Archive for the ‘Online Poker Information’ Category

27 Questions to Ask Yourself During a Poker Hand

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

Good players don’t just randomly make decisions throughout a hand, they have a methodical process for coming up with the best decision possible.

The underlying key is being able to ask the right questions, at the right time.

In this post, I’m going to go over the most important questions you should ask yourself during a hand.

I strongly suggest that you compile your own list (which may or may not include these), print it out, and keep it next to you while playing. After a while, you’ll have the process memorized and you’ll do it subconsciously.

Pre-Flop

Don’t make the mistake of waiting until there are big bets to start critically thinking about the hand. Here are some questions you should ask at this point:

  • Does the original raiser have a strong range?

  • Are there any limpers?

  • Are there any loose players in the blinds?

  • How many players flatted the opening raise before action got to you?

  • Can you steal the pot?

  • Are your hand and position strong enough to play?

  • Should you just call, or should you 3-bet?

The Flop

After you get to the flop, the hand gets a lot clearer. You now know 5 of your 7 cards, and you know who your opponent(s) will be for the rest of your hand. At this point, consider the following questions:

  • Who is the aggressor (original pre-flop raiser)?

  • What are you expected to do?

  • What do you expect your opponents to do with different parts of their range?

  • If you have a strong made hand, are there any draws that you should be aware of?

  • If you have a draw, what odds do you need to continue?

  • Can you steal the pot?

  • How do your opponents typically play the flop?

The Turn

The pot odds for drawing decline dramatically on a turn blank, which can influence your decisions significantly. Similarly, some turns can add unexpected draws to decrease the value of your made hand. Ask these questions to sort out the situation:

  • What hands does this card help? (if any)

  • Who currently is the aggressor in this hand?

  • What are your odds of having the best hand?

  • What are your odds of getting stronger on the river?

  • Do you have a strong enough hand to value bet?

  • Do you have a weak enough hand that you fold to further aggression?

  • Would a bluff be profitable?

  • How deep are all of our stacks? (useful for bet-sizing)

The River

With everyone’s final handmade, it comes down to putting everything together. Hopefully at this point, you have a good idea of your opponents range and can make a near-optimal decision:

  • With a made hand, how do you extract the most value?

  • With a busted hand, what is the likelihood you can bluff successfully?

  • Will your opponent(s) give up if they missed a draw?

  • Will your opponent(s) bet a mediocre hand?

  • What can you learn about your opponent from the result?

While you don’t want to get overwhelmed there are many questions you can ask throughout a poker hand. Start wit the ones you feel are most important, then expand over time. You will find that your decision making becomes much better and more consistent over time once you can articulate why you are doing things.

The Pros Are Jumping on Twitch: Get In On the Ground Floor

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

I recently wrote about a brand new poker streaming platform that is based on Twitch TV.

In that post, I predicted some pretty crazy results, and so far, they’ve not only been met, but exceeded.

Seriously, this is a chance to see exactly how a pro plays in real time without any holding back. It’s the best educational opportunity for a poker player that has existed online, and at least for now, it’s free.

Featured Streamer: Daniel Negreanu

Heard of Daniel Negreanu before?

The guy who’s been near the top of the player of the year leaderboard for over the last decade. He’s one of the few pros who have successfully transitioned from high stakes live games to high stakes online games. He’s not afraid to try something new.

Recently, he created his own stream on Twitch so that his fans could watch him as he plays on PokerStars. Not surprisingly, it quickly became one of the most popular streams, with 150,000 viewers and over 4,000 subscribers in his first week alone. Just a week later, he had over 200,000 viewers and more than 14,000 subscribers.

One of his sessions consisted of playing $400/$800 8-game. Even if you’re not familiar with that type of poker, the large wins and losses are still fascinating, and you get a little insight into how Daniel approaches the game. During this one session in particular, he won right about $50,000 – not too shabby.

Who Else is On Twitch?

New pros are hopping on every day, so Twitch is looking better and better every day. Right now, the most popular poker channel is Jason Somerville, who streams both omaha and no limit hold’em games. Somerville is a professional player who has also won a WSOP bracelet. He’s an amazing player and streams 7 days a week. He currently has over 95,000 subscribers.

One of the best things about Twitch right now is that you get to watch many professionals who aren’t big names. For example, Alex KP is a professional out of Denmark who focuses on Omaha. He has a solid 4,000 subscriber count and streams some really fascinating play.

