Sunday, February 27, 2005

Should you fold the best possible hand?

The title of this post is slightly misleading and I'll get to that but stick with me. There are times in hold'em when it is correct to fold the best possible hand at the time. In Omaha there are plenty of possiblities where you can have the best possible hand after the flop and still be an underdog but it's fairly rare in hold'em for this to occur. One example I have comes from a hand I played a couple of months ago on PokerStars. I was playing in the $5/$10 no-limit game when I decided to limp in from the cut-off with A4 of hearts. 4 of us took the flop which came K J T with two hearts. This was a pretty big flop for me. I had 9 outs for the nut flush (maybe the J and T were hearts making a straight-flush possible I don't remember) and 3 queens for the nuts straight (not double-counting the Q of hearts). It was unlikely but not impossible that an ace may get the trick done for me also. I called a $25 bet from the big blind which put about $90 in the pot. My opponent and I both had begun the hand with about $1000. The turn brought an offsuit queen which gave me the nut straight and the nut flush draw. In other words, I was free-rolling my flush if I was up against another ace. My opponent bet out $70 at me and at this point I couldn't wait to get as much money as possible into the pot. I was praying that my opponent had an ace also. How much should I bet here? I didn't know much about my opponent but I hoped that he wouldn't fold an ace so I moved all in for about $895 more. Technically, my opponent can fold an ace here. It's a very close call though. If my opponent somehow knew I had an ace and a flush drawa than it is definitly the correct fold. You see, my opponent will lose the hand about 20% of the time and split the pot the other 80%. He will never win the whole pot. His expected value is therefore approximately 40%. The calculation is (20%*0 (you lose) + 80*.5 (you get half). He's being asked, though, to put $895 into what will be a $2020 pot. $895/$2020 is 44.3%. He should have an expected value of at least 44.3% if he's going to risk putting $895 into only a $2020 pot. The obvious argument against folding is that you can't be sure your opponent does have a flush draw here. Possibly your opponent has only the ace of hearts. Or, your opponent doesn't have a heart at all but doesn't think beyond the fact that he has 'the nuts!'. Oh yeah, in the actual hand my opponent called in a nanosecond. The river was the harmless 3c. I was a little confused but not at all disapointed when my opponent showed trip tens and I got the whole pot. Ship it!

Friday, February 25, 2005

Adapting to Others: The Maniac

So far, four heads up opponents have been laid out.

1) Loose Passive
2) Loose Aggressive
3) Tight Passive
4) Tight Aggressive

Know these players and be able to recognize them at the table but also realize that most of the opponents that you play will probably combine many charateristics of these four player types. Some also might have new tendancies unlike any discussed.

My next few posts will examine some of these player types that don't really fall into any of the main four catagories. Today's player profile, entitled "The Maniac" was actually written by Taylor Caby last summer.

Name: The Maniac

Playing Style: This Player raises on the button at least 80% of the hands. This player could raise any hand, ranging from low suited cards, to big pocket pairs. After the flop, this player will continue to bet out and probably on the turn if they have any sort of hand. If "The Maniac" has any sort of hand he will call your reraise, sometimes rightfully so because his opponent may start to play back with nothing. This type of player offers a huge money making opportunity for the great heads up player, but comes with an extremely high variance in profit/loss.

Strength: This player’s strength is the fact that he is constantly putting pressure on the other player. If the other player folds too much, the aggressive player will win pot after pot, accumulating tons of chips. This player can also hit many ‘unseen’ hands that the other player just cannot put him on. For example, if he raises the pot with 36 suited, and the flop comes A36, if the other player holds an ace he could be in serious trouble. This player forces the opponent to make borderline decisions, which often results in long calls at the end of the hand. The aggressive player has a tendency to frustrate the other player, which can easily put him on tilt.

Weakness: If the maniac is not careful, he will run into a slowplayed monster by the other player. If the maniac is doing all of the betting, the other player just has to sit back and get paid off, before making a re-raise near the end of the hand. The maniac may also over value hands such as top pair or middle pair, due to the fact that it looks like such a strong hand because he is betting with nothing most of the time. He may run into kicker problems in some of the large pots, or may flop top pair but be beaten by a high pocket pair.

Plan of Attack: The maniac must realize that he cannot have his way raising every pot. If you want to beat this player, you must be willing to ‘mix it up’ with him. Remember, his cards are probably just about as bad as the ones you want to continually fold. The best thing to do is show aggression and don’t let up. If you have an ace, a pocket pair, or even suited connectors, don’t be afraid to re-raise him preflop. The proper re-raise here is usually the size of the pot, sometimes even more. If he is folding to your re-raises, start doing it with more frequency. He will start to realize what you are doing, but this is not bad. Remember, the key to heads up is to make the other player react to you. By using the re-raise, you are forcing him to react to you. If he starts calling your re-raises with marginal hands, you have basically turned the tables on him. What HE wants to do is make you call his raises with marginal hands, but now you are making HIM do this. This is the key to beating this type of player. Once you see the flop, you need to bet out at least ¾ of the pot no matter what the cards are. Put the pressure on him. You can reevaluate after the turn if he is still in the hand, but remember by this point he knows you would do this with any hand, so he may be calling these raises and bets without much of a hand. One thing you need to remember about this strategy of playing back at him is the fact that you are going to be the aggressor, but he will have position on you in the hand. Having the button for the rest of the hand is a huge advantage, so you must become proficient at playing a marginal hand well, out of position. There will be times that you just want to take a flop against this player. These situations can be tricky and involve much thinking. When you take the flop, check your hand, and he bets, you have a few decisions to make. If you have nothing whatsoever, fold. If you flop a monster, you should probably just call (such as holding KdKs on a Kc 4h 8d board). The tough hands to play are the ones where you flop bottom or middle pair. After this player bets, you should probably raise with middle pair and top pair almost every time. If he bets the pot, sometimes a min raise is all you need to get him to fold. If he calls these raises often, you should probably lead out on the turn with a ½ of the pot sized bet. The important thing is that YOU are making HIM react to your play, which can’t be stressed enough. Another example of a play you can make is raising on the draw. If you flop a good flush draw, straight draw, or both, check raise him on the flop. Lead out with a pot sized bet on the turn, and you will probably take the pot down. If not, you still have a chance to make your hand. Another thing you need to make sure you are doing to play this type of player is being almost as aggressive as he is when it is your button. You now will have the advantage of being the aggressor, as well as being in the best position on the hand. Although you won’t be limping in too often, there are players who will raise every time you limp in. Get a feel for if he is one of these players, and then react accordingly. Limp with anything, let him reraise you, and then raise him huge. He will give you credit for a monster, and will only call with something big himself. If he does call, you can give him credit for some sort of hand, but remember, you are the aggressor and he probably is giving you credit for a top 5 hand. Bet out on the flop regardless, and you should take it down unless he has a set or AK and hits an A or K.

Notes: If this is the type of player that raises over 80% of their hands preflop, and usually folds the rest, be VERY careful if he just limps in. Do not proceed if he starts betting with out 2 pair, a good draw, or better. Its just not worth it due to the fact that there is so little in the pot, and he has played the hand so differently than the way he normally plays. If you see him start to limp a lot, then you can start to make some looser calls as he probably does not have a big pocket pair. There are some advanced plays you can make against this type of player. You know he is going to be betting with anything on the flop, so you can effectively ‘take the pot away’ from him, without even making a raise. If there is a flop including an Ace, a pair, or other ‘scare’ cards, think about doing the following. He will probably make a bet out at the flop. Pause for a moment, and just smooth call. When the turn comes, if he bets again, check-raise him with whatever you have. He will only call here with a huge hand. If he checks the turn, you need to get gutsy. When the river card hits, bet 2/3 the size of the pot minimum, and try to ‘take this pot away.’ This looks like you have an enormous hand due to the fact that you were just smooth calling, making him think you were TRYING to look weak. To give this play its best effect, you should play one of your real hands this way, and then a few minutes later try this bluff.

The most important thing to remember is that you can’t let this person run you over. You need to make him know that you aren’t going to lay down and play passive. If you flop top pair, you cant give them a chance to hit an over card, you need to raise them and make them pay more to see the next card. The same should be done with middle pair, and big draws, in order to add deception.

I've gotten some feedback from some of you who are implementing The Heads Up Doctrine as well as heads up play into your poker aresenal. I have 100% confidence in these methods but at the same time realize it is a huge transition from full nl ring games. I also realize that I do not explain things as thoroughly as I could. If you are having success or trouble with any of the information I have covered, please post a comment or shoot me an email. I'd love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


This post is a little update on what you, the readers, have been saying. We have gotten many e-mails from you and I’m going to share some of them right here in my post. Without further ado I bring you our first mailbag.

hey guys, i want to thank you guys for maintaining your blog, the "your game" posts have really helped me fix some leaks headsup. it seems you concentrate your posts on ring games and headsup, do you think you could write about some strategy in small tourneys and sngs? thanks again, drew

Drew, I’m happy we could help you with your leaks. I hope your high school English teacher doesn’t read your e-mail though. It may kill her. Mix in the shift bar every once in a while. Oh yeah, definitely expect future posts on strategy in tournaments and sit-n-go’s.

