smack a villain's range, we should ask these questions and come up with an appropriate plan of action. Let me give a couple of examples. Let's say we have Td-Tc and the flop comes Th-6c-2s. Sometimes with these dry boards that should miss the villain's calling range often, we should check instead of c-bet. We are trying to let the villain catch up. We know that if we bet, we would be betting for value, but we also know by asking ourselves, "What worse hands can call" that it is hard for the villain to continue when we have most of the tens and there are not many sensible draws. Check/calling this flop with a plan to either make a delayed c-bet on the turn or possibly check once more and bet the river will allow your opponent room to catch up or bluff. When holding top set on a dry board, allowing the villain to catch up or bluff may be the only way to extract value. Here is another example. Let's say we have As-Kh, we open, and one player flats. The flop comes 9h-Ts-Js. Here, we have a wet connected board that will hit a flatter's range often. I think in this situation with two overs, a gutshot straight draw, and a backdoor runner-runner flush draw, if we bet and get raised, we will be in an awkward spot trying to decide if we have enough equity to continue. I think some players will c-bet here even with this board texture expecting the c-bet to work often enough to be profitable, but it will be stack and villain dependent. Sometimes in spots like this, I will check/call on the flop instead of making a standard c-bet. My hand has value and I do not want to be forced to fold. I also don't want to have to make a decision for my whole stack with overs and draws. So, in order to avoid this tricky spot, we ask ourselves, "If I c-bet, which would be a bluff unless we were willing to stack off, what better hands will fold?" On this type of board, I don't think many hands that connect with it will fold. Most flush and straight draws will be continuing and possibly trying to get stacks in on the flop. One option would be to check/call. If we check/call, we can get to the turn for about the same price as if we would have c-bet and we don't lose the value of our hand. This is what I mean by so much of poker can be standard, but when we are facing tough spots, we need to be able to think through the situation by asking ourselves the right questions to help us come up with an optimal decision. Now, I would like to talk about a common mistake I see every day: when players bet the river when only hands that have them beat can call. I know we have all been in that spot and after we bet and the villain raises, we are like, "Doh." If we were to ask, "Am I betting for value or as a bluff," and then follow that with the either "If I am betting for value, what worse hands can I get to call" or "If I am betting as a bluff, what better hands can I get to fold" before we bet the river, we can determine if we need to bet. Once we have determined if we are betting, we should have a plan. There is no reason to bet, get raised, and then be confused. Before making any bet, we should have a plan for all players left in the hand. In this spot, facing one villain on the river, we should determine if we have showdown value. If we have showdown value, but don't want to call a raise, we should check/call. If we have no showdown value, we need to decide if we should bluff or not. When deciding whether to bluff, we simply ask ourselves if any better hands will fold and then make our decision. There will be some times when just check/folding is the best option, but whatever we decide, we should have reasons behind our actions. To expand on having a plan, I would like to add a few points. If it is folded to us and we are deciding whether to open, we should look at these things. First, we look to see if any of the villains have a shove stack. If any of them do, we simply decide if we would call if they shoved over our open. If any of the villains has a large stack, we need to decide how we would react to a 3bet over our open. Now, make sure when you make these plans, know they are not set in stone. We are more setting an outline for the events that we think could take place. If we are thrown a curveball, then we need to make sure to take the new information into consideration and adjust our plan accordingly. For example, say we had a plan to call the shove stacks after opening because of their size, but we were going to fold to any 3bets by the bigger stacks. Then, we bet, a big stack flats, and then two short stacks shove. Obviously, a lot more happened than originally anticipated, so we take the new information into account and make an appropriate decision. It's not often we would continue to call the short stacks' shoves when two of them shoved and there is still a big stack with a decision left. Often in this spot, I think we will be finding a fold. Poker is a game of skill and requires lots of thinking. The better we get at applying the right questions to the right situations, the better we will be playing. We should be asking ourselves these questions every time we bet until they become second nature. Let's all strive to be solid thinking players and see how far this game can take us. If you are interested in taking lessons or need any information, please contact me at variance101@gmail.com and/or visit variance101.comor variance101.blogspot.com.
  8. One of the more satisfying feelings in poker is when you work out every possibility in a hand. Anticipating and preparing for when an opponent errs is almost a high for me and certainly entertaining enough to examine for a strategy article here on PocketFives. In this piece, I thought we'd peer into a hand I played in a $109 tournament on PokerStars. The villain was a decently tight reg running 15/13 with a 6.2% 3bet. He had 102 BBs and was UTG+1. His early position raising range was usually 13%, but in this session, he'd been opening up due to his larger stack size. He was a solid all-around player. He's the type of player I've heard has saturated the games now. Many people complain that these generic regs are not great, but they all take just a little money out of the game and they're difficult to draw money from. However, if you know what to look for, you can get money from a tough regular too. I was sitting next to the villain with 7d-5d and 70 BBs. I thought he would not adjust well since it's not in his normal game to open from early position much. I looked at his Fold to 3bet. He had folded four times out of the eight times he'd been 3bet. If I was thinking of purely bluffing with something like 9-2, this was a horrible situation for that. I still had five people to act behind me. His Fold to 3bet was not high enough for me to really want to do it with any two cards. Most of the stacks behind me are around 40 BBs. They can't flat and their stack is a little too big to jam. Clicking on their session statistics showed that everyone was playing pretty tight. This was in the middle of a WCOOP Sunday and people were pretty occupied. I figured no one would go after my 3bet. Still, I can't just 3bet him without more information. If he's decent post-flop, he's not opening with enough hands to really isolate him here. I eyeballed his Fold to Continuation Bet statistic, a very important factor here since our opponent will be checking to us out of position quite a bit. Wow, he folds 74% of the time to continuation bets over a huge sample. That is a huge Fold to Continuation Bet percentage. A normal, honest, tight-aggressive regular, the kind of guy who really only continues with a decent pair or a good draw, has a Fold to Continuation Bet of about 60%. If you think about it, this makes sense. About one time out of three you hit the board and a small percentage more than that you hit some mediocre draws. A 74% Fold to Continuation Bet means I can rely on this opponent check-folding some decent middle pairs. 7-5 suited will flop two pair, an open-ended straight draw, a flush draw, or any of those draws with a pair 25% of the time. We're in position. When we continuation bet this flop, he is folding too much. If he calls us, we can just check back when he checks the turn and take a free card. If we're blessed with a goofy two pair or another hand worth double-barreling with, then we can apply pressure. It's all up to us when we're in position. An examination of his Check-Raise statistic shows it's 3%. That's akin to middle sets+. He's not going to be check-raise/bluffing ever. I've been playing pretty snugly for a while. We seem to have a mutual respect for each other. His Vs. Hero statistics with me are pretty tame. 3betting in this spot isn't generally a steal. I think this is a good time to throw a change-up. He opens to 800 at 200/400 with an ante of 50. I make it 2,000. The pot is now 3,800. I'm risking 2,000 to win what's in there. 