The poker world loves using animals as a way of categorizing players. I’ve written articles in the past on donkeys and nits, and now I’m concentrating on sharks. A shark is the one creature you should aspire to be. They are predators, attacking their prey and top of the food chain. If a fish is a weak player, a beta, then a poker shark is surely the alpha. In this article, we will look at what a shark is, how to become one and more importantly, how to remain one.
Beginner Texas Hold’em Question
What is a Poker Shark?
A shark is a term used to describe an excellent poker player. A shark is a winning poker player that dominate the opposition. They will strategize, plan, hand read, bluff well, use math and play aggressively to win money and tournament chips. Like a shark in the sea, they will exercise patience, circle their prey and know the exact time to strike. At the poker table, this might mean waiting patiently for 2 hours to bust their opponent. A shark is to be feared and respected.
How to Become a Shark
It’s impossible to become a shark poker player upon starting the game. Like the world we live in, one must evolve to become a shark. You need to acquire lots of different skills to become a shark.
It’s worth noting that being a winner doesn’t necessarily make you a shark. You’ve heard the expression “big fish in a small pond”. This true in the poker world. After all, a table with 9 fishes will have someone winning. That doesn’t mean they are the shark. They are simply the best fish of the lot. Put that fish in with larger, dangerous predators and they will be eaten up and spat out with little effort.
To become a shark, one must become proficient in the skills below:
As you can see, there are at least 12 skills required to becoming a shark. In certain games, you can skirt by and win by having just a few of the skills above. But how far will that take you? If you are keen to become a shark and to develop the skills, it’s not over. One must maintain that level…
Staying a Shark
As previously stated, poker is like evolution. The only difference is, once you reach a level, it’s entirely possible to go back. It’s logical that if you stand still and others evolve and improve, you are essentially going back. If you’re going back and others are going forward, sooner or later you will get overtaken.
Complacency is a challenge that all poker sharks must deal with. It doesn’t take much for it to set in, hand selection to widen too much, bluffing attempts to be too frequent or an arrogant approach to game selection.
To avoid this happening to you, I recommend something that most professional fields advise – continued professional development (CPD). This is something professions such as accountancy insist upon in order to maintain current level of knowledge. You can do likewise by dedicating time to self-improvement. You could try reading poker books, using poker training services, investing in new poker software or following the best poker blogs. Whatever method you try is up to you, but if it keeps you a shark, then surely, it’s worth it?
Omaha and Texas Hold’em are the most popular poker games in the world. Texas Hold’em is still the most popular (by some way). But as the game has got tougher, and there is far more material on Texas Hold’em, more players have been moving over to Omaha.
Texas Hold’em Questions is 99% focused on Texas Hold’em but that’s not to say there isn’t any value in learning the other games. In fact, we have coaches in the mixed games as well as Texas Hold’em. In this article, we are going to look at the core differences between Omaha and Hold’em so you can decide whether to invest time and energy in one or the other, or both. Let’s begin Omaha vs Hold’em.
Number of Cards
First of all, the biggest difference between Omaha and Texas Hold’em is the number of cards you start with. Texas Holdem is played with just 2 whilst Omaha is played with 4. This is a massive difference as you’re now playing with 9 cards instead of the 7. It’s also worth noting that whilst Texas Holdem permits you to use as few or many as your starting hand, Omaha requires you to only use 2 of your 4 cards. This means a hand like A-A-A-7 goes down in value as it’s better to having 3 in your hand is of no use to you.
Having more cards significantly changes the mindset and strategy as relative hand strength in Omaha is reduced. In Texas Hold’em, a flush is a powerful hand. In Omaha, it’s far weaker as there is a much greater chance of someone having a higher flush or full house. The difference here can’t be understated – as many Omaha players are weak enough to pay off bets that they would in Texas Hold’em then moan after citing it as a cooler. In reality, this is just the game of Omaha and something you must adapt to.
What’s the Edge Differences Between Omaha and Texas Hold’em?
