Texas Hold’em Poker: Chasing A Flush With A Pair On Board

Mike Caro professional poker player and coachWhen you begin with two suited cards and flop two more — meaning you need to catch one more of that suit on the 4th (turn) or 5th (river) cards, it’s often correct to continue to pursue the pot. So, if you start with Kh-Jh in a fixed-limit game and the flop is 7-A-4, you probably should call (and sometimes even bet, partially for deceptive purposes).

But if there’s a pair on that flop, such as 10-10-7, you should often fold. Why? It’s because the flush attempt is usually only marginally profitably (on average) without the pair present. The increased chances of you making a flush only to have it beat by a full house when a pair is present often makes the pursuit unprofitable.

That’s why, if you think the pursuit of the flush would only show a small profit without the pair, you should almost always fold with the pair present. Rare exceptions might involve times when you can use the presence of the pair to bluff or to posture.


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Poker: winning tournament tips

Annette 15, European poker professionalHere’s Part Two of a poker article by Annette Oberstad (Annette_15). Here’s the link to Part One: Annette’s thoughts on how to win a poker tournament without looking at your cards…]

How to win a poker tournament looking at your cards…

Controversially, Annette sometimes plays tournaments while looking at her cards, although many think this gives her an unfair advantage. Here are some handy tips:

Don’t Overplay

Early on in a poke tournament you should be playing small pots in position with suited connectors, because those are the hands that crack big hands. You want to be able to crack Aces and Kings early on because players overplay those hands so horribly and you’re getting huge value.

Likewise, you mustn’t overplay your own big hands. The biggest mistake I see people making is overplaying Aces or Kings, or even A-K, early on. You don’t need to re-raise with A-K at the beginning of a tournament, because you’re going to be missing the flop and people will try to bluff you out – it’s just a really hard hand to play.

Be Selective

Players who don’t know how to play well post-flop commonly play too many hands and that gets them into trouble. They make small mistakes that cost them big later. If you call a raise with K-Q and the flop comes Queen-high, you’re going to lose a lot of chips to a raiser with kings. Usually it’s better to fold those hands pre-flop to raise. I’ll open-raise with K-Q but I usually won’t call with it. You don’t want to go broke with top pair.

I see so many players call from the small blind with A-J after position opens. It’s better to let those hands go when you’re out of position. Wait for a better spot. Even if you flop top pair; you don’t know where you are, and there are so many hands that can dominate you here. If you have position you can control the pot better.

Table Image

Pay close attention to table image. Because I’m known as being so aggressive, people play back at me hard. I can’t remember the last time I was deep in a tournament and didn’t get re-raised pre-flop! I’ve really had to tighten up my game.

Make the Transition

If you’re making the transition fro online poker to live, it’s important to continue playing your own game, just like you do on the Internet. Don’t worry too much about looking for “live tells”; they’re not that much a part of the live game. If you try too hard you’ll just confuse yourself. Sometimes I think I have a tell on a guy and I go with it and I’m totally wrong. It turns out he was actually drinking water because he was thirsty!


a5_wFor more pro tips and poker comment check out the directory of tips from professional poker players here at PokerLabRat.com.

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Poker: Win without sighting your cards

Annette Oberstad professional poker player at 19!Here’s part one of a two part poker article by Annette Oberstad (Annette_15). We thought we’d share it as we’ve recently seen some excellent live televised tournament coverage showing just how aggressive Annette can be. Whoa! Mad Woman?

How to win a poker tournament without looking at your cards…

Armed with just a single Post-it not and a Jedi-like prescience, Annette_15 famously won a $4, 180-player tournament without looking at her cards. Playing cheap tournaments blind can be a great way of honing your instincts and situational awareness. Here’s some invaluable advice from Norway’s foremost diminutive poker diva.

