The Poker Lab Rat

May 8, 2007

Mixing It

Filed under: Jennifer Harman,pro tips — Elle @ 10:06 pm

One of the great things about online poker is how easy it is to change your game from say, Omaha to Stud poker – without having to leave the table. I personally find that if I’m having a bad run at Texas Holdem rather than dropping down the stake levels, changing to a different game often sharpens my thinking and results in more bankroll building play. For me anyway it works sort of like a cold shower and jolts my mind into having to think about the game and my opponents play options and actions.

Some of the more innovative online poker rooms let you play a cool new style of poker called ‘Mixed Games’. These special tables let you play a variety of poker games without ever changing tables. Mixed Games keep you entertained and engaged in the action as the games change on you every 10 hands!

These mixed tournaments are often categorized as:

  • HORSE (Hold ’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Stud Hi, Stud Hi/Lo)
  • HOSE (Hold ’em, Omaha Hi/Lo, Stud Hi, Stud Hi/Lo)
  • HA (Hold ’em, Omaha Hi)

Here’s a pro tip from Jennifer Harman on Playing Mixed Games.

Jennifer Harman - poker professional

Despite what you see on TV, there’s much more to poker than just Hold ’em. The great players are judged by how they play all the games. In the big cash games at the Bellagio, we play an assortment of games every night and at the World Series of Poker, they’ve introduced a $50,000 buy-in HORSE tournament that attracts many of the world’s top professionals.

Full Tilt has recently introduced Mixed Games and it’s a great opportunity to experience the fun and challenge that comes from playing a variety of games in a single session without putting a huge dent in your bankroll. While a lot of fun, mixed games do have some challenges and, for this tip, I want to give some suggestions that will help you starting out.

One of the hardest things for new mixed games players to become comfortable with is the flow of play. With games switching every 10 hands, it can be difficult to instantly adjust your thinking in order to concentrate fully on the game at hand. It will take some time and experience, but eventually, you’ll be able to go from Omaha Hi/Lo to Razz and be ready to play your best as soon as the games switch.

Until you’re comfortable with the game flow, here are some pointers that can help make the switch to mixed games a little easier:

  • Be sure you’re playing the right game! I play a lot of HORSE Sit & Gos at Full Tilt Poker and, in almost every one, there’s a player or two who makes the mistake of playing Razz when the game is Stud, or vice-versa. Even in the big game at the Bellagio, this sort of mix-up happens all the time.
  • Work on your weakest games. If you find that your Stud Hi/Lo game isn’t as strong as it could be, spend some time at the Stud Hi/Lo tables and work on improving your skills. Put in enough hours at each individual game so that you’re grasping the subtleties of all of them when you play a mixed game.
  • Play stronger in your best games than in your weaker games. You may be a master at Stud and feel you can play a lot of different hands well in that game. But if your Omaha Hi/Lo is relatively weak, you’ll need to tighten up in that game and play only premium starting hands. Look for starting hands like A-A-2-3 suited or A-2-K-Q that offer the potential to make both the nut high and nut low, allowing you to scoop as many pots as possible. Or in Razz, for example, stick to starting hands with three cards of 8 or less – if that game isn’t your strength.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that it’s tough to go back to any one game once you start playing mixed games. You’ll miss the mental challenge and fun that comes from this type of poker.
Jennifer Harman

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April 26, 2007

Poker Pro: That Losing Streak – When is it Time to Quit?

Filed under: Jennifer Harman,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 10:30 pm

“Usually a losing player is scared to get involved with a winning player, so it’s easier for you to pick up pots.”

Jennifer Harman - poker professional

Being a winning player isn’t only about playing good cards – it’s also about making good decisions. And there is one important decision you face every time you sit down in a cash game: Should I quit, or should I keep playing?

When should you keep playing?

I see so many players playing short hours when they’re winning, and long hours when they’re losing. It should be the other way around.

When you are winning in the game, at least a few of the other players must be losing. And when your opponents are losing, they often aren’t playing their best. But you are.

When you’re winning, other players fear you; you have a good table image. And when you have a good table image, you can get away with things that you can’t seem to when you’re losing. For one thing, you can bluff more. Usually a losing player is scared to get involved with a winning player, so it’s easier for you to pick up pots. You can represent more hands than you actually have because your opponents believe you’re hitting every flop.

The only time to quit when you’re winning is when you are tired, or when you start playing badly.

When should you call it a day?

Many players can’t seem to quit when they are losing. You have to remember that there will always be another poker game — if not tomorrow, then the day after, or the week after. I like to think of poker as one continuous game going on for my whole career. So, if I’m losing more than 30 big bets in the game, I usually quit.

There are a couple of reasons I do this: For one, if I lose a ton of money in one day, I don’t feel so hot the next day. That means if I go in to play the next day, I might not be able to play my best game. I might actually have to take a few days off to get my head straight. Another reason is that when I’m losing more than 30 bets, I might not be playing that well. I might think I’m playing my “A” game, but in reality, I’m probably not. You can’t be as objective about your play when you’re losing. After all, we are not robots; we’re just human beings.