Texas Hold’em has bigger edges, on any given hand. If you get your money in on the flop with a set against a top pair hand, you’re virtually assured of the pot. If you’re all in before the flop in tournament poker with a higher pair than your opponent, you’re around 80-20. Edges like this do not exist in Omaha. You will have a much smaller edge with an at best maths advantage of around 60-40. These smaller edges mean you can expect bigger swings, more variance and need to exercise even stricter bankroll management rules. Otherwise, even if you have an edge, you could see yourself moving down stakes fast.
An important thing to understand is that Omaha is a drawing type game. Having more cards in your hand makes for more straights, flushes and “wraps” (multiple straight draws). This means even with a hand as strong as top set, you have to fade a lot of outs to win the pot.
On the plus side, the apparent small edge in Omaha masks the deficiencies of poor Omaha players games. This means there are lots of players thinking they play well when they are actually the fish in the games. It’s also worth highlighting that many Omaha players are playing it as they play Texas Hold’em. Remember to read a poker tutorial before playing Omaha.
Reads and Bluffing
In Texas Hold’em, you can sit with a player an hour and have a read on them. You know the types of hands they play, in what positions and their tendencies. This information is invaluable as it means you an exercise bluffs and adjust your value bets accordingly. In Omaha, you’re not going to be making soul reads. The game is too complex with the possible holdings that you can only play the game.
Bluffing is also much harder in Omaha. This can be a good thing as you want fishes to pay you off. The downside is that you need the best hand to win – something you don’t have control over. This is contrary to Texas Hold’em where you can often have a weaker hand, but a good 3 bet or flop continuation bet may see you win the pot. As a coach and mentor, I can’t stress the value of this skill enough. It is something that separates the weaker and better players. P.S check out our recently launched continuation bet course for more information.
Stakes and Competition
Another difference between the two games is the betting. Texas Hold’em is almost exclusively played in the no limit format. There are some fixed limit and pot limit games around, but they are far less popular. Some sites do not even offer this function. Omaha is played in the pot limit format. This is logical to me, otherwise the games would be even more insane and people would go broke all the time! The side effect of this is the inability to over bet the pot – another reason why Texas Hold’em is the Cadillac of poker.
Competition is softer on the Omaha tables though. This is because Omaha is years behind Texas Hold’em and has not yet gained enough popularity amongst the recreational players. Its also softer. There are players that transition from Texas Hold’em that have not been properly educated on how to play Omaha well. Even the bad players at Texas Hold’em are ok at it but the bad players at Omaha are truly terrible. This is somewhat negated by the edges difference mentioned earlier but with good bankroll management, there is a lot of money to be won at Omaha if you are patient and not susceptible to tilt.
Omaha vs Texas Hold’em – The Conclusion
Omaha is a great, fun game to play. There are lots of fishes playing it and there are always games available on the major sites. There is a lack of material and training on the subject available which means you can crush low stakes games, if you put in the work.
Texas Holdem is still the most popular poker format around. The attention it draws from recreational players is what makes it the most profitable game to play. The wide array of skills necessary required to get to a high standard may seem daunting. However, when you are dealing with much bigger edges, you learn to appreciate why it’s worth investing the time to become good.
I always say that it’s better to be really good at something than average at lots. If you own a niche or dominate at one thing, you will have success. If this rings true for you, then focus one game and master it. As long as you are confident spreading yourself across multiple games and have the time too, go for it.
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Many players devote time to both disciplines, trying to become a master at both. There’s obviously value to learning both well as it affords you flexibility. Being a hybrid will also help you when it comes to live poker. If you bust a tournament, there’s usually cash games running! But it is important to know which one is more suited to you. It may be that you play one 90% of the time and the other the rest. It is important to know which to dedicate yourself to as it will shape your poker decisions, the money you earn and how many hours you play too.
This article will explain what is required for both forms, asking you to answer which is relevant for you. I recommend giving a tick to each one that applies to you, when you get to the end of the article, the one with more ticks should probably be the one you focus more time and energy on.
Have a pen and paper ready for your tally of ticks.
How Flexible Are You?
Does your personal life dictate poker needs to be flexible? If so, cash games are probably can up your street. You can get up and leave whenever you want. You can sit and play 8 hours or 1, there are no rules or regulations when it comes to how long you play for. This flexibility is ideal for players who have commitments and do not have the free time to commit to playing long sessions.