The Early Stages

You don’t want to be playing big pots in the early stages of the tournament because the stacks are so deep that people aren’t going to be putting chips in the pot unless they have a good hand. Instead, you have to figure out who the bad players are, because those are the people you’ll want to be taking the chips from later. So if you see people limping into every pot, you’re going to be isolating and bullying them when you have position, trying to take down the pots – pre-flop if they fold, and post-flop if they call. That’s the main thing you want to be looking at early on.


OK, so I peeked at my cards once. It was pretty early on in the tournament. A short stack called my raise and shoved all-in after my continuation bet on the flop. There were three clubs on the flop and I was getting pretty good odds, so I decided that if I had a club, I would call. I peeked, and sure enough, I did. I called and lost a big pot. So much for looking at your cards!

The Middle Bit

When the blinds start getting bigger, you want to start re-stealing if your stack is big enough. For instance, if you have 15 big blinds and the cut-off opens for 3 big blinds, you can just shove all-in because your opponent will fold a lot in that spot. If you get a little deeper, you can start re-raising people without having to go all-in – it really all depends on your stack size and how you feel your opponent is likely to play. Position is everything. If you’re not looking at your cards it’s pretty much the only tool you have. Youo can’t be opening under the gun with nine people to act behind you, because at least one of them is going to have a hand to play back at you.

End Game

Heads up is really tough – almost impossible. You can never call an all-in because you don’t know what you have – obviously. Plus your opponent will be playing at you really aggressively. It’s about always having the last punch. You have to be the one going all-in to give your opponent the opportunity to fold. Then you have to get lucky. When I won the tournament, I three-bet all-in on a ten-high flop and he bluff-called me with Queen-high and I had King-high. I was very lucky to have the best hand, but you don’t win a tournament playing blind without getting lucky.


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Poker quotes from the professionals

Here’s some recent poker quotes from well known professional players:

Justin Bonomo
Justin Bonomo professional poker playerI know the “feel” players will cringe at this statement, but every situation in poker can be broken down into mathematical terms.

It may seem like you have many good options in a given situation, but there is always one correct play, and the rest are all mistakes.



Antonio Esfandiari
Antionio Esfandiari - professional poker playerI got the owner to agree to flip for our bill. Double or nothing. If we lose we pay double whatever the bill was (about $900 pre tip) and if we win it was on the house. Heads or tails 2 out of 3. We win – our entire meal was free. How sweet it is.
[Eds comment: Why would you take this bet? Hell, I’d never even serve him. Tosser.]


Evelyn Ng
Evelyn Ng - professional poker playerI used to sometimes refer to A-Q affectionately as “big chick” or “slick chick” as a joke, but you know, sometimes A-Q is just a bitch! [Evelyn was 3 times screwed with A-Q in the 08 Ladies NO Limit Hold’em World Championship].



Erick Lindgren
Erick Lindgren, poker professionalBetting on myself to win a bracelet was a way to make it more important. This year, it became about attaining the bracelet, and not just the money, because money doesn’t motivate me as much as a tangible object. I see why Hellmuth talks about them all the time – it helps his motivation.



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Stuff you need to know about Sit-n-go poker

120px-bmpokerThe sit-n-go or single table tournament has fast become one of the most popular poker formats.  Games are constantly available online and are being increasingly offered at many brick and mortar poker rooms. Although many people play these games, they are often unaware of the impact of the structures and have misconceptions about the attainable long term results.

Players often have a lot of trouble trying to gauge how well they are performing. It can be very difficult to interpret results due to the many inevitable streaks and swings that come within poker. It’s also incredibly hard to know how you stack up with the competition. Are you a terrible player? Average? One of the best?

The reason many players have no idea how well they are doing is simple. They do not accurately keep records. Even when players do document their results, many of them do not know how to use the information correctly.

There are several important numbers you can track in order to help you assess your poker Sit’n’go performance.

Place Finished
The position you finish in the SNG tournament is important because it can help you to analyse and adjust your game. The information can be very telling. How often do you finish 7th through 10th? This may indicate that you get involved in too many marginal situations early. How often do you bubble (4th place)?  You are probably playing way too tight, trying to squeak into the money.

