When Should I Play Suited Connectors?

Introduction to Suited Connectors

Two cards in sequential order of the same suited are suited connectors. They are appealing on the eye and have great value under the right circumstances. Many a professional’s have suited connectors as their favourite hand in Texas Holdem.

When Not To

Short stacks

This is not the time to play the 56 suited. You want big cards that fare well in pre flop confrontations. These types of hands will do poorly against hands the likely hand ranges you will face. Let’s look at 4d 5d. It is about 41% against an Ace King and 22% against a pair of 9s. Not scenarios that work well for the 4-5 suited. The same is true if your opponent has a short stack, you can’t play the suited connector for full value.

Out of Position

Suited Connectors are difficult to play effectively out of position. The fact is, you cannot control the betting or pot size how you wish as well when you first to act. If you flop a draw or a low pair, how do you proceed? It’s tricky isn’t it? It’s hard to get the full value when you do hit too so be careful playing these hands out of position.

Against The Best Players

Calibre of opponent is always a consideration at the table when you are entering a pot. Whilst suited connectors are a joy to win big pots with, sometimes you need to tighten up and play premium hands. If there is an amazing player at your table who can hand read well and difficult to extract value from then playing the suited connector to one of his raises might not be wise.

When You Can

Deep Stack Poker

They are great when stacks are deep and you can crack a big pair or top pair top kicker hand that your opponent is overplaying. This is where implied odds are brilliant. You can afford to call a 2.2bb raise if you know you can win 125 bbs.

suited connectors

In Position

Position is the best isn’t it? You can get away with playing hands you just wouldn’t if you were having to act first all hand. This is true for suited connectors too. I will happily call a raise on the button with 8s 9s against a tight player, knowing their range and able to get value or take it away later in the hand. This is why you can play suited connectors in position, because you have more opportunities to bluff or semi bluff later in the hand.

How to Play Suited Connectors

The key to playing suited connectors is to get in cheap and break your opponents. Play them multi-way and in position. Try to make your hand before investing lots of money or chips.

Poker Out of Position Sucks Doesn’t it?

Introduction to Out of Position Poker

The majority of poker enthusiasts have heard playing out of position is worse than in position, but they don’t truly understand the reasons why.  Why is it such a bad idea to play pots out of position? Why can’t I win as much playing out of position? This article will look at some reasons why playing poker out of position sucks.

Lack of Information

Poker is a game of information; you’re trying to find out what your opponents have while hide the hand you have. You’re trying to gain information throughout a hand intuitively so you can make the best decisions possible. The truth is, when you are out of position, you lack information on your opponents. You are always acting before them and don’t know what they are going to do. You are left with two main options, check and play carefully or bet into the unknown. Neither are great options, you’re either inflating the pot at times you don’t want to or playing passively.

blind fold poker
Photo by Kirill Balobanov

It can feel like your playing blind folded or in the dark, not knowing what your opponent will do!

Very Difficult to Pot Control

As discussed in a previous article, pot control is very important to the expert poker player. They want to play poker on their terms, manage pot size how they want, relative to their hand strength, opponent and position. This is a challenging task to say the least when you’re playing pots out of position. Why? How can you control the pot when you’re the first to act? Bet and they can raise, check and they can bet still. When you’re in position, you are closing the action on each round of betting, affording you the opportunity to check back, call, bet or re raise at your discretion.

Hard to Maximise Value

Another problem with playing poker out of position is the times you make your hand and want to get value; you find it is hard to get the maximum. You’ll often find your opponent is just calling you, checking back or folding. You may make a turn call on a draw, hit your hand and then the dilemma comes on the river. Are you going to bet into your opponent? If so, how much is the right amount to get called? Are you going to try and check raise? Woe when your opponent checks back and you get nothing.

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Conclusion

There are times when you have to play out of position in poker, perhaps your hand is strong or you’re getting great pot odds against a weak player. But don’t look to play too many pots when you are learning as you will find it very difficult. Even the best of players doesn’t enjoy it and recognise most of their profits come from playing poker in position. Don’t handicap yourself playing pots out of position with questionable hands.

Is The Over-Bet Underused in Poker?