Tournament poker is a different animal. You register and you must stay for the duration. Whilst online poker is played quicker than live poker, it still takes a long time to take it down. Many online poker tournaments have thousands of entrants and navigating through them is no picnic. You get a 5 minute break every hour but is that enough?
If flexibility is a must then it’s a tick for cash games, if it’s not a problem, a tick for tournaments.
How Risk Averse Are You?
Every form of gambling has an inherent risk with it. Poker is a game of skill in the long run, but it’s subject to risk every session you play. The question of how risk averse you is relevant though as a person happy to gamble, is probably going to more suited for cash games. If you are nervous about losing tangible money, you probably will play scared in cash games. Tournament poker might be more suitable as you know what the buy in is when you register. It’s a fixed fee and if you bust, you know what you’ve lost and it’s capped.
Cash games require a certain mindset. You need to separate the thought of money and see it as blinds or chips so that you can make the best decisions possible. If you are worrying about making a call or a bluff because it costs money, then you probably shouldn’t be playing.
If you are naturally very risk averse, tournament poker gets a tick, if you are mentally fine with gambling for money, then it’s a tick for cash games.
What’s Your Attention Span Like? Prone to Boredom?
This may seem an odd question but if you want to play cash games, you need an excellent attention span. Cash games can seem monotonous after a while as the blinds and players are the same. You’re at the same table and things may seem repetitive.
Tournament poker is dynamic and changing. You’re moved tables a lot, the blinds are always increasing, and your stack is constantly changing. This environment is less likely to cause boredom. Let’s face it, when you lose interest and bored, you are prone to making mistakes. You want to avoid mistakes when playing so its important to recognise the differences between cash games and tournaments.
If you have excellent attention span, give cash games a tick, if you get bored quickly, give tournaments a tick.
Are You Technical or Strategic?
This may seem like an unusual question to ask but allow me to elaborate. Technical poker is the ability to learn advanced, deep stack poker playing. Strategic poker is an overall strategy that guides your mentality. The former is ideal for cash games and the latter is required for tournaments. That is selling tournament poker experts short a little, but the underlying point is true.
Deep stack poker playing is what cash games offer. They require advanced thought and poker playing. From river check raise bluffs to triple barrel bluffs and overbet bluffs. Cash games will often be played with 200 big blinds or more. This is not the case in tournament poker, where 50 big blinds is considered a great stack a few hours in! These stack sizes eliminate some of the advanced poker concepts that can be used post flop. To expand on this further, general short and big stack poker can help guide you through a tournament. Couple this with push/fold strategy and you can probably do well at micro stakes.
If you are very technical then tick cash games, if you prefer general strategy, tournament poker gets a tick.
Money or Prestige?
People play poker for different reasons. Some play for fun, some play to play pass time. Most play to earn the most they can and some play for prestige and glory.
It may strike you as unusual to ask which is more important to you. After all, if you win, money is there with prestige at the end. However, if money is your sole goal then cash games are going to be better for you. Cash games produce quicker results than tournaments and a more steady return on investment. Tournament poker bears results over time and is all about the long game. A good in the money rate is anything over 15% or so. That means 85% of the time, you won’t even get your money back.
If the prestige of winning is more important, than tournament poker is perfect for you. Winning tournaments comes with a lot of prestige. It’s a great ego boost to best thousands of poker players and win hundreds of times your buy ins too. Prestige doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Many poker players use this as motivation to win. Look at the prestige that comes with winning events like the WTP or WSOP. You go down in history books as a winner. Prestige can come with cash games too but it’s definitely rarer. You can be a big long term winner at cash games and do so in anonymity.
If money is more important than prestige, give cash games a tick, if prestige is just as important, give tournament poker a tick.
Conclusion on Cash Games or Tournaments
Time to mark up your scores. How did you do? Did the results surprise you? Sometimes, people play poker out of habit and don’t know why they play one form over the other. Hopefully this article has helped you think about whether you are playing the right form and at the right ratio. Or, perhaps this article has re-enforced what you already do.
