How to Beat Microstakes Poker: Post-Flop Strategy Pt. 2

PokerListings.com and Microstakes master Nathan “BlackRain79″ Williams have teamed up for the definitive series on beating microstakes poker.

Combining material from BlackRain’s groundbreaking book, Crushing the Microstakes, and an ongoing Q&A/hand analysis this is the ideal tool to learn how to beat poker’s lowest stake-levels.

If you’ve got a question or a hand for BlackRain to analyze, drop it in the comments on any article in the series or email webmaster (at) pokerlistings.com. Analysis and answers will appear every month.

Catch up with Parts 1 and 2 of our Pre-Flop Guide and Part 2 of the Post-Flop Guide here, here and here.

By Paul Verheij

Remember in the pre-flop guide when we emphasized having position and initiative to make your decisions easier on later streets?

When you’re in position you’ll have more control over the pot. When your opponent checks, for example, you have the option to check behind which closes the action on that street.

You’ll also have the huge advantage of having information, as we already described. When you’re sitting out of position you have less control over the pot. Your opponent can always bet (if you check) or raise (if you bet).

Tom Dwan
Taking initiative gets you places.

The Importance of Initiative

The second thing we preached in our pre-flop guide is the importance of having initiative.

Most of the time people will check to the player who has initiative when they are out of position –  or they’ll call instead of raise when they are in position.

This is especially useful with regards for planning your hands in advance, as we’re about to discuss.

It gives you the option to check behind in case you want to keep the pot under control or bet smaller with the knowledge your opponent won’t raise often once you have initiative.

Planning Your Hand in Advance

If you’ve done everything we described so far in the pre-flop/post-flop guide then you understand both the type of opponent you’re against and if you want to play a big pot or a small/medium pot.

Now it’s time to take your hand planning to the next level. Doing so will help you make fewer mistakes and help you avoid tough decisions.

Think of Betting Lines That Accomplish Your Goals

If you already know you want to play a big pot, now you should think of betting lines that will accomplish this goal.

Again, if you want a very detailed description of betting lines in different scenarios against different opponents, buy BlackRain’s ebook.

Since our goal here isn’t writing a complete book here are just some rough guidelines:

Betting Lines In Position:

Big Hand IP:

When you have a big hand and want to play for stacks it’s obvious you want to bet/raise on every street.

Decent hand IP:

Paul Volpe's Chip Stack
When you want to play for stacks, you have to bet, bet, bet.

When you have a decent hand but you don’t want to play for stacks/want to keep the pot under control, you already know that you want to check behind on one street to achieve this goal.

Think ahead to which street you can check behind. A common line is bet the flop, check behind on the turn.

Often the villain will call a river bet with this line since your check behind on the turn indicates a weakish hand.

Checking behind on the turn also might induce your opponent to bet on the river as a bluff with a hand he might not have called a bet on the river with.

Another option is to check the flop. Checking on the flop might result in your opponent calling with weaker hands on the turn and river since he might think you don’t really have a strong hand.

Betting Lines Out of Position:

Big Hand OOP:

When you have a big hand and you want to play for stacks you should think of a betting line which will accomplish this goal.

You might think of a check/raise to quickly build the pot. If you think your opponent won’t bet you might go for betting all streets yourself.

Decent Hand OOP:

When you have a decent hand but don’t want to play for stacks/want to keep the pot under control, you need to think the situation through thoroughly. 

You need to be aware that you are handicapped. Your opponent does have the option to raise and get you out of your comfort zone. Also, checking to control the pot can be seen as weakness.

If your opponent bets you need to consider if you want to go into check/call mode with the idea of facing future bets in case of an aggressive opponent.

Especially when you’re out of position (but also in position) you need to consider a few things when it comes to choosing betting lines — mostly the playing style of your opponent and your bet sizing.

Consider your Opponent’s Playing Style

When considering the best betting line you have to consider the playing style of your opponent.

This goes a bit further than our “weak player” or “decent player” distinctions.

A weak player, for example, might call three streets with weaker holdings but won’t bet himself with the same holding.

Instead of making only a distinction between a weak player and a decent player, you also need to make the distinction between a passive player or an aggressive player.

If your opponent’s passive it’s much easier to control pot size.

Passive Opponents

When you’re dealing with a passive player you can keep the pot under control much easier.

You know that when you choose to check chances are high your opponent will also check behind unless he really has a good hand.

The same counts for when you’re in position. Chances are high your passive opponent won’t bet himself but rather call your bets.

This makes it easier to plan the hand since you’re in control of the size of the pot.

As you can imagine the ideal scenario would be to play against weak passive players all the time since you can easily control the pot and get value with your good hands.

Unfortunately it won’t always be that simple.

Aggressive Opponents

Aggressive opponents will take more initiative, which will put you in tougher situations.

When they smell weakness they will try to pick up the pot. When you’re in position and have initiative this often won’t cause much trouble as you can choose to check behind for pot control.

It’s different when you’re out of position.

When you check on a street for pot control this type of opponent will often put pressure on you by betting. And with a really aggressive opponent you already know he will bet as well on the next street(s).

In this case pot control often goes out of the window and you need to think with which kind of hands you want to proceed.

It’s obvious though that planning a hand against these type of opponents, especially when sitting out of position, can be a tough job.

Elisabeth Hille
Bet size makes a big difference.

Bet Sizing

When thinking of the best betting line it is also important to consider your bet sizing.

A bet size from half-pot to full-pot size is considered normal but when do you bet pot size and when do you bet half or three-quarter-pot? 

An example: You raise from UTG to 4BB and get a call from the big blind. 

Both of you started with a 100BB stack. Let’s round it off to 8BB on the flop to make the example easier.

If you bet one-half the pot (and get called) on every street the pot on the river will be 64BB. Both of you will have 68BB stacks left If you bet three-quarter-pot (and get called) on every street the pot on the river will be 124BB. Both of you will have 38BB stacks left If you bet full-pot (and get called) on every street the pot on the river will be 201BB. Both of you are all-in on the river

See the difference? It’s important to realize that bets on later streets will be bigger since the pot usually is bigger on later streets.

While ¾ pot size on the flop is only 6BB, on the river a ¾ pot size bet is already 37BB.

As you can see the sizing of the bets will have a huge impact on how big the pot eventually will be.

If your goal is to play for stacks then it’s obvious that firing three times ½ pot size bets won’t do the job. On the other hand, when you don’t want to blow up the pot, it might not be a smart plan to fire pot-size bets.

With regards to bet sizing there are different opinions. Some advocate that you should always use the same size, regardless of your hand. Another way is to bet bigger when the board is draw-y for protection and bet smaller in case of a dry board.

Reasoning behind this is that the other player can read you easily when you always bet bigger with a strong hand and smaller with a mediocre hand or garbage.

Although this reasoning is definitely true at higher limits the question remains if players at the microstakes pay attention to this. Pplayers we target (weak players) often won’t pay attention to the size of your bets.

So at the microstakes the question is not how to balance your bet sizing (save that for higher stakes), but how much your opponent is willing to call.

Heck, when you have a big hand and want to play a big pot and you know for sure that your opponent will call a double pot-size bet, why wouldn’t you do so??

The microstakes aren’t about balancing, as you already learned earlier. It’s about getting maximum value from the right opponents in the right situations and you can only get value in these situations when you value-bet big.

Conclusions for Hand Planning

Everything starts with a solid pre-flop game.

By planning a hand in advance and thinking of how big of a pot you want to play, the best betting lines, the type of your opponents and your bet sizes, you will definitely have an easier time post-flop.

There won’t be many surprises either since most of the situations you’ve already thought through.

You also will make fewer mistakes, since you will have a plan in advance and if the situation develops differently you won’t be alarmed and play a hand only to think afterwards “hey, I actually didn’t want to play a big pot with this hand.”

Again: the foundation for an easier post-flop game is a solid pre-flop game.


Although we’ve already talked about later streets there is one subject worth discuss ing separately and that’s the flop continuation bet.

Because of our pre-flop strategy most of the time we will have position and initiative, but this doesn’t mean we’ll always hit the flop.

In fact more often we WON’T hit a good hand on the flop. The good news: Neither will your opponent!

You’ve already learned that we should let go of hands like no-pair hands (garbage) or try to see a cheap showdown with weak made hands.

So logically you would give up these kinds of hands on the flop by check/folding.

There is only one exception and that is when you were the pre-flop aggressor.

When we hit a hand with which we want to get value then we are in fact just value-betting and this subject is already discussed in planning the hand in front.

In this case when we talk about c-betting I only mean bluff c-betting, so a continuation bet with only one goal: Getting your opponent to fold his hand.

Before we discuss when you should or shouldn’t c-bet, let’s look at how much we need our opponent to fold with different bet sizes:

Thinking about c-betting
Think your c-bets through thoroughly.

If you bet half-pot your C-bet is profitable if your opponent folds 33% of the time. If you bet 75% pot your C-bet is profitable if your opponent folds 43% of the time. If you bet full pot your C-bet is profitable if your opponent folds 50% of the time.

As you can see, even with a pot-size bet this bet will be profitable if your opponent folds half the time. Now the real question is: why would you bet pot size if a smaller bet size will do the job?

A common c-bet size is 66% pot, which has to work more then 39% to make it profitable. Now, if you think a 50% bet size will also do the job, then it’s no use to bet bigger.

Since this C-bet is only meant as a bluff you should choose the right situations for it to achieve a high success rate.

With regards to good situations to C-bet, but also situations that aren’t ideal for a C-bet you can read the article “The C-Bet for Beginners”

Remember, if your C-bet gets called and your hand doesn’t improve on the turn then you should give up the hand. Don’t fall into the trap of bluffing at the microstakes. 

Three Essential Takeaways for the Microstakes

You already have learned that beating the microstakes is all about getting maximum value against the right opponents in the right situations.

The flipside of that is also trying to limit your losses.

The good news is that limiting your losses is fairly simple when you leave your ego where it belongs: at the door.

Follow the advice below and you won’t make the same mistakes a lot of other players make.

1. Be Very Wary When You Get Raised!

Be wary when you get raised.

In general a raise at the microstakes means a lot of strength. Most players are passive, so when they suddenly wake up raising your bets, then most of the time will have a nut hand.

This especially counts for raises on the turn and river. These are almost always with nut hands. Don’t let your ego stand in your way and just fold!

A raise on the flop also generally means strength. Especially when out of position without a big hand you should just fold and wait for better spots.

Chances are high you will face more bets on later streets and you don’t want to play for a big pot with TPTK or less. In position there is no harm in taking the safe route by folding.

2. Don’t Bluff!

The average opponent in the microstakes will call far too often, which will not only cause a lot of variance but also a lot of frustration when opponents make calls “that they actually shouldn’t make.”

Your goal is to get maximum value when you have a big hand – not bluff opponents who can’t find the fold button.

The only exception can be a continuation bet but as we described you should pick the right situation and bet sizes for this.

3. Use Table Selection to Find Weak Players!

It’s well known that the average player at the microstakes is better compared to a few years ago. Although this is certainly the case, you shouldn’t think that the microstakes are suddenly filled with decent players, because this ain’t the case.

The only difference is that in the past the whole table was full of fish whereas these days you will have on average 3-5 weak players on your table.

Building a Mountain
Weak players are still everywhere at the microstakes. It’s up to you to find them.

It should be clear that this is still more then enough to achieve a nice win rate and to use the strategy we described.

To make it easier for yourself you can also use table selection. When you join tables with an average VPIP of 30% or higher, chances are high you’ll find enough juicy tables.

Almost every online poker site offers the option to select these tables or at least see the average VPIP numbers per table in the lobby.

Another way to put the odds in your favor is to use a list and write down the screen names of weak players you come across. Almost every online poker site offers the option to search for a player.

Weak players at the microstakes don’t think to search for/use the “hide from search” function.


Our goal with the pre-flop and post-flop guides is to give you a better understanding of why and how microstakes differs from other limits and how you can adapt to this.

If you’re really committed to beating the microstakes you should buy the ebook from BlackRain79 in which he decribes in detail every play against different opponents in different situations you will encounter.

For a price of $19.95, it’s really the biggest bargain in poker! Good luck at the tables!

How to Beat Microstakes Poker: Pre-Flop Strategy Part 1 How to Beat Microstakes Poker: Pre-Flop Strategy Part 2 How to Beat Microstakes Poker: Post-Flop Strategy Part 1

Questions and/or hands for analysis are welcome in the comments below. Purchase BlackRain79’s groundbreaking book Crushing the Microstakes right here.



BlackRain79 Monthly Poker Strategy Q&A: "Never, Ever Limp Preflop"

One of the most experienced micro-stakes pros in the world is here to answer your strategy questions.

Nathan “BlackRain79” has played millions of hands of online poker and is sharing his experience by answering reader’s strategy questions on PokerListings.