The Over-Bet

Depending on the situation, an over bet is either an awful play or a genius one. There is not much in between, from a 3rd party perspective. This is because an over bet will force your opponent out of the pot (either lost value or a great bluff) or you’ve been called (lost far more than necessary or got extra value).The truth is, there are scenarios where an over bet is the most profitable bet to make and also the worst bet to make. Deciding when to pull off a successful over-bet takes experience, intuition and thorough of understanding your opponent.

The Bluff Over-Bet

In order to pull off success bluff, sometimes you have to bet a lot. With the right opponent (conservative) and deep stacks, an over bet bluff can be a great weapon to use. Whilst this same player may call 60-80% of the pot, they will often fold to an over- bet shove or 2x pot size bet. They know they are not getting a good price on their money and will look for a more sensible hand to invest in. The over bet bluff is usually best to try on the river when there are no more cards to come. 

You need a few things to be on your side for an over- bet bluff to be successful:

  • Opponent who has demonstrated ability to fold
  • Deep stacks
  • You’ve not shown down an over bet bluff already

The Value Over-Bet

This value bet is not utilised enough really. I am guilty myself and don’t use this move often enough. I think many people think they will waste value and prefer to get something than nothing so they will typically just put in a decent value bet. It’s a great move to pull off against fishy players who can’t fold a medium strength hand or advanced players who are prone to making a hero call or levelling themselves.

  • Fishy opponent who is likely to call an over bet just as much a standard
  • You have shown an over bet bluff
  • Competent player who can level themselves
  • Deep stacks
embarrassed by over-bet
Photo By Wallace Chuck
Don’t be embarrassed to try the over-bet

Caution

Like most poker moves, this is not one to be constantly used against the same players. In fact, against a decent player, you can probably only get away with 2-3 successful over bet bluffs or value over bets before they’ve clocked which you use it for. The trick is to master both. I recommend attempting both in the future when your instinct tells you it will work. Once you have dipped your toe in you will soon incorporating both bets into your game in the future.

I hope you found this article useful and consider the over-bet more in the future.

Ace King – Everything You Need to Know

Introduction to Ace King

Known as “Big Slick”, Ace King is one of the strongest hands in Texas Holdem. This is a hand that many a player are unsure how to play, with most players prone to overplaying it. Whilst Ace King is unquestionably a premium starting hand, the context of the situation will determine its relative strength.

Ace King
Photo by Michal Parzuchowski @mparzuchowski

Maths

First of all, looking at the maths, you are far more likely to be dealt Ace king then pocket aces or pocket kings. There are are more combinations of this hand than aces or kings. Ace king suited is clearly better than an off suit ace king, represented by the fact that suited achieves 5-7% better equity than its off suit counterparts. It’s also worth pointing out at that if your opponent has pocket aces or kings than you are a big underdog (unsurprisingly) with approximately 6% chance against aces and 30% against kings.

Context is Everything


The situation should guide the way you play A-K. If stacks are shallow, its an amazing hand and you want to get your chips in with it. Tournament players will rarely fold A-K late in a tournament as stack sizes are rarely deep enough to warrant it. They understand that they are only doing badly against aces or kings. Tournament players will happily take a coin flip, if necessary. Whilst this is a reasonable proposition when stacks are shallow or you are facing aggressive opponents, it’s not always the best mentality. This is particularly true if you consider yourself the best player at the table. In an expensive and slow structured tournament, ace king’s value for committing you’re your stack before the should drop significantly. You are more likely to be up against kings or aces when strong players commit their tournament life. Obviously, this is player dependent but the reality is, strong tournament players are not committing their entire stacks lightly early in deep stack events (there are exceptions).
If it’s early in a tournament or you are facing a tight player opening from early position, consider a more prudent approach to playing. Most beginner players see A-K and want to re raise regardless of the situation. This is a foolish way to play, not only are you disregarding position, stack sizes, opponent and the value of deception, you are also giving away information to your opponents “I always re raise with ace king”. Flat calling raises with A-K, particularly in heads up pots can be no bad thing. In situations when your opponent is dominated before the flop and would otherwise fold, you can often extract a lot of value.

