The Poker Lab Rat

June 22, 2010

Professional Poker Play: Are You Lucky?

Mike Caro, professional poker player, coach and authorMost poker players, even logical ones, sometimes feel something has gone wrong with the law of averages. You know about the law of averages, right? Given enough time, the cards even out, and everyone’s luck is the same.

But sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, and even the most scientific gamblers lose faith. Are there other factors controlling our luck? Something beyond the science we know now? Something mysterious and untoward? Who know? Probably not, but I can’t say definitely not. And neither should anyone.

What I do know is that you will make the most money if you play your cards as if the law of averages rules, even if there’s a haunting chance in your mind that it doesn’t. And you should never complain about your bad luck, because… well, because nobody cares about your bad luck. I was able to pull these concepts together in a column I wrote for the September, 1981 issue of Gambling Times magazine. The following is condensed from that long-forgotten column:

How I said it in 1981.

“The worst thing of all is I’m never lucky!” Having so stated, Adam took a huge gulp of hot coffee. It seemed to me that he was deliberately trying to scald his innards. “Damn!” he shouted. “Damn, that’s hot!” And he took another grimacing swallow, just to prove it.

“You wanna hear something really pathetic, M.J.C.?” he continued, using the initials that I’m known by around Gardena. Tears were bulging from his 29-year-old eyes. I guess it was because of the hot coffee, but who knows?

“Wanna hear something really pathetic?” he repeated.

Having just lost three important football bets, I could have handled sad, but not pathetic.

“This’ll just take a minute,” he said. “I’m in this 10 blind lowball game. Everybody passes. Gets around to me. I’m dealing. I look at my hand. What do you think I’ve got?”

“A pat seven?”

“No! A six! A goddamn pat six! Six, five, one, two, three! ” He tried another dramatic pause that didn’t seem very effective.

squirmed beside him, trying to determine my best strategy of escape.

“Did you hear what I said? A six! Pat!”

Obviously he wanted some sort of acknowledgement. ” Wow! Those are hard to get. I suppose you got it beat.” In all my years of hearing lowball stories told by sad losers, I can’t remember ever hearing about a pat six that won!

“You’re damn right I got it cracked! Listen to this, M.J.C. The blind calls. How many do you think he draws?”

“Three.”

“That’s right! Three cards! You heard about it from someone? ”

“No, just guessing.”

“Well, now guess what he made?”
A wheel,” I speculated.

“No! A six-four!” Damn! I thought. I’d started to say six-four.

Just at that instant my true friend Art Sathmary (known professionally as A.S.Q.) appeared.

Adam said, as I started to rise, “Just one more thing. Two hands later I get dealt-”

“Hi, A.S.Q.!” I greeted. I walked briskly away from Adam, muttering apologetically, “We’re going to be late.”

The Point.

Every experienced gambler hears this sort of thing all the time. The vocabulary of complaint, the language of misery, is universal. If you’re a regular poker player, you can hear echoes of similar tales right now.

Losers like to complain. Losing is a lonely experience. You suffer alone at a poker table. No one else seems aware of your tragedies. After the game, many humans need to share their agony.

Losers exaggerate. That’s because they’re not trying to convey what really happened so much as how bad they feel. You shouldn’t challenge their outrageous claims of misfortune. Merely do your duty as a human being and commiserate.

A woman in A.S.Q.’s game once complained of having missed “17 flush draws in a row!”

“What are you talking about?” he corrected. “You just made one against me five minutes ago.”

“Not in diamonds!” she raged.

Exclusive.

Finally, after years and years of struggling to decipher what the world of poker complainers means by these bizarre assertions, I’m ready to announce my findings to the public. What follows is a sample of typical claims you’re apt to hear from gamblers, and the truth.

Statement #1: “I can’t believe it! I got 14 full houses beat in three hours playing draw poker! ” The truth: The speaker lost on one full house and on two flushes. Furthermore, he drew to two pair, sevens and fours, caught a seven and would hare had he caught a four, since the opener had sixes full. He’s counting this as a loss, anyway, since he didn’t hold three-of-a-kind in nearly an hour.

