Posts Tagged ‘Strategy’

Poker Strategy With Reid Young: Mastering Scare Cards

Reid YoungHave you ever been in this spot? You call a preflop raise with a medium pair like 7Heart Suit 7Diamond Suit out of position. The flop is 9Heart Suit 3Spade Suit 2Heart Suit, and you think “that’s not so bad.” You check to your opponent and call his continuation bet (c-bet). The turn is the KSpade Suit and your heart sinks. You check and again your opponent bets. You are probably in for a bumpy ride! Is he bluffing? Would he bet again with only a nine? Or did he hit that king on the turn?

What is a Scare Card?

Scare cards are those community cards that are most likely to adversely affect a particular player’s distribution of holdings and scare that player off of putting more money into the pot with a weak hand. In this case, we, as the out-of-position player, are nearly helpless on the turn king. Besides the heart and spade flush draws and the straight draws that also have two overcards to our pair that we may have to dodge on the river, if our opponent is semi-bluffing with them on the turn, we also have to worry about being way behind a king. Being against a flush draw and trying to guess which it is the times that the other draw hits the river isn’t so bad, but being a 9-to-1 underdog on the turn against a king is pretty rough.

Our opponent knows that we probably don’t have many kings to take the actions we have taken so far in this hand. Think about it. We only called preflop, so it’s unlikely that we have K-Q or A-K, and we probably don’t play hands like K-9, K-3 or K-2 preflop when we are out of position and facing a raise. If we did have K-Q preflop, then would we check/call with king-high and no draw on a nine-high flop? Probably not.

Based on the unlikely nature that we have a king, our opponent has free reign to abuse us on the turn by betting and by leveraging the possibility of future bets in such a way that maximally takes advantage of how unlikely it is for us to have a king on the turn. If you’re thinking ahead, then you may already be saying to yourself, “well OK, let’s just add some more kings to our flop check-calling distribution.” That’s only part of the answer though because the turn card isn’t always a king. In fact, the turn is going to be a king less than 4/47 of the time, or less than 8.5 percent of the time (since sometimes at least one other player has a king). The other 90 percent or more of the time, we don’t want to simply have to check/fold the turn. That’s like kissing our flop call goodbye a lot of the time.

Representing Scare Cards

Being prepared for the rare king on the turn means that we, as the out-of-position player calling the preflop raiser’s flop bet, need to have at least a few kings in our distribution. That way we can stand the heat at least a little bit better and also prevent our opponent from value betting as thinly. For example, if our opponent tries to value bet a hand like ADiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit on the flop, on a turn king, and on a river deuce, it’s less likely that we face that river bet with a hand that only beats a bluff and loses to his ADiamond Suit 9Diamond Suit. That lowers the value of our opponent’s strategy. Nice. But we still have to keep in mind that every turn isn’t a king.

That means that the ability to represent a scare card is tied to your opponent’s ability to take profitable actions up until the point that the cards comes off the top of the deck and is placed into the community cards that can make up all players’ hands. If a player can’t profitably get to a particular turn or river and have a particular hand, then it’s hell on him to try to defend against an aggressive player’s betting strategy. However, players can plan ahead to try to mitigate the effects of scare cards.

Mastering Scare Cards

If you learn how to recognize players that over-do bluffing on scare cards, then you can counter-exploit the fear that they try to leverage. In other words, a good player is going to make your life tough when the board gets bad for your hand and there is really not much that you can do to prevent losing money in the long run; however, an overly aggressive player gets greedy, and we can make him pay.

Recall the 9-3-2-K board. What if we, as the out of position preflop calling player, decide to check/call our king-high flush draws on the flop, as well as all our combinations of pocket deuces. Now, all of a sudden, on the turn king we aren’t so worried about folding a marginal hand. Of course, it’s very easy for our opponent to go wild bluffing and have us very worried about the value of our middling hands, like those red sevens. On the other hand, he’s occasionally going to run into our king or our set of deuces.

By planning ahead and knowing that a lot of the turn cards in the deck are actually pretty terrible for us the times that we have pocket sevens, we can start to understand exactly what other types of hands should be in our flop check/calling distribution. That is, if we take an action with a certain type of hand that ends extremely poorly on several common board run outs, then it gets to be clear that we should probably mix up our flop play a little more and add in some hands that are deceptive on a number of turn cards, and then on a number of river cards.

Stopping the Inevitable

It’s extremely important to understand that it is very difficult to offset the positional disadvantage in poker, especially as the board gets more dangerous for the bulk of your holdings. The most important idea to take from an overview of scare cards is that we can mitigate these negatives by constructing a versatile distribution.

While it’s ridiculous to assume you’ll have the best of it in all positions on all run outs, you can do better than your opponent when we put him into the same position. When you’re playing a hand out of position, often your only goal is to do better than you would have done by surrendering your blind bet outright. Many players assume they need to win most of the hands that they play from the blinds and try to make moves too often and win more than their fair share. Against a passive or exploitable opponent, that strategy might work well. However, the better players are going to tear up that strategy and just call you down when they turn their kings and fold their bluffs in proportion to your bluff size on the turn. So what if we want to do something about that turn bet than just check and call?

Fighting Back

We know that a lot of players over-do it on the turn scare card. They bet far more often than they could actually have a king or a better hand like pocket nines or pocket aces on that turn. Because our opponent is bluffing a lot of the time and the river is usually going to be incredibly scary, regardless of how often we believe our opponent is bluffing, we may want to raise the turn periodically to end the hand with our own bluff.

