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 and 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 probably 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 and 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, you can profitable 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.

Final Thoughts

Many of the players I coach and mentor were never fans of 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, feel free to get in touch with us at pokermentor@texasholdemquestions.com and I can help you.

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Poker Tournament Strategy Tips for 2020

Poker Tournament Strategy

Whether you’re playing micro stakes tournaments or the Sunday Million – you need to know what you’re doing to have a chance at winning. That seems obvious right? But trust me, there are too many players entering tournaments with no clue. That’s great news for you though cos it mean’s poker is not dead, despite what you hear. This article is going to give you poker tournament strategy tips that can be used to increase your cash rate, final tables and wins.

Don’t stop stealing the blinds

Tournament poker regs seem to nit it up and count on making it deep with premium hands. Don’t be one of them. Stay active, keep stealing the blinds from late position and don’t give up. A lot of poker sites are advocating the slow down approach but that’s what your opponents want. Regs are playing too many tables, not paying enough attention and missing profitable spots to steal the blinds. Tournament poker will always reward those who are able to consistently steal blinds and keep their stack alive.  The fact that people are defending their blinds loosely should not make you fold more often in late position. Why? You have position. You have the advantage in a hand, even if your hand is weaker. Never forget that.

Pre-flop bet sizing

Consistency is very important when it comes to raising pre-flop. It’s fine if you want to make it 2.5x then stick with that. Please don’t change it based on hand strength. It’s 2020 and even the most basic of poker players will notice and instantly tag you. If you are a poker training video membership member, you’ll know my preference re’ pre-flop bet sizing but I will re-iterate it here non-members.

Early Position Min Raise

When I’m raising from early position, I lack information on the rest of the table. I want to open raise if I play but I also want to steal cheaply and/or keep the pot smaller against my opponents that flat in position. I also have no problem with it folding to the big blind and them calling a min raise. In fact, I welcome it. I will have position, a better hand and have increased the pot a little. My hand range is likely to be stronger than theirs and I have the pre-flop aggression.

Middle Position 2.2x

With fewer opponents behind us, I am happy to increase the sizing a bit and play a slightly bigger pot against the blinds. I don’t want to raise too much as I am still potentially acting first post-flop if someone in position calls. I am also slightly dissuading the blinds to call which is no bad thing in tournaments. I am likely to have a wider range from here so I have no problem with them just folding.

Late Position 2.5x

This may seem counter intuitive to some. Why raise more with a wider range? I want to play bigger pots when I have positional advantage. Sure, sometimes I will be light but sometimes I will be strong too. I want to charge the blinds more than the minimum to play against my wider range. By making it 2.5x I am also protecting myself against 3 bet bluffs a little more. Consider a min raise from the button. The big blind is far more likely to 3 bet bluff that than a bigger raise.

Notice – my pre-flop raises changes based on position – it doesn’t change based on hand strength. Therefore, it is logically consistent as I am raising 2.5x from late position with A-A and K-6s.

Defend the big blind

Everyone and their dog are loving the small ball approach these days. The standard small raise is popular and with good reason – it works. One of the results of this is that you have to defend your big blind more. It means calling raises with hands you won’t necessarily want to but pot odds and solid poker tournament strategy dictate you must. Let’s look at a quick example to illustrate this.

Blinds – 600/1,200 (antes 120)
Player A- 42,500
You – 36,900

It folds to Player A on the button. He is a capable tournament player. He raises to 2,500. The small blind folds and the action is on you. Before even looking at your hand, let’s do some poker maths.

Pot – (1,080 antes, 1,800 in blinds + 2,500) = 5,380
Cost to call – 1,300
Equity needed to call – 19.4%

As you can see, you need to defend super wide in this spot. You just can’t afford to fold too many hands when you are getting these kind of prices in big blind.

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3 Bet with 30 bbs +

Tournament poker is often playing shorter stacks and less “poker” playing but that doesn’t mean you must play shove or fold poker. You don’t want to 3 bet bluff with short effective stacks cos it means the 4 bet from your opponent will always be all in. With slightly deeper stacks though (30 bbs+), you can afford to 3 bet bluff and take away a lot of pots. Poker tournament strategy is usually to attack short stacks. Screw that, 3 bet bluff the bigger stacks. I find that the big stacks are just as protective as the shorter stacks, if not more. It also means you can potentially get the last bet in if they decide to 4 bet. Good spots for 3 betting are when the raise has come from middle or late position.