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Reaching the final table is no small feat. To do this, you will have had to best hundreds if not thousands of players. But making the final 9 is not the end. Everyone knows that once you reach the final table, you need to be planning for a top 3 or better finish. This is where the most lucrative pay-outs are.
Whether you have made few or many final tables, this article will look at final table poker tips that will help your chances of getting heads up in the future.
Identify the “survivors”
Everyone wants to win the tournament but there are some that just want to eek their way up the money. They are the type that will fold down to short stack if needs be, if it means an extra few hundred. You find these players at most final tables. It’s understandable to some degree. You make a final table, you don’ want to bust 9th or 8th. However, their mentality is easy to abuse. They are the perfect players steal blinds from and 3 bet if they open in late position.
Trust your gut
If you’re making final tables, you doing something right. One of the main problems players have is that they do stop doing what was working well for them. Perhaps the money or sight of top 3 makes them freeze – but they lack conviction and don’t pull the trigger. If you make the final table, trust your gut and stick with your reads. It is better to try than wimp out as it those that are assertive that get the win.
Learn to do deals right
Most poker tournaments end up in deals. Its important to recognise how many chips you have, how valuable they are and what price value you should be getting. Doing deals is part of final table poker. An easy way to work it out is to add the remaining prizes together to get the total pool. Now divide your stack value by total chips in play. Once you have your % , you work out the same % of the pool to give you a feel.
Research your opponents
Not everyone at a final table is an experienced player, some will even be losers at poker or break even. There are websites that help you know more about the other players by sharing their results. This is useful as it gives you more of an idea of them and their past results. If it is someone who never final tabled before – he may be nitting it up and nervous. This is something you can take advantage of.
Practice short-handed and heads up
Final table poker is great as it combines so many skills at poker. You cant just be a full ring specialist. One needs to know how to adjust to short handed. There is no better substitute than practice. Fire up some 4 or 6 max SNGs and some heads up. The jumps in pay are substantial so its critical you know what you are doing, what hands to open, 3 bet and defend blinds with. Otherwise, you will get eaten alive.
Final ThoughtsonFinal Table Poker
Unless you play loads, final tables won’t come natural to you. You need to get as much experience and knowledge ahead of it so you take advantage. By practising short handed, researching your opponents, sticking with your reads and being brave, you will have an improved chance next time. The best players fight for a top 3 and will risk an 8th place to get there because it’s worth it.
Like a lion waiting to attack prey, tight aggressive poker players are patient but deadly!
Tight Aggressive Poker (TAG Poker)
The poker world, much like the real world is an ever changing place. New moves, strategy and technology shape ideas that can change the way poker is played. There are some things though that are a mainstay and no amount of technology or innovation will change that. One of these is the tight aggressive style being one of the most profitable styles for low stakes poker. This article will highlight and explain why tight aggressive poker still wins.
Beginner Texas Hold’em Question
What does TAG mean in poker?
“TAG” is the shortened definition of tight aggressive. To be a TAG or tight aggressive means to play few hands but play them aggressively. It essentially means you are the aggressor when you enter the pots you play.
Playing fewer hands give you maths edge
Players at lower stakes make the mistake of playing too many hands. This is not a winning strategy for any stakes of poker. You will run into premium hands too often and be fighting an uphill battle trying to outplay opponents who have strong hands. Please note, I am not referring to Loose Aggressive (LAG) which can be a profitable strategy. I am referring to playing like 50% of hands or more at full rung. Playing fewer hands will give you a mathematical edge on your opponents. It stands to reason that if you are playing better hands, you are more likely to have top pair or a better kicker. This edge can’t be understated at low stakes. It’s one of the core factors that will separate winning and losing players.
Aggressive poker wins
Being aggressive means you are going to win more pots you contest. Whether by winning it uncontested before the flop or after the flop, more pots can be won when you are betting and raising. In the 15 years I’ve played poker, I’ve never heard of anyone who wins in the long term adopting a passive style of poker. Every professional I’ve spoken with, every book I’ve read and every video I’ve watched have all recommended aggressive poker. The amount of hands you play is less relevant than the fact you need to be aggressive in poker. Poker is a battle and passive poker does not win battles.