In the last month the questions have poured in via comments and social media. We compiled the best and sent them to Williams who lives in Thailand playing online poker professionally.

What follows are valuable insights built on BlackRain’s years of online poker experience.

BlackRain will be answering a new set of questions and analyzing poker hands every month on PokerListings.com so leave your questions in the comments at the end of the article, or send them to us on Twitter or Facebook.

Nathan Williams is the author of the wildly-popular Crushing the Microstakes, the definitive guide to the lowest stakes in online poker. Williams is dropping the sequel soon so head over to his site for the latest news on that release.

Monthly Hand Analysis: To Limp or Not to Limp?

Hero is playing .05/.10 four-handed with fairly passive players.

Average-sized stacks all around.

Action folded to hero on the button who picks up pocket kings. Is this an easy limp?

Always confused by this spot and the choice between trying to build a pot or letting opponents catch up on the flop.

BlackRain79: You should always raise here pre-flop. This is especially the case when playing against passive players.

pocket kings
You should never limp preflop, especially with pocket kings.

This is because you can’t build a pot without putting in the money yourself. Passive players don’t like to bet. You have to do it for them.

Furthermore, you should always raise pre-flop when entering the pot in literally any situation be it 4-handed, 9-handed or heads up. Having the betting lead is one of the fundamental keys to winning at poker because it simply gives you more ways to win the pot.

You can either take it down by forcing the other player to fold or showdown the best hand. Preflop callers only have one way to win the hand – show down the best hand.

BlackRain79 Answers Your Poker Strategy Questions

Potshipper: Is it standard to open-limp with pocket aces when you are three or four-handed?

BlackRain79: No, it is very standard to raise with them. I actually suggest almost never limping at all in poker no matter the situation.

Fishbot: Would you suggest playing 6-max or Full Ring at the micro-stakes?

BlackRain79: You should just play whichever one is more fun for you. Always remember that this is just a game at the end of the day and what will keep you motivated and excited to play each time is having fun.

Lingling: Any suggestions about a very good PokerTracker?

BlackRain79: I personally use Pokertracker 4. I think it is the best product on the market right now. Hold’em Manager 2 is great as well though. You honestly cannot go wrong with either.

Blackrain79 Bike
When not answering poker questions BlackRain79 can be found on the beach in Thailand.

Jack Bauer: Why did you not move up in the limits?

BlackRain79: Well, first off I did. I have a lot of experience playing all the way up to NL200. I went back up and down throughout the years though depending on how I felt about the game at the time and where my bankroll was at.

I ultimately found myself happy a lot of the time just mass grinding the lowest stakes with almost no variance at all.

Deadman Sand: Does PokerTracker make all hand analysis redundant?

BlackRain79: No it actually helps with that because you have tons of information about the players involved to consider as well.

VD: Currently I play about 120 hours NL10 Zoom per month (moderate success – win rate: 1.5 bb / 100).

How much time should I spend on improving my game and analyzing my opponents? Or should I just go for more volume?

BlackRain79: It depends entirely on your goals in the game but that is a decently high level of volume already. I would probably spend any additional time trying to get better and move up.

bbk: What sort of winrate do you need grinding the microstakes to live well (comparatively) in Thailand?

BlackRain79: It depends what limit you play at and your level of volume. In Thailand as a single guy you can get by pretty comfortably with 1k USD a month. A lot of people do it for less than this in fact.

Wayne Flopski: Considering how nitty games are is it profitable it to bluff a lot of turns and river?

BlackRain79: Yes it is. I would actually say that this is where some of the biggest profit sources come from at the micros these days. As always though it is all dependent on the player you are up against and the situation. There are still many players who will just call you down without thinking.

Les Schwab: Is it actually worth making notes of certain weaker players in the microstakes?

BlackRain79: I don’t think it is worth the time. Especially at a card room like Pokerstars the player pool is so big that you might not even ever see them again. Also, usually your notes have no sample size. He might do the exact opposite thing next time.



Romano Gets Suckered: 7 Subtle Verbal Tells From WSOP History

Thanks to its eclectic mix of amateur poker players and hardened veterans the WSOP has been the stage for some of the biggest bluffs and the most obvious tells in the history of poker.

Zachary Elwood, author of the critical hit Reading Poker Tells, has been working for the past year on a book called Verbal Poker Tells. (We did an interview with Elwood recently about the book.)

The book features a lot of hand histories from televised poker shows, like the WSOP on ESPN, Poker After Dark, and High Stakes Poker. Just in time for the 2014 WSOP, Elwood shared some of the more interesting verbal behavior he’s witnessed in past WSOP events.

By Zachary Elwood

2010 WSOP Main Event
: Scotty Nguyen Dupes Edward Ochana

Scotty Nguyen
Scotty Nguyen

A four-way flop is checked around. The turn board is A♣ 7♥ 4♦ 9♥. A player bets. Edward Ochana raises. Scotty Nguyen 3-bets. Everyone folds except Ochana.

Ochana asks Scotty, “What do you got? Pocket nines, Scotty?”

Scotty responds, “Nope.”

Ochana says, “You don’t got a set of aces.”

Scotty replies, “Nope.”

Results: Ochana shoves with A♥ 4♣ and Scotty calls. Scotty has 7♠ 7♦ for the flopped set.

Scotty’s statements eliminate several strong hands from his range. I call any statements or responses that weaken a speaker’s hand range weak-hand statements. Bluffers are very unlikely to weaken their own hand range. Even experienced players, like Nguyen, are very unlikely to want to verbally weaken their range when bluffing.

Also interesting: players sometimes express concern about hands that are slightly stronger than their own hands. When Ochana expresses concern about high sets, this makes it likely he has a low set or two pair.

(Note that talking about your own hand in even these small ways is technically not allowed by WSOP rules. But because the rules on during-hand talking are ambiguous, open to interpretation, and unevenly enforced, you’ll still sometimes hear such talk.)

2005 WSOP Main Event: Steve Dannenmann Can’t Hide Set of Nines

Steve Dannenmann
Steve Dannenmann

Joe Hachem raises pre-flop with A♦ K♦ to 160,000. Steve Dannenmann calls.

The flop is T♦ 9♠ 5♦.

Hachem checks the flop and Dannenmann bets 150,000. Hachem raises to 1M. Dannenmann shoves for 3.75M more. He looks at Hachem as Hachem considers.

Hachem says, “You’re staring me down as if you’ve got nothing.”

Dannenmann replies, “Everything else is extra credit from here for me, buddy.”

Hachem: “Sorry?”

Dannenmann: “Everything now is extra credit for me. I got past the first day.”

Hachem: “All-in, huh?”

Dannenmann (shrugging): “Hey, I’m just having fun.”

Results: Hachem folds. Dannenmann had 9♥ 9♣, for the set.

Dannenmann’s statements are misdirections: statements intended to misdirect attention away from the true explanation. By saying “everything else is extra credit from here” and “I’m just having fun,” Dannenmann is implying that he doesn’t mind being eliminated because he’s happy just to have made it that far in the tournament. These statements imply that his raise is made not because he has a strong hand, but because he doesn’t much care about his fate.

Also, his statements indirectly weaken his hand range: this also makes it unlikely he’s actually weak.

2008 WSOP Main Event: Ray Romano Gets Suckered

Ray Romano
Ray Romano

On a river board of A♥ T♥ 3♣ 2♦ Q♣, Jason Young is first to act. His opponent is Ray Romano, the actor.

Young makes a very small bet of 1,200 into a pot of 7,700. As he bets, he says to Romano, “Same bet; I like sitting next to you.”

The “same bet” statement references him betting the same amount on the flop, turn, and river. The second part of his statement implies that he’s making such a small bet because he likes sitting next to Romano and doesn’t want to eliminate him from the tournament.

Results: Romano calls with T♦ 4♥. Young has A♣ 9♦, for top pair, medium-strength kicker.

Young’s statement is a misdirection: he’s trying to justify his very small bet. Young’s statement serves a defensive, pot-controlling purpose, as does his bet: he doesn’t want to check and face a large bet from Romano.

2010 WSOP Main Event
: Harrington Reads Shulman

Dan Harrington

Five players see a flop of 9♣ 8♣ 4♦. A late-position player bets 2,000. Dan Harrington calls. Jeff Shulman raises to 7,000. The other players have folded and Harrington is the only player left. He considers the raise.

Harrington (guessing Shulman’s hand): “Jack-ten of clubs?”

Shulman (pause): “You?” Shulman smiles broadly.

Harrington smiles, too. “That’s what you’d do it with… Or a pair of fours.”

Shulman: “What about a pair of nines?”

Harrington: “I think he had a nine.” (He’s referring to the player that folded.)

Shulman: “Aces?… Limped under the gun?”

Harrington: “No, not [indistinct]. You wouldn’t have played it that way. I gotta throw it away.”

Results: Harrington folds his A♦ 8♦. Shulman has 4♣ 4♠ for the set.

When a player is willing to discuss his own hand range, it makes it likely he’s relaxed. Players betting weak hands have no incentive to walk a player through possible hands because that may lead to an opponent calling. Shulman’s willingness to discuss his own possible hand range makes it likely he’s relaxed.

2009 WSOP Main Event: George Costanza is Weak

Jason Alexander
Jason Alexander

Jason Alexander limps under-the-gun. Another player raises. The big blind puts in his call.

Alexander immediately says to the big blind: “You’re calling? If you’re calling, I’m calling.” He calls.

Results: Alexander has 4♣ 4♥.

Alexander’s immediate verbal reaction when action gets to him makes it unlikely that he limped in with a strong hand. If he had any sort of strong hand, such as TT-AA, AK, or AQ, he’d be likely to take a few moments to think about his decision, or at least be more focused.

This behavior fits a general pattern of players with weak hands, when the pot is small, being more talkative than players with strong hands. Players with stronger hands will tend to be focused on the situation and on their opponents: this often results in the player being quiet. Players with weak hands don’t have the same motivation to focus; this is why a lot of early-hand talking is heard from them.

2005 WSOP Main Event
: Jennifer Harman Knows

Jennifer Harman
Jennifer Harman

On a turn board of Q♥ J♦ T♠ T♦, Cory Zeidman bets 1,000 and Jennifer Harman raises to 3,000.

Zeidman considers for a while. If he were to call the raise, he’d have only 3,000 behind.

Zeidman: “I think you might have ace-king, actually. I was hoping it wasn’t that. Now I’m hoping something else. Wow. Hmm, geez. How can I possibly muck this hand? I call.”

Results: Zeidman has the 9♦ 8♦, for the flopped straight and the turned straight flush draw.

Voicing his concern about the higher straight makes it likely Zeidman has the lower straight. Considering there’s not much action left, it’s unlikely he’d speak like this as a complicated deception. He probably believes that there’s not enough action left to be worried about revealing information.

Zeidman did hit his straight flush on the river to beat Harman’s full house. Harman bet and Zeidman called. When the cards were turned up, Jennifer Harman immediately said, “I knew you had that hand.”

Assuming we believe that Harman suspected his exact hand (which I do), Zeidman’s statements on the turn were undoubtedly a large factor in allowing her to define his range. If she suspected that he had a straight, she might have also deduced from his “How can I possibly muck this hand” statement that his hand had more potential than just a straight.

2008 WSOP Main Event
: Show Me if I Fold?

Roberto Romanello
Roberto Romanello

On a river board of A♠ K♥ J♠ T♣ T♦, Roberto Romanello bets 1,800 into a pot of 1,950.

Greg Geller raises to 6,000. The third player folds.

Romanello considers.

Geller says, “Just don’t raise me.”

Romanello: “You show if I pass?”

Geller: “Pardon me?”

Romanello: “You show if I pass?”

Geller: “No.”

Romanello: “One time?”

Geller (shaking head, emphatically): “No.”

After another 25 seconds, Geller says, “Okay, I’ll show.”

Results: Romanello has J♥ J♦ and folds his jacks full. Geller has K♠ K♣, for the better full house.

There typically isn’t much information to be gleaned from responses to the question “Will you show if I fold?” But negative, dismissive responses are the exception: they’re highly correlated to strong hands.

This is because bluffers don’t want to be perceived as rude; they don’t want to cause an opponent to call out of frustration or irritation. Because Geller’s immediate negative responses to Romanello’s questions could be interpreted as dismissive or rude, it’s likely he has a strong hand.

The strangeness of Geller suddenly changing his mind about showing his cards also makes it likely he’s relaxed. Unusual behavior, in general, will be linked to relaxation.

Zachary Elwood is the author of the book Reading Poker Tells. His Twitter account is: @apokerplayer.



Beginner Poker Tips from Pros: Sam Grafton Demystifies the 3-Bet

Sam Grafton

If you want your game to advance quickly from:

(a) – getting the crap beaten out of you to

(b) – beating the crap out of someone else, then you have to learn about creating three-bet ranges.

