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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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Is Poker Gambling or Skill?

Is Poker Gambling? Skill or Chance?

It’s a question asked by many around the world. In order to answer the question in entirety, we need to look at several questions. Does poker player’s decision making significantly influence the result/outcome? How much skill is required to win? How does poker compare to other games of chance? What does the law say? We will look at each question separately before answering the question “is poker gambling?”.

Does poker players decision making significantly influence the result/outcome?

Texas Hold’em requires players to pick from several options at any one time. There’s no question that the decisions they take influence the result of a pot, cash game session or tournament. One can decide whether to check, fold, call or bet. This freedom of control is an important thing to remember and can’t be understated. Not only can a player decide on this, they also have control over the size of the bet. This means they not only exercise control over whether they continue in the hand but also to what extent and for how much. That’s a lot of influence. Poker player’s bets can affect the result/outcome as a bet can directly result in opponents folding or calling, thus, decision making impacts the result, every hand.

How much skill is required to win at poker?

It’s irrefutable that skill is required to win at poker. When I mean “win”, I don’t mean one hand in isolation. I mean a sample size that would satisfy a jury of sufficient volume. The definition of skill is “the ability to do something well; expertise”. Clearly, anyone who has a decent ITM tournament rate, a positive ROI or is a consistent winner at cash games has expertise in that format. With poker getting harder to win every year, one needs to improve and enhance their skills to continue winning. That aside though, let’s break down a Texas Hold’em hand to deduce many of the skills required in decision making.

Pre-FlopChoosing what hands to play requires understanding of maths, position, table awareness and an appreciation of starting hands value. There are 169 hand combinations (assuming K7s/K7d are the same). Each hand and in a different position pose the same question. Are you playing and if so, how much for?
Flop & TurnOnce you get to the flop, your hand is beginning to come together. Now the game becomes more complex. You need to understand what hand ranges your opponent is likely to have. You also need assess what they perceive of your hand. One needs to quickly identify the relative strength of their hand. Finally, a poker player may also need need to calculate outs – what % you have of hitting your straight.
RiverIf you’ve continued past the turn, you are now at the final round of betting. Now you need to make a decision on whether your hand is best or likely to be best. If you are facing a bet, you need to quickly calculate the pot odds and whether calling is profitable in the long run. Alternatively, you may have missed your draw and consider a bluff. This involves calculating an appropriate bet size, factoring in your opponents’ likely hand and the probability they will fold.

Clearly there is a lot of complex decision making involved. The more complex an event is – the less impact chance has.

Skills required to play poker well

  • Maths (pot odds)
  • Psychology (reading opponents)
  • Mental toughness (ability to not tilt)
  • Budgeting skills (bankroll management)
  • Shrewdness/Ruthlessness (game selection)
  • Accuracy (knowing how much to value bet or bluff)
  • Recall (memorising hands to make informed decisions)
  • Attention to detail (watching opponents to pick up patterns)

How does poker compare to other games of chance?

There’s little comparison between poker and the other casino games. Poker and other games of chance involve money being wagered, the house takes a rake and some use a playing deck e.g. blackjack. That’s where the comparisons end. Other casino games involve very little decision making. They are usually limited to 1 or 2 decisions; how much to bet and which number to bet on. To compare games like roulette to poker, is akin to comparing Snakes and Ladders to Risk just because they are both board games.
There is an exception to the other forms of gambling in sports betting. It’s a combination of skill and chance. There is undoubtedly a lot of skill in learning teams form, finding the best odds and picking the best sportsbooks. Whilst very few make a living from casino games, many are professional tipsters and sports betting professionals.

What does the law say about poker?

The UK gambling commission cites poker is a card game which involves elements of both chance and skill and is therefore classified as a game of chance under the Act by virtue of s.6(2). The law is pretty clear it views poker as a combination of skill and chance.