Guys, I read your site and really enjoy it. I also publish a strategy blog focused on NLHE cash games and I am going to link to your site. if you like what you read at mine, please do the same. Tyler

Only because you asked nicely. Throw in some more posts though so that we don't boot you.

Hi guys,

Found your site via DoubleAs. I have to say, it’s the best Poker blog I have read (up there with The Poker Chronicles) and by far the most useful. I have read your advice on heads up play over and over and then I put it to the test last night. Now Im a winning player and a healthy one at that, but I am amazed at how I have won at all in the past after reading what you wrote. The bit about playing with the button seems to have somehow escaped me over the last 9 months. It is the greatest single bit of advice I have ever been given.

I hit 10/20 last night (above my usual stakes) and launched into heads up with a known good player who sits there waiting for his prey. An hour later, I was $400 up and he actually said ‘well played’. No-one who was worth anything has ever said that to me before and I was buzzing. I have NEVER been so aggressive. Thanks guys. You have improved my game no end and I will never miss another post.

Pokerchamps player

Flintoff, I’m glad we could help you. Hopefully you can continue your newfound success. I’ll e-mail you our physical address where you can send us 25% of all winnings. I think that’s the least you could do.

Fellas -Great info in your posts, I really appreciate it. One suggestion I have, as I am reading the 'player type' and other posts, you frequently refrerence previous posts. It would be very helpful to hyperlink them back, so readers can quickly jump back and get a refresher on that info. Keep up the great work. Thanks, Andy

Thanks genius. Now Lloyd links every other word of his posts. Do me a favor and never e-mail us again. Just kidding. Thanks for the support.

I am looking for a relative named Matt Dean. Just wondered if it was you. Can't find out much about you on the internet. If you are the correct Matt...your relatives would live in Arkansas. Either way, will ya let me know? Thanks,Val

Val, that’s not me. Sorry. You wouldn’t happen to be 20-27 years old, single, and attractive would you? Remember, we aren’t related!

There were some negative e-mails too but I found those people and let’s just say they won’t be bothering us anymore. I was sorely disappointed with the fact that not one of you sent us pictures of attractive females. How are we supposed to churn out good poker advice if we aren’t inspired? Keep e-mailing us and we’ll try to do a mailbag like this once every couple weeks. We linked some other poker blogs this week also for you to check out.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Playing a Hand Fast for Deception

Today I'd like to talk about a strategy that many good cash game players use. This situation comes up when you are in the blinds, and you flop a very good hand. Lets say in this case you hold K6 in the big blind, and it is an unraised pot. The flop comes out Q66. You know are holding just about as close to a cinch hand as it gets at this point. You reaslly are only worried about 6A, as QQ is highly unlikely given the betting preflop. Most weak players will check this hand in the big blind, wanting to look weak. I am going to tell you why sometimes this is not the correct play.
There are times when I am in this situation when I will bet out with this hand. Usually i will make a pot sized bet, or close to it. The reason i do this is because i want to trap anyone who is holding a queen, or may have slowplayed AA or KK. Most people rationalize, "why would the blind bet so strongly if he had a 6, he would rather check and try to slowplay it to get more value." This is the correct way to sometimes, but how much action do you expect to get if you check then call his bet, then check on the turn? Any good player will realize that you could very well have a 6. This is why betting pot works well here. Most opponents will think you have either a Q or a small pair, and are trying to protect your hand. If they hold a Q, they are probably going to go along for the ride. An opponent may take this strong bet as a sign of weakness, and try to re-raise you on the spot. If this happens, you have to decide if you think he will call a reraise, or if you think you should just call him here. If he doesnt raise, and just calls your bet, you should continue to bet hard on the turn. You could also check the turn if you are almost certain he will keep up with his "weak" read and make a bet himself.
The point here is that sometimes you need to make plays that other people think you wouldnt want to make. Playing a hand a strong hand very fast is something that many players just dont think you would do. Once you do this one time and win a big pot off someone, you can do it a few other times when you hold a draw or nothing as an attempt to bluff. You should continue to switch up your play and possibly slowplay a monster like this the next time you get one.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Adapting to Others: Tight Aggressive

First things first, I would like to send a huge thanks out to these four gentlemen for pimping us on their websites. All four have personally endorsed us on their fabulous blogs and because of it we had over 400 visits yesterday and already 300 today!

CJ at Up For Poker
Mourn at Bad Beat Blog
Pokerprof at Las Vegas and Poker Blog
Alcanthang at Dead Money = AlCantHang

Thanks guys!

On another note I would like to thank Andy M. for his email pointing out how I need links in my posts so referenced prior posts can be easily accessed. I totally agree and hope this makes my posts more efficient to read.

As far as the Heads up Doctrine, this is the fourth player profile and the eighth overall post. I will also try to link all the prior posts in one place later, possibly after the "Adapting to Others" portion. Here is the "Tight Aggressive" player profile, not the most profitable heads up opponent you will find, but one that is beatable.

Name: Tight Aggressive

Playing Style: The “Tight Aggressive” player is one that is just beginning the transition from a full ring game to heads up. His sound ring game strategy is so ingrained that he will only raise on the button pre-flop with solid starting hands. Accordingly, his raises are similar to what a normal player would raise with in late position playing in a full ring game. His button raises are also proportional to what type of hand he has. A pot raise will probably be with hands like 99-AA and AK, AQ ,AJ ,AT ,KQ , & KJ. A min raise will be with suited connectors, low pairs, or two big cards like QJ or KT. Out of position, this player plays very tight and will usually fold to a pre-flop raise. However he will re-raise pot with many of the same hands he would bet pot with on the button and just call a raise with many of the same hands he would raise the minimum with on the button. From the flop on, this player will pretty much bet his hand. This player loves to bet hard when he has a monster.
Strength: This “Tight Aggressive” profile is the first winning heads up player type that I have covered. That is because this player doesn’t get caught up chasing out of position, knows when to fold marginal hands, and knows how to get his money in the middle with the best of it. All heads up players should do these three things well. This player will eat alive a “Loose Passive” player, soundly beat a “Tight Passive” player, and probably beat a “Loose Aggressive” player more times than not.

Weakness: This player’s biggest weakness is his predictability. I was very specific as far as what type of hand this player raises with and re-raises with pre-flop but you would be surprised how accurate it is. A player that uses the Heads Up Doctrine, will pick up on this player’s tendencies and systematically pick up small pots while avoiding the big ones. However, most heads up players don’t critically analyze their opponent and that is why this player wins. He counts on his opponent not to realize that he only bets the nuts or close to it.

Plan of Attack: First of all, I like to raise min on the button about 80 percent of the time. There is no reason to raise pot because this player will fold all but good starting hands. Therefore you want to raise the least amount possible. On the flop you should almost always bet as this player will probably fold if he didn’t hit. This simple game plan on the button should start a steady stream of chips flowing your way. Out of position, if he did not raise it pre-flop and instead just limped, you should bet pot if you hit any pair. However if your bet is called, be prepared to give up on the hand. If he does raise pre-flop, fold unless you have a strong starting hand. If you have a great starting hand you can either re-raise pot or try to trap him as he might be scared away by a raise.

Notes: I feel a certain amount of respect for this player because I used to be him. Then I realized how important the button was and how if you are constantly aggressive, people will be far more likely to pay off your monsters. Maybe I realized this after I only won the blinds every time I had AA for four months. As far as beating this player remember two things: 1) Don’t pay off his monsters, his bets are pretty straight up and 2) Stay aggressive as this player does not like to call bets with nothing. Another tip I recommend is trying to be super aggressive at first and show some bluffs. If you can get this player on tilt you are in business. However, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t fall for it and definitely don’t expect him to tilt. If you are a manic on the button and he re-raises you pot one hand pre-flop after you showed a big bluff, DON’T THINK HE IS ONE TILT! If you do, you will almost certainly hear a “Ship it!,” it just won’t be coming from your mouth.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Read 'em and Weep - Part Deux

Here is part two of my review on some popular poker books. I’m sure you’ve read most of the books I recommended from Thursday. Well, you’re in luck. I have some more here including my all-time favorite poker book. Check it out.

