Simple Strategy Tips for Beating "Double or Nothing" Tournaments

Big stack early is always good.

Double or Nothing tournaments are becoming increasingly popular in online poker – especially among casual or recreational players.

Fast, fun and (apparently) easier on the surface, if you dig a little deeper they do require specific strategies to make the most of them.

Below you’ll find all the advice you need to play these tournaments efficiently.

One Goal: Double Your Buy-In

Double or Nothing, Fifty50, Double Thru… the names may differ slightly but the sit-and-go format stays the same: Be in the top half of the 6 or 10 players to survive and you’ll double your stake.

Double or Nothing tournaments are among the most popular sit-and-go tournaments on most online poker sites. There are many reasons why, but mainly it’s because they give you the impression that you are more likely to win money.

Three Handed Play
You don’t have to win it. Just make the final 3.

There’s no need to win the tournament or even to be one of the last 2 or 3 players: Half of the players will double their stake and the other half will get nothing.

Double or Nothing tournaments are particularly good for beginners because they don’t require you to play very aggressively and they allow you to build a good bankroll relatively easily.

Moreover, these tournaments are generally very accessible with buy-ins starting at $1 or $2. For the same buy-in you will obviously win less than in a regular sit-and-go but – in theory – you will win more often.

In concrete terms, ”all” you have to do to make a profit playing these tournaments is to cash a little more than half of the time (6 times out of 10), since you have to take into account the rake (50c for a $5 tournament for a 10% rake).

Let’s have a look at what happens if you play 10 $5 tournaments:

Money invested: $5.50 x 10 = $55 Winning 6 tournaments: $10 x 6 = $60

There you go, you’ve won $5. If you’d cashed in half the tournaments you’d have made $50, which means you’d have lost $5 – less than a buy-in.

So what is the ideal strategy for these particular tournaments that are quite different from traditional sit-and-gos (where only the first 2 or 3 players make money)?

A Tale of Two Strategies

First of all, you have to know that things can be very different from one Double or Nothing to the other.

One you’ll win easily, maybe even without playing a single hand(!). The next you’ll be the first one out just as quickly (and yes, it’s always very frustrating).

9096 Day 1A Chipleader Evan Panesis
Go hard or sit back?

There are two main strategies:

On the one hand you can choose to take a lot of risks right from the beginning. Play very aggressively to try and gather as many chips as possible.

You’ll be taking advantage of your opponents’ fear, since most people are usually pretty tight in these tournaments.

You can even try to double your chips quickly (usually by playing against people who have the same strategy) in order to secure your spot for the rest of the tournament – even though it might not always be enough.

On the flip side you can choose to be patient, play solidly at the beginning of the game and be more aggressive later.

This approach is far from foolproof if the other players are also playing tight, but it’s the one that pays out most frequently.

More often than not you’ll see a few players go crazy at the start of the tournament and put themselves in a very uncomfortable spot.

Don’t Fall Asleep

Whichever strategy you pick, at the beginning of the tournament you may try to play a lot of pots for very little money and with hands that have potential.

If you have a great hand you can always be up against a bad player or one that is trying to double their chips very quickly. This way you could get a lot of chips early — always a good start to a tournament.

Sleepy railbird
Don’t fall asleep.

However, no matter how well it goes, you should never get too comfortable (well, except if you’ve tripled your chips for example, but that’s pretty rare). Just because you’re ahead doesn’t mean you should just stop playing. Especially if they’re not too far behind you.

Blinds go up and things can change very quickly – and there you are, from first to last in a blink.

If that happens, don’t panic. Be patient. If the blinds are still moderate and your M is acceptable, keep playing tight-aggressive and be ready to go all-in if you get a good hand.

If your M is under 10, you’ll have to go for the ”push or fold.” 

Good news though: on average most players in these tournaments aren’t very good and most will pay you with average hands like A-x or less (as well as low pairs of course).

Don’t Be Overconfident

Even if you’re a good player and you consider Double or Nothing tournaments ”easy’,” never be overconfident. That’s exactly the kind of thing that can make you bust early.

This is a common trap that you should also try to avoid if you’re chipleader by a wide margin. Don’t start playing hands you shouldn’t be playing or your number of chips may go down significantly until you’re at the same level as the other players or even the short stack.

Shannon Elizabeth
At the same time, don’t get too confident.

Bad news, especially if it happens around the bubble.

Also, don’t limp too much, even though there are players who have less chips than you do. Whether someone raises or you just lose the flop money, you might eventually regret these wasted chips.

If your opponents play very tight and respect your raises – which happens a lot when they all have small stacks and wait for someone to bust – don’t hesitate to steal blinds to strengthen your position.

However, never take too much risk and fold a strong hand if there’s a chance it’s not a top hand and it may make a significant dent in your stack.

Generally, if you’re the chip leader, you should target tight players with small stacks who are too passive (unless they’re trying to double their stack). If you’re the short stack, try to put pressure on players with medium stacks who are not taking any risks.

Of course, just like in any sit-and-go, you’ll need to analyze your opponents and spot the weakest/most passives ones. They should be your main targets around the bubble alogn with the players who won’t take risks.

At the beginning of the tournament you should try to gauge things a little bit. Once you see the dynamic of the game and your opponents’ profiles you’ll be able to pick a strategy – playing loose and aggressive right from the start/middle or playing tight-aggressive and waiting for a good hand.

Dealing with the Bubble

Once you reach the bubble (4 players out for a 10-seater, 2 players out for a 6-seater), which could happen in a couple of minutes or after a long time, things get serious.

At this point one player will miss out on the money and win nothing while all the others will double their money.

Depending on how the game has gone until now either you’ll be able to just sit back and enjoy the show or you’ll have to deal with a bit of fear and work for it.

Here’s how you should navigate the bubble considering three possible scenarios.

If you’re the chipleader:

Most of the time (that is, unless you’re only leading by a few chips or everyone has got more or less the same stack), you can just let everyone else fight and watch from afar.

Chip stack
If you’re chipleader, it could be as easy as sitting back and waiting.

As long as the short stack doesn’t double his chips, victory is close. If there are two small stacks or more you should be pretty safe unless there’s an incredible bad beat – yet, keep paying attention.

You’ll notice that sometimes they simply stop playing until one of them busts. As long as you’re not officially part of those who’ll double their stake, don’t miss out on stealing some blinds. And play some cheap hands in the hopes of maybe busting a player yourself.

Still, this is not your priority. If you’re ahead, your absolute priority is to remain there as long as you don’t need to do anything more.

Don’t hesitate to fold big hands, particularly pre-flop — even sometimes if they’re pocket aces. If another player with a reasonable stack goes all-in he could seriously damage your stack – unless of course you’d remain chip leader even if you lost. In this case, go ahead!

If you’re in the pack:

Keep playing tight-aggressive, stealing blinds when you can and being more aggressive when you get good hands.

If another player pushes you to go all-in, consider the situation before you make a decision: is the chip leader trying to bluff? Is he playing it safe with a good hand like he has since the beginning of the game?

Is the short stack trying to scare you? Has he got a great hand and is he trying to double his stack?

The strength of your own hand is also to be considered, obviously. If you’re still not sure whether you should pay or not, see if losing would put you in dire straits or if you’d be able to rebound.

If the short stack is still way behind you, it’s also important not to give them an opportunity to get back in the game.

Now, if you do decide to fold, make sure you don’t do it too often or you’ll seem weak and scared. The chip leader and the other players might take advantage.

If you’re the little stack, stay calm.

If you’re the short stack: 

Easy: you’re everyone else’s target and they’ll want to see you bust sooner rather than later.

You should stay calm and composed and wait for a good hand or an opportunity to steal the blinds or the pot.

Try to catch up with the other players progressively or wait for a really big hand to go all-in. However, be careful not to waste too many chips paying blinds or you’ll have to double your stack multiple times.


Double or Nothing tournaments are so specific that there are no ready-made instructions to play ”perfectly.”

Your game should depend on the dynamic you’ll observe at the start of the game.

In general a typical sit-and-go strategy will work as long as you keep in mind that you are not trying to win the tournament.

This is kind of a ”satellite” and you’re fighting for one of the tickets.

Playing safer than usual might work better than in a traditional sit-and-go. But you’ll have to play more aggressively when the blinds go up – without taking too many risks, especially if some others players are having a hard time close to the bubble.

Last but not least: keep track of your results (on Excel for example). It’s always useful to see how you’ve fared, if you’re on a good streak or if you need to make changes.

The longer the period of time, the more significant your results will be.



How to Play Profitably On a Tournament Bubble With the Help of ICM

Everyone who plays poker tournaments or sit-and-gos will inevitably find him- or herself in a bubble situation.

These are situations where all but one player will make it into the money and one player will leave with nothing.

Play before and during the bubble is usually tense and can be quite daring at times.

Some players pretend not to care about making the money in tournaments, but usually when the bubble approaches nobody wants to be the last guy to leave without money.

Bubble situations are extremely prevalent when playing sit-and-gos (also called single table tournaments). These are tournaments with up to 10 players and usually three players share of the total prize pool.

Bubble time can be quite tense.

The winner typically receives 50% of the prize pool, second place gets 30% and third place 20%.

So in sit-and-gos the difference between finishing 4th and 3rd is 20% of the total prize pool. That’s the same difference as between 2nd and 1st place.

This goes to show how important bubble situations are and that you’d be well advised to spend some time practicing for them. So let’s do just that and take a look a fairly common bubble situation in a sit-and-go.

A Practical Example of Bubble Play 

Let’s say you’re playing a $50+$5 sit-and-go with nine players and you’ve managed to reach the bubble.

These are the payouts:


1st place: $225 2nd place: $135 3rd place: $90 4th place: $0

Tom Dwan
Let’s say you know the player in the small blind is very aggressive.

You’re in the big blind with 3,000 chips. The blinds are 150/300 plus a 25 ante. These are the stack sizes (before posting antes or blinds):


UTG: t2,000 Button: t3,500 Small blind: t5,000 Big Blind (you): t3,000

After posting the antes and blinds the first two players fold. Now the big stack in the small blind moves all-in. You know the player in the small blind is very aggressive and loves to push smaller stacks around.

In fact, you estimate in this situation he will go all-in with the best 80% of all possible hands. So he’s throwing away only truly awful hands like 83o or 52o.

The Easy Questions

You look down and find a decent hand:     What do you do?

Okay, this question should be really easy. You have a really good hand and an extremely aggressive raiser in the small blind. Of course you call.

Now let’s make it a wee bit more interesting. Say you have     Do you still call the all-in?

Although it’s a pair and an above average hand, your pair of threes does not look too good here. You’re roughly a coinflip against the small blind’s range.

This doesn’t sound too good. Surely it’s quite likely you’ll find a better spot in future hands and don’t have to jeopardize your chips with a silly small pair. So you should fold.

The Difficult Questions

Now we’ve learned to call an all-in with a very good pair and to fold with a weak pair. While that’s nice to know, it’s also fairly trivial and by no means the pinnacle of tournament knowledge.

What is more interesting is: What do you do with medium strength hands (like     or    ) in this spot?

Which range should you call this all-in with?

And more generally: Which range should you call this all-in with?

A good tournament player knows on the spot which hands are good enough for calling and which aren’t.

What do you think – should you call with the top 10% of your range? The top 20%? Or even more hands?

You might argue that you’ll think about those questions when you’re in this situation. Surely it’s easier to assess a situation when you know your own hand instead of vaguely looking for percentages and ranges.

But at the table you only have a limited amount of time (especially online) and your gut feeling might be misleading, resulting in potential disaster. For example when you call this all-in with a good looking but inferior hand.

To train your gut feeling and to be able to make proper decisions at the table, it’s vital to try some exercises away from the table.

Solving the Puzzle

Let’s find a way to assign a proper calling range for this all-in on the bubble.

Pot odds aren’t the way to go in bubble situations.

First, let’s take a quick glance at the pot odds. We’d have to invest all of our stack (2,675 chips after posting the big blind and the ante) and can win 3,400 chips.

Meaning we only need to have 44% equity for this call to be correct when looking at pot odds.

But pot odds only tell part of the story in a tournament. Because if we lose we don’t just lose the chips — we’re also guaranteed to leave the tourney without any money.

If we win it’s quite likely that we’ll make at least some money, but it’s not certain.

So pot odds aren’t the way to go in bubble situations. We have to look deeper.

ICM is Magic

ICM is the magic acronym here. It’s an abbreviation for Independent Chip Model and earlier this year I wrote a piece explaining it.

How does it help here? The Independent Chip Model takes future situations into account and evaluates the value of chips in a more complex manner.

Chips 2 2
What are your chips really worth here?

Twice as many chips aren’t worth twice as much in a tournament and staying alive is often times much more important than gaining more chips.

The explanation linked above shows how ICM works and we’ll just apply this logic to our example.

First: Let’s take a look at the stacks of all players should we fold our hand. We can evaluate the value of each stack with an ICM calculator:


UTG: t1,975 ≅ $80 Button: t3,475 ≅ $120 Small Blind: t5,375 ≅ $149 Big Blind (you): t2,675 ≅ $101

Now let’s see what happens should we call and win the all-in:


UTG: t1,975 ≅ $84 Button: t3,475 ≅ $122 Small Blind: t2,000 ≅ $85 Big Blind (you): t6,050 ≅ $159

And lastly what happens when we lose the all-in:


UTG: t1,975 ≅ $122 Button: t3,475 ≅ $144 Small Blind: t8,050 ≅ $184 Big Blind (you): t0 ≅ $0

Now let’s put those numbers together. If you fold your remaining chips, they’re worth $101. If you call and win, your chips are worth $159. And if you call and lose, you’ll have zero chips worth $0.

Meaning: You have rather terrible ICM odds. You need to win approximately 64% of the time for this call to be profitable.

This is the magic number we need. To call profitably youneed a hand which has at least 64% equity against the Amall Blind’s range.

Since we know (or assume) the Small Blind is pushing very liberally and shoves with 80% of his hands, we now just need to find all the hands which win at least 64% of the time against this range.

Finding Your Calling Range

Timothy Adams
It turns out very few poker hands have 64% equity here.

It turns out very few poker hands have 64% equity against the Small Blind’s range — despite this range being insanely wide. Those hands are:


88 or any better pair Ace-Jack suited or better Ace-Queen or better

That’s it.

In total those are only 6% of all possible starting hands! So according to ICM you should be tight like a tiger in this situation.

Was 6% your guess when we asked for your calling range earlier? Most likely not, and that’s why it’s important to train your instincts for this stuff and learn how ICM works.

It’s not always very intuitive and needs a lot of practice. But going through examples like this one helps to develop very good gut feelings for correct decisions during play.

ICM > Pot Odds on the Bubble

Let’s take one final look at this example.

Judging by pot odds we only needed 44% equity to call profitably. But judging by ICM we needed a whopping 20% more: 64%.

This shows how much a healthy stack is worth, especially on the bubble. Your stack is worth so much more than just the chips you have.

Fake Phil Hellmuth
Unfortunately, we can’t punish him by calling more.

It’s your tool, your instrument to maneuver through the tournament and it’s your insurance. As long as you have chips, you’re alive and have a chance to reach the money.

ICM takes this into account. Pot odds don’t. That’s why using the Independent Chip Model is much more appropriate in situations like this. Especially during the bubble ICM aspects have tremendous significance and dictate how you should play.

In our example the player in the small blind is rightfully playing recklessly and daringly, knowing you can only call with very few hands.

From his perspective it would even be correct to shove with any hand without even looking at it. He’s simply exploiting the bubble situation.

Calling More Just Punishes You

ICM generally advises tight play when calling shoves at the bubble and there’s absolutely nothing one can do about it.

Even the fact that we know our opponent is shoving almost all his hands doesn’t help us. We cannot punish him by calling more.

If we do we just punish ourselves in the long run. We also help the other players at the table by giving them a good chance to reach the money without having to jeopardize their own chips.

On the bright side, though, ICM will most likely also force our opponents to fold to our shove in one of the next hands and give us a lot of fold equity!



How to Fix Poker Tilt: Everyone Knows It; Few Can Avoid It

Tilt lurks everywhere.

Every player is familiar with it. But almost nobody is able to avoid it.

We know it as “Tilt.” And it’s one of the most destructive – and mysterious – phenomenons in the poker world.

Here we’ll explore the reasons for it, forms of it and the consequences of one of the most common leaks in poker.

Importantly, we’ll also tell you just what you can do to fix it.

A Story You Might Have Heard Before

Our hero is a regular No-Limit Hold’em player. He plays cash games and is currently going through a difficult phase.

We’ve all been there. But what can we do about it?

For several weeks now things have not been going so well. He’s lost more coin flips than he should have, he can’t hit his draws, and if he has a strong hand his opponent often has an even better one.

So, our hero takes a break from poker. After a couple of days he feels better. He sits down at the monitor in a good mood and begins to play.

Four hours later: Our hero has lost four stacks and got unlucky several times. Eventually he gets all his money in with pocket aces and gets sucked out on by pocket kings.

In the very next hand he 5-bet shoves his money in in a blind battle with A-9 and loses to pocket queens. He slams shut his laptop and smashes his mouse against the wall.

He’s on tilt.

Blame It on Variance

The phenomenon of tilt is as old as poker.

The origin of tilt is variance. Variance makes sure that there will always be random winning and losing streaks along with certifiably outrageous set-ups.

Extreme situations can cause players to lose focus and distract from their regular playing level. In cases like this, we’re talking about tilt.

A player’s “absolute” skill level is not the only decisive factor for long-term success at poker. You also need a lot of mental strength — and this strength is often underrated.

Chip Reese
Reese: Impervious to tilt.

Luck and Bad Luck

One of the very few players famous for being “immune” to tilt was the legendary Chip Reese. Deemed “The true King of Poker” by Daniel Negreanu and called “arguably the best player who ever lived” by his long-time friend Doyle Brunson, Reese is an icon in the poker world.

He died prematurely of a heart attack in 2007 when he was only 56.

Reese was known as the player who never showed any reaction, any change in his level of play, no matter how bad things would get. Many Las Vegas pros still remember and admire him for his skills.

Jesse May, TV commentator for numerous poker shows, once said that the most important thing in poker is to be able to deal both with luck and with bad luck.

If you’re a poker player, you know this is much tougher than it sounds. Frequently emotions suddenly well up and cloud your senses.

More Forms of Tilt Than You Might Think

Tilt where you least expect it, too.

Most players associate, and suffer from, the following with tilt:

After a bad beat or an extended (real or imagined) downswing, you lose control over your game. You play too loosely because you are fuming.

These are all things that happen to all of us. But tilt is a much more general problem and it means first and foremost that you’re simply not playing your A game – for any reason.

Playing Emotionally Instead of Rationally

There are a lot of different factors that can trigger tilt – luck, bad luck, fatigue, despondency, depression, euphoria.

All of these things can be responsible for players playing more “emotionally” instead of “rationally.”

Phil Hellmuth
Player A dislikes Player B

There are individual reasons for going on tilt and there are also varying degrees of it. But there’s one thing that all player s have in common: we are all susceptible.

Some of us more than others, but it concerns everyone. Just a few ways an emotional poker meter can be tilted:

1. Player A dislikes Player B. The reasons are really secondary. Player A decides it’s time to show Player B who the better player is. He starts confronting Player B with weak hands and plays too aggressively.

2. Player C takes a shot at a higher level. This puts him under a lot of stress and he plays with scared money. He becomes more careful and plays too passively.

3. Player D has had a fun night out. He comes home late at night and feels great. He opens his poker client and starts to play. Because of his “good mood” he plays too many hands and becomes careless.

These are but a few examples of how emotions influence your game. Bad beats and lost pots are or course right there, too.

The important thing is you have to find out for yourself why and when you’re losing your A game. Understanding is the first step to improving.

Tilt Comes From All Angles

The more you let emotion take over, the worse off you’ll be.

This applies to many things in life and tilt is no exception. No matter which level you play on, if you are an ambitious player you have to make rational, reason-based decisions.

The more you let emotions take over your game, the more your decisions are going to deviate from rational ones.

Playing emotionally over any period, large or small, will have terrible consequences for your bankroll. Remember to realize tilt comes at you from all angles and there are myriad ways it shows itself.

A player who is emotionally out of balance loses his game and as a consequence will make sub-optimal decisions.

There are a lot of different kinds of emotional disturbances for a poker player but we can put them all into two general categories consisting of opposite veins.

Tilt Syndrome 1 – Loose-Aggressive vs Tight-Passive

Loose-Aggressive Tilt is by far the most common. Every poker player is familiar with it.

You play too many hands and fall back into making beginners mistakes which you thought you had long overcome.

It applies to all forms of tilt that the damage it does depends on how long you are on it and how far you deviate from your regular game. These are typical factors that trigger tilt:

Frustration after bad beats a bad run of cards/play chasing losses to get back even during a long session feeling unbeatable because of constantly good results giving up on oneself, feeling “whatever,” getting upset being impatient and trying to make up mistakes quickly feeling vengeful against a specific player

Loose-Aggressive Tilt by far the most common.

This form of tilt is usually rather short-termed. Players tend to calm down after lashing out, even if they lose a stack.

The opposite of loose-aggressive tilt is Tight-Passive Tilt. This is a much more placid form but still just as disastrous.

You stop playing your regular tight-aggressive game and become too careful and defensive. Typical triggers for this form of tilt:

loss/lack of self-confidence a bad run of cards/play feeling insecure (because of an unusual environment, playing a new game) playing limits too high for your bankroll “securing” your winnings (not being willing to risk money won during that session) irrational fear (for example of specific hands we lost money with; superstition)

Contrary to Loose-Aggressive Tilt, which is fairly obvious and easy to spot, Tight-Passive Tilt is much more elusive.

Whereas loose-aggressive tilt is like a quick outburst of anger, tight-passive tilt can really creep into your game without attracting much attention and become a permanent problem.

This is why Tight-Passive Tilt is so dangerous – and so expensive.

Quite often, these forms of tilt correspond to a player’s personality, which makes it a little easier to detect them.

But there are cases where tilt brings out a hidden part of someone’s character, something that changes them completely and makes them almost unrecognizable even to their friends.

Tilt Syndrome 2 – Fancy Play vs ABC Poker

Fancy play will get you too.

The phenomenons described above are the most common ones at the poker table. But there are several other forms of tilt that have completely different causes.

One of them is Fancy-Play Syndrome. It’s not a very frequent form but there are players who get affected by it all the time. Typical triggers of it are:

Exaggerated self-confidence (having a good run, getting several risky bluffs through) Narcissistic streaks (especially at live tables, when players try to impress others at the table) Pushing for success (usually when being card dead for a long spell and then trying to bluff anyway)

Another – very frequent – form of tilt is the ABC Poker trap. It’s particularly dangerous because a lot of players fall into it all the time and don’t even notice it.

With players getting stronger and stronger today, nobody can afford that tilt anymore as it leads to permanent money loss. Typical triggers of this tilt are:

Underestimating opponents (thinking “ABC poker” is enough to beat them) Lack of focus (simultaneously surfing the internet, checking the mailbox, making calls, watching TV, reading, etc) Tiredness, Boredom Being distraught Lack of self-confidence

If you’re an online player, you have to give ABC Poker Tilt a lot of respect. Very busy players in particular, who play a lot daily, often go on autopilot and lose their inspiration.

This is also the most difficult form of tilt to identify as players are not really doing anything “wrong.” This also makes it one of the most dangerous. Where Fancy-Play Syndrome is usually a short affair, ABC Poker can become a chronic disease.

Defining and Fighting Tilt

Liv Boeree
If you don’t have your emotions right, don’t even start.

You’ll only be able to recognize tilt if you understand your emotions.

Successful poker pro Liv Boeree says you need to check on your emotions before you even sit down at a poker table to be able to respond accordingly.

According to her it’s crucial to accept that your emotions are a natural reaction to positive or negative incidents.

However, this is by far not enough to conquer tilt when tilt threatens to conquer you.

Simpler and easier to get a handle on are the financial consequences of tilt. In short, how much it costs you.

The Price of Tilt

Example: Player A is a successful No-Limit Hold’em player at NL100. He usually plays online and as long as he’s in control of his game/emotions he posts a solid win rate of 3BB/100 hands.

Unfortunately he’s very vulnerable to tilt and he also knows that sometimes he loses control.

If he has a really bad session he has found himself getting furious and blowing off his whole stack with bad bluffs.

Sometimes the bad bluff works, but let’s assume for our calculation that our hero loses 100 big blinds every time he “loses it.”

If he normally wins 3 big blinds per 100 hands that means he needs to play 3,333 hands to make up that single episode of tilt

As a full-ring multi-tabling player he plays around 300 hands per hour so he needs to play 11 hours to win that back.

Think about this: 11 hours of perfect poker to get back the money you lose in one, stupid hand. There’s Still Time to Right the Ship

Every reasonable poker player understands this point. But that doesn’t stop most of us from going berserk.

IT IS CRUCIAL to realize one’s own emotions and respond accordingly. If you want to be a serious player, you just have to be able to do it.

Phil Ivey
There’s no poker player on the planet who can afford to go on tilt.

If you notice you’re losing your control, follow the advice below to readjust:

• For all forms of tilt: Stop playing and take a break immediately. It’s simple but efficient. You will cool down and be able to refocus.

• For all forms of tilt: Read as many books and articles as you can. They will inspire you, broaden your knowledge and give you a better grip on basic techniques.

• For loose-aggressive tilt: step down to the micro-limits and blow a couple of stacks away. Release your aggression for little cost.

• For tight-passive tilt: Step down one or two limits to one you know you can beat. This will give you back your self-confidence and assurance.

• For fancy play syndrome: Get back to basics, stop bluffing and showing-off. Play standard, “good,” tight-aggressive poker.

• For ABC poker tilt: Increase your bluffing frequency, try check-raising some more, play some more over bets. You need to get away from your standard, easy to exploit game. Develop some new ideas, and you will develop more self-confidence.

Checking Your Tilt is Essential

There is no poker player on the planet who can afford to go on tilt. Everyone who takes the game seriously has to get to know him/herself and his/her tilt tendencies.

