Archive for October, 2012

Creating a Crazy Table Image for Cheap

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

People don’t play aggressive enough in the early stages of a poker tournament. There are a few benefits to playing aggressive while chip stacks are still deep enough so you’re never putting that much of your stack at risk. Those benefits are:

  • you’ll win chips against players unwilling to commit a large percentage of their stack with marginal holdings
  • you help set up an erratic table image when in truth you’re never risking that much of your stack
  • getting paid off in big pots is easier when you have the nuts since your opponents are tired of your shenanigans

So how do you go about being more aggressive in tournaments? Try the 15% rule: bluff often as long as never more than 15% of your chips are going into the pot.

Bluff, bluff, bluff, and bluff some more. The goal is to make your opponents’ lives a living hell while ripening them up to play a big pot against you when you actually have a hand.

Here are the three concrete example of hands where the 15% rule can be applied:

Hand #1

Blinds: 50/100
Stack: 8,000

It folds to your opponent in middle position who raises to 225. You are in the cutoff with Jack-Nine offsuit. The players yet to act all have at least 30 big blinds and have been playing tight. Re-raise! Re-raise your opponent to 550. Screw him. This is your pot. One of two things is likely to happen: he calls your raise or folds to your raise. If he calls, make a continuation bet of 650. Odds are in your favor that he will fold. If he calls or re-raises, now you re-evaluate your plan with the hand since you’ve already reached the 15% ceiling of how far you’re willing to go to win this pot while bluffing. But in a majority of cases, it won’t ever reach this point.

Hand #2

Blinds: 75/150
Stack: 13,500

Your opponent raises to 400 from the cutoff. You call in the big blind with Ace-Ten offsuit. The flop comes King-Seven-Three rainbow. You check and your opponent bets 500. Screw him. This is your pot. Raise! Raise to 1,200. That play looks super-strong. The only realistic holdings of your opponent that he will continue with are top pair or a set. Everything else he’s folding to a check-raise on a board this dry. That’s a lot of hands he’s continuation betting with and folding to a check-raise with.

If he calls, all hope is not lost. You’ve got a decent chance of seeing a free river after you check the turn. Aces are live outs for you if he checks behind the turn and even a Ten could give you the best hand. But when you consider that he might even fold two Queens to your flop check-raise, it becomes apparent what a strong play this can be.

Hand #3

Blinds: 200/400 ante: 50
Stack: 24,000

Oooh, antes. Now we’re having fun.

Your opponent raises to 900 in middle position. The two players in the blinds each have more than 25 big blinds and have played tight, so you call on the button with Seven-Six of hearts. The flop comes Ace-Nine-Five with one heart. Your opponent bets 1,150. You guessed it: screw him, raise! Raise to 2,400 and send a message to your opponent that if he wants to continue with this hand, it’s going to be an expensive pot for him. He’ll fold most holdings that aren’t a strong Ace and he’ll only raise with a set. That’s a lot of folds and very rarely a raise.

If he calls, you’ve still got outs and will likely get to see the river for free after you check-behind the turn. You’ll probably win this pot on the flop, but if you don’t, you will occasionally win a huge pot when you draw an Eight or run out hearts. Have fun showing that hand down and sending a message to your table that you’re capable of showing up with anything.

When Not to Bluff

Sometimes, bluffing is dumb. The bluffing we advocate with the 15% rule is not meant to be applied to any and every situation. You need the right scenario for it to be a smart play. Here are examples of when bluffing can be a mistake:

  • when you’re facing multiple opponents in a hand
  • on strong action-flops where even if your opponent doesn’t have a made hand he could have a strong draw
  • when your opponent simply never folds (don’t bluff these players, just wait till you have a nice hand and punish them with value bets)
  • when your table image is so crazy that no one is going to believe you actually have a hand
  • when players yet-to-act who remain in the hand are short stacked to the point that if they re-raised all-in you would be pot-committed to call with garbage

Use the 15% rule wisely and it’s unlikely to lead you astray. There will be tricky situations where you’re required to play some poker after your bluff turns into a showdown-able hand. Re-evaluate those situations and make solid decisions. There will also be situations where you’re forced to tuck your tail between your legs and give up on the hand.

But when the worst thing that can happen by playing a little creatively in a hand is that you lose 15% of your stack, big deal. The upsides counteract this potential “disaster” scenario. So loosen up a little and start bullying your opponents around!

Johnny Chan Reality TV Show

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

After years of uninspiring results on the poker felt, legend Johnny Chan has turned to reality television. The ten-time WSOP bracelet winner appears, along with Doyle Brunson, in a “sizzle reel” for a new poker reality show called Full House with Johnny Chan. And it looks… atrocious.