Hold em Poker - David Sklansky: This book is one of the first books a new poker player will pick up and for good reason. It begins with the basics such as which hand is the best and then moves to starting hand requirements. Hold em Poker for Advanced Players (which I’m not reviewing) by the same author is an extension of this book and goes into more subtleties. Both of these books are painfully boring though. The beginning poker player will sometimes quit halfway through the book or not bother to reread important sections. Perhaps Sklansky is too smart for his own good sometimes. Still, Hold em Poker is definitely a must for the beginning poker player. My rating: 8

Tournament Poker for Advanced Players - David Sklansky: This is actually one of my favorite books. I got a lot out of it. If you want to know when to throw away aces pre-flop or haven’t heard of the gap concept pick this book up. Of course, this book isn’t directed at cash games but that doesn’t mean there isn’t some very valuable information in the book. There is also a very interesting chapter about ‘The System’ which is a very interesting read. This isn’t as boring as Sklansky’s other efforts. My rating: 9

Caro’s Book of Tells - Mike Caro: If it’s good enough for Mike McDermott it’s good enough for you. I think Mike McD had the tape but you get the picture. This book covers what seems like one million tells that your opponent may have and is a must if you are looking to play at a casino. The tells involving five-card draw won’t help usually but this is packed full of valuable information. My rating: 7

Poker Nation: A High-Stakes, Low-Life Adventure into the Heart of a Gambling Country - Andy Bellin: Long title; short read. This book reads more like a novel with enough poker to keep you more than entertained. You won’t get much in terms of strategy (there is a little) but you need some variety in your life. The anecdotes are humorous and there is an interesting chapter or two about a couple who cheated at poker Gotta love that kind of stuff. My rating: 6

Moneymaker : How an Amateur Poker Player Turned $40 into $2.5 Million at the World Series of Poker - Chris Moneymaker: I think the folks at Barnes & Noble caught on to my little game. A couple of them stared me down the other day and guilted me into buying this book. I didn’t mind though because I was hooked by the first chapter. This is a story about a rookie who plays in his first big live tournament and makes a lot of money. I obviously may be a little biased here. Moneymaker talks about what he was feeling throughout the tournament and on key hands. He also gives his background into poker and gambling which I’m guessing most people don’t know (I didn’t). Overall, this is a very good book. My rating: 8

Poker Wisdom of a champion - Doyle Brunson: This book was a collection of stories in the life of Doyle Brunson, each of which used to illustrate an important lesson regarding poker, life, or both. You also get a lot of the background on how Doyle got started in poker. I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though I knew a lot of the background. Some of the stories had me laughing out loud. One of my favorite stories was about gambling on a football game and didn’t have much at all to do with poker. It’s a quick read that will keep you entertained. My rating: 6

Championship no-limit and pot-limit hold'em: On the road to the World Series of Poker - Tom McEvoy & T.J. Cloutier: Most of my friends have heard me tell people this is my favorite poker book. Well, it still is. I read this book the week before I went to the World Series and it’s influence on me in that tournament can’t be overstated. The format is great, T.J. and Tom look at certain situations differently and explain the pros and cons of each side. It’s great for tournaments or cash games. I can’t say enough about this book. My rating: 10

Championship Tournament Poker - Tom McEvoy: I was pretty disappointed in this book. Maybe I missed T.J. chiming in or maybe it was that I read this after Championship no-limit and pot-limit hold’em. Either way I didn’t get much from this book. My rating: 2

It took about as much time to write these damn things as to read a new book. I hope this has been entertaining at the very least. Again, our site continues to get hooked up. This time it was the boys over at Apparently we stole their three person format. Ship it! In all honesty though, they have a quality site that you should check out if you haven’t already. I’ll be commenting on some e-mails we have received in my next post and we’ll be adding some new links on Thursday so be sure to watch for that. That’s my equivalent of a cliff-hanger on a day-time soap opera.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Cash Game/Tourney Play

Many players don't really know the differences between cash game play and tournament play. Today I'm going to talk about some observations I have made that may help a player deciding on which to focus on.

The obvious difference is that in a tournament you cannot rebuy. You must always be aware that on any hand (in NL) you can lose all of your chips. This will cause you to play very cautious at certain points, as sometimes it is simply not worth taking a risk on losing your chips, even if you think you are a favorite. An example of this is early in the tournament when you are holding AK. There are certain players that will push all in with a wide variety of hands just because they have watched the WPT and think this is how you should play (this IS how you should play at some points, but only late in a tournament and if you are short stacked). You know that when this player pushes in for a huge reraise, he probably has a pocket pair, and maybe has AK, AQ, or even AJ. Your call is most likely +EV due to the fact that there is probably a 15-20% chance he has Ax, and the other hands are just about 50/50. However, this is not a call you can make. It's just not worth risking going broke as you can pick a better spot to take advantage of this player later (IE when you have AK and see a flop, and he goes all in when you flop an you are most likely at least 75% to win). This is an obvious point to many players, but it illustrates the fact that in tournaments you have to play much more cautiously. In a cash game, you would probably make this call depending on the other player. First of all, if a player goes all in like this for a huge reraise, he probably doesn't have AA or KK because he would usually try to milk it for more money. Second, a player willing to make an enormous raise in relation to the pot usually doesn't grasp the way to play in a cash game (aka has watched the WPT like the previous tourney player). We can deduce that if they are this type of player, there is a wide variety of hands they could be reraising with.. a few of which AK totally dominates (Ax), some which AK is a pretty large favorite over (JsTs, etc), and some in which AK is almost a coinflip (pocket pairs), add this all up and we can see that this call is +EV in this situation. Let me reiterate that this is against a weak player....if a known tough player makes this move i would think very hard about calling with AK, and most likely fold. These examples show just how different you can play the same hand in a tourney/cash game. It should also be noted that if you are playing with a short bankroll in a cash game, this call with AK would not be recommended. Although it is a +EV play, the variance that comes along with it is very high. You might lose 8 or 9/10 of these, before winning a bunch in a row. If you are on a short bankroll, you would need to pick a better spot (note: see how important a large bankroll is?).

The big difference in the way i play in cash games and tourneys is the type of pots i like to play. In cash games, i'm usually trying to build the pot as big as possible, because i feel i can make the best decisions and want to get as much money into a pot (that is, when i WANT a lot of money in the pot) as i can. In a tournament, I'm much more cautious. Even though i still have total confidence in my abilities of outplaying the other player, I don't like to play unreasonably big pots because of the fact that one bad card and i can get broke.

Here is an example of how i would play a big hand differently in cash game and a tourney. Lets say i have 77 and i rasied preflop. If the flop came down 723 and i was playing a cash game, there is a VERY high probability that i will make a pot sized bet on the flop. I want them to think I am trying to buy this pot (as i often do). There are many players who will call with ace high here, because often times it is the best hand. And on the turn, i will usually fire out with a pot sized bet too (sometimes i will slow down, or even check, just to stay deceptive). The point is i don't care if i scare the people out of the pot, my style of play is very aggressive and i know that eventaully a player is going to catch a small piece of the flop and decide that i am probably bluffing. They may even raise me with nothing, in which case i will probably slowplay the rest of the way inducing a bluff. The point is, it is very rare i will slowplay in this situation even with the nuts, as it just is too hard to build a big pot and it gives them chances to beat you.

In a tourney, i would play this hand diferently probably. Since I am playing tighter in a tourney, i will see less flops and have less chances to make big hands. When i get a hand, i need to maximize the value of it. Even though i could win the biggest pot possible if i bet pot and get called, i will either bet less than the pot or check with this hand, so that i can almost always get something out of the other player. The reason for this is because of the nature of tournaments themselves. If the player has a mediocre hand after the flop, he would probably fold to a large bet because he is worried about losing his chips. If i make a bet that is half the pot, or check, he will probably be sucked in because he thinks he has the best hand. I can continue to bet bigger and bigger as the hand progresses, in order to get the best value for my hand. Now, if i am playing against a tough player, i may be more apt to bet larger because he may view this as a bluff or may want to make a play on me.

To summarize, when you are playing cash games there is rarely a reason to slowplay even a monster. You shouldn't be afraid of going broke, so you should be aggressive most of the time. This should carry over to your monster hands as well. In a tournament, you are afraid of going broke, and you won't have as many chances to get monster hands so you should try to maximize their value, even if it might cost you a little bit in EV.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Adapting to Others: Loose Aggressive

Wow, I continue to be amazed by the support we have gotten for this site. The first time I ever played poker, it was for entertainment. When I first started to play ‘serious’ poker about three years ago, I did it to have a positive expected value. Financially, I guess I was right. Poker could not become a big part of my life if I was continually losing money. However, like the rich man with no friends or family, a poker player that approaches the game with only money in mind is not complete. The reason I am apart of this blog is to add to the poker discussion as well as to meet new people and hear new ideas. So far my expectations have been exceeded and I am very excited about the future. Thanks for everyone’s support, comments, and emails.

This is the third player profile in the Heads up Doctrine. The loose aggressive player is the toughest player examined so far. However, one that is very beatable. Possibly more than the other profiles, the Loose Aggressive profile is more a theory than an actual player type. This is because most players can be loose but on different streets or with different hands. However, I firmly believe that if you understand the concepts in this post you can adjust to the nuances of any semi-Loose Aggressive player that you come across.

Name: Loose Aggressive

Playing Style: The Loose Aggressive player is probably the most fun player type on the heads up scene. This is the because of the amount of action he creates. On the button, this player loves to raise pre-flop up to 80 percent of the hands. He will then fire bullet after bullet if not bet into or raised. Sometimes this player will mix it up and check on the flop or turn but then make a huge bet on the river. Either way, playing against this player out of position is very hard because many times it is just a guess to see if your hand is good as this player could have anything at any time. Out of position, this player will call pre-flop raises with reckless abandon. He will also bet at any time, like first to act on the flop, or he will re-raise to put you to the test. Either way, with his raises and your raises, the average pot is usually larger than usual increasing pot odds, the temptation to bluff, and the temptation to call down a huge bet.
Strength: This player can quickly accumulate chips because of his aggression. This works for three reasons. One, his opponent might start to always think he is bluffing and then start to push marginal hands. Two, continually calling and firing bets can become very frustrating in heads up. Most players are not use to such an aggressive style and are not exactly sure the value of their hand when playing against him. All it takes is one unseen hand or a bad beat to go on tilt. Third, the variance when playing this type of player is much larger than with any other opponent. This can also make a good player go on tilt because while the Loose Aggressive player is probably comfortable with this variance, many other players are not.

