The Poker Lab Rat

September 28, 2009

Pro Poker Tips: Adjusting to Limit Hold’em Tournaments

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 11:46 pm

Aaron Bartley professional poker player

While No-Limit Hold ‘em and Limit Hold ‘em tournaments might look the same to a casual observer, they’re completely different. In a No-Limit Hold ‘em tournament, one big hand can either set you up for a run to the final table or send you home early. That’s not how it works in a Limit Hold ‘em tournament – a single hand is never going to define your entire tournament. You should approach a Limit Hold ‘em tournament more like a cash game by trying to slowly accumulate chips and limiting your mistakes. For players making the transition from No-Limit to Limit Hold ‘em tournaments, a good rule of thumb is to play a little tighter before the flop and a little looser after the flop.

There are several reasons you should play tighter before the flop in a Limit Hold ‘em tournament. One is that you’re rarely, if ever, going to be able to make anyone fold his hand for a single raise before the flop – there’s no point in trying to bully an opponent when you have a weak hand.

You’ll also see a lot more showdowns in Limit than you will in No-Limit. You need to start the hand off right by only playing hands you’re comfortable going all the way with like a big pocket pair, an Ace with a big kicker or maybe even a suited connector.

Another reason for tightening up before the flop is that there are no antes in Limit tournaments. Because the antes come into play so quickly in No-Limit Hold ‘em tournaments, you have to start making moves to steal pots just to prevent your stack from eroding down to nothing. In a Limit Hold ‘em tournament there’s very little incentive to make these moves because of the lack of antes. If you want, you can just sit on your chip stack without having to worry about losing too much ground.

While you’re tightening up before the flop in a Limit tournament, you’re going to want to loosen up after the flop. Again, there are several reasons for this. Because it’s Limit, you know exactly how much it’s going to cost if you call someone down—even if you lose the hand. You’re not going to be charged as much to find out if your opponent’s bluffing or to see if you can catch one of your outs. Unless you’re playing against a really tight player you can be comfortable calling a couple of bets.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Let’s say you raise from the button with A-K, the big blind calls, and the flop comes 9-9-2. Your opponent checks, you bet, and he calls. The turn is a 6, and you both check. The river is another harmless-looking card, but this time your opponent leads out with a bet.

Although you only have Ace-high, you shouldn’t be afraid to call. Since you showed weakness on the turn by just checking, he could be betting with any hand. While this might include pairs that beat you, it could also include a weaker Ace or a bluff.

In this situation in No-Limit Hold ‘em, he could bet half or all the pot to make you fold; but in a Limit tournament, you can afford to call because of the odds you’re getting. The pot has four big bets in it and you only have to call one big bet to see his hand, so you’re getting four-to-one on your money. Of course, it really depends on what sort of player you’re up against. If he’s really tight and you’ve never seen him get out of line, you should fold. But if there’s any chance he might be bluffing, this should be a fairly easy call.

By the same token, when you make a hand like top pair you should bet it aggressively because a lot of players will call you down with hands like ace-high and bottom pair or try to push you off your hand. If you’re at a table full of loose players, you can even raise on the river with top pair or make a value bet with middle pair.

Playing a little tighter before the flop and a little looser after the flop is one of the most important adjustments you should make when switching from No-Limit Hold ‘em to Limit Hold ‘em tournaments.

Making this one simple alteration to your game will give you a leg up on the competition because many of your opponents will continue to play exactly as they do in No-Limit Hold ‘em tournaments.
Aaron Bartley

Click to visit FullTiltPokerNicknamed “GambleAB”, Aaron Bartley is one of the world’s best online poker players. Aaron comes from a family of card players. Bridge, Spades, Hearts, Sheepshead, Canasta, and Gin were all a regular part of the evening’s entertainment.

Aaron Bartley plays online at BetOnline Poker, join him at a table sometime soon. (Players from around the World including the US are welcome)

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September 26, 2009

Mike Caro: Betting A Flush Draw On The Flop In Texas Holdem

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,Mike Caro,pro tips — Mike @ 10:50 pm

Mike Caro plays poker online at DoylesRoom.comHere’s one of my favorite hold ’em plays that you can use quite often without opponents adapting.