2,000/3,800 = 0.52631. I need him and everyone else to fold more than 52.63% of the time here in order to 3bet without cards. If he is opening more than normal, I would assume he's raise/folding enough hands to make the 3bet profitable versus solely him, but with five players to act, I don't think 52.63% of the time everyone is folding. For this reason, I wouldn't 3bet with just a blocker here. We need something we can't flat like 7-5s, but still has a ton of post-flop semi-bluff potential. Everyone folds around to him and he flats 1,200 fairly quickly out of position. The board comes Ad-10h-7s. This is normally one of the worst boards I could continuation bet into. He will have more A-X combinations than anything in his range. However, he is a special opponent. He will not be calling with a number of gutshot straight draws, middle pairs, and he could even possibly fold a weak ace. He checks to me. I bet 2,000. I do not need to bet more because of my position and this opponent's direct way of playing the flop. I am risking 2,000 and the pot I will win when he folds is 7,000. 2,000/7,000 = 0.28571, so we need him to fold 28.57% of his hands in order to make this continuation bet profitable with any two cards. He normally folds 73% of the time on the flop. He's out of position, so normally that number should be higher given the situation. You see why this is such a great spot? If our opponent called us with a very tight range pre-flop, say 66+, AJs+, AJo+, KQo, KJs+, QJs+, J10s+ with no AA or KK (we assume he 4bet those hands), he still has absolutely no hand 24.2% of the time. Even if you strengthen that range by including AA and KK, he still has nothing 22.2% of the time. An additional 16.7% of the time he has a pair under middle pair, which you know he's never calling with. The next 12.1% is made up of QQ and JJ combinations, which this opponent could possibly fold, although it's not likely. He doesn't have a hand that can beat top pair 57.6% of the time. He doesn't have a hand that beats middle pair 42.4% of the time. Assuming he plays the exact same way he's played over thousands of hands, we have a profitable continuation bet. Not to mention, when he calls, we still have two sevens, three fives, and backdoor diamonds we could hit. It's our choice in position whether we want to pot control and see a free card or charge the man. He time banks for a while and then calls my small continuation bet. I don't believe he's going to the turn with a very wide range. I don't see as much value in double-barreling even if the turn is a diamond. I'd rather take a free card because he has mostly A-X combinations that aren't folding to undercards. The turn is the five of spades, giving me a small two pair. The great thing with a player like this is if you hit a hand, you have massive implied odds. He will not fold top pair once he's called on the flop. The flop is where he decides to continue until the river and he doesn't do much calling with a plan to reevaluate the turn. That's why his Fold to Continuation Bet is so high. If he check-raises, you can fold knowing there's no chance in hell he is bluffing. He always has a hand that beats bottom two pair. Admittedly, I did something stupid here. I was multi-tabling and mashed a normal bet I do to keep in middle pairs. I bet 4,400 into a pot of 9,000. In retrospect, his range on the turn is heavily weighted toward A-X combinations. Guys who always fold on the flop hold on for dear life when they call. They've waited so long to continue to a turn that it usually makes them sick to give up at any point afterward. I think I should have bet 6,000 to 7,000. He calls. The river is the four of clubs. It's a beautiful card. There was little chance he flatted with A-4s pre-flop, so that card doesn't make a superior two pair possible. There is 17,800 in the pot and I bet 9,400. I think not going for a five-digit number here makes the bet look smaller than it is. It sounds stupid, but there's a reason every car dealership on Earth sells things for $19,999 and not $20,000. He ended up time banking for a long while on the river, so maybe it was better to bet smaller on the turn and river. Eventually, he called with As-Qs and I collected a 45 BB pot. Alexander AssassinatoFitzgerald has been a professional poker player since he was 18. A large winner in cash games, SNGs, and tournaments, Alex has amassed $3,000,000+ in tournament earnings alone. Alex is an instructor at PocketFives Trainingand can be reached for private lessons at Assassinatocoaching@gmail.com. You can also follow his Twitter @TheAssassinato or his blog at Pokerheadrush.com. He currently resides in his suburban home in Costa Rica with his girlfriend and poodle.
  9. Early in MTTs, there is a general thought process to play solid. For the most part, I think most people believe that over-playing hands early will often result in winning small pots and losing big pots. The structure also plays a part in these decisions because early in MTTs, there is usually no ante, which offers a smaller reward for picking up pots pre-flop. In my opinion, a lot of players who play several tournaments at once go into autopilot. This gear is commonly used when playing the first few levels of MTTs and when mass multi-tabling. In this gear, I think most players are playing an ABC style of poker where they are not really getting out of line or trying to bluff often. I think while auto-piloting, most players fall into an outdated style of play where they are waiting for a hand and then evaluating their play. During this time, most people are usually not watching the action closely enough to do anything different, whether it's due to playing to many tables or playing distracted. One problem that could come with playing lots of poker on autopilot is engraining that style of play as a habit. Any action an individual practices over and over could slowly turn into a habit. The last thing a poker player needs is to build a habit of autopiloting with little focus. I think some players could get to the point where playing on autopilot will feel normal. Even when the tables get reduced to a point where all of the action could be followed, they are likely to stay on autopilot and use their extra time to search the web and chat with friends. If this happens to you, know that you are basically burning money and losing EV. Obviously, playing on autopilot is less optimal than observing how the table and your opponents are playing and countering that with an effective strategy to gain EV. One thing we have going for us today is poker software. With a poker HUD, players can add volume and use the HUD for information instead of having to watch every hand at every table. But in my opinion, a HUD isn't enough. We still should take notes and make sure we are aware of our image. A poker HUD is a valuable tool, but we have to make sure we are still thinking and paying attention. When using a HUD when the sample size is small, we have no way to tell if a stretch of activity or inactivity from a player is their style or a run of cards. When the sample gets larger, the HUD stats are more helpful, but can still be skewed if you have no thoughts on how the villain perceives you. Watching showdowns and taking notes can be very helpful. Taking effective notes takes practice and can be very beneficial. It's very easy to take a note that will turn out to be unhelpful in the future. When taking notes, I try to put down relevant information that can help in the future. One of the most common things I include is their poker statistics from OPR or Sharkscope. I also have my own icon system. Understanding whether a player is a winning regular, a breakeven player, or a losing player can help you range them. For example, if a winning regular shoves 14 big blinds from the cutoff, you can expect them to have an idea of what a shove chart is and be shoving optimally. And if a losing random shoves the same 14 big blinds from the cutoff, there is a greater chance they have been waiting for a hand and are likely to be stronger. Sometimes I will note a whole hand the villain played to give myself the ability to go over it later and remember what the villain is capable of. I also like to note how I think the villain perceives me. Also, there are a few plays I look out for and if I see a player make one of them, I try to make a note immediately. These plays consist of things like a stop-and-go, a donk lead, or opening and folding a stack that should have been a shove or a fold. Avoiding the autopilot and taking notes is by far the most optimal way to play, but like anything it takes work, but the payoff is worth it. In closing, I just want to say that to truly play up to our potential, we need to avoid too much autopilot and make sure we are focusing, giving it our all, and taking notes. If you catch yourself playing on autopilot, dig a little deeper and try harder. A lack of focus will only cost us EV in the long-run. This article was written by John cracker9ball Reynolds, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are interested in taking poker lessons or would like any information, contact him at variance101@gmail.com and visit Variance101.com.
