The Poker Lab Rat

November 29, 2007

Andy Bloch on Implied Odds – Part 1

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 2:06 am

Team Full Tilt member Andy Bloch on Implied Odds

Most people have a pretty good understanding of pot odds – whether the amount of chips in the pot justifies making a call – but they fail to realize that making this calculation only solves part of the poker equation. Often, these players forget to think about how the rest of the hand is going to play out if they make a call, and fail to factor that information into their calculations. That’s where implied odds come into effect.

In short, implied odds are a way to calculate the amount of money that you can possibly win if you make your hand. To put it another way, your implied odds are the total amount you could win divided by what you’re putting into the pot.

Suppose you have 7-8 of diamonds on the turn, and there are two diamonds on the board. There are 1,000 chips in the pot and your opponent bets 500. You’re almost certain your opponent has top pair and isn’t on a diamond draw, so catching a seven or eight just won’t cut it. That leaves nine outs to your flush draw – you need pot odds of about 4 to 1 to make a call, but you’re only getting 3 to 1.

Now, if your opponent has a lot more chips left in front of him and you think he’ll pay you of if you hit your hand, implied odds will come into play. Say your opponent will pay off at least the pot – 1,500 chips in this case – when you make your hand. You’re calling 500 to make 3,000, implied odds of 6 to 1. That’s more than enough to justify trying to suck out on him.

While your total implied odds may be larger if you’re playing a Pot-Limit or No-Limit game, the concept of implied odds is often more relevant in Limit poker where you can usually determine how likely you are to get your opponent to call an extra bet or two on the river. In Pot-Limit and No-Limit games you often have no idea of how much bigger the pot could get or if your opponent will even bet at all.

Like all poker games, your implied odds in any hand are also strongly influenced by your opponent in the hand. Is he loose? Tight? Will he call a bet on the river with top pair and a weak kicker or second pair? You need to use your knowledge of your opponent’s style to help determine what your potential pay-off for the hand may be. You’re going to have to take a guess as to how many chips your opponent will be willing to commit to the hand, but you can make an educated guess based on your past experiences with that player.

Implied odds are much more complicated to figure out than pot odds. You’re not only thinking about what hand you have at the moment and what your odds are, you’re thinking about how the hand is going to play out in the future on all fronts. That’s the difference between implied odds and pot odds. When you figure it out, it’s a very powerful concept.

The more you’re thinking about implied odds and the future of a hand, the more you’re thinking like a pro.

ANDY BLOCH

USOK_1If you’re USA-based, play and chat with top professionals online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

 

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November 27, 2007

Erik Seidel’s Top 6 Tips on Self Control

Filed under: Erik Seidel,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 3:43 am

 Erik Seidel plays online poker at FullTiltPoker.com

1. His big tip
Pay attention all the time. Watch and listen. Focus on the next to speak and interpret his action.

2. I will survive!
Think your way through all situations. When things have gone badly, sit there just as tough as you were when you came in. That can be very discouraging to other players.

3. Respect your opponents
Try not to think you’re better than you are. Remember that you’re only as good as your last mistake. There is something to be learned from every hand, whether you’re in it or not. Even bad players can teach you something – like how to play against bad players. Keep working on your faults and patterns. It’s all going to take much longer than you think. Don’t play your cards – play your opponents.

4. Embrace risk
Don’t kid yourself about poker. There may be more skill than luck in the game, but there’s still a lot of gambling involved, particularly in tournaments. Don’t become too attached to your chips. In competitions they’re shrinking all the time as the blinds go up, so put them into play and make them work for you.

5. Control your impulses
Embracing risk doesn’t mean going crazy. Think every bet through every time – don’t ever play emotionally. If you find yourself saying “I end up with all my chips in and I don’t know how they got there”, you’re a victim of your own impetuosity.

6. Have fun
Until the day comes when you decide to go pro, you’re playing the game to enjoy yourself, so enjoy! Keep it light, maintain your sense of humour and don’t get grumpy. You should work hard to improve your game, but do it with a smile, not a frown.

Erik Seidel – who is he?
A New Yorker who spent eight years on the backgammon circuit and then worked on Wall Street trading Stocks. He’s beanstick thin and ultra studious, and you can play him online at Bookmaker Poker and BetOnline Poker. (Check out the medium to high stakes tables. ).