You need to identify, deal and overcome it. Always be introspective. Check your emotional state constantly so you’ll recognize dangerous developments.

If you can detect tilt before it does severe damage you will be A LOT more successful in the long run. And that, of course, needs to be your goal and your motivation.



Poker Tips from the Pros: Matt Ashton Plugs PLO Hi-Lo Leaks Pt. 1

I learned how to play Pot Limit Omaha (PLO) Hi/Lo in cash games.

I also like playing in smaller buy-in tournaments as the fields are so much smaller than the No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) tournaments that eat away at your life.

I have to be honest, though. I’m not the best. I don’t give much thought to the math and I’m far too loose and aggressive.

Somehow I still seem to do extremely well. They do say that poker contains an element of luck.

In the first of a two-part series I enlisted WSOP bracelet winner Matt Ashton to dissect the first eight of 18 hands that I made note of after playing in a $4.40 PLO Hi/Lo tournament on PokerStars.

Hand #1

Blinds 10/20

Seat 1: PinnacleUa (2780 in chips) 

Seat 2: Andrew0208 (2900 in chips) 

Seat 3: wobbegong (2960 in chips) 

Seat 4: AlexMillers (4380 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 5: veekay1 (1860 in chips) (SB)

Seat 7: RA$HPILLL (3120 in chips) (BB)

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (3000 in chips) 

Seat 9: shurikenstar (2900 in chips) 

HERO: [Jc 2s Ah 4c]


Hero opens to 60 in early position. There are two callers before the small blind three-bets to 320. Hero calls and one of the earlier callers raises to 1,360; the small blind moves all-in for 1,860, Hero also move all-in for 2,900, and the third player in the hand also moves all-in for 2,780.

*** FLOP *** [3d 8c 2h]

*** TURN *** [3d 8c 2h] [Th]

*** RIVER *** [3d 8c 2h Th] [Qc] 

*** SHOW DOWN ***

shurikenstar: shows [Jc 2s Ah 4c] (HI: a pair of Deuces; LO: 8,4,3,2,A)

PinnacleUa: shows [7d 4s As Ad] (HI: a pair of Aces; LO: 8,4,3,2,A)

PinnacleUa collected 920 from side pot

shurikenstar collected 460 from side pot

PinnacleUa collected 460 from side pot

veekay1: shows [6d 7c Kh 3s] (HI: a pair of Threes; LO: 8,7,6,3,2)

PinnacleUa collected 2830 from main pot

shurikenstar collected 1415 from main pot

PinnacleUa collected 1415 from main pot

Lee: I have the tendency in these lower buy-in tournaments to see ace-deuce and then go a bit nuts in the early stages. My only question to Matt was whether getting it in pre flop at this stage, and with this hand, is too loose?

Matt Ashton: I think limping is a good option from early position with most of your range in Omaha tournaments. This reduces variance and playing smaller pots is nice.

People make more mistakes post flop with deeper stacks. You also need to remember that you will be taking a flop out of position most of the time. That said, raising is better than folding, for sure, and the best play at a tighter table.

Once you are subjected to a raise, unless you think there’s a decent chance AJ is the best high hand right now, calling is better than shoving. It rarely makes a difference but saving money on a 99K flop is better than nothing.

I wouldn’t consider folding at any point given the buy-in of this tournament and the potential for people to show up with worse hands than this.

Hand #2

Blinds 10/20

Seat 1: PinnacleUa (5585 in chips) (BB)

Seat 2: Andrew0208 (2900 in chips) 

Seat 3: wobbegong (2900 in chips) 

Seat 4: AlexMillers (4680 in chips) 

Seat 5: bierbernd (1770 in chips) 

Seat 7: RA$HPILLL (2890 in chips) 

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (2990 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 9: shurikenstar (1955 in chips) (SB)

HERO: [Tc Ks Qh Kh]


The action folds around to the cutoff who raises to 40. The button folds and Hero three-bets to 140. The big blind makes the call, as does the original raiser.

*** FLOP *** [6d Jh Ah]

Hero c-bets to 420, the big blind folds, and the cutoff calls.

*** TURN *** [6d Jh Ah] [Kd]

Hero bets 1,260 and the cutoff folds.

Lee: I turn the nuts and want to charge the low draw for staying in the hand or force a fold so I can take the money already in the pot. Is this the right play or should I bet less and kept the villain in the hand?

Matt Ashton: Pre-flop I think calling is the best play here. High-only hands should be three-bet very rarely. Their equity is poor and you will hate to be re-raised.

As for balancing your range I don’t think they’re all that necessary, you can still have plenty of better aces, Broadway hands (AKQ4, AJT3) that can make straights, and big pairs with a low draw that would fare better than this type of hand too in my opinion. 

On the turn, with stack sizes as they are, I think pot is your only size here. If it was PLO high you could make a good argument for checking, or betting small with you having the board so crushed, but with the low draw on the board I think it would be a mistake.

Hand #3

Blinds 10/20

Seat 1: PinnacleUa (5445 in chips) (SB)

Seat 2: Andrew0208 (2900 in chips) (BB)

Seat 3: wobbegong (2900 in chips) 

Seat 4: AlexMillers (4680 in chips) 

Seat 5: bierbernd (1770 in chips) 

Seat 6: JRKB778 (3000 in chips) 

Seat 7: RA$HPILLL (2330 in chips) 

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (2990 in chips) 

Seat 9: shurikenstar (2655 in chips) (OTB)

HERO: [Ac 6h 5h Ad]


There is a limper under the gun, the hijack raises to 60, Hero raises to 230 on the button, the limper folds, the hijack raises to 740, Hero raises to 2,270, the hijack raises to 2,300 – and is all-in – and Hero calls the last 60.

Lee: Is getting it in pre flop with a five and six in my hand a high-variance move?

Matt Ashton: If you have aces, with a low draw, you want to get all of your money in pre flop if you get the chance.

You might not always want to three-bet some weaker ones if you’d expect to get called a lot, and there will still be money left to play post flop. These aces are always strong enough to three-bet and the 5 and 6 is not such a bad combo.

Hand #4

Blinds 20/40

Seat 1: PinnacleUa (5256 in chips) (BB)

Seat 2: KruCciAll (3268 in chips) 

Seat 3: wobbegong (3245 in chips) 

Seat 4: AlexMillers (5534 in chips) 

Seat 5: bierbernd (1590 in chips) 

Seat 6: george-gr (2901 in chips) 

Seat 7: siara213 (3470 in chips) 

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (2162 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 9: shurikenstar (7641 in chips) (SB)

HERO: [2h 6d 4h 5d]


There are two limpers in the pot before Hero raises to 200 from the small blind. The big blind calls, as do the two limpers.

*** FLOP *** [9s Qd 4c]

Hero c-bets to 800, the big blind folds, the original limper raises to 1,390 – and is all-in – and Hero calls the additional 590. 

*** TURN *** [9s Qd 4c] [5c]

*** RIVER *** [9s Qd 4c 5c] [Ts] 

*** SHOW DOWN ***

shurikenstar: shows [2h 6d 4h 5d] (HI: two pair, Fives and Fours)

bierbernd: shows [Kd Jd 3c Ks] (HI: a straight, Nine to King)

bierbernd collected 3580 from pot

Lee: I realize that I made a mistake with my flop c-bet after not paying attention to stack size, but is it a mistake to raise pre flop with this hand?

Matt Ashton: Raising with this hand pre-flop is a mistake. Low only hands without an ace in them are rarely strong enough to raise after a couple limpers – even hands that look this pretty.

As played, on the flop, I think it’s pretty ambitious to bet into three other players even if this flop shouldn’t hit them all that often. I would check.

Hand #5

Blinds 40/80

Seat 1: PinnacleUa (1618 in chips) (BB)

Seat 2: KruCciAll (2635 in chips) 

Seat 3: wobbegong (3005 in chips) 

Seat 4: AlexMillers (5401 in chips) 

Seat 6: george-gr (3276 in chips) 

Seat 7: ekta124 (4198 in chips) 

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (8478 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 9: shurikenstar (6186 in chips) (SB)

HERO: [Kc 3d Ac Ks]


There is a limper from early position, Hero raises to 320 from the small blind, and the limper calls.

*** FLOP *** [4d 6c 6s] 

Hero bets 720, the limper moves all-in for 2,685, and Hero calls. 

*** TURN *** [4d 6c 6s] [Kh]

*** RIVER *** [4d 6c 6s Kh] [Ts]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

shurikenstar: shows [Kc 3d Ac Ks] (HI: a full house, Kings full of Sixes)

wobbegong: shows [5h 8d 6d Ah] (HI: three of a kind, Sixes)

shurikenstar collected 6090 from pot

No low hand qualified

Lee: Should I have called the all-in on the flop?

Matt Ashton: Pre-flop, you have a very strong hand the shallower stacks get. The strong high equity, along with A3, is probably underrated by most beginning players.

This hand is much stronger than the AJ24 from before. Might seem pedantic, but raising pot should be your only size here too. You have to get as many chips in as possible with your stronger range.

You definitely can’t be folding the flop to any action with these stack sizes. You could make an argument for betting smaller, to get a better price on some hands you might want to bet/fold, but this is fine too.

Hand #6

Blinds 40/80

Seat 1: PinnacleUa (1898 in chips) 

Seat 2: KruCciAll (2475 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 3: tabaza1 (5517 in chips) (SB)

Seat 4: AlexMillers (5241 in chips) (BB)

Seat 5: ionbv15 (3799 in chips) 

Seat 6: george-gr (3116 in chips) 

Seat 7: ekta124 (4478 in chips) 

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (8478 in chips) 

Seat 9: shurikenstar (9271 in chips) 

HERO:  [As 2h 7s Jd]


There are two limpers before Hero raises to 440 in position. The big blind and the two limpers all call.

*** FLOP *** [Js 4s Ah]

Hero bets 1,800 and everyone folds.

Lee: I flop top two pair and bet pot. Once again I am trying to get low draws to fold and I am not sure about this play. I am also interested in the thoughts of my starting hand in terms of the strength of the deuce and seven in my hand.

Matt Ashton: I think too much weight is put into the A2 part of the holding, and not the whole hand itself. Equity for the high part of the pot isn’t considered heavily enough.

Broadway cards to go along with the A2 are more valuable than a 6-8, and even more valuable than a 3-5 when stacks get shorter. Here you have a nut suit, which helps a lot, but the seven doesn’t help much. The jack is decent but a queen or king kicker is better.

I think I would prefer a limp behind if I was playing with strong players. If people are limping with some very bad hands in front of you, then the raise is fine.

On the flop there’s no way you can bet/fold this flop four ways so you might as well always bet the pot and make sure you don’t give anyone a better price to just flat call and see a turn. 

Hand #7

Blinds: 40/80

Seat 1: PinnacleUa (1898 in chips) 

Seat 2: KruCciAll (2475 in chips) 

Seat 3: tabaza1 (5657 in chips) 

Seat 4: AlexMillers (4600 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 5: ionbv15 (3719 in chips) (SB)

Seat 6: george-gr (2857 in chips) (BB)

Seat 7: ekta124 (4038 in chips) 

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (8398 in chips) 

Seat 9: shurikenstar (10631 in chips) 

HERO: [Qs 2c Ks 3d]


Hero opens to 240 and both the button and big blind make the call.

*** FLOP *** [9d 9s 5d]

The action checks to Hero, who bets 410; only the button calls.

*** TURN *** [9d 9s 5d] [5c]

Both players check.

*** RIVER *** [9d 9s 5d 5c] [5s]

Hero bets 1,200, the button raises to 2,400 and Hero folds.

Lee: Do you fold to the river raise, and what is your opinion on my starting hand and starting hands without aces in general?

Matt Ashton: I would fold the river. Quads is a believable story for him and he could even bluff a better hand than yours.

From early position it’s very rare you should open a hand without an ace. This hand is certainly too weak unless you can expect to win the pot pre-flop a very high frequency.

Hand #8

Blinds: 50/100

Seat 1: PinnacleUa (1898 in chips) 

Seat 2: KruCciAll (2475 in chips) 

Seat 3: tabaza1 (5657 in chips) 

Seat 5: ionbv15 (2579 in chips) 

Seat 6: george-gr (3892 in chips) 

Seat 7: ekta124 (5138 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (8098 in chips) (SB)

Seat 9: shurikenstar (7806 in chips) (BB)

HERO: [Ks 6h 8s Jh]


The player in first position raises to 350 and there are two callers before Hero completes in the big blind.

** FLOP *** [8h 9d 8d]

Everyone checks.

*** TURN *** [8h 9d 8d] [Jd]

Hero leads for 890, the initial raiser moves all-in for 1,548 and only Hero calls. 

*** RIVER *** [8h 9d 8d Jd] [3s]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

shurikenstar: shows [Ks 6h 8s Jh] (HI: a full house, Eights full of Jacks)

PinnacleUa: shows [6s 2d Ad Ah] (HI: a flush, Ace high)

shurikenstar collected 4546 from pot

No low hand qualified

Lee:  Should I have made the call pre-flop?

Matt Ashton: You have to be a lot tighter from the big blind in PLO8 than other big bet games. The reverse implied odds with non-nut hands really kills your playability.

Even if the flop is something like 4d5d7c here and you face a pot-sized bet you’re in a bad spot, effectively drawing at half the pot, hoping they’re not free rolling.

You don’t get to realize a lot of your equity in this game with non-nut hands because you get semi-bluffed off your hand so often. As played I would make a small bet on the flop. You’d really like to pick the pot up now before the board develops any further.

More Pot-Limit Omaha Strategy:
Beginner Poker Tips from Pros: Matt Ashton Plugs PLO Hi-Lo Leaks Pt. 2 How to Not Suck at Poy-Limit Omaha Pt. 1: Play to the Nuts Pot-Limit Omaha: Starting Hands



Poker Tips from the Pros: Matt Ashton Plugs PLO Hi-Lo Leaks Pt. 2

Welcome back to the second part of a two-part series designed to give you some creative insight into basic PLO Hi-Lo strategy.

We were fortunate enough to have World Series of Poker (WSOP) bracelet winner, Matt Ashton, take a gander at a $4.40 Pot-Limit Omaha (PLO) Hi/Lo tournament that I played on PokerStars.

In the first part of the series Ashton evaluated eight hands. Here are another 10:

Hand #9

Blinds: 60/120

Seat 1: skyllasoll (6853 in chips) (SB)

Seat 2: KruCciAll (3140 in chips) (BB)

Seat 3: tabaza1 (4829 in chips) 

Seat 4: vasandr62 (5521 in chips) 

Seat 5: Andrew0208 (4271 in chips) 

Seat 6: george-gr (7217 in chips) 

Seat 7: ekta124 (5348 in chips) 

Seat 8: mr omaha3500 (5824 in chips) 

Seat 9: shurikenstar (10189 in chips) (OTB)

HERO: [2d Ac 7c 6d]


There is a limp under the gun and one caller before Hero raises to 660 on the button. The initial limper calls, the second limper raises to 2,820, I raise to 9,300 and am all-in. Both players (who I cover) also call. 

*** FLOP *** [Qh Qd 4c]

*** TURN *** [Qh Qd 4c] [4s]

*** RIVER *** [Qh Qd 4c 4s] [7d]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

ekta124: shows [Ah 3d Td 2c] (HI: a pair of Queens)

shurikenstar: shows [2d Ac 7c 6d] (HI: two pair, Queens and Sevens)

shurikenstar collected 1038 from side pot

tabaza1: shows [6c 8h 7h 9h] (HI: two pair, Queens and Sevens – lower kicker)

shurikenstar collected 14667 from main pot

No low hand qualified

Lee Davy: Here’s another example of me going a little crazy with an A2 in my hand and a decent stack.

Matt Ashton: You are double suited, so equity is decent, but at the same time you get more value seeing a flop with deeper stacks. If tight players had limped I’d just limp as well.

In this tournament I’d probably pot it the first time round and probably just call the second time. Any flop with three high cards without your flush draw, and your equity, is negligible and you can save some money.

Hand #10

Blinds: 80/160

Seat 1: vanjjke (3300 in chips) (SB)

Seat 2: mimarosfil (7640 in chips) is sitting out (BB)

Seat 3: billygstar (5977 in chips) 

Seat 4: Rookiend (4523 in chips) 

Seat 5: Alienatu (5885 in chips) 

Seat 6: onlythistime (4006 in chips) 

Seat 7: sligoasassin (5982 in chips) 

Seat 8: Joe Lutz (2163 in chips) 

Seat 9: shurikenstar (21286 in chips) (OTB)

HERO: [Ts 8s 3c Ah]


Villain opens to 320 in mid position and Hero flats from the button.

*** FLOP *** [7d 2s 4c]

Villain c-bets for 484, Hero raises to 2,332, Villain moves all-in for 5,565 and Hero calls.

*** TURN *** [7d 2s 4c] [Qh]

*** RIVER *** [7d 2s 4c Qh] [Jc]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

Alienatu: shows [Ac 8d Ad 7c] (HI: a pair of Aces; LO: 8,7,4,2,A)

shurikenstar: shows [Ts 8s 3c Ah] (HI: high card Ace; LO: 7,4,3,2,A)

Alienatu collected 6005 from pot

shurikenstar collected 6005 from pot

Lee Davy: I only call pre-flop because of my position. Is this too loose an open? Also, what are your comments regarding my bet sizing on the flop?

Matt Ashton: Without a nut suit I think it’s too loose pre flop. I don’t think you’re ever supposed to raise/fold this flop so pot is the right size if you raise – and I would.

With it being a split pot game, and hands in both directions often being too strong to fold, the money just needs to go in very often.

Hand #11

Blinds: 100/200

Seat 1: vanjjke (3520 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 2: stfc_nuts (3710 in chips) (SB)

Seat 3: billygstar (6617 in chips) (BB)

Seat 4: Rookiend (4233 in chips) 

Seat 5: Alienatu (4485 in chips) 

Seat 6: onlythistime (4206 in chips) 

Seat 7: sligoasassin (6467 in chips) 

Seat 8: Joe Lutz (1653 in chips) 

Seat 9: shurikenstar (22381 in chips) 

HERO:[Qh Kc Tc 7h]


Hero opens to 400 in the cutoff and Villain calls from the small blind.

*** FLOP *** [5s 2c Ah]

Hero bets 560 once checked to and villain folds.

Lee Davy: I included this hand because, up until this point, I had not played these types of hands. By this point in the tournament my stack was growing, as was my confidence, and I started playing very loose.

Matt Ashton: I like this open if the blinds are folding a lot. Stealing wide from late position works well and you can open up a lot from both button and cutoff.

This hand might be good to open in most situations from the cutoff.

Hand #12

Blinds: 100/200 

Seat 1: vanjjke (3520 in chips) 

Seat 2: stfc_nuts (3310 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 3: billygstar (6417 in chips) (SB)

Seat 4: Rookiend (4233 in chips) (BB)

Seat 5: Alienatu (4485 in chips) 

Seat 6: onlythistime (4206 in chips) 

Seat 7: sligoasassin (6467 in chips) 

Seat 8: Joe Lutz (1653 in chips) 

Seat 9: shurikenstar (22981 in chips) 

HERO: [Ad Ks 3s 6s]


Villain limps into the pot from early position, Hero raises to 900 from the hijack and Villain calls.

*** FLOP *** [9c As 9d]

Hero takes it down with an uncontested 750 bet.

Lee Davy: I was raising to isolate a weak player and play in position but is my hand too weak? And are there too many players to act behind me?

Matt Ashton: The king kicker adds a lot of value to this hand and with most stack sizes being around 17-20bb’s this hand’s value goes up a lot.

That said, unless you know the limper is playing a lot of junky hands you’re not much better than 50% against his range and anyone else coming into the pot is bad news; so I think it’s a fold without a read the original limper is playing too loose.

As played, I like that you bet smaller on the flop than other times and could probably go even smaller too – around 1/5 pot.

Hand #13

Blinds: 1,000/2,000

Seat 1: flobadobweed (40101 in chips) 

Seat 2: HarryThe RAT (20477 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 3: shurikenstar (185875 in chips) (SB)

Seat 4: Agggrrhhh (26862 in chips) (BB)

Seat 5: PJB_ACES (8446 in chips) 

Seat 6: Spiewi 67 (64548 in chips) 

Seat 7: zebra re (81919 in chips) 

Seat 8: ramvas (14290 in chips) 

Seat 9: lotse17 (36709 in chips) 

HERO: [5d 3s 3h 2c]


Villain raises to 7,000 from the cutoff and Hero calls from the small blind.

*** FLOP *** [Qc 3c Ah]

Hero checks, Villain bets 16,000, Hero check-raises to 64,000, Villain calls and is all-in.

*** TURN *** [Qc 3c Ah] [4h]

*** RIVER *** [Qc 3c Ah 4h] [4d]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

shurikenstar: shows [5d 3s 3h 2c] (HI: a full house, Threes full of Fours; LO: 5,4,3,2,A)

flobadobweed: shows [Td Kc 7s As] (HI: two pair, Aces and Fours)

shurikenstar collected 41101 from pot

Lee Davy: Your thoughts on me getting it in on the flop?

Matt Ashton: Firstly, you have made a really big mistake pre-flop. This is a very bad hand and one that is over rated by so many players.

2345 would be a fold as well. These hands need big implied odds and preferably multiway pots.

Hand #14

Blinds: 1,000/2,000

Seat 2: HarryThe RAT (18477 in chips) 

Seat 3: shurikenstar (226976 in chips) 

Seat 4: Agggrrhhh (21862 in chips) 

Seat 5: PJB_ACES (9946 in chips) 

Seat 6: Spiewi 67 (60548 in chips) 

Seat 7: zebra re (89419 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 8: ramvas (15290 in chips) (SB)

Seat 9: lotse17 (36709 in chips) (BB)

HERO: [4h Kh 5s As]


Hero opens to 4,000 in early position, Villain raises to 9,946 from the hijack and is all-in; the big blind calls, Hero re-raises to 40,784 and the big blind calls and is also all-in.

*** FLOP *** [5h 2c Qd]

*** TURN *** [5h 2c Qd] [7s]

*** RIVER *** [5h 2c Qd 7s] [4c]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

lotse17: shows [Ad 5c 2s Td] (HI: two pair, Fives and Deuces; LO: 7,5,4,2,A)

shurikenstar: shows [4h Kh 5s As] (HI: two pair, Fives and Fours; LO: 7,5,4,2,A)

shurikenstar collected 26763 from side pot

lotse17 collected 13382 from side pot

shurikenstar collected 13381 from side pot

PJB_ACES: shows [2d 8d Jd Ac] (HI: a pair of Deuces; LO: 7,5,4,2,A)

shurikenstar collected 15419 from main pot

lotse17 collected 5140 from main pot

shurikenstar collected 5140 from main pot

PJB_ACES collected 5139 from main pot

Lee Davy: I assume that this move is way too loose?

Matt Ashton: This might be an underrated hand; easy open from every position and easy shove after the action that followed.

Against their exact hands you had 45% equity here (very favorable scenario). Against two random top 10% hands you are still 33%. Don’t underestimate the importance of high equity.

Hand #15

Blinds: 1,250/2,500

Seat 2: HarryThe RAT (35836 in chips) (BB)

Seat 3: shurikenstar (215721 in chips) 

Seat 5: PJB_ACES (7146 in chips) 

Seat 6: Spiewi 67 (57298 in chips) 

Seat 7: zebra re (94280 in chips) 

Seat 8: ramvas (27830 in chips) is sitting out (OTB)

Seat 9: lotse17 (41116 in chips) (SB)

HERO: [Kc Qc Ah Jh] 


Hero raises to 5,000 from under the gun and the Villain calls in the big blind. The action checks through to the river on [As] [5h] [4s] [5s] [5c], and the pot is split, with Villain showing [Kd] [7d] [6c] [3s] for the six lo. Hero takes the high with trip fives and an ace kicker.

Lee Davy: Once again I am opening up every hand because I have the big stack. In this instance I don’t even have a qualifying low possibility and am under the gun. Is this a big mistake?

Matt Ashton: Not really sure how people are adjusting to this stage of the tournament. Normally people tighten up and I’d happily open this.

I don’t think it can ever be that bad. In a cash game I would limp; I would c-bet flop small to try and fold out any kind of A3 wheel draw type hand he might have.

Hand #16

Blinds: 1,500/3,000

Seat 2: HarryThe RAT (57422 in chips) 

Seat 3: shurikenstar (253096 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 6: Spiewi 67 (25548 in chips) (SB)

Seat 7: zebra re (71319 in chips) (BB)

Seat 8: ramvas (19580 in chips) is sitting out

Seat 9: lotse17 (52262 in chips) 

HERO: [Ks Jh Ts Kc]


Hero opens to 6,000 on the button, Villain raises to 19,500 from the big blind and Hero calls.

*** FLOP *** [Jd 9s 6d]

Both players check. 

*** TURN *** [Jd 9s 6d] [8s]

Villain leads for 40,500 and Hero calls.

*** RIVER *** [Jd 9s 6d 8s] [2c]

Villain bets 11,319 and is all-in; Hero calls.

*** SHOW DOWN ***

zebra re: shows [6h 2s 8h Ah] (HI: two pair, Eights and Sixes)

shurikenstar: shows [Ks Jh Ts Kc] (HI: a pair of Kings)

zebra re collected 144138 from pot

No low hand qualified

Lee Davy: I hate everything about this hand.

Matt Ashton: Pre-flop is good and should never be played differently. Checking back the flop is a big mistake.

This is a really bad flop for the raiser and you have a strong but vulnerable hand – you must pot it here. You might as well get it in on the turn too.

Hand #17

Blinds: 2,000/4,000

Seat 1: vental111 (30714 in chips) 

Seat 2: HarryThe RAT (48422 in chips) 

Seat 3: shurikenstar (197777 in chips) (OTB)

Seat 4: edmar018 (60315 in chips) (SB)

Seat 5: Garmon1983 (35996 in chips) (BB)

Seat 6: Spiewi 67 (13548 in chips) 

Seat 7: zebra re (142638 in chips) 

Seat 9: lotse17 (56762 in chips) 

HERO: [Kc Ah 3s Qs]


Villain moves all-in for 13,548 under the gun, the cutoff calls, Hero raises to 60,192 from the button, cutoff calls and is all-in.