Who better to ask for help with that then RunitOnce coach Sam Grafton.

PL: What advice would you give beginners when deep stacked at the beginning of tournaments?

SG: The deeper stacked you are, in general, the more linear you want to make your range.

When you have 25-40bb you can 3-bet your really strong hands and hands you’re going to fold. But if you’re deeper stacked you may want to 3-bet a hand like 89s.

Ben Lamb's Chip Stack
The deeper stacked you are, the more linear you want to make your range.

Even though they’re going to call with better hands a high percentage of the time, the implied odds of playing in position and having control of the pot makes the play +EV.

You may also want to engineer a spot where you get to play in position  against a particular player and the 3-bet is an important move here.

You may be in the Cut-Off with a hand like KJs and three-bet to isolate that player. If he peels, even with a better hand, our position and our skill edge puts us in a very good spot.

PL: So position is very important for the beginner?

SG: It’s really important for a beginner. As a pro I’m loving life if an amateur 3-bets me small from the blinds. I don’t mind putting a few chips into the pot because I’m in position and have a stronger game.

Position, and identifying people you want to play pots with, are at least as important as your actual hand strength.

PL: What advice would you give to players when it comes to three-betting only: AA, KK, QQ and AK when pre-ante?

SG: If I take really strong hands out of my flatting range a good reg can put pressure on me. Also, without antes out there, if you 3-bet with AK or QQ, and get a lot of action, then often you are behind.

So, because of that, you don’t want to just be three-betting AA and KK. It’s sometimes good to not have much of a 3-bet range pre-ante except maybe AA and some suited Aces.

PL: Does it matter that a beginner has such a polarized 3-betting range?

SG: No. I don’t think so. People are playing lots of tournaments at the same time and they don’t have a lot invested playing online.

It’s not like you’ve travelled to Nottingham to play in a UKIPT and arranged the whole weekend. When you’re playing a $50 freeze-out online and get knocked out you can just fire up another one.

There are no shortcuts in poker.

So the importance of it goes down. You’ll need a huge sample size to identify when a player is just three-betting with AA and KK.

PL: So the best strategy for a beginner is to have a 3B range existing of only very strong hands?

SG: I think so, especially when starting out. There can be occasions when you flat-call and someone squeezes behind and you back-raise to take a big pot pre-flop with very little variance.

The thing is to keep things simple. Especially when there are no antes out there.

Keep your strategy very simple, play the streets and don’t get too invested in every hand.

Don’t feel stressed about three-betting, missing the flop and having to fold to pressure.

PL: When should beginners start incorporating 3B bluffing into their range?

SG: It comes with time and experience. You should experiment with it.

If you’ve been playing tight for a while and a spot comes up – say a limp from a weak player and a raise from a strong player – go for it.

If you have some equity and a blocker like A9o, or two Broadway cards, try and exploit that by putting in a hefty raise. You’ll be surprised how much respect you will get.

Make that move and with time you will see how effective it is and recognize future spots.

There are no shortcuts in poker. The main thing is to take your time over every decision.

A mistake might be to look at your hand, see A9o and think, “I’m going to fold.” But pay attention to the pot because if it goes raise, call, call, you now have a hand that can pick up a big pre flop pot with a well timed raise.

The games have developed slightly. There used to be a real strategy of never flatting 3-bets. When I first started making my living, if I got 3B I would 4B or fold.

The Mob Scene!
Look for opportunities approaching money bubbles where people are more uncomfortable.

People have started to flat with hands that flop well, or dominate their opponent’s bluffing range, but don’t play very well against their value range.

They make their opponent’s life difficult on boards that don’t hit the 3B range, and so the game has changed from a point where three-betting air is tougher because you do end up having to play the streets.

PL: When I report on a live tournament I hardly see anybody fold to a 3B

SG: You used to be able to click-4B or 5B, offering 8:1, and players would snap fold. These days, players flat-call a lot more and make people’s lives more uncomfortable.

Look for opportunities approaching money bubbles, deep in tourneys where people are more uncomfortable.

It’s all about what you think your opponent is comfortable with. A year, or two ago, I realized that players weren’t making many mistakes pre flop. So I started flatting them when I was in position.

Let’s say the board comes T97 and I raise the flop with air. Hands that would normally have been very easy to play suddenly become very difficult to play with 50bb behind.

So it’s about assessing your opponent’s weaknesses and evaluating how best can you exploit them.

PL: How important are stack sizes when it comes to building a 3B range?

SG: Identifying stack sizes you can leverage is a key skill, and is right up there with identifying players you think may be weak.

A good stack size to pressure is 20-25BB – where players have to go all-in or fold.

The good thing about three-betting these sorts of stacks is you can have a wide range of hands that you can call an all-in with. So if someone opens 25BB it’s not like I am only 3B calling AA and KK.

I am 3B calling as wide as ATs, 77-AA, and KQ. I can also have a reasonably wide bluffing range in this spot so they can’t pile it in with A2o and only think I am going to call with Aces or Kings.

Sam Grafton
Beginners make the mistake of thinking that making a move is just making a move.

One of the primary things that comes into consideration when constructing a 3B range is to take the best hands you can’t call with and always bluff with them.

Say someone opens UTG and I have KJo or AJo — which are the best hands I won’t be flatting an UTG open with — I will nearly always 3-bet.

I have to have a very good reason not to do it. In general I will always take the worst hands I can’t flat and turn them into a 3B bluff.

PL: When does a stack become too shallow to keep three-betting?

SG: One of the mistakes I see amateurs make is 3-betting their strong hands, off a 20BB stack, and only shove their weak hands.

Let’s say someone has raised. I have 18BB and I have aces and make a raise to 5BB. But if I have A4s I’m shoving – we call this splitting your range.

If you wouldn’t 3-bet bluff, then don’t 3B for value. Just shove all-in as it may look weaker and you may get looked up.

Stack utility is thinking about what your stack size is good for. So when you get to 16-18BB you don’t have a good opening stack.

You don’t have a stack size where you can put pressure on your opponent over multiple streets. If you bet the flop, as a bluff, you’re going to be left with a very awkward stake size.

So open less off those shallower stacks and re-jam more widely over CO/OTB and serial raiser openers and stacks of 22BB and downwards.

Another play, particularly online, is a cold calling 4B-all-in stack.

Player raises off a 50BB stack, he gets 3-bet by another 50bb stack, and with a 20-30BB stack I’m actively looking for those spots where I can cold four-bet all-in to pick up a lot of chips.

PL: Let’s talk about re-jamming stacks

SG: Position is once again the key because you don’t want to be re-jamming wide with a lot of players left to act. Also, the power of the pocket pair is something that I advocate a lot in my coaching.

When someone opens 22-25BB then your pair in late position becomes very powerful. His calling range is made up quite heavily of hands like AQ, AJ and KQs.

People sometimes just call off a 22-25BB stack with 33-66, with no real clue what they’re going to do when they get to the flop. So just stick it in with those pocket pairs and strong Broadway hands because they have great equity.

Everyone jokes about how nobody folds KQ anymore but those two strong blockers are so hard to get KQ dominated.

Beginners make the mistake of thinking that making a move is just making a move. They think that bluffing all-in with 86s or A5s is the same.

But having that suited-ace blocker, or big Broadway cards, is so much better when you run the equities – than let’s say T7s.

People say they are “making a move” but having that one overcard against KK or QQ is so important.

How many people have won tournaments after jamming with A4o and cracking KK or QQ?

PL: What’s your advice for beginners playing out of the blinds?

SG: I think players should peel a lot more from the BB but if you do then you need to be able to negotiate your ace-high hands to showdown, your second pair to showdown, or even value bet second pair at rivers.

In short you need to feel comfortable playing post flop.

If I want to peel with T5s in the BB then I have to add some stronger hands. You can also flat a big hand and check-raise flops and people don’t give you credit for having anything and will try and re-bluff you with a high frequency.

Grafton: “Ask yourself: ‘Would I raise KJo in this spot?””

If you can’t go all-in pre flop then peel more and play tough down the streets a little bit more. Be stubborn and act like a station.

There also seems to be a tendency for the SB to be three-betting a lot. So you can incorporate some 4-bet bluffs into your range from the BB.

PL: What advice do you give to the people who click back with their 3B?

SG: Everyone is starting to make their 3-bets bigger these days and if you’re still making tiny clicks, particularly in live settings, then it’s probably a mistake.

If I was being min-3B I would call and take my pot odds.

PL: Ranges can be a bit confusing for amateurs.

SG: Imagine you’re playing tight. You raise KQo from UTG and get 3-bet.

Ask yourself: ‘Would I raise KJo in this spot?” and if the answer is no, then you probably have the worst hand you open with and you’re not going to be exploited when folding that hand.

On the other hand, if you’re on the button opening KQo, you know that this is a hand that is a lot higher up in your range. It’s one of your best hands so you’re not going to be folding.

You’re going to be going all-in, or flatting and playing the streets. That’s all range building is in terms of the 3B.

When someone opens and you’re about to fold with AJo, think “what would I do with AQo.” If the answer is, “I would call” then you have the worst hand you would fold and so you have a great hand to 3B bluff.



Beginner Poker Tips from Pros: LuckyChewy Finds Big Value in Late Reg

To show up on time or not show up on time?

Let’s get something straight right off the bat.

This is not an article where poker pro Andrew “luckychewy” Lichtenberger tells you when you should or shouldn’t “late reg” for a poker tournament.

The intent is to explain the thinking behind a pro’s decision to late register for low buy-in WSOP events.

Why pitch this at the beginners strategy level? Understanding the thought process of someone who is better at what you do always helps, irrespective of the subject matter.

I used to think that it was an ego-based decision, the pro was being dismissive and was just turning up late through a lack of disrespect. And there may be some people who do that. Andrew Lichtenberger isn’t one of them.

Experience and Value Count, But it’s a Trade-Off

The field
If you’re a beginner, get all the experience you can get.

My advice for the beginner player is to show up on time whatever the tournament.

It’s important in life to be punctual. It sets the right tone for many other aspects of your life.

You also need the experience at all levels of the game and you’re missing out on this if you decide to register late.

Lichtenberger had been late regging the $1,000 and $1,500 events at the 2014 WSOP though and I wanted to know why.

“Last year I pushed myself really hard, turned up on time as much as I could and grinded every day. It didn’t work out for me.

“At the end of the summer I got really burned out, got sick and didn’t want to be there.

“I’m not giving up that much value by missing the early levels, and I am ok giving up some value in the lower level tournaments in order to maintain my longevity, and my composure, for the bigger buy-ins.

“If I wake up, and it’s early, and I feel good, then I will come and play. But if I want to go for a hike, sleep in or chill that’s cool too.

“I know there is value to be had in the lower levels, but after my experience last year, I can’t justify pushing too hard, if I know it’s going to lead to my demise.”

What’s the Cost of Your Longevity?

Lichtenberger is looking at the bigger picture. Not too many beginner players come to the World Series and play 35+ events, so it’s easy to see how this doesn’t apply to us.

Andrew Lichtenberger
“I’m ok with costing myself $100 to maintain my longevity.”

In Lichtenberger’s case it’s important that he comes away from the end-to-end World Series feeling fit and healthy.

It’s also important that he is fresher in the bigger buy-in events because these are going to mean more to him because of his bankroll and status in the game.

“It’s the Main Event primarily. It’s the last tournament of the series. You hope to do really well, and play for a week or a week and a half, so setting yourself up for that is really important to me.

“Last year, I was exhausted mentally and physically. My body wasn’t getting what it needed and this compromised my mind, but I have learned from that experience.”

Lichtenberger touched on the word ‘value’ earlier in the conversation, and I asked him to expand upon his thought process.

“If you look at your actual win rate for the earlier levels, it’s going to be larger in terms of big blinds than it will be later.

“But also the big blind represents a substantially smaller portion of your stack, or the overall chips in play, than it will later.

“Say, you have a 100% ROI maybe I sacrifice 10% of it by showing up late. I’m ok with costing myself $100 to maintain my longevity.”

It’s a Pick-and-Choose Situation

What is Lichtenberger’s view on the limits of late registration?

Andrew Lichtenberger
Restoring your ability makes a huge difference.

“It seems like they won’t make it to the point where you can register with 1bb. Like now, the cut off is 10bb.

“The first one I played I finished the day with 63bb. I knew it was clearly the right option for me, to not force myself to be there 12 hours a day 7 days a week.

“It’s a pick and choose type of situation. I don’t fault people for wanting to have the full-on immersive experience, get stuck in and enjoy every moment.

“That’s what I tried last year, but this year I am trying a different tactic and it’s working for me.”

So how would Lichtenberger act if he were playing an EPT or WPT?

“If it was just a week-long series then I would be here every day from start to finish. So for an EPT I would do that.

“The fact I can relax and restore my ability, after that week, makes a huge difference to me so I nearly always register on time for EPT and WPT events.”

