Limit Hold'em:
1. Longhand Limit
2. Shorthand Limit
3. Adv. Shorthand

No-Limit Hold'em:
1. Intro to NL
2. Advanced NL
3. Who Pays Off
4. Stack Sizes

1. Intro to Omaha
2. Low Limit Omaha
3. Intro to PLO
4. Omaha Hi/Lo

1. Tourney Overview
2. Single-Table NL
3. Advanced NL STTs
4. Multi-Table NL
5. Multi-Table Limit
6. Tourney Variants

Money Management:
1. Moving Limits
2. When to Quit
3. Short/Long Run

1. Intermediate Mistakes
2. Utilizing Promotions
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The Importance of Specialization in Poker

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?

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

 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

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.

Schedule for World Series of Poker 2014 Revealed

The annual World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the largest poker event in the world. While it used to be exclusive to the poker elite decades ago, it has consistently expanded and improved to allow everyone interested in poker to play a part of it.

Many events are televised and have live updates online so you can follow along with tournament progress.

If you want to play yourself there are many options at your disposal. There are side games and smaller tournaments that operate throughout the summer at surrounding casinos with poker fans and tourists alike. One bonus is that most of the elite players are at the WSOP tournaments, so tables are often extra soft.

If you have the desire and bankroll to do so, you can enter an event yourself. The buy-ins range from $1,000 to $1 million which means there’s a tournament for every budget. If you have previous evidence of tournament success you can even look into getting staked by other players to reduce the cost and risk you take on.

Finally, on all the major online poker sites there are satellites that you can buy-in for for a small amount and have a chance to win a seat at a major tournament. Depending on the site you may win an all-inclusive package that includes travel and accommodation costs as well.

Tournament Details

world series of poker chips

Image via Flickr by Plutor

You can see the official schedule here, which outlines the summer schedule. There are 65 events in total that start on May 27th at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, which is the 10th straight year it has been held at this venue.

While the tournament schedule is similar to last year, it has nonetheless been improved in small ways based on player feedback. Veteran WSOP Tournament Director Jack Effel commented “We have tweaked our schedule and feel very good about the opportunities it presents poker players of all levels.”

The main event is the final tournament as usual, and is expected to have a $10 million grand prize for the winner. It is a 10 day tournament that pits all the best professionals and amateurs against each other.

Another highlight of the series is the ‘Big One for One Drop’ tournament with the million dollar buy-in. This tournament is limited to 60 people and will have a grand prize of $20 million.

You can pre-register on the WSOP site or wait until live registration begins at the casino on March 1st.

Allowing Fish to Spawn

One of the epic fails of the online poker industry has been protecting the fish. Back in the day (think 2003), there were significant player protections so newbies didn’t get completely hosed. For example, players were limited to the number of tables they could play at once (just one for awhile  at 888 Poker). Limit poker was also far more popular back then, and no limit tables were a bit of a rarity.

While limit poker is more boring than no-limit (which is why no-limit eventually won out), limit does help protect newbies from losing too much, too quickly. For example, a common newbie mistake is calling a raise cold with a non-suited ace and rag. In limit, they won’t lose their whole stack if they hit an ace but lose the hand. In no-limit, they will.

If someone calls with A6 offsuit and manages to just win by hitting an ace, they likely will win a small pot, but will lose a medium to large one. Since the variance in the size of the pots is much smaller in limit than in no-limit, this means that your wins won’t be drastically smaller than your losses. For example, if the blinds are $1-$2, winning with A6 just by hitting an ace may net you a $10-$15 or so in winnings in both limit and no-limit. However, in limit, the most you’ll likely lose with this hand is maybe $20, but one could easily lose $40+  if they don’t know any better at no limit.

With limit poker on the backburner and multi-tabling the new norm, the fish eventually died out of poker rooms. However, the past few years of prohibition in the US may allow a ‘respawning’ time. Once legalized online poker catches on (by this I mean more than just one site in Nevada… more like  people in California, New Jersey, and a couple other states playing too), there will be a significant increase of interest in poker. A lot of these people interested used to play poker back in 2004-2006 and have forgotten about how much money they may have lost back then.

