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.

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Texas Holdem Questions

Poker Donkey
Photo by Martin Castro @martin_castro

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

Check Raise

A play that used to be considered bad etiquette and still is in some old casinos. The check raise is a tricky and powerful move when used effectively in poker.

What is a Check Raise?
It is where a player will check (representing weakness) and then re-raise a bet on the same round of betting. Let’s took a look at an example:

Example:
Player A raises to £10 before the flop and Player B calls from the big blind. The flop comes 7s 8s 3d. Player B checks to the initial raiser. Player A bets £15 and Player B re-raises to £50.  
Notice Player B checked, then raised the bet hence “check raise”.

Why Check Raise?
There can many reasons a player may opt to check raise. It can be designed to build the pot up for bigger bets and value later in the hand. It can also be used to represent a strong hand and in fact be bluffing. It can be used to exploit an aggressive player and it can also be used to semi bluff.

Photo by Amanda Jones @amandgraphc

Perceptions of a Check Raise
An experienced player will usually identify strength with a check raise as the opponent is putting in more chips and money than necessary. Let’s face it, if a player wants to bluff to win the pot – they will usually just bet to try and steal it. I mean, why risk more than necessary right?

A weak player may not read much into a check raise and will probably just play the strength of their own hand so if you are trying an elaborate bluff against a beginner who probably has a top pair or better, it might be worth thinking twice before barrelling off.

Risks of a Check Raise
By checking to your opponent you are risking giving free cards that can beat you. It also makes it harder to bluff if you have nothing as your opponent has less streets to fold to resistance. You need to feel pretty confident your opponent will bet if you are considering a check raise.
Secondly, if you are trying a check raise on a bluff that you are investing more than a standard bet. Let’s face it, if your opponent is strong, the fact you check raised isn’t going to make much of a difference.
There is also the risk that you do this move too often, even an intermediate player will pick up on tendencies so be careful not to over use the check raise.

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Texas Holdem Questions

Poker ROI

What was your ROI for tournaments last month? If you don’t know and don’t track, how do you know how you are doing? How are you monitoring your performance? 

What is ROI?
ROI is the abbreviation for Return on Investment, the term used all over the world, particularly for investment and business purposes but also amongst serious tournament poker players. It is a way to track results and understand how you are performing. It can also be used to judge whether a particular game or format is appropriate for you, whether it’s even worth playing.

How is ROI calculated?

Working out your return on investment is very easy. All you have to do is divide your overall profits/earnings by the amount you spent and multiply by 100 to give you the %.  Please note that profits mean the amount above the buy in e.g. if you buy in for $100 and cash for $125, then your earnings or profit are $25.

ROI Formula

Example:

ROI Example


What ROI Should I Expect?
I don’t think there’s a universal target for poker ROI but obviously the higher, the better. Think of it this way, for each $1 you invest, how much do you hope to make from it? 30 cents, 40 cents? I think the key is to monitor and improve your ROI over time. It’s worth noting, that you need data and a decent sample size to draw interpret ROI. A sample size of 10 tournaments and a 500% ROI is unlikely to be sustainable. Data doesn’t lie and you need a decent amount before you can brag about having a massive ROI. 

How Should I Track ROI?
The best way to track tournament ROI is to record your results every time you play. I recommend recording it on an excel file, a column for date, spend and earnings. This can easily be converted to graphs or charts over time. The important thing is to make a habit of recording your results every time. After all, the information will only be as good as the data that is entered, so be honest and accurate and it will reveal amazing insights over time.

Conclusion
Tracking and monitoring performance is an important part of being a serious, winning poker player can’t be overlooked. You need to treat your time, effort and tournament playing as an investment and what you can expect to yield from it. By tracking your ROI, you will understand how you are performing, whether you are playing the right games and if it is time to move up stakes. You will also know how much money you can realistically make in the long run.

If you have any questions about poker ROI or advice on how to implement, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to help.

