The Poker Lab Rat

April 29, 2007

Dead Man Walking

Filed under: Poker Humour — Mike @ 10:48 pm

Here’s another poker cartoon that I can personally relate to. Sheesh. Like, everyone knows the more poker time-in, the better you get…

Poker humor

 

 

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From Zero to Hero

Filed under: Chris Ferguson,Poker News & Views,pro tips — webmaster @ 12:00 am

“I had a losing streak there and had to go down to $5/$10. That was tough.”

 

Chris Ferguson - poker pro

I’m almost a year into an experiment . I’m attempting to turn $0 into a $10,000 bankroll. With no money to start with, I had no choice but to start out playing Freerolls. Starting out, I’d often manage to win a dollar or two, but I’d quickly get busted and have to start over again. It took some time but, after awhile, I was eventually able to graduate to games that required an actual buy-in.

Even today, people don’t believe it’s really me when I sit down at small stakes games. They ask what I’m doing down here, and often tell me stories about how they turned $5 into $500 or $100 into $1,000. Usually, these stories end with the person telling me that they went broke. There’s no surprise there. These folks tried to quickly build a bankroll by gambling. They’d play in a game that was beyond their bankroll and, if they happened to win, they’d move up to a higher limit and risk it all one more time. Inevitably, they’d lose a few big hands and go broke.

For me, this experiment isn’t about the money. It’s about showing how, with proper bankroll management, you can start from nothing and move up to the point where you’re playing in some pretty big games. I know it’s possible because I did it once before, turning $1 into $20,000.

To ensure that I keep my bankroll intact, I’ve adopted some key rules:

  • I’ll never buy into a cash game or a Sit & Go with more than 5 percent of my total bankroll (there is an exception for the lowest limits: I’m allowed to buy into any game with a buy-in of $2.50 or less).
  • I won’t buy into a multi-table tournament for more than 2 percent of my total bankroll and I’m allowed to buy into any multi-table tournament that costs $1.
  • If at any time during a No-Limit or Pot-Limit cash-game session the money on the table represents more than 10 percent of my total bankroll, I must leave the game when the blinds reach me.

I think a lot of players would do well to apply these rules. One great benefit from this approach to bankroll management is that it ensures you’ll be playing in games you can afford. You’ll never play for very long in a game that’s over your head because, when you’re losing, you’ll have no choice but to drop down to a smaller game. You can continue to sharpen your game at that lower limit until your bankroll allows you to move up and take another shot. These rules also prevent you from being completely decimated by a bad run of cards.

Dropping down and playing lower limits is difficult for a lot of players. They view it as a failure and their egos get in the way. Many want to remain at the level they’d been playing and win back their losses. But this can lead to some pretty severe tilt – and that can go through a bankroll in a hurry. I know that dropping down was difficult for me in my run from $1 to $20,000. When I first played in the $25/$50 game, I lost. Sticking to my rules, I dropped down to the $10/$25 game. I had a losing streak there and had to go down to $5/$10. That was tough. After playing $25/$50, a $5/$10 game was boring to me.

But I had the discipline to stick to my rules, and that motivated me to play better at the lower levels. I really didn’t want to lose any more because I knew the consequences: I’d have to play even lower and work even harder to get back to where I’d been, which could take as long as a month. If you ever find yourself bored or frustrated playing at the lower limits, you’re obviously not playing well. Take a break from the game. Often, stepping away can give you a fresh perspective and heightened motivation to play well when you return.

There are a couple of more tips I’d like to share regarding bankroll management. First, you should never play in a game that is beyond your bankroll simply because the game seems to be soft that day. It’s never soft enough to risk money that puts your bankroll in jeopardy. The other point is that you should avoid playing in games that are at the top of your bankroll limits, when a lower game offers more opportunity for profit.

I’m confident that by sticking to these sound bankroll management rules, I’ll make it to my $10,000 goal. These rules are sure to help you as well, as you pursue your own poker ambitions.

Chris Ferguson

USOK_1If you’re USA-based, like Chris, you can play some great online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

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April 26, 2007

Poker Pro: That Losing Streak – When is it Time to Quit?

Filed under: Jennifer Harman,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 10:30 pm

“Usually a losing player is scared to get involved with a winning player, so it’s easier for you to pick up pots.”

Jennifer Harman - poker professional

Being a winning player isn’t only about playing good cards – it’s also about making good decisions. And there is one important decision you face every time you sit down in a cash game: Should I quit, or should I keep playing?

When should you keep playing?

I see so many players playing short hours when they’re winning, and long hours when they’re losing. It should be the other way around.

