The Poker Lab Rat

January 30, 2009

Seven-Card Stud: Pro Poker Tips

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 11:49 pm

Seven Card Stud Poker Professional Tips

Fifth Street is the big decision point in Seven-Card Stud because that’s the critical juncture in the hand when you have to put in your first big bet. While it’s nice to have a made hand at this point, you don’t always need one to put in a raise on Fifth Street. If you have a big draw, that can be enough to warrant raising your opponent. Some players don’t think like this, and I believe that’s a costly mistake.

Here’s an example of a situation where I believe raising with a draw is the correct play. Let’s say your opponent is showing an Ace, and you have a 7 of diamonds up and a 6 and 7 of spades in the hole, giving you a pair of 7s. You and your opponent are the only players involved in the hand, and he opens with a raise. You call.

On the turn your opponent catches an offsuit Jack and bets. You catch the 9 of spades. You have a pretty nice hand at this point. Not only do you have a pair of 7s, but you also have three cards to a flush and three cards to a straight so there are a lot of cards you can catch that will give you a big draw. You definitely want to call in this spot.

On Fifth Street your opponent catches a 6 so now he has an Ace, Jack, and 6 showing. You catch the deuce of spades, which is a very interesting card. You now have a pair of 7s and four spades to a flush, but your opponent is unaware of how strong you are because one of your 7s and two of your spades are hidden.

Your opponent leads out with a bet once again. Now here’s the question. Should you simply call or should you raise? Even if your opponent has two Aces, I would prefer to have two 7s and four spades in this situation so you should be aggressive and put in a raise. You should do this for a couple of reasons. First, even if he does have a pair of Aces, you’re still the favorite. You are about a 58 percent favorite to win the hand so you’re getting the best of it right now.

The other reason you should raise is that it will get you a free card if you fail to hit your draw. Let’s say you go ahead and raise on Fifth Street, and your opponent calls. Since he called your raise, you can be pretty certain he has a pair that can beat your 7s. Then on Sixth Street he catches a 4 and you catch the 3 of diamonds, a card that doesn’t help your hand at all.

If your opponent is a weak player, he is probably going to check it to you because he’s going to be scared of that raise you put in on Fifth Street. If he does in fact check, then you succeeded in accomplishing exactly what you set out to do. You got extra money into the pot on Fifth Street when you had the best of it, and now that you missed your draw and don’t have the best of it anymore you’re happy to get a free card. Now you have one more shot at drawing out on him.

This is a clear example of why it pays to be aggressive on Fifth Street in Seven-Card Stud. Some players would just call in this situation, but I think that’s a big mistake. Being aggressive and sticking in a raise has two clear advantages over simply calling. It will get more money into the pot those times you do make your hand, and it will get you a free card those times you don’t. The bottom line is that you need to be aggressive when playing Seven-Card Stud because it’s the aggressive player who usually wins.

a5_wKeith is a native Midwesterner, born in Dayton, Ohio and indisputably one of the best 7-Card Stud players in the world.

2h_wIf you’re USA-based, play and chat with top professionals online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

 

 

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January 25, 2009

Poker Pro Andy Bloch on Semi-Bluffing

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 5:45 am

Andy Bloc professional poker player plays exclusively online at FillTiltPoker.com

The 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 nut flush 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 your 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 not 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 12, which might be worth a shot at taking down the pot right then and there. A lot of 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.

a5_wAndy Bloch plays online at BetOnline and Bookmaker Poker sites – join him and other top pros at a table sometime. It’s a great way to learn some new tricks, make some money or just show off your skills.

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January 15, 2009

Poker Professional: Tips On Being Active Early

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 3:44 am

Aaron Bartley professional poker player

Deciding how active you want to be at the beginning of a tournament depends heavily on what type of tournament you’re playing in. If it’s a standard Sit & Go, I always recommend playing tight and conserving chips early. If it’s a Multi-Table Tournament or a Shootout Tournament then you should consider a more active style in the early phase.

Part of the goal in doing this is to accumulate chips. But another part of the goal is to establish an image that will help get you chips later. It can be a rewarding way to play, but you need to understand that there’s also a downside to the image this type of play will create.

When you put constant pressure on other players, it’s eventually going to make them fight back. You don’t have to raise large amounts and you don’t have to get involved in huge pots, but by raising with a lot of hands, your opponents are going to play back at you with a wider and wider range of hands. They’re going to start calling and three-betting with more marginal hands, and that’s going to open them up and make them susceptible to giving you their chips more often.