CAUTION – Avoid 3 bet bluffing when they are raising from under the gun or UTG +1 as their range is likely to be tighter.

Learn continuation betting strategy

This article is dedicated to poker tournament strategy, not continuation betting but the fact is, c betting is an important part of tournament poker. You need to understand which boards favour your perceived range and what favours your opponent. A lot of players waste chips throwing out foolish continuation bets. You need to appreciate board texture, number of opponents and stack sizes when choosing whether to continuation bet or not. If you want more help with continuation betting, check out our article on the do’s and don’ts of continuation betting.

Isolate the limper(s)

An oldie but goody. Raising over a limper or limpers is still a very profitable play. It’s crazy to think there are still players that adopt this limp in mentality, but it’s great for us. If people want to try and limp into the pot with pocket 3s or A-9 offsuit, that’s fine, we will take their blinds all day. In some scenarios, it may seem prudent to over-limp but most of the time, just raise it 4x and win it. If they call, you can often just win it with a flop bet anyway. It’s a great way to build a stack in tournament poker and is also good for your table image as people. This might help you get paid later in the tournament.

Practice heads up poker

Many tournaments end in deals being done but what if yours doesn’t? What if you’re against a tough player or someone unwilling to deal. You need to know how to play 1 on 1. After all, if you want to win the tournament you have to beat the last opponent. Heads up is a great poker format. Some basic heads up tips are below:

  • Raise every button
  • Bet most flops
  • Check raise more
  • Bluff catch 2nd pair down
  • Stay on top of your opponent, don’t let up
  • Don’t show bluffs

Join Poker Training Video Membership

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Cold Call in Poker is Still Ok

Cold Call in Poker

Poker is continuously evolving. With it, comes new ideas that catch on and new ways of playing that appear revolutionary. Sometimes a new idea can be amazing and the best thing since sliced bread. Other times it’s awful but people don’t like to say it is or perhaps don’t see it. One idea circulating around poker the last year or two is the idea that one should never be making a cold call in poker cash games. This concept has resonated with many players and convinced people to alter strategy radically. This article will look at the problems with only re raising or folding and reasons why a cold call is perfectly fine.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a cold call in poker?

It’s where a player calls an initial pre flop raise when he/she was not invested. It’s commonly associated with a player who calls after a raise and call or raise and 3 bet.

3 Betting too much

To advocate only ever folding or 3 betting means you are going to have to 3 bet a lot of hands. Let’s say you have pocket 3s facing an early position raise from a tight player. Are you seriously thinking a 3 bet is good here? You will likely face 4 bets or being called by big pairs. The very best scenario you can hope for is that your opponent has AK/AQ and will be kind enough to flat call, then miss, and check down with you. By choosing to only ever play 3 bet or fold poker, you will be 3 betting far too much. Attentive players will pick up on this and can drastically widen their 4-bet range. Sure, you’ll get more action but you will also lose a lot of money in 3 bets.

High Variance

Professionals are unanimous that variance and luck is the enemy of the winning player. The best players are not casino gamblers looking to flip coins and put all their money in bad shape. They want to make money on the back of good decision making. Employing a style that involves only playing pots that are 3 bet pots leads to bigger pots on the flop and more volatility. If you are happy to play this style, more power to you, but ensure you have a very large bankroll when you do.

Knocking out the fishes?

By never making a cold call in poker, you’re likely to only ever play heads up pots. You’re also eliminating the chance to play with other weaker players at the table. This is true on most sites, particularly the American ones. Our friends USA poker site list can help you find these. I accept that your equity in a hand drops the more players that are involved, but you’re less invested and should welcome playing pots with bad players. Why would you want to make them fold ace rag or K9 by 3 betting the reg at the table? It makes no sense to me.

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Poker is a people game. It’s fluid and unpredictable. If everyone took to a never cold calling mentality, poker may as well be played by robots.

Let’s look at 4 reasons why making a cold call in poker is not just fine, but actually better than only 3 betting or folding.