When you are winning in the game, at least a few of the other players must be losing. And when your opponents are losing, they often aren’t playing their best. But you are.

When you’re winning, other players fear you; you have a good table image. And when you have a good table image, you can get away with things that you can’t seem to when you’re losing. For one thing, you can bluff more. Usually a losing player is scared to get involved with a winning player, so it’s easier for you to pick up pots. You can represent more hands than you actually have because your opponents believe you’re hitting every flop.

The only time to quit when you’re winning is when you are tired, or when you start playing badly.

When should you call it a day?

Many players can’t seem to quit when they are losing. You have to remember that there will always be another poker game — if not tomorrow, then the day after, or the week after. I like to think of poker as one continuous game going on for my whole career. So, if I’m losing more than 30 big bets in the game, I usually quit.

There are a couple of reasons I do this: For one, if I lose a ton of money in one day, I don’t feel so hot the next day. That means if I go in to play the next day, I might not be able to play my best game. I might actually have to take a few days off to get my head straight. Another reason is that when I’m losing more than 30 bets, I might not be playing that well. I might think I’m playing my “A” game, but in reality, I’m probably not. You can’t be as objective about your play when you’re losing. After all, we are not robots; we’re just human beings.

Jennifer Harman
AcesThere’s lots of choice when it comes to poker networks including the iPoker Network, Microgaming Poker, Chico Poker and WPN Poker Networks. Check out the latest poker room reviews or the poker room showdown before you decide where to play your next hand of poker.

 

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April 25, 2007

How do you Celebrate?

Filed under: Poker Humour — webmaster @ 4:25 am

Ah huh…another poker cartoon I can relate to.

It’s either a poker win or goal in the football – even our particularly haughty cat barely opens a eye now though.

…so p’raps I’m losing weight. 🙂

poker humor

 

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April 24, 2007

Chris Ferguson and his Toolbox…

Filed under: Chris Ferguson,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 6:11 am

“One essential element of playing winning poker is forcing your opponents to make difficult decisions.”

Chris Ferguson - excellent to watch on tv - even better to play online!

I often get asked about my playing style. Rather than answer the question myself, I’m more interested in what my opponents say. And I’ve heard it all: “You’re too tight.” “You’re too loose.” “You’re tight aggressive.” “You’re too passive.”

Actually, I never hear that last one, but I’ve heard all the others, which makes me believe I must be doing something right. Loose, tight, aggressive – my style is that I’m all of the above, depending upon the circumstances.

One essential element of playing winning poker is forcing your opponents to make difficult decisions. That’s why raising is almost always better than calling – because it forces an extra decision on your opponents. To take this a step further – you’ll win more money by forcing your opponents to make decisions when they are out of their comfort zones.

Here are some examples:

Your opponent is on your left, playing too tight before the flop. You want to punish him for this. The best way to do that is to raise more often, and be more aggressive. Either you end up stealing a lot of blinds, or he adjusts his play.

If you get the blinds? Great! If he adjusts? Better! It’s the best outcome you can hope for. If he starts playing more hands pre-flop, you now have a real edge. Anytime your opponent changes his pre-flop playing style, he’s going to run into trouble later in the hand. A guy who usually plays nothing but very strong hands isn’t going to know what to do with weaker holdings on the turn and river.

If a tight opponent raises in front of you, wait for a stronger hand to call. By playing tight when you are acting behind your opponent, you avoid losing money to his stronger hands. Again, if your opponent catches on, you’re forcing him to play more hands up front, and you can outplay him after the flop.

What about the guy who plays too many hands? If you’re acting first, you want better starting hands than normal. Most of the value of a marginal hand comes from the chance that your opponent will fold immediately. If your opponent has never seen suited cards he doesn’t like, the value of your marginal hand decreases because it’s unlikely he’s going to lay his hand down. He may win more pots preflop, but this is more than offset by the extra money you’re going to make when you do see a flop with your stronger hands.

If a loose opponent raises you, you can call — or even raise — with weaker hands, and raise with hands you’d ordinarily just call with. By taking control of the hand, you can pick up more pots later. Again, you are daring him to change his style. If he doesn’t, you’re getting the best of it. If he does, he’s a fish out of water, prone to making mistakes later in the hand.

It’s important to have a lot of tools in your arsenal. First, it’s helpful in being able to adjust to your opponents and force them out of their comfort zones. Additionally, it will enable you to take advantage of your own table image when you have already been labeled as a tight or loose player, and to adjust accordingly.