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November 26, 2007

Exorcising bad beats

Filed under: Chris Ferguson,Doyle Brunson,General Blog Rant — Mike @ 1:19 am

Poker wouldn’t be poker if players didn’t get to exorcise their bad beats in public afterwards. Here are some examples of bad beats – those unlikely little twists of fate – from WSOP play.

Doyle Brunson versus Jesse Alto (1976)
Brunson won a big pot, he called a raise from the steaming Alto with 10s-2s to see a Ah-Js-10h flop and called a bet on the flop. When the 2s fell on the turn, Brunson moved all-in with two-pair, but Alto already had that on the flop with A-J in the hole, and it took the 10d on the river to seal it for Brunson (he also won a year later with the 10-2, making two pair on the turn to beat his opponent’s flopped two pair).

The board that won Doyle Brunson the WSOP with 10-2

 

 

 

 

Hal Fowler versus Bobby Hoff (1979)
Hoff raised with A-A and Fowler called. When the flop came J-3-5 rainbow, Hoff bet half of his remaining chips and Fowler called again. The turn fell a seemingly innocuous 4 and Hoff bet the rest, only to be called by Fowler who had stayed the whole way with 7-6 off-suit and got a lucky straight!

Chris Ferguson versus TJ Cloutier (2000)
When the two great players got heads up, Ferguson had a 10-1 chip lead, but Cloutier chipped away, and eventually managed to take the lead away from Ferguson, who went slightly on tilt after suffering such an onslaught.

Cloutier sensed it was time to go for gold, and moved all-in with A-Q after a raise from Ferguson. The move paid off, as Ferguson made a slip and called with A-9. A flop of 2-K-4 was no help, nor was the turn, (another K). However the river came a fateful 9 to seal the victory for Ferguson.

TJ Cloutier was philosophical afterwards: “He thought he had to beat me in a major pot, so he just decided to go with the hand. Obviously, Chris thought that if he caught the Ace, he’d have a hand, but he was in horrible position…and you know what? O saw that nine coming before the dealer even peeled it off. It was as though I was looking right through the deck”.

 

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November 25, 2007

Poker Moves: Fold, Call or (Re) Raise?

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 3:11 am

Test your poker knowledge against these two scenarios:

In the middle stages of a tournament you’re dealt A-K and raise in middle position to 3.5 big blinds, and get called by the small blind. The flop comes A-10-4 he checks and you bet two thirds of the pot. He re-raises. You both have 10-20 big blinds and you know nothing about your opponent.
Do you FOLD, CALL, (RE)RAISE or GO ALL-IN?
In a deep-stacked cash game with blinds of $5-$10, you pick up 4-4 in late position and call a small raise after two other callers. The flop comes 4-6-10, the raiser bets, one player calls and so do you. The turn is another 10 and the action is repeated. The river is a Q, the first player checks and the second player makes a substantial bet. You all have ample funds left.
Do you FOLD, CALL, or RAISE?
[scroll down for the recommended play]

 

 

 

 

 

GO ALL-IN. You’ve hit top pair with the top kicker, but your opponent doesn’t know this and may be semi-bluffing or have a worse Ace. If he has A-10 or 4-4 good luck to him: you’re seeing this one out!

CALL. You have a strong hand, but it’s hardly unbeatable, and one of your opponents could have flopped a bigger set than you or hold Q-Q and improved at the very end. By calling you freeze the first player’s action and give yourself the option of getting away without doing your whole stack if the first player now re-raises.

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November 23, 2007

Defending Blinds ain’t easy – no matter what the game

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — webmaster @ 12:29 am

bol50perIn limit poker, it initially seems easier to defend the blinds because the investment odds are usually better. The button can’t raise as much, so you don’t face as much immediate pressure. The problems in analyzing limit poker defending do not end there though. It’s much harder to win the pot with a re-raise, because the amount you’re re-raising isn’t enough to knock out someone who had raised from the button; even if he was stealing, he’ll usually call and look at the flop.

Similarly, when you get a favorable flop, you can’t usually win it with one bet. You will have to risk seeing a turn card also, and make a second bet. In limit poker, the raiser can’t put as much pressure on you, but you can’t put as much pressure on him.  You’ll probably have to attack him twice, and be out of position each time.

That’s why even though the relative cheapness makes it first appear easier to defend the blinds in limit poker, before the hand is over, it winds up probably just as hard as in no-limit or pot-limit. You just face a different collection of problems.

Playing the hand out of position on the flop, turn, and (if you get that far) the river is a huge disadvantage. Each time the opportunity comes to bet, you are going to have to act first. Your opponent will have more information than you when it’s his turn to act, and that’s very bad news.