*** FLOP *** [8s 9h Kh]

*** TURN *** [8s 9h Kh] [3h]

*** RIVER *** [8s 9h Kh 3h] [Td]

*** SHOW DOWN ***

HarryThe RAT: shows [Qc 4h 2d Ac] (HI: high card Ace)

shurikenstar: shows [Kc Ah 3s Qs] (HI: two pair, Kings and Threes)

shurikenstar collected 69748 from side pot

Spiewi 67: shows [4c As Ks Ad] (HI: a pair of Aces)

shurikenstar collected 46644 from main pot

No low hand qualified

Lee Davy: Was this play too loose?

Matt Ashton: This hand is very standard. Even without the nut suit I’d expect to be getting my money in good here and be ahead of both their ranges.

Hand #18

Blinds: 2,500/5,000

Seat 1: vental111 (158148 in chips) 

Seat 2: sligoasassin (30756 in chips) 

Seat 3: shurikenstar (285991 in chips) (OTB) 

Seat 4: edmar018 (55315 in chips) (SB)

Seat 5: heriot (188850 in chips) (BB)

Seat 6: Alienatu (117728 in chips) 

Seat 7: zebra re (88170 in chips) 

Seat 8: AABLACKie (50104 in chips) 

Seat 9: KruCciAll (71938 in chips) 

Hero: [4d Qs 6h Jc]


Hero raises to 10,000 on the button and Villain calls in the big blind.

*** FLOP *** [5d Qc 7s] 

Villain check-calls a 13,500 c-bet from Hero.

*** TURN *** [5d Qc 7s] [As]

Both players check.

*** RIVER *** [5d Qc 7s As] [Jd]

Villain leads for 49,500 and Hero calls.

*** SHOW DOWN ***

heriot: shows [Jh Qd 6c 3c] (HI: two pair, Queens and Jacks; LO: 7,6,5,3,A)

shurikenstar: shows [4d Qs 6h Jc] (HI: two pair, Queens and Jacks; LO: 7,6,5,4,A)

heriot collected 37125 from pot

shurikenstar collected 37125 from pot

heriot collected 74250 from pot

Lee Davy: This is a major leak for me. I know that if I call on the river I am likely to only pick up a quarter of the pot, but I don’t understand the math in these situations.

Matt Ashton: I’d play it the same. While you’re virtually never scooping yourself it’s also really hard for you to be scooped on the river.

There are not many hands that have you in both directions. In situations where you’re very confident you’re only getting 1/4 of the pot (usually nut low vs. nut low), you need to make some folds but this is definitely not one of those spots.

More Pot-Limit Omaha Strategy:
Beginner Poker Tips from Pros: Matt Ashton Plugs PLO Hi-Lo Leaks Pt. 1 How to Not Suck at Poy-Limit Omaha Pt. 1: Play to the Nuts Pot-Limit Omaha: Starting Hands



Poker Tips from the Pros: Simon Deadman Walks Through 17 WPT500 Hands

Dead good at poker.

I don’t get it.

I watch the very best poker players in the world displaying their art; I get inside of their heads, and I write about the game non-stop seven days per week.

So why haven’t I won a major title?

I know. I’m crap at poker. Or am I? Probably. Who knows?

I know I will ask someone who is dead good. Simon Deadman is dead good and he very kindly volunteered (I begged him really) to go through the hands I played at the recent WPT500 at Dusk till Dawn (DTD).


Hand #1

Blinds 50/100

Lee Davy: The button opens to 400. I have no reads on him as we have only just started. I defend K♦ 5♦ in the big blind and I fold to a c-bet on an ace-high monotone club board.

Standard check-folds on the flop are plentiful.

Simon Deadman: This is a standard defend from the big blind, and also a standard check-fold on the flop.

Hand #2

Lee Davy: I open to 300 on the button with A♥ 6♥ and both blinds call. The flop is J♥ 5♠ 4♣ and I c-bet 450 when it checks to me; only the small blind calls.

The turn is the 2♠ and we both check. The river is the 6♣; he checks and I don’t see the point of betting as I expect he has a lot of Jx hands in his range.

I check back and he shows K♥ 5♥ for the pair.

Simon Deadman: This hand is very opponent dependent. Against some tighter players I would c-bet here but with no info, this early in the tournament, I would definitely check back the flop.

We have two backdoor draws and one overcard so taking a free card is fine. As played, I would definitely consider value betting the river.

But again, this early, with no info on your opposition, checking back is fine although I would expect to have the best hand a decent amount of the time.

Hand #3

Lee Davy: I open deuces to 300 in mid position and the big blind defends. Although early in the tournament, this guy has been raising and re-raising a lot of hands.

The flop is T♥ 3♣ 4♥. He checks and I decide to check back. I did this because I felt I was always going to get called by him and didn’t want to blow my chips off.

I was satisfied with getting to showdown or folding. The turn is the Q♣ and he checks again. I check back. The river is the 2♣, giving me a set.

He leads for 400 and I am slightly surprised. I don’t think he has a flush, as I believe he would have bet the turn. This makes me think he is just stabbing with air or he has a Qx type hand.

I raise to 1,200 and he re-raises to 4,500. I assume he has 56x, A5x or the flush (perhaps he was going to check-raise the turn) and fold my hand. A few levels later the table saw him check-raising the river with a bluff.

Bejeweled Button
As always, position is critical.

Simon Deadman: Firstly, I like checking back the flop, and turn too. It doesn’t sound like your opponent is folding often so we are wasting chips if we bet with no equity.

When we raise the river I expect him to call with all hands that are worse than ours and only raise with flushes. I like raising on the river as it makes little sense and we should get paid quite often here as we are only really representing the hand we have.

I think we can rule out A5 and 56. You have raised the river with three clubs on board so we are expecting him to just call with these hands. So when he takes this line, on the river, he polarizes his range to either a strong flush or a complete bluff.

This really comes down to live reads and feel. What does he want you to do? Figure it out and do the opposite.

But as played, with no reads, I would also fold the river as your raise on the river looks strong, therefore for him to re-raise is super strong. If you think he’s just a crazy player, who could have anything, I would almost never fold here.

I played this tournament too and I saw one or two crazy unexpected hands turned over.

Hand #4

Lee Davy: The cutoff opens to 300 and I call with 5♠ 4♠ in the small blind. The flop is A♦ T♣ 3♠ and I check-call a 600 c-bet.

The turn is the T♦ and I check-fold. I find myself in these spots a lot and feel like I am wasting chips. But on the other hand, if I hit my hand and he has a big ace, then it’s worth it – interested in your opinion on this.

Simon Deadman: The pre flop call is fine, but only as deep as you are. I wouldn’t be calling from the small blind with this hand later in the tournament.

On the flop, I would just fold. If the c-bet was a more standard size, of say 350, I would call and see the turn but when the flop c-bet is so big, and we have a gutshot out of position, I would just fold.

Position is very important. On the button, I would call this c-bet as we have more options on the turn, as we get to see what our opponent does first.

Hand #5

Lee Davy: I open A♣ 2♣ in middle position and the big blind defends. The flop is J♥ 4♥ 3♠, he checks, I bet 350 and he calls.

The turn is the T♣ and we both check. The river is the 9♦; once again we check. He shows 56o and I take the pot.

Simon Deadman: This hand is fine. I am surprised we won as you’d expect your opponent to lead the river, as he has six-high. I would play the same with A2.

Hand #6

Lee Davy: I defend 9♠ 7♠ in a single-raised multi-way pot. The action checks to the turn on a board of J♠ 9♥ 4♦ 4♥.

An aggressive player in mid-position bets 400 and I call, as does the original raiser. The river is the A♦.

The original raiser checks, the aggressive player bets 2,500, I fold and the original raiser folds.

Simon Deadman: I would fold the turn. This is a multi-way pot and we have a weak bluff catcher.

Even aggressive players don’t try to bluff in a multi-way pot. We have players behind us also.

Even if we are ahead now, I’d expect the guy who bet to have a hand that had decent equity against us – like flush draws or QT etc.

Tobias Reinkemeier
Don’t put the hero cape on too early.

Hand #7 

Lee Davy: There is a limper under the gun. I call from the cutoff holding A♠ 4♠, the button raises to 400 and we both call.

The flop is 4♦ 6♥ 7♥ and we all check. The turn is the K♠. The original limper checks, I check, the button makes a delayed c-bet and we both fold. 

Simon Deadman: Your pre flop play is fine depending on the players behind. If this is a passive table I would prefer that you make it 400 yourself and isolate the limper and try to play a heads-up pot in position.

That said, suited aces do play well multi-way so it isn’t a problem if we get more callers. As played it’s totally standard to check-fold the turn. We don’t need to be getting the hero cape on this early!

Hand #8

Lee Davy: Another multi-way pot and I call with K♣ 9♣ in the small blind. The flop is T♠ 9♠ 6♦ and I decide to fold to a c-bet after everyone else folds.

Simon Deadman: Standard check-fold; again multi-way pots with players behind. We just have second pair on a draw-heavy board – definitely a fold.

Hand #9

Lee Davy: A player in early position opens to 400. I call in the cutoff holding 7♠ 6♠; the button calls, as does the big blind.

The flop is Q♠ 6♦ 3♥ and I fold to a c-bet from the player in early position.

Simon Deadman: The standard open on your table seems to be quite big – 4x in this case – so I would be wary of how light we keep calling these opens as it’s easy to bleed of chips if we’re not flopping well in these multi-way pots.

Having said that, calling from the button, or cut off, with 67s is fine. Same as before – the flop is a fold because of the players behind in a multi-way pot. Heads-up I would call though.

Allen Kessler
Against a tight player we don’t want to be inflating the pot too much.

Hand #10

Lee Davy: A very tight player opens to 450 in early position. I look down and see queens (also in early position).

I think about raising to isolate but feel the raiser’s range is very narrow and I don’t want to be re-raised. In the end I call; a very aggressive player calls in position and the big blind calls.

The flop is J♣ 9♦ 6♠. It checks to me and I bet 900. The aggressive player in position raises to 2,300 and everyone else folds.

I put him on perhaps AJ or KJ, 78x, and I consider QT, but don’t put too much weight behind it because I am holding two queens. I decide to call and let him continue firing away.

The turn is the 4♦; I check and he bets 4,000. I call. The river is the K♣.

I don’t like this card at all but I have told myself that I will call because of his loose aggressive attitude and the fact that I have blockers to the straight. He shows QT and take the pot.

Simon Deadman: Once again the open is very big and I agree against a tight player we don’t want to be inflating the pot too much when were are not sure if we have the best hand.

I would play the same post-flop, but I would take my time on the river for sure. The king is a very bad card for us. I’d now expect him to check back AJ as value betting this on the river is quite thin.

8k seems like a value bet to me. We now lose to a lot of the hands that we could previously beat like QT & KJ, so really on the river we only beat a bluff as any worse value hands than ours are likely to check back. The only bluff we think he might have is 78s, so the river seems like a fold.

If he doesn’t give you any other reason to call I would fold here. Sometimes people feel like they have to call because they have slow-played their hand and they are under-repped, but remember it’s just another hand. If we think we’re beat, we fold.

Hand #11

Blinds 75/125 a25

Lee Davy: I open A♣ J♣ in the cutoff to 350, the big blind three-bets me to 1,025 and I call. The flop is Q♦ 9♠ 5♠ and I fold to a 1,200 c-bet.

Simon Deadman:

I would open to 400-450. In the early levels, as we are not opening too many hands, the ones we do are generally good ones, so it’s better to charge them a bit more, and also avoid getting into multi-way pots. The rest is standard to call pre and fold on this flop.

Hand #12

Blinds 100/200 a25 

Lee Davy: There is a limper in early position. I call in the cutoff with 7♠ 6♠, the button calls and the big blind calls.

The flop is Q♦ 5♠ 8♥ and the action checks to a very aggressive player on the button who bets 900. The big blinds calls, a player in early position calls and I call.

The turn is the 9♠ and it checks through to the button who bets 1,600. The player in early position folds. When it’s on me I move all-in for 8,300 and he folds.

I thought raising from this stack size looked stronger than the shove.

Simon Deadman: I actually prefer to bet this flop myself – 450 into 1,000 would be ok. This way we take the lead in the pot, our draw is more disguised, and also we define our opponent’s hands more when they act.

Fabrice Soulier
Two players calling a large pot bet on flop suggests your table’s playing a little bit loose and crazy.

If we just check-call the button’s bet then he could still have anything and we have no real idea what it is. As played, once it’s back to us and both other players have called, we kind of have to call as the board is rainbow and we’re now getting a good price for our eight outs.

Nice turn card by the way. Now all we have to think about now is how to extract the most value. We only have 8,300 behind and there is now 4,600 or so in the middle so really we should be getting a full double up here at least.

The fact that two players called a large pot bet on the flop would suggest that your table’s playing a little bit loose and crazy so we need to figure out how to get maximum value. I think I would bet the turn when it’s checked to me; perhaps 2,300.

I think with the action that went down on the flop this is likely to get called in at least two spots, then on the river were all in for 5,100 into 15k and very likely to get at least one caller.

If we check the turn there’s a very good chance the button will check back so it’s a lot tougher for us to get full value. As played, when the others fold on the turn I would either raise small or just call and decide what the best line is on the river.

You could either lead or check-raise all in. But leading the turn is definitely the best way to get the most money in the pot.

Hand #13

Lee Davy: There is a limper in early position and I raise to 800 with A♣ Q♣. Both blinds call.

The flop is Q♠ 6♥ 8♦; I c-bet to 900 and an old guy in the big blind snap-calls. The turn is the 4♣ and the old guy checks super quickly.

I put him on a weaker queen or a lower pair and bet 3,600 – his money is in the pot quicker than mine. The river is the T♦ and he checks very quickly.

He just looks at me. For the longest time I was going to check back and then I foolishly tried to get value from a very small range of QX hands.

I bet 2,500 and he put me all-in. I folded and suspected he had hit a set of tens. 

Ed Smith
What to do when an old guy just looks at you?

Simon Deadman: Your bet sizing is a bit all over the place here. Pre is good, flop is fine too.

I agree it seems like he has a weak one-pair-type hand so we need to keep getting value from these. I think 3,600 is a little big and I prefer around 2k as we don’t want him to fold.

On the river I think we have to value bet as so many worse one-pair hands are calling us and realistically we only lose to QT or TT. But does he limp tens pre?

So really only QT is making this a 100% value bet unless we have another reason not to. I would bet around half the pot and be very confident we have the best hand.

When he sets us in in it’s a super-easy fold. There are no draws that missed and all worse one-pair hands than ours are just going to call.

Hand #14

Blinds 200/400 a50

Lee Davy: I open to 800 with pocket eights off a 9k stack and fold to a very tight player in the big blind who three bets me to 3,500.

Simon Deadman: Standard and fine to fold with this read.

Hand #15

Pocket kings
If KJ is folding here we’ve definitely made a mistake.

Lee Davy: There is a limper under the gun and the action folds to me in the small blind. I have close to 9,000 and I call with 9♦ 5♦. The big blind also calls.

I know I should have folded this hand and was tilted slightly. The flop is K♦ 7♦ 4♠ – giving me the diamond draw – and I check. The big blind checks and the limper bets 1,200.

I decide to take one card and then fold to any non-diamond river. Again I think this is a mistake. I didn’t want to move all-in because I had a feeling I was going to get called.

I call and the big blind calls. The turn is the 7♦ and I move all-in. The big blind folds and the early position limper folds KJx.

Simon Deadman: Your hand looks like a flush when you do this so I don’t expect many hero calls. And if KJ is folding, we’ve definitely made a mistake.

I think I would lead small on the turn; checking is also fine. It’s very important not to get over excited when you make a good hand.

You have to consider your opponent’s range and what they can actually call with before deciding on your sizing.

Pre is fine though. We have around 23bbs and there has been a limp before us; we are in the small blind so we are getting a very good price to see the flop as long as were not expecting the big blind to raise too often.

Hand #16

Blinds 250/500 a75

Lee Davy: I have 20bb, look down to see AJo in first position and I fold.

Simon Deadman: This is fine. It very much depends on how your table is playing but the way you have described yours I would fold this.

We have too much to jam and any opens are going multi-way; AJo doesn’t play well multi-way.

I would wait for a better spot where we can three-bet jam and have lots of fold equity and dead money in the pot.

Most of the time we get this through – or just get there against kings ;)

Hand #17

Lee Davy: There is an open to 1,050 from mid position, I move all-in for 9,000 holding A♥ J♥ and get called by aces. Five cards later and I am out.

Simon Deadman: This is a much better spot for us; ok he had aces, but most of the time we get this through or we get in a flip to double up.

Or we just get there against kings! Or is that just me? ;-



Poker Tips from Pros: Jonathan Little Makes Basic Poker Math Easy

You don’t have to solve everything.

I never cared for Math when I was in school.

I was scared of it. I always had difficulty figuring out even the most basic math and as time wore on my reliance on calculators and excel spreadsheets made sure that any firing mathematical neurons would die.

Then I found poker. Why oh why didn’t they teach poker in math class?

Perhaps then I would have spent more time paying attention to my work instead of trying to catch a glimpse of Beverley McAllister’s melons.

I regret it now. Poker gives me a reason to use math and I don’t want to whip a calculator out in the middle of a hand.

I can honestly say that I have managed to play poker, and remain in profit, for the past five years even though I have never calculated a sum in my head and then used it as part of my decision-making process.

It’s not just a leak. It’s the type of problem that allows sharks to swim through the gaps and tear my head off. I know that. And yet there is still something about math that I am scared of.

In my desperation I turned to Jonathan Little, two-time World Poker Tour (WPT) Champions Club member and fanatical producer of poker training books.

Surely, he cannot be that good without a fundamental understanding of poker math. Perhaps he could help me overcome my fear.

Jonathan Little
Understanding pot odds is mandatory.

Lee Davy: Do I need to learn math?

Jonathan Little: There are a lot of different types of math in poker.

The most basic-level math is centered on pot odds and questions such as ‘How often am I going to win this hand based on the number of outs I have?’ are important.

I don’t think there is any way around learning these numbers. It’s part of the essential knowledge that underpins your game.

There are players, especially old school players, who will have you believe that decisions are made by the gut – that intuition guides their decisions.

This is bad advice. How can you rely on your gut when you need to know how often you will hit your gutshot? That’s a mathematical decision.

You also get this problem with a lot of amateurs. They take a card, go searching for a gutshot, and hit it. They do it again, and hit it.

Now they think this is a good type of draw and will always call irrespective of the pot odds being offered.

Then you have the reverse of this philosophy when you see players missing most of their flush draws all of the time at the start of their careers and then stop calling — even when they have the right odds — because they believe flush draws are crappy.

LD: I once read a math book by Bill Chen. I was trying to improve and overcome my fear. By the end of the book I was in a worse state. Can the math be simplified?

JL: Bill’s Mathematics of Poker is not a book you should be reading to ascertain the basic fundamental math of poker. That book deals with overly complex math.

Bill Chen
If you want complex math, turn to Chen.

What you have to do is recognize how often each draw will hit based on the number of outs that you have.

That math is somewhat mandatory and you can easily Google various charts online that you can memorize verbatim — exactly as you must have done with a hand-ranking chart.

Understanding pot odds is also a mandatory requirement. If you are miscalculating your pot odds, or not even thinking about them, it’s going to be a disaster.

Quite often in NLHE with your good draws – like open-ended straight draws and flush draws  – you’re almost always getting the right price to draw to those on the flop. And sometimes on the turn — especially when considering implied odds.

So you need to learn how often you are going to hit your hand and be able to compare that to the pot odds. The math involved in that is quite simple.

If you really want to be good at poker you need to learn this. It really is foundational. There is no hiding from it.

LD: Are there other ways of learning this stuff?

JL: A good alternative is to just get a deck of cards out and start playing around with it. Run some simulations.

Have some chips, play the hands out on a table and watch how often these draws hit and miss. I think if you visualize things, instead of trying to learn pure calculations, that may help.

We all learn differently. Some people are visual, some learn through reading, some learn through experience.

If you are a competent poker player and are doing acceptably well, you’ve probably learned your math situations through experience. I bet you know what you are supposed to do 80% of the time without even thinking about it.

No getting around pot odds.

Also, if you’re playing poker with players who are not that great, then you don’t have to be that great yourself. Anyone can win at poker if you’re better than your opponents.

If your opponents don’t know this stuff then it’s not really that big of a deal for you to know it. But you have to recognize that if you want to get good at poker you really need to learn this stuff.

It’s a foundation that you must learn. If you want to run a marathon you are going to have to learn to walk.

LD: I recently heard that top quality Scrabble players learn volumes of words without ever caring about the meaning of those words. Can all of this math be done through the memorization of charts like they do in Scrabble?

JL: You can’t learn to spell without understanding letters. To learn poker you need to learn pot odds.

You need to learn what the math implies when you start considering ICM, or bankroll management, or trying to find balanced ranges.

I know the principles behind these factors and how to use a calculator. There are various equity calculators available to people to use online.

These are especially easy to use when playing heads-up, but slightly more difficult when the action is multi-way.

I learned to play poker a very long time ago and I learned how to deal with ranges very well because I was always all-in when playing Sit n Go (SNG) situations where the stacks are really short.

I needed to know how often I was going to get it all-in against a range of hands. I spent six hours per day, every day, studying equity calculations and ICM spots.

I got really good at it through repetition. That’s another way you can learn. It’s like the theory of using flash cards.

Jonathan Little
Once you know a flush draw will win 20% of the time there are no math sums to run.

Once you know a flush draw will win 20% of the time there are no math sums to run. You already have the information you need.

LD: So players can learn the most common range of decisions rather than having to calculate outs each time a hand needs to be played out?

JL: If you memorize the most common outs, such as six outs when you have over cards, or eight outs with most straight draws, nine outs if you have a flush draw, or more if you combine them.

If you learn these numbers you will do just fine. There are also some tricks you can learn on the Internet that can help you.

I don’t need to look at them because I have learned this math through repetition. I don’t have to think about it anymore. I just look at the board and know what my math is.

I have been studying ever since I started playing poker. I read 20-30 poker books before I even played for real money.

When I first started playing I had no money. When I deposited $50 it was a lot of money for me so I certainly didn’t want to lose it.

I try to get all the knowledge I can before I actually risk anything in a game.

LD: How important is it for players who are deficient in math to learn to improve outside of the game?

JL: If you want to be good at anything you have to study.

None of us would turn up in a hospital surgery room and try and do open-heart surgery, so why should you expect to turn up at a poker table and play poker without knowing what you are doing?

You need to figure out if the plays you are making are good – math will help you with that. I didn’t sit down and learn math per se.

I was plugging spots into calculators, clicking calculate and then figuring out what actions make the results worse or better. You need to make sure that you review your play on a regular basis.

0117b Jonathan Little
Once you memorize the charts, you’re done.

Ask yourself: ‘What could I have done to have made this better for me or more difficult for my opponent?’ Answering that one question will improve your game immeasurably.

A lot of this math is really something you can learn by memorizing a chart. Everyone learned the hand rankings of cards and in the same way you can learn pot odds and equities.

Once you memorize the charts you are done. You don’t have to solve everything.

It does get difficult when you are deeper stacked, and playing against multiple opponents, but that’s not for the beginner.

People play a lot but they don’t study enough. It’s a common problem throughout the game and not just related to mathematical understanding.



How to Destroy Beginners at the Poker Table

Photo by: masochismtango on flickr.com

If we’re being objective about the whole thing, you shouldn’t really try to “crush” new poker players.

It’s unsportsmanlike, unfair and it can potentially cause your friends to outright quit playing the game before they’ve really started.

If anything you should be teaching them how to play. Or at least toning down the aggressive play a bit.

We’re not the morality police, however, and this post is about smashing rookies into a fine dust.

Use at your own discretion and feel free to submit your own observations in the comments below.

In the following article we’ll take a look at tips for playing new players in a basic friendly No-Limit Hold’em cash game that’s most likely played at someone’s house.

Please note the majority of these tricks will not work versus a competent player.

Categorize Your Opponents

Gus Hansen
Definitely not scared.

At the most basic level a lot of poker players can be categorized into two distinct categories: scared or careless.

It’s pretty easy to tell them apart in a few orbits. The scared player will call frequently and fold to most raises. They’re not gonna stir the pot and it’s rare to see them open the betting.

Meanwhile the careless opponent will make wild raises despite having weak cards.

You should employ a very different strategy against each playing style. Against the “scared” player you’ll want to bet aggresively and consistently chip away at them. Watch out for raises because they usually have something.

On the other hand if you’re playing against a “careless” player it’s worth value-betting your strong hands. You can call down big bets with big pairs.

Finally did you realize there’s one other good player at the table?

Well this is simple: avoid playing against him or her. Don’t be an idiot.

Bet… A Lot

Viktor Blom
Unleash your inner crazy Scandi.

Here’s a concept that’s difficult to grasp for new poker players who’ve been subjected to an endless parade of royal flushes versus four-of-a-kind in TV and Movies:

Most of your hands are going to miss and premium starting hands like aces and kings are rare.

Plenty of beginners (especially the “scared” variety) are simply going to lay down their hands after the flop if they don’t connect in a big way, which means you can bet at almost every flop.

Going one step farther you can raise almost every other hand and everyone else will be confounded by how you keep getting such good cards.

Here’s another fun betting trick you can use against completely green poker players: make a minimum bet on the river.

New poker players usually don’t understand the concept of pot-odds and if they miss their draw there’s a good chance they will fold to anything.

That means you could get bet 10,000 or 100 with the same result. It’s essentially a low-risk, very high reward tactic.

Take Advantage of Poker Rank Misconceptions


This will only work with people playing poker for the first or second time but simply knowing the hand rankings is a tremendous advantage.

In fact there are some very common misconceptions that people tend to have when they are learning poker.