Statement #2: “I went to Vegas over the weekend. Must’ve played 21 for fifteen hours and never got a single blackjack!” The truth: This person got about 40 blackjacks, perhaps less than his mathematical share. However, he only remembers 10 of them clearly, and these are hardly worth mentioning since he dumped $2000 playing keno.

Statement #3: “I would’ve hit the daily double. I had it figured cold, but I got tied up at the office.” The truth: The guy’s second choice won the first half of the double. The horse that won the other race was a complete surprise. But now, looking back at the Racing Form, he can positively see why he might have picked it.

You see? It’s human nature to feel you’re running bad, even when you’re not. In the past, I showed that the fluctuations for a gambler can be a lot greater than most informed people suppose. There’s a lot of luck involved in games like gin rummy, poker and backgammon. That’s why it’s important to get as big an edge as possible.

Taboo.

There’s one subject that no self-respecting gambling authority will discuss. It’s the supernatural. Sure, it’s easy to say that we have all the answers.

There are two main types of people who are screwing up my world: those who claim to have discovered secret psychic answers; and those who blindly proclaim there can be no reality beyond that which they can fathom.

Both these groups, the fortune tellers and the tunnel-vision scientists, are suffering from the same insanity. They both need answers. The former makes them up; the latter shouts that luck is understood by equation.

Nothing is more important to a gambler than whether unexplored phenomena might be influencing his luck. Although I can’t prove to you conclusively that such forces don’t exist, here is my advice. Get a good grasp of probabilities and gamble accordingly. Maybe there are undiscovered forces that guide our luck. But our best shot of winning the money right now is to deal with concepts we comprehend.

If you mistakenly expect to get a pat full house every hour, you’re apt to feel miserable and cheated by fate. Your game will suffer. When you run bad, keep your luck secret. Getting sympathy from a fellow poker player is practically impossible.

This appropriate exchange of words happened two years ago in Reno. An elderly man slithered up to my friend and asked to borrow $20. “I lost my ass!” he explained.

My friend slapped him softly on the shoulders, whispered, “I hope you find it,” and walked away.

 

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June 20, 2010

Pro Poker Play: Aiming High in Omaha Hi/Lo

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 12:00 am

Omaha Hi/Lo professional pokerEveryone knows that in Omaha Hi/Lo, starting with low cards is your best bet. You want to play hands with two-way potential, hands that can scoop the pot. In any hi/lo game, scooping is the dream.

However, in certain situations, it’s advisable to play a high-only hand. I’m going to give you a specific example from a HORSE tournament where the circumstances were just right for me to not only play a high-only hand, but to raise with it pre-flop.

My hand was Ad-10d-Jc-Qc, and I was seated in the cutoff. We were playing at the 100/200 level in Omaha Hi/Lo, meaning the blinds were 50 and 100. The player in first position limped in, along with the next three players. So, each of the first four players to act had limped in. Here I was, double suited with big cards, and I was armed with a reputation as a solid player who typically raises with strong starting hands that have excellent low potential. If I’m raising in this spot, my opponents should all typically assume I have a hand that includes A-2. And that’s one of the reasons to play high-only hands occasionally, for the element of surprise.

Another reason is that with all of those limpers, chances were that many of the low cards were gone from the deck, since the majority of Omaha Hi/Lo players will only get involved with hands that contain low cards. The likelihood of three low cards hitting the board was greatly reduced. And that’s precisely why I raised the pot to 200. My opponents automatically put me on the A-2, and all of the limpers made the call, helping to confirm my suspicion that they all held baby cards.

The flop was just what I was hoping for: A-Q-J with two diamonds. So I had two pair (or three pair, if you wanted to look at it that way) with a royal flush draw. It was checked all the way around to me; I made a bet of 100 and got four callers.

The turn card was a deuce. This was potentially an excellent card for me because it meant that if someone else held A-2, they’d just made an inferior two pair and would have a hard time folding. Sure enough, the first player to act bet out, everybody called, and it came around to me. My only concern was whether someone had K-10, but I just couldn’t put anyone on K-10 the way the hand had been played to that point. So I raised, pretty confident that the player who led out had A-2, and everyone else had babies and was hoping to make the wheel or grab the low. That first player thought and thought, studied and studied, and finally just called, confirming for me that he didn’t have K-10. The rest of the players called as well.