Position is all important

Suppose you call and you do hit the flop. Do you bet? If you do, your opponent still has most of the power and options. If his hand missed the flop, he might concede, and you’ll only win the money that was in the pot to start. If he hit the flop too he can raise, and now where are you? Do you call a re-raise? The problem will become even more troublesome on the turn. You bet the flop, but your opponent didn’t go away. Assuming the turn card doesn’t help you, where do you go? Do you bet again, hoping to scare your opponent off? Do you show weakness by checking? To win the hand playing out of position is just far harder than most people realize.

Worse still, when you do win, you usually win much less than you could have won if you had been the final player to act rather than the first.

Because of the position problem, most players defend their blinds far too often. They see that they already have some money invested, and are getting a ‘discount’ on their call, but fail to think the hand all the way through. They may be getting a discount, but it’s a discount on damaged goods. Efforts to show that you can’t be ‘pushed around’ in the blind can be very costly. Most players would win much more (or lose much less) if they defended their blinds less.

Because good poker advice is rarely black and white, you shouldn’t turn into an easy target every time you hold the blind. If you don’t defend at least occasionally, you can be certain that you will be attacked every time, and that will cost you more money. The occasional call, or better still, the occasional re-raise, will alert the late position players that your blind is still not free for the taking.
More tomorrow in this series of items on Blinds in Hold’em Poker.

Read my earlier postings on successful play from the Blinds here:
>> Five Golden Rules for Playing from the Blinds
>> How to avoid throwing away money on the Blinds

 

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Golden Rules for Playing From the Blinds

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — webmaster @ 12:17 am

 

  • Most players defend their blinds too often, but you must defend often enough to ward off automatic attacks.
  • It’s marginally easier to defend your blind in a limit game or a multi-way pot, because you are receiving much better pot odds, but that still doesn’t make playing the blinds a winning position.
  • Most players fails to recognize the huge inherent weaknesses involved when playing the remainder of the hand out of position; a decision to defend involves consideration of what will happen on future betting rounds.
  • Defending doesn’t just mean calling; attack is often the best form of defense. Often, it is correct to ‘defend’ with a raise.
  • When selecting hands with which to defend, be wary of hands that are likely to be dominated, like Aces or Kings with bad kickers. Look more favorably on connected middle cards or small pairs.

I’ll cover these points with some examples in the next couple of blog postings. Successful Blind play is one aspect that makes a big difference between good poker players, and great poker players.

Kishan Neilsen

>Read my eariler posting on how to avoid throwing away money on the Blinds here.

Best US friendly online poker roomsKishan is a US based professional poker player. His two preferred sites for online poker are BetOnline Poker and Bookmaker Poker. Join him at a table soon!

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November 22, 2007

Poker: A Balance of Control and Gambling

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 3:48 am

Barny Boatman endorses online poker play at FullTiltPoker.com

There’s no question that poker includes an element of gamble. Any time you risk something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome, you’re gambling. But there is a way in which poker is the exact opposite of gambling, because poker is all about making intelligent decisions. It’s all about control.

Gambling, in its purest form – buying a lottery ticket or backing a number on roulette – is to deliberately relinquish control of your money and leave the outcome to fate. If it’s your day, if the Gods so wish it, you will get lucky. In poker, on the other hand, you’re always striving to leave as little to chance as possible.

So how do you achieve control in tournament poker? Is it by avoiding gambles? By only playing strong starting cards? Only betting made hands and never bluffing or drawing? Of course not.

If you sit and wait for good hands all the way through a tournament then, like the roulette player keeping faith with their favorite number, you’re leaving the outcome to chance. The great paradox of tournament poker is that in order to stay in control you have, among other things, to choose the right moments to gamble.

If you’re doing 75 on the freeway and are just a few feet from the car in front of you, then even if you’re the world’s best driver, you’re out of control because if the car ahead suddenly brakes, you can’t avoid a crash. So it is with a stack which is too short to make opponents pass for a re-raise. Any time an opponent applies the brakes, your stacks will collide – at a time of their choosing – and you will need luck to survive.

In order to stay in control, you must strive to maintain a playable stack, which can mean pushing over the top of a late raise with the worst hand when you have a good chance of making your opponent fold. You don’t want to have to make this play, but you have to recognize when it’s the right time to put your chips in the pot. Too soon and it’s a reckless unnecessary risk. Too late, and it’s transparent and unlikely to work. Too often and you develop a credibility problem.

