Professional Poker – Player Comments

Joe Haschem - Australian professional poker playerJoe Hachem – on his performance in the 2007 Aussie Millions Poker Tourament. “To be honest, the year was a topsy turvey one for me, going right back to the Aussie Millions where I folded my way to 23rd place like a muppet. I just didn’t pull the trigger when I had to, and I’ll never forgive myself for that until I actually win the Aussie Millions”.


Mike Caro - plays online at - click to visitMike Caro – on Bluffing
“Poker is psychological warfare. Bluffing is all about psychology, and you clearly need to choose targets that are psychologically bluffable at the moment….never attempt a bluff unless there are compelling reasons to make an exception”.


Paul Wasicka professional poker playerPaul Wasicka – on poker no longer being a man’s game
“We might not like to admit it but poker’s full of stereotypes and there are definitely a few pervasive ones about female players. The stereotypical female player is a bludgeoner, making pot sized bets and huge raises”.


Greg Raymer - poker professionalGreg “Fossilman” Raymer – on leading the pack
“Poker is about making correct decisions. We don’t worry about the result, but rather about the decisions that are made at the time. In poker you can make every decision perfectly all night long and be a loser on the session. However, if you play optimally every night, you will come out ahead in the long run. The big difference between just playing a hand at the table and understanding the details of the hand is what elevates a poker player above the rest of the pack”.

Phil Unabomber Laak - professional poker playerPhil “Unabomber” Laak – who likes to write Arghghghgh a lot when writing about his own poker play
“Poker is a whipping ground of probability curves and philosophical conundrums. We enter and leave it at our own risk. All you can count on is this: Play it well, develop a strong sense of self worth and maybe…just maybe… you’ll survive the blender they call poker”.

tickyFor the latest poker tips and advice from these and other top professional poker players check out the Pro Tips Directory at

Professional Poker Tips: Sit n Gos

Peter Feldman - professional poker player - image courtesy of FullTiltPoker

One of the keys to becoming a successful Sit & Go player is learning to master bubble play. The last thing anybody wants is to be the Bubble Boy, which means you need to get the most out of every hand you play during this critical stage. If you make solid moves from good positions and manage your chip stack wisely, you’ll find yourself in the money before you know it.

Let’s say that you’re short-stacked with just five or six big blinds. How you play your hand in this situation depends less on your cards and more on your position and the size of the other short stacks at the table. For example, you’re in the small blind and the hand is folded around to you. If the big blind doesn’t have you covered by very much, it’s time to jam. This play makes it really hard for him to call because he’s risking his tournament in a very tenuous spot. You put him in a position where he’s the one who has to call you, and that’s a big advantage.

Now let’s change things up a little. Say you’re sitting on about eight big bets on the button and the chip leader is in the big blind. If the action is folded to you in this situation, you can be much more selective about the hands you play. You still have plenty of chips to work with before the blinds come back around, which means you can afford to try and pick your spots. Personally, I’d fold hands worse than Q-10 here, but I’d probably play KJ, KQ, any Ace, and all pocket pairs.

If you’re sitting on just four or five big blinds in this same situation, you’ll have to open up your game a little and play more hands. You’ve got to take some chances here and get your chips in, even if you may be no better than 50-50. Waiting isn’t an option because the blinds will eat you alive if you let them.

If you’re playing a medium-size stack, you have more room to play, but still have to be careful about when – and from where – you put your chips in the middle. Making a standard 3x or 4x raise with 15 or 16 blinds can still be risky because there’s a good chance a bigger stack will re-raise and try to force you all-in before the flop. You really can’t afford to make that call without a premium hand like Aces or Kings.

You definitely don’t want to call with something like AK or AQ because you’re just a coin-flip against any pair and are dominated by pocket Aces or Kings. Folding here is a smarter move, especially if there’s a short stack left to play behind you who is likely to call with a much wider range of hands and give you a better shot of making the money.

Of course, nothing is more comforting than having the big stack when you’re sitting on the bubble. As the chip leader, you can practice selective aggression and apply pressure to the smaller stacks. You especially want to focus on the players in second and third place, as they aren’t going to want to put their chips at unnecessary risk.

Because the shorter stacks are going to try to double up through you, you need to be careful about making loose calls just because you think you can afford them. For example, let’s say the small stack raises 5x the big blind from the button and the small blind folds. You’re in the big blind and it’s only four more bets for you to call, which means your odds are slightly less than 2-1. While calling here may in fact be the right decision, it’s not automatic as far as I’m concerned.