ITM – In The Money
ITM is percentage of games played in which that player won a prize and cashed. This can be calculated by taking the number of times a player finished in the money and dividing it by the total number of games played.

In the Money poker play

Tracking ITM allows players to see how frequently they are cashing and can act as a gauge for comparison. An ITM of 40% is considered good. An ITM of 45% or more would be considered great!

ROI – Return on Investment
ROI is the percentage of profit a player makes per tournament. Every time players put up money to enter a tournament, they are making an investment. The money they make, subtracted from the initial investment, is profit.  ROI can be calculated by taking the total profit and dividing it by the total amount paid to enter all tournaments.

Calculate your poker Return on Investment

For example, consider a player who entered 200 $20 9-player SNGs and had the following results:

Example or Poker ROI calculation

This player paid $4400 to enter tournaments and won $4860 for a profit of $460. The player made $460 by investing $4400 for a return on investment of 10.5%.

A ROI of 7% would be considered good. A ROI of 10% or more would be considered great. A players’ ROI decreases as he increases the stakes he plays. For example, a very good player may be able to sustain a 15% ROI at the $10 level, but almost certainly couldn’t come close to that long term at the $100+ level. AT higher stakes, an ROI of 5% would be considered good and 7% or above would be considered outstanding.

To honestly gauge a player’s poker skill at a given level and in order for the statistics to be relevant, a large number of SNG results are needed. A minimum of 200 tournaments is necessary before stats become meaningful. A player’s stats will become increasingly more accurate the more SNGs he plays.

Not all SNGs are Created Equal
There are several factors that effect SNG playability. Both the payout structure and the amount taken as a fee can have a significant impact on your results.

The Prize Structure
The standard payout for a SNG is the top three spots. First place typically gets 50% of the prize pool, with the second place getting 30% and third receiving 20%. However, some tournaments only pay two spots or are “winner takes all”. These obviously result in fewer ITM finishes as well as much larger bankroll swings. The fewer places paid, the more likely you are to experience long dry spells without cashing.

The Rake
The standard fee to play in a SNG is 10% on top of the cost of entry. For example, a $50 tournament will generally have a $5 fee, As you move up stakes, the fees often drop. It is common online to see $100+$9 and $200+$15.

Some poker rooms (casinos) charge enormous fees for single table tournaments. Fees above 10% cut into your profitability. This can actually make many live SNGs unprofitable in the long term, even for top players.

Understanding the numbers behind your play can be instrumental to your development. Remember, it’s important to get lots of practice, but it’s just as important to work on your game away from the felt.



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The Terrible Truth About Deuces In Hold ’em

Mike Caro - chat and play poker with him online at DoylesRoom.comHere’s a quick tip from top poker author and professional, Mike Caro.

Even if you play all the way to a showdown in hold ’em, if you start with a pair of deuces, the odds against you catching at least one more deuce among the five board cards are 4.2 to 1. You’ll only succeed 19 percent of the time.

When you consider that you’re unlikely to win without seeing a third deuce, that you might lose — often at some expense — even when you do see one, and that it will probably cost you considerably more money to get to that last river card, you can understand why a pair of deuces is usually unprofitable to play in hold ’emDeuces in poker.

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Poker Professional Andy Bloch on the Art of Semi Bluffing

Poker tips and advice from professional playersThe semi-bluff is one of the most powerful weapons in any poker player’s arsenal. If there’s a decent chance you can steal a pot by semi-bluffing, you should usually take it. But, as with any play you make at the table, the semi-bluff is always most effective when you use it at the correct time in the correct situation.

Semi-bluff too much and your opponents will know when you’re on the draw; semi-bluff too little and your opponents will know to fold whenever you bet. The key to semi-bluffing is to always mix things up and never become too predictable with your betting patterns.

Let’s say that you’ve flopped the nuts draw and are pretty certain your opponent has connected with the flop in some way, be it top pair or maybe even a set. A lot of players like to check-raise as a semi-bluff in this spot. There are a couple of problems with this play: first, if you always check-raise in this spot then you opponent will be able to put you on a draw very easily. Second, if your opponent really does have a hand, there’s no need to check-raise here because there’s no way he’s folding and there’s a good chance he’ll pay you off anyway if you hit your hand.

