Exploitative Poker Play: Why It’s Perfect for Low Stakes

Exploitative Poker

GTO or “Game Theory Optimal” poker strategy is a popular way of approaching poker for advanced players in 2021. It is a strategy that involves making mathematically perfect decisions in every situation. For low stakes poker players that are trying to crush games though, I advocate the exploitative strategy instead.

Exploitative poker strategy is looking for mistakes and imbalances in other poker players game and adopting a strategy that “exploits” them. This method has been around a long time and whilst it may not have been articulated as well as it is now, it was very much what low and mid stakes experts were doing in the past.

In this article, I’m going to set out a few reasons why I firmly believe a more exploitative poker strategy is better for players in low stakes cash games and tournaments.

Low stakes players have lots of leaks

Whilst some players still spout “poker is dead” in forums, the low stakes games continue to stay popular. Fire up any major poker site lobby and play for one hour and see the calibre around.

Yes, the fish are not as fishy as they were fifteen years ago but it’s still pretty poor showing. This shows that players in the NL $50 games and below games have many leaks. This is not a big surprise is it? After all, if they didn’t have many leaks, they’d be grinding higher stakes games.

There’s nothing wrong with this by the way. Most of the players I mentor are playing NL $100 and below. They are acutely aware of the fact they have leaks. The more leaks and errors you make, the more vulnerable you are to being exploited. We try to eliminate leaks the best we can to generate a better win rate but perfect poker is almost impossible to achieve.

To highlight my point that leaks are common in the low stakes game, below are some examples of errors being made in low stakes games and simple ways to exploit.

Folding to 3 bets too often

This is a common one. A regular in the low stake’s games may be open-raising a nice range from middle position but only continuing with pocket jacks or better.

Exploit: 3 bet them with a wider range.

This is a simple and effective way to beat up on someone opening a wide range but folding loads when facing a re-raise.

Continuation betting 100% of flops heads up

Some people seem to think you must c-bet every flop if its heads up. To be fair, against certain opponents this isn’t the worst mentality, but it’s very exploitable to a competent player.

Exploit: Check raise flops more and float. By not giving up to flop c-bets you can take pots away later. Alternatively, you can check-rase bluff with a high degree of success.

Playing too tight from the big blind

This is a common mistake in tournament poker. Most experts recognise that defending the big blind is a necessity when facing small raises. This concept is lost on many players in low stakes mtts, they fold too many hands because it looks weak, not correctly accounting for pot odds.

Exploit: Open raise wider and steal their blinds. By opening your range up you can profitably raise any two cards. This is perfect from the cutoff, button and small blind. With fewer opponents behind you comes less chance of resistance.

Players calling down too much

Another leak from some low stakes poker players is to call down too much. They refuse to fold second pair or better and will call you down.

Exploit: We can easily exploit this trait by bluffing less and value betting thinner. If we know our opponent is a stubborn so and so who is calling down too light, we can extract more value.

Now we have some common leaks out the way, let’s look at an overriding aspect that needs to be covered…

Players don’t think about GTO or Exploitative Poker Strategy

Another thing worth remembering is the mindset of a low stake’s poker player. The vast majority are there to play a basic form of poker. They are basically playing their cards and waiting for good hands. Only a small percentage are thinking of advanced concepts like GTO or “is my strategy exploitable?” Therefore, we do not need to worry ourselves with becoming exploitable ourselves. It’s unnecessary mental baggage that won’t do you any favours.

The GTO approach is ideal if you are playing the same few opponents, in heads up games or 6 max games. It is not going to make you the most money possible in low cash games and tournaments.

Low stakes games occupy a far greater player pool too. The chances of meeting the same opponents again are rarer so we do not have to be concerned about a player exploiting us later. Poker is about adapting to your surroundings and finding profitable spots to make money.

Tools for exploiting opponents

Now I’ve covered why an exploitative strategy is better, we should look at tools to help us exploit opponents.  I recommend visiting our poker software page to see some recommended tools, many of which can help with things like range analysis.

Beyond that, we can take notes on our opponents detailing their short-comings. This is a nifty way to remember what they are doing wrong and ensure we can exploit their weaknesses. Colour coding players is also an effective way of tagging players. This can be very simplistic but consider tagging them as calling station, donkey and nit. These kind of colour tags will make you quickly realise the type of opponent you are up against and what strategy is likely to yield positive results.

Conclusion on Exploitative Poker Strategy

Exploitative poker strategy is just a fancy way of saying adapt to your opponents. It’s something we’ve been doing for years but now has a name and some meat behind it. I’ve only briefly touched upon exploitative poker strategy in this article. There are other elements to be considered like calculating break even thresholds and the differences in using it online vs live. If this is something you’d like us to write on in the future, get in touch today.

Playing the Poker Bubble in Tournaments

The Poker Bubble

Tournament poker is a minefield isn’t it? You’re constantly being moved and facing opponents you know little about. The blinds and antes are increasing and your stack size is changing too and with it, your strategy and hand selection does too. In this article, we will be looking at the poker bubble, what it is, common errors and what I think correct poker bubble strategy is when approaching it.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is the Bubble in Poker?

The poker bubble is the closest place to cashing, without actually cashing. Every tournament has a bubble position. If 180 pay and you finish 181st, you’ve busted out on the bubble. It’s a bad place to finish as it means you’ve invested the maximum time without making any money.

Common Mistakes Players Make on the Bubble

Too Tight & Cautious

Probably the most common mistake tournament players make is tightening up too much. They stop stealing the blinds and opening as wide from late position. It’s like they have their sights on cashing and forget about the big picture – securing a final table place finish. This may not cost one lots of chips but it’s missed opportunities.