For example, Gus Hansen and Phil Ivey are known as extremely aggressive players. The only way they have been able to survive with that image is by being able to adjust to different opponents and to slow down occasionally, when appropriate. I have seen this happen sometimes just before an opponent starts reacting to their aggression. They are somehow able to sense what is happening, and change their games accordingly. Other times, they won’t adjust much, and force their opponents to try and beat them at an unfamiliar game.

To best take advantage of this, pay attention! To everything. All the time. Not just when you’re in the hand, but especially when you’re not in the hand. Every hand your opponent plays gives you valuable information about how he thinks, and how he’s likely to play hands in the future.

If there’s an expert at your table, watch how he plays. See what hands he expects to work, think about how he plays them, then try incorporating it yourself. See how he pushes weaker players out of their comfort zone. Paying attention is one of the best ways to learn, and a great way to move up the poker food chain.

Chris Ferguson

USOK_1If you’re USA-based, like Chris, you can play some great online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

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April 23, 2007

Mobile Poker…?

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker Humour — webmaster @ 4:33 am

Here’s another cartoon sent in by a reader. Thanks Aces04_x – and yeah, I can  relate to this one too.

I’ve yet to find a mobile poker game I like much – if I’m playing poker I want my creature comforts…well, a comfy chair, plenty of cold diet Pepsi within reach and an antiglare screen big enough for at least 3 concurrent games. Ah…I know, why not use my PC?

Once again I can’t give any credit to the source or cartoonist as it’s not signed…

 

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April 22, 2007

Phil Gordon: Scripted Poker Play

Filed under: Phil Gordon,Poker News & Views,pro tips — webmaster @ 10:19 pm

“In an effort to simplify my decisions, every single time it’s my turn to act, I try to run through the same script in my head”

Phil Gordon professional poker player

The questions I always ask myself are:

  • Are my opponents playing conservatively?
  • Aggressively? Tentatively?
  • What are some of the hands my opponents are likely to hold?
  • What do my opponents think I have?

Once I have the answer to the first question, and feel confident about my range of answers for the second and third questions, I move on to the most important question:

SHOULD I BET OR RAISE?

  • If I think I have the best hand, I nearly always answer “Yes” and I bet or raise.
  • If I think I can force weak opponents out of the pot with this bet or with future bets, I nearly always answer “Yes” and I bet or raise.

If I don’t think betting or raising is the right decision, I move on to the last question:

SHOULD I CHECK (OR FOLD)?

  • If I think I have the worst hand, I nearly always answer “Yes” and I check or fold.
  • If I think my opponents are strong, I nearly always answer “Yes” and check or fold.

After a careful analysis, if I’m not sure if I should raise and I’m not sure I should fold, I feel confident that calling a bet (or checking) is correct.

I find that even in straight-forward and obvious situations, by running through the script I often find opportunities that other players might miss.

And by asking the “raise” question before the “fold” and “call” question, I ensure that I am playing aggressive, winning poker.

Try using this script next time you sit down at the table, and see if simplifying your inner dialog forces your opponents into making more complicated decisions.
Phil Gordon

tickyThere’s lots of choice when it comes to poker networks including the iPoker Network, Microgaming Poker, Chico Poker and WPN Poker Networks. Check out the latest poker room reviews or the poker room showdown before you decide where to play your next hand of poker.

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April 21, 2007

Time you dusted?

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker Humour — Mike @ 9:27 pm

Thanks to Sane_UK01 for sharing this cartoon – it apparently reminded him of me. This was obviously BEFORE I invested in a Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. (HIGHLY recommended by the way, and quiet enough not to take my mind off the game or scare the cat).

Online poker can be addictive

Sorry, I’ve no idea where he sourced this and it’s not signed so we can’t even acknowledge the cartoonist.

 

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April 20, 2007

Poker Pro: Finding the Low Cards in Omaha Hi/Lo

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 11:48 pm

Mike is a top poker professional and plays online at FullTiltPoker.com

A while back, I played a hand in an Omaha Hi/Lo Limit tournament that had everyone at my table jumping off their chairs. They thought I was crazy and couldn’t believe my play. But I made the right move. In fact, the play illustrates an important Omaha Hi/Lo concept that’s not widely understood.

Here’s how the hand went down.

It was a nine-handed table. The under-the-gun player raised and another early position player three-bet. Two other players called the bet cold. It came around to me in the big blind, where I held 9-K-Q-2. This is usually considered a pretty trashy Omaha-8 hand. But I didn’t fold here; I four-bet. I then flopped the nuts and took down a huge pot. When they saw my hand, the players went crazy. How could I four-bet with that kind of trash?