What’s his view on the decision by some tournament organizers to allow players to register as late as Day 2 with around 30bb?

“I would turn up on time for these because I think to do otherwise is giving up too much value in the early levels.”

Andrew Lichtenberger Eliminated by A.J. Jejelowo
If you’re happy with your approach, you win either way.

If You’re Happy With Your Approach, You Already Win

How does his bankroll affect his decision to register late?

“It definitely plays a role. If I weren’t doing as well then I would be more inclined to show up earlier because the bigger buy-ins would be less important in that case.

“About the money I think I am kind of in the minority, because I do play poker for the money but I’m not nearly as attached to the money as some.

“I think if I go out and do my best, am critical on my play during the downtime, and stay sharp and do my best to cultivate my poker ability, I don’t mind if I don’t win.

“I have already won because I am happy with my approach. Whatever happens I am OK with.”



Beginner's Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 1: Starting Hands

If you don’t feel like playing Hold’em or Omaha anymore, 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball might be an appealing option for you.

It’s become the de facto game of choice for the elite high-stakes games online and a newly introduced $1,500 event at the World Series of Poker is helping along a surge of interest in the game at the lower stakes.

It’s fun, complex and a great way to expand your poker knowledge will getting an edge on all the other newcomers soon to follow you to the game.

Our three-part beginner strategy series will give you all the basic knowledge you need to get into the game online.

First Steps

If you don’t know anything at all about 2-7 Triple Draw, click through here to read our introduction.

This article series is separated into three different parts:

Starting Hands and Play Before the First Draw Play from First to Third Draw Play after the Last Draw Starting Hands and Play Before the First Draw

Keep in mind, as a rule of thumb, that you should never draw more than three cards.

In 2-7 Triple Draw starting hands are just as important as they are in all poker games.

Keep in mind, as a rule of thumb, that you should never draw more than three cards.

Also: Ideally, one of your cards is a deuce (two).

Pat Hands

These are the hands you “stand pat” with, meaning you won’t draw even once.

Examples are:

7-6-5-3-2 8-5-4-3-2 9-7-4-3-2

The advantage of these hands is that they win pretty often; the disadvantage is that they give their strength away immediately.

If you hold 7-6-5-3-2 or 8-5-4-3-2, you should definitely not draw but bet as much as you can.

If you hold a 9-7, meaning a hand where the two highest cards are a 9 and a 7 as in the third example above, you might want to get rid of the 9 and draw to a monster with a 5 or a 6.

Hands that Draw One Card

There’s a pretty wide range of hands where you’ll want to only draw one card.

This applies to all the hands that contain:

Fake Phil Hellmuth
How you play after the first draw depends on the card you get and the number of cards your opponent is drawing.

7-4-3-2 7-5-4-2 6-4-3-2 6-5-3-2 6-5-4-2

The next group to draw one card includes:

8-4-3-2 8-5-3-2 8-6-5-2 and so on up to 8-7-6-3

All these hands are often favorites to win the pot when they go to showdown.

With all these hands you should play aggressively and cap before the first draw, meaning you try to get in the fourth and last possible bet.

How you play after the first draw depends on the card you get and the number of cards your opponent is drawing.

Hands That Draw Two Cards

In the majority of hands, players draw two cards in the first round.

The best hands that draw two cards in the first round of 2-7 Triple Draw are:

4-3-2 7-3-2 5-3-2 5-4-2 7-4-2 7-5-2

With all these hands you’re drawing to a seven high, and seven-high hands are the best in the game.

The following group of hands is also strong, but not that easy to play. They are hands with a 6 in them, like 6-3-2, 6-4-2, 6-5-2, and 7-6-2.

$10K Seven Card Stud
Always have a deuce in your starting hand before you get any chips in the pot.

The problem with these hands is the straight draw (see introduction) but they still have a lot of potential.

On the button you can also play hands like: 8-3-2, 8-4-2 and some hands without a deuce like 8-5-3 and 7-6-3.

Hands that Draw Three Cards

As in most poker games, tight-aggressive play is a good strategy for beginners. Get rid of your weak hands and only play hands that draw three cards in special situations. The hands you can play are:

3-2 4-2 5-2 7-2

All of them have enough potential to play them in the following situations:

1. To steal the blinds

2. To defend the blinds

For a steal, you also need position; to defend it’s the pot odds that justify a call of a raise.

All other hands, where you would have to draw four or five cards, you shouldn’t play. Get rid of them and wait for a better one!

Key Takeaways

It’s particularly important to hold a deuce in your starting hand. You want to draw from low to high cards and not the other way round.

As an example, it’s much better to hold 7-3-2 and draw to a 4 or 5 than hold a 7-6-5 and draw to a 2 or 3.

You can play a higher number of hands on the button than in any other position.

Tight-aggressive play means that you play your hands actively and raise with them rather than call.

Starting Hands Table:

Pat Hands
Hands that Draw One
Hands that Draw Two
Hands that Draw Three
7-6-5-3-2 7-4-3-2 4-3-2 3-2 8-5-4-3-2 7-5-4-2 7-3-2 4-2 9-7-4-3-2 6-4-3-2 5-3-2 5-2 6-5-3-2 5-4-2 7-2 6-5-4-2 7-4-2 8-4-3-2 7-5-2 8-5-3-2 6-3-2
8-6-5-2 6-4-2
7-6-2 8-3-2 8-4-2 8-5-3 7-6-3

More 2-7 Triple Draw Strategy Articles:

Beginner’s Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 2: How to Play Draws Beginner’s Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 3: Play After Last Draw



Beginner's Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 2: How to Play Draws

In the second part of our 2-7 Triple Draw guide for beginners we’ll look closely at how to play the draws.

In particular: how to draw and when to bet.

Catch up with Part 1 of the series with a guide to 2-7 starting hands here.


This is an important phase of your game as it lays the cornerstone for winning or losing the pot.

For beginner purposes it can be separated it into three parts:

A. General strategy B. Playing in position C. Playing out of position

0076 George Danzer
To draw or not to draw.

General Strategy

The most frequently asked questions for beginners in 2-7 often revolve around:

When to draw How many cards to draw Which hands we’re drawing for When to check or bet

Unfortunately, in poker, there are rarely occasions where you can give one definite answer. But, there are often basic rules and guidelines that help you develop your personal best strategy.

The first thing you need to pay special attention to is the number of opponents. In heads-up play an eight-high or nine-high hand might well be good enough to take down the pot.

If you have more than one opponent, though, a 9-8 or 9-7 is rarely good enough to win.

Secondly, watch carefully for how many cards your opponent is exchanging.

The more cards he takes, the more likely his hand is not very good.

Also, remember what cards you are throwing away. If you start with a hand like 7-7-5-2-2, not only are you drawing to the nuts you’re also taking a seven and a deuce out of the game that no one else can have.

When should you bet, then? If you have the initiative, keep it if the draw has made your hand better.

You can check if that is not the case. Once you’ve gathered some experience, you can start taking over the initiative with bets or checkraises.

Bejeweled Button
Position is essential.

Playing in Position

Position might be even more important in 2-7 Triple Draw than in Hold’em or PLO.

Not only do we get information about whether our opponent is checking or betting, we also learn how many cards he mucks before it’s our turn.

This is a major advantage, especially regarding how strong your hand has to be to win.

Let’s say we have a 9-7 hand. If our opponent takes three cards, we can keep the nine. We should certainly get rid of it if our opponent only takes one, because our 9-7 is probably no good.

Betting in position is not a complicated strategy:

If you have a made hand or you’ve drawn less cards than your opponent, you should bet.

If your hand doesn’t get any better and/or you’re exchanging the same number of cards, you should check behind.

Playing Out of Position

Your playing style here is pretty much the opposite of when you’re in position.

As there are only 52 cards and 2-7 is usually played on 6-max tables, you should really only play strong hands in early position.

Calvin Anderson
In general: bet if you’re in an advantageous position.

Sadly, these don’t come up very often. The result is that you will often play from the blinds when you are out of position.

From that position you will mostly check to your opponent and try to get more information from him.

If your hand is made after the second draw, a check-raise can often get you more value. In many cases you will get another raise or bet because your opponent doesn’t give you credit for a really strong hand.

However, if you are out of position, and your draw didn’t help, you will have to make a decision about your hand going to the second draw when the bets double.

If you still have to exchange two cards after the second draw, you should generally not call the next bet but give it up.

Key Takeaway

Position is of utmost importance in 2-7 Triple Draw.

The information you get determines when to bet.

In general, bet if you are in an advantageous position.

More 2-7 Triple Draw Strategy Articles:

Beginner’s Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 1: Starting Hands Beginner’s Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 3: Play After Last Draw



Beginner's Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 3: Play After Last Draw

So, you’ve read our articles on starting hands in 2-7 Triple Draw and how to play in and out of position.

In part three we’ll look at the critical step of how to play after the third and final draw.

If you haven’t read them yet, catch up with Parts 1 and 2 of our 2-7 Triple Draw Beginner’s Guide here and here.

Play on the River

After the third draw there is either a showdown or one of the players makes the others fold. You’ll usually find yourself in one of two scenarios:

A. Your draw didn’t come in B. You have a made hand

Contrary to No-Limit Hold’em, where you can often take down the pot with a large overbet, there are not many chances to bluff in 2-7 Triple Draw.

Daniel Alaei
It’s hard, but not impossible to bluff in 2-7.

If you’ve been drawing to a big hand, the pot is probably so big that your opponent will get extremely good odds for a call.

But this doesn’t mean it’s impossible to bluff. There’s always the possibility your opponent missed his hand, too, or doesn’t have a really good hand.

Example A – Your Draw Doesn’t Come In

You hold a 7-5-4-2, so you’re drawing for a 3, 6 or 8. Unfortunately, on the third draw, you get a 5.

With a pair of fives in your hand you’ll almost never win the pot at showdown. Let’s say there’s $7 in the pot and your opponent has also taken one card on the third draw.

In this situation a $1 bluff can actually work. You only have to win one-in-eight hands to make this move profitable – and it’s possible your opponent was drawing to a worse hand and hit a pair, too.

Even if he now has a lower pair than you do he’ll probably not be able to call your bet. This can even work out of position.

You can also try to bluff-raise, but this is very risky, as it rarely successful and always expensive.

In general, you shouldn’t try to bluff very often and don’t bluff hands that have showdown value anyway.

Example B – You Have a Made Hand

If you have a made hand the question is always if you should bet out or not, or if you should call or not.

The most important information for you is what happened during the draws.

If your opponent is not drawing a third time you should probably not bet anything worse than a 9-6 or a 9-5.

Heads-up, sometimes a jack high is still good enough to win the pot. However, you shouldn’t bet it because a weaker hand is not going to call.

It is more advisable here to check through or maybe call one bet.

7-high hands you should of course always raise; 8-high hands most of the time, too.

Daniel Dalsborg
Play tight-aggressive and select your hands carefully.

As in all Limit games play on the river is of great importance as this is where you can win – or lose – additional bets.

Golden Rule(s) Apply

The last betting round in 2-7 Triple Draw differs significantly from NLHE and PLO, mainly due to the structure of limit poker.

However, the golden rule that you should only bet if your opponent might be willing to call with a worse hand is valid here, too.

Bluffs are rare, but not impossible.

2-7 Triple Draw is a fascinating game characterized by a lot of swings. Be aware of this before you begin.

There is no simple recipe for 2-7 Triple Draw as there is none for any poker game.

As a rule of thumb, we advise you to start as a solid player. Play tight-aggressive and select your hands carefully.

As a beginner, get some experience on the lowest levels before you start moving up.

More 2-7 Triple Draw Strategy Articles:

Beginner’s Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 1: Starting Hands Beginner’s Guide to 2-7 Triple Draw Poker Pt. 2: How to Play Draws



Poker Tips from Pros: Dermot Blain Dissects 19 Monster Stack Hands

Dermot Blain gives Lee Davy some direction.

With over $1.8m in live tournament earnings and a Full Tilt Poker patch to boot, Irishman Dermot Blain knows a thing or two about playing live tournament poker.

So what better person to ask to dissect the hands that I played in the recent World Series of Poker (WSOP) Monster Stack event?

This is what Blain had to say about approaching the event from a beginner-intermediate’s perspective, and his analysis of some of my more interesting hands.


Dermot Blain: Mindset is everything when entering an event like this and it’s very important not to get carried away with the fact that you have more chips to start with.

Your approach should always be the same, and that’s to play good, tight-aggressive poker – especially in the opening few hours.

Chips 2
If you lose some chips early, plenty of time to get more.

Pay close attention to see if anybody is playing ‘weak poker’ such as limping a lot and calling out of position, and look to use your stack to isolate these players and try to manufacture situations where you’re playing pots in position against them.

The great thing about an event like this is that if things go wrong early on – like making some second-best hands – you still have plenty of chips to recover, so no need to panic!

