Archive for the ‘Poker Strategy’ Category

Do You Know When it’s Time to Walk Away From the Table?

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Poker can bring out the best and the worst of most people. One of the biggest things that separates winning and losing players is the ability to be honest with themselves when they are not playing their best. Here are four ways to know that you’re not at the top of your game and need to call it a day.

1. You’re Chasing Pots

Most people have an instinct to try and get something back if they lose it, and I’m not just talking about money at the poker table. It’s not surprising that when some players lose a significant amount in a session, they get more aggressive and often refuse to give up pots.

The result is throwing away money by committing too much with weak hands. It’s also hard to stop playing this way once you start, so even if you are fortunate enough to win a few big hands, it often goes right back.

If you notice that you called a bet you wouldn’t normally or made a raise that you shouldn’t, you’ve probably already started chasing pots. While this is something you can work on over time, the first step is realising the problem and walking away for a break.

2. You’re Playing to Beat Someone Else

Poker often becomes a personal game, but the best players avoid letting it degrade to that. If one particular person wins a few big pots off you, it’s natural to want to try and beat that specific player. You’re even more likely to feel this way if he or she was lucky to win those.

This is a matter of ego and pride. Instead of trying to get involved in every pot with your villain and trying to beat them to show your poker superiority, realize that there is incredible variance in poker and your goal should be to make consistently good decisions.

3. You Feel Distracted

Poker is often said to be a game of incomplete information. Winning players have a good ability to observe and digest important information to gain an edge and make better decisions. However, to maximize your information intake, it’s important to stay focused.

If there are other major things happening in your life, good or bad, it’s easy for your mind to start wandering at the table. If you feel like you’re not really paying attention to the game, stop playing, there isn’t much benefit to continuing.

If you really want to play, then take a break and clear your mind. Some people meditate, others go for walk. Do whatever you need to get focused for the game.

Walking away from the table when you’re not playing well is one of the most important skills a player can have. A disciplined approach to poker is needed if you want to maximize your win-rate and overall success.

Look like a Pro: Fun and Useful Accessories for the Poker Table

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

While not all players can pull them off, wearing and using accessories can increase your chances of winning at live events, and often at least add a bit of fun or humor to the occasion. You can opt for a ridiculous outfit or makeup, but try the following more practical accessories first.

Card Guard

A card guard does exactly what it sounds like it does: it protects your hole cards. Some players opt to use a chip as a card guard, but if you want to keep your chips separate so you can keep track of your stack size, you might want to invest in a card guard. You want something easily visible that is heavy enough to not be blown away or easily knocked aside. Most players typically use large weighted coins or a similarly sized good luck charm. The point is to prevent the dealer or other players from accidentally grabbing your cards, especially on a crowded table.

Sunglasses

It may look ridiculous on some players, especially considering that most games are played indoors in fairly modest lighting conditions, but sunglasses can be a great aid to your game. There are a few tells that even excellent players can’t fully eliminate, and your eyes are a source of many of them. For example, when a new card is dealt, most players can’t help but look to their chips with a quick glance if it helped them.

If you are worried about giving away any tells with your eyes, you can cover them with any pair of sunglasses. You don’t necessarily need to always wear them, but having them nearby will allow you to have some extra protection when the action heats up.

Black Hoodie

Anyone who has ever watched a poker tournament on television knows about the black hoodie and sunglasses combo. A hoodie is used for mostly the same reasons: to cover up tells. A loose hoodie will cover up shaking arms to a degree, as well as hide a good portion of your face. These are two areas that many players have difficulty controlling, even if they have past live experience.

Music Player and Headphones

Are you the type of player that gets distracted or thrown off by chat at the table? If so, you might want to bring a good set of headphones. Music is a great way to calm down if you’re not having much luck and can help you stay in the zone when you are focused.

In some cases, you may just be stuck at a table with a chatterbox you can’t stand. A good set of noise-cancelling headphones will not only block out a lot of what he or she is saying, but even without music they indicate that you don’t really want to converse.

There’s no right or wrong way to accessorize at the table, but if you have personal preferences that help you play better, accessories are one way of fulfilling them. Finally, don’t use accessories as a crutch, relying on them will establish bad habits over time.

Protecting Your Winnings: 6 Safety Tips

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

Have you heard horror stories about poker players winning large sums of money and having it stolen? This happens both online and in live games, and while it is rare, it’s something that you should protect yourself against. Here are six tips to help keep your winnings safe.

1. Keep Private Information Private. No one should know your password or how you fund your online accounts. Even your personal information used as routine security checks by poker and online wallet sites should be kept as private as possible. No one should ever ask for your information from a poker site unless you have contacted them first, if you see someone asking for it in a chat box, ignore it.