Have a watch. But be warned, this sets new record highs on the Douchiness Meter. We can’t promise you’ll be able to handle it.

“Hi. I’m Johnny Chan. I am the most famous poker player in the world.”

Was this even true in 1990?

Full House with Johnny Chan must be on a pretty tight production budget if this is the best they can do in terms of female* sex appeal on the show. There have to be 50,000 women in Vegas who would be easier on the eyes.

Newsflash to Johnny Chan and producers of this show: you’re about five years too late trying to capitalize on the Vegas douchebag bubble.

The trailer for this show gets so bad that it becomes unwatchable. One is left to wonder if this show is even real or if Johnny Chan just lost a clever prop bet? Chan himself has not shown his hand one way or another; his Twitter account hasn’t been updated in months. Doyle Brunson chimed in on Twitter regarding role in this “production” saying, “I have no clue about this show. Chan asked me, we are friends so I said ok. I didn’t even know what the taping was for.”

It appears at least one person is trying to distance themselves from this show already. Our advice for everyone else involved would be to do the same!

*It’s debatable, right?

PokerStars Will Not Pay Money Owed To Former FTP Affiliates

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

In a somewhat surprising move, PokerStars has made a decision not to pay money owed to former Full Tilt Poker affiliates.

Most affiliates are small website operators who promoted Full Tilt in order to bring in players ( made the decision to stop running Full Tilt advertisements long before Black Friday hit due to the risks FTP was taking by serving the US market after the UIGEA).

It’s unclear how much money was owed to FTP affiliates, and if there are other factors at play in this decision. This move will likely create a lot of hostility between PokerStars and a major part of the poker world. Since affiliates stiffed by FTP (and now PokerStars) likely won’t wish to promote FTP once it goes live, this strategy may backfire on PokerStars, since affiliate advertising has traditionally been a major driver of traffic to online poker sites (though not PokerStars as much).

PokerStars is  still fully repaying both US players and non-US players (though US players have to go through the DOJ). It seems since affiliates were not covered under the DOJ agreement, PokerStars may have made the decision that they simply did not feel liable for that money owed and did not wish to dig into their pockets to make affiliates whole. They may also not want to sever all previous rakeback deals and this is one way to go about it. Perhaps there are some other factors in play, but these are the sorts of bad things that happen to an industry when one company has a near monopoly.

New Full Tilt Signs Viktor Blom Explaining Release from PokerStars

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

In August, PokerStars inexplicably cut ties with one of its most famed sponsored pros Viktor ‘Isildur1′ Blom. At the time, it was hard to imagine the reasons behind the severed sponsorship. After all, Blom is one of the biggest legends in online poker history who attracts a sea of rail-birds wherever he goes. How could PokerStars let Blom slip through their fingers?

It now appears that question has an answer.

This week, Full Tilt Poker added Blom and fellow online high-stakes legend Tom ‘durrrr’ Dwan to its stable of ‘The Professionals’ that already included Gus Hansen. Hansen and Dwan were two former members of Team Full Tilt whose reputations emerged from the site’s meltdown mostly in tact or even strengthened in Hansen’s case. As the new owners of Full Tilt Poker, it now appears PokerStars had a strategy in mind when they “released” Blom in August.

Step 1: Release Viktor Blom
Step 2: Wait a couple of months
Step 3: Sign him under the new site we just acquired
Step 4: ???
Step 5: Profit!

It’s a pretty slick marketing move by PokerStars, but one should expect nothing less from them. The largest online poker room has proven over the years that they know what they’re doing when it comes to marketing. Recently, the site signed tennis star Rafa Nadal and shortly thereafter used his likeness to release the best poker TV commercial ever produced.

While one does not begrudge PokerStars the right to do as they please from a marketing standpoint with the two sites they now own, it does seem dubious to act as if PokerStars and Full Tilt are two distinctly different operations. It would be nice if they would rename Full Tilt Poker to PokerStars Too. Get it? It’s a linguistics maneuver. In speech, it sounds like “PokerStars 2″ but in text what the name indicates is “yes, this site is PokerStars also.”

We’ll be here all week, folks.

Jason Somerville Coaching WSOP Final Table Player, Filming It

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

2012 WSOP Main Event Final Table player Russell Thomas has hired poker pro Jason Somerville to coach him before the tournament concludes at the end of this month. In an interesting twist, Somerville is making a series of films highlighting the experience.