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Texas Holdem Questions



3 Bet

What is a 3 Bet?
You may have heard the phrase 3 bet watching poker on TV or at your local casino and wondered what it meant. A 3 Bet is the term used in poker to describe a specific re raise.  A 3 bet is typically made before the flop but can also be performed post flop. It is the third bet on a specific round. Check out examples below:

Example 1 (Pre-Flop 3 Bet)

Player A calls £5 before the flop, Player B raises to £20, Player C re-raises to £65 from the small blind. This raise by Player C is a “3 bet”. This is effectively the third bet, hence the phrase “3 bet”.

Example 2 (Post-Flop 3 Bet)
Player A raises to £20 and Player B calls from the big blind. The flop is Jh 7s 2d. Player B checks, Player A bets £30 (1st bet) , Player B re-raises to £75 (2nd bet) and Player A puts in re raise to £225 (3rd bet or “3bet”).

Photo by Tony Hand @mr_t55

What Does a 3 Bet Mean?
A decade ago, a 3 bet before the flop usually meant a premium hand (Pocket Jacks or better) however, with the evolution of online poker and aggressive poker strategy, this is no longer the case. A pre flop 3 bet now can be given less credence, particularly with certain players. The context, table demographic and opponent 3 betting are the key factors to be looked at when considering what to do in the face of this move. A 3 bet is now used to isolate weak players, steal the pot pre flop, exploit a player opening too wide, balance a player’s re raise range or just to have the lead in the hand. This is why observing your opponents, taking notes and understanding their strategy is key to winning. If you know Player A knows you are opening 90% of hands on the button and is an observant, thinking player, he is likely to open his range of 3 betting range from the blinds.

When Should One 3 Bet?
Context and history is very important. If you are facing a player that is super tight when facing a re-raise, you can 3 bet almost with impunity. On the other hand, if you are facing a maniacal player who has shown tendency to move all in before the flop and 4 bet lightly. You should be more wary about 3 betting with nothing. Perhaps consider lessening your stacking off range and be prepared to hold on.

Conclusion
A 3 bet is an important weapon in a winning player’s arsenal. When used effectively, it can make you feel unbeatable, particularly when you’re doing it with rags. The key thing to remember when 3 betting or facing a 3 bet, is making a calculated decision before the flop. Is your opponent likely to be holding a weak hand or not? If not, you are more often than not facing the dreaded Aces or Kings. Playing the player is critical when it comes down to 3 bets.

If you are keen to learn more about 3 betting and how to incorporate them in your game. Feel free to contact us or sign up to our poker training video membership to see how 3 bets can be used in tournaments.

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Texas Holdem Questions

Poker Bankroll Management

Going Broke
One of the most common reasons a poker player will go broke is exercising poor bankroll management skills. Many a strong, technical poker player will play the wrong stakes and with too few buy-ins and scratch their head after they lose their bankroll.

Size Matters
Proper poker bankroll management is understanding that the size of your bankroll dictates the games and stakes you should be playing. You may very well be able to beat a high stakes private game, but if it costs you your entire bankroll to sit in that game, clearly you shouldn’t. The reason is simple, poker has a large element of luck in the short term. By exercising poor bankroll management and playing with an insufficient number of buy ins, you are putting your bankroll at stake every time you play.

How Many Buy Ins?
There’s differing opinions on the number of buy-ins required for cash games and tournaments. It’s widely accepted amongst professionals that games involving higher chance require more buy ins e.g. playing turbo sit-n-go’s are very high variance due to the fact that blinds go up quickly and you are playing more all in before the flop poker.

The table below can be used as a guide for the minimum number of buy-ins you should have for different formats of No Limit Texas Holdem.

Game Format Minimum Buy Ins
No Limit Texas Holdem6 Max Cash Game 50
No Limit Texas Holdem Full Ring Cash Game 50
No Limit Texas Holdem 9 Player Sit-N-Go60
No Limit Texas Holdem 180 Player Sit-N-Go100
No Limit Texas Holdem Turbo Multi-Table Tournament (MTT)200
No Limit Texas Holdem Regular Multi-Table Tournament (MTT)100

If you often find yourself going broke and you’re playing with less than 50 buy ins in your bankroll, you need to think about moving down to a level that your bankroll can afford.