The river was a beautiful card, another queen, giving me queens full of aces. The first player to act checked, the next player checked, the next player bet, and the next player raised! There was no straight-flush out there – the only hand that could beat me was pocket aces. The way the hand went down, it seemed unlikely that anyone had pocket aces, so I put in another raise. As it turned out, everyone folded, and I took down a massive pot of 4,950 chips.

The lesson to be learned here is that you want to keep your opponents on their toes. You don’t want to play your hands the same way every time; you must use the element of surprise to get the maximum equity on your money. The more people that play a hand in Omaha Hi/Lo, the less likely it is that the board will contain low cards. If you have a strong high hand with big, suited cards, then you want to play that hand because of its potential to scoop the entire pot.

Esther Rossi

Esther started playing poker in 1987 after moving to Las Vegas. She has over $300K in Career Tournament Earnings and placed 4th in the 2008 WSOP $1,500 HORSE Event.
a5_wIf you’re USA-based, play and chat with top professionals online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

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June 17, 2010

Poker: Old And Profitable Wisdom About Bluffing

Filed under: Doyle Brunson,General Blog Rant,Mike Caro,pro tips — Mike @ 8:51 pm

Mike Caro professional poker player and coachAll around us, everywhere in poker, survives those ancient adages. Like what? Well, like: “Don’t count your chips while you’re sitting at the table.” That one even made its way into Kenny Rogers’ song, The Gambler.

“You gotta know when to hold ’em; you gotta know when to fold ’em.” Same song. Frankly, Kenny, we need to talk about this. As an advocate of poker integrity, I sometimes worry about foes who know when to hold ’em and know when to fold ’em. But, hey, I understand what you meant, brother.

Getting back to not counting your chips – Let’s all chant this out loud together: “Don’t count your chips while you’re sitting at the table.” And all you head football coaches out there, go paste that message on your refrigerator where you won’t forget. Put it right beside the one for that says, “Never check the scoreboard until after fourth quarter.”

THE POKER SCOREBOARD.

What? Oh, you think it makes sense to check that football scoreboard? Me too. And I think it makes sense to count your chips at the table. It gives me an idea whether I’m winning or losing. Besides, if you don’t count your chips at the table, you might not get to count ’em at all “when the dealing’s done” – if you know what I mean, guy.

Sometimes, I adjust my strategy according to my chip count. If I’m winning more than two buy-ins, I figure players are intimidated and will fall victim to marginally aggressive bets and raises. The more I’m losing, the more likely I am to be restrictive in my hand selection. That’s because then opponents are not intimidated, but, rather, inspired; and they will tend to play better and less predictably against me. When that happens, I often cancel those borderline bets that win money when I have my opponents under my spell.

The more I’m losing, the fewer borderline plays I make. The more I’m winning, the more borderline plays I make. So, yeah, I count my chips. But this gets worse, Kenny. I often count everyone else’s chips while they’re sitting at the table. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m trying. Keep singing.

WHOM CAN YOU BLUFF?

There’s another poker adage I know you’ve heard: “You can’t bluff a bluffer.” Familiar,right? And folks will argue about this one. Some think it makes sense, and some think you really can bluff a bluffer. Those who think it makes sense contend that bluffers believe others act the same way they do, so every bet is suspect. Those who think it doesn’t make sense contend that frequent bluffers are easy victims of bluffs, because they envision that their opponents are more timid than they actually are. Bluffers think opponents are afraid to call and afraid to bluff. This attitude makes them less likely to call, according to the argument.

What’s the truth here? Well, the truth is monumental – as is every truth I share with you, the way I see it. And this truth is doubly monumental. If you haven’t been abiding by what I’m about to tell you, you’re bankroll is about to bulge.

If you’re a break-even player now, and you haven’t been applying what follows, then… poof! … you’re suddenly a winner. If you were a marginal winner who hasn’t been applying my advice, then… poof! … you’re a big winner now. If you’re a small loser who hasn’t been abiding by the following advice, then… poof! … I just made you a winner. If you’re a huge loser who hasn’t been using the advice that follows, then… poof! … get a job.