With all of this dead time in the poker world, recreational players will be able to muster the courage to give it a go again. I don’t think we’ll have a boom similar to the first poker boom, but we’ll certainly have an increase in casual players. Hopefully though, the poker rooms will build in some player protections (the number of tables someone can play at once, disabling tracking software/player notes, or pushing limit poker again, etc.), so that the fish don’t go the way of the dodo again.

Real-Money Online Poker Launches in Nevada

Legal online poker has finally arrived in the U.S., at least for 1% of its population.

The state of Nevada’s legal online poker market officially launches today at 9:00 am local time when Ultimate Poker will begin accepting deposits. Ultimate Poker is a subsidiary of Station Casinos LLC. Their namesake, which has drawn raised eyebrows from some in the poker community due to it’s similarity to the scandal-ridden site Ultimate Bet, is owed to a partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Ultimate Poker recently signed poker’s all-time leader in live tournament winnings, Antonio Esfandiari, as an ambassador of the site.

Ultimate Poker will accept business from anyone 21 years of age or older provided they are located within Nevada’s geographical borders. The company will triangulate signals from the mobile devices of their customers to confirm geographic compliance. Players can deposit using a MasterCard, bank transfer, via a mailed check, or by visiting any of Nevada’s 16 Station Casinos in person.

While news of legal real-money online poker launching in the U.S. carries symbolic importance, there remains a huge hill to climb for the game’s state of prohibition to come to an end in the U.S.; just under 1% of U.S. residents call Nevada their home.

Online Gaming Legalized in New Jersey

Online gaming proponents in the United States scored arguably their biggest victory this week when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed into a law a bill to legalize online gambling within the state’s borders.

The bill will allow Atlantic City casinos to operate online gambling sites including online poker rooms for residents of New Jersey. The state joins Nevada and Delaware as the only places in the U.S. with some form of legal online gaming.

Governor Christie vetoed a similar bill two years ago and conditionally vetoed this bill just weeks ago requesting some minor changes before signing it into law.

The new bill will pave way the way for PokerStars to re-enter the U.S. market; in January, the leading online poker room agreed to purchase the fledgling Atlantic Club Casino in Atlantic City.

It is not yet apparent when the first online poker games will go live in New Jersey, but it should be expected that the licensing process for gaming operators will take several months at a minimum.

New Jersey Gov. Christie Conditionally Vetoes Online Poker Bill

Legal online poker could be coming soon to New Jersey. Yesterday, the state’s governor, Chris Christie, conditionally vetoed a bill that would have legalized online poker in his state. The news is seen as a positive step by online poker advocates. Two years ago, Christie outright vetoed a similar bill.

By conditionally vetoing the bill, Christie has indicated he objects to parts of the bill but is open to passing an amended form of the bill. The Internet gaming bill will now be redrafted by the state’s legislature with Christie’s recommended changes which are said to be fairly minor in nature. A primary element of Christie’s conditional veto include increasing the taxes on operators from 10% to 15% and creating a 10 year expiry date on the bill which would require the state to re-establish it as law in the next decade.

State Senator Ray Lesniak, the sponsor of the bill, anticipates the state’s legislative bodies will approve the changes to the bill within the next two weeks.

Not only is this news a positive step for proponents of online gaming in New Jersey, but it also indicates a potentially positive shift in the national attitude towards the subject; Christie is considered a potential Republican candidate for President in 2016. Christie’s willingness to endorse online gaming could have a ripple effect on others in his party who have historically been online gaming’s biggest detractors.

PokerStars Play Money Games Arrive at Facebook

In the world of play money Texas hold’em poker on Facebook, Zynga now has a competitor with a pretty good reputation: PokerStars.

The world’s largest real-money online poker room announced today that their play money-only “.net” version of their games will now be available through a Facebook app. The Facebook app will pair players from PokerStars mobile and desktop software games. Additionally, PokerStars’ “Zoom Poker” interface will be available through the Facebook app. Zoom Poker is a fast-paced style of online poker where upon folding a hand players are immediately moved into another game where a new hand awaits them.

PokerStars’ Facebook play-money games will permit players to send chips to their Facebook friends. One could expect the influx of new play-money activity on PokerStars through this new Facebook app to result in an uptick in the real-money action on the “.com” version of the site’s games.


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