Weakness: It requires great skill to continually call raises out of position with mediocre hands and expect to be a winning player. The loose aggressive player thinks nothing of calling a pre flop raise out of position with a hand like A3o. From previous posts I hope you know why this is a bad situation to be in. Therefore, this player will leak a lot of chips out of position. When he is on the button, he will continue to fire bullets. (A quick note: I realize I constantly use ‘he’ instead of ‘she’ or even ‘they.’ I also realize that many of the great heads up players out there are women. However, I’m simply too lazy or not smart enough to change it. If this offends you, please email the site and we will discuss it.) Continually firing bullets is a style that is very easy to trap. Most players realize pick up on this pattern and simply let this guy do their betting for them. Another weakness that this player might have is to slow play his monsters. Let us say this player raises with 44 on the button and hits a 4 on the flop. This player might check and try to induce the bluff. What this player doesn’t realize is that his prior aggression is what sets him up to rake in a big pot here and the correct move is to bet!

Plan of Attack: The “Your Game” posts are a solid way to beat this player, with a couple of adjustments. One the button, like the Loose Tight player, you want to narrow your pre-flop raising hands a little bit. The reason for this is that since this player calls too much, you want to make sure that when the money does go in pre-flop, you have the best hand. Also, you have to raise the pot pre-flop, min is simply not enough. On the flop, I recommend the strategies discussed in “Your Game.” Yes this player is aggressive but no one takes away your control on the button! When you are the button, you are the master of the hand. Of course if something is not working and he continually re-raises you on the flop, you can bet less often, but still you want to be the aggressor on the button. This is how you set up the knockout blow. Out of position you want to fold trash hands. There is absolutely no reason to call with junk here because you know you will probably be bluffed you out anyway. I recommend re-raising pot with TT-AA or AQ & AK. You can even do it with connected suitors but be prepared to bet pot on the flop regardless. If you hit on the flop with a lesser hand that you didn’t re-raise with, I recommend check raising with two exceptions. If you hit a hand like 2nd or third pair, I like to bet out. Don’t be predictable about it but it is just tough to know when your hand is good here and putting him to the test right off the bat is smart. Also, if you hit a monster hand like trips, I like to slow play. This is of course because he will probably do your betting for you.

Notes: The single most important thing about playing this type of player is having an adequate bankroll. You will be put in many hands where the only thing that gets you through is guts. If you are also worried about losing your small bankroll, you are playing against two opponents. Also, watch going on tilt. If you do lose a buy in or two, be prepared to walk away if you think you aren’t playing your ‘A’ game. Know this in advance and don’t be scared of losing. Other than that, have fun. This is a classic player to play against and one that you should beat most of the time. Be prepared to make adjustments and try not to be predictable.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Read 'em and Weep

So you haven't read a book since 8th grade and your reading skills are on par with those of an NBA player. But, you want to start fresh and need a good poker book to pick up. Well, you've come to the right place. I'll be reviewing some poker books in my next two posts. Here are my first 9 reviews. My rating is based on how much I liked the book and how much I got out of it for my poker game.

Doyle Brunson’s Super System I: I only read the no-limit portion of this book 18 months ago. There, of course, is some great information in is book. But, for me, the style that Doyle recommends didn’t fit my game. And, at the lower levels his aggressive approach rarely works, especially online. My rating: 4

Doyle Brunson's Super System II: I loved this book. The limit section by Jennifer Harmon is incredible - I've read it 4 times. I also enjoyed the triple-draw lowball section written by Daniel Negreanu. I didn't read the omaha sections or the seven-card stud section but there is some great stuff in this book. Again, I was dissapointed wih the no-limit section. Perhaps my hopes are too high for a true legend of poker. For some reason I got more out of this than the original Super System. My rating: 8

Winning Low-Limit Hold’em – Lee Jones: I enjoyed this book and found some valuable advice in here. I’ve only read it once and I admit that I didn’t absorb all that much of it. This book is probably best for someone looking to go to a casino to play low-limit hold’em for the first time. My rating: 3

Play Poker Like the Pros – Phil Hellmuth: I’ve heard many people bash this book but it holds a special place in my heart. I probably read this book 8 times cover to cover in the summer of 2003, mostly because that was one of the only poker books that Lloyd and I owned in South Carolina. I enjoyed the stories more than the strategy but still this book is great for the beginning player. My rating: 7

Poker: The Real Deal – Phil Gordon: This is a short read and not a bad one. Ultimately, I felt like it didn’t help my game much if at all. Granted, this was the millionth poker book I had read so it’s tough to cover new ground at that point. Phil Gordon’s story is pretty interesting but I knew a lot of that before even opening up the book. Phil is a very funny guy so I would have liked to see more humor in this book. My rating: 2

Zen and the Art of Poker – Larry Phillips: This is my favorite poker book. Ever feel like your going on tilt? You think you are better than your opponents but you lose money online? Please read this book. You won’t learn how to play KQ from middle position with an early limper in the pot and two people to act behind you. This isn’t that type of book. Just read the damn book. My rating: 10

Phil Hellmuth - Bad Beats and Lucky Draws: This book was decent but not great. I mean, most of these stories you can get off of Just go to Phil's archives and you'll get at least 50% of these stroies. I promise. My rating: 2

Positively Fifth Street - James McManus: This is a really good book. Half of the book centers around the murder of Ted Binion. I found it a little boring but still loved the book. The poker stuff is great. For those that don't know I won't ruin it but James McManus wins a seat into the World Series of Poker in 2000 and chronicles his tournament. My rating: 6

Amarillo Slim in a World Full of Fat People : The Memoirs of the Greatest Gambler Who Ever Lived: This book is so great. It's not much of a poker book but go out and get it right now. You will be amazed the stuff Amarillo Slim does. Great stories. The lack of poker brings down my rating a bit though. My rating: 6

Wow, that was fun. Go head to your local bookstore and check out some of these bad boys. Or, better yet, do what I do and read these at Barnes & Noble without paying for them. On a side note, as our site continues to draw more people we want to continue to get better. We have included a link to our e-mail address so please e-mail us with comments, complaints, pictures of girls, etc.

And.......another long distance shout out goes to DoubleAs. This guy has a terrific blog that we have now linked. Him mentioning us at has helped an incredible amount of budding poker players find our site. Hopefully the information they find here will help them get better and not worse. Thanks DoubleAs, we really appreciate it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

How Quickly a No-Limit Hand can Change

For those of you that asked, I am going to talk more about Sit n Goes, tourneys, and cash games, and the differences and what I recommend doing. That will take an in depth analysis and I dont have time this afternoon. I should get to that this weekend. Today I just want to go over a hand that happened to me recently, and explain a concept.
This hand came up at the 25-50nl game on UB. I will post the hand history, then talk through my thoughts. Names of players have been changed.

Tight Aggresive Player is at seat 1 with $3288.
Green Plastic is at seat 2 with $4950.
A is at seat 3 with $9605 (sitting out).
Loose Aggressive Player is at seat 4 with $5000.
B is at seat 5 with $9593.
C is at seat 6 with $4922.
D is at seat 7 with $8300.
E is at seat 8 with $1987.
F is at seat 9 with $6597 (sitting out).
The button is at seat 1.
Green Plastic posts the small blind of $25.
Loose Aggressive Player posts the big blind of $50.Pre-flop: B folds. C calls. D calls. E folds. Tight Aggressive Player raises to $200. Green Plastic calls. Loose Aggressive Player re-raises to $900. C folds. D folds. Tight Aggressive Player calls. Green Plastic goes all-in for $4950. Loose Aggressive Player folds. Tight Aggressive Player goes all-in for $3288. Green Plastic is returned $1662 (uncalled). Flop (board: Td 7s Jd): (no action in this round) Turn (board: Td 7s Jd Ad): (no action in this round) River (board: Td 7s Jd Ad Th): (no action in this round) Showdown: Green Plastic shows Kd Kc.
Green Plastic has Kd Kc Td Ad Th: two pair, kings and tens.
T.E.P shows Qs Qd.
T.E.P has Qs Qd Td Ad Th: two pair, queens and tens.
$3 is raked from a pot of $7576.
Green Plastic wins $7573 with two pair, kings and tens.

note: I organized this the best I could, its not easy with the format they give you.

