by Barbara Connors
Progress. It’s something we all strive for in life, in work, in relationships — and also at the poker table. Progress can mean many things to a poker player. It can mean mastering a new strategy, getting more accurate at reading opponents, graduating to a higher level of thinking, but for most of us progress boils down to one thing: moving up to higher limits.
Higher-limit games are more prestigious. The opponents are smarter and tougher, and in turn we feel smarter and tougher playing against them. The challenge is greater. The potential profits are more lucrative. And just being in the higher games imparts a certain stature. If micro-stakes games are Little League and middle limits are Triple-A, high stakes games are the Major Leagues: the elite stage most players can only dream about.
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
There’s a big difference between passive and aggressive play, but it’s important to realize that very likely when playing tournaments you’ll need to come up with a mix of both styles to succeed. These two styles aren’t mutually exclusive; in fact, they tend to compliment each other. If you’re playing passively, you’re spring-loaded to make an aggressive play (possibly a bluff) with a higher chance of pulling the move off successfully. If you’re playing aggressively, you’re primed to be able to enter into pots cheaply and hit a hand. If you make a big hand, due to your previous aggressive streak, you’re more likely to get paid off on the hand now.
There’s no magic formula for what ratio of passive plays and aggressive plays are needed to make a final table or win a tournament. The main key to this entire discussion revolves around adapting to the table conditions present—as well as your table image (relative to your prior play and the hands you’ve shown down). Don’t define yourself as one type of player or another— simply approach each table with an open mind and be the chameleon; adapt to the situation.
by George Epstein
Phil Hellmuth is admired by many poker players throughout the world for his accomplishments. In addition to his record 13 World Series of Poker bracelets, he won the Main Event of the 1989 World Series of Poker (WSOP) and the Main Event of the 2012 World Series of Poker Europe. He is a member of the WSOP’s Poker Hall of Fame, and is ranked among the top all-time money winners. (He has also earned a reputation for insulting other players).
Recently, a friend gave me a copy of Hellmuth’s book, Play Poker Like the Pros. I found several items that conflict with my teachings to my Seniors Poker Groups. For example, Hellmuth relates a hand he played at Foxwood’s Casino in Connecticut. It was a $2,500 buy-in limit Hold’em game during the “World Poker Finals.” Stakes were $300-$600. He was in the Big Blind holding 8-8. Three players called the blind ($300) preflop. He wrote, “because I had 8-8, I raised.” Note: In his book, Hellmuth lists 8-8 as one of his “Top Ten” Hands. He also recommends: “Always raise with these hands, no matter what it costs you to get involved.” With this, too, I disagree.
by Shari Geller
To talk or not to talk, that is the question. This Hamlet-inspired question has nearly the same life or death meaning if you are all-in with your tournament life at stake. A recent episode on ESPN of the 2013 World Series of Poker Main Event brought to mind the Shakespeare quote as an all-in player decided whether to engage her opponent in table talk while he considered his move. She decided to talk, and had what she said been picked up, she would have died right then. But sometimes, when you talk, your opponent doesn’t listen and you are given a new lease on life.
Texas amateur Beverly Lange was one of four women left in the field of about 150 players remaining on Day 5. Her opponent, 2010 Main Event bubble boy Brandon Steven, had bet 167,000 into a pot of 385,000, holding top pair on a 4s-Ks-7s-2d-2h board. She snap-raised all-in for an additional 260,000. Steven leapt from his seat when she made that bet, clearly surprised and irritated. If he called, it would be for one-third of his stack. What he didn’t know was Lange only had pocket Jacks, and if he called, she’d be knocked out of the tournament.
by Ashley Adams
A lot of poker theorists, players, and writers talk about “range”—that is finding an opponent’s playing range. This refers to the range of hands that an opponent may be playing. It’s considered helpful in devising your playing strategy to consider what range of hands your opponent is likely to be playing. So, for example, if you have a tight opponent who raises from early position, you might not be able to pinpoint the exact hand he has, but you might put him on a “range” of hands—anywhere from AK, JJ, QQ, KK, or AA. This concept works for limit, no limit, hold’em, stud, Omaha, or indeed any type of poker.