I contend it is a game dominated by skill with elements of chance. UK law answers yes to the question “is poker gambling?”. The selfish benefit of this is that poker winnings in UK are not subject to tax, unlike many other countries. But this judgement is still painful. When a professional poker player wants to buy a house or get a loan, stating “professional poker player” on their application will always be scoffed at.

is poker gambling

The problem with legality over poker is that those who judge it seem to understate the complex nature of the game. Mike Sexton famously said “poker is a game that takes five minutes to learn and a lifetime to master”. This is one of the truest poker statements. Any Tom, Dick or Harry can learn the rules in a few minutes (check out our how to play article) and sit and play but in order make consistent winnings, you need to become an expert.

Is Poker Gambling? The Conclusion

I concede poker is gambling when taken in isolation on one tournament or hand. This is the extent of my concession. As with many endeavours, the greater the volume, the less impact chance has. Many sports have elements of chance that can impact one result. It’s one of the reasons we love football’s FA cup. To see a minor team, score an upset as an underdog is thrilling. Who would win if they played 10 or 20 times? We all know the answer. You can apply this thinking to poker. The experts can have losing sessions, even a losing month. Have a look at their results at the end of the year and you will see a common pattern. They all win. My conclusion on whether poker is gambling is founded in logic and backed up by personal, empirical evidence too. I have never had a losing year.

Crypto Poker – Have You Heard of it?

Crypto Poker

First of all, let me preface this article by stating Texas Hold’em Questions does not encourage cryptocurrency gambling. This article is an educational resource for those interested in learning more about crypto poker and it’s existence, together with it’s advantages and disadvantages.

A few years ago, crypto currency swept the world by storm. You remember the news right? The gambling industry took notice too and saw another medium to make money. Online poker was not exempt from this. Some saw a loophole and way to bring back poker players who were thrown out of the market or otherwise dissuaded from playing. Legislation in some places in the world heavily regulate online gambling and make playing online poker very difficult. This led to new websites popping up, offering the chance to play poker with cryptocurrency.

What is Cryptocurrency?

Cryptocurrency is digital money or currency that is secured by cryptography. A clever, complex model that makes it practically impossible to fake or counterfeit. Most cryptocurrency is based on blockchain technology.  Bitcoin was the first famous cryptocurrency, founded in 2009 by Satoshi Nakamoto. It gained significant jump in share prices in 2013 jumping to $770 by January 2014. At the time of this article, 1 bitcoin is currently valued at $11,272.

How to Buy Cryptocurrency?

In order to gamble on a crypto poker site, you need to have cryptocurrency to gamble with. It’s quite straightforward but there are a few steps. This means registering an account an exchange. There many options here including Binance or Coinbase. After opening an account, you can then open a e-wallet. Most allow you to deposit money with usual methods like Skrill, PayPal or card.  Then, you can buy the cryptocurrency and move it from the exchange to your e-wallet. FYI- The most popular cryptocurrencies to buy are Bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin. With cryprocurrency in your wallet, you are then ready to gamble. Sign up to the online poker site you want to play on and transfer from your e-wallet and you’re ready to gamble.

Crypto Poker Sites

There are numerous crypto poker websites around. A quick google search will reveal this. Do your due diligence and read the reviews before depositing. It’s always worthwhile checking to ensure they operate safely. Nitrogensports, Ignition, CoinPoker and Fair Poker are some of the major, trusted cryptocurrency poker sites around. They offer flexible options, pay out fast and offer a decent range of games. There are sites dedicated to proving reviews of these sites. Check out Cryptomaniaks for advice on the best crypto poker sites.

Pros and Cons of Cryptocurrency for Online Gambling

Pros of Cryptocurrency Gambling

Pro – Privacy
It’s far easier to be anonymous with cryptocurrency than the normal cash method. This has some advantages for those who like to gamble without big brother watching.

Pro – No legal restrictions
Where some countries banks won’t allow you to deposit on a poker site, they will allow you to process deposits and cashouts via cryptocurrency.

Pro – Low fees
Generally lower than bank fees to process.

