Archive for the 'Poker Strategies & Tips' Category

Checking out of position with the best hand

When it comes to Poker, I am a pretty firm believer in getting your money in the middle when you have the best hand, or have a really strong draw to the best hand when all the cards are out.

Since I play a lot of low limit poker online, most of the tricky plays don’t need to be pulled out of the bag. Players are so often going to call you with second pair and bad kicker hoping for a miracle card, you neeed to offset the times they do hit those and wreck you by making them pay all the other times. At this level no one can lay down JJ let alone QQ so why not ship it when you have AA?

The Home Game is a lot different though. We are a group of guys that have been playing at least once a week together for going on seven years now. While some of the players have not been with the crew for that long, it’s safe to say that if you want to make money in this game consistently, you need a little luck, play outside the box once and a while, and maximize your payoffs on all hands.

That brings us to today’s topic.

Checking out of position with the best hand.

As I’m sure you all know, you don’t always have to have the best hand to bet. It makes sense with strong draws to get some more money in the pot so in the event your draw does hit, you get paid.

You need a couple conditions for this to work.

1. Your draw usually needs to be strong enough to be bet worthy. The Nut Flush draw with over cards is preferable to a Gut Shot straight draw for instance.

2. You need someone interested enough in the pot to call your bet, if not, you won’t get paid if you do hit your draw.

On the other hand, out of position with a strong hand it is often good to let someone build up a pot for you as they try and hit their draw for these reasons.

1. They don’t want to build it too big too fast in the event that they don’t hit, so it reduces the risk of you getting too much money in there giving them odds to call. Instead of giving them 3-1 on their money as they try and hit a flush, why not have them bet 1-1 and try and make it.

2. It allows you to make some extra money on the river if they miss.

The bold part is where this play works well and allows you to make those extra bets in tough games.

You’re sitting in the BB with 99 there are 3 limpers to the pot and you try to see if you can’t take it down right there and raise.

2 folds and 1 caller from the Button.

You know the button has an okay hand, strong enough to call a raise, but not one good enough to 3 bet you. You put him on a suited ace, perhaps AT or even AJ

Flop comes 932, with two clubs.

You decide to see if he has a pair likes TT or JJ and throw out a bet.

He calls.

Nope, not TT or JJ as they certainly would have raised you to see where they were, and afraid you might have AK or AQ, your first read was good and it looks like AT, most likely in clubs.

Turn card is a 6, no club.

You check, trying to make it look like your AK isn’t that comfortable now.

He bets the pot on a semi bluff and you just call, you’re sure he is on a draw now.

River is a 7, no club.

Was he playing T8? Nope, no way.

Here is where the check comes in.

If you bet here for value he is going to lay down the AT and you get nothing more, however, if you check to him, he knows that the only way he can win is to bet and get you to fold.

You have to know the player here, he has to be the type that doesn’t like to give away pots, you want aggressive players that fire at pots and think every chip in the middle is theirs. He has to also believe that you are not the type of person that will check a strong hand here, you want him to think that you made the raise with a pair of eights and are scared of his A9. You have to mix up your game sometimes in order to get this type of action.

You check.

He ponders this for a while, he hates to give up those chips and really thought he was going to make his draw.

He fires a 3/4 pot bet. Not quite what you would expect for a value bet, more one that was supposed to scare you away from the pot.

You call and he turns over AJ of clubs. Almost exactly what you thought he had.

Nice Guy Eddie played a hand like this to perfection last night

There is one more reason to make this type of play:

3. By playing it this way, it will allow you to show down with some more marginal hands in the future without having to pay off a river bet from them.

Beginners do tend to bluff too much so give it a try there, and also with aggressive players who like to bet their draws.


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Full Tilt Poker Academy

Learn, chat and play poker with the pros.

Anyone who has watched TV in the past 5 years is sure to have seen a commercial featuring that famous tagline by now. If you just washed up off of a desert island though, we are talking about Full Tilt Poker here, of course, I’m not sure what you would be doing reading a poker blog if you didn’t already know that.

Full Tilt Poker recently adding their Academy to the site and is free to all of it’s members. I think this was most likely a move precipitated to head off sites like Cardrunners who are actually somewhat affiliated with Full Tilt Poker  now.

I heard about this the other day at the Home Game from Nice Guy Eddie, I really don’t spend a lot of time on the Full Tilt site other than to play poker, and I have seen a number of the pros play there, but Patrick Antonious doesn’t say more that 50 words in any game I’ve ever seem him play so I wasn’t expecting to see a lot of conversation from him, durrr has about 40 tables open when he plays so I couldn’t ever see him having time to type in a comment other than “nh” or “gg”. Iwatched Mike Matusow play a couple times and have to say that was worth the price of admission, look forward to catching Mike again at a table because he is good fun.