2. Don’t Play on Shady Sites. The most common way for players to lose their money is to play on some unknown site with a small player base. When they go to cash out their money is either seized for some obscure rule or takes months or years to finally receive. Stick to the well-known sites with good reputations, check out the editor’s picks on the PokerTips homepage.

3. You Can’t Cheat at Poker. If you are a struggling player, you might come across a tempting offer to cheat on online poker sites. You’re only human, it’ll probably be tempting, but know that online sites these days are very secure and if someone could cheat they wouldn’t be telling anybody. These typically turn out to be scams or viruses that will try to harvest your information.

4. Don’t Loan Money to Other Players. While there are probably a few legitimate reasons to do so, there are also many scammers online who will try to take advantage of your generosity. If you send money to beggars online, you aren’t likely to get it back.

5. Use an RSA Token. Most major sites offer RSA token authentication for a miniscule cost, even certain e-wallets do too. These tokens generate a one-time password as needed when you log-in to your poker account. This makes it virtually impossible for someone to hack into your account and steal your money. As you accumulate more winnings in your account, this is more important.

6. Don’t Click Links in Emails. Phishing emails are one of the most common attempts at theft out there. People can create emails that look almost identical to the ones your poker room sends you. They include a link to a site that looks legitimate, but isn’t, and try to either infect your computer or get you to type in your password. If you ever need to contact support based on an email, type in the website yourself or search for it on Google.

Don’t let online theft deter you from playing online poker, just keep a watchful eye on the security of your accounts. If you follow these six tips you are very unlikely to ever have any problems protecting your winnings.

Understand Your Emotions, Don’t Ignore Them

Saturday, May 10th, 2014

It’s no secret that the best players rarely tilt, they know how to play their best, or at least close to it nearly all the time. The mistake that many make when observing the elite of the poker world is thinking that the best players simply shut down their emotions. This short post will hopefully help you shift your paradigm of the role of emotions in poker to a more successful one.

The Consequences of Shutting Down Emotions at the Table

The misunderstanding comes from viewing good players as robots, and robots as we know them have no emotions. There’s one huge problem with shutting down your emotions, which is that you can’t selectively turn off anger or frustration. When you turn off your emotions, or perhaps putting them on mute temporarily is more appropriate, you also turn off the passion and enjoyment that is driving your play.

The consequence of muting your emotions tend to be that you lose interest at the table, lose focus, put less thought into decisions and care less. People are motivated by emotions at a deep level, and it’s not something that’s going to change.

The Solution: Understanding

poker psychology understanding emotions

Image via Flickr by deltaMike

The goal of eliminating anger and frustration is still desirable, but it’s clear that simply becoming ‘dead’ at the table isn’t the answer because we simply need our emotions too much. Logic dictates that we must find ways to control certain emotions or selectively eliminate them.

Psychologists have long known the benefits of understanding your thinking and the resulting emotions, in fact there is a whole field of psychology dedicated to it called cognitive therapy. Many top players have personal psychologists to help them delve into the thoughts they have at the table.

While you may not be able to afford your own personal psychologist, you can apply many basic techniques and get great results at the table. Start by making note of your thoughts leading up to an episode of anger or frustration. After a while you’ll start seeing patterns and will be able to walk away from the game before you do any serious damage.

Secondly, you can start to change how you think so that you don’t get angry. For example, if you suffer a bad beat and think something along the lines of “they hit their card EVERY SINGLE TIME!”, you need to spend time thinking about the long term results and maybe even learning about statistics. For this specific example you could grab a deck and set up this situation and play it out several dozen times. Even though sometimes the villain will hit their outs a few times in a row, over time it will even out. The more you accept and understand these things, the less you will find yourself getting frustrated during a game.

Understanding and controlling your emotions in a positive way is one of the most difficult things to do in poker. Don’t expect to become Gandhi over night, just make continuous improvements that result in better play in the long term.

The Kryptonite of Online Poker Players: Casino Games

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014

It’s no secret that casino games and poker go hand in hand, both in the real world and online. In fact, Full Tilt poker has recently signed an agreement to bring casino games to their platform, as many other major sites have already done. Even great poker players have a desire to gamble, and just like putting poker tables near slot machines, casino games online make it really easy to play. The problem is that many winning players lose their winnings playing slots, blackjack, baccarat, roulette and other fun gambling games.

The Problem with Gambling

blackjack casino game

Image via Flickr by Images_of_Money

The distinction of gambling is important when it comes to casinos. Poker is a game of skill where you are playing against other players, but not the house. All other casino games however do not allow you to gain an edge over other players, and they are mathematically set-up to favor the house. Some games like blackjack you can approach parity, but even optimal play will still cause you to lose in the long run.