Cheap flops

Don’t you love playing poker? Being involved in hands like J9 suited for just a couple blinds? I love being able to play hands that are speculative and trying to make a hand that can bust a donkey. If you decide to never cold call, you will either be 3 betting and trying to win it pre flop or just folding. No more cheap flops.

Playing poker in position

One of my favourite things about Texas Hold’em is playing post flop poker, in position. Even if you told me my opponent had me crushed before the flop. It doesn’t matter too much to me, if stacks are deep and I have position. If you are choosing to never cold call in poker, you are going to play less pots in position. Bad players will call your 3 bets and you will get to play more, but it isn’t the same is it? You may have enough money to get to the turn and have a pot sized bet left. It’s not real poker and you’re not taking advantage of the informational advantage position gives you. You’re wasting position.

Multi-way poker improves you

Making a cold call in poker entices other players to enter the pot. I will often think to throw away 4-6 suited to a single raise but want to call if another player calls in front of me. Players don’t love playing multi-way, and with good reason, but it does improve you as a player. Being in lots of different scenarios, with different opponents and stack sizes is beneficial to your personal poker development. These situations will make you a better player. The more experience you get, the more accustomed, less nervous and more proficient you will be overall. Do you want to become a one trick pony or an all-round player? Are you competent heads up? Out of position? Playing from the blinds?

Setting traps

Making a cold call in poker can be a way of trapping. It’s fine to occasionally flat call a monster hand, knowing you may get a squeeze from one of the regs, or perhaps a fish overplaying a weaker hand. It’s a great way to mislead your opponents and disguise your hand. Player’s never give you credit for aces or kings when you flat call. Trust me. If you call an initial raise with aces and someone 3 bets behind you with jacks, they rarely fold and often jam thinking you have 8s/9s and taking a stand against a squeeze. I appreciate that the 3-bet strategy can be setting a trap if you over use the 3 bet but it’s a more costly one. If you don’t get squeezed, its not the end of the world. Playing a flop with a big pair isn’t so bad.

Final comments

I am a big fan of calling raises still in poker. Of course, there are situations when it’s better to re raise or fold, but not universally. It’s a waste of value for suited connectors, low pairs, and low suited aces. Why would you give up the value of hands that play beautifully post flop? Hands that rely on investing little to win lots? A day may come when I am proved wrong on this issue. For now, I will be on the its ok to cold call in poker bandwagon. If you have any comments or feedback, please feel free to get in touch with us.

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Stealing the Blinds – How to do it in 2020

Stealing the Blinds

It’s one of the most important skills to develop as a tournament player – stealing the blinds. Players don’t seem bothered about stealing the blinds early on. However, soon as the blinds and antes rise and represent more value, the best players are fighting over them. It’s a skill that will help your in the money rate and ultimately your long-term profitability in tournament poker. When I started playing online, it was a secretive thing that was not discussed. Most players did it without divulging the information. Even in live tournaments, you’d steal from the button, the big blind would show just an ace and you’d muck… but claim a better hand. Things are a little different now but it’s still a critical skill to learn and implement on European, Asian and USA friendly poker sites.

How Can I Keep Stealing the Blinds in 2020?

Sometimes stubbornness and being relentless is a good thing in poker. I see players attempt a couple of steals, get 3 bet and go into a shell. They have the mentality that they will tighten up, hope to get 3 bet again, yet still get paid. There are worse things to do but it’s not great strategy in my book (I haven’t actually authored a book yet!). I always tell players to continue with what you think is right. People seem to forget the beauty of the small open raises. It allows you to raise more frequently as you need a lower success % for it to be profitable. Why bother raising so small if you are only doing it with the top 15% of hands? To answer the question though, we can try several things.

Stealing the blinds

3 Bet the Cut-off from the Button

Players know that the button is the prime spot for stealing, so many players are widening their range from cut-off instead. It looks like threatening doesn’t it when you see a raise from there? Guess what? A lot of players know this and are effectively “stealing the button”. A simple counter play is to 3 bet from the button. The beauty in this play is that cards are almost irrelevant and it has a high success rate. Yes, there are players that pick up on this if you do it too much but these are few and far between. This works best against those who have demonstrated a lot of activity from the cut-off but even against solid players it can be profitable. Consider a tight player in the cut-off with A-9. They will gladly open raise this but fold without question. The best part of the 3 bet in this spot is that most people are less inclined to play 3 bet pots out of position so a lot will just fold pre flop.