Another tip for playing WSOP events is to always be aware of your table number and the breaking order of play. There is no point trying to build dynamics with players if you’re going to break within a few hours.

Small pairs, suited aces and suited connectors become more valuable when deeper stacked as you can often have ‘nut hands’ that play very well multi-way, and it can help you get an opponent’s entire stack.

Also important to remember: If you won every pot for the first two hours it still won’t have a huge bearing on the overall result of the tournament, so remain patient throughout even though you start 600BB deep.

Once you reach the money the average stack will be around 30bb so don’t forget that!

Hand Analysis 

Hand 1

I open A2hh EP for 75 and get 3 callers. The Flop is Q93hhs, I CB 150 and both blinds call. The turn is the Kc and it checks around. The river is the 7d; the small blind bets, big blind raises and I fold.

Royal Flush
Flopping the nut flush can lead to some good semi-bluffing opportunities.


DB: I think the open is fine as long you’re willing to fold to a re-raise. Flopping the nut flush can lead to some good semi-bluffing opportunities and over-flushing someone is great way to win a big pot. 

In the first level I would rather open A2 suited than A10 off, since flopping trip deuces also has much more deception that flopping trip 10s.  

As played – good job. I would have played it the same.

Hand 2

I open As9c in the HJ and CO flats. Flop 443hh and I check/fold to his bet.


DB: This is a close one against a tough opponent, whilst check/folding is good against a weak opponent. I prefer a small c-bet here though.

I think we will pick it up often enough and we don’t want our opponent flatting me a lot thinking I am going to play soft post flop.

Hand 3

UTG bets 75 and there are 3 callers. I complete in the BB with JTss. Flop J52ddd and the original raiser over bets the pot, there is one caller and I fold.    


DB: Good disciplined fold. Early on I find people play pretty straightforward after a bet and a call. Your naked top pair on a flush board is doing very poorly so good fold.  

Erik Sagström
3-bet sizing is key.

Hand 4

CO opens to 150 and I make it 300 from the SB with pocket Queens. The flop is A93; I bet 350 he calls. Board runs out with a ten and a jack and we both check. He has A4hh and takes the pot.


DB: Your three-bet sizing should be bigger since you are out of position 500bb deep.

The small raise does nothing to define his range and you have a very big hand against his much wider range.

It’s a good situation to get some chips in the pot with a big hand. Be confident and trust yourself post-flop.

As played betting small on the flop is fine, or check-calling is another option to pick off some weak stabs, especially since your “goofy” pre-flop sizing might make him do some silly stuff!! 

Hand 5

EP opens to 150. I flat AK IP and SB calls. Flop KT6r he checks, I bet 300 and just the SB calls. Turn 5s he check/calls a 600 bet. River 3c he check/calls a 1,100 bet and then mucks.


DB: I like it – well played. It shows the benefit of flatting a big hand pre-flop.

Hand 6

EP opens for 200 and I make it 400 late position with AA. Flop At8hh I CB 400 and he folds.


DB: Once again your three-bet sizing is too small – 550 would have been much better.

A good rule of thumb is “big hand-big pot; small hand-small pot.” You have the best possible hand and you have position so let’s try and make a big pot!

Also, if you want to make some pre-flop steals with some marginal holdings you’re going to want to make it larger so let’s up the sizing with our entire range.

Chips2013 WSOP EuropeEV021K Re entryDay 2Giron8JG9349
Get some more chips in there with our big hands!

Hand 7 

EP opens to 200, I 3B MP with QQ to 400 and he calls. Flop KJ3 and he check-calls a 300 CB. Turn ace, river 7 we both check and he mucks.


DB: Once again up that pre-flop sizing with your premium holdings. We got a nasty run out and were lucky to win. Let’s get some more chips in there with our big hands!

Hand 8

EP opens 150 I call KThh in the CO and button flats. Flop AQ6hh he bets 225 I call, button folds. Turn 7c he checks I bet 400 and he folds.


DB: Well played. We could raise the flop with our very nutty draw; however, he is never folding any ace he is opening with and he may barrel off when you hit your hand thinking he can get you off a weak ace or queen. Good work.

Hand 9

I open AQcc UTG+1 and get 3B from late position to 625 by a good player. I call and fold to a CB on J64r.


DB: Tough one. Off suit I would fold some of the time. Don’t expect a good player to be light here, especially pre ante’s; however, given we are suited then calling is fine. We get a bad flop so check-fold unfortunately.

Hand 10

CO opens, OTB 3B 325 I call SB with Tens and co calls. Flop Q99. CO bets 225 both call. Turn 7 he bets 600 I fold.


DB: Strange hand! Four-betting pre is an option; however, it does ramp up the variance.

I guess we have to call the flop, although I wouldn’t be happy about this spot. I don’t think he is ever leading with worse than tens here.

We have no option but to check/fold the turn.  

Juha Helppi
As a general rule, people tend to play pretty honest in unraised pots.

Hand 11

Open EP AKss and am once again 3B by that good player to 525 and I call. Flop Q9cc5h. Both check. Turn Td I lead 625 and he raises to 1,550 and I fold.


DB: Again another tough spot. We have a super strong holding so we could 4-bet to shove over his 5-bet (tough to know exactly without more info).

Could be awful/standard against varying opponents. As played I don’t like turn lead, given that he checks back the flop he probably has something so I don’t think he is ever folding the turn (I think he bets his air on the flop).

I think the better option is to check-call the turn. We have gutshot to the nuts and two overcards and sometimes we have the best hand.

By checking, we also protect ourselves from being bluff raised and blown off our equity.    

Hand 12

I defend QJo to CO open and check it down on 9658A he has king high (should have bet turn and river?)


DB: Yes I like betting the turn as we have nut gutshot and two overs. The board is now better for our range than his.

Also we are near the bottom of our range, so betting can never be bad, and there are so many ace-high and king-high hands in his range.

I wouldn’t bet the river since a lot of the ace-type hands in his range get there and he might get suspicious on this river! 

Hand 13

EP open and late position caller. I call in the SB with TT and BB raises to 900 and only I call. Flop J65cc check/900/call. Turn Kc c/c. River low brick he bets 1.1k and I fold (Note: I told myself pre flop I was set mining only, and then convinced myself to call the flop saying he had a lot of AQ/AK combos in his range).


DB: Ha-ha … I have been in this situation many times and it’s tough to fold the flop. If you think his range is that tight pre flop then as painful as it is check-fold on the flop seems our best play.

Kirill Gerasimov
If he’s willing to fire three bullets in this spot, good luck to him.

Hand 14

SB limps and I check in BB with QJo. I bet AJT flop and he folds.


DB: I like checking the flop since if we are ahead we have him nearly drawing dead. Also if he limped a weak ace he isn’t folding.

By checking we also encourage some turn bluffs from him, which we are crushing.

Hand 15

I limp SB with A3hh and BB checks. Flop 834cc check/200/call. Turn 2s check/600/call. River Jd check/800/call and he has a set of deuces. (Note: This hand kind of ran away with me. The action was very quick and I didn’t think through his range. Instead I convinced myself he had a missed his flush draws because he bet so quickly.)


DB: I think I am raising pre unless our opponent is very tough. As played it’s a little ambitious to call down here unless he is a maniac.

The 2 completes a lot of semi bluffs, and as a general rule people tend to play pretty honest in unraised pots. Check call the flop, but I think we fold the turn, and definitely fold the river.

If he’s willing to fire three bullets in this spot good luck to him.    

Hand 16

Open QQ UTG 400 and OTB and BB calls. Flop JJ9 I bet 600 OTB calls. Turn 9 c/c. River 7 I bet 700 he calls with tens.


DB: Well played. I like the turn pot control and a good river value bet.

Hand 17

Guy opens 500 in the HJ, I 3B OTB A3o to 1,650 and he calls. Flop QT8 and we both check. Turn 9, he bets and I fold (I was playing pretty tight, had a blocker, the button and thought it was a good spot)


DB: Well played. We have to mix in some steals, especially in times when we are card dead. Our image is good, we have a blocker and we have position.

Just use a slightly smaller sizing. I think 1300 to 1450 is enough and is giving us a better price on our bluff. Nasty flop and you had to give up on the turn.

Hand 18

EP open 575 one caller in the HJ and I 3B 1750 aces in the CO and everyone folds


DB: Standard … but scale down our sizing. We have AA we want some action! 1350 is more than enough

Antonio Esfandiari
You flopped a big hand and so raising the flop to get it in can never be bad.

Hand 19

My exit hand. An older guy opens to 650 from MP. I look down and see K9cc OTB. Normally this is a fold, but the old guy was a weak-passive player who was being pushed around and I thought it was a good spot so I called. 

The flop was T93cc. He bets 1,500. I knew if I raised I was going to be playing for stacks if he was going to call. I considered just flatting and re-evaluating. I guess I was just getting impatient and could sniff a double up.

I raise to 4,000 (leaving 7,500 behind). He has me covered by around 3,000. He tanks for ages and then calls.

Turn: Qd. He checks and I move all-in. He tanks forever before finally calling with Jacks. When I moved all-in I must admit I didn’t really consider his range.

I was already committed from the flop raise. When he tanked for ages I thought he had Jacks. River 3d and my tournament ends.


DB: I think you played it fine. You flopped a big hand and so raising the flop to get it in can never be bad.

But… I think pre-flop is close to a fold. I think this type of villain is opening a pretty tight range and often dominates our hand.

The fact that he is getting pushed around makes me think he could be more stubborn which ultimately means we probably will have to make the best hand.

As played it’s really close on the flop. I think we are pretty much a coin flip against his range. Questions I would ask myself in this situation:

1. Will he double me up with a hand like JJ if I improve? 2. Can I steal it if some scare cards come? 3. If I raise the flop what will he do with tens or jacks? (I don’t think he is ever folding anything better than jacks.)

An option I like is calling the flop and raising a ton of turns (we rep sets really well). As played, once he calls it’s ugly!

It really comes down to whether you think he is capable of folding tens or jacks. If you think he is then shoving is great; if not then check and try to improve.



Beginner Poker Tips from Pros: Stuart Rutter Sees Dead Cards in Stud Hi

Rutter: Can’t overstate importance of dead cards.

I recently finished fourth in the $8.80 H.O.R.S.E Micro Millions event on PokerStars.

I’m not an advanced mixed-game player by any means and I found myself facing a lot of spots that were uncomfortable to me on a basic level.

One of the games where I had more questions than answers was Stud Hi.

So I reached out to pro Stuart Rutter for his advice regarding some of the scenarios I was confronted with.

It’s All About Stealing

Lee Davy: There were times where I wasn’t sure what my basic starting hand selections were?

Stuart Rutter: If we’re talking about opening when the action has folded around to you, then the most important part of Stud Hi is stealing.

Todd Brunson
Stud Hi-Lo a game of stealing, as Todd Brunson knows well.

It’s a game that’s all about stealing. The later your position in the hand, the more actively you want to steal.

If it folds around to you just before the bring-in, for example, then you can steal 100% of the time and it’s going to be really difficult for anyone to defend.

So the later you get to act in the hand the more stealing you should be doing. If you have the highest up-card, in the latest positions, you want to steal all of the time.

If you have a Jack showing and every ones else’s up-card is lower then you should be stealing even if you have a terrible hand.

Lee Davy: Why is stealing so important?

Stuart Rutter: The reason stealing is so important is because the antes are so high. So when you’re stealing, just for the price of a completion, you’re probably laying yourself 2:1 odds.

That’s $20 to win $40, or the similar equivalent depending on your stakes, meaning if you get away with that steal 1 in 3 times you show a profit.

Also, you can go an awfully long time without getting a proper hand in Stud Hi.

Lee Davy: So what constitutes a ‘proper hand?’

Stuart Rutter: Hands like run downs or high flushes like (4h5h)7h of hearts are way more valuable in multi-way pots.

If pots are going to be contested heads-up, or three-way at most, then Stud Hi is a game that’s all about pairs.

If you go down the streets you will find that it’s often a race to make two pair, as that’s the hand that wins at showdown a high percentage of the time.

If you have a Jack up, and also a pair of Jacks, that’s a massive hand. But if you have a Jack up and just a pair of deuces in the hole, and there are only low cards behind you, that is also a very good hand.

Even if you run into a pair of tens your equity is not too bad (something like 38%). Having that high kicker card counts for quite a surprising amount because as long as you have the opportunity to make Jacks-up you’re not in a bad situation against a pair of tens.

One thing that transfers from No-Limit Hold’em? Adjust based on opponents looseness.

The hand that gets beat so often at showdown is the lower two pair, hence the important of the kicker card. 

If you’re stealing with a pair of sixes you’re so much stronger if you have an ace in the hole than you are if you have say (6x6x)5x.

It looks nice, and can make a straight, but unless you’re in a multi-way pot it doesn’t come into it much.