Pro – Softer sites
Most professionals are earning on a living on the major poker sites with real money. This means crypto poker sites are filled with weaker players who view poker as a bit of fun or recreational income.

Cons of Cryptocurrency gambling

Con – Volatile value
Unlike real money currency, cryptocurrency value tends to move more. They are more volatile and increase and decrease in value regularly. This may be stressful for some and increases the overall risk of gambling.

Con –  Less security
Be wary of scams or fraud with cryptocurrency. It’s well established that cryptocurrency is used for malevolent reasons.

Con –  Refund problems
I have not found anywhere where you can claim refunds or chargebacks. I don’t think crypto poker sites have a policy on this.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s a real money poker site or a crypto poker site, you need to play well to win. Sign up to our poker training video membership and start improving your game today.

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Flop Poker Strategy Guide

Flop Poker Strategy Introduction

It’s where Texas Hold’em starts to come alive isn’t it? Pre-flop hand selection is all well and good but what you make when the flop comes is when action develops. It’s where you can start to get a feel for your opponent’s likely ranges, deciding whether you want to continue and assessing the texture to determine whether a bluff might work.  This article will look at the key factors of playing the flop that will help shape your decision making when playing flop poker in Texas Hold’em.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a flop in poker?

The flop is the first 3 community cards that are dealt face up. Players use them with their hole cards to make a 5 card poker hand. Check out our poker cheat sheet for more information.

Texture

There are so many possible flop textures to list but we can condense this to 3 types; dry, wet and mixed flops. Dry flops are very disconnected with no potentials for straights or flushes. A wet board is draw heavy or already presents potential for straight and/or flush. Finally, a mixed board is somewhere in the middle, with possible draws but not both. The texture of the flop should be a heavy consideration when choosing how much money to invest in your hand. It’s complex isn’t it? Texas Hold’em is not a simple game to play, if you want simplicity, try 3 card poker instead.

Example:
Pocket aces (Ac-Ad) look great but are very vulnerable on a board like 7h 8h 9h. Contrast this to a board of Kc 2s 2d and you can start to appreciate the importance of relative hand strength.

How good is your hand on the flop?

A basic question but one that must be asked. How good is your hand when you’ve got to the flop? Do you have a top pair? Only have 2 overcards? Are you on a flush draw? Your hand value can be converted to represent the following groups.

Hand Type Strength Decision Making
2 Pair or betterExceptionalYou’re in it for the long haul. Strap yourself in and bet lots.
Over-cards and a straight or flush drawVery strongThis hand is has fantastic equity against most hands and should rarely ever be folded on the flop. You’re never in bad shape and actually a favourite against top pair hands.
Top pairRelatively strong Top pair is a good hand but consider texture and number of opponents. You will often stick around past the flop but tread careful.
Straight/Flush drawAverageYou will often try to peel a turn card off but remember it’s just a draw. You generally want position and bluffing opportunities too to make these calls profitable
Second pair AverageSecond pair is often worth a flop call particularly heads up. The more players involved, the weaker the value. Keep the pot small and look for thin value if it’s checked down to river.
Bottom pair/ underpair WeakBottom pair or underpair can win heads up in small pots but very rarely when multi-way.
Overcards Very weakBeginners seem to have trouble releasing big cards even they miss. If you have no draws and just 2 big cards, get out of the way, you have nothing and are beat by a pair of 2s.

Flop Poker Tips

If you are new to poker and want some tips on flop poker. The list below is a basic overview of what to do when you get to the flop.

  • Miss the flop – get out the pot
  • Top pair is good but remember your kicker. The second card may be beat by your opponent
  • If top pair is a low card, you can still be beat by overpairs
  • Flush or straight draws are at best 36% chance to hit by the river. If your opponent is trying to force a big pot or get you all in, you should fold
  • If you raised pre-flop and are heads up – bet most flops. Check out our article on continuation betting for more detailed tips

Small hand, small pot. Big hand, big pot. Remember this and you won’t go far wrong at low stakes

Pocket Jacks – Tips for Beginners

Pocket Jacks

It has to be the hand players complain the most about. I’ve had many discussions with players over pocket jacks. They’ve ranged from questioning whether they should be folded to a 4 bet to should they be played for set value only. Many players seem to have a phobia about pocket jacks. I think a lot of it stems from players stubbornness, an unwillingness to fold strong hands. This causes them to lose more than they should with a strong, but very beatable hand. This article will cover everything a beginner needs to know about a pair of fish hooks in Texas Hold’em.