I find this exercise of putting opponents on a range of hands to be useful. And, to be sure, I do it regularly—almost automatically—when I play. But I find another concept to be even more useful. I call it ANTI-RANGE. That is, figuring out the hands that my opponent is NOT likely to have. From my experience, I find that by deducing what my opponent doesn’t have, I can take advantage of many bluffing opportunities that I might not normally consider.
By Joseph Smith Sr.
Marc McLaughlin began playing professional poker six years ago and has collected more than $670,000 from live tournament play. He can now add at least $733,224 to that total after making the November Nine. Returning to the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in November will place him in seat 6 behind the 3rd largest stack of chips among the nine players at T26,525,000.
Like many of the young poker professionals, Marc McLaughlin begin playing the game a short 7 years ago and quickly realized that he could generally beat his friends and was the top earner in the nickel –dime games in his garage. He assumed that if the cards break even and he could usually win then he should translate that ability to bigger stakes in cash games and tournaments. His play history says that was a great assumption.
By Joseph Smith Sr.
Jay Farber is the November Nine “Mystery Man.” He does not consider himself to be a professional poker player and claims the game is only a hobby. Farber believes his style of play got him deep into this year’s big poker event and very well may carry him to a win in November. His above average chip stack makes Farber a favorite to become one of the WSOP’s latest multimillionaires.
by Barbara Rogers
LATER, LOSER! That was the battle cry of a fairly good sized player sporting a Harley shirt at my table in the Crown Royal poker room at Dover Downs. Every time one of his friends busted, he yelled that to them. They looked over their shoulder while exiting, mostly not appreciating his humor. Admittedly, those of us at the table did. So it seemed fitting to say the same thing to Harley guy when he busted. This time it was him failing to see the humor. My table, however, loved it. They all wanted to say what I did. But they knew he wouldn’t punch me and they thanked me for saying what they were all thinking. I got to be the bounty for my good friend, Pete McGuire, the guy in charge of the room for this, “Beat the Boss” tournament. I had a blast! It was my birthday. and I had a delicious steak filet with plenty of courses delivered tableside. I was surrounded by a great group of guys, plenty of food, and I took second place! It was one of my better birthdays, blessed to be alive after a freak accident three months ago.
As you are reading this, the nationally televised Heartland Poker Tour in Indiana at the Belterra Casino Resort is still playing out. An excellent turnout, and you still have time to play: Oct. 29th to Nov. 3rd are the dates. Call 1-888-BELTERRA or visit belterracasino.com
I teach that you usually should make your actions at the poker table swift and certain. Swift. And certain. I call this playing crisp—which is today’s word. Now I’ll explain why playing crisp can bring you mountains of profit. And I’ll point out some exceptions.
Let me ask you a question? What do you fear most about your poker opponents? That they’ll draw out and beat you when you have a great hand? That they’ll cheat you? That they’re superior to you? Sure, you should be concerned about that and more.
Fine. But psychologically, there are two thing players fear most about their opponents—good luck and strong confidence.
Fear of good luck
When Heartland Poker Tour turned on the lights and the cameras at their nationallytelevised Final Table from the Daytona Beach Kennel Club & Poker Room, Cong Pham had a commanding chip lead. Six hours later, stacks were even as the 29-year-old poker pro from Naples, Florida stared down his final opponent, James Calderaro. Both players were confident and the risks were calculated. It took 46 hands of heads-up play before an all-in and a call took place. “I hope viewers enjoy this. It’s a good heads-up match,” said world champion Greg “Fossilman” Raymer who commentated the Final Table live for HPTpoker.com, “Neither player did anything silly.” Ultimately, Pham got every last chip for the title and $104,033.
It took pocket pairs for both players to get all the chips in the middle. Calderaro was all-in and at risk with eights while Pham held aces. The board ran out safely for the pocket aces bringing an end to the tournament. Calderaro of Manasota Beach, Florida adds $64,158 to over $1.8 million in career earnings. “Just add it to the pile,” he said.