Photo by Mathieu Turle @nbmat

Poker Money & Personal Money
Another aspect of poker bankroll management is the ability to separate poker money from personal money. We all love withdrawing and using the money we win on luxuries and that’s great but not if it means restricting your ability to move up stakes or worse, move down. Why not implement a rule where you cash out 10% or 20% of winnings at the end of the month? Sound bankroll management means you are able to play you’re A game regularly without pressure. It is recognising that you are focused on the long term. It also means knowing the right time to move up and down stakes and finding the right level for you. There are players playing higher stakes than they should be and players too scared to move up. Recognising your skill level and reconciling this with your bankroll and the appropriate stakes is a skill in itself. Feel free to contact us if you want a consultation on this.

Conclusion
Poker bankroll management is a key element to being a long-term winning player. It’s importance can’t be understated. It mixes common sense with budgeting skills and self-awareness. Assess your poker bankroll management today and ensure you are properly equipped next time you play.

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Texas Holdem Questions

What a Bad Beat is and How to Handle Them

What is a Bad Beat?
A Bad Beat is the term given for a situation in poker when a player with a much stronger hand and in a mathematically favourable position nevertheless loses. It typically occurs with an unlikely turn or river card. A bad beat is usually associated with the idea that the player who got lucky made a bad call or play that should have been avoided. This is not always the case as a bad beat is also referred to when in fact the situation is a “cooler”, two incredibly strong hands battling. For Example, if Player A has A-A and Player B has K-K and they both move all in on a A-K-K board, that is not a bad beat as much as it is a cooler or cold deck. After all, Player B is not playing poorly by playing the K-K is he?

How to Handle a Bad Beat
One of the differences between strong, winning players and weak, losing players is in their ability to handle bad luck and bad beats. A strong player will move on to the next hand and not let a bad beat effect their play, continuing to play their normal game. The opposite is true for a mentally weak poker player, they will often go on tilt and play poorly for a while, perhaps the entire session. They will fixate on the hand that they lost and even complain and moan to other poker players at the table.

Photo by Tim Gouw @punttim

Don’t pull your hair out or let a bad beat effect your play. Try the tips below after you take a bad beat and you will have a better chance of continuing to play well.

Go For a 2-Minute Walk
Sometimes it’s better not being at the table then playing and playing badly. Getting up and going for a short walk can centre you and regain your focus so you are ready to play your A game.

Playing for the Long Run
Remember, if you are losing to bad beats a lot this means you are getting your chips in favourably in the long run. It stands to reason, that the good players will receive more bad beats as they are more likely to be getting their chips in mathematically strong positions. Take comfort from the fact that you are in this group and are doing something right. If you focus on the long run, you are less likely to get angry and play worse today.

Next time you take a bad beat, smile at your opponent and remember these are the people that are helping you make money.

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Texas Holdem Questions

Under the Gun

Don’t worry it doesn’t mean there’s a rifle above your head. Under the gun is a phrase in poker referred to the position when acting first before the flop in Texas Holdem. From a strategic point of view, it is the worst position to be in as you have the least information available at that point. You have 8 players to act behind you before the potential to see the flop. For this reason, it is usually identified as a position that requires playing fewer and stronger hands. Even the loosest of of loose aggressive (LAG) players know that it is unprofitable to play a wide range of hands from under the gun.

Photo by Alex Kalligas (@alkal)

Why do I need to play tighter from Under the Gun?

It is not just about having less information before the flop. One must remember that Texas Holdem is played across multiple rounds of betting and by playing from under the gun, you will often be the first to act on each street or sandwiched between players. This makes it very challenging to play hands and pot control how you wish.
 Let’s take an example, you have A (clubs) 10 (diamonds) and decide to raise from under the gun, you are called by 1 player in mid position (loose), a tight aggressive player on the button and the big blind too. Everyone has deep stacks. The flop is Jc 10c 6s. The big blind checks, what do you do? You are in a tricky position as you have 2 people behind you but you also have 2nd pair and a good kicker. Betting and check- deciding both seem reasonable but what about the turn and river too? What is your plan? You are prone to getting bluffed out as your hand can’t take much resistance and you can’t expect to value bet with impunity. In short, unless you make a very strong hand that is easy to play or you are heads up against one of the blinds, it is not an appealing option to be playing weak or medium strength hands from under the gun, unless you play post flop excellently and have a weak table.

