Tip #20: JC Tran – The Art of Bluffing
One of the most misunderstood concepts in poker, bluffing is about making the right move at the right time, against the right opponent
Bluffing gives a player the ability to turn a losing hand into the winning hand. However, there is a great deal of intricacy involved and bluffing is not as prevalent as many players think. While it adds deception to your game it’s all about picking the right spot.
Believe It Or Not
Bluffing is more than firing out massive bets and praying your opponent folds. A successful bluff is about telling a believable story. This means there are a number of things to consider when attempting a bluff:
- Bet sizing – have you bet enough in relation to the size of the pot to get your opponent to fold? This amount can’t be too small as you give your opponent the right price to call, but can’t be too large as over-bets often look like a bluff.
- Fold equity – more importantly, do you have a big enough stack left after making this bet to make your opponent wary of calling another big bet or all-in move on the next street?
- Table image – what hands have you shown down recently? You might have had Aces and Kings the previous orbit, but if you won without showdown this is not a good time to bluff. Your opponents just saw you make huge bets to take down big pots uncontested and might choose to look you up.
- Opponent’s tendencies – how has your opponent been playing? If they have not shown a propensity to fold in the face of aggression then even the most well executed bluff will fail miserably.
- Board texture – you need to put your opponent on a range of hands you think they are likely to fold if a ‘bad’ card hits. It’s no good representing a hand if your opponent actually has it. Similarly if you have missed an obvious draw and bluff the river don’t be surprised if you get called.
Types of Bluff
- The float: This is where you call the pre-flop aggressor on the flop with the intention of taking the hand away on either the turn or river. The float is an effective way of countering c-bets. Position is key as check/calling the flop out of position (OOP) then leading the turn looks suspicious. If you are OOP then consider check/raise bluffing instead as this is usually a sign of strength.
- The double barrel: This is where you c-bet the flop, get called and continue to tell the story of a strong hand by betting again on the turn. Used to counter the float, you need to have a good idea where you are to utilise this play effectively. Good spots to barrel are when a card like an Ace or King hit the turn on dry uncoordinated boards as you can get an opponent to fold out medium to low pocket pairs and middle pair.
- The River bluff: You should have a good idea of your opponent’s hand by the river. You bluff here because you have no way to win at showdown. River bluffs are all about reading board texture and can be especially effective on draw heavy boards when a scare card hits the river. For example, say you have 7♥ 8♥ in position on a K♦ 5♠ 6♠ 2♥ board and are putting your opponent on a decent King. If a spade hits the river this is a great spot to bluff.
Advanced plays like the float, barrel and river bluff can be used to counter commonly used moves like c-bets. For them to succeed however, you must use them wisely. You need to consider all the above factors before attempting any bluff.
Tip #19: Steve Gee – Final Countdown
Making the final of any tournament is a huge achievement, but the hard work is far from over. Here are our top tips on how to tackle the final table head on
The final table is where every player wants to end up when they play a multi-table tournament (MTT). Chances are your fellow final-tablists will, for the most part, be experienced tournament players. This will require you to take a a different strategy to the one you used to get here and you should be treating each opponent individually rather than generalising your approach.Know Your Foe
For the first couple of orbits you should play extremely tight. Get a feel for the table and how people are playing. Poker brings out different emotions in different people and you must learn the current emotional state of every player. Have you spotted a player who’s loosening up or tilting? Is there a big stack trying to bully everyone else? Is someone to your left avoiding confrontation in an attempt to climb the payout ladder? More than likely you will notice mostly tight players but you’ll also run across a few people utilizing the maniac approach. Identify these players early on and adjust your play accordingly. Good final table play involves playing the player more often than the cards. After careful study it becomes easy to pick out the tight players whose blinds you can steal and allows you to be more careful of your pre-flop starting hand selection against maniacs.Patience is a Virtue
Most players will be on their best behaviour and are going to be playing the best hands possible. If you spot a maniac at the table let him take a few people out. There will be a time to make your move, but there is no point risking elimination unless you have a good hand. Conversely, if the table is tight you may want to take a few risks and take advantage of players trying to fold their way up the money ladder by stealing the blinds and antes. Consider three-betting these players more – they won’t want to risk their tournament lives with marginal hands and will more than likely give up pots. This can help you to build your stack.Play Fearlessly
The top three spots are where the money is in any tournament so you should be aiming to finish here rather than passively folding your way up the payout ladder. You shouldn’t be afraid of busting – you’ve made it this far so have already earned a reasonable payday – it’s better to go for broke and play for the win. That doesn’t mean open shoving every other hand and playing with reckless abandon. You should be looking for good spots to accumulate chips and bully the shorter stacks. While sitting back and getting a feel for the table is smart play at the start, once you have a handle on your opponents you should begin to up the aggression and look for good spots to pressure people into making mistakes. If you get unlucky and bust than so be it, as long as you get your chips in good you’ve done your best to maximise your return.
Tip #18: Nam Le –Table Selection and Adaption
Picking a good table is just as important as hand selection and choosing the wrong table can cost you in the long run
Often overlooked by casual players eager to get into the thick of the action, table selection is just as important to your bottom line as hand selection and position. Pick a tough table and you have to fight tooth and nail, even for the small pots, but pick the right table and you can make money hand over fist.
Why Table Select?
Table selection directly affects your win rate. If you don’t have a definable edge over your opponents then you are at a disadvantage. As Matt Damon’s character Mike McDermott says in the 1998 film Rounders: “If you can’t spot the sucker in the first half an hour at the table, then you are the sucker.”
Poker is not about playing with the best of the best, it’s about making money. With the margins in the modern game becoming slimmer it’s much easier to show a profit playing against weak players.
Picking the Right Table
With information on how a table is playing – the number of players to a hand, the average size of the pots and the pre-flop raise percentage – viewable in the lobby before you even sit down, there is no excuse in the online era to play in a bad poker game. Another table can be opened in a matter of seconds; all it takes is the click of a button. There is even tracking software like Hold’em Manager, PokerTracker and TableNinja that can pick out the most profitable tables available. Of course if you don’t have this software or are playing live it can be tougher to spot the ‘good’ tables, but you should be looking at the average pot size and the VPIP/PFR (Voluntary Put $ In Pot/Pre-flop Raise) statistics. Big pots are usually an indication of too many players seeing the flop and not folding enough. A table with big pots and players with a high VPIP/PFR is usually a profitable game. However, a high average pot percentage is also the sign of an aggressive game, as loose/passive opponents don’t raise all that often. Tables with smaller pots but with players with a high VPIP and low PFR percentage can be just as profitable. You are just aiming to win lots of small pots rather than a few really big ones. Of course, this means that a different playing style is needed at each table type.
Adapting To the Table
A tight aggressive game (TAG) is the most profitable to play at a table with a high average pot, VPIP and PFR statistics. You should pick your spots and opponents carefully as where there are fish there are sharks. Play your big hands aggressively and isolate the fish by raising/-re-raising to take your hand heads-up or three-way. Of course it is better to do this in position and you should also look to sit to the left of the bad players. You should not be playing marginal hands out of position (OOP) against good players, and if the fish leave you should immediately be searching for a better table.