You have a flush draw on the flop — two of your suit in your hand, two on the board. You’re last to act. Everyone checks to you. Bet. Sometimes you’ll win the pot immediately without a struggle, but even if you don’t, you’ll frequently have helped your cause.

Now, everyone is apt to check to you on the 4th board card (the turn). If you make your flush, you just keep betting, natural as natural can be. If you miss, you check along. And the great thing is that you get a free card which could have costs double in common limit games where the size of bets increase after the flop. The final (river) card is also effectively free, because if you miss, you’ll usually fold.

There’s another twist to this tactic. You don’t want to overuse it, because astute players may catch on and adapt, but one of the built-in tools of deception comes from mostly betting these flush draws when you have at least one card higher than the board. That way, you have additional chances of making top pair and continuing to bet on the turn.

When this happens, many opponents won’t notice at the showdown that you were originally betting the flush draw. They sometimes just see the top pair and forget when you made it or how. This psychologically camouflages the fact that you’re often betting flush draws “on the come,” hoping to get a free card.

a5_wIf you’re USA-based, play and chat with top professionals online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

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September 24, 2009

Erick Lindgren: A Big Hand Early in a Poker Tournament

Filed under: Erick Lindgren,General Blog Rant,pro tips — Mike @ 10:36 pm

Erick Lindgren poker professional

In the late stages of a tournament, big pairs are generally pretty easy to play. When you have 20, 30 or 40 big blinds in your stack, and you find a pair of Queens or Kings, you usually just want to play aggressively, force a fold, or play a big all-in pot and hope things work out in the end.

But early on in a tournament, when the stacks can be very deep relative to the blinds, I don’t think it’s always a great idea to play big pairs quite as aggressively. A hand I played this year at the WSOP Main Event demonstrates the point pretty well.

At the start of the hand, the blinds were 100/200 and most of the stacks at the table were right around the starting amount of 20,000 chips. One player raised and another called from late position. I looked down and saw two Queens.

The instinct for many in this situation is to re-raise. But I didn’t like that option. What would happen if one of the other players in the hand re-popped me? I’d hate to fold the Queens, but I wasn’t ready to risk going broke with Queens so early in the tournament.

My re-raise could have also prompted one or both players to just call. In that case, I would have been playing out of position without having a great idea of what my opponents held. After the calls, the pot would be quite large. It could have cost me most or even all of my stack before I figured out whether I was ahead or behind.

I decided to play a smaller pot and put fewer of my chips at risk, so I just called.

The flop came Jack-high. I checked, the original raiser bet and it was folded to me. I called – again trying to keep the pot relatively small. The turn was a blank, and I checked. My opponent checked behind. This check made me pretty confident that I was ahead. When the river paired the board, I was happy to put out a value bet, hoping that I could get paid off by, perhaps, a medium pocket pair.

As it turned out, my opponent didn’t have enough to call me and I took down the pot right there.

All-in-all, I was happy with the way I played the hand. I put myself in a position to win a moderate sized pot without incurring any risk of going broke. Next time you see a big pair early in a tournament, consider trying to control the size of the pot rather than playing as aggressively as you can.
Erick Lindgren

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

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September 23, 2009

Quick Poker Tips: Are Small-Limit Games Too Loose To Beat?

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,General Blog Rant,Mike Caro,pro tips — Mike @ 8:53 pm

Many poker players complain that small-limit rake games are so loose that good players with solid strategies can’t win in the long run. That’s wrong. You should never complain about these small-limit games being too loose. In fact, you probably wouldn’t be able to beat these games if you were against sensible opponents, even if you had a skill advantage.