On top of the fact that casino games are designed for you to lose money, they are also designed to allow you to lose a lot of money fast. The amount you can bet in a single poker hand is limited to what you have on the table, which is an amount you should be able to afford to lose. If you go to a blackjack table however, especially online, it’s usually possible to bring your entire bankroll to the table and theoretically bet it all at once if you wanted to.

The final issue, as you may have observed in poker, is that people get extremely frustrated when it comes to events of chance. If someone hits a few draws on you in poker, you might even go on tilt. Now imagine what happens when you’re playing blackjack and three or four hands in a row go against you, which is fairly common. If you happen to tilt at a blackjack table, you can practically kiss your bankroll goodbye. This happens time and time again to even solid winning poker players.

How to Deal with Casino Games

The ideal situation is to avoid them altogether, but as more of the major sites like Full Tilt poker incorporate them, this option is more difficult. Most poker clients allow you to go into settings and hide the casino games, which is the best option.

But what if you enjoy to gamble? As in, not to win money, you just like to flip a few coins or spin a wheel once in a while. The solution is to open an account on a separate site that offers casino games. Deposit a small bankroll of money you are prepared to lose and treat that as your recreation. It’s important not to confuse your poker bankroll that has all your winnings in it and your recreational bankroll that you have funded to play around with.

As long as you are a poker player you will be exposed to casino games. It’s important to keep your discipline and keep any recreational gambling separate from your poker activities to achieve long term success.

6 Live Poker Tells That Will Give You an Edge

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

If you are relatively new to live poker, you probably still know that tells are something you should be looking for. But instead of eating an Oreo in a certain way (like Teddy KGB from Rounders), you should really be looking for tells from body position and actions. Here are some of the most common tells you should keep your eyes peeled for:

1. Great Posture

The posture of most people sitting and playing at a table for hours will naturally decline. If you all of a sudden see someone sit up straight on the edge of their chair, it likely means they have a strong hand and are interested in the action.

2. Listen to the Voice

One of the easiest things to lose control of when you’re nervous is your voice. Think about when you have a big hand, you can typically talk in a calm, controlled manner. If someone is hesitant to speak, or speaks in an unusual tone, it’s likely because they don’t want to talk to give away information or are anxious because they are bluffing.

3. Unnatural Chatter

My favorite players to face off against in a live game are the ones who talk non-stop. Not only is it entertaining, it’s usually obvious when they have a big hand and their focus shifts from inane topics to the hand being played. A silent chatterbox is almost a sure sign of a great hand.

4. Feigning Weakness

poker players tells

Image via Flickr by Play Among Friends

This might shock you, but poker players are not actors…at least not very good ones usually. Most beginner players will make over the top gestures of weakness when they have strong hands. This typically includes sighing when betting, making whimpering sounds under their breath, or even frowning as they lament being “forced to bet”.

5. Watch how the Chips Flow

A lot of new players have severe betting tells. When they have a weak hand they will try to scare people away by throwing in their chips and trying to make their bet look stronger than it is. Conversely, players with strong hands will often slide their stack of chips in as silently as possible.

6. Glancing at Chips

Here is one that is very reliable because it’s an instinctive habit that’s tough to break. Watch a player as he first looks at his hole cards, if his eyes immediately dart to his stack, he probably wants to play the hand. This trick applies for all streets, pay attention to the eyes ones a card is flipped over.

Tells can be massively profitable once you get good at spotting them, but it’s a skill that you will have to cultivate over time. Learn to pay attention to a player’s normal behavior and notice what they have when they act differently. Finally, don’t reveal that you know someone’s tell or they could use it against you.

The Importance of Specialization in Poker

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

When you open up the Pokerstars lobby, or the lobby of any major poker site, there are tons of games you can play. There are the tempting sports betting and casino games, which are generally best avoided if you are trying to play poker professionally, and there are many varieties of poker.

When you are beginning your journey as a poker player, it’s fine to start by playing many different types of poker, but the purpose of this is to try and find the one that you enjoy the most.

Texas hold’em has been popular for the past decade or so because of the immense coverage in media and the simplicity of the game, but this doesn’t mean that it’s the only game you can make money in. If you enjoy Omaha or Stud you just need to be prepared for a steeper learning curve.

Why Choose a Specialty

The most important thing you can do to ensure quick and lasting success is to pick a single game and try to master it. Even though Omaha may look like Texas hold’em on the surface, those extra two cards in your hand change almost everything about how to play a hand correctly. Other forms of poker are even more different and have completely different sets of rules. If you are trying to win at multiple types of poker at the same time, you are likely to lose or have mediocre results at both instead of advancing rapidly at one.