More successful bluff rate
One of the best consequences of employing a tighter style of poker is the way you can pull off bluffs better. Playing a looser brand of poker is more fun but also gets you caught more. Tight aggressive poker gives you a solid image. People will believe you. With the right balance, this is a fantastic image to have. This means you can raise more liberally, particularly on the button and still get respect. A successful bluff rate doesn’t just mean the big bluff representing big ovepair on a low board. It also means having a success steal rate or a high continuation bet success rate too.
Easier decisions & less mistakes
Poker players don’t like being out of the comfort zone or awkward spots. This is where big mistakes can be made. The risk of this is significantly reduced when you are playing premium hands and the first in bettor. A tight aggressive poker style means you won’t be playing hands like J 7 offsuit and wondering what to do on a 10-7-5-6 board. When you are playing stronger hands, you will typically be hitting top pair type hands. This makes decisions quite straightforward. This is music to the ears of beginners and intermediate players.
Downsides to TAG Poker
I want to provide a balanced article and provide all the information on this style of poker. TAG poker comes with limitations too. There are a couple below.
Playing this style means people can read you a little easier than if you played more hands. Consider a flop of 2d 5d 6s. A capable opponent will recognise this board is unlikely to hit your range of hands. Sure, you can have an overpair or possibly a set, but that’s it. Please note though, there is a big difference between TAG poker and being a nit. A nit plays far fewer hands and not necessarily aggressively either.
It’s great to have c bets and bluffs work, but the downside to this is that you may not get full value with your strong hands. Don’t worry too much though, low stakes poker is littered with bad players that still pay you off.
Conclusion on Tight Aggressive Poker
Tight aggressive poker is one of the best strategies you can employ at low stakes. You may be a little predictable, but most players at low stakes don’t care and still make mistakes. Playing this style allows you to win more pots you contest, steal more from late position and manipulate pots the way you want.
As you develop as a player and move up the stakes, you can incorporate more hands and creative plays, but at low stakes TAG poker is winning poker.
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If you’re new to Texas Hold’em and still learning the basics, you may feel a bit overwhelmed with the information around. Don’t worry, every professional started the same place you are now. There is an abundance on information available to you that can help you improve but there’s no use running before you walk.
This article on Texas Hold’em strategy for beginners will provide 8 practical tips to help you start crushing the low stakes games online.
As you’re new to poker and learning the rules, it’s wise to stick to one table initially. This may seem a little boring or tedious but trust me, it’s in your interest. Texas Hold’em is more complex than you think and requires full attention. Once you have mastered one table and play to a decent standard, you will be able to start increasing the number of tables but please play one to start with. Your bankroll will be all the better for it.
Table & Game Selection
You are probably a cash game or tournament player but not both yet, right? Either way, select your games carefully. Don’t just jump into any game. Like anything, if you are worse, you are more likely to lose. Instead, pick the cash games with higher % of players at flop and bigger pots. If you’re a tournament player, stick to the sites that are softer. These are the smaller sites that perhaps offer sports betting as their main product. They are rife with new players who barely know the rules. Our latest review was on one of the softest poker sites, click below for our full review.
One of the most common traits of a beginner is to flat call before the flop. This is known as “limping” and is widely considered poor poker strategy. Presented with 3 options before the flop, open limping (to enter the pot with a call), is the worst of all 3 options. It’s much better to raise and take control of a pot or just get out of the pot than to enter with a flat call.
Without going into great detail, limping will get you into lots of difficult situations and cause you to get run over by regulars. If you are keen to learn more about why limping is bad. Read our article “Limp in poker and why it’s almost always bad”.
Use Late Position
You may have heard that playing on the button is the best, without understanding why. Simply put, it’s the best position because you’re last to act on every round of betting post flop. This privileged position means you get to see everyone else’s actions before deciding to invest more money or tournament chips. This means you can play more hands than you would in other positions.
When I say “use late position”, I mean raise from it, call more raises from late position and bet flops when checked to. It’s the best seat at any poker table and will make you more money than any other position.