Why? It’s because the rake in small-limit games is a larger burden compared to the size of the pot. While you might outplay more conservative opponents, you probably won’t be able to overcome the rake. You need those super-loose opponents to overcome the rake, even though it may be frustrating because they hang in there and draw out on you so often. Just remember, you’ll have to endure that frustration to win.
usa_OKThis poker tip is by industry professional Mike Caro. If you too are a USA-based poker player, play and chat with top professionals online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

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September 22, 2009

Pro Poker Tip: The Suicidal End Bluff

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 5:06 am

Adam Schoenfeld

Bluffing in Limit Hold ’em is nothing like bluffing in No-Limit Hold ’em. In a Limit game, you can rarely price an opponent out of the pot if he has any kind of a made hand or draw. Sometimes you’ll try a bluff on the river because your opponent can no longer chase, but even so, his pot odds are usually so overwhelming that he’ll call with a weak hand.

Although bluffing in Limit Hold ’em is difficult, all good players understand that they need to do it on occasion. But there happens to be one situation where bluffing is absolutely never advisable, which I like to call the “suicidal end bluff” and see it used all too often.

Here’s a classic example of a suicidal end bluff from a $15/$30 Limit Hold ’em game I was playing. The player in second position opened for a raise to $30. I was in third position with pocket Queens and re-raised to $45. The player to my left capped the betting by re-raising to $60. It folded around to the big blind, and he made the call for $45 more. That’s a big call to make – you should never be calling three more bets out of position unless you have a premium hand – so he had to have either a huge hand or he was a weak player making a big mistake. In any case, the original raiser called $30 more, I called $15 and we headed to the flop four-handed.

The flop came 8h-6d-7h, a highly coordinated board. It wasn’t the greatest flop for Q-Q. If someone was totally out of line with 10-9, they flopped the nuts. If someone had the A-K of hearts, they were actually a favorite over my hand. And someone could have had a set of sixes, sevens or eights. But at the same time, I still had an over-pair to the board, so it certainly wasn’t the worst flop imaginable.

The player in the big blind checked, the initial raiser checked, and I decided to bet out, putting $15 into a pot of $250. I knew I couldn’t get rid of any draws, but I wanted to maybe thin the field by getting rid of a player with just a random Ace or King. After I bet $15, the player behind me raised to $30 and then the big blind re-raised to $45. The player to my right folded, and the action was back on me. And here’s a key concept: because I could close the action and show strength, I capped it to $60, rather than just calling, as I would have done if there were additional raises available behind me. The player to my left folded, and the big blind called $15 more.

So, now it was just me and the big blind – the player who called three extra bets pre-flop and check-raised the flop – going to the turn.

The turn was a great card for me, the 3c. It didn’t complete any draws; any hand that was worse than mine on the flop was still worse than mine on the turn. My opponent checked, I bet $30 and he called.

And I must admit that I had no idea what hand he could possibly have at this point. My best guess was that he had a draw, because a lot of people will play their draws aggressively on the flop and then slow down on the turn when they miss.

The river brought the 7d, pairing the board. If he held a seven, then he just made the best hand, but I couldn’t really think of a hand where he had a seven. He checked, which really made it clear he didn’t have a seven. If he had a seven, wouldn’t he bet there to guarantee I’d have to call behind him and not check behind him? Confident that I had the best hand, I bet my queens for $30 more into a pot of $460.

And he surprised me by check-raising to $60.

Naturally, it crossed my mind that he could have had A-7 or a full house, but this was a situation where, even if I suspected I was beat, I had to call $30 with the pot at $550. So I called, and what was his hand?

Jh-9c.

His first mistake: calling $45 more from the big blind pre-flop with J-9 off-suit when other players had shown tremendous strength. His second mistake: semi-bluffing the flop and getting involved in a capped pot, which was way too aggressive with only an up-and-down straight draw.

But his biggest mistake came on the end. He’d totally whiffed and checked. I bet and he tried the check-raise bluff. With the strength that I’d shown, what hands could I possibly have had that I’d fold for $30 more there? He threw away $60 on the river, plain and simple. This was the very definition of the suicidal end bluff.

In No-Limit Hold ‘em, a big bluff would have a chance of working in that spot. But in Limit Hold ’em, you have to recognize situations where a bluff just won’t work. Fold your hand, and save yourself a lot of money.

Adam Schoenfeld

About Adam: After making a fortune as the vice president of an Internet analysis firm, Adam decided to quit his job and pursue his dream of playing poker full time. A highly respected pro in the poker community.