A loose passive game with lots of pre-flop open limping means you can play a little looser and should be looking to get in cheaply in position with more speculative hands like mid-small pocket pairs and suited gap connecters. You need to hit the flop hard before you commit to the hand though, as with so many players per flop, top pair top kicker is far from being the nuts.
It is possible for an average player who table selects well to show bigger profits than more skilful players who ignore the impact table selection has on their bottom line. While playing in competitive games against tough opponents improves your skill level you should always be looking for the more profitable games against softer opposition. This will enable you to take shots at the tougher games, as your bankroll will be a great deal healthier.
Tip #17: Joe Hachem – MTT Street Smarts
With 75 percent of the betting action in poker taking place after the flop, solid post-flop playing skills are what are needed for long-term success
The ability to play post-flop is key to success in poker; especially in multi-table tournaments (MTTs) where fear equity comes into play. An extension of fold equity (the statistical likelihood of winning the pot as a result of your opponent folding the best hand) fear equity is where you put an opponent to a decision for their tournament life, by betting your big made hands in exactly the same way you bet your draws, semi bluffs and bluffs.
Hare ‘em Scare ‘em
Making the most out of your fold equity and maximising fear equity are important concepts in MTTs, much more so than in cash games. This is why players three-bet shove light pre-flop, or move all-in on the flop with draws. For example, on a board of A♥ K♥ 3♦, you have very little fold equity against an opponent whose range is likely to comprise big Aces, sets and/or two pairs. As such, you will want to move all-in only with hands that have a decent amount of pot equity against such a range, for example J♥ T♥. Since you are not going to get your opponent to fold a lot of the time, it would be suicidal to start getting aggressive with 2♥ 3♥. However, on a board that reads T♦ J♦ Q♦, you would have a higher chance of success in forcing your opponent to fold a large portion of their range. Most players would fold hands like A♣ Q♣, A♣ J♥, A♣ A♥ or even A♥ K♥ to sustained aggression. As such, it doesn’t matter what cards you have, you can expect to have a far higher likelihood of success in attempting to steal the pot with 2-3 suited, as opposed to the first example. Aside from when you are holding a monster, situations where maximizing fold and fear equity arise are when you are bluffing, which brings us on to a key aspect of post-flop play.
Bluffing is an integral part of poker, the majority of which takes place post-flop. Betting scare cards in position is a great way to increase your ‘win without showdown’ percentage, therefore pad out your stack with minimal risk, especially if done correctly. The opposite of a blank, scare cards are those that look as though have improved a players’ hand such as a draw or Broadway card. For example you are playing in a tournament; effective stacks are around 50BBs with blinds at 150/300 with a 25 running ante. Following an early position (EP) raise to 800 from a tight player and a call from a loose opponent in mid-position you have opted to call from the button with 9♥ 10♥. With 3,075 in the pot the pre-flop aggressor c-bets 2,000 on the 10♣ 8♣ 6♥ flop, the caller folds and action is on you. While you only have top pair, mediocre kicker and a gutshot straight draw this is a great board to call and float in position, especially if you are putting your opponent on a big pair. You are 35/65 (just under 3-1) to make the best hand by the river against an over pair so you have some leeway should you get called if you bet/raise the turn. Also there are several scare cards that can land which an opponent holding an over pair will not like, meaning you can credibly bluff and represent a wide variety of hands.
It is important to remember that in order to play well post-flop you need enough chips to generate fold equity. This means your stack must be large enough to give an opponent pause for thought when it comes to calling one of your raises; either because their tournament life will be at risk, or because they will have to risk a significant percentage of their stack to do so.
Tip #16: JC Tran – MTT Heads Up Strategy
Playing heads-up can be a challenging affair, especially during a tournament. Many consider it poker in its purist form and the key to success it to play your opponent rather than the cards
If you manage to make it heads-up in an MTT or SNG you should have a fairly good idea of how your opponent plays, having had ample opportunity to watch them perform in multiple pots. How you approach this crucial stage is dependent on several factors:
The size of your chip stack is a determining factor in how this confrontation will develop; the more chips you have the easier it is to exert pressure. If you hold a commanding lead 2-1 or greater you should increase the aggression. Many players struggle short-handed and heads-up so you should be raising the button mercilessly. Position is a tremendous advantage as you get to see how your opponent reacts to the flop and they have to act first, giving you plenty of opportunities to bluff.
If you are out-chipped or, even worse, hopelessly outclassed then take away your opponent’s edge by moving all-in more, forcing them to gamble with you for the win. That doesn’t mean you should be shoving over the top of every raise they make, you still need to pick your spots, but the likelihood of them having a hand they can call with heads-up greatly diminishes. However, if you feel you have a significant edge you should be looking to play a lot of flops in position and take down small pots to either chip away at your opponents lead or further increase your own with minimal risk.
Play the Player
It’s not all about the size of your stack – canny play is also needed. You need to consider your opponent’s playing style. Are they passive or aggressive? Do they like to bluff or do they play only strong starting hands? You also need to factor in your own table image and consider how your opponent views your playing style. Heads-up is all about getting inside your opponent’s head and playing them, not the cards. This is where the psychological aspect of poker really comes to the fore and you need to understand how your opponent is playing and use this information to your advantage to counter their game.
Combat Aggression, Punish Passivity
If your opponent is overly aggressive then play a patient game. Many players get sucked into playing back at an aggressive player, usually at the wrong moment with the wrong hand. As your opponent is so loose/aggressive they will expect you to play back at them and will be waiting to pick off a poorly timed bluff. You should look to play your big draws aggressively and semi-bluff with a check raise when out of position as it makes your hand look a lot stronger.
Rather than playing into your opponent’s hands and flipping for your tournament life you should start trapping more and – depending on the board and your position – check strong on the turn or river to induce a bluff and maximise the value of your big hands. Many overly aggressive players like to check-raise the turn when OOP so consider checking behind in position to induce a river bluff. Be wary of doing this on wet (draw heavy) boards however, as you may allow your opponent to outdraw you.
Against a more passive opponent who rarely bluffs but calls a lot OOP you will need to take a different approach. This is where position becomes key and you should look to extract the maximum by value-betting them to death. If they never fold their draws then you should bet both the flop and turn to charge them for the privilege.
In heads-up position is key as it allows you to control the pot size; keep it small with weak hands and build it up with strong made and drawing hands. When OOP aim to keep the pot small by occasionally checking strong to induce river bluffs, mixing this up with the occasional turn check raise semi-bluff and a few strong check-calls so you can lead into your opponent on the river and maximise value from your monster hands.
Tip #15: Steve Gee – Live Poker Tells
Live poker offers canny players a veritable goldmine of free information, if you know what to look for. Pay attention and we’ll teach you how to read your opponents like a book
As there is so much more information available to you when playing live, it is important to pay attention to your opponents as they give a great deal away without actually saying anything. Look at how they handle their cards and chips. If they are looking lost, asking the dealer whether it’s their turn to bet, are acting out of turn or are string betting then it’s fair to assume they have no idea what they are doing.