Min Raise from Early Position

This is a tricky play that should be used sporadically and only with the right table makeup. A min raise from early position screams strength to most online players. They respect early position and the min raise too. By opening raising the minimum from under the gun, you are telling the table you want action and this sends alarm signals. You might be surprised how often this play will get through. Sometimes you get the big blind defend but even then, it’s ok, you have the perception of strength and position. A continuation bet will work a high amount of the time in this situation.

Attack the Small Blind

A great spot to pick up chips is actually in blind battles, specifically if you’re the big blind. The psychology involved in blind battles is fascinating but it boils down to aggression and position. If the small blind raises, you know, that he knows, you have a random hand and is likely stealing. Now you know that, you can just 3 bet him and likely win. What if he limps? Raise again, you know he probably would have raised himself if he had something so just bet and pick it up. Blind battles are less about hand strength and more about wanting that pot.

Take the Nothing Pots

Online poker may not be as easy as it was, but there is still a heck of a lot of favourable spots in tournaments. There is an abundance of nothing pots around. Pick them up throughout a tournament and you will increase your chances of success. It doesn’t take much, just bet at them and see. Most players are not giving the game enough attention. Perhaps they see a 4 big blind pot and don’t care or maybe they are watching Netflix. They are probably playing too many tables and only playing their cards. Take advantage of these nothing pots. I mean the pots where it’s a limped pot, it’s checked round and maybe you’re in the big blind with nothing. Take a stab and win the free chips.

Don’t Stop Raising Your Button

The last tip I can give is the simplest of all. Don’t stop raising your button. Soon as you stop, you’re beat and only waiting for luck to help you. People may 3 bet you, but they won’t every time. If they start 3 betting too much, that’s fine, they are risking more than you are. You can choose to take a stand with a lesser hand and make him show you better or you can play patient. The reality is, the small open raise is still incredibly profitable from the button. A competent post flop player won’t mind the blinds calling and is also happy to steal the blinds. Either way, you’re golden in the long run. Keep opening your button and don’t give up.

Stealing the Blinds Summary

Blind stealing is essential to being a successful tournament player. It reduces the variance and ensures you’re not just relying on good cards to see you through. The best tournament players are looking for profitable scenarios, not just profitable cards. This means thinking on your feet, adapting and perhaps being innovative. This may mean 3 betting the cutoff, trying a tricky minimum raise from early position or pounding on the small blind. These are all little strategies that you can incorporate into your game to help you have a better chance of surviving the increasing blinds.

If you enjoyed this article and want help with your tournament game. Feel free to trial our poker mentor service by email. Month 1 is only £50.

Poker Hand Reading Tips

Introduction to Poker Hand Reading

Poker hand reading is an intuitive, logical process of narrowing your opponents range down as much as you can with the information available. It’s about reading your opponent’s cards without physically seeing them. Believe it or not, many professionals can do this with relative ease against certain types of opponents. Daniel Negreanu has made a career from promoting his poker hand reading ability, whilst he is unquestionably gifted at it, many a professional can do likewise but aren’t afforded the same stage to advertise this skill or choose to stay quiet and rake in the money instead.

Narrowing an Opponent’s Hand Range

Poker hand reading is a process of elimination, not guess work. It involves ruling out as many hands a possible to arrive at your opponents likely holding. The way you narrow an opponent’s range of hands is by looking at the context of the situation, their position, their history, their table image and the actions they are taking in the hand to make informed, logical conclusions.  For instance, in a full ring table, with a tight player opening from under the gun, we can eliminate the vast majority of hands available to a list consisting of pocket 5s and up, any big suited ace and KQs. This information is invaluable as we can almost play any two cards in a deep stacked game against this type of opponent, cherry picking boards to take the pots away.