Not Adapting to Table

There is a lot of moving around on the bubble, particularly in live poker as they even out the tables. Many players don’t’ seem to adapt to their new surroundings. You may have been the big stack at the previous table, but you may be average on the next. Bullying people won’t work here as often and they may be more aggressive or taking more flops. It’s important to quickly eye up stacks when you move as this will affect how you play.

Too Gung Ho

Aspiring professionals make this mistake a lot. They ready strategy that says exploit the bubble and think this means raising ½ their hands. To be fair, on the rare occasion, you may be able to get away with this. But on most tables, in the long run, this style won’t reap rewards. You’ll find yourself overcommitting, calling all-ins with below par hands and doubling up opponents too often. 

Poker Bubble Strategy Tips

The bubble is just another part of the tournament. Yes, it’s important to cash and maintain a good ITM rate, particularly if tournaments are your bread and butter. But, as with most things in poker, we need to look at the big picture and the long term. This means finding a happy medium between maintaining a good ITM rate, taking advantage of opportunities and keeping your stack competitive as you go into the deep stages of a tournament. To do this, we can do a few things.

Look for 3 Bet Opportunities

A 3 bet is a great weapon to employ at the bubble. A 3-bet that works will often, increase your stack a high % so it’s important we try to find opportune moments to use it. In my experience, doing it against the small blind works very well. When it folds to them, most tournament players feel obliged to steal. It’s logical, the blinds are high and they are getting a good price on trying to pick it up with little resistance. This means we can 3 bet very wide and pick up even more chips. This works very well on big sites like Full Tilt, but sadly they’ve now closed. Players are unlikely to call out of position with weak hands. To illustrate the value of the 3 bet at the bubble, look at the example below:

You have 78,000 with the blinds at 1,000/2,000 and an ante of 100. It folds to the small blind who is a TAG player. He has around 66,000 and opens to 5,400. You are in the big blind with Ks 8c and decide to 3-bet to 15,700 and he folds. You increase your stack by 8,300 or 10.6% to 86,300.

Attack the Survivors

As we know from earlier, a lot of people are making the mistake of just surviving. They will happily give up their blinds and fold to ensure they cash. These are the players we should look to attack. They are the ones whose blinds we can take, almost with impunity. I say almost, as good regs, will pick up on this and may try some re-steals. This is not too problematic though. Each steal that works, is a free round paid for. It’s only if they’re re-stealing a lot when you need to re-adjust.

The 4 Bet

This weapon is only for the bravest and savviest. The 4 bet steal is an effective counter strategy to the gung ho players we mentioned earlier. The problem arises when you do it too much or run into a monster. You need a very good understanding of your opponent and the right situation to pull this off.  Please only do it if the criteria below fits the scenario:

  1. Your opponent has 3 bet wide before
  2. You have fold equity
  3. You have a solid table image

Without the items above, a 4 bet is unlikely to work. Stack sizes and fold equity is absolutely critical. Your opponent may 3 bet with an Ace Ten thinking he is ahead of your range and find himself committed when facing your shove. He may shrug at his laptop and make the call and be delighted to see he dominates your Ace Deuce. To avoid this, you need to ensure he is not pot committed. It also helps if you’ve not shown down any crazy bluffs. You don’t want people making hero calls against you at the bubble.


The poker bubble is another stage in a tournament that needs to be navigated. It’s a great time to increase your stack, provided you know how to strike the right balance of maintaining a solid image and staying active enough to steal. If you find yourself bubbling too much, over a decent sample, you may want to re-think your strategy. We offer tournament coaching and hand history review sessions can help too.

If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy the articles below or check out our poker spreadsheets and reporting service.

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Poker Traps – How To Set and Avoid Them

Poker Traps

Poker traps are a fascinating area of discussion. Most poker players do not give them much thought. Traps come in various forms; levelling yourself, not giving opponents credit and overplaying your hand, to name just a few. Sometimes you trap yourself and by the time you realise it, you’ve lost a big pot. In this article, I am going to look at how we can set traps and also how to spot and avoid them.

Setting Poker Traps

A trap doesn’t have to just be a slow-played hand. This is rarely the most effective trap to set, even if it’s the most satisfying! Let’s look at several potential traps you can set for opponents.

The Same Bet as a Shown Bluff

Look, we never want to get called when we’re bluffing. But sometimes you can use a failed bluff to your advantage later in a session. It can be used with success in live cash games in particular.

Let’s say you get to the river and bluff bet $160 into $240 with your busted draw. Later, when you have a strong hand wanting a call, you may be able to use that bluff to your advantage. An astute player will recognise you bet approx. 2/3 of the pot. So, with a pot of $300, throw in a value bet of $200.

Try and make your mannerisms match your earlier bluff too and you will elicit a call a decent amount of the time.

Getting an Opponents to Stack Off Lightly in Tournaments

One of my favourite ways to pick up tournament chips is trapping players into stacking off lightly. This is usually achieved through our relentless late position stealing. The best part is when they eventually take a stand, lightly, and find themselves dominated. If you are constantly raising from the cut-off and button, your opponents have to incorporate some 3 bets to counter you. And guess what? Sometimes you will have a strong hand in late position too. If you are holding pocket tens or better, you are almost certainly holding the best hand against most 3 bettors from the blinds and can find yourself a big favourite. This is an awesome poker trap as it helps you pick up invaluable tournament chips. It works particularly well in live tournaments where players are literally watching you steal. Check out casinoguardian.co.uk for landbased UK casinos to use this move in.

Also, your steals cost you little when you fold. You’re enhancing your table image as a stealer, whilst improving your chances of a double up later. They are the ones risking more if they re-shove or 3 bet.

Slow-Playing To The River

The slow play is still one of the most effective traps around. In an era of aggressive opponents who love firing, checking and calling, until the river is a brilliant trap. Opponents in position love to bluff but they also love to value bet thinly if you’re checking. They will often hand read you for second pair or top pair weak kicker and keep firing. This means you can slow-play hands like top 2 pair or sets, on dry or mixed boards, and extract a lot of value. Most opponents will curse when the river check raise comes but begrudgingly call anyway.