Pocket Jacks Odds

Over-card will flop57%
Ahead of smaller pairs80%
Chance of beating a higher pocket pair19%
Beating a random hand77%
Against two over-cards52%

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

How Often Will I be Dealt Jacks?

You can expect to be dealt pocket jacks approximately 0.45% of the time or 1 in 221 hands.

Why Do People Hate Pocket Jacks?

Players like poker to be simple, straightforward and easy. Sadly, this is rarely the case, particularly when you hold pocket jacks. People don’t like being in awkward situations and have tough decision. That’s logical isn’t it? Do you want easier decisions or tough ones? It’s a no brainer. When you’re holding a pair of jacks, a higher card will flop over ½ the time. The problem with this is that people like big cards. They are the most favourable hands to play in Texas Hold’em. Therefore, people get concerned, and rightly so to some extent, that their jacks are already beat.

Tips How to Play Pocket Jacks

Exercise caution and pot control

If you lose lots of money with jacks, try playing a bit more careful. Perhaps you’ve been overplaying them. If it’s an early position raise, perhaps just flat call and take a flop? If you’ve flopped an overpair, perhaps just flat call on the flop instead of raising? Pot control can be a fantastic thing. You can bluff catch, bet for value later and save money if you’re beat too.

Consider the information first

Context is extremely important in poker. Rather than thinking “I’ve got pocket jacks, I’m doing X”, consider who is raising, what position, how many big blinds etc. You don’t need to rush to judgement. Take your time and consider the facts before making a rash decision.

Don’t worry about folding

If a dreaded over-card comes and you’re facing lots of aggression or been check raised, don’t be scared to fold. You are the only one that knows your cards. By the same token, if you’ve 3 bet a tight player and he’s jammed a deep stack, don’t be scared to fold just because you have a relatively big pair.

Conclusion

Pocket jacks is a strong hand in Texas Hold’em. There are only 3 higher pocket pairs so you rate to have the best hand before the flop most of the time you get them. Obviously, you need to be wary in a full ring, deep stacked game, but jacks should win you money in the long run. If you’re losing with this hand over a lot of hands, you need to reassess how you are playing them. We offer a hand history review service that can help you? You can book a session for £90. We’d be happy to look at this with you. Just email info@texasholdemquestions.com.

If you enjoyed this article, perhaps you would like to read our articles on pocket kings and big slick.

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Online Poker vs Live Poker – The Main Differences

Online Poker vs Live Poker

The rules of poker do not change based on where you are, but there are many differences between online poker and live poker. If you are only used to one and considering playing the other, this article will inform you of the biggest differences and prepare you better. By staying informed, you will also learn whether it’s more profitable to play one or the other.  

More Multiway Pots Live

Online poker is generally tighter than poker at the casino. Online players are often multi-tabling and don’t have a problem with patience. Live poker at casinos has more players at the flop due to the impatience of players. In a live game, players have a desire to be involved and play pots. They don’t want to drive to the casino and sit folding for hours. This results in a looser game, often with 3 to 5 players at the flop.

The Difference in Stakes (Ability)

If you’re used to playing online at $1/$2 no limit Texas Hold’em, don’t sit at the same game in a casino and expect it to be the same calibre. There’s a rule many poker players apply called the ten to one rule. In short, whatever stakes you usually play and win at online, multiply it by 10 to get the same standard in a casino. Why is this? Casino’s don’t have penny stakes, so the lowest stakes games are the more beginner players.

