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Strategy

The Small Ball Myth

by David “The Maven” Chicotsky

When focusing on learning tournament poker, it is possible to be inundated with countless ways of approaching the game. One of the most popular ways of playing tournaments revolves around playing many small pots – better known as “small ball.” My general feeling is that playing as many small pots as possible is a very good thing, but just like with anything – too much of one thing can be bad for your game.

 Being able to keep pots small gives us, as players, an added element of control, while also making many of our decisions easier. All of that said, there are instances where we need to go out of our way to inflate the pot (or at least stay away from a small ball strategy). There is no “one size fits all” in poker; we need to be able to adjust our play according to the conditions present in each hand (the player type we are going up against, stage of the tournament, stack sizes, texture of the board, etc.).

 For example, on a board of A22 when we are holding a hand like AK, there is little point in controlling the pot. Instead of making a standard small-bet in the order of 40 or 50% of the pot, we might elect to bet 75% of the pot and purposely inflate it. In this way we get good value out of any worse ace. Also, some players view bigger bets as more “bluffy” – so, knowing who we are playing against will often factor into how small or big we bet.

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Belittle League

by Barbara Connors

No matter how skilled you are at the technical aspects of this game, none of that much matters if you can’t get an accurate read on your opponents. Your poker livelihood depends on the ability to size up the enemy, accurately gauge his level of strength, and then decide on the best plan of attack. Most of all, you want to play against opponents who are weaker than you — because if they aren’t, your efforts are pretty much doomed to fail anyway.

 But that’s precisely where so many of us run into problems. We have a very strong motive to see our opponents as weak, and so it becomes far too easy to believe they are indeed weak. All too often we look across the table at our opposition and see what we want to see. Opponents’ mistakes get blown out of proportion while any smart plays they make are either overlooked or dismissed. Or perhaps we give in to stereotypes and easy labels, in our eagerness to brand our adversaries as suckers.

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The Best Place to Play Poker

by Ashley Adams

I’m a winning poker player. You want to know why? It’s because I am obsessed with where I sit.

 I mean this seriously. More than any poker players I know or have ever known, I focus on where I am sitting when I play. If you want to win – you should be concerned about this too. Let me explain why.

 Many serious poker players think that the key to their profitability is their skill at poker. They are only partially correct. They work on that, to the best of their ability. They read books and articles, they watch training videos, and they may even have a regular discussion group to help hone those poker skills. Then they go out to a poker game and they practice what they have learned. Try though they might, they often don’t succeed. It may well be because they don’t know where to sit.

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Set for Life

by Barbara Connors
 
The only thing better than holding a powerful hand is holding a powerful hand that’s well-concealed, so you can trap your opponents for maximum profit. That’s the beauty of flopping a set, and what makes set mining such a popular strategy.

 In essence, set mining is calling to see a flop with a smallish pair, with the intention of trying to hit a set. If the flop doesn’t give you a set, or better, the plan is to fold at the first sign of action. But as with every poker strategy, the ultimate success or failure of set mining depends on starting with the right conditions.

 The first thing you need is odds — because if you don’t have good odds to try for your set, nothing else matters. On average, you’re going to hit a set twice in every 15 tries, giving you odds of 7.5-to-1 against. Those are the odds you have to match or beat when you measure what it costs you to see the flop against what you might win. When set mining, the goal is to see the cheapest possible flop. If the game is aggressive, if pot has been raised in front of you or is likely to get raised behind you, it’s usually best to take a pass and wait for a more advantageous spot.

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

This is another one of those days when I’ve instructed my interviewer to ask non-specific questions. I’m not in the mood to be pinned down.

 You might argue that, since this is the latest in my series of self-interviews, I’m actually instructing myself to ask only nebulous questions. Well, you can complain and quibble all you want, but that’s the way it’s going to be.

Question 1: What would you like to talk about first? And please explain what it means.

 Excellent question.

 Let me answer it this way. The question, as I understand it, is when should you quit a poker game? There are several reasons to quit, and solid reasons to keep playing, even when many players think they should quit. Here’s the deal. The trick is to find games where you can make the most money possible at reasonable risk. Notice that I said, “the most money possible.” That means you shouldn’t always remain in a game that’s profitable. There may be more profit in switching to another game. And if the profit is too thin to justify the time you’ll invest, you’re probably better off not playing. So, quit.

 One thing you shouldn’t do is quit in order to preserve a win. That’s never a good reason. Dividing your playing time into artificial days or sessions is silly. The only reality is how you do overall. It’s much better to win $500 once and lose $50 three times than to win $50 three times and lose $500 once. In fact, in the first case, you net a $350 profit and in the second you suffer a $350 loss—so it’s a $700 difference.

 Yet, somehow, some players feel better about amassing many wins, even if small. Winning many days in a row shouldn’t be your goal. Only your longterm results matter.

 Specifically, you shouldn’t quit a game because you might lose your profit. That profit is potentially fleeting, and you’re just as likely to lose it tomorrow as today. It should be considered only a small part of the big poker game—one that lasts forever.

 Mentally breaking it up into segments doesn’t change this simple reality: The more hours you play under profitable circumstances, the more money you’re likely to win. If conditions are favorable and you’re not tired or impaired, physically or emotionally, stick with it. If you quit now, you’ll only be playing fewer profitable hours—whether you end up winning or losing this time.

 But, if you’ve been losing and opponents are inspired and playing better against you, because they perceive you as a target, that’s often a time to quit. You don’t have psychological control of the table.

Question 2: Thank you. Could you answer my second non-specific question now?