But if we are bluffing, then what are we value betting? Remember those pocket deuces that we decided to check/call on the flop the second time around. Now you’re getting it! If we are ready for all possible outcomes and we have a plan going forward that accomplishes getting money into the middle with our best hands and also protecting against aggressive players who leverage future bets on scare cards, then we have a balanced strategy. The most difficult player is in many ways the least predictable player.

Being able to have a strong hand on any board run out ensures that you don’t fall victim to being abused by scare cards. Also, keep in mind how your actions with a particular distribution of hands readies you for play on the next street! ♠

Reid Young is a successful cash game player and poker coach. He is the founder of TransformPoker.com.

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Published on 12:30 am by Administrator

Category: Poker

Tags: , Cards, Mastering, Poker, Reid, Scare, Strategy, Young

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Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: You Play Too Many Hands

Ed MillerConsider this an intervention. You play too many hands. You should cut back.

Sure, I’ve never watched you play no-limit hold’em. I’ve never sat behind you and looked over your shoulder as you limped into pots with QDiamond Suit JHeart Suit or 9Spade Suit 6Spade Suit. I’ve never actually witnessed you calling that preflop reraise cold with 8Heart Suit 8Diamond Suit.

But I’ve seen a whole lot of people play no-limit hold’em at the $ 1-$ 2, $ 2-$ 5, and $ 5-$ 10 levels, and darn near 100 percent of them play too many hands. Great players, good players, regulars, amateurs, nits, and tourists. One and all, these players play too many hands.

I’ll give a pass to the great players, since these guys have reason to play too many hands. But for everyone else, you play too many hands. You should cut back.

More Hands Preflop Means More Folding Postflop

Here’s the excuse I hear most often for playing too many hands. “Oh, I play that one because I know how to get away from it if I miss the flop.”

Most folks seem to think that the main problem with playing too-weak hands is that you can make a second-best hand and get yourself stacked. As long as you avoid that bugaboo, their thinking goes, slinking into pots with JClub Suit 8Club Suit or 8Club Suit 7Spade Suit is A-OK.

There is a massive problem with this line of thinking. It comes in two pieces.

First, I can’t find the profit. The whole idea is, “I know how to lose only a little with this hand, rather than a lot.” Folding doesn’t make money — it loses money. You aren’t going to fold your way to riches.

There is an implicit assumption. Those times you hit the flop hard, you’ll make such a killing that you’ll win back everything you lost and more.

In today’s games, I think this assumption is generally flat wrong. It isn’t so easy to get paid off these days. Many of your opponents are just trying to make hands and stack the guy who doesn’t know how to fold. If you make hands against these players, there’s no way you can expect to win stacks just because you made a small flush. They simply won’t pay.

If this assumption is a key part of your poker thinking, it needs to leave immediately. You can’t just assume that all those folds you make are OK because the big score is on the way. It’s not. Likely you’re just bleeding cash.

Second, all the extra hands make it very difficult to play the turn and river. Do you often have trouble playing the later streets? Do you feel like too often you’re stuck with a hand that’s not quite good enough? Do you feel like you won’t have an answer if your opponent decides to toss a big bet at you?

There’s no way to eliminate these problems completely. But if you play too many hands preflop, you guarantee yourself problems on the turn and river.

Here’s why. On the late streets, your hand falls into one of four categories.

1. The nuts or a strong value hand that you’re happy to bet.
2. A good hand to bluff with.
3. A hand with showdown value that will make you want to puke if your opponent bets big.
4. Total junk.

The size of the first category is relatively fixed. On any given board, there are only so many hands that are strong and worth betting. As you add more hands preflop, this category grows — a little bit. For instance, say the board is KHeart Suit 9Heart Suit 4Diamond Suit 10Heart Suit 4Spade Suit. If you are very loose preflop, you might play 9Club Suit 4Club Suit, which obviously is very strong on this board and worth betting.

But if you play tight preflop, you still grab a lot of the strong hands. Suited heart aces. Pocket kings, tens, and nines. Pocket aces. A-K. Q-J suited. Even 5-4 or A-4 suited.

For a given board, as you add loose hands preflop, you grow the number of category one hands, but only by a few extra hands at a time.

The number of category two hands, the bluffing hands, depends directly on the number of category one hands. You can only bluff so many hands. You need the threat that you “have it” to be real. You can add bluffs only as fast as you add real value hands. Therefore, this category doesn’t grow fast either.

When you add preflop hands, you’re really ballooning the size of categories three and four. You’re adding mostly marginal holdings and worthless junk. These are the hands you don’t want to be stuck with at the end. And yet, as you add extra hands preflop, you condemn yourself to showing up with too much garbage at the river.

Most people just fold all this extra junk on the flop and turn. The problem with that, again, is that folding on the flop or turn isn’t free. Every time you see a turn and fold, you’re out a healthy chunk of cash.

What’s the bottom line? When you play too many hands preflop, you are locking in losses after the flop. It’s not worth it.

What To Fold

I’ll focus on the first five seats in a nine-handed game. That’s everyone except the cutoff, the button, and the blinds. If you have any doubt whatsoever, in these five early seats you should fold it. Dealt 9Heart Suit 7Heart Suit? Fold it. Dealt AClub Suit 10Spade Suit? Fold it. Dealt 4Heart Suit 4Spade Suit? Fold it. Dealt KHeart Suit 8Heart Suit? Fold it. Dealt KDiamond Suit JSpade Suit? Fold it.

Fold. Fold. Fold. In these five seats, you fold it.

In a typical $ 5-$ 10 (or $ 2-$ 5) live game, when I am under the gun, the worst hands I play are 7-7, 10-9 suited, and A-Q offsuit. Four seats from there, I stretch it to 4-4, 5-4 suited, 10-8 suited, K-9 suited, and K-Q offsuit.

