Archive for March, 2010

Knockout Tournament Strategy Article

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

With “Knockout” or “Bounty” tournaments appearing to become more and more popular online, we thought it might be a good idea to add a strategy article covering these events. You can read that knockout tournament strategy article in our poker strategy section.

The Exaggerations of Online Poker

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

One thing that never ceases to amaze me are the exaggerations that surround online poker (online gambling in general) and the social ramifications of playing the game.

People who are anti-gambling portray online poker (and all online gambling) as the crack cocaine of gambling addiction. “Click your mouse, lose your house” and other dumb phrases are popular. They’ll point to the Greg Hogan case and act like online poker is going to turn college kids into a bunch of bank robbers (bad bank robbers at that). There used to be even talk about how online gambling somehow was used by terrorists as a method of money laundering.

Considering the readership of this blog are online poker players, I don’t think I need to go into detail about why these fears are exaggerated/outright stupid.

On the flip side, people that are pro-online poker exaggerate the benefits of online poker, and the benefits of online poker becoming regulated.

First, let’s talk about what online poker is. It’s primariliy a form of entertainment. Most people spend money on it. Some people spend too much, but most spend as much as they would expect. Think about it. Even if you are loser at online poker, if you divide the amount spent/hours played, it’s likely much less than you spend going to a night club. And what’s more fun- gambling or having a beer spilled on you by some drunk douchebag? Some people win a little money, but at the end of the day, it’s a -EV game because of the rake. But everything that is ‘entertainment’ and not ‘work’ is -EV. Two hours at a strip club = much more -EV than 20 hours of online poker for most guys.

There are some mental benefits to playing online poker, such as an appreciation of risk/reward and calculating probabilities, but let’s not exaggerate these too much either. I know many great poker players that are still idiots at life. Poker skills are not super transferable, and you don’t need to play poker to understand expected value and variance.

Now, let’s go back to online poker regulation. What would happen if online poker was fully legalized in a country like the United States…where online poker sites were operated like a casino is in Nevada? Would we all turn into horrible degenerates like the anti-online gambling zealots act like? Of course not…in fact, not too many more people would play in general.

On the flip side, I don’t see much good it would do either. Deposits/cashouts would be easier, but that’s about it. All of the regulation and taxes on the industry would likely be transferred onto us in the form of higher rakes. In fact, many sites would choose not to be regulated and would just operate as-is. Why would PokerStars choose to pay higher tax when they can just avoid the regulators like they do currently?

It’s been about seven years since online poker went mainstream. In that time, how much of an effect has online poker had on the social welfare of society? How much has regulation affected the industry as a whole? The answer to both questions is near zero. The industry has changed a lot from within, but that’s about it. Some companies benefited from the UIGEA (cough Full Tilt) while those that pulled out of the US got hurt. Online poker hasn’t turned everyone into a bunch of gambling degenerates, just like making more money doesn’t turn people into sex addicts (South Park reference for those confused).

So my question, dear reader, is it online poker that lends itself to vast exaggerations? Or do people just exaggerate everything in general?

After the intense health care debate in the US and the exaggerated arguments from both sides, I’m leaning towards people are just idiots in general.

Phil Hellmuth Rivered at WPT Final Table

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

The final table of the World Poker Tour’s (WPT) Bay 101 Shooting Star event concluded yesterday. Arriving at the televised final table of six with the second largest chip stack was none other than 11 time World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth. Here were the chip stacks at the start of play:

Seat 1. Hasan Habib – 455,000
Seat 2. Phil Hellmuth – 1,433,000
Seat 3. Andy Seth – 2,164,000
Seat 4. Matt Keikoan – 371,000
Seat 5. Mclean Karr – 1,112,000
Seat 6. Dan O’Brien – 1,129,000

Not too far into the start of the final table, Hellmuth clashed with Andy ‘BKiCe’ Seth. Here’s how the action unfolded according to the World Poker Tour Live Updates (my emphasis):

Phil Hellmuth completes the small blind to 20,000, Andy Seth raises from the big blind to 80,000, and Hellmuth reraises to 280,000. Seth thinks for a bit before he moves all in, and Hellmuth calls with QQ. Seth shows AJ, and he’ll need to improve to bust Hellmuth and claim his bounty.

