Pro Poker Play: On confidence, game strategy and getting started

They said it – comments from some of poker’s elite professional players

Gaving Smith plays cash game poker online at - click to visit“Confidence is really important in tournaments, because it shows through to your opponents. If your opponents see you are confident, they are going to be less willing to make moves on you, and less willing to steal your blinds. Confidence will also allow you to be the aggressor at the table and take a little bit more control of the action.”

Josh Arieh plays online at Bodog Poker - click to visit“Right now I’m caught between a couple of strategies. I base my strategy on the table. If I find myself at a table of mediocre, inexperienced players, I tend to gamble a lot more in the early rounds. I try to utilize my edge over them to obtain a lot of chips so I can play a big stack. On the flip side, if I have a very tough opening table, I play a tight game and try to survive, so that when the table breaks, I am still in there with chips, and hopefully moving to a more profitable table. You need to be able to adjust your tournament strategy based on what your table is allowing you to do.”

Erick Lindgren plays online poker at - click to check it out!“I was just a small town guy that played sports his whole life = basketball, football, baseball – every game possible. I went on to college to try to play basketball seriously, but I wasn’t good enough; there were physical limitations, so I…er… wound up in a casino. I started playing the $3/$6 Hold’em game right away and was winning pretty good, so obviously I was intrigued and I took it very seriously from the beginning.”

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Josh Arieh: Omaha Tips

  1. AceKing2Pot size management – control the pot size, play big pots with hands that warrant a big pot, and keep the pot small when you think your opponent may have a good read on your hand.
  2. Position – I can’t say it loud enough, when big pots come about, be sure that you are in position.
  3. Don’t overplay your premium hands. I see players lose tons of money with “good hands”, don’t be that guy. AAxx is only a slight favorite over 4 random cards, keep that in mind when you are playing a deep stack.
  4. Don’t be afraid to get in there and gamble. Omaha is a gambling game and is very risk/reward oriented.
  5. Always think one street ahead. This is one of the most important things and it ties together with pot size management. When you are facing a bet on the turn, try to run through your mind what the action on the river will be before you decide on what to do.
  6. Always be aware of your opponent’s stack size. Think of your possible win if you make your hand, and remember it’s real hard to bluff a short stack, so be sure you are paying attention.
  7. A very popular play in PLO is the naked ace flush bluff (bluffing like you have the nut flush since you have the ace of that suit and know no one else can have the nuts). FORGET IT! Take it out of your repertoire; it’s worthless because very few people lay down flushes unless the game is real big. If you decide to use it, be sure to have a back up plan (such as a gut straight draw or something like that).
  8. Don’t play short money at the table. It’s always an extremely powerful tool for me to have as much as possible on the table at all times. No one is scared of a short stack and people love taking their four hole cards to the river. Don’t give your opponents the chance to take advantage of your short stack.
  9. Don’t go on tilt. In Omaha there are TONS of bad beats, the fact that everyone has four cards contributes greatly to that. Keep your composure and expect a beat or two along the way. Lots of Omaha games have great action for this reason alone. Someone will take what they think is a bad beat and they will torque the rest of their chips off. Don’t be that guy.
  10. The last tip is mainly focused on ring games. Don’t draw at flushes unless they are nut flushes, don’t draw at straights unless you have a wrap, and don’t mess with bottom two pair. All of the following hands are in trouble in ring game situations. You can throw all that stuff out the window when playing short handed though. When playing short handed, be the aggressor and do your best to have the action occur around you.

Good luck at the tables.


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Josh Arieh Poker Bullshit: The Art of Bluffing

Josh is a member of Team Bodog - pro tour pokerIn order to really understand the competitive beauty of poker, you need to accept the fact that a good liar can make a great poker player. Acting like you’ve got something – or pretending like you don’t – can take you a long way in a poker tournament, so becoming an expert in bluffing can almost guarantee at least mild success. Personally I love to bluff; it stirs the pot and keeps people from getting a pinpoint idea of the cards you are playing. If you win a hand or two with a solid bluff and your opponent knows this, you’re letting your opponent know that you are not afraid of losing and that “you won’t be pushed around”.

So what is a bluff? Bluffing is representing what you don’t have, hoping to win a pot you have no business winning. But remember, your bluffs have to make sense. I like to think of bluffing as telling a nice fictional story. As a kid, I’m sure most of you told a little lie or two to avoid a bad situation, and poker essentially works the same way. But also like as a kid, if you bluff too much, you can get yourself in some serious trouble, so be careful.

There are a couple different kinds of bluffs you can use as the game unfolds. There is the obvious cold bluff where you’ve got nothing and you continue to raise the pot to scare everyone else into folding. This type of bluff only works on rank amateurs that don’t understand the finer points of the game. I wouldn’t suggest you try this if you’re sitting with Jamie, Evelyn, David or myself; we will most likely pick you apart.

Bluffing also works well in the complete opposite situation. This is when you’ve got a good hand, but you play as though you’ve got nothing and you’re just waiting for the right cards to come up. Again, this won’t work unless you’ve set up your opponent(s). In this case you want to give your opponent(s) as much confidence as they can handle. This can prompt them into burying themselves by raising you.

