The Poker Lab Rat

March 27, 2010

Poker: Cashout Tournament Strategies

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker Tournaments,pro tips — Mike @ 6:10 pm

New at FullTilt PokerNew Cashout Tournaments provide players the option to leave the online poker tournament at any time before the final table and get the cash value of what their stack is worth. With the options of cashing out part of your chip stack or your entire stack and exiting a tournament, we players are presented with a whole new variety of options to consider.

In Cashout Tournaments, half of the buy-in goes into the Cashout prize pool, and the other half into the tournament prize pool. The ability to cash out in 10% increments of the starting stack (for example, if you start with 3,000 chips, you can cash out as little as 300 chips and keep cashing out in increments of 300) can drastically alter the way you approach these tournaments. With most pros, the goal in a tournament is first place. Cashing in a tournament or lowering variance is not a major concern the vast majority of the time. If that’s your only goal, removing chips from your stack is not going to be an option you employ very often. For most players, however, while first place is certainly always going to be the number one goal, there are other factors involved.

Often times, the best opportunity to cash out is going to be early in the tournament. You can get back some of the money you put up in the buy-in and navigate a slightly shorter stack while the blinds are still small and chip away to get back to where you started and beyond. The real key to knowing when to implement the Cashout option is how much the money means to you. There’s certainly a real advantage in a poker tournament when you triple up very early and have that bigger stack, but for a lot of players, securing that automatic Freeroll in a tournament is going to be even more advantageous (remember that with the 3,000 chip starting stack, should you increase your stack to 9,000, each 300 chips will allow you to cash out for 10% of what you put into the Cashout pool – 6,000 chips will get your full buy-in back and still leave you with a starting stack!). The ability to give peace of mind, guaranteeing that you can’t lose any money in the tournament, might allow you to play a stronger game as you go on.

The Cashout Tournaments also provide a few other opportunities poker players have never seen before. There isn’t a player out there who hasn’t been playing their tournament and just had something “come up” or something they absolutely had to do. Maybe you were already on a time crunch with just a few free hours to spare and were looking to play a little poker. I would advise any player in this position to join a Cashout Tournament rather than risk running out of time in another MTT. The full Cashout option allows you to play and still get money out of the work you did, even if you can’t complete the whole thing!

My strategy going into Cashout Tournaments would be to cash out little by little. I might take a little off the top here and there, while trying to retain a relatively decent stack. I always like to have the biggest stack at the table so I can get maximum value out of my hands, but in the cases where I have quite a bit more chips than anyone else, getting a little bit of money for my chips becomes quite appealing. Later on in the tournament, I would consider cashing out a little bit here and there, while still trying to keep my stack above 15 big blinds, and preferably above 20 big blinds. Maintaining this stack size makes sure that I’m not so short that my hand is forced while still having enough chips to re-raise all-in and have enough chips that someone can fold.

The full Cashout option is one I would reserve for mostly emergencies and other such events that come up unexpectedly. Tournament life is such a valuable thing that I would never give up my last chip in a Cashout Tournament unless I had to leave, but cashing down to a shorter stack and trying to double up can be highly effective and fun as well. Many people like to start with short stacks in cash games and take away a lot of the decision work. Cashing out to 10 big blinds or less and beginning to play shove or fold poker is something many people hate, but many others love.

One final tip to keep in mind is that you will also have the ability to practice valuable tournament skills by utilizing the Cashout option. If you need more experience playing a shorter stack effectively, you can cash out a portion of your stack. This allows you to make additional money without having to actually dump off chips, and you can work on improving that portion of your poker game, as well.

ABOUT ERIC:

Nicknamed “EFro”, Eric Froehlich has won two WSOP bracelets and more than $1.3 in Career Tournament Earnings. A native of New Jersey, Eric is an accomplished “Magic: the Gathering” card game player.

a5_wFor more about Cash Out Poker Tournaments or to give one a go check out BetVictor Poker or bet365Poker (sorry, no USA  based players at either site)

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March 22, 2010

Pro Poker Tip: Making the Second All-In Call

Filed under: General Blog Rant,pro tips — Mike @ 7:45 pm

Jon Pearljammed Turner professional poker playerWhen a short-stack moves all in and you have him comfortably out-chipped, your decision is usually straight-forward. You consider what range of hands he could have, gauge the likelihood that your hand is best, do some quick pot-odds math, and either call or fold.

However, when another player who is not quite so short-stacked calls in front of you, your decision becomes infinitely more complicated. Suddenly a hand you were dying to call the original all-in bet with becomes marginal at best. And with the pot having swollen substantially, your decision becomes even more pivotal.

I recently played in a No-Limit Hold ’em tournament where I found myself in this extremely tricky position. The blinds were 150/300 with a 25 ante, and I had one of the larger stacks at the table, about 25,000 in chips. I was in second position with pocket Kings and raised it up to 750.

A player in middle position, the button and the big blind called my raise. So we went four-way to the flop, and it came J-8-2 with two hearts. I felt good about my hand, especially considering I had the King of hearts. The big blind checked, and even though I figured my hand was best, I checked for several reasons. The stack behind me was very deep, and I didn’t want to play a big pot against him out of position. Also, I had recently been seen checking flops and giving up on pots after raising pre-flop, so I chose to mix my play up here to add deception to my game. After the player to my left and I both checked, the button moved all in for 6,300.

It was a great spot for me because I highly doubted that he had my Kings beat. But it stopped being such a great spot for me when the big blind called the 6,300, leaving himself with about 9,000 chips behind his call.

