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.

Disclaimer

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 our 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.  

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 Colour Zone Mentality
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.
10 to 19Yellow 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.
6 to 9Orange Zone You can’t waste any chips here. Flat calling raises is out of the question. Every steal is a decent increase to our stack so first in mentality is paramount. We won’t have to open shove just yet though.
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.
Less than 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 what my M is and how I should be playing. With experience, you kind of know it intuitively and 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 enjoyed this article, perhaps you’d be interested in reading our ITM poker ratio or tournament poker strategy article?



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.

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 those 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 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.

Tip 5: Adapt Properly

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. 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 table 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.

Final Comments

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 at 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. Just visit our contact us page and we will get back to you ASAP.

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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 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 2021

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 with eight poker tournament strategy tips that can be used to increase your ITM rate, final tables and wins.

1: 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.

2: 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 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 that my pre-flop raise size changes based on position NOT on hand strength. I am staying logically consistent raising 2.5x from late position with A-A, 7-8 and K-6s.

3: 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 quick poker maths.

The pot is 5,380 (1,080 antes + 1,800 in blinds + 2,500 raise).
It costs 1,300 to call the raise.
We need 24.2% equity to call (1,300/5,380)
.

As you can see, we need defend pretty wide in this spot. Few matchups in Texas Hold’em have hands greater than 76% equity. There are additional factors like effective stack sizes and calibre of opponent to consider of course. But a capable player will defend wide here as we can ill afford to fold many hands when we offered these odds. If you win the pot greater than 1 in 4 times post-flop, it’s profitable to defend.

4: 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.

5: Learn Continuation Bet 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, take a look at our course. It’s the most in depth c-bet course anywhere.

6: Isolate the Limper(s)

An oldie but goody – the iso raise. 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. This might help you get paid later in the tournament.

7: 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

8: 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.

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 & Beyond

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.

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