Poker Table Image – Does It Matter?

Poker Table Image

How are you perceived at the poker table? Do you know or care? You should, because your image will be a factor when playing poker. Whether it’s trying to get a bluff through or getting paid off, your poker table image will be taking into account by your opponents. Everyone has an image they are projecting at the poker table, whether they know it or not. Within an hour or so of playing, a strong and experienced player will already have tagged the majority of the table, almost entirely based on how they have played and appeared.

Loosey Goose Image

These are ten a penny online at the casino. The player involved in every pot, playing too many hands. Often bluffing and paying off bets all over the place. The loose player image is a good one to have as it means you are likely to get paid. A strong player will often do their best to get this image without actually playing crazy. This can be achieved by playing many small pots and attacking many pots with small bets. You don’t actually need to be investing a lot of chips or money to obtain this poker table image.

poker table image
Photo by Markus Spiske @markusspiske

Tight Nitty Image

This is the player folding, hand after hand, round after round and patiently waiting for the premium hands to come along. How these players think they will get paid is beyond me. But in low stakes online and great games live, they do! The benefit of having a nitty image is if you have the ability to change gears, you can pull off many bluffs (against the right opponents). The reason is simple, if you have folded for 2 hours and now 3 bet, your opponents will give you credit – and rightly so.

Fishy/Donkey Image

This is just a bad player. It is similar to a loose image, however, a loose player can still be a strong player. Where a loose player is involved in lots of pots and trying bluff, a fish/donkey is just playing bad poker. This image is not desirable as it a strong player will target you all day long. It is not in your interest to get into personal battles or be known as the worst player at the table.

Professional

On the face of it, having the image of a professional seems great. People respect you and how you play. The reality is though, this isn’t the most desirable image as people will try to stay out of pots with you. Getting paid can be difficult and people often want to impress you and will potentially fold big hands or try bluffs on you. If you’re on your A game and pick up on this, it’s fine, but the fact is, you won’t always be and you can be in a pickle sizing your opponent up.  

Tips to Improve Your Poker Table Image

Change up your style, don’t be predictable and be confined to one image. It’s important to be difficult to read and cause confusion for your opponents. Soon as they know how you play; you’ve lost the battle. It’s best to be aware of your current image and shift to another and exploit your existing image. This takes a lot of practice but it is essentially what the best players are regularly doing. They know you saw them pull off a bluff 5 minutes ago and have gone into lock-down for 10 minutes. You need to do likewise to be a big winner at poker.

I hope you found this article useful. Please email us if you are interested in knowing more about table image and how to use it to your advantage.

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The Value Bet – Common Mistakes

Value Bet

It is an art that is difficult to master. The value bet in poker is perhaps the most important skill to develop in order to become a long-term winner. It combines the complexity of hand reading, understanding of opponent and maximising value.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a Value Bet in Poker?

A bet that is designed to get called by a weaker hand. The sizing is irrelevant, it’s purely betting for value, hence value bet. It is usually at the end of the hand on the river. Although it’s technically possible to value bet all in before the river.

Common Mistakes

One of the most prevalent errors an inexperienced or unconfident player will make is check back hands on the river that warrant betting for value. They will often check back hands for reasons listed below.

1)Fear of Being Check-Raised

The river check raise is such an uncommon play and rarely ever done on a bluff that it is not to be feared, to the extent most players afraid. It takes incredible patience for an opponent to make their hand on the river then check raise for value. Few expert players have the discipline and skill to employ this and fewer online. The typical online player will often just bet their nut hand on the river. They do this even if their opponent has bet all the way through, purely because they are worried you will check back.

2)Lacking Conviction

Many players who miss out on value are doing so because they lack conviction in their own ability to know their hand is best and assign a range to their opponent. This is because they don’t have the confidence in their own game or lack experience. Perhaps they have suffered too many bad beats or read some hands poorly and it has affected them. Perhaps they are on tilt. Whatever the reason, they lack the conviction to put in the value bet they rightly should.

3)Wanting a Cheap Showdown

Some players just want to show their hand down. They don’t recognise that they are missing out on lots of value in the long run. They are happy to check back on the river and show the winning hand. This is extremely detrimental to their long-term ROI and profitability as they are costing themselves money. I contend that many of these types of players even know they are checking back the better hand, but do so anyway. Don’t be one of these players.

How Much to Bet?

This is the key question you should be asking every time you are considering a value bet on the river. One needs to think what is the most amount of money or chips I can obtain from my opponent. This is a complex question as it involves you assuming the perfect and maximum amount your opponent will call, given their likely hand range. A pot sized bet gives poor pot odds; thus, a strong, experienced player may be less inclined to call with a weak hand. On the contrary, a weak and inexperienced may be happy to call a huge over bet. Correctly judging the amount within a few seconds may seem impossible, but it is it not. It is intuitive and developed off the back of many hands of playing.   

value bet
Photo by Dmitry Demidko @wildbook

Conclusion

The importance of appropriate value betting can’t be stressed enough. This article has discussed the reasons why people miss out on value and to avoid it. In future articles, we will be exploring the different types of value bet and how they can used based on opponent and relative hand strength.