The big blind was a tight player who generally thought through every decision carefully and rationally. I thought about the hands he might have, and I figured A-J was possible, as was a set. I doubted he would make that call with the nut flush draw. So I studied him for about two minutes, doing my best to try to get a read on him. I don’t study someone like that very often, but this was a case where I desperately wanted to look for signs of whether he did or did not want me to re-shove and put him all in. I tried to determine if he was comfortable enough with his hand to play for his whole stack. And finally I reached the conclusion that I didn’t believe he was. Rather, I believed he made the call knowing that he would fold if either of the two players behind him shoved.

So I shoved, the player behind me folded, and then the big blind showed me the A-J as he folded it. The button turned over Q-J, and my Kings held up.

I had a difficult decision, trying to determine if the big blind flat-called because he was hoping someone else would push all in, or if he flat-called because he wasn’t willing to put all of his chips at risk. In the end, I made the correct read and the correct decision. But I only made that decision after thinking the situation through extremely carefully, which is how you have to handle spots like that if you’re going to succeed in No-Limit Hold ’em tournaments.

ABOUT JON:

Jon is one of the most successful online tournament players in the world, he has made more than $1.6 Million in online winnings.
a5_wIf you’re after a great cash game or you’re into tournament poker – and rate your skills – bet365 Poker is THE site to play as a pro or semi-pro.

bet365 accepts players from most countries around the world – except the USA – so if you’re US based check out US player-friendly poker rooms here at GoonersGuide.com.

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March 17, 2010

Phil Gordon: Poker Hands You Want To Play … But Shouldn’t

Filed under: Phil Gordon,pro tips — Mike @ 11:40 pm

Phil Gordon Professional Poker PlayerEven the best poker players in the world make mistakes, and when these mistakes are not corrected, they can develop into “leaks” that can easily sink your game. There are two leaks in particular that I see all the time with regard to Hold ’em starting hands that people play but would be better off folding.

The first of these two leaks involves playing easily dominated hands. Domination in Texas Hold ’em is death, so you must make an effort to fold potentially dominated hands pre-flop if another player has voluntarily entered the pot.

This concept spins off of David Sklansky’s “Gap Principle”, which essentially says that the range of hands you’re willing to raise with should be wider than the range of hands you’re willing to call with.

For instance, if everyone folds to me and I have K-Q off-suit on the button, I’m going to raise. It’s likely the best hand, and I give myself a chance to steal the blinds. However, if a middle position player raises before the flop, I’m going to throw that K-Q away quickly. That K-Q is very easily dominated by the hands my opponent is likely to raise with in middle position, such as A-K, pocket Kings, pocket Aces, pocket Queens, and A-Q. These are hands that K-Q will have a very difficult time beating, and if we both flop a pair, I could be in severe trouble and lose my entire stack.

To further illustrate this point, here’s a mathematical look at why a theoretically powerful hand, if dominated, is worse than playing random rags. Say my opponent raises in first position with A-K and it folds around to me on the button with 7-2 off-suit, the worst hand in poker. If I call there, I’m about a 65-35 underdog.

Now let’s say I have A-Q on the button facing that same raise from A-K. Now my hand is about a 75-25 underdog, which is significantly worse than if I had 7-2.

It’s not easy to fold A-Q to a single raise pre-flop, but if the raise is coming from early position and you have reason to believe your opponent has a premium hand, A-Q could easily be dominated. More to the point, that next tier of starting hands—K-Q, Q-J, Q-10, K-10, K-J—those are hands you should just throw away if your opponent opens the pot for a raise.

The other leak involving starting hands that I see frequently is overvaluing suited hands. I see players with A-5 suited or 8-7 suited and they play the hands because they think they might flop a flush. In reality, when you’re suited you will only flop a flush about one out of 121 times. That’s about 0.84 percent of the time. It does not happen very often. And even when it does happen, you’re not likely to win a big pot.

If you take a hand like A-5 suited and compare it to A-5 off-suit, in reality, against the range of hands your opponent might be playing, it only adds about two to three percent to your expectation of making the best hand.

So don’t be fooled by being suited. Just because the hand is suited does not mean that it is playable. The ranks of the cards are much more important than whether or not your hand is suited.

When making your pre-flop decisions, if you can resist the urge to play hands that are likely dominated and resist the urge to play mediocre suited cards, I think you’ll find yourself playing a more profitable brand of poker in the long run.

ABOUT PHIL:

American players are also welcome at Full Tilt PokerPhil Gordon won the 2003 World Poker Tour (WPT) and has made five WSOP final tables. He has banked over $2.1 million in career tournament earnings and is the author of 3 popular poker books.  Phil Gordon, like many of the top pros, plays poker online at BetOnline Poker and Bookmaker Poker. Join him at a table sometime!

POKER REVIEWS:

>>Review and Rating of BetOnline
>>Review of Bookmaker Poker

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March 4, 2010

The Difference Between Aces And Kings In Texas Holdem Poker

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,Mike Caro,pro tips — Mike @ 10:15 pm

Free Poker tips and adviceIn hold ’em, you hear a lot of talk about aces and kings being the ultimate hands. That’s true, but don’t be too quick to put them in the same category, as many players do. A pair of aces before the flop logically belongs in a category all to itself.

Here’s how often each hand wins against nine opponents holding random hands when everyone stays to the river…

A-A = 31% (21 percentage points higher than a fair share)

K-K = 26% (16 percentage points higher than a fair share)

What really makes the difference is that, when you consider actual betting strategy, A-A is much more likely to gain extra bets and to stay out of trouble. For this reason, in the hands of a professional, A-A can be almost twice as profitable as K-K overall in a full-handed game. That’s something to keep in mind.

Mike Caro

bet365_90x60UK Check out the poker at bet365 for more free tips, video tutorials and for some great poker play. (Sorry, USA not OK)

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