Spotting a Tell
In addition to these more obvious indications of your opponent’s skill level many players also exhibit ‘tells’ – gestures that can reveal the strength of their hand. There is two types of tell: unconscious and deliberate.
Players tend to give off unconscious tells when they feel they are not being observed or scrutinised too closely. These generally include things like covering their mouth with their hand, touching their ear or fiddling with their hair if they are nervous or have a weak hand. Conversely if they quickly glance down at their chips or surreptitiously size up their opponent’s chip stack they generally have a big hand.
Deliberate tells are the opposite and are usually a result of a player trying to convey misleading information, such as attempting to appear strong when they are bluffing, or acting disinterested or bored during a hand when they hold a monster.
How a player is sitting can often be a good indication of how much (or little) they like their hand or the cards that have just hit the board. For example, a player leaning back in their seat away from the table is usually not too interested in their hand, whereas a player who suddenly sits up straight, leans forward and puts their hands over their cards really likes their hand.
How an opponent stacks their chips can also tell you what type of player they are. For example, a player who is meticulous in stacking their chips in an ordered fashion is usually fairly solid, tight or conservative, whereas a player who keeps their chips in a messy disorganised pile is usually more of a risk taker and is not afraid to gamble.
It’s not just about how a player stacks their chips either, but how they bet when it is their turn to act. Pay close attention to how a player pushes their chips over the line. Someone who throws out a large bet in their direction of their opponent is usually trying to intimidate and is often bluffing, whereas a player with a strong hand tries to be as inconspicuous as possible and often pushes a neatly stacked pile of chips over the line as they expect to get them back.
Basic psychology also plays a big part in a live poker game and people tend to act in opposition to their relative strength or weakness. The majority of poker players, especially amateurs, are very bad actors and tend to feign weakness when they are strong and act strong when they are bluffing or weak. In general, if a player overacts his displeasure when a particular card hits the board or over-exaggerates weakness they are holding a monster. On the flip side of that coin, if a player takes a long time before making a large bet or raise then they are usually bluffing as they want you to think they have just made a very tough decision.
You should not base your entire poker game on tells, as some can often be misleading and each player has their own unique set. By itself one tell is not usually enough to base a huge decision on and you will need to look for several to aid you in your decision to call, raise or fold. It is a good idea to think back through the hand and assess the action on each street to give yourself a good idea of whether or not your opponent is strong or weak.
Tip #14 : Nam Le – Chipping Up In MTTs
Accumulating chips in multi-table tournaments is all about risk versus reward. Fortunately we have compiled some tips on chipping up to give you a few pointers
Loosen up: While it’s reasonable to play tight during the early levels there is value in playing speculative hands like suited connectors and small pairs in position. As soon as the antes kick in a lot of players, especially recreational ones who only play one or two tournaments at a time, tighten up. However, as you become shorter stacked you need to steal blinds to survive. Widen your opening range during the later levels and up the aggression to win pots without showdown.
Never stop thinking: If you get into a groove of always making the ‘standard’ play you’re not going to improve your game. You have to keep thinking about different ways to play hands. Tournaments with antes favour players who win more pots than average. Therefore, you should be upping the aggression once the antes kick in and sometimes take unusual lines. Good players are more aware of how to maintain aggression throughout a tournament, but still keep thinking about how to make the best of certain situations.
Get aggressive around the bubble: During the bubble many players tighten up in an attempt to squeak into the money. Pick on them and look to steal their blinds or take small pots away on the flop. In a live tournament this scared money is easier to spot, but online (especially if you’re playing multiple tables) tracking software with a HUD display is an invaluable tool in targeting these soft spots.
Don’t be afraid to play post-flop: Too many players are scared to play post-flop once the blinds get high. If someone with 20BBs raises from the small blind into your big blind, it is usually to around 2.5BBs once you get deep in a tournament. Many players in this spot go into push or fold mode, shoving with hands like T-7 suited but folding hands like 9-6 suited. This means you miss out on value with hands that have the potential to flop well. Calling in position offers you good odds and great bluffing opportunities you lose out on if you only shove or fold.
Don’t worry about the chip lead/average stack: Obviously, the more chips you have the better – you have more leverage to bully opponents. However, a lot of players overestimate the value of the chip lead or judge their progress by the average stack size, especially in multi-day events. There’s a big difference in having the chip lead on Day 1 and having it on the final table. Sometimes it’s better to survive with a medium stack and bide your time than it is to shove with a bad hand just because you are getting short.
Target other big stacks: When you have a big stack you should be willing to pick on other big stacks, especially if you’re in position. Say you’re deep into a tournament and the average stack is 30BB. If you and another opponent both have 60BB and you have position, you should try to take advantage of that. Three-betting them more may make them open-raise less, meaning you can play more pots and steal more blinds.
Tip #13: JC Tran – Bubble Trouble
Bubble play is one of the most crucial points of a multi-table tournament (MTT). Pay attention and we’ll walk you through this tricky spot and into the money In a tournament or SNG the last place to bust before the money spots is known as the bubble. This is one of the most critical points in any tournament and a misstep can result in a players’ hard work amounting to nothing. While playing around the bubble can be stressful it is also one of the best times to apply pressure and pad out your stack.
Some players tighten up as the bubble approaches, but if you are too concerned with making a min-cash then the pressure will have a negative effect on your play. You need to keep a cool head and focus on making the correct decision. Stack size and table dynamics should be the determining factor dictating your play, not fear. If you are lucky enough to be sitting on a big stack over 40 big blinds (BBs) you should be constantly applying pressure by raising, three-betting and moving all-in in the correct spots – especially against other big stacks. Be aware of who is tightening up in an attempt to make the money and attack their blinds relentlessly. Take note that while a short stacks’ pre-flop calling all-in range will tighten up considerably, so will their shoving range. This means your calling range against these players should be quite tight, but you can push a much wider range of hands against them with maximum fold equity. An over-shove against a 20BB stack is fairly standard, since a normal open will likely induce a skilful opponent to three-bet re-steal.
It’s Tough Being Average
In typical online MTTs 25-35BBs is considered to be an average stack. This is where things become complicated; you are often too deep to open shove and are risking a lot to win a little. However, your target is still to accumulate as many chips as possible without taking too many big risks. Position plays a huge role, as do table dynamics. If you have an aggressive big stack on your left consider tightening up until the bubble bursts. You can’t stand much pressure while they can afford to risk chips in marginal situations. If you are fortunate enough to have an aggressive big stack on your right start three-betting more frequently. Hands such as suited Aces and Broadway cards are great to three-bet shove with a 25BB stack, even it is an over-shove. These hands have good equity against an aggressive big stack’s calling range and reduce the chances of them holding a premium hand. For example, if you hold an Ace the chance of your opponent holding AA is reduced by 50%. Playing post-flop against an aggressive big stack around the bubble is a mistake because of the pressure they are likely to exert. What will you do if you are holding AK/AQ and your opponent leads or shoves a flop you miss? Better to move all-in pre-flop and take the dead money or hope your opponent makes a mistake and calls with a dominated hand.