The flop comes K65, and Hellmuth retains the lead. The turn card is the 10, giving Seth additional outs to a gutshot straight.

The river card is — the A of hearts!

The crowd explodes in reaction, while Hellmuth just sits at the table, stunned. Hellmuth slowly takes off his sunglasses, takes a deep breath, and shakes hands with the other players at the table.

Then Hellmuth steps off the stage, kneels down, and drops down to the floor in a little ball. The other players expected a blowup, but not this. Someone asks if he needs a doctor, and Seth asks, “Do you think he’ll sign my bounty shirt?”

Needless to say, that hand will probably make for exciting TV when it eventually airs on Fox Sports Net.

Andy Seth went on to finish runner-up to Mclean Karr. Here are the full results from the final table:

1st: McLean Karr – $878,500
2nd: Andy “BKiCe” Seth – $521,200
3rd: Dan O’Brien – $292,800
4th: Hasan Habib – $234,300
5th: Matt Keikoan – $175,700
6th: Phil Hellmuth – $117,000

The Poker Brat’s quest for a WPT title has yet to come to an end. This was his fourth appearance at a WPT final table. The closest he came to winning an event was a 3rd place finish at Foxwoods in Season 2.

How to Start a Poker Blog

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

So you wanna start a poker blog? That’s cool. Blogging can be a great way to gain a fan base, chronicle your path as a poker player, or even just release some frustration. I’ve maintained a poker blog for nearly three years now. One thing it’s taught me is that blogging isn’t easy. It’s given me a greater appreciation for poker bloggers like Daniel Negreanu and Shannon Shorr. Delivering good content on such a regular basis is harder than it might seem!

The first thing to determine if you want to start a blog is whether to do it on a standalone URL or host through a site like Blogger. Both sides have their pros and cons. With a standalone URL, you’ll have a little more flexibility as well as a cooler URL. The downside is that it costs money for the URL (about $10) and hosting (varies, but you shouldn’t have to pay more than a few dollars per month). Blogger is free.

If you are serious about starting a poker blog that you hope to direct a lot of traffic to, I would recommend a standalone URL and the blogging software WordPress which will give you way more flexibility with regards to customizing your site than Blogger. If you’re not taking the blog too seriously and are just doing it for fun, using the free site Blogger might be a better option for you.

Once you have your blog set-up, it’s time to start writing content. If you want to maintain a blog that generates a lot of interested, returning readers, here are a few tips:

1. Don’t focus too much on specific poker hands. All poker players have ran Kings into Aces. All poker players have seen an opponent hit a two outter on the river for a big pot. This doesn’t really make for interesting blog material. As a rule of thumb, I would avoid complaining extensively about bad beats if you hope to keep readers interested. For that matter, try to avoid talking too much about your specific poker sessions. Blog entries that contain nothing but updates on your $0.25/$0.50 session with hand histories and complaining just aren’t very interesting. Try to talk about poker in a more broad sense. Share your opinion on the latest current events in poker or give readers tips to help them succeed. For example, if you’re a really good 5 Card Draw player, talk about 5 Card Draw strategy, not just the results of your sessions.

2. Less is more. Avoid the temptation to be long-winded. The shorter and more concise your entries are, the more likely readers will read the entire entry and one day return to your blog.

3. Try to swap links with other bloggers. If you want traffic generated to your blog, you’ll need lots of links. Poker bloggers are often keen to the idea of linking to your blog if you’ll link to theirs in return.

4. Post interesting videos and images (while obeying copyright laws, of course). A picture is worth a thousand words. A video is worth ten thousand. Use this to your advantage.

5. Write in an organized, logical structure. Take this numbered list for example. It is laid out logically and straightforward with the main point emphasized in bold letters. Readers are much more likely to make it this far in the entry than they would be if it was just long paragraph after long paragraph.

6. Update as often as you reasonably can. The hardest part of blogging, as you’ll discover, is keeping your blog current. Make every effort you can to post an update at least once a week. Blogs that go long periods without being updated quickly fall out of people’s minds.