Remember There are 4 Rounds of Betting

The key thing to poker hand reading is remembering that as each round of betting is completed, more information is being given to you by your opponent. This means by the time you reach the river; you should be confident putting your opponent on some likely hands, based on how the hand has developed. There’s a lot to poker hand reading, its more complex than other forms of gambling where it’s mostly chance. If this is more your bag then look online for the best payout casinos. Reading your opponent takes experience, critical thinking and poker instinct.

poker hand reading
Image by freepik.com

Example Hand

Context

It is a cash game with $1-$2 blinds. Player A has $350 and you have $420.
Player A is a small ball type player, keen to attack a lot of pots but doesn’t get too involved or generate big pots unless he is very strong. You have a solid image.

It folds to Player A who opens to $7 on button, you make the call from the SB with As Ts.

The flop comes Jc 8s 4s
You check, and he checks.

At this point, we have some information. He raised before the flop when folded to him on the button. This is not very helpful; we know he will probably raise many hands here so nothing valuable here. On the flop however he has checked back on this board heads up. The fact he has not bet this flop heads up is unusual. A small baller will often continuation bet heads up to take down the pot or extract value. By checking back, we can reasonably assume he has neither a monster hand like two pair, overpair or three of a kind but he probably doesn’t have completely nothing either. If he had nothing, he would be more inclined to continuation bet. This leads me to think he could have a big ace which missed, an 8, a 4 or a pocket pair between 4 and 9 that he is pot controlling.

Turn 7d
We check again and he bets $10.

This is an interesting spot. What hands can we put our opponent on here? I would say he has played his hand like an 8 at this point. It’s possible he checked back the flop with a 7 9s type hand and now has a 7 and 5-6 is possible, although unlikely as I would expect him to bet the flop with that hand. At this point, with our nut flush draw, I anticipate people will often call the turn here, check the river and our opponent will check back for showdown value. We could consider a check raise? By check raising, we give ourself a good chance to win the pot now or make our hand on the river. We also are likely to get hands like 5-5/6-6, a 7 and an an 8 to fold. After all, we have shown immense strength by check raising the turn here and it’s entirely plausible we have three of a kind or a AJ type hand here.

We actually call.

River – Ah
We check and he checks.

Before he turns over his hand, we can feel pretty confident he is going to show a hand like 8-10/7-9/Pocket 5s or Pocket 6s. How do we know this? What other hands is he likely to have that will check back flop, bet turn for protection/value and check back river?

He mucks and you win the pot.

Poker Hand Reading Considerations

The most important things when poker hand reading is knowing your opponents tendencies, knowing the types of hands they play and having an awareness of how they perceive you. By combining these factors, you can often arrive at a likely range of hands your opponent will hold. When you couple this with bet sizing and pot odds, it becomes even simpler. Remember, you can’t become an expert over night. It takes experience and hard work but it will be worth it.


Deep Stack Poker 4 Reasons to Love it

Introduction to Deep Stack Poker

A cash game with 200 big blinds or more and a slow-paced tournament (1 hour or more blind intervals), where you start with 200 big blinds or more is generally considered deep stack poker. It is the opposite to the turbo paced tournaments available online and the short stack cash games around too.

1)Flexibility to Make Moves

Poker shouldn’t just be about learning how to play the short stack in a tournament. Deep stack poker affords players the opportunity to make advanced plays, big bluffs and try sophisticated lines in hands that short stack poker just doesn’t allow you to. If you try a check raise bluff with less than 15 big blinds, you’ve committed all your chips rendering the play useless.

deep stack poker
Photo by Steve Benedict

2)Implied Odds

With stacks deeper, you can take a few more risks before the flop and play hands you don’t get the opportunity to usually. This is why you see people calling raises with three six suited on high stakes poker against the fish at the table. They are risking a few big blinds to potentially win everything the live one has in front of them.

3)Improves You as a Player

By playing with larger stacks, you will find yourself in tricky, awkward and challenging scenarios that you won’t be accustomed to. Experience generally makes people better at things, by gaining experience in lots of different scenario, you will learn and improve as a result.

4)Increases Your Edge

If you are table selecting properly, you should be the best or second-best player at the table when you play. With deeper stacks, you are minimising the variance and luck element and thus your edge will increase. It is in your interest to maximise your edge whenever possible. Playing with more money behind you and your weaker opponents is always in your interest, assuming you are employing correct bankroll management of course.

Beginner Texas Holdem Question

What is a Deep Stack Poker Tournament?