Twitch is an awesome platform for both poker entertainment and education. Don’t be afraid to look beyond just the most popular streamers. Try to find players that you like and that play the games you like to play the most.

How to Deal With Annoying Donk Bets

Monday, March 30th, 2015

Have you ever been at a table where it seems like a horrible player is all over you the entire session? Facing donk bet after donk bet can get frustrating over time and can cause you to go on tilt and make major mistakes. If you just face donk bets once in a while, they can catch you off guard and confuse you, leaving you to make an unconfident decision.

You and I both know that good players almost never donk bet, so it’s really hard to get into the mind of a player who does. We’re about to walk through the thought process you should adopt when facing donk bets in future sessions.

Is this player a good player?

Sometimes, a good player might donk bet, especially if you’re playing heads up. There are 2 reasons a decent player might do this:

1. He thinks you have a weak range and likely missed a dry, unconnected flop (or turn). Donking out is a cheap way of trying to steal the pot when the stack sizes aren’t right for a check/raise and fold.

2. He thinks you will either raise or fold, which many players will if they’re the standard tight-aggressive player. He will donk in order to induce a bluff on a wet board that you might check back on, or donk to try to steal on a dry board.

Overall, a good player will be trying to make you uncomfortable. So if you’re normally going to bet when checked to, he’s trying to disrupt that action, which means he is probably weak. If you’re likely not to bet, because it’s a wet board that you’ll only make a continuation bet when you connect in some way, he likely has a good hand and is looking to get money into the pot.

Is this player a bad player?

It’s much more common to see donk bets from bad players. It’s often a main part of their game. The most important thing to realize is that their decision has nothing to do with you. They are solely making the decision based on their hand and the board.

So what does a donk mean? It means different things for different players. The most common mindset is that they have a weak hand that justifies a bet, or that they are scared of a big bet. Some will donk as a pure bluff, but in my experience it is rare.

What should you do? It’s up to you to decide what type of player the fish is. Some will donk, but call any raise. They want to see a cheap showdown, but it’s more important for them to see a showdown at any cost. Against these guys, you want to play your strong hands fast, let go of your weakest hands, and look to draw with usually good odds with the rest.

Other fish will fold if they get raised after making a donk bet the majority of the time. You can start picking away these donk bets and stealing the pots. Be relentless, but don’t do it every time or they may get frustrated and play back unpredictably, or simply stop donking. Of course you can adjust, but it’s much easier to effortlessly pick up the pot once in a while inconspicuously.

That’s all there is to it really. Try to get in your opponents head, like any other decision, break it down, and then disappoint your opponent. Don’t let donk bets frustrate you; be patient, figure them out, and then you’ll have a lot of fun exploiting them.

A New and Improved Form of Poker Training That You Need to Try

Friday, March 20th, 2015

Big money stakes are nothing new in the world of poker. They are also nothing new in the world of business.

Amazon is a mammoth of a company that spends hundreds of millions on a regular basis to acquire promising up-and-coming companies. In late August of 2014, Amazon spent about $1 billion on a streaming site called Twitch.

What is Twitch and Why Does it Matter?

The people who are most familiar with the Twitch streaming service are video games. There are over 100 million users on Twitch, and the majority of them have signed up to watch other players stream gameplay. People usually watch if the streamer is particular entertaining or skillful.

Some streamers have so many followers that the actually make a living playing and commenting on video games.

Could Twitch Cause a Revolution in Poker?

Most recently, Twitch has announced that they wanted to start streaming live online poker. While making up a small percentage of overall Twitch viewers, several poker streamers have already attracted more than a million views. Considering this is still an extremely young platform, it is a promising sign.

If you head over to Twitch and search for poker, you’ll see a wide variety of players streaming their live play. The best players typically attract the biggest crowds, so start with the most popular channels.

How Does This Help You as a Player?

Live coaching sessions are incredibly expensive, especially if you’re a player at the micro stakes games. With these free Twitch streams, you can get a similar experience.

On top of the streamer typically commenting on his thought process, you can also interact with other viewers and the streamer in the chat box. This gives you a great chance to ask questions when you are confused or curious in real-time and get immediate feedback.

In this sense, Twitch streams could be considered as completely free group coaching sessions. It’s a great idea to add them to your plan to improve as a player. Streamers (the coaches) get paid when users click ads surrounding the video and chat.

Since poker streaming is still in its infancy, you have a unique opportunity to learn from good players in relatively small groups, which allows you to get more help before the best streams become flooded with players.

