Should You Go All In With AK? How the Pros Play AK

People ask me all the time if they should go all in with AK. And believe me, I get it, Ace King is a tricky hand to play.

The answer to this question is unfortunately going to be "sometimes." Sometimes you should go all in with AK either preflop or postflop. But you need to know when you are beat and ditch this hand as well.

In this article I am going to show you exactly when you should go

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15 Guaranteed Ways to Beat Micro Stakes Poker in 2019

People ask me all the time how to beat the micro stakes poker games. And honestly, while the games have gotten a bit more difficult in the past 5-10 years, it still doesn’t require a rocket science degree to beat them.

Micro Stakes Poker Definition: The "micro stakes" by the way typically refers to NL2 to NL50 cash games online. These are the 1c/2c blind cash games on through to the 25c/50c

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15 Guaranteed Ways to Beat Micro Stakes Poker in 2019

People ask me all the time how to beat the micro stakes poker games. And honestly, while the games have gotten a bit more difficult in the past 5-10 years, it still doesn’t require a rocket science degree to beat them.

Micro Stakes Poker Definition: The "micro stakes" by the way typically refers to NL2 to NL50 cash games online. These are the 1c/2c blind cash games on through to the 25c/50c

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You Need to Avoid This Common Poker Trap

You know, when we talk about setting a poker trap we often mean when you have a really good hand and you decide to slowplay it in order to trick your opponent.

And while this is a good strategy to use sometimes, you can actually end up trapping yourself if you are not careful in poker.

This most often happens when you fail to properly assess the strength of your hand. This poker hand is a

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How to Quickly Turn $100 into $10,000 in Poker [2019]

People often ask me how they can quickly turn $100 into $10,000 in poker. Or some variation of this.

Well first off, I have to break the bad news that it isn’t going to be easy. And what I mean by that is it won’t happen overnight.

You will also have to put in some serious hours at the poker tables in all likelihood to do it!

But if I was to try and quickly turn $100 into $10,000 at

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Upswing Short Deck Course by Kane Kalas – Is It Worth It?

In the past year or two Short Deck Hold’em has really taken off in popularity.

This has been especially driven by high stakes Short Deck cash games in Asia featuring well known pros like Tom Dwan bluffing extremely wealthy Chinese businessmen!

If you have never heard of Short Deck Hold’em before (also sometimes called Six-Plus Hold’em) it is basically a variant of Texas Hold’em where the 2

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Learn Poker From Scratch in 2019 (Free Download)

People often ask me, if you wanted to learn poker from scratch in 2019, how would you do it? And specifically in No Limit Texas Hold’em which is by far the most popular game these days.

Well, I think there are a number of clear paths to poker success that I would suggest for anybody who is looking to learn poker for the first time.

In fact, there is a very specific game-plan that I would

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You Must Fold Pocket Aces in This One Situation

Most people don’t know that there is one type of poker player (and situation) where you really need to fold your pocket AA.

Now I know that folding pocket aces is not something that any of us like to do. You wait all day to get dealt the best hand ever created in Texas Hold’em, the rockets, AA.

And while you will win huge with this hand over the long term, winning poker players know that

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10 Easy Ways to Tell if Someone is Bluffing in Poker

How do you tell if someone is bluffing in poker? Well, to be honest, for most poker pros it is actually pretty easy.

And that is because there are many dead giveaways to tell if somebody is bluffing whether you are playing online poker or live poker. Many of these are made by amateurs in particular.

So here are the top 10 easy ways to tell if someone is trying to bluff you in poker. Note that

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Best Preflop Poker Strategy [Used by Pros 2019]

This post was written by blackrain79.com guest contributor Roger Marquez.

Let’s face it, your preflop poker strategy is one of the most crucial aspects of your poker game. If you want to become a solid poker player then you need to master the preflop game.

There’s just no way around it. Preflop is where everything begins. Also, developing a solid preflop game will make playing postflop a

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Are You Being Cheated in Poker? Read This.

This article was written by blackrain79.com contributor Lars Kyhnau Hansen

Recently there has been a big stir in the poker community about a guy named Mike Postle who has allegedly been cheating on a live streamed poker game at Stones Gambling Hall in California.

In fact, this cheating scandal in particular was actually so big that even the mainstream media covered it! (example: CNBC story)

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Can Anyone Learn to Win at Poker? Yes and No.

A common question that people ask me is can anyone learn to win at poker. Or can anyone learn to become a poker pro.

I think that ultimately most people can learn to win at poker eventually, but becoming a poker pro is a lot more difficult, and something that only a very small amount of people can do.

And what’s more is that in my opinion there are certain personality traits that make some

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What is a Good WTSD in Poker? (Optimal Numbers)

People often ask me what is a good WTSD (went to showdown percentage) in poker. This is a popular HUD stat that is usually abbreviated as WTSD or WTSD%.

WTSD essentially tells you what percentage of the time somebody goes to showdown. Showdown in poker is when the cards are flipped over on the river and the person with the best hand wins the pot.