I open all these hands for a raise, and I raise against limpers.

Both of these ranges make me the tightest preflop player at nearly every table. But when I do all this folding preflop, I don’t need to fold that often after the flop. I get to value bet and bluff with a large percentage of my range. This makes playing pots with me difficult, because when I do play a hand, I rarely go away easily.

Since I know I’m playing against players who will have too much junk by the river, I like to wait hands out. I’ll call flops and turns light, knowing that my opponents will be forced to give up much of the time. Their preflop looseness dooms them when it counts the most.

I recommend giving my ranges a try next time you play. It may feel boring at first doing all that folding, but I think you’ll get used to it. And it makes postflop play a whole lot more fun, since you get to put the screws to your opponents much more often. ♠

Ed’s brand new book, Poker’s 1%: The One Big Secret That Keeps Elite Players On Top, is on sale now at notedpokerauthority.com. Find Ed on Facebook at facebook.com/edmillerauthor and on Twitter @EdMillerPoker.

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Published on 6:30 pm by Administrator

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Tags: , hands, many, Miller, Play, Poker, Strategy

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Ed Miller Discusses His New Poker Strategy Book

Poker author and Card Player columnist Ed Miller has written eight books on the game, selling over 250,000 copies to aspiring poker players around the world.

It started with Small Stakes Hold’em: Winning Big With Expert Play and continued with No-Limit Hold’em: Theory and Practice. Since, Miller has added Playing The Player: Moving Beyond ABC Poker To Dominate Your Opponents and his latest book, Poker’s 1%: The One Big Secret That Keeps Elite Players On Top.

Poker players looking for an edge can pick up a PDF version of Miller’s book at his website. The book will also be available at Amazon in paperback and electronic versions later this month.

Julio Rodriguez: What made you decide to title your book Poker’s 1%? Who are the 1 percent? When did you decide to write the book and how long did it take?

Ed Miller: I talk to a lot of people about poker, some elite players and a lot of regular players too, and I noticed that there was a big difference in the way poker’s elite looks at the game versus everyone else. I decided to write a book designed to bridge that gap. So that’s how I got the title. The book is a window into what makes the top 1 percent of poker players so different from everyone else.

I got the idea for the book in October and started writing in November. It’s coming out in early March, so it took about four months to write.

JR: Do you continue to write because you have more to say, or simply because the game has changed so much over the last decade?

EM: This one is my eighth book. It’s crazy to think about that. I keep writing books because I keep learning about poker. So it’s both, because I have more to say and because the game has changed.

I feel like I act as a go-between. On one side there are the cutting edge poker thinkers who refine strategy concepts year in and year out. And on the other side there are the average poker players who like to play the game once, twice, three times a week, but who aren’t necessarily plugged into the newest strategy ideas. I try to take the cutting edge strategy ideas (as I learn and understand them) and explain them to regular folks in as simple and straightforward a way as I can.

JR: How did you determine the content for this book? Is your writing driven by your own experiences on the felt?

EM: All my writings are intended for the same sort of player, which is the serious amateur. I write for people who are smart, regular poker players who feel like they’ve hit a ceiling and can’t get to the next level. Primarily, these players play at the $ 1-$ 2 through $ 5-$ 10 levels live (and $ 1-$ 2 and below online), so that’s what I write about.

I actually got the idea for this book from some of my coaching sessions in September and October of last year. I had three students all at the same time, all serious professional players, who all had run into the same roadblock. They had learned to win in a certain type of game, but had begun to struggle when the game changed on them.

I taught them all the same ideas, which were ideas that elite players use to succeed in any poker game and showed them all the same work to do to improve. Then I figured that if three of my most serious students needed to know this, I should write a book about it.

JR: Your first chapter explains that players shouldn’t play no-limit hold’em like a slot machine. Do you feel that’s the biggest problem with today’s average low-stakes player? Are poker players simply trying too hard to make hands rather than win pots?

EM: Sure. It’s the first chapter because it lays the groundwork for the more complex ideas later in the book. But yeah, way too many poker players just focus on trying to make hands. As long as they keep that mindset, they’ll never really have long-term success.

And I wouldn’t say “make hands” versus “win pots” is quite the right framework. If you focus too much on winning pots you won’t do well either. The idea is to build a comprehensive strategy that will exploit your opponents’ vulnerabilities no matter where they leave them. If making hands is going to get the money, then your strategy will do that. If winning pots (i.e., bluffing) will get the money, then your strategy will do that. You want a solid, balanced approach.

JR: The book advocates a math-based approach to checking, betting, raising, calling and folding frequencies and you state “if your frequencies are more correct than the players you play with, you will win their money.” What is your opinion of feel-based players or those who rely on physical tells to help them make their decisions?

Ed Miller at the World Series of PokerEM: Feel is great. Tells are great. All other things equal, there’s no doubt you’ll win a good bit more money if you have good feel, or if you can make good reads. But I believe that feel and tells are best laid upon a solid foundational strategy. And that strategy is derived mathematically.

Math tells you what the default play should be. Feel, reads, and tells tell you when you should deviate from the default. If you try to rely solely on feel, reads, and tells without first building the base strategy, you will make a lot of errors. The best players in the world today are experts at both math and feel.

JR: What is your opinion of the current poker landscape? Are the games getting worse or are they better than ever? Are you worried that your book and others like it are creating unprofitable games?

EM: Games today are highly profitable. There’s no doubt that each year over the last decade, the general level of play has risen. This is more true online than live, but it’s true in both arenas. The thing is, however, that the best players are also way, way better today than they were a decade ago. The relative edge the truly elite have over everyone else is still huge.