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Rookies

by Diane McHaffie

Rookie poker players are often easy to spot. Either they are the tentative ones, like Allen, who glances nervously around the poker room, undecided which table to choose, where to take the plunge. Or, like Bruce, the cocky one, who saunters daringly into the poker room, striving to appear confident, smug in the knowledge that he’s read enough books to empower him with the ability to play like a pro.

 Appearances. Once seated Bruce will probably be quick to assert himself, as he wishes to appear knowledgeable and worldly. Allen will most likely sit back, quietly withdrawing into his chair, trying desperately to appear inconspicuous, while glancing thoughtfully at his opponents in trepidation. Perhaps he’s delving into the recesses of his memory, attempting to recall all those precious tidbits of wisdom he has previously read.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Mike Caro: Today’s word is... GEARS

Poker is built on deception. If you want to extract the most money possible from opponents, sometimes you need to temporarily switch your strategy. This is known as shifting gears.

 But wait! The problem with shifting gears is that most players do it at the wrong times or for the wrong reasons. They would be better off not shifting at all. In this self-interview, I’ll show you how to shift correctly.

Question 1: So, why do you need to shift gears?

 Ideally, you shouldn’t shift. You should have one single most-profitable gear. But in practice, you can earn more money sometimes by shifting in order to appear less predictable. You shift because there’s always a lag between when you do it and when astute opponents realize it. They’ll be responding to your previous gear, and that gives you time to profit. But confusing your opponents isn’t the only reason to shift. Sometimes you do it to adjust to game conditions. Remember, if your opponents play way too many hands, you can stray from the standards that are profitable on paper and play more often. That’s because the average opposing hands will be weaker than usual, leaving you the opportunity to liberalize and still make more money.

 So the two main reasons to shift gears are to confuse and to adapt.

Question 2: What methods of shifting do you recommend?

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

In poker, position is profit. Today’s self-interview explains what you need to know to get the most from where you’re seated, relative to your opponents. First question, please…

Question 1: How much does position really matter in poker?

 Well, how about this: The majority of the best poker players in the world–and possibly all of them–lose money for their lifetimes to opponents on their left. There! I said it, and I’m proud.

 That’s a statement of fact that will probably shock most readers. Almost all the profit you’ll ever make playing poker will come from players to your right–players who usually act before you do. I said usually, not always, because sometimes players to your right act after you.

 That happens on the first betting round when you enter a pot from an early seat and the opponents to your right are in the blinds. However, you regain positional advantage on all subsequent betting rounds, when they’ll act first. You also temporarily lose your positional advantage of acting last when you’re “under the gun”–meaning first to act–in a non-blind, ante-only game. But you’ll regain the advantage quickly on future deals.

 Overall, you’ll be acting after players to your right most of the time. And, in poker, getting to see what opponents do before you act is a huge advantage. In fact, you can’t overcome the positional advantage of an opponent sitting immediately to your left in a full-handed game–unless your level of skill is monumentally better. The best you can do is play good enough that you diminish your disadvantage.

 And, in fact, averaged over years of play, you’ll lose money to players on your left and make money from players on your right. This effect is so powerful that if you looked down at a poker table from a weather satellite in space, you’d see a phenomenal and continuous poker storm. The money would be swirling around the table in a clockwise direction, because that’s the way the action flows. Money would blow from players acting earlier to players acting later.

 Of course, there would be some cross currents, too–currents that went against the direction of the storm. That’s because short-term luck would cause gusty distortions in the dominant direction. But, averaged over time, the money flows clockwise.

 So, your mission in poker is to win as much money as you can from players on your right and lose as little as you can to players on your left. Your goal is just that simple.

Question 2: So, how do you go about maximizing profit from players on your right and decreasing your losses to the left?

Your rating: None Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

From Tom McEvoy To All His Readers— Best Of Luck At The WSOP! Plus, An Interesting Decision You Should All Know About!

by Tom McEvoy

 The World Series of Poker has officially arrived. By the time this newspaper is printed, the series will be in full swing. Will it be bigger than last year? Nobody knows for sure, or at least they aren’t telling if they have inside information.

 The economy is not fully recovered and Internet poker in the U.S. is still mostly unavailable, so that will hurt attendance. On a positive note, the $1,000,000 first place guaranteed purse for the $1500 buy in scheduled for June 1st should be a huge success. Re-entries are allowed so this “Millionaire Maker” event should be one of the best events on the schedule. It is much harder to predict what the other events will do, especially the main event. The over and under for the Championship event is around 6500, and the answer is, no I am not taking bets either way. Good luck to all my readers, and I hope to see you at the final table—with me.

That Decision I Spoke About...

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The Silent Killer: Tilt

by Barbara Connors

 Tilt is an occupational hazard of being a poker player. None of us can escape it completely. The good players simply tilt less often, and less severely. Perhaps, most important of all, the best poker players continually monitor themselves for signs of tilt, which is something we should all do. Problem is, the signs of tilt aren’t always that easy to identify. Sure, we can recognize tilt when we’re bluffing off a huge stack of chips for no reason other than wanting to pulverize the guy on the other side of the table. But tilt can also be as simple and as subtle as one loose call.

 We’ve all done it. Called to see a flop with a marginal hand, bad position, lousy pot odds — or all of the above. We know we shouldn’t be in the pot, but we toss the chips in anyway. Usually this sort of thing happens when we’ve been card dead for a long time, or because we’re sick of being raised out of the pot every time we want to limp. But any way you slice it, it’s tilt.

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