Lee Davy: Whenever I play Stud Hi at lower stakes I try to be tight and play good starting hands, but my opponents seem to just play every hand. Hence I never seem to win a pot!

Stuart Rutter: Either they are generally getting great hands all the time – which is just not happening – or they are over playing their hands too much and you are doing the right thing by playing tight.

A lot of times you will run into a brick wall of cards, you’ll get frustrated, and your bring-ins and antes will be bleeding away. But it’s well worth it when you get a hand.

There are not a lot of things that transfer well between NLHE and Stud Hi but this is one that does.

If everyone is playing very loose then tighten up; if they’re playing very tight then steal more.

Lee Davy: What’s the biggest mistake that players make in Stud Hi?

Stuart Rutter: Every time you call a bet it’s a relatively small amount of chips, but the mistake you make in Stud is rolling mistakes, street after street.

The first mistake is playing their poor hands on third street. They make a half of something on fourth and it’s cheap so they call, then they call again on fifth.

Now they get close to showdown and so they might as well continue to the river. All these small mistakes suddenly snowball into a big amount of chips.

Stuart Rutter
Be patient and you will be rewarded.

Just be patient and you will be rewarded.

Lee Davy: I wasn’t sure when to bet or raise when I was semi-bluffing?

Stuart Rutter: Say you have four to a flush — on fourth or fifth street it’s a semi bluff but you’re also betting for value because your equity is so good.

If you have a really strong draw you could even raise it for value, especially if you have the draw to the nuts in a multi-way pot.

Each time you get one of your opponents to put another bet in you are doing really well. Also, consider the state of your board versus theirs.

If you have (Tx9x)KxQx, against a really weak board that reads (xxxx)6x2x, then you’re definitely barreling in that spot, especially if the king and queen are showing.

The stronger your board, and the weaker theirs is, the more eager you should be to barrel off in those spots.

Lee Davy: When should I be looking to bail out of a hand?

Stuart Rutter: If you have a flush draw and you’re calling to draw to that flush, then you should generally stick it out until the river.

But if your opponent pairs their door card and could have a house or trips, and is betting aggressively, then you might want to bail out.

Another time to bail out is when your suit becomes so dead there are only two or three outs left in the deck and you don’t have the odds to call.

This means the dead cards become really important. If you have (8x9x)TxJx and you’ve seen that four of those sevens or queens have gone, you will not have the odds to draw to those hands.

So watch the dead cards and play accordingly. This is something very new to a NLHE player because there are no dead cards in NLHE.

Lee Davy: Dead cards?

Stuart Rutter: You cannot overstate the importance of dead cards in Stud Hi.

You gotta know your dead cards.

Knowing how to use them is one thing, but of course the first tricky task is remembering what they are. This is something that can only come with practice.

When you have all the third street cards out, arrange them in order and say to yourself, for example, “two, four, four, five, nine, Jack, Jack, Queen.”

You will also want to commit to memory any significant presence or lack of one of the suits. For example “no spades, four clubs”

(Read those two lists again, turn away, and see if you can remember them. Keep practicing)

Once you know the dead cards it’s vitally important that you obey them. A marginal decision of whether to play, say (Ax9x)9, against a mid position raise from a Jack up is changed completely according to how many aces, nines and Jacks are dead.

A hand like (Ac7h)7c is stronger than (7c6c)7h without knowledge of the dead cards, but if in the first hand a seven, ace and four clubs are dead this would become a fair bit weaker than the second if no sevens, sixes, and only one club was dead, and the straight possibilities were live.

In the best stud games your perceived board will change according to what is dead.

If you catch (Ax7x)7xQxJx, but two of each picture were dead on third, a good player will not give you credit if you were to barrel with your hand.

On the other hand, if you caught (Jx7x)7xJx and it were the case Jack, your hand is now even stronger because of the lack of credit you will receive.

Lee Davy: Another problem I had was a lack of understanding of when to try to get all the money in when I felt I was losing fold equity.

Stuart Rutter: Be aware of the point when the effective stacks have got so low that both of you are committed to the hand.

Make sure you’re aware when effective stacks get low.

If you only have two big bets left then almost definitely you and your opponent are committed to the hand and so it will be a mistake to barrel off.

Let’s say you are slightly deeper and you have four or five big bets left. When you are stealing, or maybe betting on fourth street against a weak board, you have tremendous leverage.

You’re making a statement that once you make this bet there are three or four big bets to come. It’s tremendous leverage.

You can make some great semi bluffs on fifth street in the knowledge that it will cost them three big bets to go all the way with you.

You’re saying to them, “You either fold now, or you are going to have to call three big bets.”

Further Reading: Where to Play 7-Card Stud Online



So THAT Happened: A 6 Figure Misclick

Sasha Salinger breaks down this week’s hottest topics, feuds, and controversies in the poker world. Which poker player went on a crazy rant? Which poker players are fighting? Which poker players made a big announcement? Is Doug Polk still on a Youtube hiatus? Who made a live misclick for 6 figures? Watch to find out!
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Poker Tips from Pros: Craig McCorkell Cracks 23 Milly Maker Hands

McCorkell: Knows how to go deep at WSOP.

The $1,500 No-Limit Hold’em Millionaire Maker at the 2014 World Series of Poker was the best WSOP experience of my career.

The event came not long after I had cashed in the Employees Event so I felt really confident.

I made Day 2 and busted just a few places short of the money, but learned so much.

RunItOnce Coach and WSOP bracelet holder Craig McCorkell – who finished an astounding 13th in the $10,000 Main Event this year for $441,940 – kindly agreed to give my hands the once over.

Here are his thoughts.

Craig McCorkell
You’re gonna have some time to kill 10-handed.


Craig McCorkell: “My approach to the early stages of these WSOP 1500s is fairly basic. We are handcuffed by the format – 10-handed pre-ante No-Limit Texas Hold’em.

“There aren’t many chips to win by taking a pot down pre-flop and 10-handed increases the likelihood someone has a strong hand.

“I try and limp a fair amount and play a lot of post-flop poker with players whose ranges you may then be able to exploit.

“If you aren’t comfortable doing that, grab a book or flick on an iPad movie and play the top 10% of hands for the first three hours.”

Hand Analysis

Hand #1

Blinds: 25/50. Early Position opens. Cut-off calls and I call KJdd from the button. Small Blind also calls. Flop K82 rainbow, I bet 250 when checked to and SB calls. Turn Qh, we go check/check. River 5c. I bet 400 and he folds.


CM: You have to bet the turn for around 500. Depending on his tendencies, and your perceived image, we can decide about river value. As played I would make the river bet a little bigger.

Hand #2

Blinds: 25/50. EP opens and I call in Middle Position with TT. Late Position calls. Flop 832 with two hearts. EP bets 225, I call and LP folds. Turn 7d. EP bets 525 and I call. River Kd. EP bets 875 and I tank call. He mucks pocket sixes.


Phil Ivey's chips
Be sure to note stack sizes and tendencies for your review.

CM: Nice call.

Hand #3

Blinds: 25/50. I open AJhh UTG+1 and a guy to my left calls, as does the Button. Flop J95cc and I bet 225 – both call. Turn 7h. I bet 525 and just one caller IP. River Jd. I bet 1.1k. He makes it 3.3k and I call. He has nines for the full house (I instantly knew I should have check-called the river).


CM: I think bet/call river is the worst of the options available. I don’t mind bet/fold or check/call depending on his tendencies.

Hand #4

Blinds: 50/100. I bet 225 UTG with AQ. Button calls, SB squeezes and I fold. (Tight … but don’t like playing OOP).


CM: What’s his stack size? And the Button’s? What are your reads on small blind? We can go either way here and I’m fine with fold vs. a lot of opponents.

Note: Craig makes a very important point here. When taking notes on your live hands for review later on, it’s vital to take note of your opponent’s stack sizes and their tendencies. It’s not good enough to just record the basic facts of the hand, which I did during this tournament.

Hand #5

Blinds: 50/100. Jackie Glazier opens to 200 from Early Position and I 3-bet with AJo in the next seat to 450. She calls. I bet 450 on an ace-high flop and she folds.


Jackie Glazier
Watch your 3-bet sizing, especially against Jackie Glazier.

CM: The 3-bet sizing should be a little bigger. Otherwise nice hand.

Hand #6

Blinds: 50/100. I open QJhh in the cut-off. The button 3-bets and I fold.


CM: Stack sizes? Reads? I don’t fold this vs. anyone really. We have a hand with great playability post-flop.

Hands #7 & 8

Blinds: 75/150. I open with K9dd in Middle Position for 300 and fold to a 3-bet.


CM: This is too loose if you’re still 10-handed.

I open K2o in the Cut-off and the Big Blind defends. I continuation-bet the flop and he folds.


CM: Once again I think this is too loose of an open.

Hand #9

Blinds: 100/200. EP limps and I raise to 600 with aces. Guy flats behind and limper calls. Flop is K74ss and I bet 900. Two callers. The turn is 3s. I move all in for 1,200 and both call. The river bricks and I triple up.


CM: Nicely played hand.

Hand #10

Blinds: 100/200. I open KJo and get four callers. Flop Q73r everyone checks. The turn is the Tc. BB bets 900 and I raise to 2100 (two people behind me). All fold.

Seven Card Stud
Make sure you have a plan for river bricks.


CM: I quite like this raise. It puts him in a tough spot with a lot of his hands. What were your river plans on bricks?

Note: Here is another important point. Craig asks what my plans were should the river brick. The point he is making is to plan ahead. Don’t just raise the turn because you have equity and your opponent’s range is weak. Have a plan for the river. I didn’t have a plan for the river, and this means it wasn’t a well thought out hand.

Hand #11

Blinds: 100/200. I limp in the SB with Q2o and BB checks. Flop AQ5 c/c. Turn 8c. I bet 200 and he calls. River 7. I bet 300, he calls and mucks.


CM: Nice thin value bet and I like the limp pre vs. some opponents.

Hand #12

Blinds: 100/200 Ante 25. I open A9 in the CO and fold to button 3-bet.


CM: Seems like a good hand to 4-bet. I assume we have a tight image. Again, hard to know for sure without his stack size and any relevant reads.

Note: I did have a tight image and so it would have been a good spot to 4-bet.

Craig Mccorkell
Tight image can make for good 4-bet spots.

Hand #13

Blinds: 100/200 Ante 25. Limped pot 7-ways I check QJcc in the BB. Flop QT3. I bet 400 and get three callers. Turn 3. I bet 800, geezer moves all in for 8,000 and I fold.


CM: I like the flop lead although sizing seems small. Don’t really like the turn lead. If we’re going to bet I would use bigger sizing. As played, fold to all in.

Hand #14

Blinds: 100/200 Ante 25. Guy moves all-in for 3,750 from EP and I call with 88. He has AQ and flops an ace. (I was also in EP and should have folded).


CM: This is on the borderline of your calling range but sounds like a fold. Reads on your opponent are very important here and this is where live poker is so good. You can make exploitative adjustments to your calling range here based on so many factors.

Note: Craig talks about the importance of using your live reads in this spot. This is an area of my game that I have to improve. I am still looking at my hand and stack size and making a decision, without first evaluating the range of hands my opponent is likely to be moving all-in with based on his history.

Hand #15

Blinds: 150/300 Ante 25. I open AQcc UTG+1 and get called in two spots. Flop K72cc. I bet 800, call and then all-in for 9k. I fold. He had AKdd.


CM: Very unfortunate that he just moved all in here but I’m sure we still have to call. Is the king a club? Even against a reasonably strong range (that still includes some worse flush draws) we still have good equity given our pot odds.

Note: This is an area of my game that is non-existent. I rarely use math in these sorts of spots. Instead I tend to go with my gut read in a situation. Obviously, if the math is obvious, then I play that way but in the borderline spots my math is weak.

Hand #16

Blinds: 150/300 Ante 25. EP opens, busy player 3-bets from Middle Position and I cold four-bet jam for 6,200 from the Button with AQ and take it.

JP Kelly and Chamath Palihapitiya
Watch your math in borderline spots.


CM: Nice hand.

Hand #17

Blinds: 150/300 Ante 25. The same player opens and I call JJ in position. Flop J65r. He bets, I call. Turn 3 c/c. River 9. I bet 2,500 and he folds.


CM: Sounds like we should be 3-betting pre-flop with a hand this strong and our stack size vs. this opponent. As played we HAVE to bet at least a small size on the turn.

Hand #18

Blinds: 200/400 Ante 50. Stack Size: 11.6k. Folds to me in the SB and I have JTcc. The BB has 10bb so I go all in and he folds.


CM: Good play.

Hand #19

Blinds: 200/400 Ante 50. I open 76o from the Button. Both blinds peel and I give up on a super high/connected board.


CM: Sounds like too loose an open vs. anything but extremely tight blinds.