I could do it because I made some good assumptions based on the way my opponents played their hands. This was a tournament, where most players tend to be pretty cautious. Few will play any hands that don’t contain Aces, and just about everyone is sticking to hands with a lot of low cards.

So when the under-the-gun player raised, I felt pretty confident in assuming that he had an Ace with some other low cards. The same goes for the player who three bet. The two callers must also have had hands that they thought were pretty strong. I could be all but certain that all four aces were dealt to these players, and that they held a lot of the deck’s low cards.

I was also confident that, in this hand, the flop was going to come at the high end of the deck and that I’d have a chance to sweep a huge pot because there would be no qualifying low. And that’s exactly what happened.

This hand shows that in Omaha Hi/Lo, you can often make some good assumptions as to what cards remain in the deck and what the flop is likely to hold. For another example, say that you’re in the big blind and it’s folded to the cutoff, who raises. You see 9-T-J-Q. With all but one player folding, you can be pretty sure that almost everyone else held a number of medium and high cards. So the deck is ripe with low cards, which will probably help your lone opponent’s hand. Your best move is to fold this hand pre-flop and wait for a better spot.

Of course, the better your position, the more information you’ll have. So you shouldn’t even consider playing certain hands in early position. Something like 2-3-4-5 might be playable from the button or the big blind if there hasn’t been a lot of action. The lack of raising would show that the Aces haven’t been distributed and are still in the deck. But in early position, you just don’t know what’s out, so you need to muck the hand. The same goes for hands like T-T-J-Q and T-J-Q-K. There are times when prior action will show you that these hands are worthy of a three-bet or four-bet. But in early position, it’s best to just let these kinds of hands go.

Being able to predict a flop is part of what makes Omaha Hi/Lo so much fun. You really can’t do these sorts of things in Hold ’em. If you hone these skills, you’re sure to be a tough Omaha Hi/Lo player.

Mike Matusow

tickyMike is nicknamed “The Mouth” (and even if you’ve only seen him on tv rather than in-person you’ll know why).  He’s won 2 WSOP Bracelets and was the first player to collect 2 separate million-dollar cashes in 1 year.

tickyThere’s lots of choice when it comes to poker networks including the iPoker Network, Microgaming Poker, Chico Poker and WPN Poker Networks. Check out the latest poker room reviews before you decide where to play your next hand of poker.

Stumble it!

April 18, 2007

Poker Pro: A Way to Approximate Odds

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 9:50 pm

“Knowing the approximate likelihood of making your hand is a good beginning step on the road to better poker.”

Clonie Gowan former Miss Teen Oklahoma plays online exclusively at Full Tilt Poker

It is very difficult to calculate the exact odds of hitting a drawing hand when you’re sitting at the poker table. Unless you’re a genius with a gift for mathematics like Chris Ferguson, you will not be able to do it.

That leaves two options for the rest of us:

The first option is to sit at home with a calculator, figure out the odds for every possible combination of draws, and then memorize them. That way, no matter what situation comes up, you always know the odds. But for those of us without a perfect memory, there’s an easier way. Here is a simple trick for estimating those odds.

The first thing you need to do is to figure out how many “outs” you have. An “out” is any card that gives you a made hand. To do this, simply count the number of cards available that give the hand you are drawing to. For example: suppose you hold Ac 8c and the flop comes Qh 9c 4c. You have a flush draw. There are thirteen clubs in the deck and you are looking at four of them — the two in your hand, and the two on the board. That leaves nine clubs left in the deck, and two chances to hit one.

The trick to figuring out the approximate percentage chance of hitting the flush is to multiply your outs times the number of chances to hit it. In this case that would be nine outs multiplied by two chances, or eighteen. Then take that number, multiply times two, and add a percentage sign. The approximate percentage of the time you will make the flush is 36%. (The exact percentage is 34.97%.) Now let’s say that on that same flop you hold the Jd Th. In this case you would have an open ended straight draw with eight outs to hit the straight (four kings and four eights). Eight outs with two cards to come gives you sixteen outs. Multiply times two and you will hit the straight approximately 32% (31.46% exactly) of the time.

One important thing to keep in mind is that the percentage stated is merely the percentage of the time that you will hit the hand you are drawing to, NOT the percentage of time that you will win the pot. You may hit your hand and still lose. In the first example, the Qc will pair the board and may give somearticle a full house. In the second example both the Kc and the 8c will put a possible flush on the board, giving you the straight, but not necessarily the winning hand. Still, knowing the approximate likelihood of making your hand is a good beginning step on the road to better poker.

Clonie Gowen

USOK_1If you’re USA-based, like Clonie, you can play some great online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

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