Sometimes your stack has gotten so low that you know you’ll be in a showdown the next time you enter a pot. The only control you have left is the choice of when to push, and even there you are running out of room to manuever. Don’t just wait until you’re all-in on the big blind. Instead, look for situations where you’ll be in a showdown with the best possible ratio of chips to opponents, and where your cards are liable to be live. A well-timed gamble will give you a shot at regaining a playable stack.

Some very good tournament players deliberately seek early gambles in big pots; happy to get all their chips in at the first level with a flush draw against two pair, because they feel the edge and extra control a big stack would give them is worth that early risk. That wouldn’t be my approach in a deep stack event, but I understand the reasoning behind that style of play.

In tournament poker the balance between gamble and control is constantly changing. Recognizing where you and your opponents are in this shifting landscape will help you make good decisions and give you a vital edge.

Barny Boatman

A member of the Hendon Mob, Barny started out as a 7-Card Stud player and, in 1999, was Europe’s top-ranked player. These days however, like most tournament players, Barny focuses mainly on No-Limit Hold ’em.

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November 21, 2007

Playing the Blinds in Texas Hold’em

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — webmaster @ 5:29 am

First up – so what are blinds all about then?

Poker: playing the blinds

 

Blinds in Hold’em serve a purpose similar to antes in Stud games: they create an incentive for a player to invest and/or attack. Without and ‘starter money’, there would be little incentive for an intelligent player to make the first bet, even with a very good hand. If everyone else fold, he’s won nothing. Without blinds or antes, the first bet is merely a target, and the other players could safely fold without an unbeatable hand.

By forcing the player to the dealer’s left to post a small blind (SB) and the player to his left to pay a big blind (BB – usually double that of the small blind), hold’em becomes much more interesting and action filled. Each hand begins as a battle for the blinds, and once that battle begins, the pot starts to grow, and the reasons to play grow with it.

Low stakes games rarely end with the first raise; in high stakes games, especially no limit tournament final tables, the first raise often does end the hand.

Even though blinds serve a purpose similar to antes, they function quite differently. Antes are “dead money”. Anteing merely entitles you to receive cards; you still must make a bet to engage in the action. If you post one of the blinds, though, your money counts as a bet (it’s “live”). If you post the BB, and no one else plays, you win the hand. You won’t have won much – only the SB (usually half the size fo the BB although it can vary from 1/3 to 2/3 of it’s size).

While any win helps, the more often the fact that your blind money counts as a bet will make getting involved in many other hands easier, because you’re getting to play for a discount price.

Correct Blind Play: Making the best of a bad situation

Playing the Blinds in Texas Holdem poker

 

When, why, and how you should play when you’re getting that discount is a widely misunderstood subject. Let’s start with a key principle behind correct blind play. Some situations are natural money losers, and the hands when you post the blinds fall into that category. If you had to poast the BB every hand, you’d get slaughtered: you’re in early position (bad), and investing your money before you see your cards (also bad). Over the long haul, you will lose money on your blind hands – not every time, of course, but on balance. The key is to lose as little as possible, so you can make money overall by taking advantage of your premium situations, like when you site in late position.

Let’s start with an elementary blind play decision. You’ve posted the $30 BB in a no-limit hold’em game; your neighbor to the right has posted the $15 SB. Everyone folds around the button, who decides to raise it to a total of $90 (a $60 raise). The small blind folds, and now it’s up to you. Does this hand continue or does the button win $45?

Understanding the risks

Assuming you have a plausible hand (more on that in a moment), you have to assess your risk/reward ratio, and to do that, you have to decide whether you’re going to try to win the pot by calling and then winning on the flop, or by raising and trying to win right away.

Raising will cost you $60 plus the amount you raise, let’s say you raise an additional $180, a total bet of $240. The tricky part is to understand what you’re trying to win with your raise: you’re trying to claim only $135. Some people mistakenly think “After I call, my raise is giving me a shot at a $195 pot (in other words, thinking that their $180 raise might buy them $195).

They’re wrong: the pot only becomes $195 after your call. Your $240 bet is a shot at the money already in the pot – and that was only $135 when you made your move.

There’s a big difference between risking $180 to win $195 and risking $240 to win $135. The first play (were the numbers accurate) doesn’t even have to succeed half the time to be profitable. The second has to work 64% of the time just to break even (actually a bit more than that when you remember you’re paying rake).