A better move in this spot might be no semi-bluffing and just calling instead. This way, if you hit your flush on the turn, your options are wide open. Checking, calling, or raising are all viable plays and your opponent won’t be able to put you on a hand quite as easily. By not semi-bluffing, you increase your chances of winning a bigger pot when your opponent actually has a strong hand. There are players out there who’ll assume you’re not on the draw if you don’t semi-bluff, so use that to your advantage.

Now, if you don’t think that your opponent has a strong hand or your draw isn’t that strong (say, a low flush draw), this is the perfect time for a semi-bluff. The semi-bluff should be used as a tool to steal pots when the opportunity arises, not as a means of building big pots.

Another good way to mix up your semi-bluffing game plan is to wait until the turn to semi-bluff rather than always doing it on the flop. This can be a dangerous play because you’ve only got one card to come on the turn and you’re not getting the same odds. But it also means that your opponent is less likely to think that you’re semi-bluffing and put you on the draw. It looks pretty strong if you call on the flop and then raise on the turn; your opponent might think you’ve flopped the nuts and throw away a pretty strong hand.

Another advantage to semi-bluffing on the turn rather than the flop is that you could pick up additional outs on the turn. Say you have a gut-shot straight draw on the flop and then pick up a flush draw on the turn. You’ve just gone from four outs to about twelve, which might be worth a shot at taking down the pot right then and there. A lot of poker players will also have trouble putting you on the flush draw in this spot; it’s just harder to see that flush draw on the turn than it is on the flop.

Once again, the key to a good semi-bluff is picking the right spot to pull it off. Choose poorly and you could stand to lose a good portion of your stack; choose well, and you could throw your opponents off balance and hit them where it hurts when you make your hand.

Andy Bloch

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Poker Pro: Raising With Small Pairs

Mike Caro plays online poker at DoylesRoom.comAlthough you can often call profitably with a small pair against a long line of players in hold ’em, when you’re in late position and no one has entered the pot, it’s different. Then, you should usually raise, not just call.

The reason is that against many players, you’re trying to take advantage of pot odds by calling and seeing the flop. You realize that you’ll almost certainly need to improve your hand to win against that many opponents.

But when you’re in late position, you can raise hoping to end up one-on-one or to win the blinds outright. If you do end up against just one opponent, there’s a good chance your small pair might be enough win the pot, affording you an extra chance to win that you would seldom enjoy against many opponents.

The raise is designed to chase players out and give yourself that extra chance to win.

Mike Caro

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Strategies for Early Tournament Poker Play

Allen Cunningham - nicknamed Clever Piggy, is a member of Team FullTilt professional poker players

Many players’ first exposure to poker comes from watching WSOP and WPT tournaments on TV, and I think that’s great. It’s entertaining and you’ll see some interesting plays, but viewers have to understand that they shouldn’t model their games based on the action they see on TV.

Why? The answer is simple – what you’re seeing is unrealistic and edited for television. Players in these televised tournaments often start with very deep stacks (sometimes 10,000 chips or more) and, most of the time, all you’ll see on the broadcast is action from the final table where the blinds are high and play is fast. In contrast, the majority of the low buy-in ($1 to $20) tournaments you’ll encounter online usually start with stacks of 1,500 and blinds of 10/20.

Because your approach to the early stages of these tournaments is key to whether you’ll make the final table, the question is, what should your strategy be?

I suggest adopting a simple approach, especially if you’re not a very experienced tournament player. Try not to play too many hands and aim to see a few cheap flops with small/medium pairs if possible because these can provide some the best chances for you to double or even triple up during the first couple of levels. There are many times when you may be able to put in 5% of your stack or less to see a flop and try and hit your set. You’re 7-to-1 to flop a set, but you may be getting 20-to-1 implied odds early on since a flopped set will often be the best hand, and you’ll have a good chance to double up against weaker players who may overplay top pair.

