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Semi Bluff

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

Let’s look at an example:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Texas Holdem Questions

Poker Bots – Time to Worry?

What is a Poker Bot?

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

Why Would Anyone use a Bot?

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

How Good is a Bot?

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

Poker Bot
Photo by Franck V @franckinjapan

Are Poker Bots Legal?

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

Beating Bots

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

Conclusion

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

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Texas Holdem Questions

Tilt – What it is & How to Avoid it

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

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

Tips to Avoiding Tilt

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

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

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

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Texas Holdem Questions  

Slow Play Poker

No it doesn’t mean taking your time when playing. Slow-playing is a way of playing a hand tricky/deceptively in order to get more value out of a hand that you think would generate nothing otherwise.

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

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

Now ask yourself the following questions:
1)What is my opponent likely to be holding?
2)Is my opponent likely to call me?
3)Do I need to bet to protect my hand here?
4)How can I extract most value from the hand?

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

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

Photo by Nick Abrams @nbabrams

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

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

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Texas Holdem Questions


ITM Poker Ratio for Tournaments

What is “ITM”?

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

Benefits of ITM

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

Restrictions of ITM

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

How Do I Calculate ITM?

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

What is a Good ITM Rate?

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

20% is considered a strong ITM rate by professionals

Caution

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

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Limp in Poker & Why It’s Almost Always Bad

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

Why is it so Bad?

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

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

Limping in is very fishy play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Texas Holdem Questions

Poker Float

Floating
Photo by Haley Phelps @haleyphelps

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

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

Why Not Just Re Raise on the Flop?
It is also a cheaper alternative to just re-raising a continuation bet as a turn bet need only be a small probing to take the pot away when an opponent is just continuation betting.

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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Texas Holdem Questions

Poker Squeeze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Texas Holdem Questions

Poker Donkey

Have you ever been called a donkey at the table?  A donkey is a pejorative term loosely used to describe a bad poker player. If you’ve been called one before, it’s probably when you first started playing, barely knew the rules and were calling raises and post flop bets with trashy hands and getting lucky.

How Does a Donkey Play?

A donkey will usually play like a calling station. This means they will play lots of hands and typically be calling you down. This is irrespective of the strength of the hand. The result of this is that they will occasionally get lucky and outdraw your strong hands.

Example

It’s a no limit cash game with £1/£2 blinds. You open raise to £8 with As Ks from early position. It folds to the small blind who calls.
The flop comes Ac Jd 3s. He check calls your £12 bet. Turn is a 4d. The small blind check calls your £30 bet. The river comes a 9h. The small blind checks, you value bet £45 and the small blind calls and wins with 3h9h and wins with two pairs. 
This is a typical donkey hand, your opponent has called every round of betting with a very weak hand, particularly on the turn with just bottom pair facing an early position raise and now a decent size turn bet, realistically beating nothing.

Don’t Bash the Donkey’s, Feed Them

I know it’s tempting to criticise or give the “donkey” stick after you’ve lost the pot to a 3 9 suited but don’t! Don’t educate your opponents or let them know they are playing horribly.  After all, these are the players that will make you money in the long run.
If you bash the donkey like a donkey pinata party game than they may not play again or worse, learn to play better! Phil Hellmuth is a poor role model in this respect as he will often bash a donkey but he doesn’t care, a millionaire with revenue from advertising and getting paid to play on TV. You and I are not so lucky! Remember not to tap the glass next time you play. In fact, it’s better to pay the donkey compliments, feed them.

I hope you found this post useful, feel free to contact us if you are interested in any of our services.

Poker Donkey
Photo by Martin Castro @martin_castro

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Pot Control

This is a concept that is lost on beginners and even some intermediate poker players. Pot control is about dictating the pot size, or trying to, on your terms. This is achieved by the sizing of your bets and relative position in the hand.

What is Pot Control?
It is manipulating the pot size how you wish, factoring in relative hand strength, stack size and opposition in the hand. Never has “big hand, big pot, small hand, small pot” been more relevant. Pot controlling is understanding that there are multiple rounds of poker, and with each round a decision to be made that will increase the pot size, how much is dependent on the sizing of yours and your opponent’s bets.
Playing in position makes pot control far easier as you are closing the action and it is common for players to check out of position. This allows you to dictate how a hand and pot will flow.

Flop Play
Quite often there are multiple people in the hand at this point and controlling the pot isn’t particularly easy. Your ability to understand relative hand strength will be critical as will your position in the hand.
This is where small ball is useful. Small ball is a style of poker that involves making a lot of probing bets. This accomplishes several things; eliminating players from a pot, narrowing hand ranges, keeping the pot manageable, obtaining value and winning the pot inexpensively.

Turn Play
It’s been said for years that the turn is the most important round of betting in Texas holdem. Professional poker players recognize that this is where the hand has almost reached conclusion, there is just one card left to deal (making pot odds and math even more important). The turn is the round where a player will often make a decision ahead of the river.

Photo by Chris Liverani @chrisliverani

Intuitively you are often thinking one of a few things on the turn card. Let’s take a look at them:

“I have the best hand and want to build the pot for value and protect my hand”
In this situation, you will typically be looking to bet for value and protection. This usually involves a decent sized bet to enforce a mathematical error on your opponent’s part whilst increasing the pot for value too.

“I am on a draw and want to see the river cheaply”
In this instance, out of position, you are at the mercy of those in position. However, in position, you have the option of semi bluffing when checked to or taking the free card. A luxury not afforded to you out of position.

“I am not 100% sure I have the best hand and want to see the river cheaply or showdown my hand”
This will usually mean checking or betting small. This is a great tactic to employ when your opponent plays ball i.e. doesn’t raise. By betting small you can often get a check on the river and show your hand down, conversely checking back turn cards often means you can bluff catch cheaply on the river too.

Conclusion
Pot control is a key concept to understand and put into practice. You are quite often employing pot control without thinking about it so it is partly intuitive but also considered and methodical. It is important to avoid being predictable with your lines in hands as well though so please remember to have variety to the lines you take, particularly when you are facing strong players. The underlying theme behind pot control is that you are doing your utmost to control the size of pot how you wish; this is accomplished by playing more pots in position and also understanding how to size your bets appropriately. Please contact us if you need help with bet sizing or more information on pot control.

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Texas Holdem Questions