3 Useful Strategies to Deal With Variance

Sunday, March 1st, 2015

The variance in poker is extreme; it’s common for good winning players to go on 30 or 40 buyin downswings. This can amount to a loss of anywhere from $3,000 or more.

On top of the financial loss, players also suffer on the mental side of the equation. After losing so many sessions in a row, it’s tough to still have confidence that you are a winning player and are making the right decisions. You start to question everything you do, which can lead to a poker-esque case of the yips.

1. Create a Separate Poker Bankroll

To deal with the financial suffering from variance, it’s always a good idea to keep your poker bankroll separate from the money you need to live.

When you think of your bankroll as part of your current liquid assets, you add a lot of additional pressure to your play. You’re likely to worry that the money could be used for your family, friends, or to pay bills.

Instead, create a separate poker bankroll with money that you can afford to lose. Create a separate bank account if needed. While losing still sucks, every losing session won’t feel like such a stress-inducing catastrophe.

2. Find a Mentor or Study Group

When you’re losing your mind after yet another losing session, an outside perspective of another good player you trust is priceless.

It’s hard to objectively review your play when you’re close to punching a hole in the wall or to tears. If you have a friend who will be brutally honest, you’ll not only get feedback on if you are making uncharacteristic mistakes, but you will also improve regardless.

You should be able to find a mentor or study group through any online poker forum. If you’re not already a member of any, start at Two plus Two and get to know some players.

3. Take a Break

If you feel that you are getting inside your own head and second guessing yourself, you need to stop playing. There’s no way to play profitably if you can’t play decisively.

Additionally, it usually gets worse the longer you play, so not taking a break could actually hurt you more, both in terms of confidence and your bankroll.

For some, taking a break of an hour is fine to cool down and clear their head. For other, they might need to take a break of a day…a few days…maybe even a week. Take as long as you need until you can open up a table and sit down confidently.

Extreme variance is a part of the game; possibly the most unpleasant. Those that deal with variance proactively will have shorter and smaller downswings, and an overall better results and a more enjoyable playing experience.

The Most Common Tournament Mentality Mistake – Playing Not to Lose

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Tournaments are a strange beast; one that most beginner poker players get their start in.

While there are many mistakes that beginners make, the most common mistake (even for more experienced players) is playing not to lose.

Why Playing Not to Lose is a Sure-Fire Way to Lose

Let me make this very clear, playing “not to lose” is not the same as playing “to win”.

Playing not to lose is the strategy of pure survival, whether you have 10 big blinds or 100 in your stack. The real goal of this strategy is to make it into the money, so that you at least win something, and then try to survive as long as you can and advance up the pay ranks.

While you may make it to the prize money a decent amount of the time, you will likely limp in as one of the short stacks. Unless you get incredibly lucky, you won’t make it up the prize money much further.

It is very tough to become a winning tournament player if you are only winning the smallest cash prizes. Even if you make it into-the-money (ITM) 30 percent of the time, if you bow out soon after, those prizes won’t even cover your buy-ins.

The Fundamental Problem with This Approach

The biggest problem with this approach lies in how a tournament is structured. They are very top heavy, which means that almost all the prize money is paid out to the top few players.

With a playing not to lose strategy, it will take a miracle to ever make a big cash. But the big wins are what are necessary to become a profitable tournament poker player.

Winning is the Objective

So what’s the solution? It’s not playing not to lose, or playing to lose, but playing to win.

This means making the correct decision even if you have to risk your tournament life. This means not letting your stack dwindle, but making moves with a calculated risk to try and put yourself in a strong position.

This also means that when everyone else is terrified of being knocked out before the bubble, that you are smartly picking spots and bullying other players in order to put yourself in a position with a large stack.

Sometimes you might find yourself knocked out of the tournament early, but when you get into the money, you have a real chance of winning.

Ask any professional and they’ll say that they’d rather be knocked out on the first hand unless they were going to make a very deep run. The return on your time and buy-in just isn’t there unless you play to win.

Overcoming the Fear of Losing

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015

Fear is everywhere in life, including at the poker tables. Fear of losing can cause great players to be afraid of even playing, which results in procrastination and a habitually low hand volume.

Fear of losing can also force you to make bad decisions while you play. Loss aversion is a very powerful phenomenon which proves that people will make suboptimal decisions in order not to lose.

Ever been near the end of a session, with a stack just over where you began? I bet you noticed that you really did not want to go below that original stack, and may have made some cautious decisions because of that.

There are also other less common ways that fear of losing can affect you. Bottom line, it’s something that you should continually work on and try to reduce. We’re going to look at the process you should follow to do this.