THE SECRET TO HANDLING BLUFFERS.

OK, we’re ready. The adage is right. You usually should not bluff a bluffer. How come? Listen, here’s how come: Let’s say it’s just you and your opponent on the final bet. You have a very weak hand that will almost surely lose in a showdown; and you have no clear idea what the opponent is holding. He goes first; he checks.

This is the time, right now, that you must ask yourself one of the most profitable questions in poker: Is my opponent a frequent bluffer? Ask, because if he is, my friends, you must abandon all thoughts of bluffing. Here’s why.

Just to make it simple, we’ll say there were 10 possible hands your opponent could hold. Of these 10, two are very strong, which he would have bet, and three are very weak, which he would have bluffed with. Assuming, for the simplicity of this example, that he would never check-raise or bet the marginal hands, we can see that he would bet with legitimate strength twice, but would bluff three times. The other five times he would check.

It’s easy to see that, faced with a bet, you should always call with any hand strong enough to beat a bluff, because for every five bets, three of them – on average – your opponent will be bluffing. Fine. But in this case, your opponent didn’t bet; and you don’t hold a hand strong enough to guarantee a win against a bluff.

So, the question is, after your opponent checks, should you try to win the pot by bluffing. Using the same example, the answer is no, oh, no. You must never try to bluff. Because this opponent always bluffs, given the opportunity, all that remains after his check are hands he’ll feel comfortable calling with. Don’t make the mistake of thinking there are still 10 hands he could hold, two great, three terrible, and five in-between. You should figure that once the player checks, he holds a reasonably strong hand. If he’s like most frequent bluffers, having abandoned his opportunity to bluff, he now intends to call. That means, if you bluff, you WILL lose. This type of player cannot be holding a worse hand, simply because he would have bluffed with it. In this extreme example, you will get called and you will lose every time you try to bluff.

The strange thing is, this “extreme” example isn’t very extreme. This is precisely what happens in real life, in real games, against real opponents. Opponents who bluff too much should generally not be bet into after they check. Just check along and limit your loss.

EVERSING THE POSITIONS.

But what if you’re first to act, instead of last? It turns out that you usually should still be reluctant to bet into a frequent bluffer for a very simple reason. This player bluffs too often. That’s his weakness. This means when he bets into you, you will usually call. If you had a strong enough hand, you would check and call if he bet, allowing him to destroy himself with too much bluffing.

But you don’t have a strong enough hand. You have a hopeless hand, and you’re first to act. My advice? Check. Just give up on the pot, unless you think your opponent is unusually likely to throw away his hand right now.

But what can you possibly gain by checking? You’ll lose the pot, sure. But you might accomplish something that is quite valuable to your long-range success. You might let his bluff succeed! Think about it. We’re talking about you holding a totally hopeless hand here, one that can’t win in a showdown. Let’s say that you figure it’s borderline at best whether a bluff is worthwhile. Given that definition, a bluff theoretically is worth nothing to you in the long-run (you’ll win a few times, you’ll lose many times, and overall you’ll show no profit).

Well, if you gain nothing long-term by bluffing, then wouldn’t you prefer a tactic that gains something? Good choice. This is where you can take advantage of your opponent and pad your purse or your wallet. Since you know he bluffs too often, you’re going to be calling him every chance you get with reasonable hands. That means he might wise up and stop over-bluffing. You don’t want that to happen. So, the best way to condition him to continue his bad habit is to reward him. We can do this for free, simply by checking and letting him have the pot. Why for free? It’s because we already estimated that bluffing would not be profitable and was break-even at best.

“Don’t bluff a bluffer” is excellent advice, but not for the reasons usually stated. Good-bye.
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June 14, 2010

Running Bad: Professional Poker, How Bad is Bad?

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 9:08 pm

Play poker as a professionalWherever you go in poker, you hear plenty of poker stories, usually of the bad beat variety and various claims of individuals running bad. But what is running bad?

Most people say they are running bad when, for instance, their top sets are constantly beaten by straight and flush draws or when their pocket Aces get beat by pocket Kings when a King hits the flop. The stories are often accompanied by “he hit a gutshot”, “he hit his one-outer”, etc.

