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Strategy

Playing Pocket Eights

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

Recently, poker writer, Roy Cooke described a hand he played in a $40-$80 limit hold’em game. Frankly, I question his decision and rationale for playing that hand, and wonder how others would play it.

He was on the button with 8-8, seated to the left of a highly aggressive opponent. A loose-passive player, two off the button, had limped in. Mr. Aggressive raised. Now it was Cooke’s turn to act, and he re-raised to force out the blinds and create a three-handed pot, where his pocket eights had a better chance of holding up without improving. Both blinds folded, and both Mr. Loose-Passive and Mr. Aggression called. Now it was a three-way pot.

Did Cooke Play it Correctly? With two opponents, the odds are that one or both have at least one hole card higher than an eight, and will pair up on the flop. According to Tom Green’s Texas Hold’em Poker Textbook, when two opponents see the flop, and one has an ace in the hole, he will catch another ace on the flop almost 25 percent of the time.

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Life-Lessons We Can Take From Poker

by Barbara Connors

Be Observant. Poker players live and die by their ability to read opponents— their quirks, tendencies, patterns of behavior. In a live game, body language and tone of voice add more invaluable information. Put your opponent on the correct hands and no amount of bad luck can keep you down for long. Fail to put your opponent on the right hands, or, worse yet, don’t even try because you can’t be bothered to think about anything beyond your own two cards, and no amount of good luck will save you in the long run.

The power of observation is just as crucial in the real world. Whether the person sitting across the table from you is your boss, your customer, your enemy, or the love of your life—everybody has cards they don’t want to show. Only by reading people can you get a feeling for what those cards are. Is this a good time to approach your boss about a promotion? Is it a good time to ask the object of your affection to move in together? Will they be receptive and call your bet, or will they fold and walk away?

How Do You Rule? - Readers Respond, Part 2

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

In Part One, we described a number of the responses to my column entitled, “How Do You Rule?” that appeared in the Feb. 10 issue of PPN. Today we will continue to present more responses, including one from the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) vice president, and two from Australia. After studying the responses, I have drawn conclusions that I will share with you in Part Three.

Reminder: We described a hand where James bet on the river; then, after Bill called, James shouted, “Full-House.” Bill promptly mucked his hand. But, when James showed his hand, all he had was A-K high. An argument erupted. Bill claimed he had the better hand. James insisted that, having gone into the discards, Bill’s hand was dead. The floorman settled the controversy by retrieving what presumably was Bill’s hand from the edge of the muck and declaring Bill the winner with a better hand. More Response Highlights

• Rich Muny, vice president of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), likes Robert’s Rules of Poker, which he interprets: “The mucked hand should always be retrieved from the muck where clearly identifiable if the muck was caused by misinformation – intentional or unintentional. If unintentional, the best hand wins. If the miscall is found to be intentional angle shooting, the player who miscalled forfeits the pot.”

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Mike Caro: Today’s word is... STOP

Mastering poker means learning new things. Sometimes. But, you can also increase your profit or even jump from losing to winning simply by stopping. Stopping what? Well, stopping lots of stuff you may be doing that’s costing money at poker. Today’s words is “Stop.” And that’s all you need to do.

I’m going to give you a list of poker things you should stop doing, if they apply to you. My explanations will be brief. Ready? Good.

1. Stop complaining.
When you complain about poker misfortune, opponents aren’t sympathetic. They’re inspired. They think, “Hey, there’s someone unluckier than I am — someone I can beat.” And then they grow hopeful and play better against you.

So, keep your misery to yourself. Act lucky, even if you aren’t right now. Your good luck is what opponents fear most.

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Tournament Tips: Playing From Early Position

by David “The Maven” Chicotsky

Many poker players approach tournaments the wrong way—not realizing that they will be essentially forced to “make plays” in order to keep up with the blind increases. Even if you are very successful and get away with murder at the table, you’re still going to get naturally shallowed out by the basic structure of the tournament. Tournaments, quite simply, revolve around stealing the blinds and antes. If you’re coming from a cash game background where you can sit around all night long peddling the nuts, this hard truth can work against you.