So WTSD is very important when determining

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What is a Good AF in Poker? (The Proven Data)

People often ask me what is a good AF in poker. And this is very important to know because AF is one of the most reliable HUD stats available for determining player type.

In general, an AF of 1 is extremely passive, an AF of 2 is moderately passive, an AF of 3 is a normal moderately aggressive player, and any AF of 4 and above is starting to get into over-aggressive territory. Most winning

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How Much Should You Raise Preflop? (Use These Amounts)

Something that people often ask me is how much should you raise preflop in poker. And this is something that has been debated a lot over the years.

But I believe that there are a set of more or less "proven" preflop bet sizes that will work best for you in small stakes poker cash games and tournaments.

In this article I am going to break down all the numbers for you. Here is your complete

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How Much Should You Raise Preflop? (Use These Amounts)

Something that people often ask me is how much should you raise preflop in poker. And this is something that has been debated a lot over the years.

But I believe that there are a set of more or less "proven" preflop bet sizes that will work best for you in small stakes poker cash games and tournaments.

In this article I am going to break down all the numbers for you. Here is your complete

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What is a Good PFR in Poker? (The Proven Numbers)

PFR is one of the absolute most important HUD stats in poker. PFR stands for preflop raise percentage and it is one of the #1 stats I rely on when playing online poker to determine player type.

A good PFR in a 6max poker game is around 18. And a good PFR in a 9max poker game is around 12. But it is important that your PFR is reflected by your play style and also your VPIP.

Let’s dig into

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What is a Good VPIP in Poker? (The Proven Numbers)

People often ask me what is a good VPIP in poker. This depends tremendously on what poker tables you play at.

Do you play in 9 person games? 6 person games?

Here are some rough guidelines though:

A good VPIP percentage in a 9 person poker game is around 15%. A good VPIP percentage in a 6 person poker game is around 21%. The optimal VPIP percentage for you though is going to be the one that

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What is a Good VPIP in Poker? (The Proven Numbers)

People often ask me what is a good VPIP in poker. This depends tremendously on what poker tables you play at.

Do you play in 9 person games? 6 person games?

Here are some rough guidelines though:

A good VPIP percentage in a 9 person poker game is around 15%. A good VPIP percentage in a 6 person poker game is around 21%. The optimal VPIP percentage for you though is going to be the one that

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When Should You Go All In Preflop? Read This First.

People often ask me when should you go all in preflop? And this is a tricky question to answer because it depends on a lot of different factors.

For example, what type of poker hand do you have? Is your opponent tight or loose? Is there anybody left to act behind you? And there are many other considerations for both cash games and tournaments.

But in general, you should only go all in

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How Do You Win at Poker Every Time?

People often ask me how do you win at poker every time? Now, unfortunately my answer might disappoint you a bit.

Because, well, you can’t.

However, there are several strategies that you can use to make sure you win at poker more often. I am going to explain them all for you in this article.

1. Why Can’t You Win at Poker Every Time?

First off, why can’t you win at poker every time?

Well

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How to Crush a Poker Nit – Copy This Strategy!

Do you want to know one of the easiest ways to get mediocre poker results in today’s game? It’s simple, play like a nit.

A poker nit by the way is somebody who plays too tight and only wants to put significant money into the pot when they have a big hand.

Poker nits are the kind of players who will only play about 12% of the hands that are dealt to them in a full ring (9 person) game, and

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What Is ICM? – How the Pros Use it to Win Tournaments

Written by Lars Kyhnau Hansen

If you have ever played poker tournaments, you have probably heard the term ICM. It stands for Independent Chip Model, but what is it actually?

And how should it influence our strategy, if we are a cash game player mixing in some tournaments on the weekend or getting a ticket for a freeroll?

ICM exist in tournaments that pay more than one place, because this

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Should You Play Poker as a Part Time Job?

Something that people ask me a lot is if you should play poker as a part time job. I think the answer to that question is yes for most winning poker players.

Why not earn some extra income from something that is already a hobby of yours? Again, this is assuming that you are a winning poker player.

But that of course is the kicker though. Because as I have said before, I believe only around 30

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Is Partypoker Rigged? Here are the Facts [2019]

People often ask me if partypoker is rigged or not. And believe me I get it, sometimes you can get an unbelievable amount of bad beats when you play on partypoker.

In fact, this was the first online poker room I ever played on when I first discovered the game of poker way back in 2004.

So here’s the gist of it:

Partypoker is not rigged. It just feels that way sometimes due to the

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What Percentage of Poker Players Are Winners? (2019)

People often ask me what percentage of poker players are winners or how many poker players make money.

And this is a difficult question to answer because most poker card rooms do not release this kind of information.

But as a 10+ year poker pro myself, I believe that I can give a pretty good estimate of how many poker players are actually winners over the long term.

It is likely that only

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Is 888 Poker Rigged? Here are the Facts [2019]

People often ask me if 888 poker is rigged. And believe me I get it, sometimes the amount of bad beats that you take in online poker is simply unbelievable.