Short Stack Shoving
With a short-stack your options are fairly limited. However, this is the easiest stack size to play effectively as you can play close to perfect poker with a 10-15BB stack. You should be calling with a much tighter range than you normally would, while your shoving range should remain unchanged. If anything it can be even wider, since in your opponent’s eyes you are shoving tighter because of the threat of the approaching bubble. A word of warning – do not attempt to re-steal against other short stacks without premium holdings unless you have evidence they will raise/fold to a three-bet or have previous history where you have shown down a monster.
There are no hard and fast rules. Each situation is unique and table dynamics play a huge role during the bubble. As you play more MTTs your experience will start to come to the fore giving you a better idea about what to do in various situations.
Tip #12: Joe Hachem – Small Ball Strategy
A style of poker suited to cash games and early levels of poker tournaments, small ball poker is designed to increase stack size while minimising risk Small ball is a style that involves playing a lot of hands, but controlling the action and keeping pots small. Essentially you are risking a little to win a lot by playing a wide range of hands aggressively, opening the action with a series of small bets and raises.Pre-Flop
The key is pre-flop raise size. With small ball an average opening raise should be 2.5 times the big blind (2.5x). You are risking less to win more, meaning you can play more hands without bleeding chips. The one drawback is the fact you are playing a lot of pots with marginal hands so will have tougher post-flop decisions and find yourself playing a high number of multi-way pots, which can be tricky. This means position is key. While opening in early position with suited connectors can add deception to your game you should not be calling re-raises with them out of position (OOP). Calling raises in position becomes a viable option with many hands including big pairs (QQ+) as this disguises your hand strength; mix this up with liberal calls in position with suited connectors and your game becomes very hard to read.
You should be raising the same amount with all your starting hands. In small ball it is the skill level of your opponents or number of pre-flop limpers that should influence bet size, not the strength of your hand. Small ball is more about playing lots of hands in position and working out what your opponents have or don’t have. Big pairs QQ+ can be played from any position with a raise, though calling raises in position is an option if you are able to fold if you think you are behind. As you are playing so many hands opponents will play back at you with more marginal holdings, meaning you are more likely to get paid off.
You should be raising from most positions with all pocket pairs, though 22-66 can be tricky to play in early position and you should be looking to spike a set to continue post-flop in multi-way pots. Suited connectors and gap connectors suit small ball as you can win big pots with deceptive hands like straights and two pair. Avoid suited Kings and Queens unless they are Broadway hands as you will find yourself in too many tough spots with the second best hand. Small suited Aces are good but you should be looking for two pair, trips or a pair and a draw before playing a big pot.
You should not be calling big raises or re-raises OOP unless you have a big hand post-flop. Of course, calling in position is a different matter, especially if you have a well-disguised draw or are planning to bluff a later street. However, when deciding whether or not to continue in a hand it is important to remember the other key factor of the small ball style – stack size. You should not be risking more than 10% of your stack on speculative calls. The key to success is winning small pots, not losing big ones as an underdog. This also means that if you become short in the later stages of a tournament and a 2.5x raise is more than 15% of your stack it is probably better to look for a spot to shove or squeeze over the top of an opening raise rather than bet/folding as you can’t afford to bleed chips. If you get to 10BBs or less then you should be moving all-in pre-flop with any hand you choose to play.
Small ball suits the early to middle levels of tournaments, especially when there are antes in play as risking a little to steal more than your fair share of blinds and antes is key to survival. Your edge comes in playing flops in position and not taking coin flops for your tournament life. Small ball is also ideal for cash games as you can play more flops and you should be looking to play your position aggressively and bust players when you hit two pair or better and they can’t fold over pairs.
Tip #11: JC Tran – Odds and Fold Equity
An often misunderstood concept, odds and fold equity form the cornerstone of a solid poker game so it is important to understand how they work
Many novices get confused when seasoned players discuss concepts like ‘pot odds’ and ‘fold equity’. It is important to understand both if you plan on taking poker seriously. Fortunately they are simple concepts and form the foundations on which to build a solid game.
Odds and Pot Odds
Odds are the chances of a certain event occurring. Certain situations crop up regularly, like the chances of making a flush or straight by the river if you flop a draw. Cards that complete your draw are known as ‘outs’ and can be calculated reasonably accurately to give you an idea of the likelihood of making your hand. Pot odds are slightly different and are calculated by comparing the amount of money you can win to the amount it costs to call. Pot odds = possible profit: bet/call amount.
Calling against the odds is a fundamental mistake bad players make regularly. For example, you have a $50 stack after calling in position with 8♦ 9♦. The flop is 6♣ 7♥ A♠, the pot is $18 and your opponent bets $12. You have to call $12 to win $30 so are getting pot odds of 2.5:1 ($30\$12=2.5). Should you call?
You have eight outs to make your open-ended straight draw (4 * Fives + 4 * Tens) so the chances of the next card completing your straight are 17.02% for odds of 4.88:1. You are getting 2.5:1 on your money so are not getting the right price to call.
However, if you see both the turn and river you have a 31.45% chance of hitting your straight and the odds of doing so are just over 2:1. This brings us to our next point – fold equity. There are two possible ways to win in poker, either you have the best hand at showdown or you force your opponent(s) to fold. The only way to win without showdown is by betting/raising. Unlike pot equity (the average amount a particular hand should win if the specific situation is played out numerous times) fold equity is the percentage of the time your opponent will fold to a bet/raise.
Let’s go back to our earlier example. With $30 in the pot and a $50 stack you can’t raise without pot committing yourself, so it’s better to move all-in. You are risking $50 to win $130 (if you get called) so are getting 2.6:1 on your money and the odds of you hitting your straight are just over 2:1 making this a profitable play. If you think your opponent might fold and include your fold equity this become even more profitable.
To work out fold equity, calculate (guess) what percentage of the time an opponent is likely to fold. The average gain or loss should take into account all possible outcomes and offer either a positive or negative expected value (EV). Let’s say your opponent will fold 15% of the time. You have a 31% chance of winning at showdown, the pot is $30 and the bet size is $50. Your EV is 31% * payoff (opponent calls and you win at showdown) + 15% * payoff (opponent folds) + 54% * payoff (opponent calls and you lose at showdown).
EV (bet) = 0.31 * $80 + 0.15 * $30 + 0.54 * (-$50)
EV (bet) = $2.30
You will win $80 31% of the time, $30 15% of the time and lose $50 54% of the time. If this situation arose 100 times and you made this play after calculating your odds, pot odds and fold equity with a reasonable degree of accuracy you would be $230 in profit, making shoving a better play than calling.
Knowing when to call, when to raise and when to fold is a key skill, and a good knowledge of odds, pot odds and a rough idea about your opponent’s hand and how likely he is to fold should give you a good educated guess to the best way to play your hand.