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September 21, 2009

Quick Poker Tips: How To Randomize Your Poker Decisions

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,General Blog Rant,Mike Caro,pro tips — Mike @ 10:24 pm

Hate this opening hand?Against very weak opponents, it’s usually not necessary to randomize your decisions. You don’t need to be very deceptive, because a straightforward strategy will usually earn the most money. But against more experienced players it’s a good idea to mix it up, as long as you don’t sacrifice too much in the process.

But how do you randomize? There are many ways to do this, some simple, some elaborate. One very easy way is to decide to choose the standard play for close decisions (such as mostly calling, but sometimes raising) three-quarters (75 percent) of the time and the exception one-quarter (25 percent) of the time. For situations in which a three-to-one ratio of standard play to exception seems reasonable to you, you can simply consider the suit of the FIRST card dealt to you. If it’s a spade, choose the exception and raise (for the sake of this example). If it’s any other suit, go with the standard play and just call.

As an extra precaution against the unlikely event that an opponent will catch on, you might change the exception suit from time to time. You could change it each session or even each hour.

This tip is from poker pro, Mike Caro.

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September 17, 2009

Poker: Raising With Small Pairs From Late Position In Texas Holdem

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,General Blog Rant,Mike Caro,pro tips — Mike @ 9:41 pm

Here’s another quick tip from professional poker player, Mike Caro.

Although 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.

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September 16, 2009

Quick Poker Tips: Don’t Rebuy Yet

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,General Blog Rant,Mike Caro,pro tips — Mike @ 10:52 pm

Play poker online for profitWhen you’re down to your last few chips and can play for just the cost of the ante or blind, you should often wait to rebuy until after the hand! That’s because there are no better pot odds you than to be able to see the showdown for free with everyone else at the table matching your money with their antes.

If it’s a blind they’re matching, only some will voluntarily call. But, even then, the point is powerful: Other opponents may knock each other out of the competition, while you remain to see the showdown. You’ll often arrive at the showdown with hands you couldn’t have afforded to call with if you’d had more money. This means you have an extra opportunity to get lucky and “draw out” — and that’s worth enough to defer your rebuy until the next hand.
This poker tip is contributed by poker pro Mike Caro.

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September 14, 2009

Professional Poker Tips: Finding Your Poker Focus

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Mike Caro,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 8:58 pm

The Hendon Mob member Joe Beevers

Have you ever found that you start some tournaments well, but in others you just can’t get “tuned in”? What should you do about it?

Let us consider a trained athlete just before he/she runs in the 100-meter final at the Olympics. What do they do? Are they in the bar having a beer or chatting with their friends in the crowd? Not usually. They’re typically going out of their way to block out all outside interferences. They may be sitting with their heads in their hands or standing with their heads bowed.

What do they think about? Winning. Having that gold medal placed around their necks.

How do they achieve the focus that everyone talks about? They probably mentally go through races that they’ve won. They pump themselves up by recalling past victories in their minds.

Let’s apply this to poker.

First though, go through all the hands that you’ve played badly (this will take some people longer than others). Think about hands that you’ve played that have knocked you out of tournaments at crucial stages. The time that you played A-Q (or even that lousy A-J) against a good player’s pre-flop raise, hit the Ace on the flop and then decimated your chip stack. The time that you called a raise for all your chips with pocket sevens or the time that you made an early position raise with pocket nines, fell in love with them and refused to pass for a re-raise on your left.

Now that that’s out of the way, think about hands you’ve played well: The perfect reads that you’ve put on opponents because everything seemed so transparent, the final tables that you’ve made and the tournaments that you’ve won. Can you remember the way you played through those victories, how quickly the time seemed to pass, and how confident you felt? This is how you can gain the “poker focus” that you need and slip straight into your “A” game at the start of the next tournament that you play.

Mike Caro once said that when you join a poker game, you should say to yourself, “I am a great poker player; a powerful winning force surrounds me.” I believe it’s a technique worth trying.