Realize that Having a Losing Session is No Big Deal

Poker is a game of variance, even the best players have frequent losing sessions, some of which are large. If you haven’t yet, run a few simulations on a poker variance calculator. With a great winrate and low standard deviation, you’ll still lose in at least 30-40 percent of your sessions over the long-term.

Now really think of why you don’t like losing. Are you really that disappointed that you didn’t play perfectly? Or that you just didn’t make any big hands? Probably not.

At some point you’ll realize, you’re not afraid of losing, you are afraid of the consequences – losing money.

Now that you know what you’re afraid of, let’s look at how you can address it.

Have the Right Bankroll

Do you think when Warren Buffett invests in a company he’s worried that he might not get his money back? No, of course not. He fully expects that only a certain percentage of his investments will be good ones, but he has so much capital that one bad investment doesn’t even matter to him.

Whatever your bankroll is right now, pretend you’re sitting at a table 1/200th the size of it. For example, if you had a $1000 bankroll, pretend you’re at a 5NL table. Even if you had a horrible session, losing 3 buy-ins, or $15, would it really bother you? Unlikely.

While having a bankroll that large isn’t always feasible or practical, different players require different sized bankrolls. If you notice that you feel stressed by losing a certain percentage of your bankroll, simply drop down to a lower level or add more money to it. All of a sudden, you’ve eliminated a great deal of your fear.

Focus on Playing Well

This is perhaps the most difficult mentality-switch to make as a player, but the most important as well.

When you focus on the monetary gains or losses, you’re subject to the loss aversion phenomenon we touched upon earlier. The only solution is to focus upon something else.

The best thing to focus on in poker is decision making. You know that in the long run, if you make better decisions than your opponents as a whole, you will win money. Quite logically, your focus should be on making the best decisions you can, and money will be the result, not the cause of your decisions.

Making this switch isn’t always easy. Start by not checking how much you’ve won or lost in a session, just make a note of it once in a while after a session or time period (days or weeks even). If you have a tracking software, see if you can’t hide any display that tracks your winnings/losses for a session.

Next, take satisfaction and pride in making great decisions. When you review your sessions, don’t just go over the hands that you made mistakes in, go over hands where you made solid decisions (which may or may not be your largest winning pots). A good fold is just as important as a good bet. Learn to equate a good decision with long-term results and you will make a habit of focusing on making correct decisions.

How to Stay Motivated on the Grind

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

When you’re on a winning streak, motivation isn’t hard to come by, but when things start plateauing or going against you, you might find that finding motivation to play is more difficult.

Even though poker is a phenomenally fun game, it’s extremely mentally and emotionally taxing, which makes it very easy to burn out. But when you’re trying to improve as fast as possible, or make a certain amount, putting in a significant amount of quality playing hours is crucial.

Here are some ways to stay motivated on a regular basis.

1. Create a Hand Bet

Competition often breeds hard work. What many players do is bet with other players, either individually or in a small group, to play a certain amount of hands in a month. Everyone puts up their share of the bet before hand, which should be a significant, but not huge amount. Everyone that hits their target for hands played splits the pot, while those who do not make it get nothing back.

You can decide before hand how many hands you want to play. Sometimes everyone in the group aims for the same amount, other times everyone can choose their own. The bet gives you that little extra motivation to gear up and play when you could easily just slack off.

Do this for a few months in a row and you will have developed the habit of playing a serious amount of hands on a regular basis, which will lead to long-term success.

2. Base Expectations Off Limits, Not Desires

Every player has done it. Thinking, “If I have a winrate of 3BB/100 and can play 500 hands/hour, I can make $X/hour. Then if I play X hours/day, I can make $X,XXX a month!”

The amount that you need to play in that situation is typically dependent on how much you would like to make. The problems come when you determine that you would need to play 30 hours a week on a consistent basis, and you’ve never played over 20 before. It’s a lot easier to say you’re going to do something tough, than actually do it.

What generally happens is that a player realizes they need to take a break or they can’t play their A-game. As you get behind your “schedule”, it becomes even more daunting and can cause even experienced players to seize up.

Instead, start with a low goal of quality time at the table, say 5 to 10 hours a week. Do this consistently for a month and re-evaluate. If you feel you can play more, bump it up slightly, an extra few hours a week. Each month re-evaluate until you get to the point where you feel like you’re playing the right amount on a personal basis.

