What Percentage of Hands Should I Be Playing?

This question from Robert in Scotland is a common question in poker. Figuring out how many hands to play can be a tricky question. Players get concerned they are playing to loose and wasting money or playing too rocklike and getting abused. To answer this question fully, we need to look at where you are at in your learning and the type of the game you play. By considering these criteria we should be able to come up with an approximate percentage.

Why Experience Matters

The number of hands you play isn’t only driven on the number of opponents at the table. The level of experience and competency should be a huge factor too. The longer you’ve played and the more hands you’ve seen equates to competency in various scenarios. Logically, someone who has barely played and is new to poker is going to be inexperienced in lots of different scenarios.

Texas Hold’em is a complex game with so many variables that you can’t say you’ve seen everything post-flop with any certainty. With different flop textures, bet sizes and relative hand strengths, there are so many potential scenarios that can crop up. Therefore, we recommend that players who are new to poker or losing consistently, adopt a tighter brand of poker. This will ensure you’re not getting into lots of tricky scenarios that you can’t play profitably. As you develop, become a consistent winner and gain proficiency post-flop, you can slowly add more hands into your arsenal.

Conversely, if you are consistent winner with vast experience, opening up with more hands can enhance your win-rate, particularly when you play texas holdem with FanDuel. In fact, it’s probably going to harm a part-time poker professional’s win rate to play a TAG style as they will be leaving money on the table. An expert can profitably play far more hands than an inexperienced player can get away with.

What Percentage of Hands to Play in 6 Max?

The main form of cash game online is 6 max. The games are generally juicier and more action packed. Players are more aggressive with frequent 3 and 4 betting going on. As a guideline, we recommend playing the percentage below.

New Players – 20%

Intermediate Players – 22.5%

Experienced Players – 25%

In shorter handed games, there are only four seats which are not in the blinds. Often, raising under the gun in 6 max will result in playing the pot against someone in the blinds. Therefore, an experienced poker player should be playing a decent range of hands from most positions. Having the lead in a hand and exercising your post flop skills will compensate for some of the more speculative hands you will be playing. You can download our 6 max pre-flop charts below for free.

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What Percentage of Hands to Play in Full Ring?

Full ring poker is a completely different dynamic to short handed games. In full ring games, people have hands more often. As such, relative hand strength changes quite a bit. Where top pair and even 2nd pair can be a decent hand heads up in 6 max, it’s often worthless in multi-way pots in a full ring game. Therefore, we need to lessen the number of hands we play to maintain a decent ROI. Playing speculative hands from earlier position is a big no-no for inexperienced players and even intermediate players. For this reason, the percentage of hands to play will be lower than the 6 max suggestions above. See below based on experience.

New Players – 15%

Intermediate Players – 17.5%

Experience Players – 20%

As you can see, even the experienced players are unlikely to be profitable playing more than 20% of hands. The problem is that you can’t profitably get involved from earlier positions lightly. Opening hands like queen-jack or ace-ten from anything later than middle position or hijack won’t help your long-term earnings.

Summary

There’s no hard and fast rule as to what percentage of hands to play. The information in this article is our best recommendations based on the level of experience a player has and what games they choose to play. It’s sourced from own experience and what we think will help deliver the best ROI.

However, we need to make the disclaimer that the percentage of hands you play can be personal to you. If you are more confident playing a tighter style, you will want to play fewer hands, even if you’re experienced. The opposite is true for people who have decades of experience playing loads of hands, although we still urge players to settle down, it’s very difficult to maximise your win rate playing an inordinate number of hands.

We hope you find this article useful. If you’d like to chat with us to get further support, feel free to book in a call below.


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What American States Allow Online Gambling?

In this article we are answering the question where citizens of USA can play poker online legally. The increasing availability of online poker games since the advent of the internet has given players limitless opportunities to take part in one of the fastest growing competitive gambling scenes around. No more, since the early 2000’s at least, would a prospective poker player need to venture across state lines or even play for fun at a friend of a friend’s house.

From newbie Texas Hold’em novices to blackjack high-rollers and everyone in-between, there has never been a more popular time to play with and against anybody anywhere in the world, at a click of a button from the comfort of your own home. It’s exciting stuff for those seeking a thrill without having to go too far – or even anywhere! – to find one.

A small percentage of players can make it as professional gamblers but most people will play for fun and entertainment. Online poker is great fun and provides solid entertainment value without the need to leave the living room.