Did you know though, that there are actually two or more different ways of running bad? It is important to understand the differences.

You can also run bad with the cards you find – and this is relative. Finding Kings three times in an hour would be considered running good. But if every time that happened an opponent found Aces, then that would be running bad, right?

Getting it in with a set against a flush draw and losing is running bad, but making a flush against a better flush is running bad too. If you’re using a tracking system, your EV will show that you should be winning in the first instance but losing in the second over a lifetime.

It is situational. You can play perfect poker, find big hands and still lose because:

You get sucked out on.
You find someone with a better hand; this is not running bad, as getting outdrawn is situational.
There is also potentially a third “running bad”: besides the hole-cards you’re dealt and the river cards you hit, there are the cards your opponent has and the actions they take.

By contrast, running good can be that you find big hands and they win or it can be that you get it in with the worst of it and suckout on your opponent. It’s important to understand the difference. You can play perfect poker and make all the correct plays but still lose – that’s running bad.

You may have heard players talk of variance. This is the statistical measure of the dispersion of your results. Running good or running bad does affect your bank roll, but you should try and look at poker as a lifelong poker session and not look at sessions

individually. I realise this can be difficult; this is often because you are playing bigger than you should be and the result can hurt if it goes against you.

Try to think of it as a game – no more, no less – and try not to get emotional. What is important is that you continue to make the right decisions day in and day out, session after session.

Joe Beevers

a5_wABOUT JOE: Nicknamed “The Elegance”, Joe Beevers is a Member of the renowned UK based poker team, The Hendon Mob. He is actually the only person of The Hendon Mob who actually lives in Hendon and Joe plays online at bet365Poker.

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June 9, 2010

Professional Poker: Audit Your Game

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 9:26 pm

Professional poker tips and player adviceFor some, playing poker is an acceptable expense because they simply enjoy playing the game for fun. It’s fine to have that approach if you have it reconciled in your own mind that you are prepared to spend money in exchange for entertainment as you might do watching your favorite sports team, visiting the theatre, etc.

However, if your primary concern is showing profit rather than just splashing around in a few pots, then you need to be taking things much more seriously. If you have money continually passing in and out of your hands it pays to treat your whole operation as seriously as you would if you were running your own business. Successful businesses have regular meetings during which they review performance and explore new ideas to help drive the company forward. It helps if you have friends with whom you are able to talk poker; even if you don’t, it’s still worth taking the time to hold the equivalent of your own one-man board meeting and taking a look at how you’re doing.

There are plenty of ways to break down and examine your game. Are you overplaying AJ, or maybe leaking chips by calling out of the small blind too much? These types of questions will help you tighten up on areas that may be costing you money, but it’s more than just how you play your cards that you should be looking at. Maybe your stats show that when playing long cash game sessions you tend to blow off money towards the end due to loss of concentration or physical fatigue, in which case you should resolve to play shorter sessions and only return if you feel on top of your game after a break. Perhaps you show better online results when you have the house to yourself, and are only playing a break even game when you have the distraction of others around you. If that’s the case, you could either shut yourself away somewhere quiet if you are intent on playing or, alternatively, simply stop and cut those tedious hours of grinding away for no reward out of your day. By taking the time to identify what’s going right and what’s not going so well, you’ll be in a position to decide how you are going to improve things.

Another important factor to look at is game selection. As well as getting an idea of whether your optimum hourly rate can be achieved playing cash games or tournaments, 6-max or heads up, etc., another aspect which can often be overlooked is which variant of poker you are playing. Even accomplished pros will often be stronger in some variants than in others; if you are only playing Texas Hold ’em, how do you know if that would rank as one of your stronger or weaker games? By getting to grips with a new game you open up extra possibilities for yourself. If you like to have numerous tables on the go at once, you’d best hope it’s not Razz that turns out to be your best game; but at least once you are armed with that knowledge you can proceed from an informed position. There are probably large numbers of players who will just never know that they would have been more successful had they branched out a bit, and it’s got to be easier to find a profitable situation if you are able to pick from more than one game.

Going through this process of analysis might mean spending a little time away from the tables whilst you are doing it, but it should be considered a valuable investment of your time. Forgoing a couple of hours worth of hands in the short term can make a big difference in long term results once you have established how you want to run your poker business.