Slow-playing takes practice. You can’t do this multiway or on wet boards. Often, a card will come to kill your action or actually give your opponent the best hand. Stick to adopting this strategy against aggressive opponents on the drier boards.

Spotting and Avoiding Poker Traps

Detecting traps and sidestepping them is a specialised skill that takes time to learn. Play enough hands and you will see patterns and find leaks that need working on. Most of them are some form of trap and often you will find that the biggest trap is one you put yourself into. Let’s look at a few traps to spot and solution to avoiding them.

Overplaying from The Blinds

It baffles me when I see players lose lots of chips or money from the blinds in a limped pot. Players forget that it’s a nothing pot. A top pair with a lousy kicker is not much of a hand multiway but it doesn’t stop many from continuing far into a hand with it. Spotting this trap is simple – if you’re multi-way with a weak or medium strength hand, just say to yourself “ I invested 1 big blind to play this”. It may seem a negative mindset, but money saved is money earnt if you’re losing a lot in these scenarios.

You won’t make most of your money from the blinds so don’t worry that you may be bluffed out from time to time.

Levelling Yourself

We’ve all done it. You’re involved in a hand thinking your opponent is pulling some elaborate bluff or that you believe he’s got “ace-king” despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s frustrating and symptomatic of wanting to believe you have the best hand, at any cost. You’re not alone in this trap. All the best players have levelled themselves before and will do so again too. I find the best way to avoid levelling myself is to narrate the hand I play in real time. This allows me to remember the information properly, not get attached to my hand, and consider all the variables properly before making decisions. It’s simple but effective.  My narration might go like this:

A good LAG has opened from early position to 3x, I’ve defended big blind with pocket sevens and check called  a 60% pot bet on a jack-nine-six (2 heart) flop. I check turn four of hearts and he is betting 70% of pot. As he’s a LAG it’s plausible he would play a hand with a jack in it from early position. My range looks like a jack or flush draw so the fact he is still betting represents strength”.

If I didn’t vocalise it I may just believe my sevens are good, that he may have ace-king with a heart or other big cards. When in reality, my hand is seldom good here.

Narrating the hand when you have a decision may help you make better decisions and avoid levelling yourself.

Pair & Draw Multi-Way

Sometimes, we play a speculative hand and find ourself flopping a lovely looking hand. You know the type, a pair and straight draw or pair and flush draw. These are great looking post-flop hands and give us hope of winning a decent big. However, when the pot is multi-way, wet board and a lot of action, players tend to disregard their opponent holdings and get stubborn. This is a common trap players get into.

Consider, a hand:

You get to a flop:

Your hand looks pretty good in isolation, top pair and flush draw. However, when action gets going 3 way here, what are they likely to have? A straight, two pair and a set are the likely hands, all of which we are doing badly against.

The best way to avoid this trap to try and get to later round cheaply. Don’t invest too much on the flop as you may find yourself pot committed with a weaker hand.

Not Caring the Board Paired

An expert player is always wary of the paired board ruining their two pair, straight or flush. This is a trap that professionals have less trouble with. They’ve played enough to realise when their hand can no longer be good. For beginners and intermediate players, this is a frequent trap. Hand strength is relative to the board texture, opponents involved and action developing. If you flopped a low straight and the board run out pairs the board, sometimes your opponents have just filled up. This is what a lot of people consider a bad beat, when it isn’t at all. If your opponent had a flopped set, they have a decent shot at beating a straight by the river.

I am not advocating every time the board pairs, that would be awful. Instead, consider just calling a river bet in position and check/deciding from out of position.

Not Giving Credit for River Check Raise

The river check raise is one of the most powerful post flop poker moves in Texas Hold’em. It is also one of the rarest poker bluffs made. Only the bravest of experts perform this bluff with any kind of regularity. With this in mind, you should be employing very tight calling ranges when facing a river check raise. I think calling a river check raise is probably the biggest trap players fall into. They just can’t bring themselves to fold. If you’ve bet your hand all the way until the river and your opponent wants to check raise it. Nine times out often they are doing so for value. They want to extract maximum value out of you so if you’re there with top pair, you need a very good reason to call it.

To avoid this trap, I recommend using pot odds diligently and applying conservative estimates to their bluffing frequency. If you need to be good 25% of time to make the call, it may seem lucrative odds, but what is the true bluffing % of your opponent in that spot? Are they really check raise bluffing you more than 25% of the time here?

If you are keen to learn the river check raise bluff, our poker bluffing course has a module dedicated to it. Click below for more information.

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Iso-Raising in Poker – A Complete Guide

Iso-Raising in Poker

There’s lots of different ways to exploit weak players at the poker table. Most of it is through post-flop skill but a key part of beating weak players is getting them heads up. It helps your chances of winning the pot there and then, and you also have better chance of making the best hand when you’re facing just one instead of taking the hand multi-way. In this article, we will explore what iso-raising in poker is, why it’s done and how to do it effectively from different positions.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is an Iso-Raise in Poker?

An iso-raise or isolation raise is where you raise pre-flop, typically over a limper. The raise is intended to “isolate” that opponent and take the flop heads up, or win it without contest pre-flop. It is a move routinely used by winning players at most stakes in cash games and tournaments too.

Who to Iso-Raise Against?

The iso-raise is something you want to do against weak passive players. You know the type. The players at the table that like to play more than ½ their hands and are quite happy playing limp in poker. They are playing to hit hands and hope to win big. Each hand they are dealt is like a new lottery ticket and like the lottery, you can make their chances of winning very slim. By isolating these players heads up, you can take control of the pot and be the aggressor.