The problem for most people, and the reason that you hear people complain about the games being dead, is that the edge that regular amateurs and fledgling pros have over casual amateurs has closed. Casual players come to the game armed with an understanding of strategy that doesn’t lag too far behind many of the regulars. So the regulars have lower win rates and more perceived variance.

I’m not worried that my writings will create unprofitable games for a couple of reasons. First, top players will always be several steps ahead. If you want that edge over everyone else, as long as you’re willing to work for it, it will be there for you. And second, it really is work. If you want to become elite at poker, just like in any other field, you need to work, work, work. There are no shortcuts. As long as there are people out there who think poker is easy money, the games will remain good.

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Published on 12:30 pm by Administrator

Category: Poker

Tags: , Book, Discusses, Miller, Poker, Strategy

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Poker Strategy With Gavin Griffin: Defending Your Soldiers

Gavin GriffinPerhaps it’s because of the historical fiction book I’m reading about World War I. Perhaps it’s because I played some interesting hands last night that sort of outline my whole strategy in this situation. Perhaps it’s because I have some tournaments coming up in a couple of weeks and my strategy varies a bit when in tournaments. Either way, I woke up this morning sure of what I needed to write about in this week’s article: defending your blinds.

One of the most eye-opening things I realized when I opened my first PokerTracker database with the hands I had imported was how much I was losing from the blinds. With the exception of those who play exclusively heads up or three-handed, everyone loses money from the blinds. It’s something I knew intuitively but when the database showed me what it really looked like in those big red numbers in a sea of black ones, I knew it was something I needed to work on.

I was pretty sure that defending my blinds more (in no-limit) wasn’t the best plan. In limit, things are different. You are nearly required to defend your big blind against a single raise heads up. 3.5-to-1 is just too good of a price to pass up. It’s simplifying things a bit since you can definitely pass up that price if you play poorly postflop and can’t find a way to make money with the hands you play when cards are on the table, but for good players, defense is a must. In no-limit, however, with the massive reverse-implied odds inherent in the game and the increased positional advantage as the streets progress and the bets get bigger, it could be correct to fold a hand as good as K-J offsuit or Q-J offsuit to a small raise in a heads-up pot. The single biggest mistake I see people make in no-limit out of the blinds is defending too much. This happens in both multiway and heads-up pots and I think, even though you’re getting a better immediate price, that it’s usually much worse to defend too wide in a multiway pot than a heads-up pot for two reasons. First, it’s bad enough playing out of position against one player. To have to play out of position against multiple players on all streets is a disaster. Second, the average winning hand curve isn’t linear as the number of people in the hand increases, it’s exponential. Instead of turning your 10-5 suited into a pair of fives against only the preflop raiser and winning, you have to make trip fives or a straight against two or three players. When you add in the amount of money you lose when you make your bottom or middle pair because of how hard it is to play them out of position, defending your blinds with a wide range in a multiway or even heads-up pot in no-limit is a losing proposition.

So, if we’ve decided that we need to defend our blinds with a pretty tight range in no-limit, we now need to decide how we defend them aggressively or passively. Obviously, there are many different circumstances that arise during the course of a poker game, but the one that I’m going to look at now, for simplicity’s sake is one raise and no calls until it is our action in the blinds. I think, just like there are two different blinds in no-limit, there are two separate answers to this question. I defend my small blind aggressively and my big blind passively. Out of the small blind I will reraise with most of the hands I’ll play when there has been a raise and no calls. I like to do this because I get to build a bigger pot with what is probably the best hand, to reduce the stack-to-pot ratio, making my hand easier to play postflop, and it has the added benefit of often making the hand heads-up when it could have been multiway. There are some disadvantages of course. You’ve made the effective stakes bigger when out of position, something you’d generally prefer to do when in position. You have also defined your range more, making it easier for your opponent to play against you.

Out of the big blind, I play a different strategy in heads-up pots. I call preflop with my entire continuing range. Perhaps it’s because I’m too lazy to come up with an unexploitable three-betting range out of the big blind when playing 200 blinds deep or more, or perhaps because it’s impossible to do so. Mostly, I do it because it allows me to call with a wider range, to check-raise the flop with a wider range when my opponent’s range is at its weakest, and it gets me more flop check-throughs than my opponents because of the fact that they know my check-raising range can include hands like overpairs as well as draws, top pair, etcetera.

I think this has been an effective and simple strategy for me defending my blinds. Since I no longer play online and can’t gather hard data on whether that is true or not, it’s difficult to know for sure. I have to rely on that old fashioned gut feeling and that’s something I can defend easily. ♠

Gavin Griffin was the first poker player to capture a World Series of Poker, European Poker Tour and World Poker Tour title and has amassed nearly $ 5 million in lifetime tournament winnings. Griffin is sponsored by HeroPoker.com. You can follow him on Twitter @NHGG

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Published on 6:30 pm by Administrator

Category: Poker

Tags: , Defending, Gavin, Griffin, Poker, Soldiers, Strategy

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Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: Three Great Small Stakes Plays That Fail In Tougher Games

Ed MillerMany of my students are successful small stakes no-limit hold’em players who have tried and failed in tougher games. These students often rely on a short list of bread-and-butter plays to succeed. These plays tend to work brilliantly in small stakes games, but they lose potency when you wade in against tougher players. Learning to beat the tough games requires a major overhaul in thinking and approach.

In this article I explore three plays that work fine in small stakes games, but that fall flat against tougher opponents.

Play 1. Playing small pairs preflop.