The other type of bluff is a semi-bluff. Semi-bluffing is when you represent as if you’ve got something good, when in reality your hand isn’t complete. Most of the time when you semi-bluff, you’ve probably got 8-12 cards that you can definitely win the pot with if you get lucky fishing, but at the moment you’ve got nothing. Hands like these are the ones that make the top aggressive pros so deadly. Yeah, you might get the cards in time, but your opponents are going to put tons of pressure on you, trying to convince you to fold your hand.

Even if you do call with the best hand, you’re only a small favorite to win the pot. This play is extremely strong for a couple reasons. One, your opponent may fold his/her superior hand; or two, you could make your draw and complete your hand. I would typically use this type of bluff when I know my opponent has the ability of laying down a good hand.

Now, I’m not going to get into every single scenario of when you should and shouldn’t bluff, but there are a few things I always keep in mind when bluffing becomes an option. If I have a good read on my opponents and I’ve been playing at the table long enough to recognize that they are conservative, I will bluff a ton because I know my opponents are looking for good hands, not good situations. You have to keep one thing in mind when you bluff. Remember to ask yourself this question, “Does this make sense?” Remember that you are telling a fictional story and if it’s not a good one, it won’t sell. The more believable your bluff is, the more often you will win the pot.

Bluffing these days is much harder than it used to be, so I would suggest keeping your bluffs to a minimum and try to make hands. Players enjoy making the “great call” and, if you develop any kind of loose image, you’re going to get called down in most situations. Good luck at the tables and just make sure that the story you are telling makes sense.

  • Josh Arieh

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Josh Arieh on Going Pro

Josh Arieh has won more than $4 million in his poker career.



Tips from professional poker playersHow did you know when it was time to go pro?

For me, turning pro wasn’t a decision I made, it was something that just kind of happened. I have always played poker, well at least since I was 18, and it has been a great source of income since then. In the beginning of 1999 I quit my last job to start my own business (a private courier firm). I ended up getting screwed out of the business by the guy I was going to partner with, so my only source of income was poker at the time.

I began to play more and more, and was considered one of the best rounders around Atlanta at the time. I decided to hit the road and play some tournaments and had great success, winning my first WSOP bracelet in May of 1999.

I kind of got a bit off the topic, but my best advice is just take it as it comes. When you are confident enough that a “real job” would end up costing you money because of the hours that it takes away from your poker, that’s when it’s time to start rounding. Best of luck to you when you finally decide to turn pro. Take it slow and don’t allow yourself to tilt. There is always a poker game somewhere, so there’s no need to be playing if you’re not at the top of your game.

Pro poker tips and adviceWhat’s your best advice on getting over a slump? Stop playing?

Man, I know how you feel. It’s definitely the worst feeling in the world thinking that your opponent is going to beat you no matter what happens. You have to ask yourself one question: Are your opponents getting better, or are they just getting lucky? If they are getting better, it’s up to you to improve as well. If they are getting lucky, just stick to what you are doing and the old adage “the cream will rise to the top” will soon take place.

Buildina a poker bankrollAny advice on moving up in limits? I want to build my bankroll and 1-2 no-limit or 6-12 limit just aren’t cutting it.

Don’t be afraid to take a chance at a bigger game once in a while. Wait until you are feeling real good about your game and until you see a game that looks ripe for the picking. If you take a hit, go back to the game that you beat on a regular basis. If you win, don’t be afraid to take another shot at the game. That’s how everyone moves up in limits. Unfortunately everyone isn’t blessed with a huge bankroll to start playing big limits right away. If you’re good enough (and lucky enough), you will put together a few good sessions in a row and you will have an adequate bankroll to play 5-10 NL on a regular basis.

I’m not saying jump right up into the 5-10 game, I’m simply saying, take a shot at the 2-4 or 3-6 game… if you find it’s too hard, go back down to what you’re comfortable at. I think 5-10 NL is the goal to make a good living as a pro. Best of luck in your mission. Keep me posted on how it works.

getting started as a poker proI’m attempting to start a poker career with very little money, is this possible? Is it possible to get a good business plan together and get investors for a bankroll?

If you are a proven player with good networking skills, it’s quite easy to find investors. Poker is very popular these days and there is a lot of dead money out there. A winning player can make great money in poker. My best advice is start on your own. It’s much easier on you if you start small and build up yourself. That way you get to make all the decisions yourself and never have to answer to anyone. Don’t be afraid to start small. If you’re good enough you can get in a game that makes you about $1,000-$2,000 a week in no time.

Don’t rush it though. A poker player’s worst enemy is lack of patience. Every top player out there has paid his dues. Even Doyle Brunson and Phil Ivey were playing $1-$2 limits at one time or another. I have very clear memories of driving home from $2-$4 limit poker games and slapping myself in the head because I lost $100! Losses come, you can bet on that. But it’s the great players who learn from those losses and use them as a strong foundation for a long career of winning poker.

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