Game Speed

One of the most obvious differences between online poker vs live poker is the pace which the game flows. Online poker is very quick, with the ability to play hundreds of hands an hour. It was made even faster when games like Snap poker were introduced. Live poker is much slower paced. Think about, the dealer has to shuffle and deal (online this is automated). Live poker players tend to take longer over their decisions too. Interestingly, online poker players who play super-fast with 10 tables come to a casino and take ages too!

Live Poker Tells

As great as online poker is, the inability to look at your opponent means you have to rely on everything else to read them. In live poker, your opponent is there in front of you. There is more information available, including poker tells. Without going into the specifics of different poker tells, suffice to say, there are many ways a poker player will unwittingly reveal their hand strength. This important part of live poker is largely absent from online poker. Instead, you must trust your instinct, watch for betting patterns and notice change any changes in speed of decision making to make a read. Check out our article on online poker tells for more detail.

Live Poker is More Social

We are naturally social and this is heightened when we play games together. Visit any poker room and you will hear the riffling of chips, men telling bad beat stories and even political debates. If you love the solace of online poker and prefer to keep yourself to yourself, perhaps live poker isn’t for you. When you sit at a cash game, you are engaged in a social activity. Your neighbours at the table will be doing the same, chatting and making friends. You could be forgiven you’re not playing for money but some people play poker just to play with the boys and get out of the house.

Bet Sizing

Live poker tends to involve bigger bets. Perhaps the concept of lower variance or small ball didn’t reach the casinos yet, but that is one thing you can expect. A typical live poker game will see raises of 5 big blinds or more. Online poker usually has opens of 2.2 to 3 big blinds. If you don’t think this is a big difference, think again. Consider your stack size when you buy in. If you are buying in for anything less than 100 big blinds, you better bring several bullets. Remember, pots are often multi-way too so it doesn’t take long for a pot to reach a significant size. Before you know it, you might be all in.

Poker Straddle

The poker straddle is an unforced bet that the person under the gun will post. It’s something that increases the pot and entices more action. I love the poker straddle and would love to see it introduced online. Why wouldn’t you want someone to put money in unnecessarily? This is something a lot of live players opt to do. Rules differ between casinos on the straddle so make sure you know what they are before playing in a game with the straddle. If you want to see more about the straddle. Check out our poker straddle article.

Weekend Games

Live poker booms at the weekend. People are off work and ready to game. Whilst this is true online. It is not to the same extent. Go online any day of the week and it will be busy. This is probably due to timing differences around the globe. This is not the same at the casino. People have jobs and better things to do than play poker on Monday night. What does this mean? It means weekends are the best times to play poker at the casino. You can take the egotistical businessmen to school if you are willing to stay late.

Min Raise Poker – Pros and Cons

Min Raise Poker

Open raising the minimum gained popularity a few years ago. It is twinned with the small ball tournament poker strategy that gained fame through Daniel Negreanu. Whilst it’s an effective and popular strategy for tournaments, it is widely accepted to have little to no merit in cash games. This article will focus on the pros and cons of min raise poker in tournaments.

Pros of Min Raise Poker

Cheaper Bluffs

Open raising for the minimum allows you to pull off cheaper steals. It’s great taking down a pot with little to no resistance and bluffing for the minimum is even better isn’t it? By min raising you can sometimes steal the blinds with a poor hand and get away with the cheapest of bluffs.

Shorter Stacks – Accomplishes the Same as Big Betting

If you have played many tournaments you will know that a lot of is played with shorter stacks than cash games. It’s not uncommon to play an entire tournament with between 15 and 30 big blinds. Open raising the minimum can be just as effective as open raising for 3 big blinds so why would you risk more? It’s common sense to risk less.

Still Gets Respect

When online poker was booming, min raise poker looked the weakest thing ever. This has not been the case for a long time. People don’t perceive a min raise as weakness anymore. On the contrary, it can be seen as inviting action, particularly from early position.