Semi Bluff Guide & Tips

Semi Bluff Introduction

A semi bluff is a bet made on the flop or turn designed to pick up the pot immediately or improve by the river and win at showdown. It’s usually a bet made with a straight or flush draw or with two overcards to the board.

Let’s look at an example:

The blinds are 50/100 and you raise to 225 with Ts 9s and called by the big blind. The flop falls Js 8s 2c. Your opponent checks, you bet 325 and he raises to 1,100. You decide to move all in for 5,200. Your opponent folds.

Now, at this exact moment you have ten high but let’s look at the hand closer. You have an open ended straight flush draw giving you 15 likely outs to win the pot by the river or approx. 57% chance of winning hand if we assign your opponent a hand like Ace Jack offsuit. This is a perfect moment to semi bluff all in and either pick up the pot now or if you are called, win by showdown.

When to Semi Bluff

As always, position is important when semi bluffing, as is the stack sizes. It is usually a good idea to have deep stacks or sufficient fold equity when considering semi bluffing.
Trying to semi bluff out of position is not a simple as in position but it can be achieved by check raising and defining an opponent’s range. This allows you the opportunity to outright bluff later if you miss your hand. Naturally the benefit of being in position is seeing how your opponent acts before you decide to bet, this is not possible when you are first to act thus semi bluffing becomes tricky.

semi bluff

History and Context

Semi Bluffing is a tendency and behaviour habit. Weak players tend not to think about semi bluffing draws and will often call down or do crazy nonsensical bluffs. It’s important to be aware of what you have shown down in hands and think about the context of the hand and history with your opponent. Ask yourself questions below when considering semi bluffing lines in hands.

  • Do I play strong hands like this?
  • Have I semi bluffed this session and shown it down?
  • Is my opponent observant?
  • Is my opponent likely to fold here or later in the hand if I continue to bet?

Final Thoughts

Semi bluffing is another weapon in the professional’s arsenal that can be employed many times a session intuitively. If you have an aptitude for maths and observe your opponent’s closely, you too should be using the semi bluff often.

I hope you enjoyed this article on semi bluffing. Feel free to contact us at info@texasholdemquestions.com with any feedback or questions.

Poker Bots – Time to Worry?

What is a Poker Bot?

A poker bot is a computer program developed to play against human opponents online. They are despised by most players as people hate the idea that they are playing and potentially losing, to a piece of AI.

Why Would Anyone use a Bot?

Everyone likes free money and the idea of developing a programme that automates playing and allows you to have fun while it plays and wins money is appealing to some. The reality is, that whilst some bots may have capacity to win at micro stakes levels, they are likely to be used primarily to clear rakeback and bonuses on websites.

How Good is a Bot?

Most bots are likely to be programmed quite basic and unlikely to be profitable beyond very low stakes due to the inherent complexity that is involved in poker. They are programmed to work purely on mathematically theorems so whilst they are not burdened by tilt, ego or personal battles with opponents, they are not as observant or creative as a person is. Software has been created that was able to beat professionals  but this is very rare and we are a long way off this ever being used online.

Poker Bots
Photo by Franck V @franckinjapan

Are Poker Bots Legal?

Poker bots are illegal to use on all websites, however, developing and selling them is fine. You are unlikely to play against one but there are a few traits that distinguish them from your opponents; identical timing for decision making, deathly silent in chat box and repetitive use of same line in a hand e.g. check raising turns frequently.

Beating Bots

Anyone who developed a poker bot to play well has to be a very strong player in the first place and likely a winning player at decent stakes. In order to develop a poker bot strong enough to win, the person must have spent thousands of hours developing the strategy behind the bot’s decision making. 
Beating a bot can be quite simple, if you have identified you are playing a bot in the first place. Most bots will be sensitive to different bet sizes based on the coding. They may have been coded to call 3 bets for 8bb but not 9bbs – this type of leak is very exploitable. Once you have found the chinks in a bot’s armour, they are actually easy money as you can just repeat the same moves and they are very unlikely to adjust like a person would.

Conclusion

Poker bots are so rare that you need not concern yourself with their existence or them taking your money. The ones that are around are unlikely to be very profitable and are used purely for rakeback purposes. They are also illegal so feel free to report any signs of bot usage to the website you are playing on.