Adam Noone

a5_wWinner of Full Tilt Poker’s Million Pound Challenge, Adam comes from Broadstairs, England, and has been playing poker since 2003. He is mostly a tournament player who prefers No-Limit Hold ‘em or HORSE, and he built his bankroll by playing small stakes Sit & Gos and gradually moved up in stakes as his game improved.

Adam’s a keen fan of the Arsenal Football Club, so fellow “Gooners” should catch up with him playing online at bet365Poker

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June 6, 2010

Poker Play: Bluffing In Big Pots

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 10:26 pm

Poker players tipsThe ability to bluff big pots effectively is one of the key skills that separate good players from great players. It is no accident that the games played at the highest stakes feature some of the most daring bluffs: big bluffs are a central part of the game.

Most players mix up their play well for small bets – they’ll bet out or raise with nothing on the flop with about the right frequency – but most players don’t mix up their play well on big bets. Some players never mess around when they put in really big money on the turn or river. Other players can never resist the big bluff when they see a lot of money in the middle. Striking the right balance between value bets and bluffs when you are putting big money in the pot is crucial to playing top-level poker.

When you are playing against world-class competition, bluffing too often is a bigger mistake than not bluffing enough. You will get called very often and you will look to everyone like you are spewing chips. You will wonder why they are calling you so often, but the reason will be somewhat simple: your opponents will be getting 2:1 odds on a call (if you are betting the size of the pot) and they will infer based on your betting frequency that you’re bluffing more often than that.

How can they infer that you are bluffing too often? Roughly speaking, if you are balancing your big bluffs properly, you will be betting for value about two-thirds of the time and you will be betting as a bluff about one-third of the time. Hands that you will bet big for value on the turn or river come up quite rarely. It’s not often that you make a straight, a flush, a set, or some other huge hand that merits a big bet on the river for value. If you’re betting big on the turn and river very often, your opponents will correctly guess that you’re bluffing too often.

Bluffing too often can be a huge mistake, but I think that not bluffing often enough in the truly big spots is one thing that prevents great players from becoming world-class. You’ll never hear someone say of Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan or Patrik Antonius “he’s never messing around in that spot.” They can be bluffing in any spot. As the pot gets very big, their bluffs will be less frequent, as they will be trying to represent very thin ranges, but their bluffing frequency will never be zero in any spot (other than some trivial ones where it’s only appropriate to raise with the nuts).

Most of your big bluffs will occur when you have position on an opponent. This is especially true for big moves on the river. If an opponent checks to you on the river, it’s likely not a check of strength. With one pair hands, people will often call on the flop and turn, but not on the river. Their “check-call, check-call, check” line often tells you that they have a big pair but no better. Some inexperienced players will fold to a pot-sized bluff way too often in this spot, and will not adjust their behavior even when they begin to suspect that you are bluffing them often. Against these players, you are obligated to keep stealing until they adjust.

Once again, the ability to pull off a big bluff is a crucial element in poker. Do so with the correct frequency, and you’ll raise your game to the next level.

Brandon Adams

a5_wABOUT BRANDON: Brandon Adams plays poker online at BetOnline. He is a high-stakes poker player who has been on multiple television programs and to date has made it to 1 WSOP Final Table. He is the author of Broke: A Poker Novel. American players are safe and welcome at FullTiltPoker.com too

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May 31, 2010

Pro Poker Tips: Tight-Aggressive Is Always Chic

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Poker News & Views,pro tips — Mike @ 9:32 pm

Professional poker tips at PokerLabRat.comIf a poker player wants an edge, he must move with the times. Today, a style which was successful only a year ago can already be outdated; tomorrow, he could be the sucker.

However, in the poker world (as in the fashion world), there are timeless classics: the little black dress for a woman; the pinstripe suit on a man; tight/aggressive play at the table. Admittedly, this type of player is less likely to knock somebody’s socks off, but he is also far less likely to be knocked out of the tournament himself.