A deep stack poker tournament is one where you start with more than 300 big blinds, slow blind levels and small increments. The major live tournaments are usually deep stacked and slow. Online is generally faster paced but there are deep stack tournaments available too.

Summary

Deep stack poker is arguably the best and purest form to play. It reduces the luck and variance elements of poker and increases the skill. It allows you to make moves you don’t get the chance to usually and play hands you may want to play but can’t with a shorter stack. If you have the time to play them, I highly recommend the deep stack tournaments available online.

What is Small Ball Poker?

Introduction to Small Ball Poker

A poker strategy that has exploded in popularity in the last few years, small ball is an overarching poker mentality used successfully by professionals, yet often misunderstood and poorly used by novices. There are several components to playing small ball; hand selection, bet sizing, position and table image.

Hand Selection

Small ball poker dictates playing a lot of poker with a variety of hands. If you want to attack many unwanted pots, you need to widen your opening range. This varies player to player, but most professionals accept that suited connectors, suited aces and the paint cards have the most play-ability and equity to warrant including in opening raise ranges.

Bet Sizing

Small ball poker is what you expect, small bets. Professionals understand that a smaller, probing type bet accomplishes the same thing as a bigger bet and for less risk. This means many cheap bluffs. The underlying concept is that the player is consistent though. It’s no use sizing your bets differently based on hand strength, otherwise your opponents will correctly read your hand. It doesn’t take long to figure this out. Consistent bet sizing is critical to small ball poker. It means you can accomplish cheap bluffs but also extract value.

Poker
Photo by Keenan Constance @keenangrams

Position

As always, position is important. Small ball experts will play as many pots in position as they can. They understand there are an abundance of chips to be picked up in pots that people aren’t interested in contesting. As such, they will be opening an incredibly high amount of pots in position when it folds to them and also be calling raises in position if multi way and cheap. The reason being they can risk few chips to gain many. They understand the implied odds, that they can play the 3h 4h for a small raise when stack sizes are 100 bb + because they are risking 2.5 big blinds to bust a weak player who is prone to overplaying their pocket Aces on a 3s 3h Kd type flop.

Table Image

The beauty of small ball is the image you project to your opponents. By playing many pots you are giving the illusion you are a bit wild and almost certainly a bluffer. After all, you are playing many pots and often betting and winning without showdown. On close inspection though, the small ball expert is not betting crazily and big amounts. They are often 40-50% of the pot and carefully wagered, often heads up pots or when the time is right. In short, the table image a small ball player projects is perfect! An opponent may notice after hours of lost pots, take a stand and then bust out when they finally realise that the small baller is only playing big pots with monster hands.  

Warning

Small ball requires a player to be expert before and after the flop, experienced and attentive. Don’t try this style of poker if you are not confident playing many different scenarios. It’s also worth pointing out this is not the ideal strategy for most cash games and is mostly utilised in tournaments to build a stack without much risk.

This article has touched on just a few parts involved in small ball poker. If you are interested in knowing more or want mentoring in small ball, email us at info@texasholdemquestions.com.

Poker Float – Winning with Air

What is a Float in Poker?

A rarely used poker phrase, a poker float is slang for calling an opponent’s bet with the sole intention of taking away the pot later in the hand.

poker float
Photo by Haley Phelps @haleyphelps

How do I use a Poker Float?

The poker float should be used against opposition that you have identified as continuation betting or flop betting too much. It’s important that you use it against those who are unlikely to barrel off. Many a player will continuation bet heads up or even multi-way on certain board textures, but a smaller percentage will keep firing bets on the turn and river. The float protects you against those that like to c bet but liable to give up later, particularly out of position.

Why Not Just Re Raise on the Flop?

It is also a cheaper alternative to just re-raising a continuation bet as a turn bet need only be a small probing to take the pot away when an opponent is just continuation betting.

Example:
Player A raises before the flop to £10 and you call from the button. The flop is As 3h 3d. Your opponent continuation bets £20. You decide to call in position. The turn is a 5d. Your opponent checks, you bet £20 and your opponent folds. You win the pot and muck Ts Js.