Be Careful with Ace Rag
Beginners get a little too excited when they are dealt an ace. Whilst it’s the best card to be dealt, the card that comes with it is equally as important. There’s no use playing big pots with ace two off suit as you’re always going to be at a disadvantage.
If you are playing ace rag, be careful if you hit top pair, the second card (kicker) will often fail you and cause you to lose more money. This is arguably one of the biggest reason’s beginners lose to nitty low stakes regulars. They can’t get away from ace rag. Check out a previous article on ace rag here.
Like most things in the 21st century, there are almost too many options available. Login into any major poker site and you will see countless games running at different stakes. As you’re new to Texas Hold’em, don’t get excited and play higher stakes than your ability. Instead, start small at the micro stakes. Work up a bankroll and move up gradually, in line with your ability.
Winners at low to high stakes will prey on beginners who take shots. Don’t be one of them. Your day will come when you will be playing with them and hopefully have an edge.
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It’s an efficient time saving device as you can learn effective strategy that might take another beginner several years to learn properly. You can join for free by clicking below.
One of the most important pieces of Texas Hold’em strategy I can impart is to be aggressive. There are lots of ways to be a winner at poker but none of them, to my knowledge, involve playing timidly. You need to be aggressive when you play pots.
A tight aggressive style will help you beat the micro and low stakes games still. Tight aggressive poker means playing fewer hands but assertively. It requires you take control of pots by open raising and betting post flop. This Texas Hold’em strategy for beginners is mathematically sound. If you are playing better hands than your opponents, for bigger pots, you should expect to win in the long run.
We’ve all had them and they sting, don’t they? There are few worse feelings in poker than being on the wrong side of a cooler. You think you’re about to rake this huge pot and end up losing. Often, you can’t control anything to do with a poker cooler. You can control how you react to them. Some people will quit a session superstitiously believing “it’s not my day”, others will go on tilt whilst a seasoned professional or experienced poker player will shrug it off. This article will look at what a poker cooler is, a personal cooler story, examples of coolers, a brief look at probability and famous televised coolers.
Beginner Texas Hold’em Question
What is a Cooler in Poker
A cooler is a term used to describe a scenario where two or more poker players have very strong hands matched up e.g. flush vs full house. It’s a hand that will cost you money or chips, not because you’ve played badly but because of being on the wrong side of the luck element.
My Cooler Story
Many years ago, I was planning on playing what I considered a big live tournament (£1,000 buy in). I was only 19 years old and never played for these kinds of stakes before and wanted to get some deeper stacked, slower paced live tournament experience.
I found a great £300 tournament in London that seemed perfect. An hour on the train, a few tubes stops and I was there at Gutshot poker club, eager to play. I was already thinking this tournament is perfect for me. I will play solid and let people blow up into me. Tournament poker rewards those who are patient in the early stages and the aggressive later on so I felt good about my chances.
The tournament begins..
It was about 15 minutes in and pocket threes are dealt to me. There was a raise and a few calls and I called from the blinds. The flop came out a beautiful 2d 3d 9c. I was going for the standard and predictable check-raise line. My plan was coming together, the initial raiser had continuation bet and I wasted no time in getting making a raise. You’d think most people would only flat with overpairs facing a check raise this early on.When my opponent put in a re raise of my check raise, I was still not concerned about pocket nines. I went ahead and got my stack in, instantly called and the first person out of the tournament. I paid £20 per minute I was in the tournament.
On the way home
I mulled over whether I played the hand correctly or not on the train home. It was a long ride. Was that hand worth £300 or should I have played it differently? Perhaps I could have played a little slower given it was so early on? Always perform an audit and examination of a cooler hand to find out whether you were unlucky or misplayed it.
Examples of Poker Coolers
Pocket Aces against pocket Kings
This is the most standard of coolers in poker. You have the second-best possible hand in Texas Hold’em. Few professionals have ever folded pocket kings pre-flop. Have you? It’s incredibly hard. Even when all the evidence points to them having pocket aces, you find yourself stacking off.
Set over set
As with my cooler story, flopping a set and being up against a higher set is incredibly unlucky. There are the odd occasion when the board run out may save you e.g. a flush possible or 4 card straight. But generally, you will just have to pay it off.