Episode one of ‘The Final Table’ is available now on YouTube and can be watched below:

Thomas sits in the middle of the pack when play resumes at the end of this month. The 24 year old will start the final table with 12.5% of the chips in play, good for 4th place in the chip counts.

Somerville commented on Twitter about the experience of coaching Thomas and making this film, “I’ve spent more time on this project than anything else I’ve ever done and I’m really proud of it.”

We’ll find out soon if the coaching help provided to Russell Thomas by Somerville has paid off. The WSOP Main Event Final Table resumes from Rio in Las Vegas on October 28th.

Poker Boom 2.0?

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Ok, let’s not kid ourselves. We’re not about to be set for another poker boom, but  there are some nice changes that we can look forward to.

First, we have a date for the Full Tilt relaunch. Within a month, over a hundred million dollars will flood the poker economy. Just think about that. It’s a sort-of stimulus plan for the poker world. Tens of thousands  (if not more) people will suddenly have a significant cash infusion in their pocket. That should certainly create some gamble in people and interest in poker.

Second, the date of for legal poker in the US is officially coming. Within a few months, legal online poker will be played in Nevada. It’s only a matter of time before it spreads to a few other states. So not only are ex-Full Tilt players suddenly receiving over a hundred million dollars to play with, Americans will soon be able to once again open their wallets and play (at least in a few states and at a few sites).

Neither of these circumstances were a given. The poker world has  hit a few outs for the better for once. Before we all celebrate like it’s 2005 again, I hope we have all learned from the mistakes of the past and can perhaps use this bit of good news to reinvigorate poker.

No, this isn’t a lecture about not playing at sites that illegally accept US players. I think everyone’s learned that lesson. For this boom to catch on, we need to hope the poker rooms have really learned what killed online poker in the first place.

Difficult games.

Poker’s a negative sum game. There’s nothing that can change that. One man’s gain is another man’s loss and considering everyone has to pay rake, most people will end up losers. However, in the past, by letting players multi-table and use HUDs and tracking notes, poker rooms have essentially allowed the sharks to gobble up the fish quickly. Yes, the fish were going to lose anyways, but it’s one thing to lose 2 big blinds an hour and another to lose 10. The loss rate was simply unacceptable for most casual players, which is why they left in droves.

It’s not like the poker rooms didn’t see this coming. Back in 2003, one could hardly find a game above $1-$2 no-limit and a lot of sites restricted player notes and multi-tabling. Eventually, the short term greed of the poker rooms took over and the need to generate as much rake as possible to impress potential investors sewed the seeds for allowing rampant multi-tabling and the eventual destruction of easy games.

We have one good shot at bringing poker back. Between a huge surge of cash and a renewed US market, there’s a chance poker can really be mainstream again. However, for that to happen, it needs to be fun for the masses….and fun means affordable. Protect the fish. Use anonymous tables if needbe. Do whatever it takes so that the sharks have the least advantage possible.

In the long run, this works best for everyone in the poker industry. Since the recreational player sticks around, the shark can gently sheer him instead of skinning him and having to constantly play against other tough players since that’s all that’s left. The poker rooms may make less rake in the short term but certainly more in the long term. In short, casual players will stick around and lose their $100 or so a month at poker instead of blowing that on sports betting or other vices.

The next twelve months may set the stage of poker boom 2.0. Let’s just hope we all learned our lessons from the first boom and bust.

Poker Pro ‘BoostedJ’ Tweets Picture with President Bill Clinton

Sunday, October 7th, 2012

Poker pro Justin ‘BoostedJ’ Smith recently tweeted a picture of himself with President Bill Clinton along with a cheeky comment aimed at the President’s history of extramarital relations. Or maybe it was an innocent comment merely meant to suggest Clinton is fearless. Either way, it’s a great (and rare) photo collaboration of a poker pro and a President.

Related: Phil Hellmuth gets friendly with George W. Bush.

It is unclear exactly what poker tournament Smith is referencing. Smith’s previous tweet was from three days prior and makes no mention of any Presidential poker games. A Google news search from the past week of “Bill Clinton poker” also yields rather little. Clinton was, however, recently in Las Vegas for a fund-raiser. One would imagine this was when Smith was schmoozing with the President.

Update: Smith was kind enough to oblige our inquiry regarding where he encountered President Clinton.

There remains scant information on Google about Bill Clinton’s presence at a poker tournament. However, a Las Vegas Review Journal article from earlier last week quoted U.S. women’s soccer star Hope Solo as being excited to meet President Clinton at a charity poker tournament in Hollywood this weekend.

It seems that the charity behind the poker tournament preferred to keep a low profile regarding their special guest.