The most common are:

Three-of-a-Kind beats Two-Pair (New players think Two-Pair should be valued higher because it utilizes four cards… Or something).

Flush beats a straight (straight just seems harder to assemble to new players)

High cards actually do matter in a flush (self-explanatory).

How does this help you? There’s a better chance you’ll get paid for flushes or sets and sometimes you’ll even be able to deduce what your opponent thinks he or she has. Bet accordingly.

Punish Non-Stop Calling

Chips 2

All of poker can be distilled to three distinct choices: bet, call or fold.

New poker players love to call. It’s a fact.

They understandably view it as a low-risk way to remain in a hand and avoid embarrassment.

The idea is that by the time the river is dealt they can always just make the safe play of folding.

If you have a premium pair just bet every single street. Because new players also have no idea about bet sizing you can make your bets fairly big, probably in the range of 75% to 100% the pot.

Another trick is to use smaller denomination chips to make it seem like a smaller bet. Experiment to see what works best.

Beware of Aggression

It’s rare that new players get out of line with bad hands. Not impossible, but rare.

If a relatively new player bets a lot pre-flop it’s safe to say he probably has a premium hand – or at least a decent one (pair or pretty-looking face cards).

It’s just an easy fold most of the time.

Use Basic Math to Hurt Your Opponents

There are plenty of ways you can use basic math to extract value from your opponents and optimal bet-sizing is a concept that most new players simply won’t be able to grasp.


They won’t be able to understand that you can call a 3X raise every now and then with J-T but calling a 10X raise preflop with the same hand is a recipe for disaster.

Therefore you can make larger bets with your big hands.

On the other hand new poker players will quite frequently min-bet and then call, call, call, call, call for the charming “family pot.”

A raise in this situation is always fun but you can also get incredible odds when calling with a weak hand. 7-5 isn’t so bad when you are only risking a minor amount to win a huge pot.

Plus if you flop big there’s a good chance someone else got a piece of the flop too and you can bring them along for the ride.

Pay Attention to Simple Body Language

Mike Matusow

This is first-level stuff but the most basic rule of poker psychology is people tend to get more comfortable when they have a big hand.

Quite frequently you’ll notice rookie poker players engage in banter when they have a strong hand despite being quiet for the rest of the game.

Of course if they’re incredibly quiet that can also indicate a bluff.

This obviously doesn’t work 100% of the time but it’s a basic tell that can be quite accurate over someone’s first few games of poker.

Here’s a couple more obvious ones for really new players:

Checking hole cards most commonly indicates players double-checking the suit of their cards. If a player looks directly at their own stack after the flop it can be a sign of strength. Watch Your Opponent’s Stack

When people are just learning poker they get really excited about even a small win.

Therefore if someone bought in with $20, leaving with $30 would be a huge victory.

How does this help you? Sometimes you’ll notice extremely new players start to set aside chips as they are getting ready to leave. That’s what’s called their “loss threshold stack” for lack of a better term.

They are OK losing that amount but not one cent more. If you pick up on this “strategy” get them to contribute that amount to the pot and then raise big. It’s like free money!



The No-Good, Very Bad Mistake of Multitasking in Poker

The Saratov Spiderman (Photo: Daily Mail)

On a recent plane trip from LA to London I watched a documentary about young men who climb to the top of the biggest industrial cranes in the world and then hang off them with one hand.

There are no harnesses, no safety nets. No second chances. If they lose their grip, they die.

Whilst this death-defying stunt seems stupid – and it is – there’s still something we as poker players can learn from it.

Just prior to the hang — and during the hang — there is complete and utter silence. Not a single word.

Focus is the key to survival.

Effective Multitasking is a Myth

Put the bar down.

All of us have been in similar situations.

Perhaps not hanging from a crane the size of the Empire State Building, but times when we know that one mistake can result in a nasty ending.

During a recent skiing trip in Breckenridge, Colorado, I found myself on the ski lift with two young hotshots.

They didn’t lower the safety bar. Neither did I. It was an ego thing. I didn’t want to look soft.

As I stared down towards my death, I was bricking it. There was no way that I was going to engage in conversation. Not one word. I was focused on one thing: Keeping my ass in my seat.

Effective multitasking is a myth; one of a myriad of societal norms that we accept in a bid to fit in with the tribe.

The lack of effectiveness of multitasking is why the crane hangers don’t talk when they hang, why I didn’t talk when I took my death defying ski-lift, and why I once crashed my car on the motorway because I was talking to my boss on a hands-free phone.

Jonjo Shelvey Puts Swansea Up

I decided to play online poker on Sunday night. I fired up four tables and got stuck in.

I started at 3pm and at 4pm I turned on the game. It was Southampton versus Swansea. I had no interest in either team, but I turned it on anyway.

Then I decided to go through my e-mails. It was Sunday so I decided to go through my weekly ritual of planning ahead.

Football’s not helping you either.

Google Calendar was on, Wunderlist was on and I was going through my tasks and prioritizing them.

The action folded around to me. I was in the big blind holding ace-jack. The cutoff moved all-in for 15 big blinds.

I didn’t know what that meant. Who is this player? How long has he been seated there?

Is this the first time he’s shoved? Is he loose or tight? Aggressive or passive?

Jonjo Shelvey puts Swansea one-nil up. I fold ace-jack.

A Belief That Doesn’t Stand Up to Science

“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.” – Steve Uzzell

Between the poker, the football and the multitude of other little tasks I set about handling on that Sunday afternoon, what was the most important task?

It was poker. So why then was I interrupting the most important task of my evening by diverting brain capacity to trivial things?

steel trap
It’s a trap!

It doesn’t make much sense, right?

And yet I am positive this is what happens to so many recreational online poker players, and some of the professionals. And why not?

The ability to multitask is so en vogue companies include it as a ‘skill’ when advertising for positions.

But it’s all a load of bollocks. It’s a con. It’s a belief that doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny.

Our awareness is not piqued because we keep overrunning the bath.

Serious people in serious-looking white coats have experimented on multitaskers and found that not only do we fare worse academically but we also tire quicker.

Research conducted at Stanford University found that multitaskers fared worse than people who concentrated fully on one thing. They were slower to react because it took them so long to filter out all of the unnecessary information. 

Similarly researchers at the University of London found that prolonged exposure to multitasking lowered your IQ levels.

People were actually becoming less intelligent by trying to do more. There are even studies that suggest multitasking is damaging our brain function.

The Brain Only Offers So Much Capacity

As wonderful as it is, the brain only offers up so much capability at any one time.

The more you divide this capability up into various tasks, the more diminished returns you will receive.

Safer than a crane, sure. But not optimal.

Take my Sunday grind as an example.

If I put 25% of my attention on online poker how will I fare, in the long run, against an opponent of equal skill who focuses 100% on his game? What if he’s only playing one table? 

When I first started playing online poker I played two tables. That quickly moved to four; then eight; then 10, then back down to four.

I now play a combination of one, two or four. I wasn’t good enough to play more than one table. I did so because I was bored.

I didn’t understand the power of focusing on the game when I wasn’t involved in a hand. I thought the game was all about my actions.

Once I had folded, I was bored. I needed more tables.

Much Safer Than Hanging from a Crane

Then I realized that too many tables meant I couldn’t keep up. I scaled down. I got bored.

I started to watch movies, football, check e-mail and even write articles. I recently made the final table of a MicroMillions H.O.R.S.E event on PokerStars, all the while writing articles.

I thought I was clever. I just got lucky. I was a dick. 

If you’re playing poker for fun and the result is neither here nor there, then by all means multitask. If, however, you want to take this game seriously, then you need to remove all distractions.

Play as few tables as possible and just focus on your poker. Remember that the game is still going on after you have folded.

I even suggest trying to play just one table for a session. You will learn a great deal about the power of focus and can apply it to improve your game.

After all … it’s much safer than hanging from a 600m crane.



4 Essential Tips to Make More Money in Poker Tournaments

Too loose, too tight, not aggressive enough, ineffective bet sizing.

The list of common mistakes beginners make when playing poker tournaments is pretty lengthy.

Avoid those mistakes, though, and your results in poker tournaments will improve immediately.

Keep these four points in mind when playing in any poker tournament and you’ll see dramatically better results.

1. Be As Tight As Possible in the Early Stages

Many poker players play way too many hands during the early stages of a tournament.

Tournament floor
Tight is right early on.

Sure, you’ve got plenty of chips and you can afford to see a lot of flops in hopes of hitting big with your small pairs or suited connectors.

But in the long run this is a losing play. Just because you have a lot of chips you’re not obligated to spew them away with weak hands.

Calling a preflop raise with a hand like seven-six is rarely a good investment. You’re not going to hit a big hand like two pair or a straight often enough to justify calling before the flop.

If you’re a beginner, it’s possible you’re going to misplay a weak hand even more after the flop. It’s quite possible for you to hit a very expensive second-best hand and lose a lot of chips.

During the early stages of a tournament you’re playing with very deep stacks – often more than 100 big blinds. Inexperienced players tend to make a lot of mistakes when the stacks are deep.

What you want during this stage are cards that are easy to play and have a good chance to be best when going to showdown. You want cards like these:

-       Big pairs: You’re either going to hit an overpair which will usually be best or you’re going to hit a second or third pair which can easily be discarded.

-       Ace King / Ace Queen: You’re either going to hit top pair with an excellent kicker or you’re going to hit nothing.

-       Medium and small pairs: You’re either going to hit a set or you’re going to have a worthless hand.

All those hands have one thing in common: After the flop you usually know very well where you stand. That’s something you usually don’t know when playing weaker hands.

Take a hand like     Sure you might hit top pair on a       flop – but there are still a lot ways for you to be beat (e.g. against an overpair, a better kicker or a set) and it might be very expensive to find out whether you’re ahead or not.

During the early stages of a tournament you should just lean back, play your monster hands, relax, get some reads on your opponents and enjoy the atmosphere.

A lot of professional poker players even take it so far as to skip the first levels of a tournament entirely. While they might take a pass on some possible profits they also take a pass on the risk of losing their entire stack during those early levels.

A healthy stack during the later stages of a tournament is worth much more than a slightly bigger stack with the risk of elimination.

Once the antes hit, rev it up.

2. Rev It Up Once the Antes Arrive

After the early levels almost all tournaments start to introduce antes. These are forced bets (usually one-tenth of a big blind) which every player has to put into the pot before the hand starts.

Once those antes come into play, you should start widening your ranges and play looser before the flop.

The reason is simple: with antes in play there are more chips to be won. By that time stacks are also usually somewhat shallow so winning the blinds and antes will often bolster your stack considerably.

Let’s take a look at a straightforward example: You’re in the fourth level of a tournament (still without antes) with 5,000 chips and 100/200 blinds.

You’re at the button with     it’s folded you and you contemplate stealing the blinds with your rather weak holding. If you succeed you’ll earn 300 chips. This is equal to 6% of your stack – definitely nice.

But is worth risking being reraised (and forced to fold) for this gain?

Now let’s take a look at the same situation with antes. While the blinds remain the same now every player has contributed 25 chips to pot.

Thus in total there are 550 chips to be won. A successful steal now increases your stack by 11% – making it much more worthwhile to try and steal the pot.

That’s why you should try to steal more pots before the flop once antes come into play: Even winning small pots usually means your stack increases substantially.

When considering stealing the blinds and antes you don’t only consider your cards but also your position at the table and the way the players behind you are playing.

If you’re in late position and nobody has entered the pot you might get away with a lot of steal attempts with weak holdings — especially if the players behind you are very tight.

During the early phases of a tournament it was correct to play very, very tight because you had a deep stack (compared to the blinds). But the more the blinds increase, the less it is correct to play too tight.

If your stack equals 100 big blinds you can fold for an hour and you won’t lose that many chips. But with only 15 big blinds in your stack and antes in play you’ll be blinded out after an hour.

You have to loosen up and be aggressive in the later stages of a tournament or the blinds will just eat you alive.

3. Good Poker is Aggressive Poker

No matter the stage of the tournament aggressive play is almost always the better play.

Griffin Benger
You don’t limp. You raise.

You don’t limp, you raise. You don’t call, you re-raise. You don’t check the flop, you bet. 

The one doing the betting is the one wearing the pants and the one with the best chance to make a deep run.

There’s a very simple reason why aggressive poker is more successful poker: The player who calls can only win by having the best hand. The player who bets can win by having the best hand or by making his opponents fold.

By no means does inviting you to play aggressively mean you should spew your chips like there’s no tomorrow. It just means that when you decide to play a hand, you should also play it aggressively.

If you’re the one doing the betting, you’re the one deciding how much to bet and you’re the one shaping the play on the flop, turn and river.

A good exercise for any poker player is to play one tournament without ever calling unless it’s an all-in. You only fold or raise.

Interestingly this approach (while certainly not optimal) will often times yield much better results than playing without ever raising – an approach many beginners tend to take.

4. Small Bets with Big Chips

Many amateur players get their bet sizes very wrong in the later stages of a tournament, which can be very costly.

Many players open up with a pot-sized bet or make it 3 (or even 4) big blinds when raising first in. While this is fine and dandy during the early stages of a tournament, it’s considered a rather huge mistake in the later stages when the stacks are shallow.

Chips 2
Watch your bet sizing.

Once you’re in the middle-to-late stages of a tournament you should make your open raises only slightly bigger than the minimum raise.

For example with 2k/4k blinds you don’t raise to 12k, but to 8k or 8.5k.

The reason is plain and simple: with shallow stacks a small raise accomplishes almost the same as a bigger raise but is less risky.

During the late stages of a tournament you are usually stealing the blinds or are re-stealing against other stealers and most of the time your cards are rather weak. You want to minimize the damage to your stack when being caught and thus you raise small.

While it’s true that you’ll give your opponents grandiose odds (especially to the player in the big blind) you’ll find that once the stacks are shallow enough most players don’t care about odds anymore but simply want to conserve their stacks.

And they’re right to do so because usually it’s better to keep a somewhat healthy stack than to risk part of it in a dubious endeavour.

Also: Small raises give you more leeway for future plays in the hand. Let’s say you have 15 big blinds and a speculative hand like     in late position.

If you open up with a raise to 4 big blinds you’re basically pot committed. Should someone behind you push all-in you’ll either have to call with a weak hand (because you’re getting the proper odds) or you’ll have to fold and forfeit a quarter of your stack.

Both alternatives suck and both can be avoided by just raising to 2 big blinds. Now you’re not pot committed and avoid potential headaches.

Raising too big before the flop in the later stages of a tournament is probably the number one mistake beginners make and it’s extremely lucrative to exploit those mistakes.

Very often those players put in 40% of their stack before the flop but fold to an all-in move. That is, regardless of their hand, a tremendous mistake. Don’t do it!

TLDR Edition: Tournament Tips For Beginners


Play tight during the early stages and don’t jeopardize your stack with expensive second-best hands Loosen up in the middle and late stages and steal the blinds and antes, even with weak holdings. When playing a hand, play it aggressively. Only call (instead of folding or raising) if you absolutely have to! Don’t raise too big in the late stages, min-raises are perfectly fine.



A Fail-Safe, Profitable Strategy for (Some Parts of) Poker Tournaments

Wouldn’t it be great to have an easy-to-follow poker strategy guaranteed to work no matter what your opponents do or what cards they’re holding?

I’ll answer that for you: It would. Unfortunately, such a strategy doesn’t exist.

Good poker players have to rely on their brains and put in a lot of work to compete successfully.

That being said the Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings, which we’ll explain in this article, are very close to perfect strategy — at least in certain, specific tournament situations. 

Perfect Strategies for Certain Situations in Poker

In certain situations in poker there are actually strategies that are guaranteed to yield a profit.

Surprisingly, these are also fairly easy to learn.

Poker in itself is immensely complex and most strategic advice includes a lot of situational conditions. 

Eg. “if your opponent is passive, then …” or “if you’ve been very tight in the last orbit and hold X, then …”.

But there are situations that are really simple and where it’s easy to come up with a perfect strategy that doesn’t include lots of conditions.

If your stack’s in a certain range, take note.

Pre-flop hands between the small and the big blinds are exactly that kind of situation.

Folded to You, Short-Stacked

Here we’ll focus on one specific situation: You’re sitting in the small blind, your stack isn’t too huge, it’s folded to you and you have to decide what to do.

You might say: “That’s a very specific situation – small blind, small stack, folded to me – how often will that happen?” 

The answer: In almost every poker tournament you play — probably multiple times.

If you play any sort of short-stack cash game you’ll also find yourself in such a situation quite often.

Example Situation: What Would You Do?

Let’s look at a specific example:

You’re playing a winner-take-all tournament and there are four players left.

You’re in the small blind. The two players in front of you fold and you look down to see K♣ 6♠ – a hand with a high card but nothing else to it. 

To make things worse the player in the big blind is a really good player who rarely makes any mistakes.

The blinds are 100/200 (no antes) and you have 2,250 chips left. So what would you do?

With a hand like this out of position against a good opponent, quite a lot of players just throw their hand away without a second thought.

As you’ll see, though, that’s a mistake. Pushing all-in is the correct move in this situation.

As a matter of fact, moving all-in is correct even if your opponent knows exactly what you have and acts accordingly.

Assume Your Opponent Knows Your Hand

Works even if he knows your exact hand.

That’s the idea behind the strategy here: We assume our opponent knows our hand.

He only calls when he gets the correct odds but folds otherwise.

Now we want to know: Depending on our stack, which hands can we profitably shove all-in with if our opponent knows our holding and plays perfectly against it?

This is a purely mathematical question. We know our hand (say K♣ 6♠ from above example) and we know our stack (11 big blinds, also from example above).

We don’t know which hands our opponent in the big blind holds but each possible combination is equally likely.

We assume our opponent calls with all better hands (like King-Seven or Ace-Deuce) but folds all hands that are worse (like Seven-Four or Queen-Jack).

Thus we can calculate how likely it is that our opponent will call us, our equity in this case and our winnings if he folds. Some simple-yet-lengthy math (which we won’t detail) gets the calculation done and voilá:

David Sklansky
David Sklansky

It turns out that we can move all-in profitably with K6o whenever our stack is 13.3 big blinds or less — even if our opponent knows our hand and plays perfectly against it.

The Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings

If we do those calculations for each possible starting hand then presto: we’ve got ourselves a more than useful strategy (or guidelines, if you like) for small-blind play.

David Sklansky and Victor Chubukov were the first to run all those calculations and they popularized this strategy under the name “Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings.”

Those rankings show the maximum stack for each hand that allows you to push your hand profitably from the small blind under the assumption that the big blind knows your hand and plays perfectly against it.

The following table shows the Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings for all possible starting hands.

It shows the maximum stack size you can profitably push with.

Suited hands are to the right and above the diagonal; off-suit hands to the left and below the diagonal.


For example: A-8 offsuit has a ranking of 36 and J-7 suited has a ranking of 9, meaning it’s definitely profitable to push all-in with J-7 suited if your stack is 9 big blinds or less.

What Are the Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings Good For?

In the preface I promised to show you a strategy that’s guaranteed to yield a profit and that’s exactly what the Sklansky-Chubukov-Rankings provide:.

You’re going to come across these situations – alot.

A guarantee. A fail-safe.

Even if your opponent in the big blind plays perfectly against your particular hand you know whether it’s profitable to move all-in or not.

Especially in tournaments you’ll often encounter situations where you’re not sure about the strength of your hand.

It turns out that with decreasing stack sizes (in relation to the blinds) many weak-looking hands are still profitable pushes before the flop. 

Take a look at Q♠ 5♠, the “Granny Mae” of poker.

It’s a rather innocuous looking hand. But as long as your stack is smaller than 10 big blinds, it’s better to move all-in from the small blind than to fold — even if your opponent knows your hand.

If you feel you’re probably playing too tight in tournaments when the blinds grow huge, take a look at the Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings. It’s likely you’re undervaluing some hands and folding where a push is the better play.

Making Better Decisions with Sklansky-Chubukov

There are many ways to utilize these rankings and use them to improve your game.

First and foremost they give you an idea about hand strength and the power of moving all-in.

But they also give you some very useful guidelines for how and when to push in tournaments.

Some tips regarding Sklansky-Chubukov pushes:

1. You Can and Should Play Looser than Sklansky-Chubukov

David Sklansky
In general: The Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings are lower boundaries.

If the Sklansky-Chubukov-Ranking for a hand is 5, it means you can (and should!) push this hand with 5 big blinds or less.

But this doesn’t mean it’s incorrect to push with larger stacks. It just means that you don’t auto-profit even if you opponent knows your hand.

Fortunately your opponents usually don’t know your hand!

Take a hand like 8-6 suited. It has a Sklansky-Chubukov Ranking of 5. But this ranking assumes that your opponent calls your all-in with hands like Ten-Trey or 9-2 (because on paper they’re better than your hand).

In reality he will most likely fold those hands, making your shove profitable with way more than 5 big blinds.

In general: The Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings are lower boundaries. If your stack is lower than the ranking, a push from the small blind is better than a fold.

But even if your stack is bigger than the ranking, it can very well still be correct to shove instead of fold.

2. You Don’t Have to Push if There are Better Plays

The Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings don’t imply that you’re forced to push all-in whenever you have a hand which qualifies for the ranking.

That would be outright absurd in some cases.

Let’s say you’re playing a cash-game with 100 big blind stacks and find Ace-Queen-suited in the small blind.

This hand has a Sklansky-Chubukov Ranking of 137, yet it’s almost certainly wrong to just open-shove from the small blind.

A regular-sized raise would be the much better play.

Basically the Sklansky-Chubukov Ranking says: If you can only shove or fold, you’re better off shoving if your stack is below the ranking.

Bejeweled Button
Works from the button, too.

For stacks with 10 big blinds or less it’s usually correct to either shove or fold, but for bigger stacks smaller raises are a realistic option.

If you’re a decent player and are optimistic you can outmanoeuvre your opponent post-flop, go ahead and make a regular raise even if your hand qualifies for a Sklansky-Chubukov push.

3. Pushing with Antes and From the Button

One final tip: The Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings also work from the button and with antes in play, but you need to adjust a little bit.

With antes in play you can push quite a bit looser and you can multiply the Sklansky-Chubukov Ranking for any hand by 1.5 to get the correct ranking.

9-8 suited, for example, normally has a ranking of 8, but with antes in play you can profitably move all-in from the small blind with 12 or less big blinds.

The Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings also work from the button. But since you have two opponents (rather than one) the rankings are cut in half.

K-9 offsuit for example (which has a regular ranking of 18) is an auto-push from the button with 9 big blinds or less.

You can and should push looser from the button than the Sklansky-Chubukov Rankings indicate.

The blinds are usually calling much tighter than they would if they knew your hand, thus increasing your fold equity and thus increasing your profit when shoving.

4. Your Stack, His or Her Stack

Throughout this article I’ve referred to “your stack.” Of course you always consider your effective stack.

That’s the minimum of yours and your opponent’s stack.

For example: if you’re in the small blind with 100 big blinds while the player in the big blind only has 6 big blinds left, your effective stack is 6 big blinds, not 100.



Poker Tips from Pros: Calvin Anderson Unravels Proper Poker Thinking

No right or wrong answer – just thinking.

When I originally approached Calvin Anderson to analyze some hands I played at the €220 buy-in 888Live Local in Dublin, I had 14 of them.

After talking through the first hand I realized there was no way I was going to get through them all.

Anderson doesn’t operate that way. There is never a right or a wrong answer.

Instead he offers opinions, ask questions and suggests scenarios. I swear I could hear his brain whirring through the Internet cables.

I felt very grateful to be holding a conversation with one of the greatest poker players of his generation.

Break the Rules, Don’t Get Heard

The conversation started well. Anderson was riding shotgun during a trip through Costa Rica. He showed me the view. It was better than the grey, damp city life that stared at me.

Calvin Anderson2
You must have a purpose.

“I like the way you have formulated your hand histories,” said Anderson.

As it turns out Anderson is very particular about the way a hand history should be sent to him. He even has a rulebook.

If you don’t follow the rules, you don’t get heard. Fortunately, luck was on my side. I followed most of his rules. Here they are:

You must have purpose All the facts must be present You should express your thought process and ask great questions Don’t brag Don’t bleat about a bad beat

The 888Live Local event in Dublin I played was a €220 buy-in (single re-entry).

Someone bought me into the event. I didn’t want to re-enter. I was skint. I decided to play Day 1A. This gave me the opportunity to go into debt on Day 1B should I bust.

The starting stack was 25,000 chips. The blinds increased every 30 minutes.

Hand #1 – Blinds 25/50

I opened to 150 under the gun holding pocket eights and get four callers. The flop is J53cc.

I c-bet 350 and there is one caller in position. The turn is the 4h. I decide to check-fold, believing there are too many jacks in his range.

The Question

This is a pretty standard hand that comes up a lot. At the time, when facing four players, I feel like one of them must have a jack but it feels so wrong to simply fold pocket eights on the flop.

This is why I bet, but should I check-fold?

Calvin Anderson: The outcome of a hand, when playing this deep, isn’t that big of a deal.

This is one of the reasons that it’s a good idea to be on time and play in the early rounds of an event.

Calvin Anderson
Always have a long-term plan.

It’s a great way to shake those mistakes out of you and get a feel for the other players without hurting your stack.

You do need to pay attention to how many people are in the hand. You also need to have formed some sort of calling range.

There is a good chance that someone has a jack in this spot but betting isn’t a bad idea. Always try to have a long-term plan: pre-flop through to river.

Once you bet the flop your next response depends on how many people call or if anyone raises. If one person would have called I would have check-called the turn.

If you would have got two callers I would have check-folded because one of them definitely has a jack.

When the one player calls I would get a read on the guy. Is he capable of floating? Is he an active and aggressive player – someone who is stubborn?

If so I may not fold to him but if he is an older, more straightforward guy, I would fold. Then if the river wasn’t a club, or another four, I would probably check-call again.

In a low buy-in tournament like this he is probably not good enough to bet a jack again so I would guess he was bluffing.

LD: When four people call,  I give up. I assume one of them must have a jack and if called on the flop I am done with the hand.