Controlled aggression is a good way of looking at it. Once you are in control of the pot, you are master of the pot size, whether you are taking free cards, value betting, bluffing and semi bluffing. It’s a great position to be in and it’s why you will see professionals frequently trying to iso-raise a weak player in a pot.

The 3 Bet Iso-Raise

Not all weak players are passive limpers. Many have a distorted view of Texas Hold’em that is likely brought on by watching YouTube clips of Phil Ivey or Tom Dwan. They think they can get away with playing lots of hands, playing aggressively and turning a big profit. It doesn’t occur to them that there’s probably 1 in 100 people that can adopt such a strategy successfully. As such, they will be losing most hands they contend. Full ring poker rarely rewards those who enter every pot, no matter how aggressive you think you can be.

An effective counter strategy to these bad LAGs is to 3 bet their opens. It serves the same point as isolating limpers but with obvious differences; the pot is bigger and your opponent is likely to be more stubborn or bluffy. The 3 bet iso raise is something you can only really employ in cash games or deep stacked tournaments. Otherwise, you will find yourself in massive pots very quickly and may be stacking off lighter than you hoped. The 3 bet iso-raise is something that has grew in popularity in recent years due to the increased aggression. It was not even an expression when I first played online poker.

Iso-Raise Bet Sizing

Size matters…When it comes to poker, you need to have solid bet sizing strategy. You need to ask yourself is the size of your bet accomplishing what you want? If it is, well done, if it isn’t, take a look at your sizing and reconsider what you are doing. An iso-raise needs to get the pot one on one or win it outright. Given that someone has already entered the pot, you need to forget about small ball bet sizing as it won’t help you out. The table below is a guide to bet sizing for iso-raises. Please note it doesn’t take into account multiple limpers. To factor this in, just add an extra big blind per opponent in the pot.

PositionBet Size
Early to Mid Position4 Big Blinds
Late Position 4.5 Big Blinds
Small Blind 5 Big Blinds
Big Blind 5 Big Blinds

Our sizing adjusts based on the position we iso-raising from. Iso-raising from early or middle position is not ideal as we have lots of players to act behind us. If you are going to raise over the limper from here, you should have strong hand. Four big blinds should be enough to dissuade callers but not invest too much in case someone behind you has a premium hand.

Conversely, from later position, you can increase your sizing a little to pick up the pot right now. You can also widen your range from later position and improve your chances of winning the pot before the flop.

Finally, you want to increase your raise from the blinds to 5 big blinds. This may seem large but in reality, you won’t be raising liberally from here. Secondly, a smaller raise won’t accomplish anything. Once one calls, the rest of the table find themselves calling with favourable odds. For this reason, we need to punish the limpers and charge more for the privilege of playing in position on us.

What Hands to Iso-Raise With?

You will want to iso-raise with all your strong hands from any position. You can throw in 2nd tier strong hands like king queen, ace ten and middle pocket pairs from middle position. From the cut-off and button, you can open your range significantly. Provided you are comfortable playing pots with less than premium hands, I recommend iso-raising with suited aces, suited and gapped connectors and even small pairs. Remember, the point of the raise is two fold; win it now or play the pot heads up against a weaker player with the aggression. If it does either, you’re on your way to winning poker.


Iso-raising is a great strategy but a raise on it’s own pre-flop won’t win the pot all the time. You need to navigate post-flop effectively otherwise there’s no point. In order to iso-raise profitably, you must have a solid grasp of continuation betting and pot control. You can’t just c-bet every flop and expect to win. We have a continuation bet course that can help you understand it properly. Click below for more information.

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4 Advanced Poker Plays You Should Be Using

Advanced Poker Plays

Poker is a straightforward game, for the most part. Most winning players at micro and low stakes are playing their own style that serves them well. They play that way and it’s enough to win and they’re happy with it. However, as you play more and move up stakes, “standard” or solid poker, will not be enough.

You will need to reach into your bag of tricks and find new moves to help you beat the opposition. With new ideas comes risk and advanced poker plays come with risk too. This article will look at four advanced poker plays one can use in Texas Hold’em. 

1)The Turn Re-Raise Bluff 

The turn re-raise bluff is one of the rarest bluffs in Texas Hold’em. I ask most of the players I mentor, how often do you raise the turn on a bluff, and the answer is always “rarely” or even “never”. It’s arguably one of the most successful bluffs to execute but so few tend to use it. Most players either make their bluff on the flop or on the river when the action closes.   

The turn re-raise bluff works well against players capable of folding medium to weak strength hands. The turn re-raise is a very strong signal of strength. After all, it is later in the hand and to raise the turn will likely be costly. Most players are raising the turn because they want to build the pot for value and charge their opponent to outdraw.  
To execute the turn re-raise bluff, you need to ensure you are playing deep stacked games, have pegged your opponent on a weak or medium strength hand (i.e. no stronger than top pair with weak kicker). It also works well if the turn card favours your range. For instance, you called a flop continuation bet on a perceived draw, and the draw card hits on the turn. One of the modules in the Texas Hold’em Questions poker bluffing course is dedicated to the turn re-raise bluff.


 2) Smooth Calling Big Pairs 

This play gained some popularity a few years ago but is used far less nowadays. It’s a fantastic play to use in aggressive games because players will stack off far lighter than you think. If you are dealt pocket aces or pocket kings and flat call an initial raise, someone behind you with a hand like ace-queen or pocket tens will often put in a raise. Some players even squeeze lightly, incorrectly sensing weakness on your part. Thus, when the initial raiser folds and action is back on you.  
It’s an advanced poker play as few players have the patience to smooth call big pocket pairs.  Smooth calling is a tricky play too. Sometimes it means you’re going to have to play post flop with a big pair, potentially multi-way. It’s only worth doing, if you have aggressive players behind you, something that is common on poker sites in America and Europe too.