I’ve only had the chance to sit with Scott Fischman in an actual game, it seems most of the other pros are scared to play the limits I do. Now I like Scott as a player, but I didn’t learn or chat with him while we played. I felt so used, so mislead.

Enter the Full Tilt Academy.

I have to say I was a bit sceptical when I first got there, but I tend to pick up about one or two tidbits from every “course” or “challenge” that I do. The messages are pretty easy to understand and the concepts not too advanced. It is a great place for beginners new to the game to get a grasp on poker other than from what they see on TV.

I should throw out a caveat  or two here though:

A lot of people are reading these lessons, and thus, there will be a lot of people that will eventually be playing the same way. This will leave opportunities to exploit this game into the future, but for now, many of the lessons make good sense for the novice players looking to plug a few leaks in their games and for the beginners looking to understand some of the concepts like bankroll management and bet sizing.

While these lessons are for level one or two players, note that many of them will not work on drunk morons who call 3 pot sized bets with any part of a flop all the way to the river in order to go runner runner gut shot straight on you. Good strategies are a starting point but you need to always look and see if the player will understand the move you are trying to make. I found a few of these plays to be too advanced for anyone in a multi-table position to see, and some will bleed off chips, make sure you are playing at the proper level and bankroll if you are going to give these a go.

The most important lesson I have found there so far is on the Power of Position, it is as must do for all players that are new to the game and will help you throw away those 95 suited cards in early position. I love to play cards like that, but if you start throwing them away you will see the effect it has on your chip stack, as well as the types of decisions you have to make after the flop. Players that feel they need to defend their blind all the time with these holdings ultimately give me a whole stack worth of called raises in a session.

I’ll update on the rest of the Academy as I work my way through it, but from now I think its definitely worth a go, take 15 minutes out of your day and work on your game, so few people continue to learn after they decide to start something, poker is a game where you should never stop learning. I will be using it more in the future as I work on my weaker games like RAZZ and STUD HL in order to make a run at some of the HORSE tournaments. And hell, it’s free. How can you beat that?


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Mixing it Up.

Well I really wanted to make a good first impression here. I had a cool photo to segue into the article, only I guess that they use some kind of new fangled intraweb function here because I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to get the picture to show up properly.

I hate having to call the IT guy on your first day at work and ask them to show you how to do something simple, you just know that he will be back in his office laughing at you as soon as he’s finished, talking on MSN or Facebook or texting all his geek friends about what a neophyte the new guy is.

For the sake of saving me a little face, just imagine there is a really cool picture of a layered drink here and someone is stirring it up, taking many seperate red, blue, and yellow layers, and making it into one kinda greenish colour. Maybe I’ll be able to figure out how to get that picture in here later.


“What’s the point?”


Well like the drink, with it’s separate, easy to see layers, once you mix it up a bit its hard to tell what’s what.

Man that was going to be such a cool picture.

“You’re rambling bro.”


Poker is a game based on math. The cards have distinct values assigned to them and there is no way in the world that you can change them, although every player in the world sitting there with a pair of Kings has tried to will them to be a better hand than a pair of Aces.

Because it is based upon these set values, it makes players act in a somewhat predictable manner. Everyone has the same knowledge of the value of those cards. A player holding a pair of Kings is much more comfortable than a player sitting there with a 63 off suit for instance. Or are they?

Many of the poker pros out there advocate the approach that you raise the exact same amount from all positions, and for all raising hands. I have to admit, I like this myself. For online poker I raise three times the blind for all my raising hands. Because I multi table, these hands are somewhat limited, well I guess that depends on how tight of a player you are.

I raise from all positions into an unopened pot with: AA-22, AK, AQ, AJ, ATs, A9s, KQ, KJ.

That means if I raised a pot and the flop comes 367 and you have 77 there is almost no way you are losing right?

Nope. More on that later though.

The reason I raise the same amount on all those hands, some 20 in total, is because now it is up to you to decide which one of those I have, and in most lower limit cash game online poker, that decision is made after the flop and this is where it gets interesting, I almost always throw out a continuation bet when I raise.

Until someone stops me or slows me down, I will run roughshod over a table. With some 20 raising hands and the speed of online poker, I can look like and absolute manic to some people. After a while of picking up the blinds some player will stand up to me and call. Usually with a good hand, but not one that is good enough to 3-bet me. Let’s say it’s AJs for instance.

The problem with AJs though, is that you really have to hit perfect in order to feel all that comfortable with it. Everyone out there is poker world knows that AK and AQ are both hands that you raise with, and anyone that has played with me or seen a showdown knows that I can range as low as A2s.

Flop comes A93 and I throw out a continuation bet.

What do you do now?

Call? Raise? Fold?