Tip #10: Steve Gee – Lucky Number 13
While it has its origins in Pai Gow, Chinese poker or ‘Pusoy’ is a poker variant simple in concept but complex in strategy.Many players in Asia will be familiar with Chinese poker (also known as Pusoy), but while the traditional poker hand rankings are the same as in Texas Hold’em, the game plays quite differently.The Basics
A game for 2-4 players, each player is dealt 13 cards from which they must make three poker hands; a front hand of three cards and middle and back hands consisting of five cards each. The hands must be ranked in order of strength from back to front, so the back hand must be stronger than the middle hand, which must be stronger than the front hand. Straights and flushes do not count in the three-card front hand, other than this, hands follow traditional poker rankings. Once players have set their hands face down play starts left of the dealer and moves clockwise. A player now has the option to ‘surrender’ where they fold and forfeit a set amount of points to their opponents. The remaining players then compare their three set hands against their opponent’s respective hands with the dealer acting last.
Unlike Texas Hold’em you do not need chips and are competing against each opponent separately and playing for points, with each point equivalent to a predetermined amount of money. A player earns a point off each opponent they beat with each hand (front, middle and back). In this way it is possible for a player to have the second best hand and still make money. Depending on the scoring rules being used a player may make bonus points if they win all three hands (scoop). The two most common scoring methods are 2-4 and 1-6. Using the 2-4 method a player wins one point for each hand they win, with a bonus point awarded if they win 2/3 hands or all three. No points are awarded in the event of a tied hand. In the 1-6 method a player earns one point for each hand they win with three bonus points awarded if they win all three hands.
While there is a large element of luck involved in Chinese poker the skill element is in how a player sets their hand. For example, say you are dealt 5♦ 5♣ 7♣ 8♠ 9♥ 10♦ J♦ J♣ Q♣ K♣ K♠ K♥ A♣. Many novices make the mistake of making the strongest five-card hand possible for their back hand (in this case K♣ K♠ K♥ J♦ J♣) leaving themselves weaker front and middle hands of A♣ Q♣ 10♦ and 5♦ 5♣ 7♣ 8♠ 9♥ respectively.
The key to success in Chinese poker is in playing to scoop. While a full house is a strong back hand it is not unbeatable. With each player getting 13 starting cards there is a greater chance of an opponent getting dealt four-of-a-kind or a straight flush. If you go for a powerhouse hand at the expense of the strength of your other two hands not only can you not scoop, you may even up getting scooped by your opponent.
Using the above example a better approach would be to have:
Front – K♠ K♥ 5♦
Middle – 8♠ 9♥ 10♦ J♦ Q♣
Back – A♣ K♣ J♣ 7♣ 5♣
While you may lose to some opponents, you have a greater chance of scooping others. If a player always goes for a strong back hand with two weak hands then make your front and middle hands stronger to compensate and win the bonus point. If your opponent likes to put a pair up front, setting your middle hand with two pair becomes more viable. The trick is to balance your starting hands and there is a mathematically correct approach for each hand.
Tip #9: Nam Le – MTT Master Class
Multi table tournaments are one of the trickiest poker variants to master and can be frustrating. Brush up on your skills with our MTT master class.
Tournament poker can be an extremely fickle game and while skill plays a major part so does luck. While we can’t help you win coin flips we can point you in the right direction when it comes to formulating a game plan. Any multi table tournament (MTT) can be broken up into stages. There is a big difference in the right and wrong way to play in the early stages compared to on the bubble for example.
Let’s go through an MTT stage by stage and look at how you should be approaching the action:
While you can’t win a tournament in the early stages, you can certainly lose it. Early stages are the opening levels before the antes kick in and players have between 50-100 big blinds (BBs). The key to success is winning lots of small pots and avoiding big coin flips. The chips you gain during this period will not increase your whole tournament EV (expected value) even should you acquire a big stack.
- Play speculative hands in position
When the stack sizes are deep, position becomes more effective than absolute hand strength. Avoid marginal spots out of position (OOP).
- Maintaining a stack is better than losing it
Play smart – chip retention keeps you in the tournament, spewy tilt-induced play will usually result in you watching the remainder of the action from the rail.
- Fold equity is not as important
Pre-flop you should be opening or re-raising for value. It does not make sense to steal blinds because they are not yet big enough. You can apply the same rationale to post-flop play and play some draws less aggressively to reduce variance.
In general the mid-stage of an MTT is when antes kick in, up until the bubble approaches. It is important to have a clear understanding of what you can do with the stack size you have. This is especially true when it comes to playing out of the blinds. Things to be aware of:
Once the antes kick in it’s worth stealing blinds. Pick your spots carefully and be aware of stack sizes, table dynamics and opponent’s playing tendencies.
- Don’t play scared
If you are too afraid to get your chips in the middle you’ll never get anywhere. However, you should always have a plan – even if you are deep and know a player’s opening range is wide you are just burning chips making calls OOP.
- With 20BBs or less get aggressive
Marginal hands like mid to small pocket pairs and suited connectors become tough to play. Weigh up your options pre-flop and decide how you are going to play post-flop taking into account board texture.
Bubble play is one of the crucial points of an MTT and one misstep here can result in all your hard work amounting to nothing. This is the perfect time to get aggressive, though your stack size will dictate how you approach this crucial stage:
- Who dares wins.
If you are a big stack you need to constantly apply pressure. Be aware of who’s tightening up and trying to fold into the money and steal their blinds mercilessly.
- It’s tough being average.
With 25-35BBs you are too deep to open shove and are risking a lot to win a little. Your target is to accumulate chips without taking too many risks. Suited Aces and Broadway cards are great to three-bet shove as they have good equity against an aggressive big stack’s calling range.
- Short stack shoving.
With a short-stack your options are fairly limited, however, this is the easiest stack-size to play effectively. Tighten up your calling range, but shove liberally. Do not attempt re-steals against other short stacks without a premium hand unless you have evidence they will fold to a three-bet.
Tip #8: Joe Hachem – Bankroll Management
Money management is important in all walks of life, but especially in poker. Manage your bankroll wisely and you don’t have to stress about variance, manage it poorly and you will go bust.
Many gifted poker players have come and gone, fading away into obscurity. Why? Because they failed to manage their bankroll. Luck or ‘variance’ as we call it in poker, works both ways. Sometimes it runs your favour sometimes it doesn’t, though in the long run it should even out.
That’s why it’s important to exercise good bankroll management if you are serious about playing. Over a small sample size variance plays a massive role in determining profit or loss and is beyond your control, regardless of your level of skill. Say you were playing with a bankroll of five buy-ins (each buy-in equal to 100 big blinds) and were the tightest player on earth, only getting your money in as a 60%+ favourite. Is it possible to lose all five times? Absolutely. While the chances of that happening are around 200-1 making it improbable, it is not impossible.
You need to have around 25-30 full buy-ins for the stakes you play in order to be sufficiently rolled. You may think this overly cautious, but variance is higher in six-max online cash games as the action is more aggressive. The same can be said of live games where players sit on deep stacks of 200BB or more, meaning the swings can be much greater.
Another important principle is setting a stop-loss and being disciplined enough to stick to it. When you lose over a certain amount there is a temptation to start chasing, playing more recklessly and abandoning your usual logical thought process (tilting). Effectively you are not playing poker – you’re gambling and chances are you’ll lose. This can also affect your confidence and make you play ‘scared’ meaning you lose more. It’s important to recognise your own tendencies and accept that even the best players are prone to tilt. Take a step back, think logically, and quit. Poker will be there tomorrow and there will be other days when the games are juicy. The fish who took your money isn’t the only fish out there. It’s more important to live to fight another day.