I recommend taking a few seconds to really think through the situation, even if you’re holding a pretty strong hand like A-8 or up, KQ, KJ, or any pocket pair. Think about your opponent and how he’s been playing. If he raises every time he’s in that spot, widen your calling range. But if he’s a particularly good Sit & Go player or playing tight, he may not play many hands and you shouldn’t call as frequently.

More often than not when I’m the big stack in this situation, I’m not just flat calling here. Instead, I’m moving all-in. This is particularly effective because it puts all of the other players at the table to a tough decision. Again, the players in second and third aren’t likely to get involved without huge hands, which lets me isolate the smaller stack.

In the end, winning a SNG is about using whatever edge you’ve got. When you’re down to the final four, take advantage of position and play your stack aggressively. Know when to back off and when to go for it. You’ll still be at the table – and in the money – when the bubble bursts.

Peter “Nordberg” Feldman

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Pro Poker: On Poker egos

Eddy Schaft professional poker player

I recently competed in a televised tournament where several players lost focus on their game. They were either trying to gun for a particular opponent at their table or making some ill-advised moves to show off for the cameras. In every case, these players were making the same mistake – letting their egos get in the way of their game.

While most players will never have the opportunity to try and take down a big name pro or make “fancy” poker moves in front of a TV camera, far too many people still let their egos get in the way of playing solid poker. Once that happens, they lose sight of their long-term goals and start playing for purposes other than winning.

So how do you keep your ego in check at the table? I recommend you start by identifying the kinds of situations that can throw you off your game, and then learn how to deal with them or, better yet, avoid them altogether. To give you an idea, I’ve outlined three common situations that I’ve come across over the years:

THE GRUDGE MATCH – In my experience, this is one of the most common situations that happens at the table and, with practice, one of the easiest to avoid.

Oftentimes, one player will lay a particularly bad beat on another or make a play that a competitor thinks cost them chips. Rather than writing it off as what it is – a single hand in a game or tournament – the aggrieved player goes on tilt and focuses on playing back at their new “nemesis” as if he or she is involved in a heads-up match.

By letting their egos get in the way and focusing on a single opponent, these players often end up doing themselves more long-term harm than good. They lose track of the other people at the table and end up missing opportunities to replenish their stacks or, even worse, give those opponents the chance to take the last of their remaining chips.

Instead of falling into this trap, my advice is to do everything in your power to let the hand go. If this means getting up from the table and walking around the card room for 10 minutes to blow off steam, so be it. In the long run, it’s a cheaper and less stressful solution to a problem that doesn’t need to exist in the first place.

FIGHTING THE TABLE BULLY – Some players feel like they’re always being picked on by their competitors, especially when they’re sitting on a short stack while other players at the table have many more chips at their disposal.

Instead of playing smart poker and looking for opportune times to collect some valuable chips from these bigger stacks, these players often end up fighting back in an effort to show that they won’t be picked on. As is often the case with an underdog in this kind of situation, they walk away defeated.

While there’s value in playing back at aggressive opponents with larger chip stacks, you have to pick your battles wisely. Instead of pushing with any two cards to prove that “you’re not gonna take it”, look for opportunities to get your chips in the middle when you think you have the best hand. Patience is the key to surviving these kinds of situations rather than rash and overly aggressive play. Stay committed to playing your game and the bully problem will take care of itself.

THE GLORY SEEKERS – For some players – especially online – there’s nothing more satisfying than bragging about how they took a pot from a well-known pro.
Yes, it’s fun to play at the same table as a Phil Ivey or Chris Ferguson, but it’s a big mistake to do so at the detriment of your basic game plan. By gunning for the glory of “beating” these pros, many inexperienced players leave themselves open to being run over by their competitors.

If you really want to impress the pros – and your fellow competitors – keep your emotions out of the game. Focus on playing the best cards in the best situations possible and those big pots you’re hoping to win will happen on their own.

These are just a few of the ways that your ego can get in the way of playing solid, winning poker. When you get caught up in these mind games your long-term goals, whether they be winning a tournament or building up a bankroll, will suffer. This may not be a team game, but it’s always good to remember that there is no “I” in poker.
Eddy Scharf

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Pro Tip: Pot Control

Paul Wasicka - professional poker player

One of the most critical aspects to surviving – and thriving – in deep stack tournaments is learning how to control the size of the pots you play. In short, your goal should be to play big pots when you have big hands and small pots when you don’t. When you and your opponents are deep stacked in a tournament, there are two vital elements to pay attention to when you enter a pot – your opponents’ playing style and the texture of the flop.