The next part of choosing a specialty is picking a format. There are both cash games and tournaments for almost any variety of poker, but there are also various formats of both. For example, within cash games there is heads up, short handed and a full nine or 10 player table formats. The game may be the same, but each format emphasises different skillsets, so you need to see where your natural tendencies fit well with. If you are great at getting inside player’s heads, heads up or short handed will fit you well. On the other hand, if you have great patience and discipline, long handed games may be better.

How Choosing a Specialty Leads to Success

Image via Flickr by Ross Elliot

Think about anything else in your life that you’ve worked hard at. When you focused on that one thing you’ve made incredible progress in a short amount of time. Now think of a time where you started something but got distracted by a side project. In this case you split your time and will make progress, but not as much as the first case. Poker is no different than any other skill in life, if you dedicate yourself to one part of it at first you will have great success.

If you do well at your chosen game I encourage you to stay with it. Once you have achieved a level of success that you set out to, you can then broaden your skillset and try to master a new game.

Is Poker Still Beatable in 2014?

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

Image via Flickr by Chingster23

There’s no doubt that if you ask any poker player that’s been around since online poker began that he’ll tell you poker has gotten significant tougher to beat. There are a few main reasons that win-rates are decreasing and disappearing.

The Players have Improved

There are more excellent training resources than there ever has been in the past. When I began playing in 2006, Doyle Brunson’s book Super System was considered to be the holy grail of poker knowledge. There’s still a lot of quality information in it, but it’ll only get you part of the way to becoming a winning poker player in today’s games.

The ways people can learn have also improved. Instead of reading books, players can watch videos of top players and learn what and how they think. Poker software allows for sophisticated analysis of your play to identify where you are losing money. A dedicated beginner can now reach a decent level of play in a very short time.

Fewer New Players

While there will always be new players learning the games and recreational players just trying to have fun, there are less beginners who lose money when they play. This is due to several reasons, mainly that poker is no longer the ‘new’ thing that had a significant excitement factor when it was first announced.

You should also take into account the effect that ‘Black Friday’ had on online poker as a whole. The average American has more disposable cash than almost any average person in other countries. When Americans were banned from online poker, the games instantly got more difficult. It is possible in the future for it to be fully legalized, but for now you have to live in America to play on the sites that allow them, which aren’t necessarily any easier to win at.

The Rakes Have Increased

Years ago when poker sites were trying to attract as many players as possible the rakes were lower. You paid less to the site when entering tournaments and you paid a smaller tax on winning pots in cash games. Since the amount of new players signing up for poker has slowed down in recent years, sites have increased the rake to make more profit.

Now a few cents a pot doesn’t seem like it would have a huge effect on your win-rate, but when you consider that most players only win a small amount per session, an increase in rake can turn a winning player into a losing player.

Can You Win in 2014?

Winning is still possible, but it is also a lot more difficult. Players who don’t spend time improving their game over the years could find that they fall behind the average and become losing players.

For new players there is a much steeper learning curve, but if you approach the game with an intense desire to learn, you will be able to absorb enough to become a winning player faster than ever before.

Easier Ways to Win

When games become tougher it makes skills like table selection even more important. Learning advanced techniques that allow you to dominate at a level will allow you to sustain the winrate you’ve always desired or had in the past.

The alternative is to switch the game that you play. Texas Hold’em in particular has become fairly saturated with a lot of expert training material available. Switching to a newer form of poker where even the best players still aren’t that good is one of the best ways to increase your win-rate. If you’re a new player you start off at the same level as everyone else, but if you are an experienced poker player there are a lot of transferable skills that will help you become a winner in no time.

The bottom line is that if you want to keep winning at poker, which is becoming more difficult over time, you need to adapt your game and improve or find an game at an earlier stage of development to beat.

Common Leaks in Tournament Poker

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014

 There is no such thing as the “perfect” poker player (although some players may think that they are because poker definitely builds on one’s ego). Everyone that sits down to play, whether they have been doing it for years and years or if they decided to finally give poker a shot, makes mistakes. Obviously with experience and seeing any and all situations related to poker, a player can make less mistakes than his opponent and can also be more conscience of what he/she is doing as well as what his/her opponent is trying to do as well.

 

One of the most common mistakes players make in tournament poker is that they overplay hands. What I mean by this is that players get stubborn with big hands and tend to spew off in spots vs weaker players (which is not terrible because these players will give you a chance to redeem yourself) or vs stronger players and it makes it more difficult to compete. The chips they used in those spots would come in to play when they find a better spot in the later stages of the tournament.

