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The Check-Raise in NL Holdem

September 13th, 2010 Comments off

The Check-Raise in NL Holdem

The check-raise is a relatively simple yet profitable concept to execute.  From my experiences there are plenty of low stakes players who check-raise boards when the time is right.  The biggest problem however, is that they don’t always apply it to their game relevantly or against the right sorts of opponents.  Often in 6-max cash games I will implement the check-raise against loose aggressive opponents who I know are cbetting virtually every flop I check to.  In order to exploit these opponents and extract maximum value from a big hand like trips on the flop, I will check-raise them out of position.

The best boards to check-raise opponents are one’s that are either likely your opponent has missed and is cbetting blank, or one where you know your opponent has a good chance of catching up with you and will happily call a re-raise.  If he has a flush draw or outside straight draw, then he might be calling for implied odds.

In terms of who to check-raise, the best types of players to pull off this move against are LAGs who overplay their hands post-flop.  The majority of LAGs will be cbetting flops with thin air.  They also tend to attack pots with limited action and take advantage of weaknesses at the table.  This means that next time to have a superb hand like AQ on a A-Q-5 board, against a LAG, you should be happy to check-raise in position.  You can also do this against TAGs too, but given their lack of aggression in post-flop play on missed boards, a lot of the time you’ll only be getting called by hands that beat you and folding hands that are behind.  In either case, the foundations of a successful check-raise is that you’re confident that your opponent will fire into the pot as soon as you exhibit weakness..  The last thing that you want to do in this situation is give your opponent a free card and limit how much value you get from a strong hand on the flop.

The size of a typical check-raise should be no less than 3x the opening raise, and sometimes even 3.5x.  This is a scalable amount, because if you bet less than this than you’ll be giving good pot odds to your opponent.

On a final note, a really important message that I want to render across is that you should actively be check-raising with a variety of hands.  This is known in the mid-stakes world as balancing your range, and when you look for poker sites you should always be looking for the fishiest sites where this move is most profitable.  The reason it’s important to vary the sorts of hands you check-raise with is because you want to keep your opponent guessing and keep extracting maximum value down the line.  If you only check-raise with monster hands then you’re opponent will learn to stop calling these value bets.  But, if you start check-raising with a loose range of hands and include the bluff-raise into your arsenal, then you can end up stealing more pots and getting better calling equity for your premium hands.

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Poker Tournament Strategy

July 14th, 2010 Comments off

Tournament Strategy

For those who don’t know, playing tournaments are quite different to regular cash games, and the strategy varies considerably.  Not only this, but the poker strategy you apply in tournaments at Betfair should vary depending on the stage of the tournament, your chip size, and the type of players on your table.

Early Tournament Strategy

At the start of the tournament, you should only be playing your best hands possible.  This includes any high pockets, AK AQ AJ, and possibly high suited connectors or middle pockets (depending on your table position and implied odds).  The reason you need to play so tight at this stage in the tournament is that there are so many players on your table.  This makes it very likely at least one will have a great hand, so entering the pot with a poor hand will usually just cost you chips facing a dominating hand.  Another reason for playing tight so early on, is that your chipstack in relation to the blinds in most tourneys is very low – plus you only have one buy-in.  This means you can’t afford to take risks calling the flop with bad hands, because at the end of the day you will just bleed your chips away.  Don’t worry about doubling up too quickly at the beginning of a tournament, there’s plenty of time for this in the middle stages.

Middle Tournament Strategy

The middle stages of a poker tournament are most important, because it’s where you need to accumulate most your chips, and its also where the blinds/antes become significantly large.  This increases the value of each pot, which makes it more important to bluff and use aggressive tactics such as 3betting, value shoving and blind stealing.  Its important if you want to succeed in tournaments, to constantly take advantage of your table position and pick off weak players.   The middle stages of tournaments is also importantly because it’s where you’ll reach the bubble i.e. payoff level.  You can afford to open your hands and starting range a little more now to include smaller pockets, suited connectors and generally anything else with potential.  If you become short-stacked (less than 20xBB), you need to be going all in regularly and value shoving to double up.  Try to get your stack in as early as possible with any of your top 70% of hands dealt. 

Late Tournament Strategy

Most importantly, make sure you change the way you play as the tables become short-handed.  You should open your starting hand range up greatly to include even mediocre hands like A7 or J9.  Another important rule of thumb in the late stages of a tournament is avoid heady confrontations with a deep stack (unless of course you have him dominated).  Playing against big stacks at this late stage can end your entire tournament, and its much more practical and less risky to focus on picking off the small-medium stacks first.  If you find yourself small stacked at this stage, it might be best to sit out and hope someone goes out before you, giving you a better payday.  For a big stack at this stage, you should be looking at 1st place, so keep playing aggressively and hitting back at players, however make sure you don’t aimlessly throw your chips about.  Be the policeman at the table, not the village idiot.