Speaking of juicy games, sometimes you will feel the urge to take a shot above your usual stakes. By all means do so, but bear in mind bankroll management. You will experience more variance when playing higher so mentally set aside an amount of money you are prepared to lose. If you lose that amount quit immediately, and resist the temptation to reload. This way, you will be able to go back to your usual stakes with your bankroll relatively undamaged. Taking shots is recommended only if you are a solid, winning player disciplined enough to grasp the bigger picture of bankroll management at all times. If you fail to manage your bankroll it doesn’t matter how much of an edge you have. For example, if you and I were to bet on a series of coin flips and you were to pay me $1 when I won, but I had to pay you $1.20 when you won, you have a 20% edge. If we were to flip this coin 100 times you should show a profit. In fact, the more times we flipped the coin, the more your profit would increase.
However, if we raised the stakes, and flipped for $10,000 versus $12,000, it’d be a different story. Losing three flips in a row would set you back $30,000, and if you didn’t have enough of a bankroll to sustain these swings you would never get to see the long run and not be able to realise your expected value.
If you want to make money in poker, bankroll management is the most important skill to master. If you can develop the discipline to manage your money, variance and tilt will not be able to get the best of you. They might knock you down, but you’ll always get back up.
Golden Rules For Bankroll Management
No Limit Hold’em cash games: 25-30 buy-ins
Pot Limit Omaha cash games: 40-50 buy-ins
Sit-and-Go tournaments: 40 buy-ins
Tip #7: JC Tran – The Slow Play
To the novice, slow playing and trapping with big hands is the epitome of crafty play, however, it can be counterproductive. So when is slow playing the right move?Poker is about winning money; this is the object of the game. Slow playing is counterproductive as when you have the best hand you want to win the largest pot you can. This is called ‘pot building’. The opposite of this is ‘pot control’ where you keep the pot small with a hand like top pair mediocre kicker. Sometimes however, it can be profitable to slow play. Essentially you underrepresent your hand, giving your opponent a chance to hit something and pay you off. Slow playing and pot building are opposite sides of the same coin, as with both you are looking to maximise value.Slow Playing VS Pot BuildingSometimes slow playing is the wrong option. For example, you are on the button in a $1/$2 cash game. A middle position player raises to $6, you both have $200 stacks and you call on the button with 4♥ 4♣. The flop is A♠ 5♦ 4♠, your opponent bets $8 into $15, you call, the pot is now $31. The turn is the J♣. Your opponent bets $20, you call, the pot is now $71. The river is 9♥, your opponent checks and you bet $40, your opponent calls. You show your set and win $151 while your opponent mucks A♣ K♠. Great result? Yes, nice hand? Not really. Let me explain why.Had you raised to $24 on the flop your opponent may put you on a draw and call. The pot would now be $63 instead of $31. Should your opponent lead out on the J♣ turn they would be betting an amount like $45-$50 to protect against a flush draw. This means going into the river the pot is now between $153-$163 and should your opponent check/call a ½ pot river bet you would win $303-$323, twice as much as if you had slow played. Even if they check/call a ½ pot turn bet the pot would now be $133. Should they call another ½ pot bet on the river you would win $266. By not slow playing you could potentially make between $115-$172 more, maybe you could have even taken their whole stack.
When to Slow Play
Of course, there are times when slow playing can be effective. However, you need to take into consideration factors like your table image and opponent’s playing styles. Loose-aggressive (LAG) players with a tendency to bluff are the best targets. For example, you are playing against a LAG who you have seen show several bluffs in the face of perceived weakness. You are both $200 deep in a $1/$2 game. Your opponent raises to $6 from the button, you call from the big blind with 8♦ 8♥. The flop is J♠ 8♣ 4♥. You check, your opponent bets $8. You call and the turn is 4♠. Your opponent bets $20 and you call. The river is K♥, you lead out for $50, your opponent moves all-in and you call. He shows A♣ 4♣ and you win $400 with a full house.
Be aware this is very situation and opposition dependent. You need to know your opponent is aggressive enough to build the pot without you having to give away the strength of your hand. Check/raising the flop in this instance would let them get away too cheaply. It is better to lead the river than it is to check/raise as this is so rarely done as bluff. It is also important to pay attention to the board texture as the hand develops, should a potential draw appear that you think is likely to have hit your opponent don’t be afraid to abort mission and fold.
While there is a time to slow play, it is not something you should be doing regularly. While it should be in your bag of tricks be aware that you could be missing out on a lot of value if you overuse it.
Tip #6: Nam Le – SNG Strategy
The Sit-and-Go is one of the most popular online poker variants, and also one of the most formulaic if you take the correct approach.
Available in a wide variety of formats ranging from six-max turbos to nine-handed regular games the single table tournament (STT) is one of the fastest and most popular games online. No matter the format the basic strategy remains the same. Depending on the format (blind speed), the blind level and the number of remaining players there is a time to be patient and a time to be aggressive.
Tight is right early on, the only difference between a turbo and a slower structured game being the length of the early period. Turbo tournaments reach the ‘push/fold’ stage a lot quicker. Chip retention is as important as chip accumulation as your chips increase in value as the blinds rise. Your range here is pocket pairs TT+ and AQ+, opening with a raise of four times (4x) the big blind (BB), adding an additional BB for every player who has limped in. In a six-max game add Ace Jack and pocket pairs 88+ to your repertoire. Pocket pairs 22-99 are good for set mining but don’t call big raises or re-raises with them out of position (OOP). Suited connectors are trickier as even if you flop a big combo draw you are still only 50/50 and should not be taking coin flips this early against bad players who can’t fold. Patience is key and your edge should come from getting it in as a 60%+ favourite.
The period when the antes kick in up to the ‘bubble’, which is aptly named as when it bursts the remaining players make the money. This creates an interesting dynamic with some players tightening up in an attempt to squeak into the cash. This is the best time to get aggressive and your conservative approach in the early stages should pay off, as your table image will be solid. Most of the action now occurs pre-flop, making for fewer flops with most of the chips going in pre-flop. Blinds are now big enough to warrant stealing from late position and you can counter this by re-stealing from the blinds. You should be raising roughly 40% of your hands from the button and cut off. From the blinds you should be defending with 55+, AX, K9+, QT+ by re-raising or shoving (depending on your stack size). Remember you need a better hand to call than you do to raise. It is always better to be the player moving all-in as you have fold equity. This means that if you raise and get re-raised you should only be calling with AQ+ and TT+.
At this stage your strategy is stack size dependent, both in relation to the size of the blinds and your opponent’s stack. If you are sitting on over 20BBs you should be aggressive, playing a lot of hands on the button and tightening up in the small blind. If you are one of the shorter stacks with 15BBs or less and there are antes it is almost always correct to open shove any two cards from the small blind if the action is folded to you. Hands that flop well like KJ+ AT+ and pocket pairs 88+ are hands you should be happy to move all-in with pre-flop, or post-flop if you make top pair as it is less likely you will have kicker problems. Remember the key to success is in shoving as oppose to calling. Shoving gives you fold equity, calling means you must have the best hand at showdown to win.