When it comes to table games, the blackjack variant of poker is the king and every online casino tends to operate at least one blackjack title. It’s an easy game to learn, it’s fun to play and the entire premise adapts well to the online platform. It’s not uncommon for online casino sites to provide more than one version of blackjack, each with slightly different rules, and the providers know they’ll reap big traffic to their sites when it comes to blackjack for those reasons.

Popular online poker formats

But Texas Hold’em is pretty popular with online players too as it provides a more authentic live poker challenge against many other competitors. This is in contrast to to games like blackjack where you are taking on the house and dealer.

Wider availability for online poker

As we mentioned, the opportunities for gamblers to take part in online poker are increasing. We won’t go into talking about the states where it isn’t legal to play online here. The fact of the matter is the availability for customers to sit at various online poker tables is the best it’s been for years.

There are now six US states where regulated, legal online poker is currently offered – they are West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Michigan, Nevada and Pennsylvania. Three of those states are fairly new to the online poker scene as Pennsylvania and West Virginia entered the market in 2019, before Michigan became the latest state to legalize the online poker industry earlier this year.

Top online poker platforms

Meanwhile the very popular Pokerstars is currently legal in three states, with licenses to operate being granted by New Jersey, Pennsylvania and this year’s legal poker newcomers Michigan. Since its formation as long ago as 2001, Pokerstars has built itself up to become the largest real money online poker site in the world. It controls over two-thirds of the total online poker market.

The fact that it is available to players in half of the US states where online poker is legal means Pokerstars is incredibly popular with online poker players. It is natural for players to visit this particular platform, but there are plenty of other popular sites that stage online poker games to get involved with.

Ignition Casino, InterTops, BlackChip Poker and Cafe Casino are all up there when it comes to the best sites for online poker. They all offer great opportunities for players to enjoy the pastime in the six states where online poker is legalized…

The state(s) of play

Nevada

It would make sense that the state in which Las Vegas resides is pretty key when it comes to online gambling. Although there is only one solitary active poker site in Nevada, it is pretty huge…

The world-famous World Series of Poker has been the premier event of the poker calendar for decades. Why? It provides the most sought after prize in the game. WSOP.com Online is the only real online poker site that exists in the state and provides the only chance you have to win from the comfort of your home. But it’s a fantastic chance, all the same.

New Jersey

After Nevada, the only other state that can lay claim to being a spiritual home of online gaming has to be New Jersey. With its extensive choice of online gambling options including casinos, sportsbooks, and poker games. There are dozens of online poker sites to choose from in NJ. New Jersey is the state with the most availability for players to stick or twist on the virtual tables.

Delaware

You would be surprised to discover that Delaware was actually the first state to legalize online gambling in 2012. It beat the above two powerhouses of online poker. And online gambling is pretty big in this pretty small state, with the Delaware Lottery in charge of no less than three online casinos, three online poker sites, and an online lottery.

Pennsylvania

Online casinos with poker games first launched in Pennsylvania in July 2019 and the industry within the state has seen significant growth in the two years following. There’s over half a dozen online casinos in operation and more planned for the near future, this state being much more populous than the one above means the availability of online poker in PA will rocket.

West Virginia

This state was the one to take the lead to legalize sports betting. It has five casinos and a thriving online poker community making it a big player in the gambling world.

Michigan

Michigan became the most recent state to legalize online casinos in January and has already granted access to no less than 13 (THIRTEEN!) online casinos where games such as blackjack, video poker and live dealer games are prevalent.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the six states where online poker is playable to anybody who wishes to enjoy it. There are plans for this opportunity to soon be expanded to at least one more state with Connecticut very recently opening for online gambling business. Although the poker option isn’t quite ready there yet, it is only a matter of time before it will be. The hope is this is just the latest in a long line of states allowing players to legally play online poker. After all, legal play is safe and protected and the more states that offer that can only be a good thing.

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Can You Be a Professional Gambler?

The vast majority of you see gambling as a bit of fun or a side hustle but there are a select few that actually do it professionally. For punters who win semi-regularly or hit jackpot wins, there might always be a temptation to try it. In most cases it would be foolish as professional gambling is just as challenging as other “jobs”. We’ve recently been asked the question “can you be a professional gambler”. So, in this article, we’re going to answer the questions by giving an in depth look at what it takes to be a professional gambler, highlight some benefits and also show the disadvantages too.