  10. Poker is a game that's inviting to anyone who wants to play and has been around a long time. I would imagine that a huge percentage of society has played poker at one time or another. Poker is also a game that welcomes any player: male or female, big or small, old or young. Everyone has an equal opportunity to win. MacroPokerprovides filterable news services, a free poker odds calculator, the ability to watch and share interesting hands, and a free statistic service for SNG and MTT results from the largest online poker rooms. Visit MacroPokerfor details. I remember when I first started playing poker in home games about 20 years ago, I hadn't been around poker nor did I know much about it, but as I started to learn the games, I realized that when you get the money in good, you usually win. Maybe I was fortunate to be around a bunch of average players at best, but from the time I started playing, I remember feeling like I had a decent shot to win. I also remember being able to spot the fish, but had no clue how to exploit them. I played poker spastically over the years until 2004, when I heard about online poker. I started playing online, but was just clicking buttons. In 2005, poker was legalized in Oklahoma and I started working at a casino in the poker department. At first, I was all about work, but after being around poker every day, several of us began to get the bug to play. We couldn't play where we worked at first, so we would travel an hour to play. It was during a drive to the casino when, for the first time ever, I met someone who had read books and tried to improve at poker. Unluckily for me, I still felt I was good and never asked enough questions. I am sure it was mostly ego, but it wasn't until 2010, after four years of losing online, that I finally decided I had to figure out what I was missing. In 2010, I started a poker chat group and a player referred me to a training site. After hearing good things, I joined the training site and remember my jaw dropping during the first video I watched. I was amazed when I realized how much time I had spent playing poker with false thoughts of being good. I began to watch lots of videos, play a ton of volume, and discuss as many hands as possible. I was also fortunate to meet a couple of good players who let me watch them play, which helped me begin to understand more and more about the game. I am sure we all have different stories of how we started at poker, but for any of you who are still stuck in the ego rut I was in for so long, I want to offer a few thoughts to help you improve. The last few weeks, I have been playing more live than online and have been amazed at some of the mistakes I've seen players make. Here are two poker staples that everyone should be familiar with. The first is one of the most common mistakes I see players making. I have seen way too much limping from all positions, calling most small raises, and then check-folding the flop. I think this mostly comes from people wanting to play and trying to hit the flop. In my opinion, we would be better off selecting better starting hands and opening for a raise instead of limping. Let's start with a baseline for opening hands. Obviously, depending on the table and your opponents, this can vary, but here is a baseline range for opening hands. HJ+4: AQo+, AJs+, 88+. HJ+3: AJo+, ATs+, 77+. HJ+2: ATo+, A9s+, KQo+, 66+. As you can tell, at HJ+4, also known as UTG at a nine-handed table, the opening range is AQo+, AJs+, 88+ and then drops one hand in each column for the next two positions. When reaching HJ+1, HJ, CO, and BU, the opening range can depend on many factors, but should slowly widen and be the widest on the BU. These opening hand guidelines will help players avoid getting in too many pots out of position with marginal holdings and help players learn more about position. Another mistake I see often is players calling off huge percentages of their stack with a speculative hand that requires them to hit to be any good, for example set-mining or suited connectors. When calling with a speculative hand where we feel we need to hit a set, flop two pair, flop trips, flop a straight, or flop a flush, we should not be paying much more than 5% of the effective stack without a good reason. For example, let's say we are playing $1/$2 NL with a $200 stack. We open for $6 from the HJ with 55, the CO folds, and the BU makes it $24 with $250 behind. The blinds fold and now it's on us to call $18, raise, or fold. The general thought on set-mining is that we shouldn't pay more than 5% of the effective stack. The effective stack is the shorter stack in the hand. In this case, its us with $200, so 5% would be $10. For us to call, it's $18, so truly we do not have the right price to call and so should fold. We are also out of position and unless we hit a five on the flop, it's unlikely that we can call any c-bet on the flop. If we were in position and felt we could win the pot with position, the decision could be different. Just remember that any time, especially out of position, picking the spots to play when we have the correct price is very important. I know this information will be common knowledge for several players, but I hope to help any new players, or players who have been held back by ego like I was. I want you to know that poker is a deeper game than some people realize and we can all improve. I see so many players going through the motions and playing lots of hours, but never doing much to improve. Why keep making the same mistakes over and over? If you're playing live, start reading as many articles in the poker magazines as possible and try to apply what you read. If you have any trouble understanding any of it, find someone to start talking poker with and improve together. Talking poker is a great learning tool. If playing online, players should try to join a poker chat and a training site and be active in the forums. The great thing about poker is you get back out of it what you put into it, so get to work! This article was written by John cracker9ballReynolds, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are interested in taking poker lessons or would like any information, contact him at variance101@gmail.com or visit Variance101.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  11. 2012 is almost complete. We have rolled into December and less than a month remains in the year. In poker and in life, setting goals is common and important, and many of those goals are evaluated annually. If poker is more than a hobby, then having some clear-cut goals is an important part of what you do, and working toward them should be something that lasts longer than the first couple of weeks of 2013. ---------- MacroPokeris the presenter of PocketFives' strategy articles and provides filterable news services, a free poker odds calculator, the ability to watch and share interesting hands, and a free statistics service for SNG and MTT results from the largest online poker rooms. Visit MacroPokerfor details. ---------- Now is a great time to start looking at the goals you may have set for yourself in 2012 and seeing where you stand. If you are relatively new to poker or have significantly changed your playing situation, then you may have missed your goals by a wide margin. But, over time as you get a better grasp of what is realistic and possible, you should be able to fine-tune your goal making to be more precise. If you missed your goals, or look like you will, you shouldstart evaluating what went wrong and determine if you need to change anything going forward. Often, the problem can be in the goal itself. If you set a goal to play 3,000 hours of poker and didn't get there, then the solution may not be to play more poker, but instead realize that playing 60 hours of poker a week isn't something that is good for you or that you want to do consistently. A lot of my goals for 2012 were outside of poker, but have actually improved my poker game. As I continue to develop as a person and as a businessman, I am finding that a lot of the lessons and theories I am learning on the business side translate extremely well into how I should be thinking about poker to continue to improve as a player. Learning about business accounting, risk management, prioritizing, and generally running a business all apply well to what I am doing at the poker table and have improved my thought processes and bottom line. Over the years, I have read a fair number of poker books, but the financial and business books and podcasts I have been exposed to over the last few years have helped me at least as much at the poker tables as the poker books have. The majority of my goals are self-improvement-related and revolve around continuing to educate and improve my knowledge base on things that are important in my life and that I deem to be important for years to come. Poker plays a big part in my life and contributes to my income, so constantly improving is important to me. Finance is important to all of us. As poker players, since we use money as the main measuring stick of what we do, investing has always interested me and is something that has many parallels with poker. Gaining business acumen is a constant and ongoing goal of mine as I look to broaden my horizons beyond poker into new and interesting ventures. As I continue to read, listen, and learn about all of these topics, I find time and again that they all have common threads. Therefore, as I learn and understand more about one topic, I also improve in other areas. So far, 2012 has been a solid year for me. I met many of the goals I set and exceeded my expectations in a few areas. I also gained knowledge and experience to have a better idea of what I want to shoot for in 2013. What goals are you setting for yourself in 2013, both poker-related and otherwise? Let me know by commenting here. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com.
  12. "I want it. I want it now." I am sure we have all had thoughts and feelings like this. I think it's common for people to have these feelings because when we want something, we want it right then. Unfortunately, not everything can be bought and acquired right at that moment. For example, improvement cannot be bought; it has to be earned. A person must put in the time and effort to improve. ---------- MacroPokeris the presenter of PocketFives' strategy articles and provides filterable news services, a free poker odds calculator, the ability to watch and share interesting hands, and a free statistics service for SNG and MTT results from the largest online poker rooms. Visit MacroPokerfor details. ---------- Wanting to improve is common, but actually improving is not. The first step of wanting to improve is easy, but it's the next step that really gets in the way of most players' success: the step where we put in the work to achieve our goals. I see lots of players getting the bug to improve and starting to do a couple of the things needed, but then something happens and the desire fades. What happens to these players to make that desire fade away? Are they losing interest after a couple of bad sessions? Does life get in the way? Or is it just a lack of focus to stay on task? I personally never had that much trouble putting in what I thought was the work, but I could have done a lot better. When I played pool, I didn't practice a ton, but instead stayed in action non-stop and improved by always playing in competitive situations. At poker, it took me a while to figure out that the good players were doing work. For some reason, I just didn't apply thoughts of improving to poker. In 2010 when I finally realized it, I did everything I could to improve. I started a poker chat group, joined a training site, and took lessons. I spent quite a bit of time trying to improve and am very happy I did. When we want something, we have to put in the work and follow-through. I also think continued improvement is very important. It seems to me that there are too many players who get a taste of success and then all they do is play. They don't seem to be overly concerned with continuing to improve. I think talking poker is one of the easiest ways to continue to improve. My advice: build up a solid network of players to talk poker with and then make sure to get them talking. Reviewing hands and discussing lines should never get old; it's the lifeblood of improving at poker. This article was written by John cracker9ballReynolds, who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are interested in taking poker lessons or would like any information, visit Variance101.com or contact him at variance101@gmail.com.