In small stakes games, small pocket pairs are great. There’s a good chance you can limp in or see a flop for a small raise. Opponents with top pair will tend to pay you on at least two streets if you flop a set. More aggressive opponents will sometimes tend to play imprudently aggressive with some drawing hands or easily beaten top pairs, and you can get stacks in very good.

Furthermore, in these games the small pairs retain considerable value even when you don’t flop a set. Frequently your opponents will leave you opportunities to bluff profitably with any two cards, no matter how hopeless. And sometimes your opponents will passively check to showdown and allow you to win unimproved.

These factors combined give small pocket pairs considerable value in these games. I tend to play them even from under the gun.

In tougher games, however, you should often simply fold small pairs preflop. While you can still get your sets paid in tougher games, your opponents will be sensitive to board texture, and you will often need the right sort of flop to get money in.

For instance, on a flop like QHeart Suit 8Heart Suit 5Spade Suit, your opponent may expect you to raise a wide range of hands including many draws. This cover can get you paid on your set of fives.

On a flop like KHeart Suit 3Diamond Suit 2Spade Suit, however, there’s often little incentive to raise most hands. So if you want to raise sets like treys and deuces, you must also adopt a well thought out bluffing strategy on these boards, something few players have done. It’s easy, if you haven’t carefully planned your ranges, to show too much strength early in a hand, allowing a strong opponent to fold.

The problem with small pairs in tough games is that they retain almost zero value when they have not flopped a set. Tough opponents are less likely to give you plum bluffing opportunities. And they’re also much less likely to allow you to see a freebie showdown with your pair — at least not if your pair rates to win. When you miss a set in a tough game, small pairs are among the worst hands in your range on many flops. You’re stuck checking and folding too often to make them profitable.

In tough games, I tend to fold these pairs from early and middle positions. I will play them late, and I will also sometimes use them as a three-bet bluff against a steal position raiser.

Play 2. Folding to large bets.

This play is almost mandatory in many small-stakes games. If your opponent makes a big bet on either the turn or the river, you fold. Obviously you aren’t folding the nuts or sometimes combo draws or other very live hands. But if you have a pair or a bad two pair or some other common holding, and your opponent bets big, you fold.

Why does this work? It’s simple. A big bet polarizes your opponent’s range. Either the opponent has a very strong hand or a bluff. Whenever your hand falls between these two poles, you have a bluff-catcher. You lose when he’s got the hand, and you win when he’s bluffing.

Most small stakes players do not make big bluffs often enough for you to call with bluff-catchers. That’s pretty much the end of the story. Even if you’ve seen someone bluff one or three times, you still usually should keep on folding to the big bets. Because to call, you have to think that your opponent might be bluffing 25 to 35 percent of the time. Very few small stakes players bluff this often when they make a big turn or river bet. Therefore, you fold all bluff-catchers to these bets in small stakes games.

If you carry this play into tough games, however, you set yourself up for slaughter. Players bluff in tough games. Some players actually love to make big bluffs and do it too often. In any event, most players in tough games — even the weaker ones — will notice if you never seem to call big bets. You will get bluffed and bluffed and bluffed.
You’ve got to call with bluff-catchers at a healthy frequency. Sometimes that will mean that you make payoffs that look like rookie mistakes. But tough players force you to do it — they make you put the money in, and from time to time they make you look silly. It’s just part of the game.

Play 3. Making probe bets.

In small stakes games, you can often be shameless about your bet sizing. You can size bets from $ 5 to $ 500 to get just the effect you want. Want to set your own price for a draw? Make a small bet. Want to see if your opponent has a nutted hand? Make a small probe bet that fishes for a raise. Want to make sure your opponent folds? Make a massive overbet. Don’t have much and want to give your opponent a chance to make a ridiculously terrible fold? Bet $ 10 into a $ 300 pot. And so forth.

In small stakes games, I will vary my bet sizes widely from very tiny bets to huge overbets. Most small stakes players are tame and predictable enough that you can fairly count on your bet to achieve the goal.

The problem with these bets, as a rule, is that they betray a lot of information. If you are betting $ 40 into a $ 300 pot, then a good player can rule out most of your possible holdings and focus on the few that might make sense for that strange bet size. Once they have a good idea of what you have, they can play almost perfectly.

It’s extremely difficult to employ many wide-ranging bet sizes while still hiding information well.

In tough games, I skip the shameless bets. They are too transparent. I don’t try to probe for information, because too often the information I receive will be that I have been raised, and I still don’t know where I stand.

Final Thoughts

If you plan to try out harder games, it’s critical to be introspective about your game. Why do you make money in the smaller game? What mistakes are your opponents making, and how should you adjust if you find new opponents who don’t make these mistakes? Once you can answer these questions clearly, you have the tools to take on players at the next level. ♠

Ed’s brand new book, Poker’s 1%: The One Big Secret That Keeps Elite Players On Top, is on sale now at notedpokerauthority.com. Find Ed on Facebook at facebook.com/edmillerauthor and on Twitter @EdMillerPoker.

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Poker Strategy With Roy Cooke: Projecting Yourself

Roy CookeDon’t be deceived by appearances, men and things are not what they seem.

— William Booth

Image is something you can deceptively project. That variation of deception is widespread and overused, particularly around the gambling world. Reason being, we don’t want people to know the truth. It’s frequently in our self-interest to deceive, though not nearly as often as we think.

Deception takes many forms. Sometimes it’s done with purposely misleading half-truths. Other times we deceive with blunt lies. We can also deceive with purposeful unstated actions meant to mislead. You see all these methods and more at the poker table!