More Poker

Open raising double the blinds allows you to play more poker. It stands to reason if you are open raising 2 big blinds instead of 4 than you are going to be playing for smaller pots and have the potential to be involved more. This is definitely a pro if you are a better player than most at your table. After all, you want to play more hands with weaker players, right?

Less Variance

The min raise poker style is likely to yield less variance in tournaments. Why? Well think about it, if you are min raising and playing more pots post flop, you are less likely to be involved in all in or fold mode. You are adopting a style that is risking little, not open raising for large % of your stack and committing your tournament life.

Cons of Min Raise Poker

More Multi-way Pots

Unfortunately, you can expect to play fewer pots heads up if you are min raising. You may think this is ok but mathematically speaking, the players involved, the lower your chances of winning the pot. It’s easier to knock one player our or have the better hand than 3 isn’t it? Multiway pots aren’t ideal, particularly if you are playing shorter stacks.

Opponents 3 Bet’s are Cheaper (and lighter?)

This is anecdotal but I believe it to be true from my own experience. It’s true on the best bitcoin poker sites and real money poker sites. In many games, players are more inclined to 3 bet a min raise than a standard open. They know their 3 bet is costing them less. Consider the example below:

Open raise size at 500/1,000How much does it cost your opponent to 3 bet?
3,0008,000 – 9,000
2,0005,000 – 6,000

Consider, in the scenarios above you are raising from early position. Your opponent thinks you’re weak and wants to 3 bet you. If the raise is 3,000, he knows it will cost at least 8,000 and may be put off.
He will surely be more inclined to 3 bet if he knows it can be achieved for 5,000 or 6,000.

Giving Big Blind Great Pot Odds

Any poker player with sense will defend their big blind very wide against a min raise. This is especially true when there are antes. This is not a con for me personally – I want to play poker heads up in position. However, you are helping them play better, inviting them in with a very wide range of hands that can outdraw yours. It’s generally not a great idea to give good pot odds to your opponents. You want to force mistakes and min bets rarely accomplish this.

More Pots Out of Position

In a full ring game, min raises from early or middle position will often find you playing poker against someone in late position. This is far from ideal as you will be acting before them every round post flop. Decision making needs to be impeccable to turn a good win rate post flop when you’re playing with fewer chips than cash games. The truth is, min raises often get called by competent players in the cut-off or on the button.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, there are reasonable arguments for and against the min raise in poker. If you are thinking about adopting this style, please make sure you are consistent. There is no use min raising with weak and making it 4x with AA. Even the most basic of players will pick up on this transparency. Instead, be consistent and committed to the style. Ensure you are not adopting a min bet style post flop as the two are widely different.

UK Poker Tax Rules 2020

UK Poker Tax

Few love the idea of paying over 20% or more of their earnings to the government.  If you’re a winning player and worried about the tax implications in UK. Don’t worry, I will do my best to answer UK poker tax related questions in this article.

Do you have to pay tax on poker winnings in the UK?

Gambling and poker winnings are not taxed in the UK. This is music to the ears of poker players based in UK. It doesn’t matter whether you play online poker or at the casino. Both are considered gambling winnings and thus not taxable. This law has been in place since 2001 when Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of Exchequer got rid of it. This was largely due to the perceived thread of offshore betting.

There is no tax on poker winnings online or in casinos the United Kingdom. You get to keep 100% of your winnings.

Why is there no UK poker tax?

Simply put, the government makes enough money from the operators themselves. An industry that literally generates billions of pounds every year. There is a tax levy that the gambling operators must pay. Like any other business that operates, they pay tax on their profits. After laws changed in the early 2000’s the UK passed the Gambling Act 2005 and founded the UK Gambling Commission. Both designed to ensure compliance and regulate online gambling.

The Gambling Act 2005

This law had three main objectives; prevention of gambling becoming source of crime or supporting crime, ensuring gambling is fair and open and protecting children or vulnerable parties being exploited by gambling.

What about gambling winnings abroad?