Dan Harrington described this style in his tremendous book, “ Harrington On Hold ’em” and, as a result, it quickly became the worldwide standard. Today’s truly smart tournament players, however, were soon tearing up the rule book and, as a result, modern poker has no dominant strategy. Loose/aggressive is currently in fashion and playing out of position has become the Holy Grail. But again and again the strategies turn back to what poker is all about: bet on a good hand and give up a bad or hard-to-rate one.

As soon as one reflects on it, by focusing his own bets solely on “value” instead of bluffing, a good player wins again and again with safe, tight/aggressive play. Why ever not?

Good players do not make plays simply because they want to or to show that they can. They make plays because they represent the optimal decisions. Poker is ultimately a contest of decision-making; he who consistently makes the best decisions, wins – all the same in which outfit he enters the party.

Riskers gamble, experts calculate.

Stephan Kalhamer

a5_wABOUT STEPHEN: Stephen Kalhamer is an author, mathematician and poker fan. He is a professional poker coach and plays online at Bookmaker Poker. To find out more about him, join him at a table sometime soon.
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May 14, 2010

Playing Poker Like a Pro: The Importance of Keeping Records

Filed under: General Blog Rant,pro tips — Mike @ 7:00 pm

Playing professional pokerIt’s not a sexy subject, but we all know how vital bankroll management is to your poker career. A great way to help out with managing your roll is to keep records of your play.

Accurate records not only help you keep track of how you’re doing, they also allow you to analyze your game and keep you honest with yourself. We all like to believe that we’re winning players, but that’s not always the case.

Here are a few key categories/stats to keep track of every time you play:

– Overall bankroll (so you never play over your head in games that are too big)
– How long you played
– What game/limit you played
– How much you made (how many big blinds or big bets won per hour)

Keeping records of these basic elements really helps put your game in perspective. Personally, I like to dive in even deeper, so I keep track of my emotions as I play. How you feel when you play and what frame of mind you’re in are vital to the outcome of your session – don’t ignore these factors.

Keep track of things like when you get tired and how long into a session you are when you start to get tired. When you play bad or below your standards and make mistakes with your play, note when they happened and what factors contributed to these mistakes. Whether you admit it or not, poker is a game of emotion; it literally pays to keep track of yours – and hopefully keep them in check.

Keep these records on a daily basis and go back through them each month to analyze your play. Be honest with yourself about what you see. You’re looking for patterns: I lost again while playing this game at this limit for this many hours; I lost again when I played for an hour too long or I won more than normal when I played a shorter session.

If you notice a pattern and see that you’re losing at one particular game or limit, ask yourself: “What am I doing wrong here?” The truth hurts sometimes, but don’t let your ego get in the way of becoming a winning player. When the records show that you’re not doing well, it’s time to move down to a lower limit, reassess your game and start over again.

Seeing these records laid out in front of you allows you to be honest about yourself as a poker player. The numbers never lie, and that’s why it’s so important to keep accurate records of your play.

a5_wABOUT KRISTY:

Kristy was born in Torrance, CA and is nicknamed “Mixed-Games Gazes”. She has $980K in Career Tournament Earnings.

Check out the latest poker room reviews and ratings to begin building your bankroll

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April 8, 2010

Mike Caro on Successful Poker Tournament Strategy

Filed under: General Blog Rant,Mike Caro,Poker Tournaments,pro tips — Mike @ 5:02 am

Mike Caro poker tipsWhom to attack in tournaments…

The most common types of poker tournaments are the “proportional payoff” variety. That’s where, as players are eliminated, tables are consolidated until the survivors meet at a final table and first place wins all the chips. But first place doesn’t get to keep all the money, so there’s — in effect — a penalty for winning. This means survival is worth more than using many sophisticated tactics that would earn extra profit in non-tournament games. So, you should avoid high-risk, seemingly profitable finesses and play more conservatively in order to survive and win more of the prize pool. Fine.

But, correct strategy for these tournaments also requires that you attack mostly players with fewer chips than you have. This provides two advantages:

(1) You can’t be eliminated by those players, so you’ll survive even if you lose the pot;
(2) If you win the pot, you’ll eliminate the short-stacked opponent and automatically move up in the money.
a5_wIf you’re USA-based, play and chat with top professionals online at Bookmaker Poker or BetOnline Poker.

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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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