Basically, with two early position limpers, a tight aggressive player on the button making it 200 to go, and me in the SB with KK, i had two options. Raise, or Call. At this point I'm 90% sure my kings are the best hand out there, as in a cash game you can't be afraid of AA when you have KK, unless you have an amazing read on a guy. I normally raise with my Kings. But a few thoughts went through my head. First of all, I knew the Tight Aggressive Player (T.A.P, who I had coincidentally played with for a day at a WPT event and knew he wasn't messing around here) had a good hand. The odds are he had AK, or a PP between TT-QQ (again, if he had AA, so be it, i was going to lose). I knew that if I reraised with my kings, he would fold TT, JJ, possibly QQ, and probably AK. Doing this would eliminate two of hands for sure (TT, JJ) that I really wanted to play a big pot with my KK. I would get called by AA, and MAYBE QQ, and probably not by AK (which i would also want to play against). I decided to just call the 200, and hope the flop came with low cards. I was aware I took the risk of letting one of the EP limpers catch something, but I figured one or both would fold, and sometimes you have to risk someone sucking out on you in order to stay deceptive.
An interesting thing happened in the BB. This player thought and reraised to 900. Now, this guy plays extremely loose, and had alrady lost about 5-10k on the night. He was bluffing a lot and in a normal case I would be really worried about AA here (raising into 2 limpers, a reraise, and a call). The two limpers folded (if one of them pushed in I would fold my kings as they would probably be beat and I only had 200 invested). The T.A.P thought and thought, and finally just called. This pretty much made a light bulb go off in my head. I knew that this guy knew that I was a good player. At this point I would NOT call without QQ at the minimum, and he knew that. There would be little reason for him to slowplay AA at this point, as he might as well get his money in against the loose player who had been making some pretty bad calls previously (he wouldn't want to risk the loose player missing his hand totally and folding the flop...even this loose player would have a hard time bluffing if he missed, or risk the loose player catching a great flop relatively cheap). So basically, I ruled out AA for the T.A.P. I decided already that I had the L.A.P beat. At this point, I saw no reason to second guess myself and decided to push all in. The L.A.P. thought for a long time and folded, then the T.A.P thought for a long time and finally called. Turns out he had QQ (as I expected) and I took down the pot. What is interesting here is if I hadn't pushed in, this hand could have been a lot more tricky to play with T J X flop (TT, JJ being 2 of the 3 hands i thought he had...also being hands L.A.P could've had)
The moral of this story is that there are times you want to slowplay a big pair in NL cash games. You must do this sometimes in order to stay deceptive. However, things can quickly change with one raise behind you, and you shouldn't fall in love with your first decision. I would like to point out that most of these players playing were excellent players, and this is the reason I need to stay deceptive. If you are playing low stakes no limit, you should almost ALWAYS raise with KK in this spot, not slowplay at first. Players at low stakes will not fold QQ on the button, no matter what the situation is. Ok this got long, and I haven't proof read it so my apologies if I messed something up.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Adapting to Others: Loose Passive

Hi. Come on in. We got turkey taquitoes and orange juice. I’m kidding, just thought I’d throw a shout out to Roy West on Card Player. I’m always interested to see what that guy is cooking. Anyway, we are now onto the “Adapting to Others” segment of the Heads Up Doctrine. Hopefully you have read the three posts in “Your Style,” so you know how this fits in. Actually this is the second heads up profile. The first was on a player type named “Tight Passive” and was one of the first posts I made on this site. I hope you read that one along with this one as we start the journey into the styles of heads up players you might come across.

Name: Loose Passive

Playing Style: This player can be quickly identified by his tendency to call instead of bet or raise. When this player does bet, it is usually the minimum or close to it. Most loose passive players rarely bluff so when they do bet pot, run as fast as you can. This player reacts to aggression on the button by constantly calling the whole way and making you beat him with your cards. Needless to say, this player is not scared to call when you raise on the button, even if he is holding junk hands like J7o or k2o. Furthermore, this player will call a bet on the flop if he hits ANY piece of it and maybe even with only 1 or 2 over cards. Finally this player has evidently never heard of pot odds, deception, or kicker trouble

Strength: This player’s strength is his refusal to be run over. If an aggressive player tries to be aggressive on the button, he will get called. If an aggressive player tries to bluff on the river, he will probably also get called. Furthermore, by constantly calling instead of betting or raising, this player can be infuriating to play, often putting the aggressive player on tilt. When on tilt, the aggressive player might become more aggressive, make bigger bluffs, and raise more pre flop. In a situation like this, if the loose passive player gets slightly better cards than the aggressive player, he can win a lot of money in a hurry.

Weakness: This player is punished for his style when he faces someone who bets huge when he has a big hand and rarely bluffs. What this player gives up by playing the sheriff all day and calling everything down is that he does not know when to fold. This player will pay off your monster. Another weakness is this players’ love of trapping. If this player does have a big hand and God forbid does decide to bet, it will most likely be a small enough amount to give you the proper pot odds to call. Then when the draw is made, a pot bet will almost always be paid off by the loose passive player making implied odds correct if pot odds are not.

Plan of Attack: Two things should immediately be changed from your regular style. First, severely narrow the starting hands you raise with on the button. Good starting hands to raise with are any pairs, QJ or higher, and maybe even connected suitors like 67h. However, since deception and pot size are not important to this kind of player, connected suitors and low pairs might be better to limp with. After all, if you hit your hand this player will probably call you if he has anything. The second thing that should be changed is the amount you raise pre flop, now it has to be pot. You want to absolutely punish this player when you have a great starting hand. Throughout the hand the plan is to bluff less and bet huge when you hit. Don’t be scared to shut down a bluff or bet pot if holding quads. Another thing, loose passive players rarely bet. Therefore, trying to trap a loose passive player is like drunk-dialing the girl you have a crush on, in both cases you are seriously jeopardizing a chance to say Ship it!

Notes: The hardest thing to do against a player like this is to quickly recognize him and change your game plan. If you can adjust, this type of player is one of the easiest to win money off of that you will ever play. In basketball, you think you are money dribbling the ball down the court like Jason Kidd until the prick guarding you decides to full court press. Since no one has done that to you since middle school you get flustered and turn the ball over. The only reason the loose passive player catches people off guard is that it takes cards to beat him and he won’t fold a bad hand like most players. If an aggressive player refuses to change his game plan or catches a bad beat and goes on tilt, things have the potential to get ugly for him. Instead, recognize and adjust to crush this weak player.

Like Matt, I’d also like to send a huge thanks out to Iggy for mentioning us on Guinness and Poker. This has given a large number of poker players out there a chance to check us out. Iggy, you did not have to hook us up but we are very grateful that you did. Guiness and Poker is now the only blog under our links, an honor not easily bestowed but one you deserve. Thank you Iggy.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Lake Charles Baby, Lake Charles

I came to the realization the other day that my posts will probably get more boring as time goes on. I can only talk about the past so much. Once upon a time I got 7th in the WSOP and went to Ireland, all expenses paid. Now about the most exciting poker stories I have come from my online play and an occasional trip to Louisiana. For those that don't know, I'm a Texas boy, and poker is illegal here. So, for my live poker fix I have to travel three hours to Lake Charles. Let’s just say Lake Charles isn’t Vegas and leave it at that. So, me and four of my highly intoxicated friends decided on Saturday night to drive down and check the place out. We went to Harrah’s first. It would also turn out to be our last stop at a casino. It’s kind of tough telling four drunks to get back in the car because you want to find better games. Anyway, the only two games they had were $3/$6/$12 limit hold ‘em and $5/$5 no limit. I played $3/$6/$12 while waiting for a no limit seat and proceeded to immediately lose $120. Come to think of it, maybe I had had a little too much to drink also. I have a rule that I never, ever drink when I play. But I never said anything about just before I play. I finally got to sit at the no limit table and I was ready to play a little cards when the dealer told me I had too many chips?! The crappy thing about this game was that you could only sit with $300 maximum. I relented, turned in my ‘extra’ chips and ended up getting some good cards and making some money. I had QQ vs. AJ on one hand. I raised to $40 pre-flop, got re-raised to $100 by the SB, and just called. When the SB bet out $100 at the 7 7 6 flop I just pushed all-in for not much more. No help for that guy and I doubled up. Later I had 10 9 on the button and limped in. 8 people took the flop and I got it all-in against the same guy when the flop came 10 9 3. He had AA and my hand held up. I ended up making $398 for the trip which was pretty sweet. We didn’t get there until midnight and at 5 a.m. we took off back to Houston, but not before a little Waffle House action. Ship it! All in all it was a bunch of fun. Lloyd, Taylor, and I are lazy people who would never take the time to find a bunch of cool poker blogs. But we know one guy who actually did all the work for you. Check out his blog at Sure, his blog makes us look amateurish but don’t stop checking us out.

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Building a Bankroll

Many people have asked me how I am able to play in some pretty high stakes games when I am so young. Most assume that my parents gave me a large sum of money to play with, and I turned that into an even larger amount of money. The opposite is actually true. Today I'd like to talk about how I built up my money playing online poker, and some advice I have to anyone trying to do the same.