Flush against higher flush
I am referring to when the board shows 3 of a suit and you both have 2 of a suit in your hand. This is another one of those unfortunate situations. If you are the one holding a smaller flush, sometimes it’s best to be prudent, particularly if your opponent plays fit or fold and is betting and raising.
Swings & Roundabouts
On a positive note, volume in poker is the great equaliser. Play enough and you will see everything happen. Its simple probability isn’t it? You will be on the good side of coolers and be on the bad side too. When you get out of the way from a few spots when you’re on the wrong side, you’ve made money. After all, money saved is the same as money won, particularly in scenarios where 99% of players would lose.
Is it Possible to Avoid Coolers?
First of all, we need to establish that it is in fact a cooler. Most casino card-rooms and online poker forums are littered with poker players claiming “I lost to a cooler“. More often than not, it isn’t one, or, they should not have been involved in the hand in the first place. Calling a raise with K8 offsuit out of position, flopping K-8-Q and losing to K-Q or Q-Q is tough, but you misplayed the hand and had no business being involved. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but you can’t easily avoid poker coolers. If you can’t handle them, feel free to look at other games online for your fun, but make sure you get a casino bonus. It’s the law of odds. On the other hand, facing a very tight opponent with no inclination to bluffing and also reads the board well, then you may be able to fold and avoid a cooler, but it’s not easy! It takes a lot of practice and gut instinct to avoid them.
Consider is whether the hand that beats you is more likely than any others. A nitty opponent who has raised from the under gun and putting in lots of raises and bets on a Q-T-J is very possibly sitting there with big slick, so 8-9 might be easier to fold than you think.
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Famous Televised Poker Coolers
To help you fee a bit better, check out a couple of famous televised coolers below. Even Phil Ivey runs bad sometimes!
You might have heard of the phrase ‘Play the player, not the cards.’ The idea behind the statement is a little outdated because poker has moved on a great deal since poker faces and picking up on tells were the big thing.
While many tells – signs that a player subconsciously gives off to reveal the real strength of his or her hand – are indeed true, good players know this and can double bluff by deliberately showing a tell to confuse an opponent. For example, taking a sip from a water bottle was once supposed to be a sign of anxiousness or weakness. A good player might, therefore, drink in this way, hoping his opponent believes him to be weak… only to walk straight into a full house.
The whole debate about live tells means nothing in online poker, of course. Here, you don’t get to see your opponent, hear them talk, or see how they handle their chips.
Watch for Betting Patterns
What you can do is study their playing patterns using a HUD, which will help you better predict what they might do next. But while HUDS are all well and good, not everyone has them. And anyway, nothing beats good, old-fashioned note-taking on players to build a picture of how they play.
Every online poker room has a note take facility. You simply click on the player avatar or name and see the option to take a note. When you add one, the avatar always has a label to show you a note is in place, perfect for when you stumble upon the player again weeks, months, or even years later.
What Notes Should You Take on Players?
While you would think the more notes you take, the better, it’s not that simple. You might not be a fast typist, for one thing, and spending too long trying to write a note, even in abbreviated form, means you may miss out on an essential piece of the action.
It is best to keep things as straightforward as possible. Certainly, enough to have a basic idea of how a player performs. If you are new to the game, then start practicing with notes immediately, so it becomes a habit. You can do this risk-free if you play free poker games to gain confidence.
Some poker rooms provide a coloured label system you can apply to a player name. You might, for example, have green for a calling station fish, blue for a rock who only puts in a bet with a monster, and red for a tight-aggressive player who could get you in trouble.
Colour labelling players at your table is fine, so long as you update the colours as you learn more about an opponent. Where once you had the player down as a calling station, you might find after a few hundred hands on the same table that, in fact, his range is tighter, and he does not get involved in so many pots.
Just relying on colours is not ideal. You should train yourself to write occasional notes, too, which should be an essential part of any poker coaching. There is no point in recording everything you notice. After one or two long sessions against the same player, you will have made so many notes that making sense of them if you meet again weeks later will take far too much time.