Floating is Cheaper

The cost of a re raise is likely to be at least £55 whilst calling means you are feeling your opponent out cheaper. By calling you are giving yourself the option to bet the turn for as little as £20 or £25 thus saving you the additional £10 or more it costs to re raise on the flop.
Secondly, by calling post flop, you are representing more strength, in my humble opinion, than re raising. By re raising in these kinds of spots, you have to question whether it is how you would actually play the hand you are representing. Would you re raise with AT-AQ here? This is why floating is so powerful as you are playing it the same way you would play a strong hand.
Summary

Cost to Re Raise£55 +
Cost to Float & Bet Turn£40-45
Savings £10-£15 minimum

It’s also worth pointing out that floating is more likely to work as a bluff in these scenarios. By 3 betting the flop you often find a player will click it back to you (often with nothing themselves) whereas a float is more likely to protect you against being re bluffed.

Conclusion

A poker float is an excellent post flop poker move. It relies on your ability to understand your opponent’s tendencies and exploit them. You can use this move with impunity against regs at low stakes in both cash games and tournaments, particularly if they are playing lots of tables. It will make you very difficult to play against post flop, make you more money and you’ll enjoy it too.

I hope you enjoyed this article, if you are interested in knowing more about floating or anything else, please contact us today and see how we can help you take your game to the next level.

Poker Squeeze

What is the Poker Squeeze?

A phrase given to a pre flop play in Texas Holdem where a player will re-raise over an initial raise and one or more pre-flop calls. It is usually with the intention of picking the pot up before the flop without showdown. When executed properly, the poker squeeze is one of greatest pre-flop plays.

History of Squeeze Play

Twenty years ago, the squeeze was not even a play as such, a few of the best players probably did it without giving it the name but it was seldom used. Then Dan Harrington brought out his tournament books and with it, a revolutionary concept. Tight aggressive players found a new weapon to use and exploit opposition with.
However, poker is an evolving game with trends and once this strategy was being used all the time, winning players started taking note and with it, a shift in mentality. No longer could the squeeze play be used with impunity as you were likely to get 4 bet by a competent and thinking player. Or they would flat call an open with AA/KK from an aggressive player, hoping you would squeeze. The pendulum has swung back again though and it is not a move mentioned too often and it’s used less than the aftermath of its revelation to the poker world. It’s a brilliant move to use but only if the ingredients are there and you don’t over use it.

When is the Right Time to Squeeze?

The squeeze play loosely rests on the assumption that the open raiser is unlikely to be holding a premium hand. The theory being that a flat caller is also unlikely to be super strong, otherwise, they surely would have re-raised themselves. Whilst the logic is reasonable, you need certain to ingredients to be on your side for the squeeze have a reasonable chance of success. Please consider the factors below before squeezing.

poker squeeze

Stack Sizes

There is no use squeezing and committing your chips and having to call an all in because you’ve priced yourself in. Have a close look at the stack sizes when you are considering a squeeze. It’s entirely plausible that a flat caller is setting a trap when short stacked or that either player will just go with their hand if they are short stacked at the start of the hand.

Your Table Image & Reputation

If you have a reputation for pulling off a lot of 4 bets and tricky aggressive moves then it far less likely to work. It’s better to have a solid table image at the time of making a squeeze. Your squeeze has to be credible i.e. your opponents need to believe that you are likely holding a premium hand.

Calibre of Opponent

If your opponent has shown no inclinations to fold before the flop, do not consider squeezing. Whilst your logic that they are weak pre flop is true, it does not mean they will fold. You can still squeeze if you wish but be prepared to play a big pot.

Position

As always, position is important. It’s better to be squeezing in position than out of position as you will get to play the hand in position for the rest of the hand. It’s not 100% essential to be in position when squeezing as the intention is to pick it up pre flop, however, it is another factor to consider.

Hand Strength

There’s no use turning very playable hands and positive scenarios into wasteful ones by squeezing. If you are holding a suited connector or a little pair in position, multi-way, then it’s best to play the pot and try to get value. A squeeze is usually better to do with a hand of little value or good blockers, e.g. Ace Three.

I hope you enjoyed this article on the poker squeeze play. Feel free to subscribe our mailing list and receive more free tips and exclusive offers or follow us on twitter. You can also contact us at info@texasholdemquestions.com.