The math changes when you try to win by calling and then making a decision on the flop. Your $60 call cannot win the pot. All calling does is give you the right to make a play later in the hand, and that will necessarily mean risking more money then. If the flop is favorable enough, it may not be much of a risk: if the flop is unfavorable, your money may be gone and your only remaining chance will be an opportunity to lose more.

You $60 call creates a $195 pot. If you assume that you will only make a move at the pot when the flop is favorable (good player’s actions of course are more complex than that!) you can call, in a purely mathematical sense, if the flop will be favorable 30.8% of the time (60 divided by 195). Whether hitting the flop is easier or more difficult than that depends to some extent on your hand, and to some extent on how easy or hard it is to outplay your opponents on the flop.

How well you think you can get “paid off” when you hit you hand also makes a huge difference, and remember, it’s much harder to get paid off handsomely when you’re acting out of position – and that’s exactly what you’re doing when playing from the blind.
I’ll continue in my next blog posting to cover how to defend those blinds and also include 5 golden rules for playing from the blinds. Check it out tomorrow!

Kishan Neilsen

 

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November 20, 2007

On-Line Poker Tells

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 2:41 am

Online poker tells - reading your opponentsMany poker players these days take advantage of seeing thousands of hands of poker and accelerate their learning and tournament experience by playing online.

Some people still refuse to play online because for them, the game is all about reading players physically and having a smell for the table.

While this isn’t possible with Internet poker, there are definitely tells to be read when it comes to betting patterns. You do need to consider a range of “issues” your opponents may be facing that have potential to vary their judgement and timing of bets. Dodgy Internet connections (especially when you’re playing players from around the world) and off-table distractions (e.g. a sudden need to attend to that pesky bladder or answer the door!), can distort factors that can be considered tells.

Just as in an in-the-flesh game, quick calls are often on the draw. When you recognise someone is drawing, if it doesn’t hit, check them at the end. They have to bet their busted draw, it’s the only way they can win the pot, and you’ll extract extra chips from them.

Early limpers who then call a significant raise are often on a low to medium pair. Minimum re-raises, especially from those players who usually raise a proper amount, are often monster pairs; AA or KK.

Look for those players who use the auto check/fold button, their blinds are always worth having a pop at. And steer clear of the players who want to get it all-in on the first hand to win $30 in blinds. It’s not worth your tournament life even if you’re the favourite. Sit tight and know that you’ll get their money later.

If you’re looking for a good, safe online poker room to practice your game and potentially build your bankroll we suggest you try BetOnline Poker. This stylish Australian owned poker room is hype free and it’s unique software offers some excellent features that really help you manage your game – and your opponents!

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November 19, 2007

Poker Betting Strategy II: Pot Limit vs No Limit Tournament Play

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — webmaster @ 3:05 am

Poker Betting Strategy

Different playing styles and strategies are required for pot limit and no limit poker if you want to win big. Here’s an example of how to bet in each game format (no limit and pot limit Texas Hold’em Tournament play). My previous posting covered no limit and pot limit cash game play.

No limit and limit poker betting strategyWHAT DO YOU DO?

In this example, the format is of less importance. Your primary concern is how players behind you are going to respond to your play.

POT LIMIT

If you check and nobody raises you, the Aces are in serious jeopardy as you have let draws in and you can still only bet the pot. If you check-raise successfully, you may force players to fold, and also to make them play more cautiously in future. However, if you bet the pot you are still letting people call with drawing hands for a reasonable sum, and if the maniacs only call, it’s likely more people will come in as the action moves round the table as there are so many chips on offer.

NO LIMIT

Here, you face similar problems to the same scenario in pot limit, but if you can make a big raise of say, 250-400, you may shut out any draws and suck in the players ho call big raises. However, you risk everyone folding.

The answer here is not so much to do with the betting format as how you play the Aces. You should play them in the same manner as other hands in order not to arouse suspicion. Pot limit is great for this, as making a pot-sized raise can mean a wide variety of hands. In no-limit, you will need to be careful to bet similar amounts most of the time so as to not give the strength of your cards away. Remember that if you have bet out strongly pre-flop, you can keep betting strongly afterwards, but if you try for a check raise and fail, you will need to proceed with caution.
Check out my last posting for an example of Pot Limit and No Limit betting in Texas Hold’em Cash Game play.

Kishan Neilsen

usa_OKKishan is a US based online poker professional. Like many online pros he plays under several screen IDs and you’ll find him at tables at Bookmaker Poker and BetOnline Poker.

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