Hand #20

Blinds: 200/400 Ante 50. A tight lady with a 7k stack opens from the Cut-off for 900. I make it 2,100 from the Button with KTo and she folds.


CM: I’m not sure I would be attacking 18bb opens from potentially tight opponents with KTo, but this worked so nice hand. I don’t hate it, just wouldn’t be something I would do here, mostly because if she goes all in we’re going to have to fold away a decent amount of equity.

Hand #21

Blinds: 300/600 Ante 75. Stack Size: 11,025. I open the CO with ATo. Big Blind 3-bets to 5k. I fold.


CM: This hand is fine.

Craig McCorkell
Attacking 18bb opens from tight opponents not something to do with KTo.

Hand #22

Blinds: 300/600 Ante 75. I open the CO with A2ds and BB calls. JJ4dd c/c. Turn Td. I bet 1.2k and he check-raises to 5k. I fold.


CM: I don’t really understand or like the turn bet as it doesn’t really achieve much. He’s basically never folding better than this, and we keep in all his worse diamond hands on the river that he may pay off a bet with. He also may bluff these cards.

I finished Day 1 with 10,100 chips.

Day 2

Hand #23

Blinds: 500/1000 Ante 100. I open AJhh and get called by the big stack at the table who has position on me. The flop is K56hh and I check-raise jam; he calls with KQ and I brick to bust just shy of the money.


CM: Finely played bustout hand. I don’t mind your line or just betting small on the flop and jamming turn.



Variance and Poker Pt. 1: How Good Cash-Game Players Outrun Luck

Very good live cash-game players will always be stacking chips.

Variance in poker – what’s that, who needs it and why is it important?

In this two-part series PokerOlymp’s Arved Klöhn explains what variance is and how it dictates your poker results.

First he’ll take a look at variance in live poker and then he’ll compare live poker variance to online poker.

By Arved Klöhn

Variance isn’t a dirty word per se, but for most of us it’s a very theoretical term and only few of us understand what it actually means.

Tom Dwan
Let’s call him John.

Variance has a lot to do with mathematics, which – again – is not a dirty word but a science that makes sure our cars drive, our planes fly and our smart phones are smart (to some extent at least).

To understand what variance means one does not have to study probability theory or know that the abbreviation CLT means “Central Limit Theorem.”

It’s actually a lot simpler than that. Basically in poker, variance is a term (or more specifically a number) which describes how far your results spread around the mean.

To put it simpler – a lot of variance means many swings; less variance means fewer swings.

But let’s look at an example to get a better grasp at the concept of variance in poker and put some numbers on it.

Variance for Live Poker Players

Let’s take a look at a decent low-stakes live poker player. We’ll call him John.

John plays $1/$2 No-Limit Hold’em in his local casino. He plays 20 days per month and averages six hours of play per day.

He usually plays between 30 and 35 hands per hour. Thus in total he plays about 4,000 hands per month.

Now since John is a decent player he usually wins at his game. Per month he averages $2,000 profit after rake and tips. So his win rate is $50 per 100 hands.

Of course John doesn’t win uniformly every day. He has good days where he wins a ton and bad days where he loses quite a bit. “Good days and bad days” – that’s his variance.

Now let’s try to put a number on John’s variance. Therefore we ask him for one month to accurately write down his results every 100 hands.

So John produces this chart for us:









































Those are John’s winnings for each 100-hand-stretch. If you add up those 40 numbers it’s exactly $2,000. But for individual stretches his results range from $340 losses to $640 wins.

On average we expect John to win $50 per 100 hands, but let’s take a closer look at his variance.

Therefore we calculate the average difference from his expected winnings ($50 per 100 hands) for all forty 100-hand-stretches (a program like excel comes in quite handy here because it has built in formulas to do those calculations).

We did this calculation and it turns out the average difference is $238. This number is called standard deviation.

This means John will miss his expected winnings of $50 per 100 hands by $238 on average – either by winning way more than $50 or by losing over a single 100-hand-stretch.

The 3 Magic Numbers for Variance

Now we’ve gathered the three important numbers to fully understand variance:

graph 22
The kind of thing John will avoid.

Win Rate: In the case of John: $50 per 100 hands Standard Deviation: In the case of John: $238 per 100 hands Number of Hands Played: In the case of John: 4,000 (for one month)

Those three numbers are all we need to run a bunch of tests, explain John’s results over long periods and even make educated guesses about his future winnings.

We take those three parameters (win rate, standard deviation and number of hands) and head to over to any variance calculator to get some more insight into the variance John can expect.

Pokerdope.com probably hosts the best free available variance calculator for poker players. So let’s go there, enter those three parameters and take a look at the results (this calculator works with big blinds instead of dollars so we translated John’s numbers to big blinds):


Now what do we see here? Firstly the calculator shows 20 simulated samples how John might perform over the course of one month (the thin colored lines).

It also shows the best and worst run out of 1,000 trials (the bold blue and red lines).

The bold green lines show the confidence intervals. The two dark green lines are the most important ones – they indicate the 95-per cent confidence interval.

Viktor Blom
“John” may expect some wild rides over just one month.

This term means that in 95 per cent of all cases the actual results will be somewhere between those lines. Meaning: at any given time there’s only a 5 per cent chance that his winnings will be above the upper dark green graph or below the lower dark green graph.

Let’s take a closer look at some numbers the variance calculator produces:

The probability that John does not make any profit over 4,000 hands is 9.2 per cent. 5 per cent of the time John will be stuck in a downswing over more than $2,000 (1,000 big blinds). 3 to 4 per cent of the time John will be stuck in a downswing over more than 10,000 hands (that’s two-and-a-half months if he plays 4,000 hands per month). On average John can expect to win $2,000 per month but there’s a 5 per cent chance that he will either win more than $5,000 in one month or lose at least $1,000 in one month.

To put those numbers into a single, simple sentence: John may expect some wild rides and should not be too surprised if he has a losing month and should not boast excessively if he has a very good month.

Now what happens to his variance if John plays more than just one month?

Naturally one would expect the variance to have a lesser impact when playing more. So let’s assume John plays for 10 months (40,000 hands) with the same win rate ($50 or 25 big blinds per 100 hands) and the same standard deviation ($238 or 119 big blinds per 100 hands).

Here’s what the variance calculator shows:


Now those lines look much friendlier – all of them go up. And even the worst run out of 1,000 trials is way above the zero line. In fact, let’s take a closer look at some numbers:

The probability of John losing money over 40,000 hands (10 months worth of live poker) is miniscule: 0.001 per cent. In 95 per cent of all trials John will win between $10,400 and $29,500 over 10 months.

Those numbers lead to one conclusion:

Heads Up Erik Seidel Roger Hairabedian2013 WSOP EuropeEV052K NLHFinal TableGiron8JG1164
Good cash-game players don’t sweat variance.

Very good live cash game players have no variance problems

The example we just went through shows that after a few months of play a good live cash-game player can expect to simply outlast any negative variance he might encounter along the way.

If you’re good enough and your win rate is high enough, you will come off well despite any downswing you might stumble into.

But the example also shows that over short periods of time you must take variance into consideration. In our example there’s a very realistic chance of having a losing month (9.2 per cent).

So you should always make sure your bankroll can handle those short-term swings.



Variance and Poker Pt. 2: The Secret to Controlling Online Downswings

Remember how we said variance isn’t a particularly big problem for the good, live cash-game player?

It’s a very different story for online poker players.

In particular there’s one major elephant in the room that needs to be approached with caution: win-rate.

Catch up with Part 1 of our series on Variance and Poker for live cash-game players; continue on with a look at variance for online poker players below.

By Arved Klöhn

Obviously there are a bunch of differences between live poker and online poker (and some people might even go so far as to call it a completely different game).

The most important for us related to variance are:

dwan swings
Variance is a major factor for the best players online.

1. Online poker is played much faster. A (semi) professional online player plays more than one table and will average from 200 to more than 1,000 hands per hour (the live player usually never sees more than 35 hands per hour).

2. Online poker usually has a lower standard deviation per 100 hands. Live players need three hours to play 100 hands and can experience the wildest swings over this period. Online you might only need 10 minutes to play 100 hands and will usually experience fewer swings over this period (partly due to the fact that the games are tighter in general).

3. The most important point: online poker players usually have much lower win rates than live poker players. While low-stakes live players might be able to beat their limit by 25 big blinds per 100 hands those win rates are unheard of nowadays in the online poker world. The competition is much better and win rates of five big blinds per 100 hands are already considered to be excellent.

While the first two points (more hands, lower standard deviation) might indicate that online poker has lower overall variance than live poker, the third point (lower win rates) ensures that variance is a major factor online.

Variance is a Big Deal in Online Poker

To show how major this variance-factor is, let’s return to John for a moment.

John – our live poker grinder from our previous examples – just discovered the online poker world and he’s as decent online as he is in his local casino.

Let’s say he beats the $0.50/$1 No-Limit Hold’em tables online with a win rate of five big blinds per 100 hands (which is already way above average for decent players).

His standard deviation is 100 big blinds per 100 hands (that’s a usual standard deviation for six-max tables online).

Live, John plays 4,000 hands per month, so let’s see how he does online over this period. Again we head over to the Pokerdope.com variance calculator, enter the three parameters (win rate, standard deviation and number of hands) and take a look at the results:


See what’s happening here? Those samples go wild!

Over 4,000 hands John can expect to win 200 Big Blinds (which corresponds to $200 at the $0.50/$1 tables) on average, but he will encounter plenty of very hefty swings.

Let’s go through some numbers:

The probability of John losing money over 4,000 hands is 38% There’s a 2.5% chance (once every 40 trials) that John will lose more than $1,000 (10 or more buy-ins) over 4,000 hands In fact more than 30% of the time John will be stuck in a downswing for more than $2,000

Compare those numbers to John’s live poker performance. Live, his chances of losing money over 4,000 hands were only about 9%.

So why is variance so devastating online?

Variance is a Bitch

The reason why variance has such a huge impact was already given above: win rate.

A decent online player might win five big blinds per 100 hands — maybe 8-10BB per 100 if he or she’s really brilliant and playing at a relatively low level.

While in theory that’s a nice number, it’s only a tiny fraction of this player’s standard deviation over 100 hands.

This means that variance will kick you in the butt every now and then and there is not much you can do about it. Your win rate is simply too low to negate a big downswing within a couple of hundred hands.

You might need thousands (maybe even tens of thousands) of hands to recover from your downswings.

Funny hat guy
Another obstacle? Your online opponents are sober. And probably pretty good.

If you sit down at an online poker table and expect to roll over it and come out ahead like you might in your local casino, you will be in for a nasty surprise:

Your online opponents are usually not half-drunk locals or tourists Your online opponents are (mostly) sober and usually know what they are doing Your online opponents might have hundreds of thousands hands worth of experience and grind the tables for a living

So even if you’re winning, you’re winning by a much smaller margin than live. And a smaller win rate leads to bigger downswings and significantly increased (negative) variance

More Hands, Less Variance

Let’s take a look a look at how to counter this variance problem.

The key to getting your variance under control is to play more hands. Almost all professional online grinders play tens of thousands of hands per month – some even play more than 100,000 hands (each month and every month).

If you are a winning player, accumulating more hands will inevitably reduce the impact of any short-term variance. The downswings wont just vanish, but you’ll out-win them eventually.

So let’s – again – return to John from our previous examples. He decided to give online poker a real shot and started playing 20 days per month, averaging 2,000 hands per day (playing 4 to 6 hours per day).

Per month he’s playing 40,000 hands. He plays $0.50/$1 No-Limit Hold’em and averages a win rate of five big blinds per 100 hands. His standard deviation is 100 big blinds per 100 hands.

What results can John expect for one month of playing? Well, let’s enter those numbers into the variance calculator:


While still looking quite wild, this simulation does not look too bleak.

There’s only a 16% chance that John will end up with a losing month There’s a 5% chance that John will either lose more than $2,000 or win more than $6,000 in one month

After 40,000 hands variance still is a factor, but it’s already a much smaller one than over only 4,000 hands.

We can also simulate John’s possible results over 400,000 hands (which is 10 months worth of play for John):

The chance of losing money over 10 months (400,000 hands) is tiny: 0.08% The chance of winning an amount somewhere between $7,350 and $32,650 is 95% The chance of being stuck in a $2,000 downswing at any given time is slightly over 30% The chance of being stuck in a $5,000 downswing (that’s 50 buy ins!) at any given time is around 4%

While those numbers might still look intimidating, unfortunately that’s the best one can come up with. Playing well, avoiding tilt and amassing plenty of hands is the only way to deal with downswings.

Those numbers also show: if you’re a decent (meaning: winning) player, you can negate negative variance by playing the necessary volume.

Let Variance Be Your Bitch

We’ve already established that variance is a bitch and there’s one way online poker certainly does not work: You cannot just play one or two tables a couple of hours per week and expect to consistently make money.