  13. Gross generalization, right? How could I know if you should bluff more? I don't even know who you are. You could be the most active, three-barreling, never-let-a-hand-go, aggressive player to ever play. You could be tighter than Allen Kessler on a money bubble. Well, you are right. I don't know you and maybe you are the exception, but in general, most players don't bluff enough and, when they do, it is in the wrong spots for the wrong reasons. ---------- MacroPokeris the presenter of PocketFives' strategy articles and provides filterable news services, a free poker odds calculator, the ability to watch and share interesting hands, and a free statistics service for SNG and MTT results from the largest online poker rooms. Visit MacroPokerfor details. ---------- Balancing your range is current terminology for not letting your opponent know that you always have a really strong hand when you bet. If you are always going to value bet the nuts and other strong holdings, sometimes you have to bet hands that are not strong so your opponents can't learn your tendencies to a point where you get no action. This is important, but leaves out all of those situations where you feel like you are playing with someone you will never see again. You don't want to take the risk of getting caught in this spot in hopes of balancing your range for a hand later down the road. Balance your range against players you plan to play against going forward. Be more conservative against those you don't expect to see again. It's wrong. It is costing you. You are leaving value on the table and you are making decisions to bluff for the wrong reasons. Balancing your range is an added benefit to plays that should have positive expectation anyway, meaning over time if you make the same play in similar situations, you will come out ahead over a significant sample size. But, your bluffs should be made in spots where you are coming to an analytical decision that bluffing for X amount will win you the pot often enough to be worth it over the long-run compared to the times you get called and lose the amount you bet. Here is the catch. Most people greatly overestimate how often their opponents will call and underestimate the times a well thought out and executed bluff will be effective. Just because third pair is the best hand doesn't mean a guy can call with it. Or second pair. Or top pair. Or whatever. Many players will amaze you with their willingness to turn over really strong hands on the assumption that there is no way you could be betting if you didn't have them beat. An eye-opener to this concept happened to me many years back when I was in Vegas bouncing around with a friend. At the time, I was mostly playing $5/$10 and a little $10/$20 NL, but we weren't looking to put in a serious session and were just messing around. We met some friends at Planet Hollywood and decided to sit down and play a little $1/$2 NL. I was splashing around straddling, raising, and betting aggressively in almost every pot trying to liven the game up and have a little fun. It was working, I was winning pots, and other players were starting to react. After keeping this up for an hour, I got into a pot with a guy where I raised and bet the whole way. On a K-T-4 board, I raised him, he checked to me on the next two streets, and I made healthy bets the whole way. The turn was a 7 and the river was a 5 - nothing too scary - but on the river, my bet was enough to put my opponent all-in. He thought for a while and finally showed pocket fours for a set and folded. I did my best not to have a goofy grin on my face as I pushed my hand face down toward the dealer and raked in what was a pretty good pot for a $1/$2 game. I don't remember what I had. Nothing pretty much and I was amazed that the guy could fold anything there other than maybe a straight draw that left him with no pair. I was sure he would have called with A-K, or any king for that matter, and the idea of making him turn over a set was something I would never have considered. But he did, and other players turn over all sorts of hands they shouldn't. So bluff more. And do it because it is positive EV. You might get caught some, but that's okay too. Like everything else in poker, you constantly have to evolve and challenge the way you think and act. Bluff more and get some feedback. Pay close attention to what people are folding to you, especially if they actually show you their cards. Take the bottom of your range that can't win any other way and give it a shot to win by bluffing. It should also help you get paid off on the very top part of your range too. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com.
  14. "I can't beat him," He's so lucky," "How does he do it?" - you hear that kind of whining all the time. A player with sound fundamentals and an intuitive feel for the game can be a good player. The great players are the ones who have the ability to adapt to their opponents. Instead of spending time complaining about their opponents' good luck or their own misfortune, they figure out what's working for their opponents and find ways to exploit those tactics or to use them in their own game. ---------- MacroPokeris the presenter of PocketFives' strategy articles and provides filterable news services, a free poker odds calculator, the ability to watch and share interesting hands, and a free statistics service for SNG and MTT results from the largest online poker rooms. Visit MacroPokerfor details. ---------- Great players are also accurately able to identify when their opponents are just getting lucky opposed to playing well and doing things that help them win. Complaining doesn't play a role in adapting; it puts you in a bad mindset and makes the game less fun. If you are up against a player who always seems to get there, you may be up against a guy who is on a heater. But, instead of complaining about your rotten luck, do some analysis of what he is really doing. Is he calling off every step of the way or is he doing the betting early in the hand? Are his starting hands strong, playable, or just any two cards? Is he generally the aggressor and playing in position pre-flop or is he calling bets from any position and just hoping to get lucky? Is he actually winning every hand or does it just seem that way because he is in a lot of hands, but is able to get away from those he isn't winning? You can sit around and complain about the guy getting lucky and running over the table. He probably is getting a little lucky. He might even be a calling station getting smacked in the face by the deck. But, as the game continues to evolve, there are more players who are talented, perceptive, and aggressive. They maximize their fold equity, get other players off their game, and are the "luckiest guys I've ever seen." There are strategies to counteract any player, but if you are spending your time and energy making sure you and everyone else know how lucky he is, you probably aren't asking any of the questions mentioned above. To go slightly more in-depth about this strategy and style, it is all about fold equity. This style of play often shows up with drawing/speculative hands once pot size and stack sizes dictate he has to be in for the rest of the way. Sometimes, middle pair trips up. In those cases, our "lucky" player wins nice pots where it looked like he had the worst of it and got lucky. In reality, those situations where he is gambling with the worst hand are balanced by all of the hands he is winning before that point when he is getting his opponents to fold and picking up pot after pot. There are many ways to win at poker, but sitting around complaining about someone getting lucky isn't one of them. Figuring out what the lucky player is doing and counteracting it can put you in the catbird's seat. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com.