Calvin Anderson
It’s important to understand why you’re making every action.

CA: In this low of a buy-in, and with four people in the hand, I kind of agree with you.

The reasons why you bet are to protect your hand from over cards and straight draws and to get value from weaker hands.

If you check it’s because you think they either have the best hand, you’re inducing them to bluff or you’re giving up.

It’s important to understand why you’re making every action.

LD: I have this ‘rules’ type of mentality. I learned to play online cash games by using starting hand charts. I know that’s hurt my ability to improve as a poker player. Even now there are hands that I will open from certain positions, irrelevant of the dynamics of the table. I see a pocket pair and I open with a raise.

CA: You make a good observation. Raising our awareness of whether a play is good or bad is a good thing.

Opening pocket fours under the gun is not necessarily a great play, but understanding that it’s not a great play allows you to play it because you can get away from the hand.

But if you are opening it every time, and think it’s the right play, then that’s a fundamental mistake.

LD: It’s the same when I have pocket pairs. When I played online cash games I would lose a ton of money with these hands. I learned to set-mine only. If I didn’t flop my set I was done with the hand unless I had flopped a straight draw, for example, or had 77 through TT on a low board.

CA: People have a hard time transitioning from cash games to tournaments. I’m not an amazing cash-game player. I don’t really play pocket pairs to set mine that often.

It’s the right play to do it whenever you are above a set number of big blinds – like 60-70bb+. In this hand, at this blind level, when you raise you’re effectively set mining with the eights.

But having cash-game experience is important. You can break tournaments down into three phases:

The early phase suits the cash-game player, the middle phase suits the tournament player and the latter stages suit the Sit ‘n Go player.

I’m not the best at any of those disciplines but I don’t do too bad when you combine them all.

Hand #2 – Blinds 25/50

A player opens to 350 and I call with pocket tens from the small blind. The flop is AQTcc.

I check-call a 350 c-bet. The turn is the J♥ and we both check. The river is the K♦. We check it down and split the pot.

Calvin Anderson
Emotion is very powerful.

The Question

Given villain’s likely range should I have raised for value on the flop? I played a hand similar to this during the World Series. I got it in on the flop and my opponent had the nuts.

I don’t play a lot of tournaments so these instances are fresh in my mind. This definitely influenced my play and this happens a lot.

I know this isn’t the right way to approach the game, but it happens so quickly.

Calvin Anderson: This is a big problem that a lot of people have. Emotion is very powerful. People remember highly emotive situations – positive or negative.

This is why a lot of people have problems related to highly emotional incidents that happened when they were younger, and then it effects them in later life.

This happened to you at the WSOP. Back then you flopped a set and, in a rare occurrence, you lost to a better hand.

You knew you played the hand the right way, you lost, but it still affected you emotionally because you were knocked out of an event that you rarely play in.

There is no reason for you to be disappointed afterwards. When I play a poker tournament, and I am absolutely positive that I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t worry about it.

But you need to be certain that you didn’t do anything wrong. If you don’t positively know that, then ask.

If I make a mistake, I get mad. But I don’t remain in that state for long. I turn my attention to figuring out what I did wrong so I can make a better decision in the future.

LD: But should I have raised the flop?

CA: There isn’t a correct play. Either play might be fine. I’m not going to give you a right or wrong answer.

Calvin Anderson
There isn’t a “correct” play.

I’m going to give you reasons why it could be right or wrong; that’s poker. It could be right 80% of the time and wrong 20% of the time.

In this situation it’s right to raise 80-90% of the time and not to 10-20% of the time.

The reasons you raise are to gain value from hands like AK, AJ, AT, AQ, J9 and QT. You lose to QQ, KJ and AA.

That’s how you work out the right play and so in this instance, without any other information, it seems raising would be a good play.

Me: When the jack hits on the turn should I have bet-folded?

CA: I wouldn’t bet-fold. You have a lot of equity. Let’s say he does have a king. You can still hit quads or a boat. You can bet-call.

The odds of him raising you with a king are small and you can still make your hand. I wouldn’t fold a hand with this much equity.

andy black
What will Andy Black do?

Hand #8 – Blinds 1000/2000 A300

I was eliminated on Day 1A through a cooler. The following hand is taken from Day 1B, when I re-entered.

I have 40bb at the start of the hand. There is an open to 4,300 from a 60bb stack, in mid position, and I call with 89dd in the hijack.

A weak player, who has the table covered, three-bets to 16,000 in the cutoff. Andy Black, who also has in excess of 100bb, calls from the button. The original raiser folds and I call.

The flop is T84r and both Andy Black and I fold when the original three-bettor moves all-in when checked to. 

The Question

After the weak player three-bet and the action folded around to me I knew that the instinctual play was to fold. I decided to call for the following reasons.

I had a hand that flops well against two players with stacks in excess of mine. I don’t play tournaments that frequently. This changes my approach to the game.

Instead of playing ‘optimally’ I take chances. I do this because I am not a favorite in the game and therefore my best chance of winning is to take a chance like this to gain a large stack that gives me more maneuverability.

Had I lost the hand I was comfortable playing with a 20-25bb stack. Is this approach ok?

Calvin Anderson: If you wanted to work out the correct math then you can use a program called Flopzilla to help you with that.

As played, you have to attempt to put the original raiser on a range. Then thinking about relative position is also very important.

Whoever made the big three-bet is going to act first. That guy is going to bet, then dependent on who goes next, leads to your involvement in the hand.

The guy who re-raised; if Andy is acting after him, and then it’s you, then you can be in the hand. You are going to be squeezed between two guys.

lee davy 888 dublin
He played, and he learned from the best.

It may be fine for you to get into this hand as long as you understand this. It also depends how much equity you will flop. When you flop a nine on a T96 board, you don’t know whether to go with it or not.

This guy is going to bet big, Andy Black is still there to act next and so you need a very strong hand. What’s going to happen, a lot, is you are going to miss the flop. Or you will hit but not very hard.

Imagine playing a pair of 2s. You always know if you are going to go with it or not. Figuring out what you are going to do when you hit boards like this is important.

LD: I knew what I was doing. I was moving all in with any draw or folding.

CA: I think that’s fine. Knowing that you want to gamble in this spot is ok. Knowing you are not the best player in the field, and you are not experienced enough to small-ball and grind it out, makes a huge difference to your approach.

Taking the chance to get a lot of chips is fine. I do this a lot, early in tournaments, to get a big stack.

I think more people should know where they are in terms of their level of ability in a particular tournament and take risks accordingly.

But you need to understand the quality of the hands you select and make sure you have good equity when making these decisions.



How to Trick Your Brain (and Body) Into Playing Better Poker

Don’t underestimate your brain’s influence.

Everyone likes to talk about how much poker relies on psychology and how the cards are only secondary.

While there is some truth in that, it’s mostly relevant to mental condition and preparation.

The mind and brain’s influence on our actions and successes is probably widely underestimated.

As a game where the psychological aspect is essential, poker is a great example of that.

Of course you have to be good at reading people and their tells, but your poker success also depends on other psychological concepts.

In short: you can get better results by learning how to control your brain. This advice is relevant to a lot of different fields and even to your daily life.

In this piece we’ll talk about three different neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) techniques: positive visualization, anchoring and body language.

1) Playing Like a Pro: Positive Visualization

Daniel Negreanu
Master of positive visualization.

Whatever your skill level, playing live poker is always a bit stressful — if not completely intimidating. Even when you’re experienced.

Adrenalin is a good thing because it helps you have a clearer mind and gives you more fighting spirit.

However, healthy stress can easily turn into a paralyzing fear. As a result your reflexes will be impeded, you’ll make bad decisions and you’ll lose.

It’s also a vicious circle: the worse you play, the more stressed you’ll be and … the worse you’ll play.

That’s why you need to know what techniques poker pros use to strengthen their minds. One of them is positive visualization.

What is positive visualization?

It’s an easy, interesting and (importantly) free technique. There are only two rules to follow:

–  Apply it during your preparation and on the day of the tournament;

–  Ideally, practice every day.

Find a quiet, comfortable spot. Relax and close your eyes. Picture yourself going to the casino or the poker tournament venue and playing.

Visualize the whole room, feel the atmosphere. Picture yourself: you’re dynamic, confident and you succeed in everything you do. Feel the pleasure this gives you.

And then, say out loud that this is the way things will go.

Positive visualization for new or online players

You’ve never been to a real live casino? Don’t panic! The easiest and most efficient way is to simply go to a casino to get a feel for the atmosphere and familiarize yourself with the place.

If this is not possible, you have two solutions:

– Go to another gambling venue (all casinos aren’t the same but they all have similarities, especially as far as poker games are concerned);

Phil Ivey
Imagine yourself against tougher players.

– Watch tournaments and poker games on TV to feed your imagination.

Watch the players closely – especially the poker players – and picture yourself in their shoes.

If you’ve already played in online poker rooms you can use the feelings you experienced when you got good cards or when you bluffed successfully.

Positive visualization for experienced players

If you’ve already played poker tournaments in a casino or even if you’ve just played poker with friends, you have an edge.

You’re already familiar with the sensations we are looking for.

It will be much easier for you to practice positive visualization and picture yourself playing successfully.

To take things further you can even imagine you’re playing against tougher opponents — even those who might have defeated you.

What matters is that when you get to the poker table you have a winner’s state of mind.

That’s why you need to have already felt the elation and pleasure of winning … even if it was just in your head!

By creating a positive mental context you increase your odds of winning dramatically.

2) Anchoring: A Foolproof Way to Improve Your Confidence

No poker player can win without self-confidence and the ability to handle stressful situations – especially when playing a tournament.

Thankfully, there are techniques you can learn to channel your emotions. Even better, anchoring allows you to keep it all in check and to feel good at will.

Here’s how it works.

When your brain tricks you

Luca Pagano
Senses can trick your brain.

Your brain registers information collected by your five senses (smell, hearing, sight, taste and touch).

Outside of basic information (what burns, etc.), your brain is also influenced by its own cultural and social references.

Here’s an example: a study conducted by the University of Oxford showed that the same smell would trigger more negative reactions when it was considered a «bodily odour» than when the subjects were told it was cheddar cheese.

It was actually the exact same smell, which shows that the choice of words is very important and influences the subjects’ perception.

This is a natural phenomenon that can turn against you. Your senses also register your physical reactions when you’re experiencing really strong emotions (positive and negative).

That’s why some smells, sounds or tastes can trigger memories, even years later, and a physical reaction.

This is something therapists use when they work with patients who have been through some sort of trauma.

That’s also why some bakeries spray enticing smells (warm bread, croissants,…). It has been shown to improve sales dramatically.

Even if they’re not hungry clients will buy something because they’re looking for pleasure and well-being.

Anchoring: tricking your brain

So what’s the link between this and the need to handle pressure during a poker tournament?

It’s quite straightforward, really. By using NLP you’ll be able to trick your brain into sending positive vibes … at will.

This technique is called anchoring. Basically it uses this sensation/emotion relationship to your advantage by creating artificial connections.

The easiest way to do that is touch because you won’t need any props and you’ll be able to use anywhere and at any time (playing with friends, at a casino or even if you’re playing real-money online poker).

Here’s a step-by-step:

Antonio Esfandiari
Find your anchoring gesture.

1) Find your anchoring gesture

There is no right or wrong gesture. But because we’re talking about poker, there is one rule to follow: it has to be discrete enough so that people won’t notice it when you’re playing.

It can be joining your feet together for a few seconds, making a slight movement with your fingers, touching your arm or your hand, etc.

You just have to find the one that suits you.

2) Use that gesture every time you feel a specific positive sensation

Depending on what you’re looking for, use your anchoring move when you feel confident and safe, when you feel pleasure, when you’re happy, etc.

Repetition is key here. After a while your brain will automatically associate this gesture and the sensation.

3) Test and use your anchoring gesture in real-life situations

Before you actually use it at the poker table you need to use it progressively in your daily life.

For example, every time that you find yourself in a stressful situation or when you don’t feel self-confident enough.

When you’ve reached a new stage, you can move on to other situations.

Your anchoring gesture needs to become automatic and you need to keep using it when you feel good.

Of course in case of a very strong negative emotion your anchoring gesture won’t be enough for you to reach a state of well-being in a few seconds.

But it will still be very efficient to counterbalance unpleasant sensations and help you get some hindsight to channel your emotions.

3) Body Language: Use Your Body to Win

To be effective throughout a poker tournament you need to seriously look into the way your brain works.

Use your body to win.

Skills and luck aren’t enough; the difference between a good player and a winning player is also physical and psychological.

You need to have incredible mental strength, even after a bad beat or a series of bad hands.

Fortunately for you there’s a way to achieve this thanks to the subtleties of human physiology.

The link between your emotions and your body

Take some time to observe the people around you and your own behaviors depending on what you’re feeling: joy, sadness, anger, well-being, fear, worry, confidence, etc.

You’ll soon realize that your body has ways to express what you’re feeling.

When someone is telling you about their misadventures or gets angry recalling an argument, you’ll notice that they’re often «miming» their misfortune.

And even when you’re containing an emotion you won’t be able to stop yourself from feeling it physically inside of your body.

Your state of mind always has an impact on your posture and behavior.

How can you use this to win?

It’s very simple: you need to reverse this physiological mechanism and use it to your advantage.

You won’t be undergoing an emotion or sensation; you will trigger the one you have chosen.

The relationship between emotions and body language works both ways.

During a tournament, even when you’re on a losing streak, you need to force yourself to do some role-playing.

Patrik Antonius
Act like a winning player.

Instead of allowing yourself to doubt, get angry or scared, you will always behave as if you were confident, sure of yourself and positive.

You’ll take deep breaths, look straight ahead, smile (or look emotionless) and push your shoulders back.

By acting like a winning player, you’re tricking yourself. Your emotional perception will change and your pessimism and fears will decrease dramatically.

This is also a very good technique to boost your motivation and energy when you’re starting to feel tired (which always happens after a few hours of playing).

It’s much more efficient than drinking Red Bull.

Manipulation: learning how to read people’s mind

When you play poker you’re always trying to figure out your opponents’ tells.

If you manage to master the relationship between emotions and the body, you’ll have a powerful tool to get into the other players’ head and manipulate them more easily.

By mimicking (discretely) someone’s attitude, you can guess what they’re feeling. This will give you great clues and better chances to win.

Of course this will be harder to use against professional players, but not everyone is Phil Hellmuth — which gives you some room to try this out!



Poker Tips from Pros: Ludo Geilich Reveals When to Rep the Ace

Ludovic Geilich at the 2015 EPT Grand Final

Whilst playing in a MiniFTOPS event on Full Tilt Poker I came across a scenario that I see all of the time.

I open and find a caller. The flop is ace-high and I don’t have the ace.

I need to figure out if I can represent it or not.

In these types of hands I’m never quite sure when to give up and accept that my opponent has the ace or when to continue my aggression.

I reached out to the recent Genting Poker Series (GPS) Newcastle Main Event winner, Ludovic Geilich, to ask his thoughts on the matter. This is what he had to say.

How do you proceed when you know he could have either range?

The Hand

Blinds 60/120. Hero is in the HJ with 29,840 and [Kd] [Qd]

I open to 360 and the CO calls from a stack of 14,985.

Flop: [Ac] [6d] [3d] (990 in the pot)

I bet 450 and he quickly calls.

Turn: [Js] (1,890 in the pot)

I bet 900 and he calls.

River: [5s] (3,690 in the pot)

I bet 2,800 and he calls.

Lee Davy Commentary: Pre-flop is standard. Once he calls the flop I put him on a range of pocket pairs and suited connectors.

On the flop I decide that if I’m going to c-bet I’m going to fire three barrels to get him off a stubborn pocket pair.

I follow through with this plan after he calls flop and turn very quickly. I know he could also have an ace and I don’t think he is folding.

So I guess the point here is how do you proceed with these things when he could have either hand range that I describe?

The Difference Between Online and Live Poker

Ludovic Geilich Commentary: “The first point I would like to enforce is to understand how differently this hand plays dependent on whether you are playing live or in an online poker room.

“You are far more likely to get someone to pass this type of hand when playing live than you are online.

“The online game changes all of the time. The live game, not so much. Some of the things I do when playing live are insane.

Difference between live and online is big.

“I would never get away with some of these things when I play online poker. When I play online the majority of good players are far better than me.

“But when you put them on a live table I will run them over because I will gather so many chips from the weaker players and use my stack in an aggressive fashion to make life difficult for the stronger players.

“You have to fight for every pot when playing live.”

Lee Davy: What I take from that is identifying opponent types is exceptionally important?

Ludovic Geilich: “It’s extremely important. Take this hand, for example. You are bluffing and so you need to know how likely your opponent is to fold.

“If you don’t have this information then you are allowing more luck to enter your game than skill.”

LD: At no time during this hand did I ever consider if my opponent would fold or not. I made my mind up on the flop that I would fire three streets, irrespective of the run out.

Ludovic Geilich: “That’s a mistake on this type of board. You have [Kd] [Qd] and the flop is [Ac] [6d] [3d].

Knowing your opponent’s tendencies is critical.

“This means that the [Ad] is still out there so I wouldn’t be trying to get all the chips because I won’t be able to find the nut-hand.

“If the [Ac] was the [Ad], and we make a flush, then it depends on the strength of our opponent’s hand.

“If I think he has a set, top pair or even top pair-top kicker, when the diamond arrives, with my image, I think I can get the lot.

“Even if I over-bet the river, I believe I will get the chips, 80% of the time.

“With Ace-high, two diamonds, it’s hard to fire three barrels. I’m not saying you have to give up all of the time. But the texture of the board is incredibly important.

“Queen, jack, ten or nine high boards – with two diamonds – I agree that you could fire three. But with ace high boards I think you can fire twice and then give up.

“Your opponent will have top pair too often when they call twice. Even if it’s a strong player who can fold a hand only a diamond will scare your opponent.

“And even then they may not give up top pair. So it’s not a hand to fire three barrels.”

LD: At what point do you give your opponent credit for the ace?

Ludovic Geilich: “You bet 450 on the flop and he immediately calls. This is an online poker tell.

Donkey hat
“If it’s a bad player and he snap calls, he always has an ace.”

“If he is a bad player he has an ace. If he is a good player he could be giving off a false timing tell.

“It depends how well you know the player. You can use HUD stats or notes to collect information on your opponents to make your decisions a little easier.

“Imagine it’s a top online reg who has earned $1-2m+ in his career. In this spot, when I bet 450 and he immediately calls, I don’t know what he has because his timing will be balanced.

 You can fire twice to get 77, 88, 99 or TT to fold.

“You may even get called twice with a worse flush draw. If you snap check the river, he might check it back and you may win the pot with king high sometimes.”

LD: What if you have zero reads on your opponent?

Ludovic Geilich: “If you have zero reads then your job is to control the size of the pot.”

LD: What else should I take into consideration?

Ludovic Geilich: “The run out is very important because it determines the range of hands you could use as a bluff.

“In this hand, you open and the flop comes [Ac] [6d] [3d]. If it runs out 45, 57 or 47 (and ends up being a one-carded straight) you may be able to bluff the river.

“But this is where a good understanding of your opponent is also important. A good hand reader will know that you rarely have a low card in your hand, making the straight, and this means your bluff will get called more often.

“When he snap calls the flop it’s highly unlikely he has the [Ad] because he would take his time and try to sell himself more.

In this circumstance, he likely has the ace.

“In this circumstance when he snap calls, because you are blocking AQ & AK, I would weight his range to pocket pairs, AT or AJ. He is calling quickly because he doesn’t want to face three barrels.

“It looks like you have AK or AQ but if he has AT & AJ he is still going to call you. If you were holding AK in this spot then you could put in a thin value bet on the turn to get value from AT and AQ.

“If you have AQ you can also bet for thin value off AQ. The jack is a bad card as it slows down the play.

“If you have AQ you will have to check-call, and AK would be a bet and then evaluate. The way the hand played out I think it’s pretty reasonable that he had AT or AJ.”

LD: He did have AJ but by the time I get to the river I still have pocket pairs in his range and this is why I bet for a third time.

Ludovic Geilich: He will have those hands. Possibly because it’s early in the tournament, and you are so deep, he will even show up with jacks because he doesn’t want to 3B with JJ this early.

“So fire twice but if he calls you give up the river.”

LD: What other advice do you have for beginners in these spots?

Ludovic Geilich: “You need to get to a point in your game where a lot of your decisions are being made without thinking.

“This frees up more energy to think through the more difficult spots. You can only achieve this goal by playing as many hands as possible.

“If you are a beginner poker player I would start out by determining how many tables you can play simultaneously and maintain a high level of concentration.

“Let’s pretend this is four. Then I would play with money I could afford to lose, fire up four MTT or S&G tables, and go to work.

“Poker is like everything in life. You have to work hard to reap the rewards.”

“Each time you’re eliminated from a poker tournament you load up another table. S&G games are great for learning how to play short-stacked poker and MTTs for deeper stacked games.

“If you keep playing as many hands as possible your brain will get to a point, by a process of elimination, that it works faster.

“Let’s say you open up AT in early position and are always calling a 3-bet and then losing money. Over time your brain will remember this and the hand will automatically be dropped from your early position range.

“Or you will open but then fold to the 3-bet. That’s one piece of a very complicated puzzle solved. It’s a leak that has been fixed.

“Playing continually has contributed to this. Poker is like everything in life. You have to work hard to reap the rewards.

“Don’t buy into the bullshit that players only win because they are lucky. It’s hard work, skill, dedication and a pinch of luck.”



Poker Tips from Pros: Jason Wheeler's Pro Take on Amateur Tourney

Jason Wheeler: Photo: WPT

Jason Wheeler is in the form of his life.

A few weeks ago Wheeler set up camp in his beloved city of Amsterdam and blew away the competition in the Holland Casino.

He won the World Poker Tour (WPT) High Roller for $140,317 and then made the final table of the WPT Main Event, finishing sixth for $46,201.

From Amsterdam he moved on to Vegas for the 2015 WSOP and Wheeler has his eyes on maintaining that flow.

He made the final table of Event #2: $5,000 No-Limit Texas Hold’em, finishing fifth for $112,339. It’s all good from here on in.

When I needed someone to review my hand histories from Event #1, the $565 Casino Employees Event, whom better to ask?

Here are seven hands, Wheeler’s comments and a few of my own thrown in for good measure. I hope you learn something new.


Event: WSOP Event #1: $565 Casino Employee Event Buy-in: $565 Starting Stack: 5,000 Blind Levels: 40 minutes

Don’t let nerves make you rush your decision.

Hand #1

Level 1: 25/50

This is the third hand of play. We’re six handed and a player in the hijack seat, whom I have played with before and think is decent, raises to 125.

I have A♥ J♥ on the button and decide to call. The big blind also calls.

Flop: K♦ T♠ 7♥

We all check.

Turn: A♦

The original raiser bets 150 and only I call.

River: J♦

The original raiser checks to me. I think I am ahead and decide to bet 375 for value from a weaker ace. He folds.

Jason Wheeler: I like the way you have played the hand but I think a check is slightly better on the river.

If you think he has a weaker ace, or air, then he’s not likely to call with worse when any queen makes a straight.

Lee Davy: On reflection I agree with Jason’s viewpoint. As a side note, I remember making my decision quickly.

I act this way occasionally and I think it’s nerves. Later on in the event I took my time and felt comfortable doing so.

Don’t let nerves force you to rush your decision.

Hand #2

After the AJhh hand I pick up AJss and AJo.

I raise with both, picking up the blinds and antes in one hand and then folding to a check-raise on a K88 flop in the other.

So by the time it folds around to me in the HJ and I see A♥ K♥. I am by far the most active player at the table. Only the button calls. He has been playing loose.

Flop: K♠ T♦ 2♣

I c-bet to 150 and he raises to 400. I put him on a range of deuces, tens, king-ten and all the Broadway straight combos. I call.

Turn: T♣

I check and he quickly bets 700. I think if he has trips or a boat here he takes a little longer to make his decision. I call.

River: 2♠

Showdown information is vital for future ranges

I check and he checks behind. I show the [Ah] [Kh], and he mucks.

I made a rookie mistake. I showed my hand very quickly when I should have tried to see if he would have shown his hand to gain more information.

I finish the level with 6,500 and I’m feeling good. There are two weak players at the table and I have my eye on playing pots with them.

Jason Wheeler: You’ve played the hand correctly but you are right — you need to try and see his hand as that gives you vital information that can be used later in the event.

Your range assessment is probably too narrow. I would have thrown some straight air balls in his range and some low pairs that were trying to set mine.

Lee Davy: On listening to Jason’s analysis of my range definition I can see how I am a little inexperienced in this area and have work to do. I realized straight away that I made a mistake when I showed my hand quickly.

During a recent interview with Dominik Nitsche he told me that showdown information is absolutely vital when creating future ranges for opponents. I should have paid more attention to that advice.

Hand #3

Level 2: 50/100

We’re now eight-handed and for the first 30 minutes of this level I play very few hands. I did open [Qs] [7c] on the button and then folded to a flop lead on a connected low board. But apart from that I am not getting involved.

Then one of the weaker players raises to 325 from early position. He has been limping into every pot so I assume he has a narrow, and strong, range.

Folding in these spots will help.

I call on the button with 7♦ 6♦. The small blind (the second weaker player at the table) also calls.

Flop: K♦ Q♦ 6♠

The small blinds leads for 1,125 and the original raiser folds. I realize that he has overbet the pot.

I go through his possible range: I rule out kings and queens as I believe he would squeeze with these hands. I have a blocker for the sixes, so I rule out pocket sixes.

KQ makes sense, as does the nut flush draw. I don’t think the Broadway combos would bet so big.

I heavily weight towards KQ, thinking he is betting big to get the diamond draws to fold. I decide to call but I’m not comfortable about it.

Turn: 3♣

He instantly bets 2,750 and with only 4,000 behind I fold. After I am eliminated he tells me that he had a pair of sixes and I believe him.

I was prepared to get it in on the turn had I turned a diamond. I guess I could have also folded the flop, but this seems a bit weak.

In hindsight though I could have folded because my flush outs weren’t the nuts.