Be tight in the early stage, aggressive in the middle stage, play hands that flop well in the late stage and steal from the small blind. Now you know when to be tight and when to be aggressive take a stab at a SNG and give it a try.
Tip #5: Joe Hachem – The Semi Bluff
The semi bluff is a double-edged sword in a player’s arsenal, when misused it can backfire spectacularly but utilised correctly it is a powerful weapon
There are three reasons a player bets in poker. The first is because they have the best hand and are betting for value, the second is because they have no hand and are bluffing to win the pot, but it is the third reason that is most interesting. This is the semi bluff and is generally made by a player holding a hand that has a great deal of potential for improvement but is not currently the best hand, hence the name.
When semi bluffing you are trying to win the pot directly with a bet but also have a chance to make the best hand by hitting one of your “outs”, a card that completes your draw or improves your hand in some way should you get called.
Why Semi Bluff?
Raising is always more profitable than checking/calling as it gives the player an opportunity to win the pot right there with a bet. Betting/raising gives you fold equity, by which I mean the increased equity (percentage of the pot) a player can expect to gain should their opponent fold to a bet. Calling however, gives your opponent another chance to win the hand with a bet on a later street. It is important to remember the best hand wins at showdown; by betting/raising you can sometimes get the player with the best hand to fold, which is where the skill element in poker comes into play.
Pulling the Trigger
You need to be clear what it is you are trying to accomplish with a semi bluff and that is getting your opponent to fold. While your hand could improve you are still pretty sure you are behind and want your opponent to fold the best hand.
For example, you are playing in a $1/$2 cash game and raise to $6 on the button with 3♥ 4♥. The big blind calls and the flop is A♥ 5♥ 10♠. The big blind leads for $7.What should you do?
This is a great spot to semi bluff as you have a gut shot straight flush draw for 12 outs (9 hearts and 3 Twos). If you opponent is doing this with a hand like 10 X or a pocket pair between Sixes and Kings you are around 42-47% to win the hand at showdown, but as the pre-flop raiser you can potentially take this down with a bet right now. Even should your opponent have a hand like A X (suited or off suit) you still have around 46% to win at showdown and may even get them to fold a weak Ace here. Even should your opponent have a hand like pocket Fives, Tens and slow played Aces you still have a 32-34% (1 in 3) chance of winning at showdown.
It’s not all bad should your opponent call either. Aggressive betting in position gives you a chance to buy a free turn card, as an opponent may check on the next street allowing you a free shot at hitting your draw. This is another reason why semi bluffing with a good number of outs is effective; you don’t think a second bet on the turn will work, but save money raising the flop as you can check behind on the turn.
Generally having a good idea what range of hands your opponent is playing will give you a better chance of making a successful semi bluff. Player tendencies also come into play here and you should not be semi bluffing bad players who can’t fold. The semi bluff is a great weapon to have in your arsenal when it comes to drawing hands as it adds deception to your game, making it harder for your opponents to read your play.
Tip #4: JC Tran – Ramping It Up
Aggression is key to success, but shouldn’t be overused. Poker is all about selective aggression and you need to pick your spots and opponents wisely
Over the last few years poker, especially online, has evolved into an aggressive game where c-betting, re-raising, three-betting and four-betting have become common place. These days a successful playing style is centred round an aggressive game. Aggression works because it gives you the initiative, which is why many players are keen to get that last bet in before the flop.
Taking the Initiative
While many players are aware of the importance of hand strength and position, some are unaware of a third factor in this holy trinity – initiative. Being the pre-flop raiser with initiative allows you to represent the Ace on an Ace-high flop, which is the reason c-bets are successful. For example, you are in the big blind with 7♥ 8♥ and a LAG (see below) has raised the button. Being as you will miss 67% of the time and check/fold most flops calling is not always the best play, especially as you know your opponent could be raising with a wide range. Consider raising instead, while there are drawbacks to this play you seize the initiative in a spot where you were out-of-position (OOP) with a marginal hand. Ordinarily you would have folded after missing the flop, but can now represent many hands and if you do hit big your hand is well disguised. With initiative you force your opponent to make a hand, when he doesn’t the pot is all yours.
Know your Enemy
However, that doesn’t mean you should raise out of the blinds every time you wake up with suited connecters, it’s not all about blind monkey aggression. Poker is about selective aggression, knowing when to bet and who to bet against. For that you need to know your foe.
The best type of player to target with aggressive bets. They don’t play many hands, only raise with big hands and generally only continue post-flop when they make a strong hand so are easy to read. They don’t make it to showdown all that often, but when they do they usually have the goods.
Another good player to target with aggressive betting, they play few hands and rarely show much aggression in the ones they do play, even when they have a big pocket pair. Be wary if they call as they usually have a strong hand.
Called “calling stations” they are tough to bluff and call if they hit anything from bottom pair to a gutshot straight draw. These players call too often with marginal hands. The way to beat them is to place big value bets when you hold a strong hand as they will usually pay you off.
A good player to target for a c-bet raise on the right flop, c-bets also work well against a TAG as they usually only continue with a strong hand. If you have the initiative you generally don’t have to worry about them having a strong hand. However, if you get check-raised it is rarely a bluff and if they come out firing it’s time to fold unless you have a monster.
Tricky to play as they are in so many hands betting and re-raising with any two cards. Be wary of playing them at their own game. Loosen up your calling and raising range against them, but look to play hands in position as they can make life difficult post-flop and may turn up at showdown with the hand you least expect.
You should be careful about getting aggressive to often OOP without a decent starting hand, but should mix up you play to keep opponents guessing. You shouldn’t be calling re-raises with marginal hands too often as you do not have the initiative and are wasting money trying to hit flops. Initiative forms the basis of aggressive play, which translates into a winning style when executed correctly.
Tip #3: Steve Gee – The Continuation Betting
The continuation bet is a powerful tool in a poker player’s arsenal, but only when used correctly. Use it wisely and it pays dividendsThe continuation bet is a concept most players are familiar with. Lets say you raise pre-flop with A♥ Q♥, pick up one caller and miss the flop. You can still win the pot with a c-bet, meaning you continue your aggression in the hand and bet the flop as a bluff with the intention of ending the hand right there.
When to C-BET
So when should you continuation bet? The more players in a hand, the more likely it is they have hit something so you should not really be c-betting into more than two players unless you have hit. Several parameters need to be met before you can c-bet profitably:
- You should be the pre-flop aggressor and have the initiative, meaning you were the last player to raise
- You will be making the first bet, either because your opponent(s) have checked or you are first to act
- You missed the flop and don’t have a made hand or strong draw
You continuation bet when you raise pre-flop and miss, but think betting will enable you to win the hand. You are using the aggressive image created with your pre-flop raise to win the pot with a bluff, your show of pre-flop strength being enough to allow your c-bet to be successful.