Example Questions for Note-Taking
It’s best to keep your notes to top-level ones that you can use to help future decisions. Here are some examples you might add to your list:
Does the player pay too much for draws, and too often?
Does he call out of position with weak hands?
Does he always min-bet monsters pre and post-flop?
Does a check-raise always mean the nuts?
Does he semi-bluff bet flush or straight draw?
Does he routinely open-raise on the button or cut off?
If you manage to build three or four of these notes on a particular player, you are in a much stronger position to make profitable calls or folds when you play them next.
Sometimes the difference between losing or making a profit in poker is wafer-thin. Some solid note-taking might be just what you need to move you into profitable play.
While observing and taking notes on opponents is undoubtedly a good thing, don’t concentrate on it so much that you forget what image you are portraying to them. Your own play might be so robotic that a skilled opponent will be making notes on your style. This negates any advantage you had.
Take a cue from top players like Daniel Negreanu. He will mix up play so that opponents can never easily classify him one way or another. Sure, min-bet with aces or kings one time, but open with a bet of four times the big blind on another occasion. Semi-bluff with a flush draw occasionally but elect to check to see a cheap turn or river another time.
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.
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?). Two others limp in late position, and you complete from the small blind with:
The flop comes:
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 prudent 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:
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.
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A continuation bet is where you have raised before the flop and bet again on the flop. You’ve “continued” betting, hence continuation bet. This is also known as “C betting”. The continuation bet is necessary tool in a poker player’s arsenal. Without it, they will win fewer pots and gain less information on the cards their opponents are holding. Now you know what it is, we will outline the do’s and don’ts of continuation betting.
It’s much easier for a continuation bet to get through in heads up pots. Your opponent will only flop a pair 1 in 3 times so this makes a flop bet very profitable in the long run.
Continuation betting is pretty much mandatory if checked to you in position. You can put players under pressure far more easily than if you are out of position.
Against fit or fold players
It’s easy to continuation bet against players that are only playing the cards in their hand. They don’t care if the board is 2-3-9 and hits none of your range. They will still fold if they have nothing, so feel free to continuation bet.
Big card flops
The flops with an ace or high card are far easier to continuation bet and get through because they hit your perceived range. Who care if you have pocket 3s? They don’t know that.
Flops like K-2-8 are easier to continuation bet due to the lack of flush and straight draws. It reduces the chances your opponent has anything and makes a continuation bet more likely to work.
When you have “it”
If you have the hand, fire away too. There’s no use only continuation betting with air or overcards. You want to build the pot and get value so start putting money in on the flop.
Simple statistics dictate the more players involved in a pot, the stronger the hand you need to win it. Player’s don’t like folding so if you elect to continuation bet, be prepared to fire 3 bullets to win it.
Out of position
This isn’t a golden rule, obviously there are many times out of position when you should be betting the flop. It’s tougher to fire continuation bets with success against tough players on some flops, they will float or re raise many flops if the board doesn’t hit your range.
The boards with 3 of a suit or 3 in a row often prove difficult to get a c bet through. People’s ranges are not polarized either, they may be slow playing a monster, prudently playing 2 pair or 3 of a kind. They may just have the ace of the suit.
After lots of bluffs
It’s a tad ambitious to persist with continuation bets if you’ve been showing bluffs or caught bluffing. Tone it down for a while if you have because people will be looking you up.
How Often Should I Continuation Bet?
It depends on the makeup of your table but you should be looking to continuation the majority of the time, particularly heads up. A rough guide below:
More than 3 players involved
Continuation Bet Sizing
Generally in tournament you want to bet a little less than you may in cash games. I think continuation betting between 49-52% is fine.Cash games afford more flexibility with deeper stack sizes. You are also keen to enforce errors later in the hand and narrow hands down easier. Therefore, continuation betting should be a little larger, between 56-62%.
There’s no way around it, if you want to win at poker, you’ll need to learn how to continuation bet well. To not know about continuation betting is akin to a golfer not knowing about his 9-iron golf club. It’s one of the most important skills to acquire for both cash games and tournaments. If you enjoyed this article and want to improve you continuation betting, sign up to our complete continuation betting course for only £299.
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