Before you commit any chips to the pot, you want to identify the types of players who are likely to be in the hand with you. If you’re at a loose table where your opponents are playing a wide range of hands, you’re going to want to play smaller pots unless you’re sure that you’re way ahead or, preferably, holding the nuts.

Say you’re in a hand with something big like pocket Queens and a player who’s been involved in a lot of pots calls your pre-flop raise. The flop comes J-9-7, and you’re out of position. You need to be very careful about betting here because a loose-aggressive player is going to put you to the test. I’d recommend check-calling or check-raising rather than putting out a continuation bet and giving your opponent a chance to re-raise you or, possibly, flat call with the intention of pushing you off the hand on a later street by making a large bet you can’t call if a scare card falls on the turn or river.

Having position against these types of players makes it much easier for you to control the pot, as you’ll be able to turn the table on them and call or re-raise their initial bets. If they come back over the top, you can get away from your hand and still have lost relatively little in comparison to what the hand could have ultimately cost.

When you’re facing a tight player in this same situation, you can make a continuation bet on the flop even if you are playing out of position because they aren’t as likely to make a move on you without a big hand of their own. If you bet and they raise, you can be sure they have something strong like two-pair, a set, or a nice draw.

The other factor to consider when betting is the texture of the flop. Is the board suited or paired? Are there potential straight draws you need to consider? Even if you’re confident your hand is ahead after the flop, take a couple of seconds to study the board before you act. Think about what hands could possibly beat yours, and then try to determine if any of your opponents could be holding cards that would give them reason to call your bet.

Let’s say you’re holding pocket Aces and the flop comes 9-8-7 with a flush draw on the board. Chances are that you’re ahead, but a canny opponent can easily put you in a tough spot by check-raising your continuation bet. If you think your opponent connected with this flop or may be holding a big draw, think about keeping the pot small by playing passively and letting him do the betting for you. If the straight or flush hits, you can get away cheap and look for a better spot later on. If the flop is more ragged – something like J-3-2 rainbow – you can bet out with no reservations and try to pump up the pot as much as possible.

These are all concepts that become easier with time and experience. Keep a sharp eye on your opponents and the flops the next time you play and quickly develop a feel for different situations and, more importantly, for when to bet or check your hand. Try your best to control the size of the pot and you’ll have more control over your tournament life.


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Professional Poker Strategy: Omaha High/Low

Perry Friedman professional poker player

The big difference between big-bet (Pot-Limit or No-Limit) Omaha Hi/Lo and Limit Omaha Hi/Lo is that the former plays much more like Omaha High. Low hands become much less valuable because of how often they get quartered.

If you get quartered in Limit games, you may not lose too much of your overall chip stack because the action is capped on every street. In Pot-Limit games, however, getting quartered can be much more expensive because you may have had to call big bets on both the turn and river before the hand ended. Losing half your stack in this situation could be your best-case scenario – and getting completely felted if your hand is counterfeited on the river is a real possibility.

Because the high end of the pot is often more valuable in big-bet games, I recommend looking for hands that play well both ways or for hands like J-J-T-9 that just play high. Hands that are going to scoop or get 3/4 of the pot are true monsters. While scooping is the best-case scenario in Omaha Hi/Lo, it’s much more important to lock up the high portion of the hand in Pot-Limit games because of how expensive playing for the low can be.

While something like a naked A-2 can be a very strong PLO hand before the flop, I see a lot of people get in trouble with this hand on later streets when they feel committed to put their chips in the middle in hope of hitting their low. Without any potential for hitting the high, these players are putting themselves in situations where they can easily go broke.

In PLO, the best A-2 hands are either suited or have good connectors like 3-4 or 5-6 that will give you straight draws. If you flop something like 4-5-9 with a hand like A-2-3-6, any Ace, 2, 3 or 6 gives you a straight, as well as the nut low. However, even if you have the A-2-3-6 on a flop of Q-9-5, you have to fold if someone else makes a big bet as it’s likely they’ve already made their high hand. Putting your chips in the pot in hope of chopping is not a worthwhile play.

Pot-Limit and No-Limit Omaha Hi/Lo are all about the nuts. If you’re not holding them, you should be looking to draw to them. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t commit your chips to a hand – especially when your best result may only be winning half the pot. If you’re in a hand and are just playing for the low, my advice is to muck your cards and wait for a more profitable situation.

Perry Friedman

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