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Tilt Poker – What it is & How to Avoid it

Tilt Poker

One of the biggest obstacles you will have to overcome to being a consistent winner is tilt. The term that is used to describe a state of mind that all players want to avoid. Tilt is the anger and emotional distress that causes a poker player to play poorly. It usually occurs after a series of lost pots or bad beats but it is not limited to that. Tilt could manifest for a number of reasons specific to different people. Whilst one player may tilt because of a bad beat, another may tilt if he gets mocked at the table or shown a bluff. 

Why Do Players Tilt in Poker?

Players are not robots, everyone has triggers that get you off your game. People tilt because something is going on internally that has an adverse effect on your ability to play well. It might be something completely separate to poker. You may have had an argument at home and planned to play poker but guess what? Now you are thinking about the argument and not on your A game.
At its simplest, poker is a game of decisions. Making good decisions and better decisions in the long run will make you more money than your opponents. One of the most fundamental things to grasp is that you need to be at your best mentally, as often as you can be, to increase your chances of winning. Think about it, when you drink alcohol, it impairs your judgement doesn’t it? The analogy can be used for tilt and poker. If you get angered or emotionally distressed, you will feel the effect mentally and play worse as a result.

Tips to Avoiding Tilt

  1. Don’t start playing if you are not mentally prepared. Don’t fire up a session or go casino if you know you are already angry or distressed
  2. Get up from the table after a big lost pot or bad beat. Have a walk outside and get some fresh air
  3. Repeat positive messages in your head. If you’ve been shown a bluff or someone has cursed you at the table. Just repeat a positive message in your head that keeps you on your game. It can be something as simple as “you’re a great player” or “you’re better than him”
  4. Take a break for a few days. If you are on a bad run of sessions, don’t be afraid to take some time out if you sense you may tilt

Conclusion

Tilt is an extremely important obstacle to overcome at poker. It takes time, patience and humility to accept you are open to such a negative phenomenon that causes you to play badly. The best way to avoid it is knowing your triggers and being proactive so you recognise when you are likely to start tilting. If you can overcome your own demons of tilt, you stand a much better chance of making more money in the long run.

I hope you enjoyed this article; the mental side of poker is critical to being a winner. Feel free to email us at info@texasholdemquestions if you think you need mental game coaching or want more information.

Featured Photo by Christian Erfurt

Slow Play Poker Guide

No, slow play poker does not mean taking your time when playing. Slow-playing is a way of playing a hand tricky/deceptively in order to get more value out of a hand than you think would generate nothing otherwise.

Why Slow Play in Poker?

Sometimes you have to slow play your hand to get value, you won’t get anything out of an opponent otherwise. It’s not something you should be doing all the time, but there are certainly times and places for slow play poker. The sole reason to slow play, as with most poker moves, is to get more value out of your hand.

Example of Slow Play

You have 8s-8h in mid position and raise to 150 at 30/60, it folds to the big blind who calls. The flop is 8d 2s 2c. Your opponent checks to you.

Now ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What is my opponent likely to be holding?
  2. Is my opponent likely to call me?
  3. Do I need to bet to protect my hand here?
  4. How can I extract most value from the hand?

In the example above, your opponent is likely to have a wide range of hands (often nothing that connects with this board), you can very safely slow play your full house here. There are no scare cards to your hand checking may induce bluffs later in the hand too.

When To Slow Play?

A slow play will be the best line to take when the conditions below are met:
1)My opponent is weak and likely to fold to a bet.
2)My hand does not need to be bet and protected.
3)My opponent is likely to bet into me later in the hand or improve thus allowing me to get value.

slow play poker
Photo by Nick Abrams @nbabrams

Small Bets & Calls

Slow playing does not just mean checking back hands, it might be flat calling bets or making small bets to induce raises. It’s the sense you give your opponent, the apparent weakness you convey that makes it a slow play or not. For instance, if your opponent is the aggressor and bets all the way down and you flat call until your raise on the river and you showdown pocket Aces or a flopped flush, that is also a slow play.

Don’t Go Too Far!

Slow plays are great when properly put into practice but you must be careful not to over use or slow play hands that can be beat easily enough. There’s no point slow playing top pair multi way or even heads up only to lose to a turned gut-shot straight. It takes experience and an understanding of the hand in question and your opponents range to recognise when a slow play is the most profitable line in a hand. 

ITM Poker Ratio for Tournaments

What is “ITM”?

An abbreviation of “In The Money”, ITM is a term used in tournament poker to quantify the rate at which a poker player will make the money/cash in a tournament.

Benefits of ITM

Keeping tabs on your ITM poker rate means you are exercising good record keeping and on top of your cash rate. It also means you can prudently forecast how many tournaments you will cash in next month based on the number you enter.  It shows you are serious about your tournament poker, keen to monitor and track your performance.