I started with 35 dollars on UB in Summer '03. I had been playing poker for about 5 years at this point, all througout high school and my freshman year of college. I didn't really know what games to play, I just knew i liked NLHE. I decided to play the 1 on 1 $5 dollar sit n goes. I played these for about 2 months and built up my 35 dollars to a whopping 150 or so. I was making about 5 dollars an hour! After this I moved up to playing 10 dollar 1 on 1 games, as well as some 6 seated and 10 seated sit n goes. I really recommend playing sit n goes to start out, because you have a limited amount of risk and you can get a lot of experience. About two months later I had made almost 1000 dollars, and I started to cash out about 50 bucks a week to pay for my living expenses at school. I was now playing 20 and 30 dollar sit n goes. Eventually I started playing the 50 and 100 dollar heads up sit n goes, with a bankroll of around 1500. It was at this time I really decided I wanted to play in the cash games. I saw that there were some huge pots at the 1-2nl and 2-4nl, and I wanted in on the action. The problem was, I wasn't at all ready for the cash games. I would build up my account to 1500 or so. Then immediately lose 2 or 3 buy ins at the cash games over the course of the day, and be down to 800. I was very frustrated so I stuck to the sit n goes to build back up. Eventually, I improved as a player and was able to hang at the 1-2nl game, making a small amount of money over the course of a month. I finally broke through and had a huge day, and moved up to 2-4nl. With a lot of practice and moving up and down, I eventually had a bankroll to play 5-10...10-25...25-50, and so on.

The reoccuring theme in my efforts to build up money was that I would work hard to make a few hundred bucks a week in the sit n goes, and then lose it very quickly in the cash games. This happens to so many people. I'm not exactly sure why, other than it takes more skill to win at the NL cash games because you can play for all of your chips (chips=money) on any given hand. One bad decision (or suckout) and you can lose a hefty amount of money. Things brings me to my first tip:

Always have an adequate bankroll for whatever you are playing. People complain that they can't handle the bad beats of the cash games, because you can lose a ton on a 2 outer or something. This is inevitable, but if you have a big enough BR you can make up for this with good play. I recommend a bankroll that is bigger than you might even think. For sit n goes, i think you should have 30-40 buy ins. This is probably a bit extreme, but it's not unheard of to have a stretch where you might lose 10-15 in a row. Now you probably would still have a bankroll left, but what I found happening to me is that when I went through a bad streak I started playing timidly. If you have an excessive bankroll, you will realize that you have more than enough money left to play through it. For no limit cash games, I recommend having at least 15 buy ins for whatever game you are playing, more if you are playing short handed. If you want to play 5-10nl, you should have 15k, at the minimum. I know very many people that don't stick to this, and most of them lose in the long run.

Next, you must be able to control going on tilt. Tilt to me is the single biggest BR ruiner. In the last 4 days, I've lost 17k in 'bad beat' pots at 25-50nl. These were all in pots after the flop or turn where my opponent had at most 3 outs. I could have tilted and lost a heck of a lot more, but everytime i just decided to leave the game. I was pretty upset and I thought, there are better things I could be doing right now than playing poker, if I cant play my A game. I recommend having a backup plan if you decide you can't play your best anymore and must quit. I signed up for a gym that's one block from my apartment, so I usually head there to work out. Otherwise I bought a few video games that I can play if I feel like doing something like that. People ask me, how do you not tilt? The truth is, I do tilt. I just know when I am on tilt and I leave the game. I cannot stress how important that is.

Finally, I recommend having some sort of cashout plan. Use something like pokertracker to figure out how much you make/hr. Then figure out how much you plan on playing a week, and calculate your average weekly profit. Make a cashout once or twice a week and take out about 25% of this average profit. I withdraw almost every day because frankly it feels good to take money out of my account and put it into the bank. If I have a bad week, I still take out money. If I have a great week, sometimes I will take out a little more. This is a great way to keep your BR growing, but also put some $ in your pocket. Nothing helps me feel better about playing poker than having money to spend as a result of playing.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Your Game: Taking Control

If you have read the first two posts on “Your Game,” you should understand both the importance of position as well as how to use it to your advantage. However, there are still a couple of things to clear up before shifting to the “Adapting to Others” segment of the Heads up Doctrine.
Every time you sit down to play heads up, you should go through the same process. A pro tennis player doesn’t just jump into a match and swing away; he will warm up, create a game plan, and maybe even review some film. Like tennis, the first few hands in heads up are useful to do three things: 1) establish your game, 2) adjust to the other player, 3) and combine the two to set up a huge hand. Make no mistake about it, no limit heads up is a thinking man’s game. The money is won or lost in a few big hands. That is not to say that the small hands aren’t important, they are. However, not for the reasons you might think. They are important not for the amount you win in them, but for setting up the big hand or the knockout blow.
Establishing you game
You want your opponent to think you are crazy, an idiot, and maybe even drunk. In short you want to piss him off. Do this by being aggressive on the button. If you have read “Your Game: Aggression on the Button,” you know how much and with what to raise with on the button. However, sometimes it might be smart to raise with even more trash early in a heads up match. After all, everyone knows how important first impressions are. As far as showing your hand when you don’t have to, I like to show the occasional bluff. Most pros never show hands, however heads up is often a very emotional game. When you show a bluff, you are giving away part of your game plan. However, if you know this in advance and can adjust, the chance to get your opponent on tilt early might outweigh any knowledge your opponent gets from seeing your cards. Raising with junk, winning the pot, and showing your cards early in a heads up match, might agitate your opponent into making a key mistake. (I’ve seen great heads up players be shown one bluff and tilt off thousands.)
You want to take control early in a match regardless of your cards but we aware of two things. First, don’t risk too many chips in an attempt at a bluff. Second, while you try to promote chaos, continually practice on being calm and detached. NEVER get emotional. Yea, easier said than done, but if you lose your cool at the table, you are also going to lose your stack. In short, make him tilt while you stay calm. The ultimate goal is to get your opponent to start playing back at you out of position.
Adjusting to the other player
From the very start of the heads up match you want to start noticing everything about your opponent. Some key questions to ask are: What does he raise on the button with? What does he raise out of position with? What does he re-raise with? How does he play draws? How does he play weak hands? How does he play monsters? How does he bluff? The “Adapting to Others” section will help you put names on players but the bottom line is every hand you play, there is something to learn about your opponent. As you establish your game, see how your opponent reacts.
Setting up a huge hand
When you know your opponent, you can set up a huge hand. Let me explain with a hand history.
I knew this opponent pretty well as I had played him a fair amount. From this experience, I had picked up on a key weakness. This player would call an over bet (a bet far above the amount in the pot), with a mediocre hand. Evidently this player believed an over bet was always a bluff because it looked like a bet that doesn’t want to be called. This player had also seen me use an over bet bluff before.

Player B: -- --
Polynikes: Ac 4h (Button)
Polynikes raises to $14.
Player B calls.
Flop (board: Qc 4d 2h):
Player B checks. Polynikes
bets $16. Player B calls.
Turn (board: Qc 4d 2h 8s):
Player B checks. Polynikes checks.
River (board: Qc 4d 2h 8s 4c):
Player B checks. Polynikes bets $325. Player B
Polynikes shows Ac 4h.
Polynikes has Ac 4h Qc 4d 4c: three fours.
Player B mucks cards.
(Player B has 7h Qh.)
$.50 is raked from a pot of $724.
Polynikes wins $723.50 with three fours.

First off all, I had been using aggression on the button. Here I raised pre-flop with a mediocre hand, partially hit the flop, and bet 2/3 of the pot. When he just called on the flop I was pretty certain I was beat and fully prepared to shut down. However, this player had been re-raising with monsters so I thought I had outs. I then checked on the turn. When I hit another 4 on the river, I could have value bet. However, because I had established my game and picked up on his weakness, this was a chance to use that knowledge to win a huge hand. I then made a ridiculous over bet, roughly 5 times the pot!
Every time you sit down to play heads up, do the same three things. First take control with your game. Second see how your opponent plays and reacts to your aggression. Finally combine to two to deliver a knockout blow. Don’t forget to say “Ship It!” when you do!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

My Hand vs. Harrington

My favorite hand of the WSOP this year is a hand I played with Dan Harrington. I actually lost this pot but I am lucky I didn't lose a lot more. With about 25 people to go I found myself in about average chip position. Dan Harrington had roughly the same number of chips as myself and raised in the cut-off seat. I looked down in the big blind and saw K8 suited and called. I had been playing pretty tight and thought Dan may have been trying to take my blinds. I had let him do this a couple times already and thought this would be a good time to defend. I considered a reraise hoping to win the hand right there but instead just called. The flop came 2 4 K rainbow and I checked thinking I probably had the best hand. Harrington checked behind me and I didn't like his body language. Something told me to be careful. This is where things got interesting. The turn came 8. With about 800,000 in chips each and around 40,000 in the pot I bet 35,000. Harrington thought about it and just flat called my bet. Immediately I felt like something was wrong even with top 2 pair. The river came Q for a final board of 2 4 K 8 Q, and I immediately checked. Harrington thought about it and bet 80,000. I ended up deciding that I had to call even though I felt I was most likely beat. I was getting great pot odds and I didn't want to get run over. Harrington did turn over pocket 4's and when I showed him my K8 he was in disbelief. The hand would have been much different had he raised me on the turn but he didn't and I had more than enough chips to continue on in good shape. He told me the next day that he couldn't believe I didn't lose more on that hand. When he told me that it made my year... well that and the final table appearence and the money. Harrington was quiet at the table as you would expect but was funny and very respectful of all the players. I just wish I would have filled up on the river.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Playing AK on the "Button" Multi-way

Today I am taking a break from the Heads Up Doctrine to share a way to play AK in late position along with an example hand I recently played. First let me say that while I love to look down at AK, the reality is when you face a raise or many raises, you are only going to hit an A or a K about 33 % of the time on the flop. Second, this logic does NOT apply to heads up.