If you’re looking to accumulate chips, you don’t want your table locked down in super-tight mode. You don’t want to have to grind out a few chips every orbit – you want to get into your opponents’ heads and provoke them into spewing chips. You’ll find that once one player at the table does it, it tends to have a domino effect and lead other people to start making mistakes.

The downside, however, is that your bluffs won’t work very often, and that’s something you have to be aware of. For example, let’s say I’ve been playing a lot of pots and developed a loose image in a six-handed table, and I’m dealt A-Q suited under the gun. That’s a good hand at a full table, and it’s even better six-handed. So I make a pot-sized raise, and the big blind calls. The flop is J-10-6, which isn’t exactly a hit for me, but it isn’t a total miss; I have a straight draw and two over cards. I’m going to make a normal continuation bet and I figure my opponent can’t call me without a decent hand. In this case, I bet, he calls and the turn is a three, so I decide to give it one more shot and raise my bet a little bit because I want him to fold. Instead, he calls.

A four now falls on the river. I didn’t hit anything and he’s clearly shown that he’s ready to call anything; I can’t expect to bet him off the hand. In my mind, I’m putting him on a hand possibly as weak as 10-2, but I don’t think I can get him to lay that down, so I check, give up the pot and he wins with 6-7.

Of course I’m going to be a little frustrated to learn that he called twice with third pair. He had to have put me on A-K or A-Q or thought I was raising under the gun with rags and, the truth is, people will begin to think that way because I’ve raised a lot of pots. Because of this, people are going to start calling me extremely light.

In the short-term, that can be a bad thing; but in the long-term, it should be good. If the same hand happens later but I have A-J or Aces or Kings, or even some trash hand that connects, I’m going to get paid off.

This is why the positives of playing an active style early ultimately outweigh the negatives. Even if you lose a pot because your image keeps people hanging around, it can set you up to win an even bigger pot later on.

 

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January 8, 2009

Pro Poker Tips: Rebuy Tournaments

Filed under: Poker News & Views,Poker Tournaments,pro tips — Mike @ 11:26 pm

Going into any rebuy tournament, you should know before the first cards are dealt how much money you’re willing to invest. Whether you’re playing with a single bullet (not planning to rebuy at all), enough money to rebuy 50 times, or somewhere in between, you should have a number in your mind. You need to know from the start how many risks you can afford to take, and play accordingly.

Michael Gracz plays poker online at FullTiltPoker.com

For me personally, I don’t believe in playing with a single bullet or with unlimited ammo. If you’re only planning on making one buy-in, then why not play a regular No-Limit Hold ’em tournament? Playing a rebuy tournament with only one bullet, you have no safety net and you’re giving the other players a significant edge over you because they’re able to exploit your reluctance to gamble.

If you’re pushing your stack in over and over, looking to accumulate chips and willing to go broke repeatedly, there’s a certain amount of upside to that, but I don’t believe it’s the best expected value play. Yes, that maniacal approach can sometimes get you into the post-rebuy period with a large chip stack, which of course provides an edge for the rest of the tournament. The problem is that if you’ve spent something like $25,000 in a $1,000 buy-in tournament, you have to finish that much higher in the money to come out ahead. A lot of times when you’re rebuying that many times, just making the money doesn’t cover how much you’ve invested into the tournament.

My personal rule of thumb is that I like to be willing to invest in the tournament in accordance to the payout amounts. I don’t ever want to get to the point where I’m investing significantly more money than the lowest money place pays. So in a $1,000 rebuy tournament, I’m willing to put about $8,000 into it. Some days, it’s just not your day, the cards aren’t falling your way and you have to leave and come back and play another day. It’s foolish to sit there and keep putting your stack in the middle when you have no edge and often times you’re up against a better hand.

When you’re playing this middle-of-the-road strategy, it’s important to identify the maniacal players from the outset because they’re going to be very dangerous, but they’re also going to provide you with your best opportunities to chip up. These players are actually the prime reason to play in a rebuy tournament, because you can feast on them. They’re going to open with all types of hands from all different positions, so you can call with marginal hands in position such as 10-9 suited, 8-7 suited, 3-4 suited, even one-gappers such as 6-8 suited. I also want to put a lot of pressure on this type of player before the flop if I have a big hand like Aces, Kings, or Queens, simply because this is the type of player who’s really willing to gamble and might just go ahead and ship the rest of his stack in right there.