Restrictions of ITM

Calculating your ITM is great, but it is not an indication of how profitable you are. After all, you might cash most of the time but never make it past the 1st or 2nd level after cashing. This would mean you have a poor hourly and poor ROI. Tracking your ROI is far more beneficial than looking at your ITM. I recommend using both methods if you are a serious tournament poker player looking to improve.

How Do I Calculate ITM?

Very simple formula:
# Cashes/ # MTTS entered Multiplied by 100 = ITM Rate as %
E.G 10 cashes / 90 MTTs entered x 100 = 11% ITM Rate

What is a Good ITM Rate?

I think setting a target of 20-22% is challenging but realistic enough to shoot for. If you are consistently getting above this than you are doing very well. Most MTT experts accept 15 – 20% as a decent cash rate.  If you are recording significantly less than this, than you need to look at the MTTS you play and the strategy you employ.  

ITM Poker
20% is considered a strong ITM rate by professionals

How Can I Improve my ITM rate?

Picking the right moments to move your chips and a survival attitude will improve your cash rate. Our poker training video membership is exclusively based on tournaments and played by a tournament expert who has hundreds of thousands in online earnings including a Sunday Million final table. Use the discount code below and take advantage of 20% off meaning you will only pay £39.99 to access all videos. To redeem, simply copy and paste the code in the contact page.

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Caution

Having a good ITM poker rate is awesome but it’s important to remember that the goal when playing tournaments is to make as much money as possible. If you are adopting a nitty style that eeks you into the money a lot of the time but rarely a deep run or final table, then you need to rethink your strategy. Tournaments will always reward those who finish in the highest places. To achieve this, you have to take calculated risks, steal the blinds and build a decent stack. You need to be the player taking advantage of those that are trying to survive the next level of pay and not the one that is scared to bubble or not cash. We’re here to make money not double our buy in.

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d like to read our Texas Hold’em Questions Excel Dashboard article?

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Limp in Poker & Why It’s Almost Always Bad

What is Limp in Poker?

The open limp is where a player will enter the pot with by flat calling the blinds. It is the cheapest way to enter the pot and generally used by beginner players to see how the rest of table will act before choosing to invest more before the flop.  

Why is it so Bad to Limp in Poker?

I’m willing to stick my neck out on this one and say it’s almost always bad to open limp in tournament poker. There are scenarios where it can be ok – I make exception from the small blind, but every other position I will almost never advocate an open limp. If you are a member of our training video membership, you will see an open limp from an opponent at my table will a instantly justify a weak tag on them. Judgemental? Yes, but with good reason. Let’s take a look at some reasons why open limping is bad poker strategy.

Weak Passive

Players can often be grouped into several categories, each one with distinct traits that separate them from others e.g. tight aggressive and loose aggressive. The style of poker that involves open limping is generally weak passive, one of the worst traits to have. Why? Winning poker strategy almost always means playing aggressively, you can achieve this with different pre-flop hand selection but you must be aggressive when you do play (generally). Adopting a weak passive style is likely to see you getting bullied out of countless pots, as the reality is, you will not hit enough strong hands to command a decent post flop win %.

Limp in Poker
Limping in is very fishy play

What are You Representing?

By open limping, you are telling the table you have a weak to medium strength hand. Any decent player will immediately recognise that you want to enter the pot cheaply as you are not coming in for a raise. The reason this is bad is simple, a table of good players will isolate your limps and take pot after pot from you. You cannot legitimately represent premium hands when you open limp/call which makes post flop play tricky for you too.

Ingredients


I always ask students, are the ingredients of the hand on your side when you are involved in a pot. The ingredients being ; position, pre-flop lead/aggression, hand strength and ability. This can be converted to questions as follows:

  • Are you in position?
  • Are you the pre flop raiser?
  • Are you likely to have the stronger hand?
  • Are you the better player?

Now let’s answer the questions above when you open limp As 6s from early position:

  • Are you in position? (No – unless they fold to the blinds)
  • Are you the pre flop raiser?  (No)
  • Are you likely to have the stronger hand? (Maybe – only if it folds to the blinds)
  • Are you the better player? (Unlikely if you are the type of player to open limp)

Clearly the ingredients to winning the hand are not on your side by adopting a limp in style of poker. That doesn’t mean you won’t win the hand but you are handicapped somewhat.

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Conclusion

Limping in is a poor poker strategy. It makes playing post flop poker harder, you are less likely to win and more likely to get bluffed out too. By adopting this style, you are inviting better players to abuse you before and after the flop and put you in awkward positions. There are professionals that have attempted this style of poker in the past with a view to setting traps but it is rarely profitable and to be used at your peril. Even with the relentless aggression in online poker, the limp in style of poker is not one to be seriously considered yet. It’s possible in 10 years, that limping in might be a strategy to consider (but I doubt it!).  

I hope you enjoyed this article, feel free to email us any questions about limping at info@texasholdemquestions.com

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