  15. I remember watching poker in 2010 and 2011 and hearing all of the talk about the old school players versus the new school internet players. Some of the differences talked about were how the old school players made good reads but might lack some knowledge with regards to EV and they would play out of position or flat a little too much. The new school players were more math-based and used EV and position. New school players were more likely to use more pre-flop pressure than read-based post-flop play. ---------- MacroPokeris the presenter of PocketFives' strategy articles and provides filterable news services, a free poker odds calculator, the ability to watch and share interesting hands, and a free statistics service for SNG and MTT results from the largest online poker rooms. Visit MacroPokerfor details. ---------- Around this time, I remember Daniel Negreanu starting to play more online and he elevated his game to the point of having the skills of both the old and new. I also remember hearing about Phil Hellmuth working with Brandon Cantu to sharpen his game and learn more about the new school type of play. Then, we began to see players like Jasontreysfull21 Mercier start to flourish in the live arena; as they learned more about playing live and making reads, they too would improve. From this, I gathered that a mix of old school and new school is needed to truly achieve greatness in poker. A player needs lots of experience live so they can make a read and go with it, but they also need to know about position, chip equity, expected value, and several more tools the new school players were mastering. Now that Americans are 22 months removed from the ability to play online poker, I think we are starting to see the effects at the poker table. I believe that there is a definite difference in how players are playing. I was talking with a very talented internet player at the recent WSOP Circuit stop in Durant, Oklahoma and we were laughing about all of the flatting (especially out of position), the price players would pay to draw at a set, how often blinds were defended, and the lack of consideration players were putting into the stacks left to act when they made a decision. We talked about how American poker players seem to be regressing because the majority of our play is in live MTTs with lots of below average players. Improvement isn't thrown in our face all day long like it was online. I think there are fewer players talking poker and trying to improve and more players just grinding. As a result, their game is suffering. As online poker got popular, the average player got better. Most players who played online poker would hear about tracking software, training videos, poker chat, and poker coaching, which were all based on improving at poker. I think the time away from online poker has hurt Americans as a whole. There are more players trying to make negative EV hero calls and bluffs that leave some of us scratching our head. I think one way to keep ourselves on track is to improve our defaults. I am all about having a read and going with it, but we must still have solid fundamentals to keep us playing +EV. I see so many players make mistake after mistake and then say, "I had a read." A read is great, but if we have to flat out of position and float the flop over and over because our read is "the villain is aggressive," we may be making a mistake. I think players should be able to follow their reads and use them to make decisions, but first they must make sure their defaults are solid enough to keep them playing +EV the majority of the time. Keep an eye out for the follow-up to this article where I'll go into detail about some of these default fundamentals. Good luck to all of the grinders. Long live poker! This article was written by John cracker9ballReynolds, who hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you are interested in taking poker lessons or would like any information, contact him at variance101@gmail.com or visit Variance101.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  16. As most poker players know, playing a hand in position is easier and more profitable than playing out of position. Similarly, playing a hand as the aggressor is typically going be more profitable than calling a raise. Nonetheless, when reviewing hands with other players, I see them calling raises out of position with marginal hands more often than they should without a plan of how to proceed. These spots most commonly occur when you either flat a 3bet from a player in position or defend your blinds from a raise by a player in position. Without initiative in the pot and when out of position, these hands can become incredibly difficult to play, especially against competent opponents. As an example, in a recent hand, a player defended 9-7s from the big blind. He and the villain are both regs and had approximately 40 big blinds. The flop was T-7-2 rainbow, he checked, and the villain fired a continuation bet. In such a spot, a pair is often ahead of the villain's opening range on that board and he decided to call. The turn was an A, he checked, and the villain bet again. The A is a great card for the villain to rep and we should expect a competent villain to bet fairly often at this point, which the villain did, and the player in the hand called. The river was an inconsequential 3, he checked, and the villain bet. At this point in the hand, we've shown that we have a moderate strength hand and are reluctant to fold. When the villain bets the river, he could either be realizing our hand is weak and looking to push us off the hand or could be attempting to get thin value from our marginal hand. This hand can be similarly complicated if the villain checks back the turn. Does he have showdown value and is attempting to maintain pot control? Or does he have nothing and your single pair is ahead? If the river brings another overcard (a jack, queen, or king), a number of his combinations could have improved. If the villain decides to bet the river on this board, you're again in a predicament of deciding if he is going for thin value or has complete air and is using the scare card to bluff. These situations highlight that when playing out of position, you're always more exploitable. The further along you are in the hand, the larger the pot becomes. The decisions become more difficult and there is higher variance. Competent villains will be able to dictate the action and force you to make difficult and expensive decisions. Without a solid read on how the villain plays and when less experienced in post-flop play, you're more likely to make the wrong decision. What is the best way to avoid getting into these spots? The simplest answer is to fold pre-flop. Playing marginal hands out of position is difficult. Most players tend to overestimate their ability to play post-flop and the result is playing hands out of position, check-calling frequently on the flop, and not having a plan for subsequent streets. Consequently, players end up getting into tricky situations on the turn and/or river without a solid plan of how to proceed. I'm not advocating never playing a hand out of position. What I am recommending is that if you're a less experienced player who isn't comfortable playing post-flop, especially on turns and rivers, you'll be more fundamentally sound and play a lower variance style if you avoid flatting 3bets and defending your blinds with marginal hands. Even good players with solid post-flop games don't often average a large profit in these situations. Folding those suited one-gappers pre-flop may not be fun, but it is better than making the wrong decision on the turn and river. The best way to improve playing out of position is learning how to play well in position. Understanding how to assign ranges to opponents, how to read bet sizes, and how to interpret board textures are critical to playing well post-flop. As the aggressor in a pot with position, it's much easier to work on these skills. Once you've honed your skills in those areas, then you can begin to translate that knowledge to out of position play. There are also alternatives to folding that can be highly profitable, but this involves 3betting or 4betting, which builds large pots and induces variance in your game. Although this isn't a bad thing, if you're not comfortable in these spots, it can lead to making large mistakes. Although I'm not a big fan of the fold button, using it is also an important skill to develop in poker. Knowing you're about to enter a pot without a plan in which you'll be faced with difficult decisions is more often than not a good sign that you should click it. Tyson Ford is regular contributor to PocketFives poker discussions threads and a PocketFives Training instructor. He is also available for private coaching and can be contacted via private message or at tyson.e.ford@gmail.com.
  17. Ever hear someone say they don't like Pot Limit Omaha or PLO/8 because there is no way to bluff? If so, you have identified someone you want to be playing against who is missing out on a big part of the game. I play in some of the loosest games you can find with plenty of action and a mass of players who are getting to showdown with a high percentage of hands. Even with that, I find myself bluffing and betting blockers often enough to have a significant impact on my overall results. In almost any game with a bunch of loose players who tend to call, you are usually going to find a couple of tighter players trying to combat the looser styles of their opponents by playing premium hands and rarely getting committed to a pot without the nuts. One of the first things I do when I sit down to play either version of Omaha is figure out who the "lock" players are and what their positions are relative to the action players who are difficult to move off of any sort of a hand. To not get destroyed in any Omaha game, it is imperative to be able to identify the nuts, be aware of paired boards, and not get too out of line with flushes or straights that aren't the best. Even many of the mid-range, active, loose players know that a nine-high flush on a paired board isn't going to win them many huge pots. In Hold'em, any flush using two of your hand is pretty hard to get off of and most of the time in a decent game, an overpair or even top pair is worth getting a fair number of chips in the pot with. So, in a game where players are more aware of what the best possible hand is and you are often playing hands with an ace, it is not an uncommon situation to show up with an ace in your hand of the suit that is showing a made flush or flush draw on the board. Knowing that I may encounter this type of situation numerous times over the course of a session, I then have to decide what other elements are going to go into when I try to take down a pot by betting a blocker. Like almost any other play or move in poker, whether it be stone cold bluffing or value betting the nuts, being aware of stack sizes, player tendencies, and position is key. If one of the players you have identified as mid-range and active is in the pot but only has a few chips left, there is no point in betting the blocker only to hear him say, "I'm sure you have me, but I don't have enough chips to fold." If you are playing PLO/8 with a player willing to call bets just to draw at a low even when he has no chance at making a good high hand and there are a couple of low cards on the board, then betting a blocker in that spot isn't a great plan either. I've found two of the most common spots I am able to successfully bet the blockers are when I am in position in a pot that has multiple players pre-flop for a relatively small amount and when I am in a two- or three-way pot with at least one "lock" player who has some chips in front of him. In the limped pot situation, nobody has too much invested in the pot chip-wise or emotionally, and this makes it easier for them to get away and also limits your exposure trying to take the pot down. If the flop comes all spades and I have the ace of spades, I am betting when it gets to me or calling a small bet against the right players if there is a flush draw on board with the intention of betting and winning the pot when the flush card hits. In the other situation, the pots tend to be bigger and my reputation as an aggressive player who never lets up helps me. While a player may be willing to call my bet on the turn with a smaller flush, they know that the next bet is coming on the river and is going to cost them even more, so there are a few players I can target in these situations to get them to give up on some pretty strong hands just out of the fear of the next bet. Most of the time, if they call the turn bet, I shut down on the river unless there was a strong low draw on board that missed, in which case a I reevaluate but often will go ahead and fire again. If you are going to play PLO or PLO/8, you need to find ways to pick up pots without winning at showdown, and betting blockers in the right situation is a great way to do so. If done correctly, it is highly effective, can help you get action when you make a hand, and rarely gets you caught in a bad spot where it can cost you a large amount. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  18. Everyone is abuzz about the World Series of Poker. Trips have been planned and, at every game, the "when are you going out?" conversation comes up at least a few times. Many players will be making their first trip to the series and it seems like a lot of people have chosen this year as the time to make the leap and play in a bracelet event. "Any advice for me? I'm going out to play in a few weeks" is something I've heard many times in the last month. -- BetVictor Pokerhas been at the forefront of online poker since 2002. From monthly Free Play Leagues and SNG leaderboards to Money Added VIP Tournaments and up to 30% Cash Back - to mention but a few promotions - BetVictor Poker ticks all the right boxes. Click hereto visit BetVictor Poker. -- My biggest tip is to not be intimidated and to enjoy the experience. But to get a little more specific than that, I dig into what event they are playing and what their goals are. It seems like most first-timers pick the $1,000 and $1,500 buy-in Hold'em events, which makes a lot of sense. There are plenty of them to choose from, they have smaller buy-ins so players don't have to come up with too much cash to play, and they make great WSOP entry-level tournaments. The bad news about picking these tournaments as your first WSOP experience is that there is a good chance you will be left wandering around the Rio convention area before you knock the chill off the cushion of your seat. In a $1,000 Hold'em event, you start with only 3,000 in chips and it is pretty easy to end up with all of the chips in the middle before you know it. With the large fields and short stacks, the eliminations start from the get-go and never slow down. So, if you are going into one of these tournaments, be mentally prepared to be all-in early on and potentially be eliminated before the first break. To do well in these events, you are going to have to get chips early and often; that means putting yourself at risk. While getting some experience out of the tournaments is worthwhile, in smaller buy-in events, you have to be willing to take some chances early on or you are going to find yourself at the 200/400 blind level with no chips, no chance, and still feeling like you just heard the "shuffle up and deal" announcement. If you go in knowing that you may have to take a coin flip early on to you give yourself a shot, then these events can be a lot of fun. You can get some chips early and then start taking advantage of the short stacks and less experienced players who make up so much of the field. The next thing I like to point out is also even more relevant in the smaller buy-in tournaments: be aware of the stack sizes at your table. There will be short stacks from the first level on and you have to be aware of what tricky situations you can end up in if you raise and one of those stacks moves in. You don't want to be recklessly gambling with sub-par hands. If you aren't paying attention to the stacks around you, it is easy to risk a decent part of your stack with a hand you would rather not get that many chips in the middle with. The good news is there are tournaments every day and plenty of things going on around the WSOP and in Las Vegas in general. Take your shot in a WSOP event, but don't play scared; if you happen to bust out early, that's okay. The field gets cut down quickly and some of the best players in the world find themselves on the rail in no time. You can tee up another WSOP event if you have the time and bankroll, find one of many smaller side events to play in, hunt out a juicy cash game, play satellites, or just generally take in the WSOP experience. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  19. On the way out, I was excited. I was headed to Vegas to play in the World Series of Poker. Even after many years of being in the industry on many different fronts and playing a lot of events all over the world, there is still something very exhilarating leading up to playing in a WSOP bracelet event with a shot at the hardware and the big prize money up top every time you play. My schedule was tight, so I picked the event I liked the best, the $3,000 Pot Limit Omaha 8 or Better Split Pot tournament. -- BetVictor Pokerhas been at the forefront of online poker since 2002. From monthly Free Play Leagues and SNG leaderboards to Money Added VIP Tournaments and up to 30% Cash Back - to mention but a few promotions - BetVictor Poker ticks all the right boxes. Click hereto visit BetVictor Poker. -- After checking into the Rio that morning, I bought into the event and was able to get a light workout and a short nap in before the start of the 5:00pm event. I enjoyed the tournament, ultimately busting just before the end of Day 1, but feeling like I did a decent job of giving myself a shot at building a stack without making any huge mistakes. Standard tournament, I didn't play poorly, but didn't necessarily feel like I was exceptionally on top of my game either. The scheduling worked out where a few meetings the next day would keep me in town and also give me that chance to play in some of the cash games around the Rio. So far, even though I had busted the event, I would say my WSOP experience has been pretty good. I'm realistic enough to know that I'm not going to win or even cash in most of the tournaments I play, so busting out of this one didn't have me down too much and I was still glad I had made the time to come out and at least be part of the WSOP this year. After a lunch meeting, I made my way back to the Rio and scouted out the games to find that a must-move table to the $75/$150 Limit Omaha 8 or Better game was opening up with a list full of names. Perfect, I could get into the game without much of a wait. I grabbed a seat at a table with three people already sitting and an unattended stack on the table. A friendly chip runner quickly returned with my chips and I was ready to sit down to a fun and hopefully profitable session at a game that I knew I might be a slight dog in since I rarely play Limit games of any type. Then the wheels fell off of what should have been a seamless experience. An older gentleman to my right suggested we start playing. I said, "Sounds good to me" and the dealer ran out a high card for the button. He dealt a card to the four of us that were seated, not dealing to the unattended stack since that player wasn't around. The older gentleman won the button and I tossed out the small blind. The younger kid to my left started pitching an absolute fit about the dealer not giving the unattended stack a card. The kid, seemingly a regular in this game, threw such a fit that the floor had to come over and waste 15 minutes dealing with a nothing situation in which time the kid and gentleman exchanged some testy words, resulting in the arrogant kid resorting to the "heads-up for rolls"-type reply that did nothing but show his immaturity. One bad apple definitely spoiled the bunch at this table, but since it was a must-move, I hung in there. One player berated another over his questioning of how a time pot worked and the general criticism of a weaker player's actions was almost nonstop. And the berating the dealers took was tremendous and at the same time that they were getting tipped almost nothing in one of the bigger games on the floor. I'm sure any dealer out there dreads a down in the $75/$150 O8 game if my experience is anything close to the norm, which I am sure it is since the regulars as a group seem to go out of their way to make sure any new face would have such a miserable time that there is no way they would ever play a long session or play again the next day. After moving to the main game, it was more of the same. A guy came in and posted his blind instead of waiting to come in for free behind the button and an old-timer regular in the game just couldn't resist talking about how stupid that was for the next hour. One guy just wanted to play and didn't mind posting. The other is supposedly there to make money, but does all he can to run off one of the few players he has a chance of beating. The end result is I booked a small win. The grumpy old regs who should have a huge edge on me in that game actually make a ton of basic mistakes, but none of their mistakes comes close to the ongoing and constant mistakes they make in limiting and hindering the growth of their game of choice. Good luck to those guys. Keep grinding it out and beating up on each other, spending eight to 10 hours a day being miserable. I'll leave that to you and find a more enjoyable and profitable game somewhere else. The bad news for you guys is that most everyone else will too. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  20. When players first start playing Open Face Chinese Poker, they tend to focus heavily on their own hand and are almost oblivious to their opponents' hands until showdown. Often, they are aware of the individual cards their opponent may have, but not the hand they are up against. For example, if a player needs the 9 of diamonds to make a straight flush, he may be aware that his opponent has the 9 of diamonds, but not aware that his opponent has another 9 in his middle hand for a pair. -- GamblerGames.comis a new project from the oldest gaming resource of CIS. Games available on the server for real money include Open Face Chinese Poker(Classic, Turbo, and Pineapple) and many other games. GamblerGames.com offers quick and professional support and rakeback up to 25%. -- In the effort to make a hand that doesn't foul or that completes what you are trying to make, it is too easy to overlook the hand you actually need to beat. There are occasions when you should play aggressively because otherwise you are going to get scooped. If you are holding no royalties and it looks like you are going to get beat on every row, it is time to change your strategy, even if it makes you much more likely to foul. Many times, it is as simple as realizing what you need to beat on a certain row and making sure you play to win the row. In OFC, you get to a point in the hand where most of the hand you are up against is defined. If your opponent has already played all but one card on any given row, you can easily see what the best hand they can make would be or, even better, if they have a completed row, you know exactly what it takes to beat them. With the common propensity for dumping cards on the top row just to get rid of them, novices can open themselves up to letting you win the top with a weak high card and just a little patience. If your opponent completes an 8-high row up top, all you have to do is get a 9 or better and you aren't getting scooped. This is a bit of an obvious one, and most players quickly figure out not to give away their top hand so easily, but the same principle can apply to the middle and bottom rows as well. When you are up against a fully defined or one-to-go middle hand, you have a great view of what you need to win the street and can adjust your play to do so. If you are up against a pair of fours and you have a few cards to go, getting any live middle cards onto that row increases your chances of making a middle pair and win without really making that much of a hand. On the other side, if you are up against a defined hand that you have no shot at beating, there is no value in trying to improve your hand on that row beyond what is necessary to keep from fouling. A row that is almost surely a loser should be used as a place to hold cards you don't want on your other lines so you can avoid scoops and draw at royalties. The first step in playing OFC is to get your head around the rules and start building hands, but as soon as you have the basic framework, it is time to start looking around and seeing what your opponents have. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  21. Last week, we looked at how to approach the middle with three decent cards and a few random low cards. This week, let's take the other approach and look at how we should approach a hand with big cards. For this example, we have A-A-K-K-Q, which is a premium hand that isn't all that common, but some of the principles will apply to hands with trips, big cards, and other strong hands. -- GamblerGames.comis a new project from the oldest gaming resource of CIS. Games available on the server for real money include Open Face Chinese Poker(Classic, Turbo, and Pineapple) and many other games. GamblerGames.com offers quick and professional support and rakeback up to 25%. -- Usually, a starting hand with two pair is going to end up with the two pair on the bottom drawing at a full house. Starting with aces and kings, you can put the aces on the bottom, kings in the middle, and the lone queen up top and have achieved a very strong hand before another card is dealt. Aces on the bottom are a decent hand that will win some amount of the time with no improvement. Kings in the middle will win often without improvement. The queen up top is enough to pressure your opponent and win that line a decent amount of the time as well, and we still have eight cards to draw at a big royalty up top and improve on our other hands. If you happen to be playing fantasyland, where queens or better up top allows you to play your next hand face down, then this set is a no-brainer, but even with standard scoring, the strength of this hand makes it the way to go. The hand is strong from the start and builds well, as your bottom hand can easily transition into two pair or a full house and your middle hand is already very strong and leaves you the option to add on a second smaller pair while your bottom hand improves. If you have trips in your starting hand and two big cards, say T-T-T-A-Q, I would still split the ace and queen, putting the trips on the bottom, ace in the middle, and queen up top. I'm big on getting a live card to the bottom to have an extra way to make a full house, but with big cards like these, the value of having them in the other lines outweighs the benefit of the added outs to make a full house. I am then looking to get the next low card I draw that is live to the bottom so I am drawing at quads or a boat and also have big cards in my other lines. This also gives me a chance to see what cards are out so if I happen to draw a five, but see that there are two or three of them already out, I can choose to put that five in my middle line and wait for a more live card to place on the bottom. If you happen to pull a queen early on, you have to make a decision based on your opponent's hand and what cards are out. Usually, I would not pair the queen because my bottom hand is strong enough and likely enough to make a royalty that I don't want to risk fouling. If by the point in the hand I have pulled a king and put it in the middle and my ace and king are very live with enough draws left, then I may gamble and try to make a huge hand by pairing the queen up top. And, of course, if fantasyland is being played, it skews the value of making the pair up top, so I am more likely to go for it and risk fouling since I can factor in my expected value of being able to play the next hand face down. With all of the variables in OFC, it is difficult to give any hard and fast rules, and this great complexity is what makes the game so interesting to so many people. One of the complaints I have heard from people about the game is that it is all about building your own hand. While in some ways this is true, there are areas on OFC where you can make plays based on your opponent's style and tendencies and also make plays to impact how your opponent will play their hand. Next week, we will cover some of those situations and continue to delve into OFC in general. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  22. "Location, location, location" is important in the real estate world. In poker, it is "position, position, position," and in Open Face Chinese Poker, position is tremendously important. Position gives you a wealth of information from the start and an advantage on every street for the rest of the hand. The information is available to you, but it is up to you to pay attention and take advantage of it just like in any other form of poker. -- GamblerGames.comis a new project from the oldest gaming resource of CIS. Games available on the server for real money include Open Face Chinese Poker(Classic, Turbo, and Pineapple) and many other games. GamblerGames.com offers quick and professional support and rakeback up to 25%. -- Out of the gate, if you are playing heads-up, you know five cards and if you are playing three or four ways, you know even more of what is gone out of the deck. At this point, you have a good idea of what your opponents are shooting for and how their hands may develop. You can use this information to decide which way to go with your hand. If you have a couple of spades in your hand, but see there are six spades already out, you know that going for a flush isn’t as good of a play. However, you have the opportunity to look around and see what cards and suits are live to give yourself the best shot at making a big royalty on the bottom. Then, of course, you only have to beat your opponent on each street by a small amount to win, so if you don’t have a hand that builds well for royalties, you can start working toward notching your opponent on each street. Or, if it looks like they have a really strong hand, you can alter your play to focus on whatever line seems the weakest to avoid getting scooped. Position gives you a tremendous advantage as the hand plays out. Once your opponent has played a card in front of you, you know what the card is along with whatever spot they played it. In the middle and end of the hand, lines will start becoming very defined and once they lock a card in, you have almost absolute knowledge of whether you can beat them on any given street by playing a certain card. The most obvious example is that once they have played their last card on the top, you know exactly what it takes to beat them. If a player has a J-3 up top and places a K there on their sixth draw and you have a Q-2 up top, you know that you have to either make a pair or put an A or K up there to win. Anything else and you are surrendering that line. If you draw an A or K behind him, you can easily play it on the top knowing you have locked up that line by notching your opponent (assuming you aren’t fouling). You always have to develop your hand in a way that gives you a chance to make a hand without fouling. And usually the value of royalties makes it worth building your hand in a way to have a shot at them. But, as the hand plays out, position allows you to easily transition your hand into whatever it needs to be, whether that's a monster, a 25-point hand, or avoiding the scoop and trying to minimize your losses. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  23. The other day, I was reading an article totally unrelated to poker. It had to do with business concepts and growth strategy. A quote from the article caught my attention and made me immediately think of poker. It also took me back to my roots of playing strategy-based games long before I ever played a hand of poker. "The entire reason that strategy exists is that there are no guarantees." The "no guarantees" part is what makes poker, business, and life in general so much fun and sometimes so frustrating. But, in poker especially, it makes the game work. When you are devising, evaluating, changing, and attempting to improve your strategy, it is important to keep in mind that there are no guarantees. Just because you implement a new strategy that doesn't work doesn't always mean your strategy is bad. And maybe, more importantly, just because you have initial success with a new strategy doesn't mean that it is actually a winning strategy or that it will continue to be as others evolve and change their games. In the early 2000s, there were a lot of winning players who have been passed by. They stubbornly still continue to do what worked for them a decade ago thinking they are running bad and unlucky. They aren't. They are losing players who are implementing strategies that have been outdated and ineffective in most games since around 2008. But, because their game plan used to work, they stubbornly refuse to give up on it and are not willing to put in the work and take a chance on trying something new and different. Understanding that there are no guarantees and that you have to constantly evolve, change, and experiment is vital to continued success in poker and life. To win, you have to stay ahead of the curve; in poker, the curve has been moving quickly and aggressively in the last decade. The ability to play a tremendous number of hands online, large data sets that have become available, and a boom in quality literature on the game have all led to significant growth and change. As a result, the average level of play has risen tremendously. If you play recreationally and are okay with paying for the entertainment value of poker, then constantly focusing on your strategy doesn't have to be a top priority. If you play for profit and count on being a winning poker player as part of your long-term financial plan, then you'd better be prepared to accurately, efficiently, and regularly improve on and make changes to your strategy. Just because you are winning today doesn't mean you will be tomorrow. There are no guarantees on any given day with any strategy or style of play, but it is guaranteed that if you don't evolve and improve, you will be doing the same old stuff, complaining about how badly you run and how lucky everyone else is. All the while, you are actually playing in a way that makes it inevitable that you will lose in the long-run. Court Harrington has worked on the business side of the poker industry in roles including tournament reporting for PocketFives, radio hosting for PokerRoad Radio, coaching for the WSOP Academy and privately, and a variety of behind-the-scenes responsibilities for poker media businesses. He also plays in cash games and tournaments. Harrington is currently doing consulting work and exploring business opportunities outside of the poker industry. You can contact him at Court@CourtHarrington.com. Want the latest poker headlines and interviews? Follow PocketFives on Twitterand Like PocketFives on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our RSS feed.
