Tripling Up Early is Fun

I recently went to the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, MI a few weeks ago to meet a few guys for a bachelor party. I hadn’t played poker in a VERY long time; mostly because I can’t ever get enough people to play live and because online poker has been shut down.

It was a Friday afternoon, say around 4 or 5pm, so the tables that were running were minimal: there were 3, 1-2 tables with a $500 max buy-in. Now, I’m a proponent of and a strong believer in always sitting down with the max. But, after looking around the table at the stack sizes, I just bought in for the typical 1-2 max: $200.

Before I sat down at the table, I watched a few hands. Lots of limping pre-flop, lots of checking post-flop. I figured this was a good table to sit at because I could try to take advantage of all the limping, calling, and checking.

My first hand I’m in the cut-off and fold with crap. The second hand, however, is where things got fun. In the big blind, I was dealt 88. The cut-off limps, and about 3 or 4 more people limp, including the small blind. I figured in the BB with that many people in the hand, and it being my 2nd hand, I’ll just go ahead and set-mine, so I checked my big blind. And, if the flop was scary and I didn’t hit big, I’d just fold and play the next hand.

Flop comes Q55 rainbow. The SB checks, so do I, and so does everyone else. The turn…an eight. Just turned a boat. The SB throws out $5. I contemplate raising here, but there are so many people left to play behind me, I don’t want to scare anyone off just yet. After all, someone could be slow-playing a five.

I call the $5 bet and the cut-off immediatly raises it to $25. Beautiful. Everyone folds around to the SB who calls…even better. I jack it up to around $80 or so. I don’t think flat calling is the right move here because with two callers and one who insta-raised, one of them has to have a 5 and think they’re good (as long as they don’t have QQ or 55!). The cut-off insta-calls me and the SB thinks a bit and calls too, putting himself all-in.

I’m putting the cut-off on a five, but I’m not sure with what hand the SB is hesitant to call. Surely he’s not bad enough at this point to call with AQ? Maybe he has a five too? Who knows.

The river is a blank and I shove the rest of my $200 stack saying, “this is either going to be the quickest poker I’ve ever played, or the best triple up I’ve made in awhile” just to put the cut-off a little bit on tilt in case I win.

The cut-off looks a bit disgusted, but calls me.

Before I reveal what the cut-off had (obviously I had the best hand because of the title of this post), think about my play. If this were a table of semi-decent players, they would have noticed how transparent I played my hand. I mean, I called/re-raised? I’m either really dumb, or have a monster; there’s no way in hell I’m doing that with AQ. I got to at least have a strong five in my hand or something much better.

Anyway, I flipped my eights over and the cut-off flips over 95. 95!!! HA! Really? 95? Couldn’t he have thought I had T5? Anyway, the SB didn’t show his hand, but he said he had a five, too, and I ended up with almost $600 after my second hand at the table.

There are some lessons here. This hand is a perfect example as to a) why you never limp from the cut-off; and b) why you never limp with a hand like 95 from the cut-off when you’re not that good of a player and can’t recognize that your trip 5s just might not be good enough.

$1-$2 tables are a lot of fun and as long as you’re not stupid with your money and paying attention, it’s usually an easy pay day.

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Online Poker and the US Government

Some of you may have read recently that the US Government has indicted the founders of online poker companies such as PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker for fraud. In a nutshell, the government is saying that these eleven founders are guilty of “bank fraud” and “money laundering”. Here is the article in its entirety.

What does this mean for the future of online poker? Well, I am not the one to answer that question; though I’m sure it cannot be good. What strikes me as interesting is that everyone should have seen this coming for years now.

In 2006 when the US Government during the Bush Administration put into law, quite deceitfully, I may add, the anti-online gaming ban, which was buried deep in the SAFE Port Act, many online poker sites shut their doors to US customers. But, these triumvirs kept their doors open to US citizens. Whether it was their intention or not, this public act of defiance seemed a slap in the face to the US Government. Anyone, including these eleven founders, who believed that the US government would sit idly in D.C. while these contumacious poker gods continued to service US customers was kidding themselves.

The moment the triumvirate blatantly refused to shut down when given the opportunity, it is conceivable to believe that the government immediately began to put a case together to get the online poker sites shut down in any way they could – and what a case they have.

“As charged, these defendants concocted an elaborate criminal fraud scheme, alternately tricking some U.S. banks and effectively bribing others to assure the continued flow of billions in illegal gambling profits,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement.

Regardless if you agree or disagree with the law, these online poker sites broke US law; and, if you’re a law-abiding citizen, then it is easy to say that they deserve to be prosecuted. I am no expert, but I can see the writing on the wall. Unless the founders can produce some Johnny Cochran-like attorneys, it is likely when all is said and done that all three sites will be shut down, at a minimum, to US customers.