3) The 4 Bet Bluff 

This is a more common bluff among the advanced players. Twenty years ago and it was practically unheard of! As poker became more aggressive and players started understanding “ranges”, they found new and innovative ways to win pots pre-flop. Now, when you open from the button and the blinds 3 bet, you may opt for a 4 bet bluff. The logic behind it is sound. If your opponent is a light 3 bettor, you can start to incorporate 4 bet bluffing as part of your overall strategy.  
The 4 bet bluff works well when stacks are deeper, when you have decent image and if you’ve not shown down any light 4 bet shoves already.  

4)The Over-bet Shove Bluff 

I’ve mentioned the value of over-bets in a previous article and I stand by it. The over-bet bluff is used by expert and novice but the difference is why and when. Context is everything in poker and executing this over-bet shove bluff correctly is very satisfying and rewarding.  

To pull of this bet without getting called, you need to have your opponent read for a hand that is no stronger than top pair. It will usually involve betting every street, although it’s not 100% necessary. As long as the board run out is favourable to your perceived range and your opponent is capable of folding, go for it. The reason why it’s better than just an 80% pot bet is because players pot control and more likely to make a hero call if it is just a normal bet. By overbetting, you significantly help your chances of a fold as you’re giving them a terrible price. People often think you have a super strong hand hoping to get called or don’t have much themselves, shrug and fold, thinking you are a bad player.  

Final Thoughts on Advanced Poker Plays  

There’s nothing wrong playing a solid game and playing careful. Often, that is enough to win at poker so there’s not much reason to deviate from that. However, there are times when you will be up against strong opponents. Against them, you need to have a advanced plays to rely on to help your chances. I hope you consider using some of these advanced plays in the future, and you pull them off.  

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Sick of a Short Stack? Try the Stop and Go Poker Play

Stop and Go Poker

Tournament poker is a minefield. It requires multiple skills to navigate your way through it, chip up and ultimately bink a win. Unfortunately, tournament poker also involves you playing a short stack sometimes. It’s not what we want but its inevitable, you will get short stacked in tournaments. Getting your stack back up to average or better can be challenging. You have to know push/fold strategy and either run good to hold up to get back in the game.

One move that can help you chip back up is the stop and go play. It’s a highly effective tournament move when exercised properly. This article will explain what the stop and go poker play is and when to use it , so you are better prepared next time you play a low to mid stakes poker tournament.

What is the Stop and Go Play?

It is where a player calls a raise from the blinds, committing a decent amount of his stack and then shoves the flop. The idea behind this is that if you re-shove pre-flop, you have less fold equity as most raising hands will have lucrative price to call. By flat-calling pre-flop and shoving on the flop, you reduce the chance of getting a call slightly. Your opponent is only going to make a pair around 30% of the time. Secondly, if they have a small pair, they may fold when all overcards flop.

The stop and go play is a great move for low stakes tournaments as you can increase your stack a significant % without actually being all in and called.

Example Hand

You are short-stacked with 2,000 chips. The blinds are 150/300 and you are in the big blind holding:

Everyone folds to the cut-off who raises to 800, they fold to you in the big blind.

If we re-raised all in here, our opponent would certainly call. He only has to call 1,200 more for a pot of almost 3,000. However, you decide to flat call.

You move all in on the flop of:

Consider the situation for your opponent. He has to call 1,200 for 2,950. If he has anything less than a jack, he may pause for thought. Consider a hand like pocket 5s. If he thinks we have hit or have a higher pair, he is drawing very slim to just 2 outs and have around 8% chance. Or, he may have an ace high hand like A-10 and fold too. Our opponent folding has resulted in:

  • Avoiding an all in pre flop showdown
  • Winning the pot without contest
  • Increasing our stack almost 50% without being all in and called

Key Points to Remember

The stop and go play is great but you need certain ingredients in order to pull it off, otherwise you are just giving away precious chips. You need to do it when you’re short stacked (there’s no point doing this with a decent stack). It must be done out of position so you can act first after the flop. You also need to make sure that the pot is heads up.

Risking this play against multiple opponents is a disaster. The more people in the pot, the greater chance someone has hit and will call you. It’s also better best to do this with hands you think are questionable and are either a coin flop to your opponents, or behind. There’s no value to this play if you actually have a premium hand like ace king or pocket aces.

You are best served doing this at low to mid stakes. Most high stakes tournament players are familiar with this move and will make the post flop call more liberally. It also works better on the softer sites, allgamblingsites.com offers a great sportsbook review service and it’s well known that sportsbook sites that offer poker are notoriously softer.

Final Thoughts

The stop and go poker play is a great tactic to use in tournaments. It’s another way to steal blinds and antes and keep yourself going. By employing this move, you may have a few more chips for your next all in and give you a platform for the rest of tournament. It’s a fun move to use and also feels good when you pick it up without a call.

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d like to read our poker tournament strategy tips or small ball articles. Alternatively, if you are interested in some poker support, fill in your email below and we will be in touch.

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“M” Poker Ratio for Tournaments

M Poker Ratio

Tournament poker can be very complex can’t it? There are so many aspects to tournament poker and very few all encompassing strategies. This is where “M” can help you. It’s a tournament poker concept that was named after the late Paul Magriel Jr, a professional poker player and author. In this article, we will explain the meaning of M poker, highlight its value in tournaments and hopefully provide some food for thought for you moving forward.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What does M-ratio mean in poker?

M Ratio is a measurement of how healthy our stack is relative to the blinds and antes. It’s basically a measurement of how long you can last before being blinded out of the tournament.

How Do I Calculate M-Ratio?

To calculate your M poker ratio. You simply divide your stack by the blinds and a full round of antes. So, if you have 25,000 and the blinds are 600/1,200 with an ante of 60 at a full ring table, your M would be 10.6 (25,000/ 600 + 1,200 + 540).