Of course, this is all understood upfront in poker. We all know we are there to compete and that deception is expected as a normal part of the game. That said, much of what I see in players’ attempts to deceive is transparent, though the perpetrator rarely thinks so. And, more importantly, if you’re looking to deceive opponents, letting them know you’re trying to be deceptive defeats most, if not all, of your purpose.

That said, certain opponents are easy to deceive. Either naturally naïve, or out of their element at the poker table, they read the situation as it is projected. Many simply want to believe untruths, being delusional or in denial. They are psychologically biased to believe anyone uttering the line they want to believe. And there are plenty around the poker table wiling to reinforce their misbeliefs. Much of the negative image of poker emanates from that hustle.

But there are other methods of deception, classier, and just as effective tactics that are better for the game. All poker players understand upfront that we’re all are there to capture each other’s money. But, over time, the game is better served when the game is comfortable for socially-oriented players.

In most games, at least until you get into the middle limits, most players’ errors are calling when they should fold. This tends to limit the effectiveness of tactics in which you want your opponents to fold when they should call. Additionally, it’s much easier to steer people in the direction they wish to go, so in such games you should project an image that makes people want to call even more.

People tend to call people more when they think the others are luck-oriented, friendly, and unpredictable. That being the case, when in social call-prone games, steer the conversations towards luck, but be lighthearted about it. Keep the game as friendly as possible, avoid whining, and never project anger. Of course, we all know that poker is a game of skill, and we’re there to win. But we don’t want to project that image. I often see poker pros, headphones on, or playing with their phones, never saying a social word, and just sitting like a log ever-patiently waiting for a hand. They’re playing “dead solid” and obviously projecting it to everyone but the completely unaware. And they’re costing themselves action and equity when they finally pick up the hand they’re awaiting.

Projecting unpredictability is a different animal. Some accomplish this by making off-the-wall plays early in a session and then adjusting to optimum play. While this works, there is a cost to it, the negative equity of the suboptimal plays. Theorists argue that the cost can be easily made up in the extra action received on subsequent calls. And they’re often right. But sometimes there is an even better way, one that provides greater overall equity. You can create an image of unpredictability by playing in an unpredictable manner, but without using negative-equity plays to project that image. Instead, unearth positive-equity situations to randomize your play.

You can achieve this by making lots of raises for free cards, raising and trapping with draws, making positive-equity semibluff plays, making plus expected value (EV) bluffs and playfully showing them, and by playing all marginal plus EV hands/situations and fashioning impression-making behaviors to draw attention to them. Once you have sown the seeds of doubt into an opponent’s mind that is psychologically predispositioned to gamble, he’s coming along!

Many players try to tilt their opponents. They belittle, insult, and ridicule them trying to cause errors. There is no question this is often effective over the short term. That said, it usually creates an unpleasant atmosphere that drives away the recreational players. Taken as a whole, “needling to tilt” is an overall loser. Poker is a long-run game and you need to treat it that way!

And then there’s the alternate game texture, when your opponents fold too much. In this game, you want to portray yourself as serious, nitty, and unimaginative. You’ll do better over time grinding them down with blind-robs, bluffs, and trap plays than you will trying to induce them to call you when it’s not in their psychological disposition to do so! Played correctly, this texture of game often has better EV than those games with loose calling stations.

There are many subtle tricks to manipulate your opponents’ thinking. Most are situationally dependent, based on your desired result and your opponents’ texture. For example, you might want to instill in your opponents’ minds that you are on tilt after you have just taken a beat and then picked up a big mitt. How you should undertake this scheme depends on your opponents’ awareness level. With some you can just state that you’re on tilt or say “steam raise” and achieve the desired result. But often people will see through such statements and recognize that you’re just trying to manipulate them. With perceptive opponents, a more subtle approach is needed, such as putting more emphasis on your raise, obviously indicating you’re upset, but not being too obvious.

At the poker table, or in life for that matter, you often see people who think they are being perceived as they are projecting. But unknown to them, their manner transparently shows, and the errors they produce are their own. In short, don’t underestimate your opponents and be so obvious that you now can be read correctly. The right balance requires a truthful read of your opponents’ manners.

Additionally, I think it’s important to separate your poker persona from your life persona. As I stated earlier, deception in poker is all understood upfront and generally accepted. But when you train your mind to operate in a manipulative and deceptive manner, your brain often works in that mode in non-poker situations. You need to mindfully differentiate the two, otherwise you’ll find yourself not the person you desire to be in life.

But, when you sit down at a game ask yourself “what image will work best?” “How can I best project that image to these specific opponents keeping in mind their awareness and judgment levels?” And most importantly, “how can I best exploit that image?”

If you get good at that, you’re going to stack a horde of chips!

Roy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman in 1989. Should you wish to any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-396-6575 or Roy’s e-mail is RealtyAce@aol.com. His website is www.roycooke.com. You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke

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Poker Strategy — No-Limit hold’em Turbos With Mike Leah

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Poker Strategy — Keeping Cool After Getting Short With Grayson Ramage

ABOUT CARDPLAYER, THE POKER AUTHORITY

CardPlayer.com is the world’s oldest and most well respected poker magazine and online poker guide. Since 1988,
CardPlayer has provided poker players with poker strategy, poker news, and poker results. Today, CardPlayer.com
is the best poker information portal for free poker content, offering online poker site reviews and exclusive online
poker bonus deals.

We offer daily poker news, poker professionals’ blogs and tweets, exclusive poker videos, thousands of free poker
articles, as well as coverage from all major poker tournaments in the world. You can also find here poker player
profiles, tournament poker results, poker rules, poker strategy articles, poker books, poker magazines, poker tools
and poker training resources.