It depends what you mean by abroad really. If you are playing on an online poker site based off-shore, you are safe. The UK Gambling Commission insists that any site offering gambling to Brits have to be licensed. Where they are based is irrelevant. Thus, you are safe here. If you are gambling abroad in USA or any other country that taxes gambling winnings, you should do due diligence of the law in that country. In the USA, you are not required to pay tax on winnings. However, you will need to declare it to IRS. There are a couple of forms you will need to fill in to ensure you can bring back all your winnings. These are the W-8BEN and W-7.

Winnings in Las Vegas are not taxed for UK residents, however, you need to fill in a few forms and show your passport.

Professional UK Poker Tax?

Again, no tax is applied. HMRC makes no distinction between professional poker playing or hobby. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t record keep your winnings though. As a professional, you should always keep accurate records so you know your winnings on a monthly and annual basis. In addition to being common sense, it’s good to retain records if you are ever investigated. If you want help with record keeping, I suggest you read our poker excel dashboard article or ROI article for more information.

Disclaimer

If you are concerned about taxes, please consult a qualified tax accountant or contact HMRC directly. The content in this article is researched but I am not a tax accountant and the article is used as a guide. References to relevant laws and authorities are below.

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.

https://mmwebhandler.aff-online.com/C/42411?sr=1740942

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

I hope you enjoyed this article on poker tournament strategy tips for 2020 and beyond. A final tip is a little plug for our training videos. If you enjoyed this article and would like to learn more, you can. By join as a member you can gain access to almost 1,000 minutes of poker training videos. I give more tips, secrets and advice beyond this article. You can see how I play tournaments, cash games, SNGs and strategy lectures designed to help members make money. The price of membership is only £49.99 for 1 year. You can join by clicking below or clicking the banner below for information. Once you’ve paid for membership, you will be sent your personal login details within 24 hours.

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Poker Kicker – How Big is Yours?

Poker Kicker

Your kicker is the second card you are playing in a game of Texas Hold’em. To some, understanding the hand strengths is enough to get by in poker. To the rest of us, we know there is a little more to it. Unfortunately, in Texas Hold’em, you are not going to make royal flushes and 4 of a kind very often. You are more likely to end most hands with one pair or high card, this is where your kicker plays.

Kicker Problems

You may have heard the phrase “kicker problems” before. This is when you’ve made a top pair type hand, read your opponent for similar hand but identified a problem – your kicker is low. Understanding when your kicker is no good and getting out of the way is an important skill to develop to help curb your potential losses in poker. To win at poker, you will have to learn to minimise your losses and sorting out kicker problems is one way. One of the biggest problems’ beginners have is overplaying ace rag, not realising the rag is the kicker costing them money.

Example Poker Kicker Hand

You’re in a $1/$2 cash game and a conservative old gentlemen limps in from early position (nice game eh?), 2 others limp in late position, and you complete from the SB with Ac 3c.

The flop comes:
As 9d 6d.

You check, BB checks and the conservative old gent bets out $9 into $10. The button calls and action is on you: What do you do?

This is a spot where you are probably up against another ace in the hand. An observant player will recognise the early position limper almost certainly has an A 10 + type hand and is way ahead. Rather than calling with your top pair and potentially losing $10 +, folding would be a wise move here.

When does a Kicker Count in Poker?

Texas Hold’em is played on best 5 card hand. Remember, the community cards are yours and your opponents. If the secondary card in yours and your opponent’s hole cards exceed that of the board, then the kicker will count. So if you have K-2 and your opponent has K-8 on a board run out of K-3-5-J-J than the 8 plays because the best hand is:

K-K-J-J-8 > K-K-J-J-5

Kings and Jacks with an 8 kicker beats Kings and Jacks with a 5 kicker.

The kicker’s can only count in the following hands:

  • High Card
  • One Pair
  • Two Pair

Final Thoughts

Understanding your poker kicker and when it counts is very important to being a solid player. You need to combine hand reading, hand selection and table awareness to judge whether a kicker will be your friend or foe. If you’re ever unsure, stick to playing solid starting hands and you stand a better chance.