M poker

How Tournament Poker Strategy Changes Based on Your M

The value of knowing your M is that it helps your overall mentality, at a given time in the tournament. In theory, the healthier your stack, the more flexibility you have. You can play aggressively or conservatively. Dan Harrington’s tournament poker books identified various zones in which the value of M fit into. These zones help define the strategy one could employ to help their chances.

Value 20 + [Green Zone]

Wouldn’t it be lovely to always live in this zone? This is deep stack poker playing and allows you to pick and choose the hands you play. You can play suited connectors, set mine and make speculative plays. A little hit to your stack won’t cripple you.

Value 10 to 19 [Yellow Zone]

The blinds and antes put a bit more pressure on you here. You can’t get away with quite as many speculative calls but you’re still doing ok. No need to panic yet in this zone.

Value 6 to 9 [Orange Zone]

You can’t waste any chips here. Flat calling raises is out of the question. Every steal represents a decent increase to our stack so first in mentality is paramount. We won’t have to open shove just yet though.

Value 1 to 5 [Red Zone]

Time to start shoving. We have very little fold equity and need to get our chips in. It’s better to be the one shoving but either way, we need to be all in or folding.

Value under 1 [Dead Zone]

No fold equity and very little chips. Even a double up won’t be of much value. This is the zone we want to avoid at all costs as we are going to have to get lucky several times.

Final Thoughts on M Poker Ratio for Tournaments

Knowing your “M” is a great way to measure your stack and assess how you’re doing. It’s a really useful tool for tournament players who perhaps don’t realise how deep their stack size is. Sometimes you see tens of thousands and think you’re doing well. In reality, you may actually be desperate and need to be playing push fold poker.

I can attest to the value of using M in tournaments. I used to always have my calculator with me, working out what my M is and how I should be playing. With experience, you know it intuitively and there’s less need to stick to it religiously.

It’s also worth pointing out that “M” poker was coined decades ago and primarily for poker in casinos. Live poker was often slower and deeper stacked play. In online poker, stacks are generally more shallow and blinds go up quicker. The strategy still holds up pretty well today but it’s good to be aware of it’s limitations too.

If you are looking to improve your tournament game and open to poker training, why not trial our poker mentor service? You can also email me directly at info@texasholdemquestions.com or book in a free 30 minute consultation by clicking below.

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LAG Poker Style – How to Play Loose Aggressive Poker Profitably

LAG Poker
– The Dream Style?

Playing lots of pots is the dream. It’s more fun, intellectually challenging and potentially profitable too. It’s what most developing poker players aspire to. They want to play LAG poker well. This article will take a close look at what loose aggressive poker is, what it takes to play the style well, the pitfalls and what you can do to become a winning LAG.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a LAG in poker?

A “LAG” is a loose aggressive poker player. The most common trait of a LAG is seemingly playing lots of hands and playing them aggressively. A LAG is therefore the polar opposite of a nit – someone who is playing tight and often passively.

How Many Hands to Play?

A loose aggressive poker player has their own ideas about what hands they like, what hands are profitable and from where. The key to being a good LAG is to identify what hands YOU play well i.e. don’t overplay and be comfortable playing pre and post-flop. It’s fine to have your own recall to draw on but I recommend using proper poker software to analyse your game. Your personal memory is biased and not as reliable as data.

When it comes to the actual % of hands you are looking to play, it ought to vary based on the table composition. With other aggressive poker players to your left, it would be wise to counter that by playing a little tighter when out of position. Conversely, you can open raise wider on a tight table. Check out the opening range charts below for generic guidelines for opening hand ranges for a LAG poker player at full ring cash table (100 big blinds or deeper).

Early Position Opening Range

A LAG can play up to 26% of hands from early position.

Middle Position Opening Range

A LAG might open raise around 33-35% of hands from middle position.

Late Position Opening Range

A LAG will play well over 58% of hands from late position. The graph above is actually a little conservative as many LAGS will play hands like Q-7 suited.

Tips on How to Play LAG Poker Well

First things first. Before you even consider adopting a loose aggressive poker style, you need to be profitable already. You don’t run before you can walk do you? Otherwise you will keep falling. This is true for profitable poker.

Master a simpler style before trying the complex. In other words, ensure you are profitable playing a tight aggressive (TAG) style of poker first. Once you’ve got 6 + months of profits behind you and lots of hands, then consider the looser style.

Tip 1: Mental Toughness

A LAG style is inherently more volatile and likely to result in a few more swings than a tighter brand of poker. This means you need to be mentally tough to take the bad times. You need to have faith in your system and style and keep with it, provided you are playing well. Don’t beat yourself up if you lose money in a spot where you wouldn’t as a TAG and don’t be results orientated in the short term either.

Tip 2: Abuse the Tighter Games

Playing loose aggressive poker means winning lots of nothing pots. Steal the blinds all day if the tight regulars won’t fight back. It may seem a little boring but trust me, over time, it’s worth it and will help you win rate. You are also creating the table image you are wild. This will help you get paid off in the future.

Tip 3: Don’t Become Spewy

Playing this style will sometimes put you in spots you don’t want to be in. Facing a 3 bet, you may have to call more hands than you would in the past. There is a fine line between an ok call and a bad, spewy call. Remember, not every LAG is a good LAG. If you want to be a good LAG, stay on the well-timed aggressive side of the spectrum, not the spewy side.

Tip 4: Get Pots Heads Up

LAG poker works best when you are one on one. There’s no question that it is easier to win pots heads up than it is with more opponents. It’s common sense. Luckily there are lots of cash games where players are just playing ABC solid poker. This is perfect for a good LAG poker player to exploit as you can iso-raise and get players one on one.