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Poker Strategy With Ed Miller: Test The Edge Cases

Ed MillerI was a physics major in college. Physics is very hard — too hard for me it turned out, and I haven’t cracked a physics book since the day I got my degree.

One reason it’s so hard is that much of it is abstract. You’re learning about how the world works, but a lot of what you study in physics are things you can’t see. You write wave functions for the tiny things that make up atoms. These are long equations with multiple variables that purport to describe the behavior of matter. Many times I finished a problem in school by producing a complex equation, and I would think, “I think that’s right. But it could be wrong, and there’s no real way for me to tell. I don’t have any idea what this equation even means!”

I learned a trick to deal with this problem, and it’s a trick I think everyone should learn. It doesn’t apply just to third year physics problem sets. It applies to darn near everything in life that’s more complicated than tic-tac-toe. It’s called testing the edge cases.

Let’s go back to physics for just a moment. (Don’t worry, I’ll spare you a discussion of infinite dimensional Hilbert spaces.)

Say I have written an equation for how far a ball will travel when I throw it on the moon. I know the ball will go further than on the Earth, but how much further? Twice as far? Ten times as far? I don’t have any intuition for the answer, likely because I’ve never thrown a ball on the moon. I want to know if my equation is correct, but I can’t just look at it and tell, because I don’t know what the right answer looks like.

So I test the edge cases. First, I’m going to set the gravity on the moon to zero. If there’s zero gravity, how far does my ball travel? With nothing pulling on it, the ball will go out to infinity. That’s an edge case. I don’t know how far a ball is supposed to travel on the moon, but I do know that if I set the gravity equal to zero, my equation should say the ball goes forever.

If it doesn’t say that, I know I’ve made a mistake and I need to go back and look for it. If it passes this edge case test, however, that’s evidence I did things right.
Now I test another edge case. What happens if I set gravity to infinity? In that case, the ball shouldn’t travel at all. It should just fall immediately to the floor. So if gravity is infinity, my equation should say the distance is zero. I can check that edge case.

I could even check one more edge case. What if I set the gravity the same as it is on earth? Does my equation reduce to one that I know is correct on our planet?

If my equation can pass all three of these edge case tests, then it’s likely (though not guaranteed) that it is correct for all cases — including for gravity on the moon.
So what does this have to do with poker?

It’s simple. Most people play no-limit hold’em with a strategy that they’ve honed over the years. Is their strategy the right strategy? Is it close?

It’s very hard to tell! The game is so complex — even relatively basic no-limit strategies are complex — that it’s nearly impossible just to look at a strategy and say, “Yup, that’s right.” So you should test the edge cases.

What’s an edge case in poker look like? Well, here’s one. “What if my opponent bets every time I check?”

If your strategy is any good, you should win a ton of money against a player who plays like that. That’s a given. If anyone is so crazy, yet so predictable, that they will bet every single time you check, you should be able to crush them.

Here’s the thing. When I sit in a $ 2-$ 5 game, I see most of the regular players playing a strategy that, in my opinion, would actually lose to someone who simply bet when checked to.

Why? Because these players tend to keep betting until they are ready to give up on a pot. Then they check and fold. In many cases, these experienced no-limit players will fold after they check 70 percent of the time or more. So if they played against someone who called along and then bet whenever checked to, the regulars would end up giving up on way too many pots.

How about this one. “What if my opponent raises every time I bet?” How does your strategy do against that player?

Really think about it. What would happen to you if every time you made a bet, you got raised? Would you clean up? You should, of course, since any strong strategy would destroy a maniac like this.

But again, many regular $ 2-$ 5 no-limit players are quite timid against raises. They fold a lot. They call once and then fold to the next bet. I see it again and again. I would say that many regular players out there would lose to someone who played the couldn’t-be-any-simpler strategy of simply raising every bet.

“Now, wait a second, Ed,” you say, “Maybe my strategy would lose to someone who raised every time I bet — for two hands. Then I would adjust and start calling that guy down.”

No doubt, you would. But what if your opponents didn’t make it so obvious. What if they didn’t raise you every time, but just half the time? What about a third of the time? There’s a point where your opponents are taking advantage of your strategy, and you’re not adjusting either. That’s the point where you lose at poker, and you can’t figure out why.

So test the edge cases. You shouldn’t play a strategy that’s vulnerable to someone who just bets every time you check. After every session, write down hands where you fold on the turn or river. Then test the edge case. “What happens if my opponent bets 100 percent of his hands in this situation? Do I usually get him? Or does he usually get me?”

Write down every hand you can hold. Think about what you would do with each one — if you would fold it or not. If you are folding most of them, then your edge case test has failed. Your strategy doesn’t even beat someone who just bets 100 percent of the time. This indicates that you are doing something wrong, and you need to go back and figure it out. What can you change about the way you play that prevents such a simple strategy from beating you?

It’s very hard to look at a complex physics equation and know that it’s right. It’s much easier to check if it’s wrong — by testing edge cases. Poker is the same. You can find the flaws in a strategy by checking edge cases. Use this simple tool to test your play and see what you can find. ♠

Ed’s brand new book, Poker’s 1%: The One Big Secret That Keeps Elite Players On Top, is on sale now at notedpokerauthority.com. Find Ed on Facebook at facebook.com/edmillerauthor and on Twitter @EdMillerPoker.

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Poker Strategy With Dusty Schmidt: The Poker Business Plan

Having a plan can help every poker player. Whether you play in a casino, cardroom, home game, or online, there are great benefits in knowing exactly what you want to get out of poker and how you’re going to get it. Even if you consider yourself a recreational player, it’s a good idea to have a budget for poker and to ensure you can play as much poker as you want without jeopardizing your personal finances. But if you have illusions of playing for a living or for supplemental income, or if you’re a professional player already, then formulating a poker business plan (PBP) is an essential step toward maximizing your profits while minimizing your risk.