Strong players are opening their range of raising hands when in early position as they have correctly read that players will fold reasonable hands when facing an open raise. There is also deception in open raising the suited connectors and suited aces from early position but a word of caution of to you. This is only profitable to the most experienced of players who are confident in awkward post flop scenarios. By playing a wide range of hands from under the gun, you are going to find yourself in a lot of tricky scenarios that can cost you a lot of chips.

Next time you play and find a King Ten or Ace 8 suited under the gun, think twice before you enter the pot!

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Texas Holdem Questions

What is a Slow Roll?

You may have heard this phrase at your local casino or your friend mentioning it. It’s an old poker move that is hated more than the dreaded check raise, but with good reason. A slow roll is an incredibly unethical and distasteful move to employ. It is when a player has the best hand and takes an inordinate amount of time to call and show the winning hand. It is one of the most disliked moves in poker.

A player will typically slow roll his opponent with the intention to frustrate his opponent and possibly get them on tilt, but at what cost? You have lost that opponent’s respect and the other players at the table too. A player may also just be a mean spirited individual and just do it for his own amusement. Whatever the reason, it’s very uncool and won’t win you any favours with your fellow poker players.  

A slow roll is quite easy to detect in live play at the casino, the way your opponent reveals the cards and their facial expression are usually a dead giveaway as to whether they are intentionally slow rolling you.
It’s important to note the player in the hand as you need to be careful not to misinterpret the behaviour of a beginner player or a forgetful elderly individual. They may just be slow or not realise the strength of their hand. A beginner may not know he has the nut flush and think he’s playing a 1 pair hand when he slowly calls on the river. If he has the nuts and isn’t re raising you, it’s a pretty clear indication he isn’t slow rolling intentionally as a good player will always try to get more chips in the pot if at all possible.

It is harder to detect a slow roll online. A delayed call could just mean a poor internet connection, the player might be answering the door or in a key hand on another table so again, be careful be for you curse your opponent online.
On the other hand, if the player slow rolls and does a winky face in the chat, you know you’ve just been slow rolled. It might be worth taking a note of that player. Lets face it, the kind of player to slow roll is the same type of player to make irrational bluffs and show you after so there is strategic value to knowing who the slow rollers are.

Next time you play, make sure you don’t slow roll! You’ll find yourself with a big target on your back and lose a lot of respect too. 

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Texas Holdem Questions

Re-raising Early Position Opens

When was the last time you 3 bet an early position raise with junk? How many times in your last session? This move is really underused these days and barely discussed but there is a lot to be said for re raising an early position open from an active player. I find this play to be one of the most profitable pre flop moves available at the moment.

Why?
Most good thinking players have opened their game up enough that they are quite liberal opening from anywhere on the table these days, even early position. A good player will be opening suited connectors and suited aces from early position. They will open these because they are hands with great play-ability and equity, even multi-way, and they are representing something stronger too so it fits in line with stories told post flop.
They won’t hesitate to fold pre flop when re raised as they no longer have the lead in the hand and want to play in position. The best way to counter this strategy is to simply re raise and pick it up before the flop. This works very well against the good players, and when you are in position in the hand. 
The weak players will often open raise wide pre flop too. They will occasionally call the 3 bet pre flop but then fold unless they flop well so a continuation bet is usually all that is needed to win the pot.
Either way, the strategy is effective against both types of player. The key component is that your opponent has shown a willingness to open wide from early position.

When?
You can do this at any point in a tournament but please make sure you and your opponents have sufficient stack size and that you are not committed for lots of chips. It’s usually a good idea to do this with hands that have poor equity or showdown value as you know you are not losing anything if you get 4 bet and you are unlikely to get stubborn post flop. You know you are playing this as a bluff. It’s ok to do it with Ace rag too as this has some blocker value. 
I don’t recommend doing this with hands that play well post flop as much as you should be more inclined to play post flop with these hands, particularly in position.

I demonstrated this strategy recently in a low stakes MTT on PokerStars.  I made a point of trying to find as many opportunities to 3 bet pre flop, in position. It’s quite fun to employ this strategy and very effective! Check it out below in our training video page.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Please email info@texasholdemquestions with feedback and questions.

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Texas Holdem Questions