If you are interested in starting a poker blog and would like some assistance, can help. We can either a.) set up a blog for you on a standalone URL or b.) set up a blog for you on a PokerTips domain (example: In exchange for this we only ask for permission to post an occasional link to PokerTips on your blog. Just like I mentioned in point #3 about the value of links going to your poker blog, they’re valuable to us as well! If you’re interested in this, email me at cory[AT]pokertips[DOT]org or send me a private message, I’m “Ozone” on our poker forums, and I would be happy to help you get started.

My First Double Soul Read

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010

I’ve been meaning to write this a while ago, but I wanted my Vegas trip report finished first. This was about a year ago at a charity cash game. I was sitting on a stack of $300. Villain 1 had roughly $200 and Villain 2 had me covered by a lot, lets say he had $400 or so.

My reads going into this hand were this – Villain 1 was either 18 or 19 and with his dad. He didn’t have a whole lot of live experience due to his age, but it seemed as though his competent father had taught him basic strategy fairly well. Villain 2 was probably the only good player at the table, he had plenty of live experience, knew the basic tells, knew his odds, didn’t make any big mistakes, etc.

I was the big blind, Villain 1 was in mid position, Villain 2 was the dealer. It folded to Villain 1 who raises to $10. Villain 2 called. I looked down to see my favorite hand, Ace-Nine of hearts. Normally in this position, I’d probably fold, but since it’s my favorite hand, and two other players were in the hand, I thought I’d take a stab and call.

Flop comes out 8h 4h Ts giving me the nut flush draw. Not a bad hand for me, so I led out for $20. Villain 1 shakes a bit and calls. Hmmm… he is stronger than he’s leading on, probably hit his ten, and maybe has a flush draw as well. I put him on something Jack-Ten of hearts. Villain 2 confidently raised to $40. Min raise, that’s odd, he wants us in. But why raise so small with a set when there are two hearts on the board? Well maybe he wasn’t as good as I gave him credit for. We both called.

So now there’s roughly $150 in the pot. I have about $250, Villain 1 has about $150, Villain 2 still has me covered with roughly $350. Turn is 2h. I see Villain 1 kind of jump a bit. Yeah, he has Th xh, probably the jack. Villain 2 doesn’t do a whole lot – not surprising for him. I hem and haw and try to figure out how to extract. I decide a small bet will get raised and opt for a $40 bet. Villain 1 calls. Interesting, he wants Villain 2 to call. Villain 2 raises to $100. Okay, he has trips, probably 8′s maybe 4′s. So now I have Villain 1 and 2 figured out for what they have. This isn’t the double soul read part though.

Now I know I can eventually get Villain 1′s money, but I’m still vulnerable to Villain 2 if the board pairs. I know Villain 1 hasn’t read “Caro’s Book of Tells” and whether or not Villain 2 has, he would see right through what I’m about to do. I pretend to tank for a bit knowing exactly what to do. I say, “aww F it, I’m all in.” Villain 1 hears what I say and since he isn’t familiar with deception, he thinks I’m on a draw and probably have a pair as well. He decides to call, which pushes him all in. Villain 2 is quite familiar with Caro’s rule #1 whether he knows it or not. He sees my overtly obvious attempt to look weak, which means I’m strong and puts me on the ace high flush and since Villain 1 called, puts him on the lower flush. Villain 2 still tanks for a while trying to figure out if it’s worth calling knowing that at the very least, one of us has him beat and he has 10 outs for his boat or quads, but probably one or two less since we may have had pairs as well. He ends up folding and shows his pocket 8′s.

We both flip over our cards. He sees my nut flush against his Jack-Ten of hearts and mumbles about how he thought I was on a draw and looks at his dad almost as though it was his dad’s fault for not teaching him about obvious deception. Isn’t Caro’s first rule something like: “determine if the player is being sincere, if they aren’t, then do the opposite of what they want you to do?” Anyway, Villain 2 nodded his head when he saw the nut flush as though he made the correct read. Then the river card was a 4 pairing the board and giving Villain 2 the boat had he stayed in the hand. Villain 2 kind of let out a “crap I should have stayed in” type expression and I scooped up the $400 pot.

So the first soul read was knowing if I pushed, Villain 1 would call. The second part was knowing I could get Villain 2 to fold by pushing, AND that the board would pair on the river, because that’s what always happens to me. So, why put people on ranges, when you can read right into their soul and put them on an exact hand? Now if I can only do that on every big hand that I’m in, I could quit my day job!