  24. Every tournament player can tell fascinating stories about his wins and losses at final tables. That’s cool, we get it: there are no unimportant hands at this stage, every mistake can lead to a catastrophe, and coin flips can be really expensive. The success of a player is often measured not only by the number of cashes but the quantity of final tables he reached, especially in live tournaments. And pre-final tables are usually excluded from global player’s statistics, for they bring you no glory and no money. But oftentimes, the pre-final table turns out to be the most dramatic stage of the tournament for many players because it's this stage that determines who will enter the long-awaited final table and who will go round telling the same long, sad "I-almost-made-it" story to his friends. The bust-outs in 10th to 18th places are very painful, as even ninth place can bring you more psychic income, though as a rule it's no big difference from 10th in terms of cash. Do you remember how our idol Daniel Negreanu left WSOP Main Event in 11th place back in November? In that hand, the river determined his fate, tricks of fortune. You can't avoid such tricks in poker, but let us talk about what you can do to pass this stage of an MTT in an optimal way. 1. First of all, relax. A lot of players, especially novice ones, enter some special form of tilt at the pre-final table and start losing it, which leads to bad decisions and even worse consequences. Pull yourself together and try to control the situation. If you feel that you can't handle it alone, write a message to your friends or Skype them. Their countenance will calm you down. 2. Look up your opponents' previous MTT results. You all know the websites where you can get that stuff. Pull up the records on the remaining players to define the regulars and the weak players. Pay special attention to the maximum cash of each player. This will help you choose the optimal strategy against them. Those who are trying to get to the first final table of their career are the perfect target for your attacks and their blinds are free chips for you. For instance, if a player's max cash was $300 and the first prize of the tournament you're in is 20 times more, it's not the hardest guess that the money is pressing on such a player and he tends to play over-accurately. Label each player with a color and make a note. Ideally, your table should shine with labels like a Christmas tree, like this: 3. Take a close look at the players' stacks and their position. Avoid fooling around with the chip leaders. They feel perfectly safe and tend to play aggressively. Put your pressure on the middle-stacks. They usually prefer not to risk it and wait for the short stacks to bust out. 4. If you have uncomfortable stack, hold your horses. You always have the option to go all-in and if you are destined to bust out on the pre-final table, it's better to do it as late as possible. The payouts for the 18th and 10th places are very different. Keep in mind that even the chip leaders might as well be dealt AA vs. KK a couple of times and the pre-final table may quickly turn into the final table. However, please note that there will be a moment when six or five players are left at the table and the blinds with antes will become a problem, so sitting in ambush is not an option. You'll have to find ways to earn additional chips. 5. Open the second table of the tournament. Pay attention to everything that's going on there. Try to make notes of all of the irregular lines of the players. Your goal is to collect as many notes as possible both on the opponents at your table and at the second one. These notes will surely come in handy at the final table. This stage of the tournament is not designed to be played on the tablet while watching your favorite series. Pay close attention to what your opponents are doing. In just one or two hours, this intel could bring you several hundred or even thousand dollars. When taking notes, don’t just type "fish" or "I hate that guy." Write down everything that might help you later: 6. Ship it. All of the above is just general recommendations. The key points are play your game, trust your sixth sense, and avoid unnecessary risks. If you want to learn how to enter late stages of MTT more often, become a 2CardsCollegestudent. Apply for training here.We wish you luck and big scores!
  25. Consider the following scenario: You're a new poker player who is invested in a strategy coach to get you on the track to making steady income at the tables. You end up in a hand with Kh2h on a board of AsTh9h4c and your opponent accidentally flashes you his hand of Ac6d. You want to know what your chances were of winning, so you review the hand with your coach during your next session. Your coach tells you there was a 20% chance that you'd catch a flush on the river and moves on to the next hand you want to review. Technically, your coach is correct, but has he improved your game? Not really. From my perspective, coaches who give these kind of answers are not coaches at all. Luckily, no decent strategy coach would gloss over this obvious opportunity to teach you how to calculate probability. Unfortunately, in equivalent mental coaching scenarios, you may be settling for the right answer and not even realize you're missing out on game-changing information. In the example above, it's easy to spot the problem with handing you the answer instead of teaching you how to get the answer yourself. The former only helps with one situations that's unlikely to come again anytime soon; the latter helps you handle a wide variety of situations that you'll encounter every time you play. Consider a similar scenario with a mental coach: You've found a soft game and you've tripled up. Then your pocket aces get cracked by a recreational player who gloats about it for the next 15 minutes. You end up spewing off half your stack over the next five orbits before you leave the table. The next week, you schedule a session with a reputable mental coach, tell him you're struggling with tilt, and he tells you to do the Fibonacci sequence in your head to calm down next time you take a bad beat. The problem with this answer is much more subtle than the strategy example, especially if you're new to mental coaching, but it's just as significant. The problem with this coaching style is two-fold. First, it creates dependency. By spoon-feeding you answers, you have to come back to your coach for every subsequent question. Second, it teaches you nothing about the underlying causes of your problem. Even if your coach's advice works for you, you'll never be able to address the root cause or extrapolate on that advice to develop your own mental techniques. In short, you're unlikely to ever reach your optimal mental game. So what should you be asking to ensure you do reach your optimal mental game? When in a mental coaching session, you should be looking for the why. If you can figure out why something is or is not happening, you can begin to understand it and begin to effect change. Do not just settle for an answer and accept it as true before moving on to the next question. If your problem is tilt, it's possible that the Fibonacci sequence may actually help you most. However, your coach shouldn't recommend that solution unless he or she is basing that suggestion on knowledge of how you personally think and react to situations at the table. By taking the time to understand you personally, your coach can help you better understand yourself and teach you how to change your own mental game. Here is another way to think about it: imagine you are taking a taxi somewhere you have never been before. You say, "Driver take me here please" and you end up where you asked to go. However, you were staring out the window lost in thought or looking at your phone along the way and have no idea how you ended up at that destination. You will need to call another cab when you are ready to leave. Mental coaching should be more like driving yourself with a friend in the passenger seat. Your co-pilot tells you where to turn and what landmarks to look out for along the way. When you end up at your destination, you not only remember how you got there, but you learned what signposts were along the way so you can explore on your own next time without getting lost. Over time, clients should be able to map out processes that work for them so that they can solve their own issues. What I want for my clients is for them to no longer need my help. This should be the ultimate goal for any mental coach. If you have any doubt that your mental coach has another goal in mind, you may be settling for the right answer instead of pursuing your optimal game. John Wood is the on-staff mental coach at Alex Fitzgerald's Pokerheadrush.com. For a discount on his mental coaching services, please visit this link.
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