Jason Wheeler Feedback: As sick as it sounds I think you have to fold the flop. When determining his range we can rule out KK and QQ.

This means his range narrows to KQ, 66 or flush draws that have you dominated. Your hand fares very badly against his range and it’s therefore a fold.

Lee Davy: I agree with Jason’s assessment. The difference between professional players and a recreational player like me is the pros won’t get too attached to their hand.

In this instance Jason looks at the flop, looks at his hand and then proceeds to determine a range for his opponent. Whereas I look at the flop, look at my hand, and think: ‘what a great hand,’ and then get attached to it.

Being able to fold in these spots would make me a much better player.

Hand #4

I open the cutoff to 250 with A♥ 8♣ and both blinds call.

The flop is Q♠ 7♠ 4♠. I c-bet to 350 and get called by the small blind.

Ayaz Mahmood
Loose opens can be mood changers.

We both check the 3♦ turn and I fold when he leads at the sight of the Q♥ on the river.

I hated this hand. I think the open was a little loose and I don’t like c-betting the flop.

I should have just checked behind because there is a good chance that one of them would have stuck around with a big spade.

I end the level with 3,450. My mood has changed. I’m not feeling good anymore.

Jason Wheeler: We haven’t reached the antes yet so you should fold this hand pre-flop.

You’re also correct about the flop. You should not be betting here.

Hand #5

Level 3: 75/150

I open the button holding K♦ Q♦ and the weak player in the small blind calls.

The flop is 4♦ 4♠ 2♣ and we both check. The turn is the J♣ and he leads for 800. I fold.

In my experience c-bets on these types of flops, playing live with weaker players, never seem to get through. That’s why I checked behind.

I was concerned about my stack size and didn’t want to lose anymore chips.

Poker player
Don’t let past hands spoil future decisions.

Jason Wheeler Feedback: I think you let intuition, or past hands, get in the way of the right play here. You have to bet this flop more than you check it.

If you’re going to check you have to be prepared to make moves on later streets. On the jack turn lead you might want to consider jamming all-in here, but I guess this didn’t cross your mind.

I’m not saying you should, but it needs to be a consideration. You have blockers to him having hit the jack and his range usually doesn’t have so many jacks to begin with, while yours can.

Lee Davy: I learned a lot from Jason in this hand. My thinking is not this advanced. I do have a tendency to allow past hands to affect my future decisions.

This is not a good habit, particularly when every player is different. His viewpoint on jamming the turn is one that never crossed my mind.

As a recreational player who is only playing a handful of poker tournaments this year, jamming on a pure bluff doesn’t cross my mind as I’m scared of being eliminated.

This is a major flaw in my thinking and one that damages my game.

Hand #6

A weak player limps from under the gun and I raise to 500 (from 3,125) from the button holding pocket queens.

He calls. The flop is A♠ K♣ T♦. He quickly leads for 900 and I fold.

Once again I was concerned about my stack size. I knew he would be tied to a weak AX hand, and even if I called,and hit my gin card, I’m not getting paid.

Jason Wheeler Feedback: This hand is fine.

Another bad beat story for your friends.

Hand #7

Straight after Hand #6 I pick up pocket kings in the cutoff and open to 325.

The small blind three-bets to 700. I put my last 2,400 over the line and he calls.

He shows pocket jacks and rivers a jack to knock me out.

Jason Wheeler Feedback: A standard spot played correctly with another bad beat story to tell your friends.

In terms of overall strategy adjustments I think you probably don’t consider raising in enough spots where you are thinking it’s probably a call or fold situation.

Lee Davy: Jason is right. I’m not thinking of using the raise as much as I should.

The reason that I avoid this type of play is because in most scenarios a raise could result in me playing for stacks. I’m thinking more in terms of ‘preservation’ than ‘aggression.’

This is the result of only playing in a few events, wanting to do well for my backer, and the financial pressure of wanting to cash. None of these help my game.

That said, if I was deeper stacked then I would raise in more spots. And yes… I did tell my bad beat story to my friends.



Poker Tips from Pros: Dominik Nitsche's Colossal WSOP Advice

On the heels of Hellmuth?

Dominik Nitsche was one of the most prolific live grinders in the world years before he was even old enough to play in the World Series of Poker (WSOP).

He has wasted little time making up for lost time since he came of age.

Nitsche has already won three WSOP bracelets. Add that to a World Poker Tour (WPT) title won in Johannesburg and the man is a European Poker Tour (EPT) win away from a Triple Crown.

I actually believe Nitsche has everything in his arsenal to one day overtake Phil Hellmuth as the most successful WSOP player of all time.

When he agreed to dissect my Colossus hands, I was chuffed to bits. This is what he had to say.

Event: WSOP Event #5: The Colossus
Buy-in: $565
Starting Stack: 5,000
Blind Levels: 40 minutes (Day 1) 60 minutes (Day 2)

I enter on Flight Day 1A and am card dead throughout the day before exiting at the end of Level 6. I re-enter the following night with a 25bb starting stack.

Dominik Nitsche

Hand #1

Level 5: 100/200 A25

I open the button with Q♣ 5♣# (25bb) and the big blind calls (11bb). The flop is J♦ 3♣ 2♣. He check-jams when I c-bet 600 and I make the call. I hit my flush on the turn and win the pot, eliminating my opponent.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback I’m not sure you should be opening this hand. It all depends on the strength of the players in the blinds.

If they were strong, this would be a fold. As played we want to get the money in as quickly as possible against a short-stacked opponent, and we achieved that.

Hand #2

We’re playing seven-handed and I open to 4,500 from UTG (40bb) holding A♥ K♠. It’s my third successive raise. Only the big blind makes the call (45bb).

Flop: J♠ T♦ 6♦. We both check.

Turn: Q♠

I bet 600, he raises to 1,800, I make it 3,525, he jams and I call. He shows [9x] [8x] and he’s drawing dead.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: Well played. In poker tournaments like the Colossus it’s very important to realize when your opponents have a hand they can’t get away from.

And from my experience that is the case here. No need to slow play on the turn – just put in another raise.

Hand #3

Level 6: 150/300 A25

A player UTG opens to 700 (20bb), UTG+1 makes it 1,500 (20bb) and I flat with T♠ T♣ in position; the original raiser folds.

Flop: Q♠ J♦ 9♥. He moves all-in and I tank for several minutes before making the call.

I was convinced he was trying to get me to fold and thought AK was his likely holding.

Dominik Nitsche

There were times during my tank when I told myself to fold and wait for a better spot, but I couldn’t imagine him making this move with any other hand. I call, he shows AK and bricks the turn and river.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: This is actually a pretty easy fold pre-flop. You’re behind UTG+1’s range and you have no money invested.

Lee Davy Comment: Dominik makes a very good point. What was I going to do on a low, uncoordinated flop? In effect I was set mining, but would I have called with pocket fours? I know I wouldn’t have done that, so this is a mistake.

I realized that I was behind his range but called anyway, which is bad. I think I just saw pocket tens, my brain clicked in and knew it was a top hand, and I called without thinking.

Hand #4

I open to 675 from the HJ (86bb) holding pocket queens. The button calls (33bb) as does the big blind (33bb).

Flop: 8♥ 8♦ 7♥. It checks to me and I bet 700. The big blind raises to 2,100 and the button folds.

This player was extremely aggressive and it was the second time I had seen him check-raise a paired board. I pegged his range at straight draw combinations, heart draws and a lot of air. I call.

Turn: T♣. He checks to me. I know some of the straight draws have come in and this puts me in a spot if I bet and get raised again.

He could also still have me beat with some [8x] type hand. I decided to check behind and then call his river bet.

River: 2♠. He bets 2,100 and I snap call. He shows pocket deuces for the boat.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: The turn is the interesting spot, and the question is: can we can get more value by checking the turn or by betting? I would tend to check and call a river be, as you have done.

Pocket queens is not strong enough to face any sort of aggression on the turn. An argument could be made for checking the flop against tough players, but against the standard player in The Colossus I prefer the bet. Nice hand, Lee.

Hand #5

Level 7: 200/400 A50

There’s an early position raise to 800 (75bb). The button calls (65bb) and I call in the small blind holding K♦ Q♠ (57bb).

Flop: T♦ 8♥ 6♥. We all check.

Turn: 8♦. I fold to a bet from the button. The pair show down ace-rag hands.

I considered squeezing but the two players involved in the hand hadn’t long sat down and I knew nothing about their game. The early position open was from a middle-aged woman.

Dominik Nitsche

I put her on a strong range and didn’t want to fold my hand to a raise. I was happy playing small ball. Once I saw both of their hands I told myself that I could raise more liberally in the future.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: This is a tough one. I prefer the pre-flop 3-bet here. Given that both show down ace-rag we can assume they open too many hands and act accordingly in the future. Post-flop there is nothing you can do. Just move on to the next hand.

Lee Davy Comment: I took his advice on board and was three-betting this type of hand in the Millionaire Maker. It was an extremely profitable play.

Hand #6

I open to 900 UTG (70bb) holding A♠ 6♠ and UTG+1 makes the call (15bb).

The flop is 5♥ 4♥ 3♠. I check, he moves all-in and I call.

He shows pocket sixes but I win the hand and eliminate him when I hit a runner-runner flush.

I don’t like this hand at all. I don’t mind the open because the table was tight and full of weaker players. But when the flop came down I should have put him in.

When he jammed I called fairly quickly and I’m not sure this was the right decision. I think I probably should have folded.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: I agree!  I’d assume villain in your hand is an inexperienced player simply because he called pre-flop off such a shallow stack.

I’d set him all in on the flop. Your hand is too strong to fold against such a small stack and you’re getting a good price. He might even fold some better Ax hands.

Hand #7

A loose old guy opens to 1,050 from early position (65bb) and a tight-looking middle-aged woman flats in mid-position (38bb).

I have A♠ Q♦ on the button. I consider flatting to play a pot in positio, but instead raise to 4,000. Another woman moves all-in for close 100bb and I snap fold.

If I think I have the advantage post flop, should I have called and played a pot in position or was the three-bet the right play?

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: I prefer a three bet. You really want to get the pot heads up and potentially dominate some of your opponent’s hands.

Maybe you could have sized it a bit smaller since you’re in position but that’s really not that important. Nice hand.

Hand #8

Level 8: 250/500 A50

I open the cutoff for 1,125 holding A♦ 3♣ (68bb) and a good player calls in the big blind (50bb).

Flop: J♣ 5♣ 2♦. He check-calls a 1,200 c-bet.

Turn: 4♠. I make my straight. He checks and I bet 3,250, hoping to get a call from a jack or middle pair. He folds.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: You played the hand fine.

Dominik Nitsche

Hand #9

Level 8 300/600 A75

I lose a flip AJ<TT and have 43bb at the start of the next hand. The button opens to 1,200 (23bb), the small blind calls (33bb) and I call in the big blind with 7♠ 4♠.

Flop: 6♥ 5♠ 4♥. The small blind (who is an old school reg), leads for 600. I call and the button folds.

Turn: T♣. He bets 2,300 and I call.

River: 4♣. He checks, I bet 4,500 and he folds.

There were so many draws I was never going to fold unless he got crazy, and he was a solid player.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: That’s one way to play the hand and it’s completely fine. I prefer raising the flop, though, and applying maximum pressure.

The board is by far the best for you and you have plenty of equity and very little showdown to justify going crazy. You also don’t have great implied odds so that’s another argument for raising.

Lee Davy Comment: Dominik isn’t the first professional to find spots where I’ve taken a less aggressive line with my play. This is because I am only playing a few events, and don’t want to bust, so I am trying to get to showdown without too much pain.

I have since learned from this and have applied more raises to my game.

Hand #10

Level 10: 400/800 A100

I haven’t played a hand for ages. I’ve gotten involved in a three-way conversation and I’m having a right laugh. Unfortunately, for the first time this series I am not concentrating on the play.

The action is 8-handed when I open to 1,675 holding T♦ 9♦ in MP (50bb). The CO moves all-in for 2,400 and the big blind calls leaving just 9bb behind.

Before the flop comes down the big blind looks at me to indicate that we should both check down to the river.

Flop: Q♠ T♣ 3♣. We both check.

Turn: 7♦. He checks, I bet 2,400 and he calls.

River: 2♠. I think I am beat. He checks, I check back and he shows [7x] [6x], for a pair of sevens, and the all-in player mucks his hand.

The tens are good but I wasn’t paying attention at all during this hand.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: We either need to bet small on the flop, to protect our equity, or check it down. These spots are tricky and tough to get right. I’m honestly surprised you got called by worse.

Dominik Nitsche

Hand #11

A solid player opens to 1,900 in EP (62bb), I three-bet to 4,000 from MP holding A♥ J♦ (60bb) and he calls.

Flop: J♣ 6♠ 7♠. We both check.

Turn: Q♦. He checks, I bet 3,500 and he calls.

River: 4♦. We both check.

I hate this hand. I don’t mind the three-bet that much. I hadn’t been getting out of hand and neither had he. I think my play looked strong. My gripes are as follows.

Should I be bloating the pot against the only other stack that can hurt me, especially when he is a decent player?

Secondly, if I am repping a big hand pre flop shouldn’t I bet the flop?

I don’t bet the flop because I want to pot control. I thought it was a two-street hand and didn’t want to get check-raised on the flop. When he called on the turn my mind went blank.

I was happy to get to showdown. Had I thought about this a little more, the queen doesn’t really help him that much. I could have gotten value from 88, 99 and TT.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: Betting the flop here is best. You will get check-raised less often than you think. You can then follow this up by betting most turns and then checking most rivers.

While I agree getting check-raised here would be annoying, it would also be a fairly ambitious bluff by villain when we can have QQ+ or a flush draw quite easily. 

Hand #12

Level 11: 500/1000 A100

This was another hand where I wasn’t paying attention because I was talking too much. A new player moves to the table and limps into the pot off a 14bb stack in late position.

The small blind only has 4bb after just losing an all-in. She calls. I check with T♣ 9♦ in the big blind (51bb)

Flop: T♣ 7♣ 3♣. I lead for 2,000, the original limper raises to 4,500 and both the small blind and I fold.

I overhear him telling the person behind him that he flopped the nut flush. I don’t know why I took the betting lead or what I was trying to accomplish by it.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: I have no idea. I brought this hand up when talking to a few friends and we were all surprised by that guy’s reaction.

I wouldn’t lead. You have a great hand to check call.

Hand #13

It’s the last hand of the night. A solid player opens in mid position (65bb) and I look down at K♦ Q♥ on the button (47bb). I’m very close to three-betting before deciding that I want to bag up a nice stack and fold my hand.

He shows ace-king. I’m interested in your thoughts about folding and the reasons I have given for the play. I end the day with 47,300 chips, which is good for 174th out of the remaining 3,477 entrants.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: I hate that logic. Making the day is fairly irrelevant. If anything I’d be more aggressive in this spot because people hate to play big pots at the end of the day.

Dominik Nitsche

Day 2 – Hand #14

Level 12: 600/1200 A200

A player who has been quite active limps off 15bb from early position. The small blind calls off the same-sized stack and I check 8♠ 6♠ in the big blind with 39bb.

Flop: K♦ 8♥ 6♥. The action checks to the limper who bets 2,400. The small blind folds and I raise to 6,700 looking to get it in. He just calls.

Turn: K♣. I’m gutted when I see the second king. I keep thinking about the chips I have wasted. It throws me completely.

I check, he bets 5,000 and I call. The river is the 4♠.

I check and he moves all-in. I tank for ages and then fold. I know I have should have folded the turn. Initially, I thought he maybe would call my check-raise with a draw, but that’s bad thinking.

He would have moved all-in with a draw. I also think he does the same with a king. This leaves a big pocket pair. He later told me that he had aces. It was a terrible hand by me.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: It’s a really awful turn card. Sometimes that happens though. I’d just check-fold the turn and move on.

Hand #15

An old guy (WSOP bracelet winner, not sure of his name) opens to 2,400 in MP (40k) and I flat on the cutoff with 5♠ 6♠ (35bb).

Flop: J♦ 7♣ 6♣. We both check.

Turn: 6♥

He checks, I bet 4,500 and he folds.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: There is no way you should be playing this hand pre-flop against any solid player off this stack size.

You can make a case for three-betting, if the blinds are weak, or you have another reason to believe he’s opening wide.

However, at 35bb 65s is a pretty poor hand. Usually it’s best to just fold it.

Dominik Nitsche

Hand #16

A lady opens to 4,200 in MP (100bb+) and I move all-in from OTB holding A♠ Q♦ (22bb). She folds ace-jack face up. This felt like a wasted opportunity. Is there any other play here?

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: There’s nothing you can do. Just take the free chips. Hardly the worst result.

Hand #17

I open A♥ T♥ from the HJ to 3.600 (29bb). The CO calls (30bb) and the big blind calls (31bb).

Flop: K♦ J♦ 6♣. I c-bet for 3,600 and both players call.

Turn: 9♠. The big blind leads and I fold. The pot goes to showdown and the big blind mucks handing the pot to the CO.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: This seems fine against your typical opponents in the Colossus.

Hand #18

We aren’t hand-for-hand but we are in and around the bubble. I look down and see aces.

I open to 3,400 (24bb) and an active older guy in the small blind three-bets me to 11,000 (31bb). I move all-in, expecting a call, and he folds.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: I’m surprised he folded. I’d play it the same unless I had very specific reads. You were unlucky.

Hand #19

This is possibly the worst hand I played in the entire event. It folds to me on the button and I look down and see J♣ 2♥. Without thinking, I go to muck the hand.

Then I decide to try and steal, but this is stupid because the big blind never folds. I open to 3,400 and the big blind calls.

Flop: K♥ J♥ 6♣. We both check.

Turn: 3♣. He leads for 3,400 and I call.

River: A♥.

He checks and I check. He shows J♦ 6♠ for two pair.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: You have opened with a really bad hand. Just fold it pre flop.

Hand #20

Level 14 1000/2000 A300

I open to 4,200 in the HJ with J♣ T♣ (21bb). I get three callers. The flop of A♥ 6♣ 2♠ is checked through.

I fold to a bet on the [8h] turn. This was a terrible hand. I should have folded pre-flop.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: JTs is a fine hand to open from pretty much any position. Against loose players you might even be able to bet this flop and get them to fold.

Dominik Nitsche

Hand #21

I pick up pocket queens UTG with 13bb and I move all-in. Nobody calls. I didn’t raise because I was afraid of getting called by [Ax] and [Kx] hands.

I know this is wrong. On the other hand I am going to be shoving a lot and want to balance my medium-strength hands with my top-strength hands.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback In the Colossus it’s best to put in a minimum raise to give other players a chance to make a mistake. Don’t worry about being balanced when it comes to shoving.

Hand #22

I shove AK (15bb) and get called by JJ (16bb). The board runs out QT6AK and I am out. I took the exit very personally.

I was moody and petulant. I didn’t like that. After a while I composed myself and wished everyone well, in particular the man who beat me.

I finished in 1664th-place for $1,800.

Dominik Nitsche Feedback: It happens to all of us! Busting big poker tournaments hurts. In this hand obviously there is nothing you can do. Nice run Lee.



Poker Workshop: What Six Pros Would Do in this Standard Spot with QQ

Zinno: Think about your goal first.

Let’s play a game.

I’ll give you a real live poker tournament hand I recently played. You listen to the set-up and then write down in detail what you would have done next.

Then return to the piece and learn what the likes of poker pros Anthony Zinno, Jessica Dawley, Jason Wheeler, Jon Spinks, Dave Nicholson and Darryll Fish would do.

The Dilemma

Blinds 200/400 Ante 50

I’ve been playing full ring with these players for only 40 minutes.

Player 1 — He’s the most aggressive player on the table. He has over 100k and hasn’t lost a hand at showdown. The rare times I have seen his showdown hands he has had a strong hand.

Table 9 Seat 9
WHat would you do?

Player 2 — This player has been playing very poor poker. He is limp-calling a lot and folding to any signs of aggression. The only time I saw him show any sign of aggression was a limped pot against me when he min check-raised me on a very dry board when I was bluffing, but I never got to see his showdown hand. At the start of the hand he had 20k chips.

Two Early Limpers — Their line was to limp and then call a raise. Both players had between 20-25k.

Me — I had only played two hands at the table in the 40 minutes I sat there. In the first hand I saw action from the big blind in a multi-way limped pot and folded to a min check-raise on a dry board when I bluffed the turn. That was the only hand I had played. My table image was ultra tight. I had 26k at the start of the hand.

There are two limpers in early position when Player 1 raises to 1,600 in position. Player 2 calls on the button and it falls to me in the small blind. I have pocket queens.

What do you do and why?

Before you read any further, write down your answer. Make it as detailed as possible. Consider the potential flow of the play once you make your move and then expand further.

This is the perfect way to learn to dissect a poker hand. Do not read beyond this point until you have figured out your plays so you can compare it with these folks.

Darryll Fish

Darryl Fish
Make it exactly 5600.

“My line would be to make it somewhere around 5200ish with the intention to evaluate further action but planning to almost never fold my hand pre-flop.

“This bet sizing would make it so that if we get flat called we would be able to make appropriate-sized flop c-bets and turn shove on many boards.

“Also this size doesn’t allow our opponents to profitably call pre-flop against our hand so if they do call they are making a mistake since we can safely presume they don’t have two overcards.

“My reasons for disliking a flat call here is that we will almost certainly be going five ways to the flop, in the worst position, with a hand that doesn’t improve often but is very, very likely to be the best hand both pre-flop and on the flop.

“By flat-calling we are essentially turning QQ into 22 and our opponents would need to be much, much tighter to merit such a thing. Of course, we aren’t thrilled when we get shoved on but QQ plays reasonably well even vs. what will probably be our opponents’ tightest range (AA/KK/AK).

“So barring some live read we are supremely confident in it would be nearly impossible to fold the hand after building such a big pot. I think I would make it exactly 5600 so that we might induce Player 1 to call more liberally.”

Jon Spinks

“It’s a slam-dunk three-bet to Player 1 and call if he shoves. With stacks as they are you want to size up rather than down, as you are out of position, and you want to be getting close to 1/4 of your stack in pre-flop so you can be all in by turn.

“I would bet around 6,000. I am calling off versus everyone with only the first limper creating a close decision if he shoves on us.”

Dave Nicholson

Lee Davy Note: Dave asks me to describe the type of event I am playing in. I tell him it’s the weekly £35 single re-entry with £10 add-on after Level 6 with blinds at 20-minute intervals. Then he gives his opinion:

nicholson 2
“Have to go with our hand”

“You’ve started the hand with 65 big blinds, which seems like a lot, but let’s remember this is a 20-minute structure. In one hour the blinds will likely be either 400/800 or 500/1000 and in this time you’ll likely have played about 15-25 hands (less than 3 orbits).

“So whereas for now we have a nice stack we really NEED to increase our stack and we need to keep on increasing it too. There is no time to wait around in such a structure.

“Firstly, consider the relative strength of your pocket Queens here. Two players have limped and these players have a history of limping into pots so we don’t find their limps to be too suspicious. Player 1 – a player who has all the momentum and confidence in the world right now as a result of winning nearly every pot he has entered – raises.

“From what we’ve seen of this player he’s not actually as ‘loosey-goosey’ as he likely appears (assisted no doubt by some nice treatment from the deck) but he’s certainly going to raise here with a lot more hands than AA and KK!

“When Player 2 calls on the button (he’s been very loose-passive so far, entering pots passively with weak hands) his participation in the pot is not a worry for us either. Both him and the two early limpers would likely raise themselves if they hand a hand stronger than ours so we look at out QQ and we LOVE it!

“The pot stands at 5,050 when the action falls to you so we want to get both value from our queens as well as a little protection. Our hand is a little vulnerable vs. four other players (if all four play their hands blind our equity would drop below 50%!) so we need to pick a raise size that is big enough that anyone who calls with the wrong hands is making a decent-sized mistake, and not so big that it makes it impossible for them to make such a mistake.

“Let’s think as well about how the hand will play out post-flop from our pre-flop sizing. If we make it 6k and get 1 caller (most likely Player 1) the pot will be 14,450 on the flop and we will have 20k behind. This will leave us with a nice 7,000 flop bet and 13,000 turn all-in. If we get 2 callers then the pot will be 20,000 and we can also move all-in.

“If we were to raise here and be put all-in then it’s almost certain you will have run into a big hand. After all, you said you had a very tight image (still we include JJ and AK in these big hands), but we have to go with our hand because the structure is too quick for us to fold.”

Jason Wheeler

“The key to this hand is really the two limpers that started the action. If they’re not in the hand then you have way more options at your disposal.

Jason Wheeler
“The only option is to raise the queens”

“For example: if you are three-handed you could decide to see a flop and keep your hand strength hidden.

“However, these two limpers, followed by a raise and a flat call, means that if you just call here chances are that the two limpers will also call.

Then you are going five-handed to a flop where your Queens are not likely to be the best hand by the time you get to showdown. 

“So, the only option is to raise the queens. Sizing has to be at least 3,600 if you’re willing to go three-handed to the flop and 4300-5k if you want to go heads up or just take the pot down.

“The only real decision here is if you want to try to get max value from QQ by taking it three-handed post-flop or if you are just trying to take down the pot with a small chance of getting heads up.

“In all cases you must raise this pre-flop. Even if that turns your cards pretty much face up. The only real decision you have here is the re-raise sizing.”

Jessica Dawley
“First thing I do is three-bet to slim the field”

Jessica Dawley

“First thing I do is three-bet to slim the field and find out where I am to some extent.

“With so much $ in the pot already I would make my three-bet size higher then normal given the previous action in this hand.

“I would make it 6500 and possibly fold only to the UTG limper, but get it in always versus everyone else.”

Anthony Zinno

“Your goal here is to try to get heads up with Player 1. Even though you’re out of position you have a monster and want to extract maximum value.

“If you shove all-in pre-flop it’s likely to result in everyone folding. This isn’t bad because you’ll chip up a bit but it’s the lower-risk (lower reward) play.

