By Shari Geller
The television show Breaking Bad and its story of a milquetoast high school teacher’s transformation into a cold-blooded killer has become a cultural touchstone for a good segment of America. As the show wraps up its five-season run, many are looking at the main character’s arc in all its Shakespearean glory and ignominy. As with any great tragedy, there are lessons to be learned from the main character’s rise and fall, including some that can help you - not to build a meth empire, but to become a more successful poker player.
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
When we’re playing tournaments, we’re forced to make plays that conflict with our interest of not busting out of the tournament. The age old discussion of whether to play to survive or play to win leaves many players with questions as to the best way to proceed towards the final table. The truth is, both are wrong. If you’re playing to survive, the more aggressive players—as well as the blinds and antes will slowly erode your stack. If you’re playing to win, you’re very likely making too many negative expected value plays—costing you overall tournament equity.
A real world comparison to a typical poker player’s dilemma as to playing to survive or playing to win can be seen in the stock market. If an investor puts all of their money in low-yielding bonds and money-market accounts, they won’t be able to keep up with the cost of inflation. If an investor puts all their money in highrisk funds, they’re likely to suffer a catastrophic loss of their funds over time.
Even playing a “balanced game” can create issues, as it can be viewed as far from unpredictable. Even when playing a balanced game, we’re forced to find times to make plays and times to make tough folds. One of the keys to successfully navigating the tournament poker waters is not allowing your opponents to pick up on your playing style (and preferences).
by Ashley Adams
In the first part of this article we explained how “betting on the come” was a useful tool in making profitable the tougher no limit games that we are facing today. Let’s look at the sample hand we started to examine.
You raised to $12 with Ac Jc and the flop was Kc 9c 2d. You got two callers, and then came out betting $25 on the flop. Your sole loose opponent called you on the button. Maybe he had a 9 or a weak King and figured you were just making a continuation bet with nothing—and that he was probably ahead. Or maybe he had a flush draw (but a lower one than yours) and figured he’d see if he could connect on the turn.
by Ashley Adams
Simple no limit strategy calls for betting aggressively when you’re ahead, folding when behind if the eventual pot size doesn’t warrant a draw, and drawing when you figure you’ll win enough money when you hit to justify the odds against making the winning hand. A disciplined player, playing against poor and mediocre players, can make a small amount of money with this strategy. However, it has become increasingly difficult to find games with a sufficient number of poor players to make a simple basic strategy profitable. The average player in the public poker room has become significantly better over the 12 years or so that low limit no limit has been regularly spread.
So what’s the solid player to do if he wants to continue to profit in the waters of low limit no limit hold’em?
Today I’m going to share a simple trick about hands with medium prospects. It will revolutionize the way you play poker. If you use it correctly, your profits will soar. Yes, really.
In order to take advantage of my trick, you need to understand that an ace is higher than a king and that a king is higher than a queen. That’s all.
From now on, whenever you’re involved in a poker hand, you will always be translating your hand into a single card—ace, king, or queen. Just pretend that, no matter what your actual cards are, there’s a super card floating in your face. Ace, king, or queen. Visualize. Ace. King. Queen. Got it?
Okay, now I’ll explain.
by Barbara Connors
Poker has always been a contentious game. After all, it involves a group of people who gather together with the express goal of taking each other’s money. So things are bound to get a bit combative from time to time. At least in theory, this is all just part of the game, in the spirit of honorable competition among our fellow players. In theory, what brings us together at the poker table is not merely avarice but a true love of the game. But all this noble theory has a tendency to fly out the window once somebody else starts taking your money.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that poker players can occasionally feel a bit...antagonistic towards each other. In some cases, that antagonism can become seething personal hatred. The trigger for this acrimony can be any number of things—irritating table talk, a playing style that rubs you the wrong way, or in a live setting, bad personal hygiene— but more often than not it boils down to a supposedly inferior opponent who keeps getting lucky and beating you out of pots.
by David “The Maven” Chicotsky
It is not uncommon to hear players complain about having to play against amateurs. What is it about amateurs that can give more advanced players so much trouble? Quite simply, it is the fact that they are unpredictable and play their hands in unconventional ways. Prescribing to the notion that unpredictability makes players harder to play against - let’s go over some techniques that will allow us to operate outside of the normal scope of how most players play the game.
I’ve written in the past about alternating your openraise sizes pre-flop to throw off your opponents and this is one of the easiest ways to play an unconventional style. Whether it’s min-raising or 4x’ing it pre-flop, bouncing your open-raise sizings around allows us to manipulate our opponents from the very start of a hand. The same principle of alternating our sizings applies post-flop as well. When we get to the flop, we can make bets as small as 1x all the way up to the size of the pot (or in some cases over-betting the flop). This leaves us with a wide range of options when approaching a certain player, with a certain stack size, along with a specific board texture. It’s important not to fall into “robot mode” and just bet your default size on the flop every time.
by Barbara Connors
Most of us know that the ability to read your opponents is one of the most important skills any poker player can have. After all, the most clever strategizing in the world isn’t going to do you much good if it’s based on the notion that your opponent is going to respond with aggression, when in reality, he is quite conservative. Or vice versa. And so we must observe our opponents at the poker table, and then slap labels on them — this one is loose-aggressive, that one is a nit, and so on.
These labels are important, but they are only a starting point. There are some pitfalls to watch out for when using them. For one thing, once you’ve decided to put your opponent into a particular category, it’s far too easy to get locked into that initial impression to the point of excluding, ignoring, or dismissing any new information that contradicts your early read. First impressions are often very powerful, but they’re not always correct.
by Mike Caro
The process of poker requires extracting profit from pain. Your pain and theirs. Life itself is that way, too. And once you truly understand this, winning gets easy.
So, today I’ll tell you about the pain of poker. But don’t get scared. Poker pain is your friend.
Huh? Well, let’s start with some simple truth. Mental anguish and anxiety is unavoidable in life, and it’s magnified in poker. Why? Because you’re choosing to place yourself in an arena that simulates the ups and downs of a lifetime in a single session of poker. In fact, that’s the thrill of the game for many. You get to experience the unexpected treats and tragedies, highs and humiliations, all in a few hours.
Now I’m going to warn you about some things. If you just play poker for pennies, or whatever amount you can totally afford, there isn’t going to be pain involved in poker. But few people do that, because it would be like sleeping through a roller coaster ride. What would be the point?
A disagreement with Doyle
by Diane McHaffie
So, you say you have an issue with luck. Bad luck, to be precise. You feel as if everyone, everything, every happening is out to get you. You feel things couldn’t get much worse. Here’s the question: Do you think you’re unlucky or are you truly, in reality, unlucky?
Many people think that somebody else is at fault for their bad luck. They feel an overwhelming need to blame someone. Not gamblers, though, they’ve gone a step above blaming humans. They blame - events! Events, happenings, occurrences, those are responsible for gambler’s bad luck. Events. You see, in poker or in real life, there will be events, be they good or bad, that will affect you, sometimes drastically. Some events may just be ho-hum and not a determining factor in your life, just a break-even moment, as Mike Caro would say.
Speaking of Mike, as you know he’s a probability guy. He emphasizes that people, over time, will likely have as many good days as bad days, compared to the expectation of average days. Along the way, you’re likely to receive unusually weird breaks, good ones and bad ones. That’s normal. But the common notion that over your lifetime you’ll eventually break even in the luck category has Mike fervently disagreeing. Here’s why: Your life isn’t prolonged far enough into the future to allow circumstances to break even. If you could live forever, perhaps.