The Necessary Skills & Resources

Becoming a professional gambler doesn’t happen overnight or by chance. There are plenty of strengths a full-time pro will need to be successful. We’ve narrowed our list down to five key skills or resources that a gambler must possess.

Temperament

One of the most important skills requirements is a good temperament. Even if you’re the best poker player in the room, there is no guarantee you will win your next session. Having a sound temperament is essential to being consistent and making the right decisions for the long-term. In our experience, this attribute is very rare. Most gamblers mindsets are heavily swayed by the most recent results or outside influences.

Discipline

Discipline is another necessity for professional gamblers. The discipline lies in playing the right stakes, not moving up too quickly, resisting games where there is no edge. Even avoiding alcohol when going to the casino. All these examples help a gamblers’ chances as they are treating gambling as a business, not entertainment like 99% of people.

Game Selection

This is a concept lost on the social gambler. They will go from one game to another, losing here and there without mastering any. This is anathema to a pro who carefully picks and chooses which games are right to play. A pro is more likely to stick to games where there is more skill input e.g. poker or blackjack. A professional won’t play slots 9-5 as they know the house edge is massive.  

Research

Getting advice from likeminded successful gamblers and researching games and strategy is critical too. Like anything worth doing well, seeking advice from the best will only enhance your chances. For instance, if you are considering mastering sports betting, speaking with the best tipsters regularly will enhance your ability to find profitable betting strategy. You can find some offering free service plays on reputable sports betting forums.

Accountability

Accountability and keeping accurate records are a vital resource to a full time professional. One needs to track everything so they know how many hours they played, what their wins and losses are and how they are doing overall. Without detailed records and understanding your ROI you are just aimlessly gambling.

poker spreadsheet

Advantages of a Professional Gambler  

The most obvious advantage to being a professional gambler is the ability to pick and choose when you work. Unlike a regular day job, you can wake up later in the day. You can have Monday off if you want. It’s up to you. This level of freedom is unheard of in most walks of life and undoubtedly one of the big perks of living the life of a professional gambler.

In many countries around the world, winnings from gambling is tax free. This is the case in the United Kingdom and a huge advantage to anyone who gambles for a living. In a regular job, a £1,000 bonus might be worth £668 after taxes or less if you have student loans or in a higher tax bracket. In gambling, you keep the entire £1,000, worth more than £332 than in a normal job. When you compare hourly rates, you should look at post-tax to compare with a professional gambler to really see the value to the individual.

Finally, the general freedom you have is certainly a benefit. You’re able to go on holiday whenever you want. You can also access games from anywhere. A professional gambler in 2020s doesn’t need to travel cross country to a casino to play. They can jump into a game in seconds through their phone or laptop.

Disadvantages of a Professional Gambler

Gambling for a living isn’t all luxury. There are several important disadvantages to the gamblers lifestyle that must be addressed before one even considers going professional.

An unpredictable and uncertain income is probably the largest disadvantage. In our regular jobs, we can comfortably forecast, plan and predict our future. This is essential to anyone who is in a relationship, has a family or just likes to know what is round the corner. For a professional gambler, it’s very difficult to look far into to the future.

Another disadvantage is the external societal aspect. A professional gambler cannot get a mortgage, a house must be paid for in cash. A rent tenancy must be paid for in full (e.g. 6 months or yearly). In UK, we have the national insurance system whereby paying in for decades entitles us to a state pension. So, a professional gambler loses the massive benefits this has too.

The lifestyle of a gambler is unsociable. That may seem contradictory as gamblers are generally playing on the nights at weekends, right? Well, that is anti-social when it comes spending time with friends and family. If you’re using time to gamble when your friends and family are free, you are unlikely to spend much time with them. After all, your partner is likely to work weekdays and your children will be at school. This is a heavy burden to put on those around you.

Finally, the motivational and mental aspects of professional gambling can be a downer too. How will you react when you are on a losing streak? Will it impact your decision making or your mood away from the tables? If so, you should think twice. The motivation to keep gambling and striving to do better is also a large obstacle for professionals. Even when you’re winning regularly, gambling can be demotivating and seem like a regular job at times. If it’s like a job, you may as well get one as the sacrifices for professional gambling are numerous and weighty.