Conclusion

Ultimately your ability and confidence in playing post flop poker will guide how you intend to play A-K. A strong and experienced player can vary his style and adopt flat calls and 3 bets as he sees fit. A novice should be more inclined to play straightforward poker, particularly at low stakes. When you have less than 75 BBs in a tournament and your opponent isn’t a nit, you can often safely commit your stack, providing you are getting the last bet in. If it’s more than 75b BBs and the player is tight or there are multiple raises, throw it away and move on to the next hand.

I hope you found this article on Ace King useful. If you are keen to learn more about how it can be played in tournaments or cash games, feel free to email us at info@texasholdemquestions.com.

What is Small Ball Poker?

Introduction to Small Ball Poker

A poker strategy that has exploded in popularity in the last few years, small ball is an overarching poker mentality used successfully by professionals, yet often misunderstood and poorly used by novices. There are several components to playing small ball; hand selection, bet sizing, position and table image.

Hand Selection

Small ball poker dictates playing a lot of poker with a variety of hands. If you want to attack many unwanted pots, you need to widen your opening range. This varies player to player, but most professionals accept that suited connectors, suited aces and the paint cards have the most play-ability and equity to warrant including in opening raise ranges.

Bet Sizing

Small ball poker is what you expect, small bets. Professionals understand that a smaller, probing type bet accomplishes the same thing as a bigger bet and for less risk. This means many cheap bluffs. The underlying concept is that the player is consistent though. It’s no use sizing your bets differently based on hand strength, otherwise your opponents will correctly read your hand. It doesn’t take long to figure this out. Consistent bet sizing is critical to small ball poker. It means you can accomplish cheap bluffs but also extract value.

Poker
Photo by Keenan Constance @keenangrams

Position

As always, position is important. Small ball experts will play as many pots in position as they can. They understand there are an abundance of chips to be picked up in pots that people aren’t interested in contesting. As such, they will be opening an incredibly high amount of pots in position when it folds to them and also be calling raises in position if multi way and cheap. The reason being they can risk few chips to gain many. They understand the implied odds, that they can play the 3h 4h for a small raise when stack sizes are 100 bb + because they are risking 2.5 big blinds to bust a weak player who is prone to overplaying their pocket Aces on a 3s 3h Kd type flop.

Table Image

The beauty of small ball is the image you project to your opponents. By playing many pots you are giving the illusion you are a bit wild and almost certainly a bluffer. After all, you are playing many pots and often betting and winning without showdown. On close inspection though, the small ball expert is not betting crazily and big amounts. They are often 40-50% of the pot and carefully wagered, often heads up pots or when the time is right. In short, the table image a small ball player projects is perfect! An opponent may notice after hours of lost pots, take a stand and then bust out when they finally realise that the small baller is only playing big pots with monster hands.  

Warning

Small ball requires a player to be expert before and after the flop, experienced and attentive. Don’t try this style of poker if you are not confident playing many different scenarios. It’s also worth pointing out this is not the ideal strategy for most cash games and is mostly utilised in tournaments to build a stack without much risk.

This article has touched on just a few parts involved in small ball poker. If you are interested in knowing more or want mentoring in small ball, email us at info@texasholdemquestions.com.

The Value Bet – Common Mistakes

Value Bet

It is an art that is difficult to master. The value bet in poker is perhaps the most important skill to develop in order to become a long-term winner. It combines the complexity of hand reading, understanding of opponent and maximising value.

Beginner Texas Hold’em Question

What is a Value Bet in Poker?

A bet that is designed to get called by a weaker hand. The sizing is irrelevant, it’s purely betting for value, hence value bet. It is usually at the end of the hand on the river. Although it’s technically possible to value bet all in before the river.

Common Mistakes

One of the most prevalent errors an inexperienced or unconfident player will make is check back hands on the river that warrant betting for value. They will often check back hands for reasons listed below.

1)Fear of Being Check-Raised

The river check raise is such an uncommon play and rarely ever done on a bluff that it is not to be feared, to the extent most players afraid. It takes incredible patience for an opponent to make their hand on the river then check raise for value. Few expert players have the discipline and skill to employ this and fewer online. The typical online player will often just bet their nut hand on the river. They do this even if their opponent has bet all the way through, purely because they are worried you will check back.