Why do so many businesses fail?

Most small businesses lose money over their first year or two of existence. They suck wind. Many of these businesses ultimately fail without ever turning a profit, while others turn the corner and eventually prosper. What separates the winners from the losers?

Every business has a plan of some sort. Its founders begin with an idea of how they’re going to make money and why it’s going to work. Even if their original priority is just to create something cool, there’s a reason they’re putting effort into doing what they’re doing. They have a plan.

Some of these plans exist only in the head of the proprietor. Others involve back-of-the-envelope calculations. The best business plans usually involve much more rigor, requiring significant effort. The result is a written document that can be shown to potential investors.

Why do some detailed plans fail and some hastily contrived plans succeed? As in poker, variance exists in business. But for a plan to succeed, there are two important considerations:

How well do the assumptions match reality?

Do the conclusions follow logically from the assumptions?

Given the fact that you play poker, you should recognize these two considerations. They are why you win or lose at the tables. If your assumptions don’t match reality, that means you’re misreading your opponents’ ranges. Without good assumptions, logic will get you nowhere. But the converse is also true. Your opponent could show you his cards and that would be useless if you fail to understand poker logic. If he moves all-in and shows you a pair of aces against your straight draw, logic will tell you whether to call or fold.

When a plan succeeds, it’s because it is based upon accurate assumptions and uses logic to anticipate potential forms of negative variance. A good plan is not foolproof, but it does minimize risk.

What Is A Poker Business Plan?

If you want to play for a living, your PBP is a statement of how you will support yourself (and possibly your family) by playing poker. It’s a blueprint for success.

The PBP includes all of your expenses, including taxes. It projects your income, taking into account your projected win rate, volume, and variance. Using these same metrics, it dictates what bankroll you require to play at each limit. It can also present a path for growth, declaring how you intend to improve your game, increase your volume, and move up in stakes. It outlines not just how many days a week you will work, but how many weeks a year.

It’s preparation for good months and bad months. It spells out how you will deal with variance. Can you move down in stakes and still meet your goals or will you dig your heels in at a certain minimum limit? If the latter is your choice, the business plan makes sure that you have the bankroll to minimize your chance of failing.

The poker business plan accounts for withdrawals from your bankroll, and calculates how those affect your risk of ruin and your plans for increasing stakes.

Do I Need a Poker Business Plan?

The majority of professional poker players probably became such without putting together a proper business plan. If that’s true, then why should you bother to have one?

First of all, most of these pros at least had an improper business plan. They did some back-of-the-envelope calculations using their estimated win rate and the volume they expected to put in, and came up with numbers that exceeded their expenses. That’s not much of a plan, but it’s better than nothing.

Secondly, things are much more difficult now than they were five or ten years ago. The games get tougher every year, so it’s more important than ever to plan properly. There is still a lot of money to be made in the game of poker, but it’s no longer a walk in the park. It’s a game for hard workers, and a business plan gives you your best chance for success.

Not only will a proper business plan make you more likely to succeed, it will help you maximize that success. A good one can help you plan for growth and prepare for unexpected expenses. It gives you something to draw inspiration from when variance is cruel, and helps you keep your head when you suffer from an overabundance of luck.

What manner of suffering could an overabundance of luck possibly inflict? Overconfidence and lack of perspective. Sticking to your plan will help you deal with the variance rollercoaster that poker players live on. Think of the plan as your seatbelt.

Finally, while your PBP is primarily for personal use, it can be a useful document to produce when you’re applying for a lease, a loan, or a stake. Few people outside of the poker world really understand how it all works, but if you lay it out for them, there’s a chance that they will. It’s a lot more likely than if you just use words. In business, numbers talk.

If you’re a successful poker player, it’s still a good idea to make a business plan. A PBP will help you maximize your profits. But if you play poker for fun, then a plan can help you minimize your losses and set you on the path to winning or breaking even instead of losing.

So no, you don’t need a poker business plan. But if your goal is to thrive, do yourself a favor and make one. In a game that’s all about maximizing your expectation at every turn, start off by maximizing the expectation of your entire path.

How Do I Make A Poker Business Plan?

The simple version requires the following information:

Hourly Win Rate (WR): Your hourly expectation at the tables. Total cash won divided by total hours played.

Hours of Volume (H): How much you plan to play.

Monthly Expenses (E): How much money you need to make before taxes. Start with your expenses, then add the taxes you’ll have to pay. That’s your total monthly nut.

If WR * H > E is a true statement, then you’ve got a chance. Once you take variance into account, you’d prefer your winnings to double your expenses, because there is no certainty in one month’s results. If you’re going pro, you’d do well to have some living expenses set aside so you’re not constantly pulling money out of your bankroll.

If you are or want to be a professional player, you should have a more detailed plan. That’s the subject of Part II.

With over $ 5 million in cash game winnings in his 9-year career, Dusty “leatherass” Schmidt is the consummate grinder. He posted the world’s highest $ 5/$ 10 win rates in 2007 and 2008. In 2007, Dusty became one of the first SuperNova Elites and later became a member of PokerStars Team Online. He is currently the player ambassador for America’s Cardroom. He is the author of Treat Your Poker Like A Business and Don’t Listen To Phil Hellmuth, available at cardoza.com. Schmidt’s newest book, Poker In Practice: Critical Concepts, can be found at pokerinpractice.com. His many poker exploits have made him the subject of a feature article in Sports Illustrated.

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