So, get your online poker on while you can.

On a tangential note, the US government has huge debt. By regulating online poker, one can imagine how much money the government could make in taxes just off of the poker sites’ profits alone. I am not one for the government to get in the way of my online poker playing, but if it keeps online poker available to US citizens, government regulation most definitely beats the alternative.

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NL2 – A Discovery

Playing at NL2 lately has been quite a change for me. The adjustment period has been, well, strange, I guess would be the optimal word.

The level of play between NL2 and NL50 is quite different and I’ve had to severly adjust my style of play to accomodate the change.

There is one thing that I’ve learned at this level and that’s most of the people playing at this level 3-bet way too light and will call 4-bets with much worse than what I’m holding.

So, with this discovery, if I raise pre-flop with AA, KK, AKs, AKo (and sometimes AQs or QQ, depending on the player), and I get 3-bet, I’m just going to 4-bet shove.

Why?

Most of the time, I’m going to get called with much worse.

Obviously, like with anything in poker, this isn’t always going to work. Sometimes I’ll do this with my KK and they’ll turn up with AA. It happens.

But, for the most part, and, again, depending on the player, I’ll 4-bet shove my premium hands in NL2 all day and will almost always come out profitable.

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Don’t Tap the Fish Tank!

As your skill level increases, you will begin to distinguish between great players, good players, beginners, and just downright awful players. For the latter of these players, we have a term for them.

Fish.

Fish are your table’s ATMs if you play them properly and treat them properly.

This post was originally geared toward beginners, but all too often I see and hear about good players violating the topic of this post. So, this really is for everyone.

DON’T TAP THE FISH TANK!

What happens in a real fish tank when you hit or tap on the glass? The fish get pissed or scared and swim away.

Too many people feel it is their job to berate and humiliate the bad players at a table when they make a bad move against them. They get mad because they’re such a good and smart player and they can’t believe this fish just sucked out on them.

Well, if you’re berating the fish, you’re not as smart as you think.

First of all, why, at the poker table, would you want to tell someone how to play better? That’s just stupid.

You want the fish to continue to play poorly.

And secondly, why would you want to tap the fish tank? You want these players to stick around as long as possible. Berating their play and humiliating them will likely make them leave the table. Then you will be the one getting an earful from the rest of the table.

Look, Phil Hellmuth and Mike Matasow are superb players. Emulate their styles, their reasoning abilities, their skill sets; but never emulate their behaviors towards fish when they are at the table.

You want the fish to stick around. Unless they’re positive, keep your thoughts to yourself and the fish will stay.

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Playing the Player: The Tight Wad

Tight Wad. Nit. Scardy Cat. Whatever you want to call them, this type of player is probably the easiest type of player you can face at a table. Play them correctly and you will be profitable.

With the Tight Wad, you likely will not win huge pots off of them, but you should be able to win many small/medium pots over the course of a session.

Tight Wads only play premium hands. Hands like AK, AQ, KQ, or any pairs like TT or higher. They fold often pre-flop to any action and fold if they don’t hit a flop. They, typically, will play maybe 10 percent of their hands at a table.

How do we conquer the Tight Wad? First things first: position. You want this type of player on your left. Preferably, directly to your left. This way, you can steal their blinds relentlessly. You can also be assured that when you raise, they’ll fold, or if you bet post-flop, they’ll likely fold. But, you should be able to play this player from any position.

Next, what hands should you play against this player? I would recommend you fold any hands that are easily dominated. For example: AQ…A2, KQ, KJ, KT, K9. Let’s just say you should avoid any broadway cards against this player that’s not AK or AQs. I might consider JT just because you could hit 789 or QKA on the board.

As a beginner, I would tell you to fold anything that’s not a pocket pair, AKs, AKo, AQs. As an intermediate/more experienced player, I would tell you to mix it up against these guys. You can play 78o, for example, because if the flop is 3 4 9, you can bet with confidence that the Tight Wad will fold because this flop would miss so much of his range that he will fold.

Next, the blinds. If you have Tight Wads in the blinds and you’re the button and it’s folded around to you, raise every time! No matter what you have. 72? Yes, raise. You’re not playing your cards, you’re playing the player. This type of player is going to be folding over 90% of their hands in the blinds. Keep doing this until they show resistance (yes, even Tight Wads will eventually grow tired of you stealing their blinds). But, until they do, steal those blinds mercilessly. If they call you, tread carefully. If they re-raise you, then you can let the hand go.

Finally, don’t bluff these guys more than once in a hand. If you bluff the flop and they call, don’t bluff the turn. They have you beat and are going to call. Along those same lines, you want to try to set-mine these players. Call a raise pre-flop with 44 because if the flop comes K 4 A, you’re going to get paid by his AK, AQ, AJs, KQs, etc and you can fold if you don’t hit and they show aggression.