“So, I’d make it around 4800-5200 to go. We expect the limpers to fold and Player 1 to give us some action. Player 2 will likely tank a bit and fold.

“Then, depending on the flop, we can try to get the full double through Player 1 since he has so many chips to gamble or bluff with.

“Quick side note: if one of the limpers shoves over the top, be wary of KK or AA!

What I Actually Did

All my concentration was on Player 1. I knew I had to raise because going 5-way to the flop with QQ is suicidal. I didn’t go through the in-depth thought process applied by the pros.

I had already drawn a line in the sand at this point.

When it came to bet sizing my thinking was very basic. I 3x the initial raise and add what I believe is a sufficient number of chips to scare off the other players. I am expecting only Player 1 to call, fold or raise.

I had already drawn a line in the sand at this point. I wasn’t going to fold because I knew it was a fast structure and although it seems I have enough chips to take a hit and move on that’s not really the case.

I made it 6,000. Player 1 made a small 4-bet, I moved all-in and he called. He showed KK and went on to eliminate me.

This is what the players said when I told them that Player 1 4-bet me:

Darryll Fish

“6k is fine but doesn’t look as potentially bluffy to me and I want there to be room for the opponents to try and make me fold. It’s actually pretty sick if you make it 6k and the original raiser makes a small 4-bet but I would probably still end up stacking off.

“However I could see having a read on someone that they wouldn’t make a small 4-bet in that spot without having it, which would dictate a different course of action.”

Jon Spinks

“It really doesn’t matter. You can’t ever three-bet fold to someone here because AK can always be in his or her range.”

Jason Wheeler

“Yes even though Player 1 has always showed a big hand when he got his chips in, you’re holding QQ so only KK and AA beat you. If he has one of those, we just embrace the cooler and move on.”

Lessons Learned

I loved the way that Dave Nicholson enquired deeper about the type of tournament and then structured his analysis around the feedback. This did form part of my thinking although I didn’t think as deeply about it as Dave, so this was a refreshing point for me.

Jason Wheeler
Do we want max value?

The players made their pre-flop decisions based on what they were going to do on later streets — particularly in terms of stack sizing and what that would mean for their flop and turn bet sizing. I didn’t go into this detail and it was a real eye opener for me.

I loved Jason Wheeler’s thinking about trying to get maximum value from the queens. This was very advanced thinking for me and way above my pay grade. I wanted to either take the pot down pre-flop or get heads-up with Player 1 if I am honest

I would have preferred not seeing a flop as I would go lame on an ace- or king-high flop. The thought of trying to size my raise to induce three-way action never entered my head. I like the fact that he was even considering it.

I also liked Anthony Zinno’s phrase: “Your goal is to try and get heads up with Player 1.” That really helped me. If I could learn to ask: “what is my goal?” before every decision it would really help me to calm down and center myself.

Zinno, like Wheeler, also touched upon the need to get maximum value from the hand I was holding and I wasn’t thinking like that.

The last piece of advice that I think is crucial, and most people might miss, was Wheeler’s parting comment: “Just embrace the cooler and move on.”



How to Get Rid of Crap and Free Up Your Poker Bandwidth

Let the emotional clutter go.

Jared Tendler was conspicuous by his absence at the 46th Annual World Series of Poker (WSOP).

Where was the renowned tilt killer and author of The Mental Game of Poker during the biggest poker event of the year?

I caught up with Tendler shortly after to find out and he filled me in on the process he follows to improve as a coach, his view on brain-enhancing drugs, how player problems are evolving over time and his experiences of fatherhood during the first year.

Lee Davy: How do you keep on improving as a coach?

Jared Tendler: I’m constantly reviewing my own work. Like a poker player who gets better from playing I do that as well when I am coaching. Now I have a new project that I’m working on so I’m reviewing the structure of my one-on-one coaching in a different way.

Jared Tendler Jamie Gold
Coaches improve like you improve: through work.

If you look at the first two books there’s a lot of content and a basic structure on how to utilize that content in this system that I developed.

It’s not that much different from cognitive psychology but it goes a bit deeper in terms of trying to resolve issues. And that’s the big difference between what I do and cognitive psychology.

The next stage of evolution is more about the client process. What’s it like for a client to walk into the first session? What’s it like for them to move through eight sessions over a four-month period?

The more I can create standardized content around that process the more efficient it becomes. How I go about doing that is very much like what poker players do.

I review the responses I give the clients in certain scenarios. A lot of my clients like to have audio recordings of our sessions so they can review them.

Frankly, when you’re involved in the process going back to listen to it a few days later is really helpful. I also use these recording to listen to my coaching technique and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

LD: Would you coach a 72-year old differently than a 21-year old?

JT: No differently than I would approach any two people who are different. I have dealt with 21-year-olds with terrible memories and I have dealt with people 50-60+ who are sharp as a tack.

Like poker, your job is to read your opponent and understand them. I try to do that to the best of my ability.

Brain pills can only take you so far.

LD: What’s your view on brain-enhancing tools like nootropics?

JT: My sense is that a lot of them will have some value but I don’t think they’ll have the trans-formative value people are expecting.

I think a big part of that is there’s an underrepresented focus on trying to get rid of the crap that exists in your mind. A large part of that is emotionally stored memories.

If you think about your computer, as an example, they used to have this defrag system and you could see all the different colors and it would condense your hard drive so it could work more efficiently.

Players have these recurring emotional memories like a big bustout from years ago. These memories take up bandwidth within the more conscious part of your memory system.

Procedural memory is like all of your automatic behavior – unconscious competence, for people who know my work well. That memory system seemingly is unlimited but what is traditionally called long-term memory is stored in the emotional system and it’s a limited space.

When you have too many memories like this then you’re actually limited in how present you’re going to be. You’re going to be more reactive to certain situations based on some old memory.

When you revert back to old habits in these stressful situations, that’s why. The nootropics … I’m sure they have value but they can’t change the severity of these weak points within you that are often forced by these emotional memories.

LD: This week I’ve been touched by a lack of forgiveness in the poker community. Do you believe a lack of forgiveness also takes up bandwidth?

Can forgive by letter, too

JT: It’s certainly going to consume various parts of their mind and will happen in many sub-conscious ways that they won’t be aware of.

I’ve recently had several clients who have had issues with their parents. Having them go and talk to them: to tell them why they chose to play poker and that they screwed up when they were younger, definitely brought up some stuff in the short term. But it was productive for both of them.

You don’t always have to do this in person. You can forgive people in a letter for example. An increase in emotion to actually work through it and long-term resolution and you become free.

Freedom is a very important word. People think that putting people into a box in their mind labeled ‘scumbag’ allows them to be free. It doesn’t.

Now you have created points of resistance for yourself where you will always be triggered when you hear their names. So you’re not free from them because they will always be in there, rattling around.

LD: How are players and their problems changing over time?

JT: I have to weigh the issues that come to me in relation to the material I have created. There are a lot less traditional “Book 1″ tilt issues; when they do show up it’s because they haven’t read the book.

Secondary table
Enotional core remains the same.

Frankly, I’m happy to say that most of the issues concern what to do after having lots of success: whether that’s remaining in poker or leaving to do something else.

I have a client who was very successful before poker, very successful at poker, and now he’s finding some points of resistance within his personal life. We can’t just work on poker because it’s not a poker issue.

I had a guy who was trying to manage his poker career but realized he was having tilt issues at the table connected with stress related to his indecision about what games to play in, what poker sites to be playing on – this high-level decision making was creating some angst.

Things evolve but at the core the main emotional signs are always the same.

LD: Can you think of one particular success story that you are proud of?

JT: I think what is interesting is I don’t often get to see the after-effects of my work. There was one guy I hadn’t spoken to for three years and we recently connected.

I went back to check out his original questionnaire. Back then he was playing 50c/$1 and now he’s playing in the biggest PLO games in the world. We recently started doing some more coaching together. That was nice.

In terms of fulfillment I can say that I’ve taken something from 90%+ of my clients. In the beginning some really big-named players approached me and I was a little nervous to even talk to them.

I asked myself: “what is the worse-case scenario?” I realized that there was no single person who would make or break my career. I wanted a coaching practice that was more sustainable than that.

Working with Jorryt {van Hoof} at the final table last year was great. I had a lot more clients after that and it was great validation for a lot of material in Book 2, in terms of getting into the zone.

Dusty {Schmidt} bringing me into poker was also important. But for me, in terms of the stability, it’s been very consistent which is what I am after.

LD: Clients can often be after the quick fix. How do you protect yourself from worrying about clients leaving too early, giving you that feeling that you weren’t able to help as well as you could?

No miracle cures.

JT: I do it before they even become a client. It’s a discussion we have before they become a client or during their first session. They’re left under no illusion that there are no miracle cures; sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.

This is why the client process material has come in very handy. I am understanding what people are going through in terms of their learning and I am able to match up tendencies with these types of issues.

Take a perfectionist in poker. They are going to transfer that issue to their coaching process. It happens all the time because poker players have high expectations of themselves.

I will have a good insightful first session where we come up with an underlying idea of a problem. They will go out and come back and say: ‘I still {still being a keyword} have this issue but such and such is better.’ So the general tone is negative while acknowledging progress.

That’s an indication that the perfectionism has extended to their perception of progress. Now I can talk to them at the end of the first session: ‘listen, here is what is going to happen in our next session unless you make some changes in terms of how you are aware of how you are even thinking about your progress as you are making it.’

So effecting change on a more efficient level. Part of this is you just don’t know how ready a person is until they get there. Sometimes what can be exposed can be scary.

I’m under the idea that as long as I put in good-faith effort and I understand where the risk points are, that’s me doing my job. I have had clients who have come to me with major issues that I have turned away before or soon after.

I have told them that they need more face-to-face specialized coaching. If I have done my due diligence to reject the people who don’t fit my spec, and they fall within my realm, I know that as long as I am focused and put in the effort I will help them as much as I can and that’s the best I can do.

LD: What has shocked you about being a father in the first year?

JT: It’s going to sound cheesy but the shock has been how much you can love another human being.

Love just gets bigger.

There are moments, especially in New York, when you worry that people are shady, and things like that, and there is this charge of defense that is so powerful. You never knew it existed.

She is a good sleeper, has a good temperament and is a happy kid. I work from home so I get to spend these 10-15-min intervals with her and that’s great.

Both Corey and I stop working at 5pm, we have about 90 minutes of family time before she goes to bed and then we go back to work or whatever else we are doing to end the day.

Shocks have been at the low end. I was 36 when I had her. If I didn’t have a younger sister and see first hand what it was like to raise children, and be somewhat involved in that process, it may have been different.

I had never changed a diaper before though. That was tough. Nothing can prepare you for the stink of poop when you are that close to it or it’s actually on you.

LD: Is there anything from fatherhood that you have brought into your coaching?

JT: My overall mood is much better. I used to do full-time Dad duties on Thursdays when she was younger. When Corey went back to work her Mum looked after her for two days, we had a nanny for two days and I had her for the one day.

Pursue meaning.

It’s hard, man. People who denigrate mothers and don’t believe it’s tough should try it for a week. You don’t have full thoughts; you don’t have time for yourself and are always looking after this other human being who is so helpless.

I love working and I like the opportunity it provides on many levels for me. Being able to have limited quality time with her is good.

If it was all the time it could wear on me and be overwhelming. I wouldn’t want that. My life EV is much higher when I have good contact with her.

LD: What three pieces of advice would you leave her if you had to depart this world?

JT: I would say that the pursuit of happiness is not the be all and end all. Happiness is a temporary thing and deep, fulfilling, meaningful things are more important than happiness.

Pursue meaning. To push yourself. What is easy seems like the most attractive thing whether that’s with your career, friends or hobbies. Doing what is easy is not always the most valuable and it can actually make your life less valuable.

I would also say something about finding someone who treats you and loves you as much as you deserve to be treated and loved.



Poker Workshop: Two Views on Flopping a Set in a Multi-Way Pot

Ben Wilinofsky is a former European Poker Tour (EPT) Main Event champion and World Poker Tour (WPT) final tablist.

He has earned close to $1.4m playing live tournaments and close to $5m playing online tournaments under the alias NeverScaredB.

In 2013 Albert Daher was runner-up to Alexey Rybin at the WPT Merit Cyprus Classic; he has also won an EPT side event and cataloged a series of impressive six-figure scores at the Merit Crystal Cove Casino in Kyrenia.

He has earned closed to $1m in live tournament earnings but makes most of his money playing live cash games.

Both players kindly agreed to dissect a hand I played in the World Series of Poker Monster Stack event where I flopped a set in a multi-way pot. Here are the two views of Ben Wilinofsky and Albert Daher.

The Hand

WSOP Monster Stack Day 1

Level 5 Blinds 100/200 a25

Stack Sizes

Hero – 19,000

Elderly Gentlemen – 20,000

Cutoff – 15,000

Elderly Lady – 19,000

An elderly gentleman limped in early position. I limped in mid position with pocket treys. The cutoff limped before a tight elderly lady made it 600 on the button; the blinds folded and everyone else called.


The elderly gentleman led for 1,200. I called, the cutoff folded and the elderly lady raised to 2,500. The player in early position called. I made it 7,200 and only the elderly lady called.


I moved all-in for 11k and she called with 76o.

Pre-Flop Analysis

Benjamin Wilinofsky
Ben Wilinofsky

Ben Wilinofsky: Raising or folding pre are both bad with pocket threes. I assume most pots are going multi-way, threes don’t make particularly good semi-bluffs and you rarely make hands you want to value bet.

So raising doesn’t make sense. You’re going to end up mostly check-folding or stabbing once, getting called and not having a profitable way to continue from that point forward.

Albert Daher: I would probably isolate the first limper since it’s an older guy and I’m going to win the pot most of the time with a c-bet. Saying that I think limping behind 100bb deep is more than fine since you are going to cooler someone if you go multi-way to the flop and flop a set.

So I think you should mix it up pre-flop. Sometimes limping is the right play and other times isolating the weaker player is the right play.

My Thoughts: When playing this deep, and in middle position, I always limp with small pocket pairs. This is part of my problem. I seem to have a default line for most of my plays.

On one hand this is good because it allows me to make the play without thinking about it, but those benefits need to be balanced with due cognizance given to the type of player I am making these plays against.

Post-Flop Analysis

Ben Wilinofsky: On the flop, raising the lead is bad. It looks super strong four-ways with the pre-flop raiser who has shown down the goods still behind you. You might get her to hero-fold jacks when you raise flop.

Albert Daher (Photo: Neil Stoddart, PokerStars)

When you call she can raise one pair for value and players behind can overcall drawing dead. And sometimes people bluff. So many bad things happen and so few good things happen when we raise vs. the limper. He can’t even really stack off with worse, except 76.

Once she makes the tiny raise we have to evaluate what the other player is leading and calling a small raise with. I think in general you should 3-bet here because letting him peel another card with 55 or 44 is pretty disastrous and letting the old lady get scared of a 3-way pot and check back a turn is also disastrous.

It cuts us off from our best-case-scenario tree (where we get another bet out of the other player), but the parlay that needs to happen for us to go three ways to the turn and get a card that doesn’t scare the old lady, and get her to bet, and get the other guy to call, is just way too thin.

So I think you played this hand perfect on the flop. If I had to nitpick anything it’s that I would probably make it 6,500 instead of 7.200; it’s easier for people to call when they put fewer chips in and it also looks small enough to be a silly bluff.

The turn is inconsequential. Once we get three bets in on the flop it’s going to be hard not to get the rest in. Make an evaluation based on the other hands you’ve seen her play, whether to bet or check and how much, but it’s going to be hard to screw this one up.

Albert Daher: After the first guy donk-bets I would always flat expecting the tight lady to raise. So that was played perfectly. But when you flat then 3-bet the old lady’s raise I think you are always nutted.

A pro will figure this out and could easily fold a hand as strong as an overpair. I think a very good pro would even fold top two since you can only have sets or better in that spot.

Now, against weaker players, I would play the same, wanting to get as much money in as fast as possible since your opponent might get scared by some turns, like a 4 or a 5, which puts one-card straights out there.

Patriotic player
Is it a weak player or a pro?

So basically against pros I would slow play and probably check-shove the turn. Against weaker players I would play the exact same way as you.

My Thoughts: I was fortunate in as much as both players had played incredibly straight forward up until this point. If they raised they were strong, and if they limped they were weak. I only had eyes for the elderly lady because since she raised pre-flop I pegged her on a strong hand.

I called the flop lead because I expected the PFR to raise. Like Albert said I didn’t want to her to fold a semi-strong hand because of my raise. I was prepared to 3-bet should she raise and was ready to get it in at any point during the hand.

Regarding Ben’s point with respect to making the flop 3-bet smaller, I made it bigger in the hope that he would fold and I would be heads up with the elderly lady. At no time during this stage of the hand was I thinking of keeping him in the hand by making the 3-bet smaller.



How to Make a Profit Playing Spin & Gos: A Statistical Deep Dive

For years online poker sites have searched for a “New Big Thing” to get people hooked again after the poker boom began to wane.

Full Tilt developed Rush Poker. PokerStars debuted Zoom Poker.

They all went mobile and invented Multi-Entry Tournaments or Multi-Day Re-Entry Tournaments.

None have had an impact like Spin & Gos.

Spin & Gos went live on PokerStars just one year ago but their impact on the poker economy has been industry-changing.

Hundreds of thousands of players have tried them, multiple people have become millionaires and an estimated 20% of PokerStars’ revenue comes from them.

PokerStars weren’t even the first to offer Spin & Gos. iPoker actually ran Jackpot Sit and Gos well before PokerStars did, but as has happened so often in the online poker business PokerStars stole the show and cemented its leading position with its version.

Yep, Spin & Gos in fact ARE the New Big Thing. Let’s take a closer look.

How Do Spin & Gos Work?

Screen shot 2015 10 06 at 11.28.37 AM

In case you’re in the minority and have yet to try a Spin & Go out, here’s a quick rundown.

They’re are 3 players per tournament with a buy-in between $1 and $100. The structure is a hyper-turbo (on average 7 minutes per tourney) and the winner takes all.

The kicker: Before the actual tourney starts the prize pool is chosen randomly – it can be anywhere between double the buy-in and 3,600 times the buy-in.

For example: If you play a $15 Spin & Go you can “spin” a prize pool of up to $54,000.

Sweet, huh? One tiny problem though: it’s very unlikely to hit one of those insanely high multipliers.

The 3,600-multiplier will only hit with a probability of one in 100,000. Here’s a breakdown of all multipliers, prize pools and probabilities for the $15 Spin & Gos:


Prize Pool



$45,000 ($4,500 for 2nd/3rd)



$3,000 ($300 for 2nd/3rd)



$1,500 ($150 for 2nd/3rd)

















It’s easy to see that hitting any of the big multipliers (120x or more) is rather unlikely. On average you’ll hit one of them once every 6,250 tourneys.

Most of the time you’ll just play for twice the buy-in. Every now and then you’ll hit the 4x or 6x multipliers. But everything else is a long shot.

So are they even profitable? Is it worthwhile to play those tourneys or are they just a big lottery?

What’s the Rake?

Before looking at the profitability of Spin & Gos let’s look at the rake. Because ultimately the profitability of every multi-player game is tied to the amount the house keeps for itself – high rake, low profitability; low rake, (potentially) high profitability.

With the help of the payout and probability tables it’s easy to calculate how much money goes to PokerStars on average. Here’s the effective rake for all Spin & Go buy-ins:


Prize Pool Contribution































For the cheapest tourney PokerStars keeps on average 7.5%. It’s still 5.3% for the more expensive Spin & Gos.

Considering we’re talking about hyper-turbo tourneys that last on average seven minutes, those are some expensive rates!


The Best Poker Sites to Play Spin & Go


A Valid Option to Make Money?

So far we have lottery-like prize pools and substantial rake – it doesn’t look like Spin & Gos can be profitable.

When these tourneys were introduced it was generally accepted that it’s virtually impossible to “beat” them long-term. They’re just for recreational players that want to hit jackpots.

In the beginning of this year a player called Bighusla stepped forward and offered an online poker challenge: He proposed to play 5,000 $30 Spin & Gos while making a substantial profit.

He got plenty of takers because it was thought it couldn’t be done. He played 5,054 Spin & Gos, never hit any of the big multipliers, yet still managed to show a return on investment (ROI) of more than 8% per tourney.

That’s before any rakeback or cashback through the PokerStars VIP program. This is what his run looked like:


Other professional online poker tournament players also tried their luck and many of them had moderate-to-substantial success over a large sample size.

By now Spin & Gos are considered a valid option to make money on PokerStars and a way to pass time while still playing with an edge.


Incredible Rec-to-Regular Ratio

Donkey hat
Here’s your competition.

Spin & Gos are incredibly fish friendly: they’re quick, they have lots of action, can easily be played on mobile and they offer the possibility to score huge for a rather moderate buy-in.

Recreational players don’t care too much about rake and the lottery factor doesn’t repel them at all. As a matter of fact, the big flashy 3,600x multipliers are what gets them to play in the first place.

At every time of the day there are literally thousands of people that play poker online that single table a Spin & Go while having a break from work, riding on the train or while watching TV.

Currently Spin & Gos have an incredible rec-to-regular ratio. More often than not you’ll have two weak players at your table and that’s why the Spin & Gos are profitable.

As long as you’re not the fish, of course.

What Kind of ROI Can You Expect?

Since Spin & Gos are three-person tournaments, the average player will win 33.3% of the time. Obviously you’ll have to do better than that to beat the rake and make money.

But how much better?

For the $1 Spin & Gos, for example, you’ll have to win at least 35.9% of the time to break even in the long run. Those numbers can be calculated by using the payout and probability tables for the Spin & Gos and some math.

The following table shows the win-rate you’ll have to average to achieve a certain ROI:



$3 and $7

$15 and more













































So to achieve a 5% ROI when playing the $7 Spin & Gos you’ll have to win 37.3% of the time.

The differences seem surprisingly tiny. You win 35% of your tourneys? You’ll break even at best.

You win 38%? Congrats, you’re a world class Spin & Go player. But the difference between a 35% and a 38% player actually is huge. Since Spin & Gos are so extremely fast paced you have very few opportunities to outplay your opponents.

There’s very little room for your opponents to make substantial mistakes. Thus you’ll have to work very hard to achieve a win-rate above 35%.


Register on Pokerstars to Play Spin & Go


What About Variance?

Regular Sit & Gos have very low variance. Usually it’ll only take you a couple of hundred tourneys to know your win-rate and smooth out the variance. That isn’t the case with Spin & Gos. Not at all.

Let’s take 10 Spin & Go players who beat the $15 Spin & Gos with an ROI of 5%. Those are top-notch players. Now we simulate 10,000 tourneys and plot their cumulative winnings:

Well, those are some wild graphs! All samples are above zero but the winnings are between $760 and $9,400.
Player H was in the red for well over 6,000 tourneys and at one point he was down more than $1,000.

Over 10,000 tourneys, variance is a dominating factor in Spin & Gos. And 10,000 tourneys is already a huge amount.

You’ll need to play 250 hours and you’ll need to 5-table as well to achieve that. Only the most dedicated players will manage to play that many tourneys in one month.

Now let’s look at a sample over 100,000 tourneys – an amount a professional Spin & Go player might amass over one or two years:


Over 100,000 tourneys the samples look much smoother. The big jumps in samples A, C and G are where the simulated players hit and won the 3,600 multiplier.

Even without hitting the big multipliers all players show a profit of at least $40,000. But remember: We’re looking at 100,000 tourneys – or 2,500 hours five-tabling them.

That’s a year’s work at least.


Where Does the Variance Come From?

The reason for the comparatively high variance in Spin & Gos is the big multipliers. Take the $15 Spin & Gos for example.

The shades make the player
Only the very best top 6%

On average you’ll hit the 3,600x multiplier only once every 100,000 tourneys and will win only every third one. But statistically the highest multiplier is responsible for 18 cents of your total expectation.

If for some reason you’d always faint when hitting a 3,600x multiplier and never won one, but played completely normal otherwise, your ROI would drop by 1%.

That’s how much the highest multiplier influences the expectation and the variance.

What about the other big multipliers? The probability of hitting one of the big multipliers (120, 240 and 3,600) is tiny: 0.016% – once every 6,250 tourneys.

Let’s just pretend the three highest multipliers (120, 240 and 3,600) aren’t even in the game. In this case your total expectation would drop by 30 cents. Meaning: Your ROI would go down roughly 2%.

Yep, that’s right: Those multipliers that you hit once every couple thousand spins are responsible for 2% of your ROI. That’s a huge chunk of your (statistically expected) Spin & Go winnings.

While 2% ROI might not sound like a lot, it actually is. Most decent Spin & Go players don’t exceed 4-5% ROI and only the very best exceed 6%.


What Bankroll Do You Need?

Should you want play Spin & Gos professionally you want to reduce your risk of ruin as much as possible. Thus you’ll need to play with a rather big bankroll.

We calculated the bankroll requirements for $15 Spin & Gos and a risk of ruin of 5% depending on your win-rate:




36.9% (5% ROI)



36.5% (4% ROI)



36.2% (3% ROI)



35.8% (2% ROI)



35.5% (1% ROI)



Yes, those are some steep bankroll requirements. But if you’re just playing for fun you don’t have to follow them religiously.


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How to Treat Spin & Gos?

So far we know Spin & Gos have a high rake, pay out like a lottery, their variance is through the roof, and yet they’re still beatable because so many fish play them.

Don’t count on big multipliers.

So, how should you approach them?

Simple: Don’t expect to hit any of the big multipliers. Ever. Basically, treat Spin & Gos like hyper-turbo tourneys with an incredibly high rake and with plenty of weak players.

You need to be able to beat the Spin & Gos without hitting the big multipliers. Otherwise the variance will eat you up eventually.

Meaning: You’ll need a win-rate of at least 37% (for the $1 Spin & Gos) or at least 36% (for the other ones). With those win-rates you’ll show a long-term profit even if you never hit one of the big multipliers.

Should you happen to hit one of the big multipliers, well that’s a nice bonus – but don’t rely on it.