If you face a bet on the flop after you did not hit an A or a K, you are can get yourself in big trouble if you call. Therefore I don’t usually like to re-raise pre-flop with AK unless 1) it looks like many players will call the raise and I want to narrow the field, 2) the raiser has been raising too much and could have anything 3) or I re-raise all in so I have at least a 50 % chance to win unless I’m up against KK or AA. Other than that, if the raiser has already appeared to narrow the field, I will simply cold call on the button with AK. Also, sometimes if there is big raise and a big re-raise, I might even fold AK pre-flop because I sense that someone has a big pair. Let me tell you it is not fun to be heavily committed in a pot with AK and be up against AA.

OK, one of the reasons not to re-raise pre-flop with AK is because you still only have ace high, the other reason is to set up hands like AQ or AJ. Not re-raising here disguises your hand and can lead to a huge Ship It! if an ace flops. Ok here is the hand.

Player A: ?? BB
Player B: AdQc Cutoff
Polynikes: Kh As Button
Player C: ?? SB
Player B raises to $14. Polynikes calls. Player C
folds. Player A calls.
Flop (board: 6c Ac 2s):
Player A checks. Player B checks. Polynikes bets
$20. Player A calls. Player B raises to $124.
Polynikes re-raises to $436. Player A folds.
Player B goes all-in for $167.60. Polynikes is returned
$268.40 (uncalled).
Turn (board: 6c Ac 2s Js):
(no action in this round)
River (board: 6c Ac 2s Js Ah):
(no action in this round)
Polynikes shows Kh As.
Polynikes has Kh As Ac Js Ah: three aces.
Player B shows Qc Ad.
Player B has Qc Ad Ac Js Ah: three aces, queen kicker.

$2 is raked from a pot of $399.20.
Polynikes wins $397.20 with three aces.

Facing the pre-flop pot raise on the button with AK, I felt good but not totally sure what I was up against. This player had been playing pretty tight and was undoubtedly holding a strong starting hand. Since I thought Player B’s raise would get the blinds out of the hand, I just called. The BB decided to call but wasn’t really a factor in the hand.

When the ace flopped I was hoping someone would bet out pot. This would tell me that I at least had the bettor beat. However, it was checked to me. At this point there was about $44 in the pot and I bet about half that. First I wanted hands like TT, JJ, QQ, & KK to think they might still have the best hand. Secondly, I wanted hands like AJ and AQ to put me to the test. I never considered checking, I hate slow playing one pair multi-way. When the BB called I figured him for a flush draw, weak ace, or low set. Then the original raiser re-raised pot. Does he make this raise with aces? I didn’t think so, so I re-raised all in hoping to see AQ or AJ. I also wanted to make sure the BB didn’t call with his flush draw. If the BB did spike a set on the flop, that’s a risk I’m willing to take. ;)

For me everything turned out rosy as the BB folded and the original raiser felt committed to call the rest. Let me say that AQ is a very tricky hand to play but I would almost always bet pot out instead of checking on the flop. Regardless, I’m glad this gentleman played the hand the way he did. ;)

This is one way to play AK in late position. I hope you found it useful. I will return to the Heads Up Doctrine later this week. Have a safe Super bowl Sunday.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Charity/Celebrity Tournament

I just got back today from Dallas where I participated in a charity poker tournament put on by 102.1 'The Edge' and The Knights of Malta charity. Commander Sir Kent Farquhar of the Knights of Malta had invited me to play in the event as they were trying to raise funds for a new hospital. The main tournament was a freeroll and consisted of 600 people with the winner getting a free seat to the WSOP main event. I was to play in the 'celebrity' event in which the winner donated $2,500 to the charity they were playing for. In the main tournament I got to deal one table of six people. We were down to 60 at that point and the format was that there were 10 6-person tables and the winner of each table went to the final table. Well, I am happy to say that the winner of my table, Amber Thorton, went on to the final table and won her way into the WSOP. In the celebrity event I got to play with Gavin Griffen (WSOP pot-limit champ), Stevie Benton and Mike Luce of the band Drowning Pool, Jackson and Monica from Fear Factor who won a million dollars, Ralph Strangis (the voice of the Dallas Stars), and some other cool people to bring the total to 10. We all started with 1,000 chips and blinds of 50-100. Gavin and I just looked at each other and had to laugh. On the first hand I had the small blind and got pot odds to call with T 2 since everyone called but Gavin. I flopped a 2 and turned a ten and won the pot when no one called my bet. I was the chip leader after one hand. Mike Luce of Drowning Pool ordered everyone shots of Jager and the tournament was rolling. We lost someone on the 3rd hand and on the 4th hand I knocked out two people when my QQ held up vs. TT and AQ. The blinds then went up to 100-200. Gavin got knocked out a little later with KT because he was short on chips and all the sudden we were down to 4 after 9 hands. This tournament was hilarious. Blinds were going up every 10 minutes and each hand took about 3 minutes. I ended up getting heads up with a rock guy whose name I don't even remember. We were about even in chips. The first hand I got T4 of clubs and just called from the SB. The flop came T76 and I checked. Frankly, I wanted to check-raise because I figured he would bet with anything. He checked. The turn came ten for a board of TT76 and I checked again. Again he checked. Well, this isn't working I thought. When the river was an ace I moved all-in hoping he hit his ace. He called and showed me K9. Gotta love celebrity poker. He was forced to move all in next hand with 2 6 and I had 33 and it held up. Ship it! 14 hands into the tournament and it was all over. If only the WPT had been that easy. Well, I was happy for my charity and it was all in good fun.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Never Do This!!

I don't have much time to post today, but I'd just like to talk about something that I have seen happen a few times in poker in my life. You should NEVER fold the river if all you are last to act and it is checked to you. This might seem obvious, but some players when caught in a bluff will just fold their cards assuming they are beat. You have nothing to lose by showing down your hand at this point, it doesn't cost you anything. Some players might say that they don't want the other player to know how they played their bluff. I argue that if you are a capable player you should mix up your play enough that it doesn't matter if he knew how you played that bluff, as you should have many many different types of bluffs in your arsenal. Here is an example of a hand that came up between me and a great player (I edited out his name).

Green Plastic is at seat 1 with $8524.
Player X is at seat 7 with $15811.
Player X posts the small blind of $25.
Green Plastic posts the big blind of $50.
Green Plastic: 9c 7c
Pre-flop: Player X calls. Green Plastic raises to $150. Player X calls.
Flop (board: 4d Th 6c):Green Plastic bets $300. Player X calls.
Turn (board: 4d Th 6c Ac):Green Plastic checks. Player X bets $900. Green Plastic calls.
River (board: 4d Th 6c Ac 5h):Green Plastic checks. Player X folds.
$.50 is raked from a pot of $2700. Green Plastic wins $2699.50.

Now, about this hand. I won the 2700 pot with 97, no pair. I usually would either fold or raise this turn here because all i had was a flush draw and gutshot straight draw, but this player had been firing out big bets on the river all day on me (when he was pretty sure I couldn't call) and i wanted to have a chance to make a big hand and checkraise him once. I had a lot of chips on the table so I figured if i got lucky and hit one of my 12 outs, I could possibly get all in for a huge pot. Also, even if I missed (and he checked) I wanted him to know that I am willing to "gamble" and could hold and/or check any two cards at the end. This would make him less likely to keep stealing pots on the river against me, as I suspected he was doing. In the end he was probably bluffing with no pair, or a small pair, and decided he didn't want me to see his hand. The truth is, a good player (me, I think) is smart enough to know why a person would fold a hand when it is checked to them. So he didn't get a chance to win the pot with whatever he had, AND i know that he was bluffing there. Interesting hand, comments?

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Your Game: Aggression on the Button

Please read “Your Game: Position” before you read this post. The tactics explained below are a product how crucial position is in heads up play. This post is divided up into two parts: “On the Button” and “Out of Position.” (Disclaimer: The only heads up blind structure I will discuss is like that found on Ultimatebet. This is where the button is the small-blind as well as first to act pre-flop. The out of position player starts the hand as the big blind and acts after the button pre-flop, but then must act first the rest of the hand.) These two parts will describe a solid heads up procedural game plan. However it is important to realize that changes should be made according to your opponent.