If you are expecting a few callers, you might want to limp with these hands pre-flop. You may also just want to flat call with these hands if there are already a couple of people in for a small raise when the action gets to you. But, if the action is folded to you in late position, you definitely want to raise and take down the blinds. If you want to play conservatively, you can safely throw away small pairs in early position. As I said previously, you don’t want to commit more than about 5% of your stack pre-flop with small and medium pairs (maybe 6% or 7% max), and when you play from early position there’s no guarantee that’s going to happen.

Of course you also want to be playing your monsters like AA and KK, and other hands like QQ, JJ, AK and AQ. Remember early on when stacks are deep, you’re not going to get a lot of action for all of your chips unless you’re up against a pretty strong hand.

There are no concrete rules as to how fast you should try to build your stack in the early going, but the main thing you don’t want to do is go broke by playing too loose. In smaller online tourneys you will either be in the money or close to the money without having to win too many pots if you can just play tight and hang around for a couple of hours. If you speculate too much or take too many coin-flips when you don’t need to early on, chances are that you’ll end up on the rail and miss that opportunity.

Even if you make it to the fourth or fifth level with just a little above starting stack, you’ll usually be in good enough shape to take a run at the money. Remember, getting into the money and beyond is what counts – so learn how to start your tournaments the right way and give yourself the best chance to be the last player standing at the end.

Allen Cunningham

Allen has 5 WSOP Bracelets and over $10.2 Million in Career Tournament Earnings. He was 2005 WSOP Player of the Year.


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Can knowing your M-Ratio help you avoid poker’s Dead Zone?

This week, the team at bet365 Poker opened their satchel of poker tips and pulled out the exercise book that deals with M-ratio.

It a term invented by professional backgammon player Paul Magriel who, when he’s not tumbling dice, also finds time to sit down at the occasional poker game and pen a few books. Although the term and theory are his babies, as is often the case with these definitions, the basic principles were already applied by advanced players such as Doyle Brunson.

M-ratioThe M-ratio is a simple measurement of chip stack when factored against the price of playing each round. M is equal to the number of laps a player can survive, making only compulsory bets, before his chip run out. It is deduced by the following formula: M = stack/SB+BB+(ante x number of players)

Example: in a ten player game, with blinds of $100/$200 and antes of $10, a player with a $2000 stack has the M-ratio of 5: he will be dead in five rounds (or fifty hands) if just makes the compulsory bets.

This can be more useful in tournaments than cash games – in the latter, a player can effectively set his own M-ratio as he can keep buying chips.  However, in tournaments, knowing your M-ratio, and thus the power of your stack, is a real asset. To this end, pro Dan Harrington went to the blackboard and created five M Zones to help give novice and veteran alike a quick reference.

These are:

M ≥ 20 is the Green Zone – bet away as this is the best situation to be in. Play as you choose – loose or tight, you have plenty of time.

20 ≤ M ≤ 10 is the Yellow Zone – you have to start taking more chances here. Crucially, Dan argues small pairs and small suited connector lose value

6 ≤ M ≤ 10 is the Orange Zone – starting to become tight. Dan suggests a focus on making sure you are the first person to put money into the pot.

1 ≤ M ≤ 6 is the Red Zone – similar to what Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, called ‘squeaky bum time’, your only option is now to push or to fold.

M  . You’re in Stephen King territory now, you have to push your money into an empty pot and rely on luck to survive.

For the ratio to remain valid in the latter stages of a tournament, you have to remember to factor in the percentage of players still left at the table. So, for the earlier example, if the player’s M-ratio was 5 at a full table, it falls to 2.5 if there are only five players remaining

Is this case, M effective = M x (players/10) or… 5 x 5/10 = 2.5.

Whether or not you really need to call it the M-ratio, a nod to Harrington’s ‘Zones’ may improve your tournament strategy.

Blimey! Get down to bet365 Poker and put those formulae into practice!


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