In the last 10 to 15 minutes of the rebuy period, if you’ve been able to acquire a stack, this is a critical time in the tournament to play smart. If the hyper-aggressive players don’t have a lot of chips, they’re going to be pushing it all in almost every hand to give themselves a shot at a big stack heading into the post-rebuy period. If you have an edge in a given hand against these guys, use it, but you don’t want to gamble too much. Remember that you’ve acquired a stack now and it’s your goal to maintain that stack in and after the rebuy period.

a5_wPolish-born, Gracz has one WPT Championship, one WSOP bracelet and was named CardPlayer’s 2005 “Breakthrough Player of the Year”

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January 7, 2009

Poker Tip: When Losing at Poker

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,Mike Caro,pro tips — Mike @ 3:48 am

Poker tips and advice from professional playersHere’s Mike Caro’s latest poker tip: Don’t Be Aggressive When You’re Losing

You don’t have the same intimidation factor over your opponents when you’re losing as you do when you’re winning. For that reason, you’ll make more money, or lose less, if you ride out your losing streak by reverting to a conservative game plan.

When the cards bring you out of it, your opponents will be intimidated again and you’ll be able to manipulate them with faster action and fancier plays. Remember, you shouldn’t be superstitious or believe that the cards will continue to be hot or cold. But that’s what many of your opponents think. So, take advantage of it by being more aggressive when you’re winning and less aggressive when you’re losing and opponents are inspired and less likely to play poorly.

Mike Caro

 

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January 3, 2009

Online Poker: Taking Notes on Opponents

Filed under: Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 6:51 pm

When you’re at the table playing live poker, the only notes you can take – at least inconspicuously – are mental ones. Online, however, you’re granted a tremendous opportunity that doesn’t exist in live play. It’s important to take advantage of this and keep notes on your opponents. If you’re going to do this, you need to do it right. This means including key details to give the notes relevance when you find yourself calling upon them later.

Paul Wasicka plays online at FullTiltPoker.com

One thing that many poker players overlook is the importance of including the date. I always type the date alongside my note on a player so that if I come across that note when playing against him six months later, I’ll know to follow it with caution because a player’s style can change greatly in that time span. On the other hand, if I were to play him again a few days later, chances are he hasn’t overhauled his game too drastically in that time period.

The first time that I observe a specific trait about someone, I’ll follow it with a question mark. So if I saw someone try to bluff with King-high after being checked to twice, I could make a note like: “Feed this player some rope and they won’t be able to resist?” Since I’m basing the note on a sample set of only one hand, I use the question mark. If I see the player bluff like that two or three more times, I’ll delete the question mark. Just because you see something one time, it doesn’t mean it’s a staple of that person’s game.

It’s also important to make your notes as detailed as possible. Something like “has no clue how to handle short-stacks” is a decent starting point, but you want to follow it up with specifics so the note resonates in the future. You’ll want to add more information, such as: “Called a short-stack’s $70 open out of position with pocket 4s and check-raised all in with three over-cards and no draw.” A note like that says it all.

One thing that I always make a note of is any player who posts blinds the instant they sit down at a cash game instead of being patient enough to wait for it. Are they really that desperate to play a hand? Posting out of position is terrible play, especially under the gun. It demonstrates impatience. I prefer to write a note and include their stack size, something like: “2nd position post with a 20 BB stack.” That tells me a lot about how impatient this person is.

Of course, there are two sides to every aspect of poker; always remember that other people may be taking notes on you. This serves as an excellent reason to constantly mix up your play. It’s crucial to adapt your game, especially online, because people are looking for patterns much more than in live play. If you get caught bluffing and lose some money, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you think your opponents paid attention to that and might have taken a note on it, use that knowledge against them. Let them think you’re aggressive and then get them to pay off your value bets when you make a hand.

You can go so far as to take notes on how you think your opponents view your play; that’s how comprehensive and advanced they can be. Start by simply taking notes on your opponents’ tendencies. If you include the right details, you’ll be rewarded in future pots with those players.
a5_wPaul Wasicka’s main claim to fame is that he finished 2nd in the 2006 WSOP Main Event (earning more than $6.1 million – and was disappointed in his performance). Paul also won the 2007 National Heads-Up Championship.

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