Conclusion

Clearly, professional gambling is not something to go into lightly. It’s something for a very select few that have a strong mentality, a desire to learn, disciplined with temperament and accountable. A successful professional need all these traits to do well. We believe even lacking in one area could destroy your chances. For most of you, playing for fun and entertainment is going to be the right call. Just remember to gamble responsibly and stick to games you know well.  

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Ace Rag

What’s Wrong With Ace Rag? Tony from UK

Dear Tony,

Thanks for your question. Ace rag is an ace with a number between 2 and 9 and usually off-suit in Texas Hold’em. It is a hand group that is often associated with new players who often overplay it. They usually overplay it because they look at one ace and think they have a strong hand. The second card is known as the “kicker” and can be the key difference in winning or losing the pot. See below for example:

Board:

On this board, a player with :

This player is beat by someone with:

Remember. you are playing the best 5 card hand, in this case A-A-9-9-J beats A-A-9-9-6.

The Maths

To have a bigger kicker with your ace is quite a significant advantage in Texas Holdem. You will be at least 74% favourite if you both hold an ace and yours is larger. This is known as being dominated, this is particularly useful to know in tournament poker when you are all in before the flop. If you overplay an ace rag and are all in against an ace king, you are in a world of trouble and unlikely to win.

Playability

Remember, an ace is both high and low for straights. Therefore, a lower ace could be more of value than a middle kicker. This sounds counter intuitive but for the purposes of playability it’s true. I prefer to have an ace four than an ace seven. The ace four has straight potential whereas the ace seven does not. 

How Many People at The Table

The fewer players at the table, the wider range of hands you should be playing. In a full ring game, an ace ten is a mediocre hand at best from early position, four handed and it is a strong hand. In other words, the value of your ace goes up in value, the fewer opponents you have. If you are playing 6 max or heads up, you will likely play every ace before the flop, with differing degrees of aggression, but you will play them.

Ace Rag Tips

Ace rag doesn’t have to be a problem hand. As long you are not wedded to it post flop if you catch an ace, exercise pot control well and are in position, the hand can certainly be profitable for you:

  • Open raise from cut-off or button if folded to you
  • Call a raise from SB
  • Limped pot and you catch top pair
  • 3 Bet a loose aggressive (LAG) player in position as you have a good blocker.

I hope you found this answer useful. Remember to tread cautious next time you look down at ace rag.

Thanks,
Narciso

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Trouble Folding Pocket Aces?

When should I be folding pocket aces? I seem to lose a lot of pots with them. Ben from UK

We chose Ben’s question as our featured free question this month. Folding pocket aces is an issue many beginners and even experienced players have, particularly in cash games or early stage tournaments so we thought this would be a useful question and answer to share with our readers.

Answer

Hi Ben

Thanks for your question. Pocket aces are the best possible hand before the flop in No Limit Texas Holdem but they are also one of the most overplayed after the flop. Professionals  pick off beginners who have trouble folding pocket aces in cash games all the time. They will tap the table and say unlucky while raking in a 200BB pot.

To answer your question though, there are many occasions when you should be folding pocket aces. 

  • Facing a turn re-raise from a tight player is almost always 2 pair or better in cash games
  • Facing a check raise in a multi-way pot 
  • On a 4 to flush board (if you are lacking the suit)
  • On a 4 to straight board

The scenarios above are simplistic and obvious to experienced players but not always to a player new to the game.You also need to be careful on paired boards or boards where two pairs easily fit your opponents preflop calling range e.g KQx, KJx & QJx. 

Above all you need to think, as the pot builds, is your opponent the type to play a one pair hand for this much? If it’s unlikely then you need to step back and assess. Your opponents tendencies are just as important as board texture when choosing how much to commit to a hand with pocket aces.

Selective Memory

The other thing to remember with pocket aces is you always remember the times you lose with them. You expect to always win but the fact is you are not guaranteed to win, even in  tournaments you are about 80% against a lower pair. That’s favourable odds but you are expected to lose 1 in 5 in this situation. That’s not so rare is it?

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Final Thoughts on Folding Pocket Aces

Pocket aces should be your most profitable hand to play but it is also just a one pair hand. In deep stacked games, the better players are manoeuvring and looking for spots to play big pots with better than one pair hands. This means you need to adapt. Consider the board texture, your image, your opponents likely range and their tendencies before playing a big pot. As you gain experience you will appreciate the value of pot control and effective bet sizing. You will also learn to hand read and have less trouble folding pocket aces.

Hope this helps.

Thanks

Narciso