Spin & Gos: The Big Rake(Back) Machine

One last aspect that is very relevant regarding Spin & Gos: They are a huge money maker for PokerStars due to the high rake.

But since they’re currently very beatable, they’re also a good way to generate frequent player points and many players make a living by just breaking even and collecting their cash-back rewards.

A Supernova player currently receives roughly 30% cashback on rake paid. That’s the lowest Supernova tier. Higher tiers receive considerably more.

If a player amasses 5,000 $15 Spin & Gos in one month he or she will have paid $3,750 in rake. Thirty per cent of that is already $1,100 – a steady stream before any winnings from the tourneys themselves.

The site spinlyzer.com tracks all Spin & Gos and lets you see how each player has performed over the last months. Those are the most successful in July 2015:

The top 100 players (by number of games played) paid on average $21k rake, made an average profit of $10.6k and another $11.6k in rake back. That’s quite a lot of money.

So: How Good are Spin & Gos?

High rake, lottery-like variance and hyper-turbo structures. On the surface Spin & Gos certainly don’t sound too good for the dedicated poker player.

But currently they are. Because so many weak players flock to the Spin & Gos the fish-to-reg ratio is incredibly favorable.

This might change when more regs frequent the Spin & Gos and recreational players lose interest, but currently neither seems to loom on the horizon.

All in all it turns out Spin & Gos are currently pretty good. That is unless you are the fish, of course. But that’s true for every form of poker.


Play the Spin & Go Tournaments on 888Poker




Poker Tips from Pros: Don't Be a Duckling on Flopped Flush Draws

Tim Reilly

When it comes to poker I’m like a little duckling who imprints ideas based on what first interests me.

When I first flopped a flush draw this little lamb must have turned into a lion. I lifted my head, roared and got my money in quicker than you could say schism.

Full Tilt Poker has recently made big changes to its software to attract more recreational players. That’s the reflection I see when I look in the mirror, so I dumped a bit of cash into my old account and started to play some $0.25/$0.50 No-Limit Hold’em (NLHE) cash games.

It wasn’t long before I flopped a flush draw and the old compulsion returned. As soon as I saw diamonds turn up I couldn’t wait to get my money in the middle.

I won the hand, but that’s not the point. I needed to find out a little more about this flush-draw business so I asked pro Timothy Reilly to offer up some advice.

Full Tilt Poker Game NL Hold’em (6-Max) – $0.25/$0.50 Seat 1: Player 2 ($53.60) Seat 2: Player 3 ($37.10) Seat 3: Villain ($59.80) Seat 4: Player 1 ($40.50) Seat 5: Hero ($54.30) Seat 6: Player 4 ($70.05)

Player 2 posts the small blind of $0.25. Player 3 posts the big blind of $0.50. The button is in seat #6

*** HOLE CARDS ***

Dealt to Hero [Jd Ad]

Villain raises to $1.50

Player 1 calls $1.50

Hero calls $1.50

Player 4 folds

Player 2 folds

Player 3 calls $1

*** FLOP *** [3c 4d Td] (Total Pot: $6.25, 4 Players)

Player 3 checks

Villain bets $4.50

Player 1 calls $4.50

Hero raises to $14

Player 3 folds

Villain raises to $58.30, and is all in

Player 1 folds

Hero calls $38.80, and is all in

Villain shows [Qd Kd]

Hero shows [Jd Ad]

*** TURN *** [3c 4d Td] [5d] (Total Pot: $116.35, 2 Players, 1 All-In)

*** RIVER *** [3c 4d Td 5d] [Qs] (Total Pot: $116.35, 2 Players, 1 All-In)

Hero wins the pot ($113.35) with a flush, Ace high

The View from Timothy Reilly

“When playing a flush draw you need to determine your ultimate goal. Sometimes it’s to semi-bluff players off slightly better hands that can’t get to showdown, or to induce worse hands to semi-bluff into you.

Tim Reilly (Photo: GPI)

“The hand you chose is a good hand to flat in position and keep in worse draws. I don’t expect anyone to fold KT+ and there are only a few combos of flush draws that will get it in on this flop.

“If we had a hand like A♥ 2♥ or A♥ 3♥ I would raise, and not because of the added equity of having combo draws (although it’s obviously nice) but because removing the J♦ from our hand gives them a lot more flush draws in their range that they may be willing to get in.  

“Our villain is not going to have much air betting here into four people and the best we can hope for is K♦ 9♦ or K♦ Q♦. When we raise we represent 33, 44 and maybe TT (although TT may raise pre) and a bunch of draws.

“That being said, you won’t be getting much credit on this flop. There are many turn cards that would allow us to continue and even semi-bluff all in on the turn.

Good Chance Our Ace is Live

“A queen, deuce or king are all cards we can apply maximum pressure on the turn to try to fold out some of those hands that we don’t get to fold on the flop. Also, there is a good chance our ace is live.

“Just to clarify, raising isn’t bad on this flop because we are always going to have at least 30% equity and we will get some bad players to bet too widely and be forced to fold AQ, 99, JT etc.

“I just think that there are better ways to play it where you find the villain will put money in dominated rather than in a 40/60 flip situation. Raising is good too if you have a read that villain likes to overplay flush draws.

“If we are shallower, like in an MTT, I would make a small raise then call off. We’re going to run into a lot of made hands but with our pot-to-stack ratio being smaller we don’t have as much room to maneuver and I would just get it in with the equity we have.”

Female Poker Player
What’s your ultimate goal?

My View

Reilly’s first point is for me to determine what my ultimate goal is: am I intending to semi-bluff players off better hands, or to induce a semi-bluff to make a move?

This is where my first mistake is made. I am not thinking like this as I move to the flop action. I have a very one-dimensional mindset that looks as follows:

‘I have the nut-flush draw with two overcards. This is a hand that I am happy to play for stacks. Raise and get it in.’

This is the duckling principle I alluded to earlier. It’s an old imprint from when I first started to play poker that has never evolved.

Had I thought about the hand in more depth it becomes obvious that if I get it in, then most of the time I’m going to be a dog facing a made hand. This is why Reilly’s suggestion of a call on the flop is a much better move.

Reilly’s viewpoint that by removing the J♥ from our starting hand it now gives the villain more combinations of hands he’s likely to get it in with is one that I would never have thought about.

Timothy Reilly has taught me a very important lesson. It’s time to stop waddling around like an ugly duckling.



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Poker Tips from Pros: Maria Ho Shows How to Make Millions

The 2015 World Series of Poker $1,500 buy-in Millionaire Maker event attracted 7,275 players.

I was one of them. It was my second poker tournament of the series – the first being the Colossus – and it was the only time during the whole series that my table never broke.

I guess it was bad luck that this was a table where there wasn’t many spots.

It was a frustrating tournament. I started well but couldn’t capitalize as the weaker players busted and their seats filled with strong grinders.

I busted in the final level of the day when I lost a 50bb flip AK<JJ. Here are 16 hands that I thought were of interest.

I thank Maria Ho for taking the time to cast her professional eye over them.

Event: WSOP Event #16: Millionaire Maker Buy-in: $1,500 Starting Stack: 7,500 Blind Levels: 60 minutes

Maria Ho

Hand #1

Level 1: 25/50

We’re seven-handed when Michelle Lawson opens to 150 from early position. I call from late position with deuces and both blinds call.

Flop: J♦ 9♥ 2♠

Lawson bets 525, I make it 1,100, the blinds fold and Lawson calls.

Turn: Q♦

Lawson bets 2,500 and I call.

River: 6♠

Lawson checks, I bet 1,500 and she calls and mucks when she sees my hand.

Lee Davy Comments: I think the raise on the flop is standard. I didn’t like the turn that much. I had her range pegged at AA-QQ, AJ, KJ and QJ after she had called my raise on the flop. When she doesn’t bet the river I think my hand is good. I considered putting her all-in but didn’t want to force a fold out of her so I bet smaller.

Maria Ho Feedback: Normally I wouldn’t raise such a dry flop with any hands and would include a hand as strong as a set in my calling range to allow her to barrel off lower-equity hands while disguising the strength of our hand. As played I would just call the turn bet as well. Once checked to on the river I would jam because we only have a little over half pot back.

Hand #2

I open to 175 from UTG holding pocket queens and six people call.

Flop: K♦ 9♣ 6♠

I bet 350, the button calls and Michelle Lawson moves all-in for 2,300. I fold.

Lee Davy Comments: I’m never sure whether to bet or check these flops. Considering the amount of people that called I think I should have check/folded.

Maria Ho

Maria Ho Feedback: I would start off with a check and evaluate the action behind me before deciding whether to call or fold to a flop bet, although I would lean towards a fold with this many players seeing a flop. As played I would fold to the all in bet.

Hand #3

I open to 175 from UTG holding Q♦ J♦ and get two callers (OTB and SB).

Flop: J♣ 9♣ 8♥

I bet 200 and both players call.

Turn: 7♥

I check; OTB bets 500 and I fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: I prefer checking this flop (with the intention to check/call), as this is a really wet board that favors their calling ranges more than our raising range. As played I think check/folding the turn is fine as we’ll have some stronger hands in our range that we can continue with.

Hand #4

Level 2: 50/100

The CO opens to 250 (off 7,500) and I defend the BB with K♦ J♥ (off 9,650)

Flop: K♠ 9♦ 6♦

We both check.

Turn: A♠

I check-call a 500 bet.

River: 4♥

I check-fold to an 800 bet.

Maria Ho Feedback: I would play this hand the same although I would occasionally call some rivers if we think that villain is bluffing too much. The ace on the turn really favors the openers check-back range and therefore he will have a lot of better hands than us.

Maria Ho

Hand #5

Level 3: 75/150

There is a raise to 400 from MP (off 15,000), the SB calls (off 7,000) and I call in the BB with A♠ T♠ (off 9,000)

Flop: 9♠ 3♦ 3♣

The SB checks and I decide to lead for 375 with the plan to barrel any high turn card or spade. Only the SB calls.

Turn: Q♠

The SB leads for 1,025 and I call.

River: 2♥

The SB leads for 2,100 and I fold.

Lee Davy Comments: I considered raising the turn but felt he would only lead with a queen or an A3 type hand, neither of which are likely to fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: I prefer starting this hand with a check and would be continuing on against any half-pot or smaller bet, as we’ll have the best hand sometimes and have a backdoor draw. As played I would just call the turn as well and fold to the river bet.

Hand #6

A very tight player in the SB opens to 375 (off 6,000) and I call in the BB (off 11,000) holding A♠ 2♣

Flop: A♦ 9♦ 8♦

He bets 600 and I call

Turn: T♣

He bets 1,750 and I fold.

Lee Davy Comments: I haven’t developed a solid strategy for SB v BB play. I am not sure when to raise, call or limp. I make it up as I go along and I know that each situation is different, but am interested in your thoughts.

Maria Ho

Maria Ho Feedback: When blind v blind I tend to call most opens as we have position, are getting a good price and have a pretty value-heavy 3bet range. I think it’s most important to pay attention to how your opponent plays the SB (whether he limps a lot, walks you or raises a lot and then adjust accordingly). I would play the hand the same.

Hand #7

Level 5: 100/200 a25

A very active guy makes it 600 from the HJ (off 17,000), the CO flats (off 15,000) and I make it 1,700 from the SB (off 9,000) holding K♠ Q♣; only the CO calls.

Flop: A♥ 3♠ 2♣

I bet 2,100 and he folds.

Maria Ho Feedback: I really like this squeeze play. It’s a hand that plays really well with the initiative and we get some dominated hands to continue. I would size the squeeze a little bigger to give them worse pot odds though (2,200). I prefer a smaller c-bet on such a dry board as well. (1/3 pot)

Hand #8

I open 500 UTG with A♠ A♦ (off 11,000), CO calls (off 7,000) and BB calls (off 15,000).

Flop: Q♣ 7♠ 2♠

I bet 875 and CO calls.

Turn: T♦

I bet 2,100 and CO folds.

Maria Ho Feedback: Well played!

Giuseppe Pantaleo
Giuseppe Pantaleo

Hand #9

Giuseppe Pantaleo opens to 400 in MP (off 4,500), the CO calls (off 5,000) and I move all-in from the SB with K♠ Q♦ (off 12,000). They both fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: Good job recognizing that Giuseppe is opening pretty wide here and picking up the dead 1,100 chips in the middle!

Hand #10

I open to 500 UTG holding A♦ K♠. Giuseppe Pantaleo moves all-in for 4,000 in MP and the SB moves all-in from the SB for over 80bb. I am sitting on 60bb. I tank fold, Pantaleo shows 99 and loses to the SB’s queens.

Lee Davy Comments: In my opinion this is a spot where the professional gets an advantage over an amateur player. It was a re-entry event. I knew that Pantaleo was wide and wasn’t necessarily worried about him, but it seemed absurd to flip for such a huge pot with AK as I knew he had TT, JJ or QQ. There was also the possibility that he had AK. If I had more money I could have taken the shot and then either continued with a 120bb+ stack or re-entered. I folded because I didn’t have any more money and an ace flopped. If I had the money I would have called. I know you can’t win the tournament on Day 1 but 120bb+ at that stage would have been huge.

Maria Ho Feedback: I would just fold here as well. I think that Giuseppe is actually much tighter than you think he is (he’s jamming against your UTG opening range from middle position with 20bb and therefore can’t be too wide). The SB should know this as well and therefore will most likely only be calling off JJ+ and AK+.

I don’t think this tournament being a re-entry or having a bigger bankroll effects this situation as much as you seem to think it does.

Hand #11

Level 6: 150/300 a25

An active player in the CO makes it 600 (off 20,000). OTB flats (off 25,000) and I call with Q♠ J♦ in the BB (off 14,000).

Flop: A♠ 3♠ 2♠

I check, the CO bets 800 and OTB calls. I check-raise to 2,100 and take the pot.

Maria Ho Feedback: This situation is very player dependent. It’s close between a c/call and a c/raise. If your opponent is c-betting too much and will fold to a lot of pressure then c/raising is good. If we do check/raise we should make it bigger in order to give him worse pot odds and make it harder for him to proceed.

Maria Ho

Hand #12

An active player makes it 700 from MP (off 20,000). I three bet to 1,675 from the CO holding A♦ Q♥ (off 18,000) and he calls.

Flop: T♣ 6♣ 3♠

I bet 1,675 and he calls.

Turn: K♠

I bet 2,875 and he folds.

Maria Ho Feedback: I like the way you played this hand.

Hand #13

Level 7: 200/400 a50

A quiet guy makes it 800 in MP (off 30,000). A guy I keep three-betting (and he keeps folding) flats in position (off 20,000). I three-bet to 2,175 from the SB, holding A♣ 9♣ (off 20,000) and they both fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: The squeeze is fine but your sizing is too small here. You’re only making them risk another 1,375 in order to see a flop when there is approximately 4,500 in the middle. A raise of 3,000 is much better.

Maria Ho

Hand #14

I open to 850 from the CO holding A♠ J♦ (off 22,000), OTB flats off (13,000), the SB three-bets to 2,200 (off 12,000) and I fold.

Maria Ho Feedback: It sounds like you’ve been pretty active thus far. If the SB is aware and capable then I would either be flatting or going all in against his 3-bet. Our hand is much too strong to fold and we have position on him.

Hand #15

Level 8: 250/500 a50

There is an open to 1,100 from EP (off 40,000). I three-bet with A♥ 3♥ OTB (off 15,000) and he calls.

Flop: A♦ Q♦ 6♦

We both check.

Turn: 2♠

He check-calls a 2,600 bet.

River: 3♦

We both check and he mucks when he sees my cards.

Maria Ho Feedback: The 3-bet isn’t mandatory but it’s a good 3-bet bluff hand as it blocks some of his stronger holdings and plays really well in 3-bet pots (can flop top pair or really strong draws). I would play post-flop the same way.

Hand #16

I open the CO with A♠ Q♠ for 1,100 (off 17,000), a very aggressive young player three-bets to 2,500 OTB and I call.

Maria Ho

Flop: A♦ Q♣ 6♥

We both check.

Turn: 9♦

I bet 3,500 and he calls.

River: T♣

I check, he bets 8,000 and I call. He mucks and tells me he had two pair.

Lee Davy Comments: This was the last hand before the break and I was not concentrating. This happens a lot when I am involved in a hand leading into the break, or the final hand of the night. I seem to switch off. If I would have focused on this hand I could have check-raised the river. Justin Liberto is moved to our table with a huge stack. A combination of him playing every hand and me being card dead sees me dwindle down to 20bb in Level 10 and I lose a flip against pocket Jacks.

Maria Ho Feedback: I like the peel pre-flop, the flop check and the turn bet. I would bet this river myself as we risk him checking back worse hands that he might call a river bet with. Sounds like you played pretty well overall and stayed aggressive when needed. Your bust out sounds like a pretty standard tournament scenario.



Beginners Equity Guide to "Standard" Situations in No-Limit Hold’em

If you’re just getting started in No-Limit Hold’em you’ll soon find out that there are many “standard” situations you’ll keep finding yourself in.

They happen all the time so it’s important for you to know where you stand and how to play optimally in each of these situations.

If you can regularly make the correct decisions in these spots you’ll be a winner in the long run and you’ll be a superior player to those who get them wrong.

These are the most common standard situations you’ll encounter in No-Limit Texas Hold’em pre-flop, post-flop and on the turn with the key math explained along with the best approach for dealing with them.

NLHE Standard Situations Pre-Flop

1) The Coin Flip: One Pair vs Two Overcards

Examples: Q♠ Q♣ vs A♣ K♦; 8♦ 8♥ vs K♣ Q♥


This is probably the best known situation in NLHE. It’s generally called a coin flip with each player basically having a 50-50 chance of winning, although it really isn’t quite so clear.

In reality the pocket pair is significantly ahead most of the time. The winning percentage of QQ vs AKo is 57:43, for example.

But there are also instances when the pair is behind (for example any low pair against JTs).

Hint: Coin flips are the bread and butter of tournament poker. Put your chips in the middle and don’t think about them too much. Numbers will even out in the long run.

2) Ouch: Higher Pair vs Lower Pair

Examples: Q♠ Q♣ vs 7♦ 7♠; 8♦ 8♥ vs 5♣ 5♥

This is a really bad spot if you have the lower pair. The higher pair is always an 82% favorite. There’s nothing for you to do but pray.

Hint: The lower your pair, the higher the chances of being dominated. Eights are the pair that separates the small pairs from the big pairs.

3) Kicker issues: Not as Bad as You Think

Examples: A♦ K♣ vs A♣ Q♥; K♥ Q♦ vs K♠ T♥

“Being dominated,” which means having a weaker kicker to your high card than your opponent, is not as bad a situation as many players think.

The better hand has about 70% equity, which means that the weaker hand actually wins almost every third time.

The lower your kicker is, the lower also are the chances of it having any effect on the outcome as there will be more split pots.

Hint: With a bad kicker you always have to be aware that you might be dominated. However it’s a lot worse to run a pair into a higher pair.

Chips for Isolation Play Article

4) Not Good at All: Pocket Pair vs One Overcard

Examples: Q♠ Q♣ vs A♦ T♠; 8♥ 8♦ vs A♣ 5♥

Another situation where the player with the overcard is in a really bad spot with just 27-32% equity.

The good thing is that’s still more than every fourth time.

Hint: Be careful if you have a weak kicker. Chances are you’re not flipping but playing with only one live card.

Standard Situations in No-Limit Hold’em – Post-Flop

1) Top Pair vs Flush Draw or Straight Draw

Examples: A♥ 2♥ vs K♣ Q♠ on a flop of K♥ T♣ 8♥; K♣ Q♠ vs 8♦ 7♥ on a flop of K♦ 9♣ 6♥

This is comparable to the so-called “coin flip” pre-flop. It’s important to notice that there are still two cards to come so the draw has two chances of coming in.

The flush draw in the example above has a 45% chance to win while the straight draw in the second example only has 33%.

The reason is because there are still nine hearts to complete the flush draw while there are only six cards that complete the straight draw.

Hint: The chances for your draws are determined by the pot odds. If you’re getting the right pot odds you can continue profitably.


2) A Big Advantage: Top Pair vs Lower Pair

Example: K♣ Q♠ vs J♥ T♦ on a flop of K♥ J♠ 2♣

A situation like this is about as one-sided as a higher vs a lower pair on the flop. The better hand is going to win 80% of the time.

Hint: Play pairs lower than top pairs very carefully. They don’t have a lot of chances to improve and are often dominated.

3) Top Pair vs Top Pair – Kicker Issues

Example: K♣ Q♠ vs K♥ T♥ on a flop of K♦ 7♦ 6♣

Having a lower kicker is even worse than having a lower pair. This shows how important the kicker card is.

The dominating hand has an 83% chance of winning so it’s a clear favorite.

Hint: Be careful with a top pair, bad kicker hand. The lower your kicker the more often you’re behind.

4) Set vs Top Pair – Way Ahead

Example: 4♣ 4♠ vs A♥ K♥ on a flop of A♣ T♠ 4♦

You can’t be much more of a favorite. A set wins 96% of hands against top pair on the flop. It’s an almost unbeatable hand.

The higher the top pair is the harder it is to get rid of it. Many players “get married” to their top pair, which makes sets so incredibly profitable.

Hint: If you flop a set you’re pretty certain to be a winner. But watch out for possible draws!


5) Set vs Flush Draw or Straight Draw – a 3:1 Favorite

Examples: 4♣ 4♠ vs A♥ K♥ on a flop of 4♥ 9♥ 7♣; 4♣ 4♥ vs   Q♥ on a flop of T♦ J♦ 7♣

This is one of the situations that pretty much plays out automatically. The set is a 3-1 favorite but the pot odds and implied odds are often so good that the draw can call profitably.

But remember: The set is always ahead on the flop.

Hint: You’re always a favorite with a set on a rainbow board. Note that you always have re-draws to a paired board even if the draw comes in first.

6) Set vs Monster Draw (Combined Flush and Straight Draw) – Still Ahead

Example: 4♣ 4♠ vs J♥ T♥ on a flop of 9♥ 8♥ 4♦

Although the drawing hand is now drawing to both a flush and a straight the set is still a 58-42 favorite – quite remarkable, isn’t it?

Yet both hands have a good reason to bet in this situation as the pot odds will almost always be good enough.

Hint: With a flopped set you’re going to be a favorite on the flop even against the best possible draw.

Standard Situations in No Limit Hold’em – The Turn

The flop may have given you a pretty hand but if the turn is not what you’re looking for it can literally turn things around.


1) Top pair vs Flush Draw or Straight Draw

Examples: Flush draw A♥ 2♥ vs K♣ Q♠ on a board of K♥ T♣ 8♥ — 3♦

Straight draw: K♣ Q♠ vs 8♦ 7♥ on a board K♦ 9♣ 6♥ 3♦

The flush draw with one overcard now is down to 28% equity (aka chance of winning). The straight has even less than 20%.

It follows that you usually have to fold the draws in case your opponent bets big.

Hint: Generally speaking you’ll always want to see the river with a draw but sometimes the pot odds won’t be good enough. That means the amount of chips you have to pay to call might be too high to be justified by the slim chances of hitting.

2) Top Pair vs Lower Pair – Almost Done

Example: K♣ Q♠ vs J♥ T♦ on a board of K♥ J♠ 2♣ — 3♦

If the lower pair doesn’t find help on the turn you should rarely continue. In our example the pair of jacks has an 11% chance to win which doesn’t give you reason to bet.

Hint: Playing second pair is tricky as there are only a few ways for it to improve. They become even fewer on the turn.

3) Top Pair vs Top Pair – Domination Nation

Example: K♣ Q♠ vs K♥ T♥ on a board of K♦ 7♦ 6♥ — 2♠

Kicker issues often get worse on every street, i.e. with every new community card. The situation described above leaves the weaker hand only a 7% shot at winning – so little that it doesn’t justify any call.


Hint: If your pair is dominated, meaning your opponent has a higher second card (=kicker), you’re in dire straits. If you’re behind you’re only going to win one out of 10 times.

4) Set vs Top Pair – Decided

Example: 4♣ 4♠ vs A♥ K♥ on a board of A♣ T♠ 4♦ — 2♠

If the turn hasn’t helped your top pair hand the hand is already over. There is no way to overtake the set on the river.

Note that in the example above another ace on the board would give the player with pocket fours a full house.

Hint: With a set you’re dominating the hand on the turn. On the other side of the table, against a set you’re lost.

5) Set vs Flush Draw or Straight Draw – Almost Unstoppable

Example: 4♠ 4♣ vs A♥ K♥ on a board of 4♥ 9♥ 7♣ 2♠

If you’re playing a draw and you don’t hit the turn your chances are down to 16%.

However you might not notice it as your overcards look like outs, too.

Hint: Overcards can be deceptive as you lose even if you hit one of them. These can’t be considered “full” outs.

6) Set vs Combo Draw – Call

Example: 4♣ 4♠ vs J♥ T♥ on a board of 9♥ 8♥ 4♦ — 2♣

If you’re playing a draw that’s both a flush and a straight draw, and it doesn’t fill up on the turn, you’re down to 30%.

However this is usually enough to call as you can win even more money on the river if you still hit. In this example there is also a straight flush draw added.

Hint: With such a strong draw as this you should always try to get to the river. This kind of hand has too many outs to be folded.

The Rule of Four and Two – How to Calculate Your Equity

Equity, as mentioned before, is your winning chance in percent. The rule of four and two is a simple way to calculate the equity of your hand.

It’s not exact, but it’s close enough.

Chips 2

It’s one of the first rules players learn and if you’re not familiar with it yet you should memorize it quickly.

Rule of Four

Applies on the flop. If you have a flush draw that means there are nine cards in the deck that give you the winning hand.

Multiply the number of your outs by 4 and the result is your approximate equity – 36%.

Rule of Two

Applies on the turn. If the turn card hasn’t helped your flush draw you can now calculate your equity by multiplying the number of your outs by 2 and add 2.

Your chances to win are now approximately 20%.

One final note: These numbers vary slightly depending on what cards the opponent has.

If the opponent has a set, for example, some of the flush outs will give him a full house.