 

This day and age most tournaments played have deeper stacks and allow a player to maneuver a little more. If you are playing from behind with a below average stack, you tend to get called a little weaker than you would if you had an average or above average stack and your hands lose value which leaves you in coin flip situations a lot earlier in a tournament.

 

Let’s say you have an average stack a few levels in to a tournament and you open AK in early position and get called in 2 spots. The flop is 6 8 10 rainbow and you make a continuation bet (which I am ok with) for 55% of the pot and you get called by 1 player. At this point in time you should always be putting your opponent on a range of hands and have a plan throughout the remainder of the hand. If the turn is another blank, you should obviously consider just giving up if you put your opponent on a made hand and you think that they are not going to fold.

 

The common mistake here when the turn comes out a blank is that the AK hand may fire another bullet and could be drawing close to or stone cold dead. That’s why it’s important to put the other player on a range of hands where if a certain block of cards hit the turn, you need to shut down and just find a better spot. More times then not your opponent will miss the flop as well and the cbet (continuation bet) may work or even firing another bullet on the turn if a card falls that you think cannot be in your opponent’s range. It’s all about the plan that you have for the hand and not just forcing the action to try to win a pot that you have almost zero chances of winning.

 

That leads me in to another common leak or mistake that a player makes and that is not having a plan during a hand. If you are just going through the motions, good players will pick up on that and they will exploit it 100% of the time. It’s important to keep your bet size, betting pattern, betting style all the same whether you “have it” or not. Good players will be able to pick up on the way you place your chips in the pot just as well as the amount you bet with different hand ranges. It’s always important (especially for newer or less experienced players) to be conscience of this. I see this in every session I play and I use these mistakes to my advantage every chance that I get.

 

If you decide to enter a pot, no matter what 2 cards you have, always have a plan on every street during that hand. Know that if you miss the flop completely that you are still trying to tell a story so you have to make it believable. On the other end of that, if you connect with the flop than you want to extract as much value as possible. It’s important to know who is in the hand and what hand range you think that they may have. You never want to miss a street of value so take a few seconds to go over all of the possibilities like leading in to the pot without losing the other player(s) that saw the flop with you. Think about whether or not you are raising if you get raised on the flop and what other hands that are possibilities and could have you in bad shape. Take all of this in to consideration before you move on to the next street in the hand so that you are prepared and have a game plan put together and know exactly how to execute it.

How to Table-Select Like a Pro

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

The importance of table selection cannot be understated. It can be the entire difference between being a winning player and losing player.

To illustrate this example think of five professional players, like Phil Ivey, Tom Dwan, or any other professionals you like. If you play in a game with them, even if you play your very best it is unlikely you’ll be a winning player. On the other hand, if you play with five people who have never played the game, you can likely crush the game while fooling around.

These extremes of game difficulty aren’t present in real life, but at any limit there are tables that are easier or more difficult to win at than other based on who is sitting at it. There are three main habits you should introduce into your table selection if you don’t currently use them.

1. Keep a ‘Favorites’ list

Most major sites allow you to put players on a favorites or buddy list of some kind. If you get into the habit of adding bad players to your list, over time you will accumulate a large list. You can then search this at the beginning of sessions to see which bad players are currently playing and trying to get a seat at their table.

2. Limit Your Tables

To table select well you need to be able to actively scan the lobby for open seats at tables with fish on them. If you find that you’re too busy at the tables you currently have open, you may need to reduce how many you play. If they’re all healthy tables that you’re a sure winner at you can pause your lobby scanning until any of them look like they’re about to break-up.

3. Look for Common ‘Fish’ Signs

When you’re looking at tables in the lobby you first want to identify any fish at a table. Some common signs are:

  • Name of popular player in username
  • Buys in for random stack amount
  • Doesn’t auto-top up stack

If you see any of these players, try to sit down. At the same time, you should also look out for tables infested with regular players. Regular players, or ‘regs’, are typically the best players at a limit who play the most. While you shouldn’t be afraid of them, you won’t typically win much or any from them.

4. Remember Money Flows Clockwise

poker table

Image via Flickr by slgckgc

Position is a powerful concept in poker, which basically means that if you get to act after your opponent, you have an advantage because you have more options and information. This means that it is best to sit directly to the left of a fish, ideally within one or two seats of him/her. Since the fish will lose his money faster than an average player, the people directly to the left of him/her are likely to get most of it.

If you follow these four concepts, you will be able to continuously find games to play in that you are profitable in. Over time they will become instinct and it will take less effort to find good games. Do your best to put aside your ego and realize that some players are easier to beat than others, and you will have a long and profitable poker career.