Some of the easiest and most obvious spots to steal from are on or around the button. Make sure you’re also going out of your way to re-steal from people raising in stealing position. It’s not enough to simply call from the big blind and hope you hit your hand. We’re forced to take an active role in defending the blinds by re-raising pre-flop as well as making moves against positional raisers and bettors postflop. The key is applying controlled aggression from many different positions with many types of pre-flop hands. Getting value out of marginal cards is critical—as we are only dealt premium and semi-premium hands very rarely.

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Mike Caro: Today’s word is... DISADVANTAGES

Poker success means more than finding advantages. It means avoiding disadvantages. Sadly, most skillful players are in perpetual search of edges. They fail to weigh what will reward them against what will destroy them.

I teach that you should always be very vigilant about identifying disadvantages in poker. Many can seem invisible, if you don’t look hard. But once you see them, it’s usually easy to stay out of danger. So, here is a short selection of three poker disadvantages, chosen from over 100 candidates.

Disadvantage 1: Too many chips

Many players like to have the most chips at the table in no-limit poker games. Is that the right strategy? Maybe. Probably not.

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Take the Information and Run With It

by David Chicotsky

We’ve all heard the phrase, “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Well, in poker, in the vast majority of situations—you can. For the most part, players are very straightforward with their intentions, and when you have a read on someone (assuming you’re competent at gauging other players’ tendencies) you can usually use that info against your opponent in the future. In my previous articles I’ve highlighted how important it is to shift-gears, since playing the same way throughout a tournament makes us predictable. Despite this advice, be aware that the average player doesn’t shift gears enough.

 As a good training exercise to work on shifting gears, play a tournament and alternate between playing loose and tight every other level. Obviously there is no other logic behind this exercise than to get you comfortable switching gears. Normally, you’d want to switch gears during opportune times of a tournament, but in this case it’s easy enough to go from tight to loose at the start of each level. In tournament poker there is a perceived need to reconfirm information to help substantiate our thoughts on various opponents. I caution you against this...and here’s what I mean. If you think someone is loose, and you’re correct let’s say 80% of the time, you’re better off treating him accordingly right away (by re-raising the player on our right in this example). If you reconfirm this information by not re-raising and deciding to wait until the player has made another loose open, you’ll be that much more sure the player is loose (let’s make up a number, say 90% sure). The problem is, now this player realizes you’ve seen him play loose and can adjust accordingly. So even though you’ve increased your hypothetical certainty percentage from 80 to 90, the effectiveness of using that information against your opponent drops drastically. Essentially, the longer you wait to counter-act your opponent, the easier it is for your opponent to be conscious of this and adjust accordingly.

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Alpha-Bets

by Barbara Connors

Everybody has to start somewhere. For poker players, just as for readers, the journey begins with ABC. Literally, of course in the case of readers, while aspiring poker players cut their teeth on a style of play known as ABC poker.

As the name implies, ABC poker is about building-block fundamentals. It’s poker played strictly by the book. But ABC poker can be best described by what it is not—it is not creative, it is not deceptive, it doesn’t make adjustments for your opponents’ playing styles, and it’s often not the most profitable way to play a given hand. And if all that’s not unappealing enough, because ABC poker dictates that you play by the book—following somebody else’ script— there’s little sense of personal satisfaction or accomplishment, even when you win.

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Mike Caro: Today’s word is... MISCONCEPTIONS

So many misconceptions muddle poker that I sometimes make lists. Today, I’d like to share three favorites from my collection, hoping that your game will improve, once you understand the truth.

Where should we start? How about bluffs. Whenever I warn about the badness of bluffing, some players get confused and think I’m telling them never to bluff. I’m not. There are clearly profitable times to fire a bluff into the pot. And there are specific opponents who make the best targets.

Fine. But I’m warning you that most players lose money for their lifetimes by bluffing. In that sense, yes, it would be better for them if they never bluffed. Here’s the strange part. Among all those millions of players who lose money bluffing, most probably think they earn money. I’ll tell you why that is in a minute.

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Readers Respond to "How do you Rule?", PART 1

by George “The Engineer” Epstein

My column entitled, “How Do You Rule?” in the Feb. 10 issue of PPN, had so many great responses that we awarded seven valuable prizes (copies of the Hold’em Algorithm) instead of one as planned! All raised salient issues; many offered thoughtful suggestions. Some described personal experiences. I’ll summarize their comments and quote several in this and the next column (Part II). After studying the responses and consulting with others, I have drawn conclusions that I will share with you in Part III. (You may be surprised!)

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