Tip 5: Adapt to the Table

A good LAG cash game player knows when to make adjustments and modify how they play. Fighting fire with fire is rarely the optimal strategy. If you are getting 3 bet regularly from cut-off against the button, 4 bet or play a little tighter. Don’t do the same thing and expect different results like lots of players are. Adjust and adapt to the table and situation.

Tip 6: Be Aware of Your Image

Your table image is critical when it comes to decision making on later rounds. Your opponent’s propensity to bluff or hero call you is likely to be based on your table image. This is what you have conveyed to your table, for that session. Be aware of it and take it into account when making key decisions. You may have played 30/28 yesterday but today you may be playing 22/15 and appear very solid. This difference in perception could be massive to an opponent.

What are the Pitfalls of Being a LAG?

You play poker to win. You’re reading this article because you want to be a good LAG poker player or you want to learn more about the LAG poker style. It wouldn’t be fair to only show you the good side of this style. There are many, many bad LAG players online and in casinos. These are the players that think they have poker solved, but are long term losers. Worse than that, they are the worst type of loser, deluded and likely to be big losers. The list below highlights the common pitfalls to avoid.

Pitfall 1: Levelling Yourself

This happens to so many poker players. They think that just because they are playing more pots, they must make a hero call with second pair. Remember, you’re playing your game but so is the rest of the table. The reality is that most players, particularly at low stakes, are not adjusting enough and unlikely to be running a massive bluff. Certainly not as often as you may think.

Pitfall 2: Continuation Betting Multi-way Too Much

Wonders will never cease, when I see LAG players trying to push through continuation bets multiway like 80% of the time. This is just throwing money away. Remember, more people in the pot equates to more chance of someone having strong enough to continue. It’s the law of probability. This is not 30 years ago when a continuation bet would probably get a top pair weak kicker to fold. Don’t waste money needlessly continuation betting unfavourable boards multiway.

Pitfall 3 :Not Respecting Position Enough

Position is and will always be one of, if not the most important part of Texas Hold’em. You can open your ranges a bit and play more hands but you need to give position the respect it deserves. This might mean folding A-10 off suit to a 3 bet out of position, or folding a suited ace from under the gun at a tough table. The concept is clear and the results will bore out truth.

Pitfall 4: Ego, Unable to Move Tables

You need to leave your ego behind. A good LAG knows when the table is right and when it isn’t. A table of short stackers with other good LAGs is no good for you. You need the threat of post flop aggression and deep stacks to thrive. Be humble and recognise when you need to leave the table and find a profitable one.

Pitfall 5: Impatience

There are different types of patience. Setting up a massive bluff or getting the big pay off after stealing pots relentlessly is a form of patience. You can ill afford to be impatient as a LAG player. You’re pushing small edges and playing the long game.

Summary on LAG Poker

This article has concentrated on the good and bad sides of LAG poker. What it is to be a LAG, what skills you need, where you need to be and the things you need to avoid to pull it off. To sum up:

  • Be a winner first, with months and data behind you
  • Develop mental toughness to deal with swings
  • Play in tighter games & get pots heads up as often as possible
  • Adapt to the table and be aware of your table image, from session to session
  • Be patient and have faith in your game

I hope you found this article useful. If you are keen to learn more and develop into a good LAG in 2021, we’d love to hear from you and help you. We offer hand history reviews, coaching by email and Skype coaching. You can book in a free consultation with our head coach and director by click below.

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Poker Leaks and How to Fix Them

Poker Leaks Hurting Your Bankroll?

Nobody is perfect. This is a universal truth for the real world and poker world. Poker is a complex game that requires a wide range of skills. You are unlikely to be proficient in all of them. Perhaps your strengths mask your weaknesses. Or maybe you’re playing games that are soft enough that your poker leaks are not costing you lots of money. Either way, you have leaks in your poker game whether you want to admit it or not. This article will look at common poker leaks and potential solutions to help. Whilst you won’t ever be perfect, you can strive for it still.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a Poker Leak?

A leak is a part of a poker players game that they are particularly weak in. It leads to them consistently making errors that will cost them money in the long run.

Leak – Not Value Betting Thin Enough

This leak is more common than you imagine. Think of it this way, every time you check back a hand on the river which beats your opponent, you’ve allowed the worse hand a free showdown. Realistically, we can’t expect to value bet correctly 100% of the time but the point still stands. Think of your last session. How many times did you check back the best hand on the river? Expert players are experts because they realise the times when their hand is likely to be best and will try to extract value from it.

Solution – Make Small Value Bets on the River

The problem a lot of players make is wrongly assuming they don’t want to bet in case they get check-raised. Look, if your opponent is strong enough to check raise bluff the river, then kudos to him. That’s no reason to check back. In scenarios where you think you probably have best hand, throw out a 20% value bet. As you gain experience and find yourself getting paid off by weaker hands you will begin to take your game to the next level. You will be able to identify when you can value bet more even when it’s for thin value.

Leak – Calling Small 3 Bets Out of Position

Flat calling a small 3 bet out of position is one of the most common poker leaks players come to me with. They justify it by saying “I had odds” or “I won’t overplay post flop”. Either way, it’s a big poker leak that will hurt your bankroll in the long run. The scenario typically goes like this:

With blinds at $1/$2 in a full ring game, you make it $6 with Ks 9s from middle position, the cut-off (a strong regular) makes it $15 to go and action falls back on you.

This is one of them spots where you have a hand of value that you want to play but the context has now changed. You no longer have the aggression, are out of position against a strong opponent and likely to have the weaker hand.

Solution – Don’t be afraid to Fold

Most players continue here because they don’t want to appear weak or timid and end up flatting more than they should. Don’t be that player! Fold and move on to the next hand. Naturally, there are some hands where it’s profitable to call the 3 bet but often the ingredients are not there.