The Perfect Flop
Some flops lend themselves towards c-betting, others not so much. If your opponent thinks you are bluffing they may call with bottom pair or with the intention of bluffing the turn or river. C-bet the wrong kind of flop like a wet (draw heavy) J♦ 10♦ 7♥ with A♥ Q♥ and you can find yourself in trouble. Not only is this the sort of flop likely to have hit a caller, it is also one you have to fold if you c-bet and your opponent raises; meaning you miss the opportunity to hit your nut gutshot straight draw or pick up a backdoor flush draw. The best kinds of flops to c-bet are dry boards with one Broadway card and two other smaller unconnected cards so there are no likely draws. A flop like K♥ 7♦ 2♠ is a great flop to c-bet if you have missed with A♥ Q♥ and you may well get an opponent to fold something like 7♣ 8♣, which is the sort of hand players like to call pre-flop raises with.
Crunching the Numbers
So why continuation bet? Lets take the previous example where you raise pre-flop with A♥ Q♥ and pick up one caller. When you raise the chances of hitting one pair or better on the flop is roughly 33%. While this means you will only hit 1/3 of the time you raise, this also means your opponent will miss two times in three or around 67% of the time. So 2/3 of the time your opponent misses and will find it tough to continue. Even if they called with a small pocket pair in the hopes of flopping a set there are now three over cards on the board.
The perfect size c-bet is generally around 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot, though the smaller the bet the more likely it is your opponent may call. Conversely the larger the bet the more often it has to succeed to show a profit. A 1/2 pot sized c-bet only has to work 1/3 for it to be profitable. For example, the pot is $2 on the flop after you raise with A♥ Q♥ and miss. If this happens 10 times and each time you bet $1 you only need to win four times (just over 1/3) for this to be profitable. Four times out of ten you win $8 ($2×4) and six times you lose $6 (6x$1) so your total profit is $2 ($8-$6). Over time as long as your 1/2 pot c-bets are successful more than 1/3 of the time you will show a profit and this is where continuation betting comes into its own.
Tip #2: Nam Le – Bet Sizing
How much you bet can be just as important as the cards you play. Start sizing your bets correctly and reap the rewards
Things to consider when betting
When betting or raising, unseasoned poker players often fail to take into account the various factors that should be used to determine the size of a bet which are:
The pre-flop action: Taking note of who raised and who called gives you an idea of the strength of an opponent’s hand both pre-flop and on the flop. If a player just calls pre-flop and comes out firing on the flop it’s a good indication that they have hit something. In order to figure out what you need to look at…
The texture of the board: If you are the pre-flop raiser you need to consider whether the flop is a good one for your hand. You also need to think about how it may have helped your opponent(s). Is it particularly draw heavy (wet) or uncoordinated (dry)? For example, you raise with A♠ K♥. Against one opponent on a dry board like A♣ 9♠ 2♦ the size of your continuation bet can be a little as 1/3 to 1/2 of the pot. However, if you raise with the same hand and the flop comes down K♣ 9♦ 8♦ then you should be betting around 3/4 pot to full pot, giving players chasing a draw the wrong odds to call.
The number of opponents in the hand: In addition to reading the texture of the board and figuring out how much to bet to protect you hand, you must also consider the number of opponents you are up against when deciding whether or not to make a continuation bet. This is where, if you were the pre-flop raiser, you bet again on the flop. While you do not have to hit the flop to continuation bet you do need to consider the more opponents in a hand, the more likely it is that someone has hit the flop. The probability of being able to successfully bluff other players off a hand decreases the greater the number of opponents in the hand.
Stack sizes and the size of the pot: How many chips has your opponent got and how many are you sitting on? In poker, especially when playing tournaments, you will often encounter situations where either you or your opponent do not have enough chips to make a bet in relation to the size of the pot without becoming ‘pot committed’. For example, your opponent has 1,500 chips, there is 1,000 in the pot and you bet full pot. Your opponent will not be able to call without becoming committed to the hand, and should he move all-in you will be committed to the call as, with 3,500 now in the pot, you will be getting odds of 7-1 to call the extra 500. You should always consider if a bet will cause either you or your opponent to become pot committed. Often you do not need to bet the full amount your opponent has in front of them, just an amount that would pot commit them should you wish to continue in the hand.
Bet sizing depends on multiple factors and also on what it is you want your bet to achieve. Don’t bluff if a bet will commit you to the hand, and if you are protecting your hand you should bet more so as not to give your opponent the right price to chase their draws. In general a standard bet should be around 2/3 of the pot to full pot, but a standard continuation bet can be as little as ½ pot as this only needs to succeed 33% of the time to be a profitable play.
Tip #1: Joe Hachem – The Power Of Position
Position is power at the poker tables as it dictates when you will act in a hand, and more importantly, who acts first.
A player’s proximity to the button affects what hands they can profitably play. It can be tough to play against a skilled opponent when out of position (OOP). For example, in a $1/$2 cash game you are in middle position with K♥ Q♥ and raise to $7. The Button, a loose-aggressive player who likes to play post-flop, makes the call and the flop comes down 10♥ 7♣ 6♠. While K♥ Q♥may have been the best hand pre-flop, it can be tricky to play post-flop if you miss, which will statistically happen two times in three. While you can continuation bet most flops that come down with Broadway cards, bet your flush draw if the flop comes down with two hearts, or even represent the Ace on an Ace-high flop, what do you do if you totally miss?Many decent and tricky opponents are willing to call a continuation bet on a flop like this with nothing (this is called floating) with the intention of taking the pot away on the turn – this is where position becomes a powerful tool. Generally this means you should tighten up your opening range when OOP and aim to play strong starting hands. Conversely this means loosening up your range the closer you get to the button and trying to steal pots on raggedy uncoordinated flops you think have missed your opponent entirely.
Blinds and Early Position
The seat directly to the left of the button is the small blind; the seat to the left of this is the big blind. The seat to their immediate left is known as under-the-gun (UTG) and together these three seats are referred to as ‘early position’ (EP). Because you have to act without any information on what players behind you will do, it’s a good idea to only play premium starting hands. A good rule of thumb is to only open with AQ suited+ and pocket pairs Jacks or better. While this is quite a tight opening range, it is also one that is tough to exploit.
These are the three seats to the left of UTG and while you get to see what opponents in early position do, there are still quite a few players behind you who have yet to act. In general, you can play a little looser than in early position, but still need to be cautious. You can widen your range to include QJ suited+, KQ offsuit+ and pocket pairs Nines or better.
Defined as the dealer button and the two seats just to the right, known as the cut-off and hi-jack respectively. Being in late position is a tremendous advantage because you’ve seen how the majority of the table has acted before having to make your decision. Additionally, if no one has opened the betting, players in late position may win the pot simply by raising or ‘stealing’ – this is called ‘playing position.’ Many players are aware that someone raising in late position does not necessarily have a good hand and may call or re-raise a late position raise thinking it’s a bluff, but it works often enough that it’s worth trying once in a while. Suited gap connectors 68+, suited connectors 78+, KQ offsuit+ and pocket Sixes or better can now be added to your opening raising range. When sitting on the button you can add suited gap connectors 46+, suited connectors 45+, Broadway cards JT offsuit+, A2 suited+ and all pocket pairs to your repertoire.
Play bad cards in poor position and you will lose money, but if you play the right cards in the correct spots and play your position aggressively and intelligently, success should follow.