On the Button
Forget everything you learned about being tight in ring games. If you don’t get aggressive on the button, and I mean AGGRESSIVE, you won’t be a successful heads up player. What do I mean by aggressive? I mean you should be raising pre-flop with any pairs (ex. AA-22), any two big cards (AK-JT), any connected cards (AK-23), and even with any two gap suited cards (ex. Jh8h). How much should you raise? It depends both on your opponent and what you feel comfortable doing. However it should either be pot or min. Also, once you decide on an amount you should keep it consistent. Don’t raise pot with AA but min with 23 as most players will pick up on it.
If your opponent calls you should bet anywhere from 50 to 100 percent of the pot on the flop more than half the time. If you are unsure when to bet, do it 1) anytime you hit the flop 2) anytime you have a draw including a gut-shot straight draw, 3) anytime you have 2 over cards, 4) or anytime you think your opponent didn’t hit (ex. flop comes AJK and your opponent usually re-raises you pre-flop with big cards). While this is a general rule, don’t bet if you think your opponent likely hit or if you if you have a bad feeling (a lot of the moves I make at the table come from feel, don’t be afraid to trust your gut.)
You will probably pick up most pots after your bet on the flop but if you get called, play the rest of the hand out according to your hand strength (ex. call re-raises only if you are getting pot odds or think you have the best hand). If you pick up a read on your opponent, bluffs are also very effective since you have position. However, if you bluff, bet pot. You want to make your opponent think twice about calling your river bet with second pair.
A quick note about hand strength in heads up compared to a ten person ring game. Obviously everything goes up in value when you are playing heads up but not in big pots! Make sure if you go all in you put your opponent on a hand just like in a full ring game. For example, if you hold QJ and the flop comes TTJ do you really think your opponent would call an all in with something that couldn’t beat QJ? Don’t overvalue two low pairs and especially don’t overvalue one pair!

Out of Position
Be careful! If you break even on the hands you are out of position, consider it a win. If the rule when on the button pre-flop is raise instead of call, out of position the rule is call or fold instead of raise. Immediately start noting what type of hands your opponent is raising with on the button and adjust accordingly. For example, if your opponent only raises pre-flop one out of thirty hands on the button, you can safely fold JT. Now while you should call instead of raise with hands like low pairs, Ax, and KJ or worse, you should consider re-raising with anything stronger. While there is discretion in the amount of your pre-flop raise on the button, if you raise pre-flop out of position it must always be pot! You are hoping this bet doesn’t get called but if it does try to play a small pot the rest of the way unless your hand is huge.
As far as playing a monster in a raised pot on the flop, there are two ways to go about it. One if you think your opponent has an over pair you can safely bet out. This way you will disguise your strength and hope your opponent re-raises you pot committing himself. The other is of course to check raise. Either way I advise trying to get your money in on the flop out of position.
The last point I will talk about is hitting a big hand in an un-raised pot. For example let’s say you flop a set or two pair. Again I recommend playing this hand fast. I love to check raise pot here. Put your opponent to the test early. Let me tell you from experience that there is nothing worse than slow-playing a big hand out of position only to have your opponent suck you out on the river. Get your money in when you have the best of it!

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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Memories of Ireland

Back in June Poker Stars was kind enough to invite me to play in the World Poker Championship in Ireland. They paid my airfare, hotel room, and entry fee - ship it! I had a wonderful time and since I'm too lazy to come up with anything new I am reposting a thread I made back in June after the tournament. Here it is.

After a fun 20 hours of traveling I got to Dublin very early on Tuesday morning (tourney started on Wed.). At the airport I ran into Chris Moneymaker and talked to him a bit. It's a huge thrill to get to talk to the big names - just another added bonus.

On Tuesday evening there was a players reception at the casino and the heats were announced. Once I found out that I wasn't playing until Friday it was off to the pubs. I was really surprised how small the casino was though. I guess it's different in Europe but the casino was basically a 4-story townhouse. I originally was kind of disappointed but it turned out to be one of the cool parts of the tournament. The smaller casino almost forced everyone to talk to one another and it was neat to strike up relationships with the other players, the dealers, and the staff running the tournament. I had a friend from Ireland who took the train to Dublin so we went drinking along with a young player from London, Adam Matusiak ('Twos') and ran into Blair Rodman - a big tournament player from LV. For the next few days I didn't go to the casino much but did do a lot of drinking. Kilkenney is a nice freaking beer. Guinness ain't bad either.

Finally on Friday I played my first hand of poker on the trip. If you don't know who was in my heat (or are curious about the format) you can go back and look it up at Everyone started with 100,000 in chips.

I got down to 74,000 early but started to get some cards and was at around 96,000 when a huge hand came up. Playing 8-handed still I raised on the button with KT. Gary Bush, who was on Late Night Poker and also finished second to Gavin Griffen at the WSOP's pot-limit hold 'em event, reraised from the BB. This was about the 4th hand I had played out of 6 and Gary had been watching me. I had a read that he had a hand but it wasn't big enough to call an all-in so I pushed. It would've crippled me to lose. He had 24,000 invested and 60,000 left but folded AJ. I told him I had QQ - sorry Gary.

It may not seem like much but I was now the chip leader at the table and I played like it. Most of the players at my table knew who I was so I hoped they had heard I played tight (I played scary tight at the WSOP). In fact 2 players at my table had played with me at some point at the WSOP. I think they must have gotten word because with the exception of one guy (Jerry) I picked up lots of pots without a fight.

An hour later a woman raised my big blind but I woke up with KK and popped her back. I checked a KQ8 flop and she moved all in. She showed AT which was about the worst thing I could hope for. I'm not whining but visions of a bad beat were running through my head. No jack though and I was the chip leader at my table.

When we got down to 6 players from 16 they conducted interviews with all of us. We were miked at the tables and the TV cameras were on. I was much more relaxed than in LV and thought to myself, 'This is the life'. The final 6 consisted of some very good players, Jeff Shulman, Paul Phillips, Joe Beevers, a guy they call Nick the Greek, that Jerry guy, and little old me.

Joe and I had a lot of chips though - about 2/3 of the total number of chips on the table.

On one hand Shulman and Phillips went all-in with AK against Beevers QQ. Just like that we were down to 4. When the two short stacks butted heads Nick the Greek was out and Jerry had a little more to work with. He was super-aggresive though and he got into trouble a couple times with Joe.

His last gasp was when he raised me from the SB and I just called in the BB with QT. QT was a freaking monster against this guy. When I say I just called it should tell you how aggresive he was. The flop came 2 3 10 and Jerry bet pot from the SB leaving him with about 20,000. I put him all-in and he went into the tank. There was over 250,000 in the pot and he considered folding for 20,000 more so I wasn't too worried. He had to call and showed me 2 8 giving him five outs twice. The turn was a 10 meaning I was in the money again and I couldn't believe it.

Joe Beevers is tough.

He also picked up JJ, QQ, KK, and AA against me in about 30 hands. I didn't last too long.

The final hand I raised with A3 of diamonds and he called with KK. The flop came 3 9 10 with 2 diamonds and I bet out. When he put me all-in it was an easy call with so few chips left and two blanks put me into the semi-finals.

When we got down to 6 I mentioned to one of the dealers that I liked his watch. He let me wear it but when we got down to 2 he had to leave so I gave it back.

I think that did me in.

Anyways, the semi-final heat was two days later. There were some great players there including Carlos Mortenson and Erick Lindgren.

During the interviews before the semi-final the interviewer asked me if I thought I was the favorite coming off my WSOP performance. Are you kidding me? Haha - one of many highlights.
Long story short I played great according to me. It's hard to be objective but I think I do an okay job and I played pretty damn perfect. I got my stack from 100,000 to 160,000 without playing one hand past the turn and I was thinking I might win the thing when I found KK in the hot-spot.

I raised and got called on my immediate left. I checked the 5 7 9 flop and check-raised all in (blinds were enormous and thus the pots were too). When my man turned up 7 9 I still had outs but they didn't turn up. I tried to second-guess myself on that one but it was a 'had to be there' play and the guy on my left could have bet that flop with a lot of different hands including trash.

Overall, I was extremely happy. I proved that the WSOP wasn't a fluke, if only to myself.

I know this is long so I'll try to wrap it up but I want to express how much fun it was. I had never been outside of North America so it was cool just to go to Ireland. I had no pressure on me also so the tournament was almost like an added bonus. I really liked the format and I was so relaxed. The staff, dealers, and players were so friendly. What great people!

I guess I was expecting people in Europe might not necessarily like Americans but that was not even close to the truth. I actually enjoyed myself more at this tourney than the WSOP. Admittedly, it was hard to enjoy myself at the WSOP with it being my first tournament and playing for freaking 60 hours but the Ireland experience is one I'll always cherish.

I also got to go out to dinner with 'Miami' John Cernuto and his daughter, Jade after the tournament and that was a thrill. It was neat to pick his brain and talk poker.

It turns out that we played the WSOP completely different in terms of stategy. His ranking in the world is 7 so it's hard to argue but I guess it just proves that there isn't just one way to win in this game. I'm so sick of writing I'm not going to check this for errors.

By the way, I ended up getting the watch from the dealer in a trade for my lucky sunglasses. Bartering is kind of cool.

Sorry this is so freaking long.