Every decision in poker can be converted to represent the long run. In the example with Ks 9s, you are spending an additional $9 before the flop. Disregarding what can be lost on the flop, turn and river for a moment, we can assume you will might win the pot 1 in 4? That means you are losing this pot 75% of the time. If this scenario or a similar one happens 4 times a month on average, you are losing $324 per year from this leak alone. You can do a lot of things with $324!

Leak – Open Limping Before the Flop

It’s staggering that there are still so many players adopting a limp in style of poker. It doesn’t work. You will find yourself getting bullied around and losing lots of big blinds by limp/calling or limp/folding. Players that open call before the flop usually do so to try and hit big on the flop. The truth is, you will only pair up one in three and even than you can’t assume your hand is best. This passive style of poker just doesn’t work. Have a look at our limp in poker article if you want a detailed analysis of why this style is bad.

Solution – Play Less Hands But More Aggressively

Instead of trying to limp with hands and hit your monster hand, play fewer hands but aggressively. This will mean you will win more pots before and after the flop and also earn more money when you do hit. It’s well established that a tight aggressive poker style can win money at low stakes and up.
Have you noticed the players that play fewer hands seem to be raising and winning the pots that they do contest? They usually have the positional advantage and mathematical advantage too.

Leak – Playing Too Many Hands

It’s irrelevant if you’re raising or not. If you are playing too many hands at 6 max or full ring poker, you are going to be spewing and leaking money all over the place. It’s practically impossible to play too many hands in heads up format but in the more popular 6 max and full ring games, you will get punished for open raising too much. You will find yourself getting 3 bet, playing against opponents with better cards and be out of position too often to expect to overcome this leak. No amount of skill post flop will counter act the fact you are playing poor cards. Other poker sites like BeastsOfPoker will attest to this too.

Solution – Slow down, Focus on Situation and Position

Poker rewards patient players in the long run. I am not advocating playing a nit style of poker but you need to pick your moments. You can afford to play a wider range of hands in the later positions, but if you’re opening hands like ace rag from under the gun, you’re in trouble. Slow down the aggression and you will find you get will get 3 bet less, face less resistance and will have a higher continuation bet success rate too.

Final Thoughts

This article has focused on 4 common poker leaks. There are loads more that may be appropriate to you, including poor bankroll management, no table selection, tilting, playing when tired and not bluffing enough. If you are a small winner or worse and would like to find out your leaks and resolve them, feel free to contact us at pokermentor@texasholdemquestions.com . We will help identify areas of your game that need working on and offer practical, timely advice to help fix your poker leaks.

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d like to read our article on “how to handle running bad” or “dealing with bad beats“.

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Suited Aces & How They Make You Money

Suited Aces

It’s a fine line between playing the right hands and too many. One of the biggest mistakes a beginner will make is overplaying ace rag but this article is focusing on suited aces. One of the hands that intermediate players probably fold too often and give up potential to earn a lot of money. This article will explore the benefits of suited aces, both in cash games and tournaments.

How to Play Suited Aces in Cash Games

Generally, you want to play suited aces in position and with deep stacks. There’s no use playing it out of position to a 3 bet because you won’t hit often enough to make it profitable. Instead, try to be the initial raiser or at least flat calling when you are likely to be the last person to act post-flop. A common thought is that it’s “bad” to flat call a raise these days but I am not of this opinion. Check out my cold call is ok article for breakdown of why.

With suited aces, you usually want to play top pair for 2 streets of value against a tight player, or value bet thinly for 3 streets if the board helps you against a loose player. This is very generic advice but the fact is, tight players are likely to have a low ace beat if they are check/calling flop, turn and river. The same is not true for a loose player. They often level themselves or are too stubborn to fold second pair. This makes betting small on the turn and/or river profitable. A bet of around 20% of the pot will often get called by worse.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What are Suited Aces?

Suited aces are where you have an ace and second card of the same suit e.g. ace of hearts and 5 of hearts.

Lower is Better

This may sound counter intuitive, particularly if you read our poker kicker article. The fact is, when you play suited aces, you are not necessarily playing it for kicker value. You either want to hit a flush or straight. This is not possible to do with both your hole cards if you hold an ace 6 through to 9. This means that the low suited aces (A-2 to A-5) are of more value to you. They work well because your hand is well disguised on low boards. Players don’t easily put you on A-3 or A-4.  They also work well when the flop comes with 2 of your kicker. Few can get away from an overpair when you have hit a heavily disguised 3 of a kind.

How to Play Suited Aces in Tournaments

Suited aces don’t have the same benefits in tournaments as they do in cash games. With shallower stacks comes less opportunity to play post flop poker. You can play suited aces for small raises from the blinds, early in the tournament or if you are raising from late position. They work well as a hand to steal the blinds with too as you have a blocker to an ace.

You can also look to 3 bet shove suited aces with less than 20 big blinds. If the initial raiser is opening from late position or is an active raiser and opening from middle position, you can profitably re-shove suited aces. Make sure you have decent fold equity though.

A suited ace will also work well in a limped pot. They can be a good hand to bluff catch top pair out of position or semi bluff flush or straight draws with. Consider a limped pot and having the nut flush draw. You have great equity to check raise or bet/shove with. An overcard and 9 outs to a flush means you are likely to be a coin flip if called. This makes suited aces one of the better hands to play in tournament poker. You can see how a tournament expert plays by becoming a training video member. If you read out latest poker review and register through us, you can get 75% off.

Final Thoughts

Many of the players I coach and mentor were never fans of suited aces, unless they had a big kicker. They often thought it was a leak to play them. Whilst beginners will make mistakes and bet too much or get stubborn with top pair, a confident, capable player can get away from tricky spots. A good player will also find great spots to make money with these hands.

Which are you? Are you earning lots of money in cash games with these hands and raking in lots of pots in tournaments too? If not, why not book in a free consultation with us? You can chat to our head coach for 30 minutes absolutely free. To book in a slot, click below.

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