3. Play for the Game, Not the Money

I’ve yet to meet a good player who didn’t enjoy the game when they first started playing. At some point, instead of just playing for enjoyment, the game turns into a job where money is the goal. Once you start playing for money, every bad beat and downswing hurts even more and takes an emotional toll. You set yourself up for a lack of motivation.

Instead, focus on playing well and enjoying the game. If you do that, you’ll improve faster, and the monetary results will come as a by-product. Realizing this is one of the keys that all winning players make in one way or another during their career.

2 Poker Sites You Should Avoid

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

The last few years have seen some of the poker industry giants fall, with a slew of smaller competitors rising in their places. PokerStars has been the only site to continually grow and dominate the industry.

While competition is good, you also need to be very careful as a player, where you take your business. Smaller sites often offer more rakeback and often softer games, but many are sites that you should avoid. We’re going to look at a few sites you definitely want to avoid.

1. Poker MiRA

Poker MiRA actually has pretty great looking software, along with a mobile platform as well. On top of that, there are a substantial amount of fishy players as well. So why are they on this list? For something I have never heard of before: unlimited rake tables.

These featured unlimited rake tables do not feature a maximum rake. So if you’re involved in a large pot, you’re going to be paying a massive amount. The typical rake is 5 percent, which even in a decent sized pot at 100NL, could have you paying more than $10 in rake for one hand.

What is the justification for this? Poker MiRA wants to give players the opportunity to earn their loyalty points faster, which are correlated with the amount of rake paid. Yes, that’s right. They’re saying that they’re doing you a favor by letting you pay more rake.

Of course, losing players actually do love the loyalty points and are drawn to these tables. Which means that if you want to play on this site, your incentive are the soft games, and you have to play in these games too. Can you overcome the insane rake? Unlikely enough to make it worth your while.

2. Lock Poker

Poker MiRA being a bit unappealing is one thing, but Lock Poker is simply the sketchiest of the sketchy sites.

Long story short, most players have been waiting for withdrawals to go through for over 2 years.

Despite this, the room is still open for new players and they will gladly accept new deposits. Despite many broken promises over the 2 years, there doesn’t seem to be any real intention to pay players back anytime soon. Do not deposit on Lock Poker under any circumstances.

They’ve been caught in numerous lies during this time period, and have tried to rebrand themselves multiple times to escape scrutiny. You can follow along with the latest developments in this TwoPlusTwo thread.

As a poker player, you need to be vigilant about researching where you play. Other than the biggest rooms like PokerStars and certain iPoker skins, there aren’t many sites with pristine reputations. Always search for the latest news about any room and see if any scandals have occurred there in the past. You shouldn’t be scared to play at all small sites, but do some research into the owners and the site’s history, and never keep too large at a bankroll anywhere.

More Changes for Zynga Poker – No Real Progress

Saturday, November 1st, 2014

For years poker players have been waiting for Zynga to convert their massive free poker user base, built on Facebook, into real money players. A stimulus like this could revitalize a, frankly, stale state of online poker.

While there’s still money to be won in online poker, the margins keep getting smaller as players learn to play more optimally. An influx of inexperienced players who learnt the game playing on a free platform would significantly soften the games. Zynga currently has the most play money poker players of any site, with Pokerstars not even reaching half that amount.

However, so far Zynga has only launched a real money platform in the U.K., using the same software as PartyPoker. That was early in 2014, and there has been little progress since then.

The Latest Change

Instead of focusing on converting more players (in different countries) into real money players, Zynga has recently overhauled their free money skin and setup to try and retain their players. The new Zynga poker platform created mixed feedback since its launch in September.

After just over a month of feedback (a substantial portion negative), Zynga has decided to split their user base into two sections.

Players have the option of using the newest Zynga poker platform, but they can also play Zynga Poker Classic, which is the exact same platform as players formerly used. While the two groups of players are not allowed to play directly against each other, it is a fairly simple process to switch from one platform to the other, and can be done as often as a player likes.

Why choose one over the other? If you’re still a play money poker player, and still not ready to take the jump to real money sites, the new Zynga platform offers a little more competition. There are leagues and other competitions that were created to add a little more variety and entertainment, although it pales in comparison to the entertainment that real money poker provides.

For experienced players: Don’t expect Zynga to launch any new real money platforms any time soon outside of the U.K., they’ve already shown that they are expanding extremely slowly, if at all.

For current Zynga poker players outside of the U.K.: If you’ve been looking for more fun and competition, there are many real money options out there, you’ll just have to get used to some new software.