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Bankroll Management

July 14th, 2010 Comments off

Poker Bankroll Management Tips

Poker bankroll management defines how you should use you current bankroll to eliminate risk and variance from your game.  While poker is a game of skill, there is no question over the element of luck and chance that predominate the game.  Because of this, your required to use your bankroll in specific way to eliminate the variance and bad beat within the game.

Playing Cash Games

When you’re playing cash games, you’re required to buy-in to a table with enough chips to cover 100 big blinds.  For instance, if you want to play at a table with 10p/20p blinds, you’re going to need £20 or more to buy-in.  The figure is high because you have be able to cover the variance and risk associated with poker.  You may lose chips in the blinds before you’re dealt a good hand, so you need to be able to cover these factors.

Another important tip, is that you should have a total bankroll of around 30-50 table buy-ins for the level of cash games your playing.  This is to stop you risking your entire bankroll in one game of poker.  Even the best players in the world have to stick to these guidelines. Over 80% of online poke players lose money.  These players usually won’t stick to bankroll management strategy, which is why many of them are losing money.

Tournament Bankroll Management

Tournaments are fun, exciting, and trendy nowadays.  The big point to remember is that tournaments carry a lot of risk – the number of entrants involved in comparison to the number of payoff places in a typical tournament means you’ll probably need to play a number of tourneys before you make any money back.  This makes bankroll management even more important than cash games, because the variance is much higher.  Just make sure you only enter tournaments you can afford to play 40 times over with your current bankroll.  You can’t expect to hit 1st place prize in massive tournaments in one attempt. 

Example: You want to enter a $10 MTT (multi-table tournament).  This means you’ll need a total bankroll of 40×10 = $400.  You’ll need at least $400 to be able to play this type of tournament.  Most importantly, the figure is even higher for re-buy tournaments, because you’re expected to be willing to sacrifice up to 5xbuy-ins for each re-buy tournament you enter (this is an important part of re-buy strategy, which requires you to play much riskier, and the chances of busting out are higher).  For a $10 re-buy tournament, you’ll need a total bankroll of 5x10x40 = $2000.

Playing SNGs

SNGs (Sit and Goes) are like smaller tournaments with only 6 – 50 players.  The rule of thumb here is to have enough bankroll to cover around 30 SNG buy-ins for whichever game you’re playing.

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Pro Poker Tips

July 14th, 2010 Comments off

 What Makes a Good Poker Player?

Millions of people play poker, 200,000 players sign up online poker accounts each month, however still only 5% of players online actually make profit playing poker.  Normally this is because loosing players and negligent, and don’t take the time to learn strategy and improve their game.

The following article will cover some of the basic qualities that make solid online poker players.

Mathematics & Pot Odds

Success in online poker is heavily accredited to making fast, calculated decisions with respect to pot odds and expected value.  If you haven’t come across these terms before you need to read up on them as they are the corner stone of playing the modern poker game profitably.  To put it in simple terms, for every decision you make in poker (call, fold or raise) you are taking a risk with regards to your chip stack and bankroll. Playing hands with positive expected value means you are playing in a way where the rewards are greater than the risks. 

By studying the probability of winning the hand (“outs”), along with the current size of the pot and the amount it cost to enter (“call”), you can easily work out whether you’re playing profitably with regards to expected value and pot odds.

Playing with a Proper Bankroll

This is a topic I covered in another article, so I’ll just go over the basics here.  Bankroll management is about reducing the risks in your game that are associated with variance and bad beats.  By only risking a small proportion of your total bankroll in each game, you reduce the risks massively and remove element of “luck” in poker in the long term.  Bankroll management is incredibly important if you want to make money over the long-run in poker.

Discipline

All the world’s best poker players, whether live or online, need to be disciplined.  Although you may think a bad call here or there might not be worth much, when you’re playing in the long run these “little mistakes” will add up to a sizeable amount.  Being disciplined means not playing loose when you’re bored, not getting tilted because you lose an unlucky hand, and not getting tired and reckless half way through your game. Discipline is about maintaining a level of quality in your game, and not being negligent over the poker strategy you’ve learned.

Don’t Play Obvious

One of the most important parts of poker is to keep your opponent guessing, and not playing in an obvious manner with lots of tells.  This is important for both live and online poker.  Bluffing is an important part of poker too, but if players can read you too easily than you won’t make much money in poker over the long-run.  In order to make yourself non-obvious, try playing hands differently, bluffing occasionally, and taking advantage of your table position to steal the blinds.

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