Lets say you don’t believe the Ace helped me, hell I’ve raised every hand I’ve played tonight it seems, you have a backdoor flush draw to go with it so you call.


Next card is a 7. Board is rainbow and there really doesn’t seem to be an obvious straight draw out there.


I bet again. Pot size.


What do you do now?

Well, you’re on the short stack now and have had enough of me, you want to see my cards for a change and curiosity has gotten the best of you.

You call, leaving yourself about 1/4 of the pot

River is a J.

YES!! Got you sucker!!!

I do the work for you though and throw in a bet worth the rest of you stack.

You call and happily turn over the AJ for top two pair.

I turn over 99 for a set of nines and rake the pot.


Other than a really scary flop, I bet that exact same pattern every time I enter a pot with a raise.

You have to match up your hand to beat me, because until you do, I always have the winning hand. More that 50% of the time I take down the blinds and a call or two from you and even better another player, god bless stubborn big blinds. Do that enough times alone and you have doubled up.

“So whats the mix up? That’s pretty basic power poker bro?”

Glad you asked.

About every once every 12 hands I will play some junk, it doesn’t matter too much what it is, there is just something that tells me to play it. And I play it exactly the same. You see lots of pros out the like Gus Hansen and Daniel Negreanu do this. They play cards that no reasonable person would give serious consideration to, like 93 or J2 for instance.

Daniel’s approach is small ball poker though, he is not afraid to play multi-way pots and really works his reading ability after the flop. I’m not that good. Well, at least not online. Daniel also tends to limp and call a lot more, I rarely do.

I want to play against one or two players. If I’m at a table and a 3bb raise gets 7 callers all the time, I have to raise more or leave the table, that’s not poker, that’s a card lottery in my opinion, you are either going to win or lose huge pots that way.

“You’re rambling again”

Sorry, had to set the table a bit.

Like I said, I do play junk every once in a while, and like all the other hands, I bet the flop.

More often than not I missed terribly.

Sometimes I catch a part of it.

Sometime I squash it, BLAM! HEAD SHOT!

339 two Diamonds

I bet it, same as always.


Oh? Hellllllllllooooooo…

Someone slow played their AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT or really likes there A9?

I raise back, time to build a pot here, playing passive poker with the best hand is for guys that don’t like money imo.

He re-raises me.

Okay, I call. That commits him to the pot on the next card.

Turn is a 3, no Diamond. I ship it into the middle, pushing looks so damn weak sometimes.

He calls and happily turns over the AA. Got me crushed right?

Nope, 93, you have two outs bro.

This exact same flop played out three times last night. The first time I held the 93, the second time I had KK and got a call from A9 and JJ, the Jacks sucked on the river on me but that’s poker, and the other time it was AA “trapping me” as above. All three times I played them for huge pots, and even though I did lose one, that’s just the way it goes.

Point to the story is, don’t limp with 39, if you are going to play it occasionally raise with it, you can win the hand a number of different ways if you do.

1. Preflop. Everyone folds.

2. On the flop with a continuation bet.

3. At showdown with an actual hand.

If you only raise once in a blue moon, it’s pretty easy for the other players to put you on a hand if they are paying attention, and even three tabling with no software, I’ll notice the 5x raise with your AA and crack them a lot as I know what I have to beat. Poker is so much easier when you know what the other player has, if you follow the system as noted above, that gives you a hand range of 1,326 that you will possibly raise with, keep them guessing.

*Note, this will not work as good on a table where there is lots of 3bet re-raising and preflop all in action, on those tables I tighten up my range. And this is not to be used with limit or pot limit poker, this is a pure NLHE strategy.


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Getting a Poker Coach

Most people that get into online poker are very active early on when it comes to studying the game.  They seek out poker strategy articles and may even read a few books too.  Unfortunately the more people play poker, the more likely they are to start to think that they have the game down pat and don’t need help anymore.  And when this happens players will start to see a sharp decline in their game since they are no longer doing anything to get better.

This is the point when some people might consider getting a poker coach since there are numerous people offering their services to those in need of poker help.  But before one does this, they have to take a couple of things into consideration because this service can be kind of pricey.

The first thing you need to do is ask whether or not the poker coach you’re looking at is better than at the game.  If you’re a $2/$4 limit grinder and you’re going to hire someone who multi-tables $1/$2 games then there is no guarantee that they’re a better player than you.  On the other hand, someone who is making a killing at the $5/$10 limits might be able to help you tremendously.

Another thing to think about is whether their rate is affordable and do they offer some kind of a trial.  Even if the service is very affordable you’ve got to make sure the poker coach willing to offer you a trial so that you know you’re not throwing money away.  So basically, if you can determine that the coach is affordable, better than you, and offers a trial then you should give their service a try.

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