To summarize, Tight Wads are easy to play against and predictable. Try to have them on your left, if possible. But playing against them from any position should be easy. Beginners, play only premium hands against them. More seasoned players, open your range a bit and play hands small suited connectors and small suited one-gap connectors because you should be able to read the board texture and tell if the flop hit the Tight Wad. But, in all, avoid playing those dominated broadway cards.

Run if they show aggression, bet if they check. These players play very straight-forward and you should be able to be profitable against them.

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Bankroll Management

In poker, you hear a lot about strategy. What are the right moves to make in certain situations? When should I semi-bluff? Forums upon forums can be found on the internet on poker strategies and hand analyses. But there’s one very important topic that most beginners miss out on.

Bankroll Management.

This is a very important topic as it will help you prevent yourself from putting in deposit after deposit in to your favorite online poker site.

This is something I struggled with years ago when I first started playing online and I wish I had someone to tell me how to do it properly.

The basics of managing your bankroll involve not playing with more than you can afford. I know this seems logical, but in reality it’s difficult for many to implement.

Many people, if they lose ½ of their initial deposit, will try to get it all back in one session by playing stakes that are higher than they should be playing. This is not how you can effectively manage your bankroll.

If you want to build a bankroll, there is a superb graphic created by two professionals, INSPIRON and JimmyRare, called “The Stairway to High Stakes®”. It is a magnificent way to look at your bankroll and how to properly manage it.

The Stairway to High Stakes®

Here’s how to read the chart.

First of all, deposit $60.00 and start playing NL2. NL2 is $0.01/$0.02 No Limit Hold’Em. While at this level, you’ll notice that I cannot move to the next level (NL5 – $0.02/$0.05) until I build my bankroll to $150.00. Also notice there are four different cashout points at each level.

For example, I deposit $60.00 and start playing at NL2. When my bankroll reaches $110, I will cashout $31.00 and build my bankroll up to $120.00. When I reach that milestone, I will cashout another $31.00. I build to $130.00 and cash out $31.00, then build to $140.00 and cashout $32.00. Once I build my bankroll up to $150.00, I move up to the next level. While at the next level, if my bankroll drops to $125.00, I will move back down to NL2 and try to get back to $150.00 again before I move back to NL5.

Doing this affords you two things: 1) It ensures you manage your bankroll effectively; 2) It forces you to play many hands at a particular level so you don’t move up to the next level when you’re not ready to do so.

I cannot stress the importance of both of these items and item #2 listed above is another reason why beginners’ bankroll management suffers: they’re not ready for the higher levels.

So, follow this chart, deposit only what you can afford, and only play at a level that is within your skill set. Sure, you might be able to afford depositing $300.00, but are you ready to start playing at NL10 ($0.05/$0.10)? Unless you’ve played poker online a ton, you may quickly find that you are not ready.

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Tournament Hand Discussion #1

I was recently watching an instructional video by an online pro who was playing in an online tournament. He got to a particular hand that I thought was interesting and wanted to get your take on it. So, here’s the hand.

The hero is in middle position with 7507 in chips and the villain is on the button with 9890. Hero, obviously, is a pro, and villain seemed a pretty solid player himself.

Hero has AK of spades. It’s folded around to hero. Hero makes his standard raise to 385.

It folds around to the villain, who calls, and the blinds fold. There is 995 in the pot heads-up.

The flop is 7c 7s Tc. Our hero is first to act and he bets 425 into the pot. Villain smooth calls the 425.

The turn brings the 3s. Now hero has the nut flush draw.

Hero fires again into the pot. This time he bets 1200. After nearly exhausting his time bank, villain shoves all-in for 9080.

Hero deliberates for a long time. He asks himself, “Is there any way I could ever have the best hand here?” A good question. He answers his own question, “I have no idea. It seems like the answer to that question is ‘no’.”

Here I paused the video to think about what the villain could have. After pondering it for a few moments, I put the villain on one of three hands. I resumed the video and our hero ended up calling. The villain ended up having, amazingly enough, exactly one of the three hands I put him on.

So, here are the questions:

  1. Do you agree or disagree with Hero’s 425 bet after the flop? Why?
  2. Do you agree or disagree with Hero’s 1200 bet after the turn? Why?
  3. Do you agree or disagree with Hero’s call of the villain’s all-in shove? Why?
  4. What hand(s) or hand-range do you think the villain could be shoving with here?

It should be worth nothing that these two just got in a big pot the hand immediately before this one where the Hero called an over bet to the pot on the river with 99 and the villain ended up rivering a straight. Our Hero was really confused by the overbet on the river. May have knocked him off his game a bit.

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