Jennifer Harman
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March 12, 2007

Big Blind Play in Limit Hold em

Filed under: Jennifer Harman,Poker News & Views,pro tips — webmaster @ 5:07 am

Jennifer Harman - the most recognisable female poker pro?
“Even if the check-raise doesn’t win the pot, this move helps keep a tough, aggressive player off balance.”

In Limit Hold ’em, the big blind is one of the toughest position to play. You’re out of position, and that’s never a good thing, but usually, you’ll be getting excellent odds to continue with the hand. Against a single opponent who has raised, you’ll be getting better than 3 to 1 and, in most hands, you’re no more than a 2 to 1 dog. The problem is, you’ll often find yourself going into the flop with shaky cards and, at that point, you’re sure to face some tough decisions.

Before I talk about some tricky situations that develop in the big blind, I want to note that you can make your life a little easier by folding some hands pre-flop. If you’re holding a medium Ace and you’re facing an early position raise from a player who you know plays only good cards up front, then fold. It may seem like you’re getting a nice price to continue, but in this spot, you’re only going to get into trouble. When you miss the flop completely, it’s going to be tough to continue and, if you hit an Ace, you may lose a lot to a hand that has you dominated. I’d rather play 6-7 against an early position raise from a tight player than A-7.

There are some hole cards that are just hopeless. If I’m facing a raise from any position and I find something like J-2, T-3, or 9-4. I’m going to surrender the hand.

The really difficult situations arise when you hold a mediocre hand, something like A-8 or pocket 6s, and you face a raise from late position. Many players will raise with just about anything in the cutoff or on the button, so it’s tough to know where you stand with these medium strength hands.

What should you do?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. My best advice is to vary your play so as to take advantage of a particular opponent’s tendencies. For example, if you hold A-8 in the big blind and face a late-position raise from a player who tends to be a little weak after the flop, you should probably re-raise pre-flop and then follow up with a bet on the flop most of the time. Against this type of player, this kind of action will force a lot of folds.

If the opponent who raises in late position is tricky and very aggressive post flop, I’ll often call the pre-flop raise and then check-raise on most flops, whether or not I got a piece of the board. Even if the check-raise doesn’t win the pot, this move helps keep a tough, aggressive player off balance.

Of course, you’ll need to consider the flop as you move forward in the hand. If you call a pre-flop raise with pocket 6s and see a flop of T-Q-K, there’s little point in going to war. Give your opponent credit for some hand that beats yours and look for a better spot. But this doesn’t mean that you should be willing to give up on anything less than top pair.

Against a single opponent, I’ll play second pair pretty aggressively. Sometimes, I’ll lead at the pot with this hand, and sometimes, I’ll check-raise with it. Taking this aggressive approach with a shaky hand allows me to play my big hands in the same manner. When my opponents see me check-raise, they won’t know if I’m making this play with as little as second pair or as much as a set.

As I said earlier, playing from the big blind in limit poker is tricky. In my opinion, it’s one of the toughest spots in all of poker. My best advice is that you should stay alert to your opponent’s tendencies and look to mix up your play. If you’re on your game, it will be tough for other players to put you on a hand while you’ll have a pretty good idea of what they’re doing.

Good luck.

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March 4, 2007

More to Pro Poker Than Holdem: Playing Mixed Games

Filed under: Jennifer Harman,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 9:48 pm

Jennifer Harman - the most recognised female poker pro?

“It’s tough to go back to any one game once you start playing mixed games.”

Despite what you see on TV, there’s much more to poker than just Hold ’em. The great players are judged by how they play all the games. In the big cash games at the Bellagio, we play an assortment of games every night and at the World Series of Poker, they’ve introduced a $50,000 buy-in HORSE tournament that attracts many of the world’s top professionals.

One of the hardest things for new mixed games players to become comfortable with is the flow of play. With games switching every 10 hands, it can be difficult to instantly adjust your thinking in order to concentrate fully on the game at hand. It will take some time and experience, but eventually, you’ll be able to go from Omaha Hi/Lo to Razz and be ready to play your best as soon as the games switch.

Until you’re comfortable with the game flow, here are some pointers that can help make the switch to mixed games a little easier:

Be sure you’re playing the right game! I play a lot of HORSE Sit & Gos at Full Tilt Poker and, in almost every one, there’s a player or two who makes the mistake of playing Razz when the game is Stud, or vice-versa. Even in the big game at the Bellagio, this sort of mix-up happens all the time.

Work on your weakest games. If you find that your Stud Hi/Lo game isn’t as strong as it could be, spend some time at the Stud Hi/Lo tables and work on improving your skills. Put in enough hours at each individual game so that you’re grasping the subtleties of all of them when you play a mixed game.

Play stronger in your best games than in your weaker games. You may be a master at Stud and feel you can play a lot of different hands well in that game. But if your Omaha Hi/Lo is relatively weak, you’ll need to tighten up in that game and play only premium starting hands. Look for starting hands like A-A-2-3 suited or A-2-K-Q that offer the potential to make both the nut high and nut low, allowing you to scoop as many pots as possible. Or in Razz, for example, stick to starting hands with three cards of 8 or less – if that game isn’t your strength.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find that it’s tough to go back to any one game once you start playing mixed games. You’ll miss the mental challenge and fun that comes from this type of poker.

Jennifer Harman

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