In the Great British Poker Tour Grand Final in Bristol back in December 2007, I found myself up against several really good players at the TV final table. Roland de Wolfe and Barny Boatman were both there, as well as Neil Channing and “Bambos” Xanthos. It was a while since I had won an event and I wanted that feeling back.

I tried to remember which victories had felt the best, and the one that came to mind was winning the Irish Open. I took myself back to that table in Dublin and before long found that I was playing with renewed confidence and using all my strengths to my best advantage. You know what’s kind of funny as well: When you get into that zone, you kind of seem luckier. That’s what players mean when they talk about making your own luck!

Joe Beevers

Nicknamed “The Elegance”, Joe Beevers is a member of The Hendon Mob. If you want to learn more about Joe, join him at the table online at bet365 Poker.

Here’s the latest player review of bet365 Poker in case you’re interested 🙂

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September 12, 2009

The Power of Position in Texas Holdem Poker Play

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 1:24 am

Bill Elder, member of team FullTilt

When beginning poker players are describing a hand they’ve played, they usually start by saying what their hole cards were before moving on to talk about the betting. A professional player, however, would never describe the dynamics of a hand without first talking about his position at the table because in games like Hold ’em and Omaha, position can be even more important than the cards in your hand.

Simply put, you want to play more hands in late position than you do in early position. By doing so, you’re going to make more money over the long haul. Why? Because in late position you will have much more information to work with than you would if you were in early position. You will be able to see who folds and who raises, and if someone raises you will have a much better sense of how much it’s going to cost you to play your hand. When you have to act first, you have none of this information to work with.

There are three simple reasons why playing a hand in late position will be more profitable in the long run than playing the same hand in early position. First, you will end up folding some winning hands in early position that you wouldn’t have folded in late position. Secondly, when you have a winning hand in late position you’re going to make more money from it than you would with the same hand in early position. Finally, when you have a losing hand in late position you will lose significantly less than you would with the same hand in early position.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. You pick up pocket Jacks in middle position and raise four times the size of the big blind. The button calls, and the flop comes Q-7-2. You make a continuation bet two-thirds the size of the pot. Your opponent calls. A blank comes on the turn. Now what are you going to do?

Because you don’t have position over your opponent, you’re now in a very difficult situation. If you check and your opponent bets and you call, you could end up losing a big pot on the river. If you opt to fold, you could be folding the best hand. Even if you call the turn bet and you and your opponent check it down on the river and you win the hand, you’re going to make far less than you would have if you had been last to act. Whenever you play a hand out of position, there is a much greater chance that you will have your profits minimized or your losses maximized or that you will get bluffed out of a pot.

Having poor position is such a disadvantage that if I’m sitting under the gun at a full table I will often fold a hand as strong as A-Q before the flop. With so many players yet to act behind me, one of them could easily pick up a hand that has me dominated, like A-K, Aces, Kings, or Queens. Even if my A-Q is the best hand at the table I won’t make very much money off it in this position, and if it is second best I could end up losing a very big pot.

It’s the exact opposite when you’re in late position. Now you’re going to want to play as many hands as possible because getting to act last on all the betting rounds is such a huge advantage. If everyone folds to you on the button, you should often raise with any two cards. If the blinds fold, you win the hand. If they call, you still have two ways to beat them after the flop, by continuing to show strength if they show weakness or by showing down the best hand. Team Full Tilt member Andy Bloch says you might play fewer than 10 percent of all the hands dealt to you under the gun, but you should play more than 50 percent of the hands dealt to you on the button.

Having favorable position is just as important after the flop. Not only can you take pots away from players who show weakness, you can also control the size of the pot. Smart poker players want to play big pots when they have big hands and small pots when they have small hands, and having position on your opponents allows you to do that. If you flop top pair with a weak kicker, bet, and get called, it’s often a good idea to check the turn in order to keep the pot small.

The power of position in poker cannot be overstated. Whenever you’re dealt a hand, you should take into account your position at the table even before you evaluate the strength of your cards. Even in the most basic limit games, you’re going to make far more money when you have position over your opponents than when you don’t.

Bill Edler

usa_OKBill Elder’s professional poker career includes one WSOP Bracelet, one WPT Championship and more than $3 million in career earnings.

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

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