If those are your hopes and expectations, online poker is probably not for you.

Jamie Gold
It’s always possible to land a lucky punch in poker. Winning consistently online is another matter.

You either work on your game and play a decent volume or you learn to live with the fact that variance is a huge factor and whether you have a winning or losing month is mostly determined by luck.

You also should not overvalue upswings or downswings too much. They will happen more frequently and on a larger scale than you expect anyway.

Just because you won 10 buy-ins in a couple of hours you’re not the second coming of Vanessa Selbst. And just because you dumped 10 buy-ins over two evenings you’re not necessarily a bad player.

Even players at low stakes and who play mostly for competitive reasons (and not to pay their bills) should become accustomed to the fact that they will need a lot of endurance to consistently beat their limit.

But this does not mean variance cannot be your bitch, once and for all. Yes, everybody can run badly. But on the other hand everybody can run well, too.

It’s known to happen that sub-par players score huge in big tournaments (think Jamie Gold or Darwin Moon hitting 1st and 2nd place in the WSOP Main Event).

It’s always possible to land a lucky punch in a poker tournament … but it’s a completely different story to take poker seriously and learn to win consistently.



Mental Coach Jared Tendler: How to Constantly Improve in Poker

Jared Tendler breaks down the easiest ways to make sure you’re always improving your poker game.

Poker is a constantly changing game and according to mental coach Jared Tendler, if you’re not moving forward you’re actually falling behind.

In this short poker theory lesson Tendler explains why constantly improving your poker game is of paramount importance plus a few easy ways to make sure you’re on the right track.

By Jared Tendler

If you’re not improving, you’re falling behind.

If you’re falling behind, winrate/ROI drops, variance increases, and you risk becoming just another player complaining about running bad who really should be complaining about the state of their game.

I know you want to improve but how committed are you to actually taking the steps to make it happen?

Is improving your game a habit that you do constantly? How effective are you at it?

These are questions you need to be asking yourself. If the answers aren’t, 1) yes, and 2) very effective, then learning to learn, or learning how to improve is a skill that you need to, well, learn.

Playing Poker Teaches You How to Learn

As it turns out, playing poker is one of the best ways to learn.

Recent research has proven that taking tests help you to learn. The exams we took in school weren’t just to determine how much we knew, they also helped cement that knowledge and make us better at learning other things in the future.

Jared Tendler

Playing poker is a test. Every time you take that test, you need to prove that you know more than the last time you took it.

How you do that is, of course, easier said than done. Here are a few suggestions.

Assess the full range of your game, from your A-game to your very worst. Then, when you read articles, watch videos, post hands, and get coaching you’ll already know which areas of your game need the most work.

You may not know what you need to know, but at least you’ll know what you still need to learn.

Develop a proven warm-up that clears your mind of outside distractions and readies you to play your best.

On days that are super hard, for any reason – whether it’s tilt, bad variance, fear, exhasution – make sure you avoid making your worst tactical or mental mistakes. Period.

Rest. Yes, rest is productive for many reasons. An important one is that you need rest in order to train skills to the level of instinct.

If you’re not improving, you’re falling behind.

Jared Tendler is a mental game coach to some of the most successful poker players in the world. You can learn more about his approach to poker psychology in his books The Mental Game of Poker 1 & 2.



How Thinking in Ranges Drastically Improves Your Poker Game

How do you put opponents on a hand? How do you learn to read their souls?

In this article PokerOlymp’s Arved Klöhn will show you exactly how: You don’t!

Instead he’ll answer a much more important question: What’s a “range” in poker and how do ranges dramatically help your game?

Reading Souls is for Poker Movies

Have you ever seen the movie Rounders? Sure you have. It’s a great film. If by some odd chance you haven’t seen it, you definitely should.

There’s one particularly awesome scene in that movie when the main character Michael (played by Matt Damon) interrupts his professor’s home game to drop off some papers.

Just seconds after looking at the facial expressions of the participating players he says what each and everyone at the table is holding. Check out the scene here:

Well, Michael is a poker prodigy and only KGB Teddy can stop him on his way to the top.

And that’s just what poker prodigies and professional players do, right? Read souls and pinpoint the exact holdings of their opponents. That’s their gift.

Except it isn’t.

The Soul Read Doesn’t Really Work

Rounders is great movie, but it’s a work of fiction. The way the protagonist reads hands is also a work of fiction.

No poker player has the gift to pinpoint the exact holdings of their opponents. And trying to do so is usually futile and detrimental to your game. Let’s take a look a simple example hand and see why the “soul read” doesn’t really work:

How Not to Read Hands

We’re playing $1/$2 Texas Hold’em and holding pocket tens (ThTs) in middle position. After some folds we open the pot with a raise to $6. Only the player on the button calls. Now there’s $15 in the middle and we get to see a flop:


We’re first to act and bet $12 with our decent overpair. Our opponent raises to $40 and we have $182 left in our stack. What should we do now?

Put him on all possible hands.

Well, we’re in a tricky spot, that’s for sure. We have a good, but not great, hand and there are a lot of turn cards we don’t want to see (any 3rd club, any card jack or higher).

Neither do we want to be bluffed off or hand nor do we want to lose our stack should our opponent have us beat. So let’s try to put our opponent on a hand. Here are some ways how that could work:


Our opponent is very tight, so he certainly has a set and we’re beat Our opponent is very aggressive and he certainly only has a flush draw Our opponent is a fish and he clearly has top pair Our opponent is wild and reckless and he certainly only has Ace-Low and wants to scare us away

All those thoughts might appear sound and good if you know your opponent well enough. But they’re actually terrible even if you know your opponent perfectly.

Put Him On All Possible Hands at Once

So, what’s wrong with those thoughts? The problem is we’re trying to put our opponent on a single hand.

Yes, in the end, he is holding one specific hand. But right now we just don’t know what hand he has.

Unless he shows us his cards we can’t be certain about it. So why would we act like we have some magical ability to read his hand? We simply can’t and we shouldn’t!

We almost never have enough information to exactly know our opponent’s hole cards and there’s a reasonable chance we’re dead wrong with our read.

We’d look rather foolish (and possibly lose a good chunk of money) if we pinpointed his holding to be a flush draw when in fact our opponent is dominating us with a set.

So what do we do instead of putting our opponent on one specific hand? It’s quite simple: We just put him on all possible hands at once.

He probably doesn’t have a big pair.

This might sound a bit hare-brained but in fact it’s much more sound and reliable than putting him on just one hand. We’ll show you how and why.

Let’s Apply Some Logic

Let’s go through the previous example hand and apply some logic to what our opponent might be holding. Before his first action we don’t know anything about his hand so each possible holding is equally likely.

There are 1,326 possible starting hands in Texas Hold’em. But since we’re holding two cards ourselves (two 10s) there are only 1,225 combinations left for our opponent. Before his first action we know he’s equally likely to have any of those holdings.

Those are a quite a lot of combinations to consider, but fortunately we can remove lots of them (almost all them actually) after our opponent’s first action.

What was his first action? Right, he called our pre-flop raise. Now let’s think about the hands he might do that with.

To keep things simple we assume he’s a somewhat straightforward player who doesn’t go nuts out of the blue. In this case we can eliminate a huge amount of hands from his possible holdings.

Erik Sagström
Find a play that works best against most of those holdings.

He wouldn’t call a pre-flop raise with a hand like Seven-Deuce or Ten-Trey. After his preflop action our opponent most likely has one of the following hands: a pocket pair, two high cards or some medium connected cards of the same suit.

He probably doesn’t have a big pair, as he would have reraised with such a strong holding.

Let’s Take a Look at All Reasonable Holdings

We already know quite a bit about our opponent’s hand. His action on the flop (which came down 8c7c2d) tells us a lot more, though.

He raised our bet and threatened to play for stacks. Let’s take a look at all reasonable holdings he might raise with:


A Set (88, 77 or 22) Two Pair (87 suited – all other two-pair variants he would have folded preflop) An Overpair (99, TT, JJ – he would have reraised QQ+ preflop) A Flush Draw A Straight Draw (T9 or 65 suited) A pure Bluff

With other hands he either would have called our bet (for example with 98 for top pair) or simply folded (with all his unpaired high cards without a flush draw).

Depending on what we know about the opponent we can narrow those holdings down even more. For a straightforward player we can practically eliminate the possibility of a pure bluff – he’d most likely pick better spots to bluff.

Now instead of trying to decide which of those possible holdings our opponent has in this situation, and playing according to this “read,” we just put him on all those possibilities at once and try to find a play that works best against most of those holdings.

Let There Be Range

What we’ve done so far is established a “range” for our opponent. Now we just need to find a play according to this range.

Let’s do some counting and some equity calculations to see how our pair of 10s fares against each possible holding in our opponent’s range (remember we had had a pair of 10s on a 8c7c2d Flop):


Opponent’s possible holding

Number of possible combinations

Our probability to win







Overpair (99)



Overpair  (TT)


50% (Split Pot)

Overpair (JJ)



Flush Draw



Straight Draw



This table shows the complete range for our opponent in this specific situation and our equity against each holding. This table will help us to find the best play with our hand.

We can see straightaway that we’re either miles behind (against sets, two pair and jacks) or more or less a coin flip (against flush and straight draws). Only against nines we’re actually a decent favorite.

Knowing this it’s quite easy for us to find the best move: We simply fold our overpair. We don’t have to know what exactly our opponent is holding.

It’s sufficient to know that there are enough hands in his range that have us crushed and too few hands we beat. Even against his draws (which are semi-bluffs on the flop) we’re only barely ahead.

Using a tool like ProPokerTools (http://www.propokertools.com/simulations) we can calculate our exact probability of winning against our opponent’s range.

Erick Lindgren
Is this “thinking in ranges” stuff really that important? Yes. Yes it is.

It’s 42%. We’re not favored to win this hand and can let it go without giving up too much.

Why It’s Important to Think in Ranges

We went through quite some time and effort to develop a range for our opponent in this one simple example.

Is this “thinking in ranges” stuff really that important and do you have to spend so much time thinking about ranges to become a good poker player?

Simple answer: Yes, it is that important. You should start working on your range-reading skills as soon as possible and practice it diligently. It’ll drastically improve your game.

Let’s go back to our first attempt in the example hand where we tried to pinpoint the exact holding.

If we put our opponent on a weak hand (like a smaller overpair) we want to get all our money in. But if we put our opponent on a big hand (like a set) we don’t want to get any money in at all.

If our read is wrong, our play is most likely catastrophically wrong, too. A small mistake in reading our opponent can lead to disastrous consequences.

But if we think in ranges this does not apply. Even if we’re not 100% accurate in putting our opponent on a range, we’re probably not going to be too wrong. Forgetting some realistic holdings or including unrealistic ones does not change our overall probability of winning too much.

It might go up or down 5% but in general our play won’t change even if we make some mistakes in assigning a range. Small mistakes will not lead to huge consequences.

When thinking in ranges you basically try to find out how you perform on average against the opponent. The better you fare, the more inclined you should be to invest more money. The worse you fare, the more you should be inclined to invest no more money.

It’s that easy and simple. And that’s why all poker pros think in ranges. You should do so, too!

Isn’t That Too Complicated to Make Decisions on the Spot?

It’s rather obvious you can’t accurately go through all of these thoughts during a hand.

But good poker players are pretty well versed in estimating an opponent’s range within seconds and roughly calculating their equity against this range.

Practicing this away from the poker table is important to get a good grasp of ranges. This will allow you to do some rough calculations or at least a decent guesstimation, which will usually be enough to make a good decision during play.

Jonathan Duhamel
Be the pro.

Here are some hints on how to improve you range-reading skills:


You don’t have to consider all possible holdings in detail. It’s often enough to know against how many hands you’re a massive favorite, against how many hands you’re a massive dog and against how many hands you’re roughly 50/50 You don’t have to know exact probabilities. Rough numbers are enough Ranges are usually quit robust. So even if you make some mistakes when assigning ranges, it won’t drastically change the result Ranges can be used for virtually all decisions during poker hands. For example, bluffs: If you estimate that 60% of your opponent’s range cannot call a decent-sized bet (maybe because he has many busted draws in his range) a bluff is very profitable Ranges require a lot of hard work. Professional players spend a lot of time training their ability to estimate ranges and percentages thus allowing them to use this knowledge and technique at the table Be the Professional!

The ability to accurately and quickly think in ranges is one of the hallmarks of good poker players — not the ability to read souls like they do in the movies.

Usually when you see a player making incredible calls or folds on TV, and the announcers attributing those actions to insane soul reads, you either witnessed a professional guy exerting great range-reading abilities or a clueless player getting lucky after a poor decision.

It might look the same, but the professional will get it right so much more often then the clueless guy.

Be that professional guy and learn how think in ranges!



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!