2)Lacking Conviction

Many players who miss out on value are doing so because they lack conviction in their own ability to know their hand is best and assign a range to their opponent. This is because they don’t have the confidence in their own game or lack experience. Perhaps they have suffered too many bad beats or read some hands poorly and it has affected them. Perhaps they are on tilt. Whatever the reason, they lack the conviction to put in the value bet they rightly should.

3)Wanting a Cheap Showdown

Some players just want to show their hand down. They don’t recognise that they are missing out on lots of value in the long run. They are happy to check back on the river and show the winning hand. This is extremely detrimental to their long-term ROI and profitability as they are costing themselves money. I contend that many of these types of players even know they are checking back the better hand, but do so anyway. Don’t be one of these players.

How Much to Bet?

This is the key question you should be asking every time you are considering a value bet on the river. One needs to think what is the most amount of money or chips I can obtain from my opponent. This is a complex question as it involves you assuming the perfect and maximum amount your opponent will call, given their likely hand range. A pot sized bet gives poor pot odds; thus, a strong, experienced player may be less inclined to call with a weak hand. On the contrary, a weak and inexperienced may be happy to call a huge over bet. Correctly judging the amount within a few seconds may seem impossible, but it is it not. It is intuitive and developed off the back of many hands of playing.   

value bet
Photo by Dmitry Demidko @wildbook

Conclusion

The importance of appropriate value betting can’t be stressed enough. This article has discussed the reasons why people miss out on value and to avoid it. In future articles, we will be exploring the different types of value bet and how they can used based on opponent and relative hand strength.

Semi Bluff Guide & Tips

Semi Bluff Introduction

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

Let’s look at an example:

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

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

When to Semi Bluff

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

semi bluff

History and Context

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

Poker Float – Winning with Air

What is a Float in Poker?

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

poker float
Photo by Haley Phelps @haleyphelps

How do I use a Poker Float?

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

Why Not Just Re Raise on the Flop?

It is also a cheaper alternative to just re-raising a continuation bet as a turn bet need only be a small probing to take the pot away when an opponent is just continuation betting.

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

Floating is Cheaper

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

Check Raise – Ultimate Guide

What is a 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.

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 Hand

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 for check raising. 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.

check raise
Photo by Amanda Jones @amandgraphc

Perceptions of a Check Raise

Strong PlayerWeak Player
An experienced player will usually identify strength with this move 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 the play 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 with Check Raising

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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Battle of the Blinds

People don’t talk about blind battles much and I don’t know why? Every round you have a decision to play from these positions and a reasonable amount of the time it’s just the two of you.

How many times does it fold to the small blind and you pray he will give you a walk or you’re in the small blind and dreading raising but do it anyway?

Let’s start with some facts and reasonable assumptions about how our opponents will be playing in the blinds.

  1. People always assume you are stealing in blind battles
  2. People try to bluff more in the blinds both pre and post flop
  3. People don’t like to fold a pair heads up in blind battles

Now we have some basic facts and assumptions, we can adjust our strategy accordingly.

Playing from the Small Blind
As people often think we will be stealing; we need to be more straightforward. Our strategy for playing in the small blind will be to win the pot, what is the best way to accomplish this? I suggest playing the strong hands for value and raising and betting for value and trying to show down our weak showdown hands like Ace or King high by checking and bluff catching.
As weak as it sounds, with our weak hands, to win these pots, we should consider completing and making probe bets after flop hoping the opponent has missed. This is a realistic way of winning the pot as the big blind will respect the fact we have not just tried to steal pre flop and often just fold post flop.
It is not in our interest to raise and inflate the pot from the small blind pre flop with junk hands unless the opponent is very tight or disinterested and likely to fold. The majority of players will defend wide from the big blind so we need to be more careful particularly as they suspect we are stealing. 

Playing from the Big Blind
We will be in position throughout the hand so we should defend wide either by calling pre-flop raises or re raising pre-flop ourselves. Both strategies work very well as we have 2 main ingredients on our side before the flop is even deal. We are the pre-flop aggressor and we have position. When we have strong hands, we also have the mathematical ingredient on our side too.
If you are in the big blind, you should intend on playing as many hands against the small blind as possible as they will often be raising pre-flop just to steal with no consideration on how they will play post flop. In fact, many of these pre-flop raisers will give up on the flop and an even greater give up when called with a continuation bet. This is an effective strategy to countering both strong and weak players.

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