So I decided to write this blog post to finally answer once and for all if 888 poker is rigged or if it is legit.

Here is the short answer:

888 poker is not actually rigged or rigged for action. It can just seem that way due to the

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Should You Play GTO Against Bad Poker Players?

Written by Lars "fundiver199" Kyhnau Hansen

One of the most talked about concepts in poker in recent years is GTO, which stands for Game Theory Optimal. In short it’s an attempt to play in a way, so that our opponents can’t beat us, no matter what they do.

In the classic game of rock, paper, scissors, the GTO style would be to randomly select either rock, paper or scissors a third of the

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12 Advanced Online Poker Tips Used By Pros [2019]

People often ask me what are my best online poker tips these days.

As somebody who has played online poker for 10+ years as a pro, this is a topic I wanted to finally cover in detail here on my blog.

So here are my 12 best online poker tips used by pros for 2019: 

1. Learn to crush the micro stakes first
2. Always enter the pot with a raise
3. Don’t be afraid to re-raise a lot preflop
4.

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5 Ways to Quickly Build a $10000 Poker Bankroll

Do you want to quickly build a $10000 poker bankroll? I feel like this is sort of the real dividing line between serious poker players and amateurs.

Because once you build a $10000 poker bankroll you can finally start playing in some bigger games and make some real significant money in poker. However, you should know that building a $10000 poker bankroll is neither quick nor easy in most

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10 Common Ways Poker Beginners Beat Themselves

Let’s face it, poker is a tough game to consistently win at.

Players are better these days, even in low limit games, and if you don’t have a good strategy, good game selection and some reasonable tilt control, then you will probably struggle to win.

However, having coached 100’s of poker students in the past, one thing I noticed is that many beginners in particular actually beat themselves.

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How to Beat 10NL: The Definitive Guide [2019]

People ask me all the time how to beat 10NL online these days. And believe me, I get it. 10NL is not exactly a walk in the park anymore.

10NL by the way means the $10 maximum buyin no limit holdem cash games with 5 cent and 10 cent blinds. Some people also call it NL10, which means the same thing.

On most online poker sites these days the 10NL games are still fairly soft with a lot of weak

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How to Beat 10NL: The Definitive Guide [2019]

People ask me all the time how to beat 10NL online these days. And believe me, I get it. 10NL is not exactly a walk in the park anymore.

10NL by the way means the $10 maximum buyin no limit holdem cash games with 5 cent and 10 cent blinds. Some people also call it NL10, which means the same thing.

On most online poker sites these days the 10NL games are still fairly soft with a lot of weak

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The ONLY PokerTracker Review You Need (2019)

As an online poker pro people ask me all the time what poker tracking software and HUD I use.

And as I have stated before, I have been using PokerTracker 4 for a little over 7 years now, essentially since it was first released.

But I have never done a full PokerTracker 4 review before in order to explain exactly why it is that I rely on PokerTracker solely as a poker pro.

So in this article

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How to Beat 5NL: The Definitive Guide [2019]

People often ask me how to beat 5NL these days. And as someone who has made tens of thousands of dollars in these games (maybe the most ever?), I wanted to finally write this step by step guide.

By the way 5NL refers to the $5 maximum buyin no limit holdem cash games online. Some people also call it NL5, which means the exact same thing.

The blinds in a 5NL game are always 2 cents in the

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The ONLY Poker Training Sites You Need [2019]

People ask me all the time what are the best poker training sites these days. Now in recent years there has been a lot of changes in the poker training industry.

For example, many of the poker training sites that were popular 5-10 years ago (i.e. CardRunners) are either non-existent today or do not have the best poker coaches anymore.

In fact, as many of you know I was a lead instructor for

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The Best Free Poker Training for 2019 [Used by Pros]

People often ask me what is the best free poker training in 2019. Now first off, I gotta say, like with anything in life, when something is free it is not likely to be of the highest quality.

Most of the best poker training available nowadays (taught by world class pros) is on poker training sites or through coaching which of course is not going to be free.

However, for beginners just getting

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The Best Free Poker Training for 2019 [Used by Pros]

People often ask me what is the best free poker training in 2019. Now first off, I gotta say, like with anything in life, when something is free it is not likely to be of the highest quality.

Most of the best poker training available nowadays (taught by world class pros) is on poker training sites or through coaching which of course is not going to be free.

However, for beginners just getting

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How to Beat 2NL: The Essential Guide [2019]

People often ask me how to beat 2NL online poker games these days.

And as someone who has made over 20k USD in this one particular game alone (likely the most of all-time?), I feel obliged to give an answer!

2NL by the way (also often referred to as NL2) stands for "no limit" and "2" means $2 which is the maximum buyin. These games have blinds of 1 cent and 2 cent and they are extremely

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The ONLY Poker Beginner Books You Need to Read [2019]

People often ask me what are the best poker beginner books. And believe me, I get it. There are so many poker books out there these days, it can be hard to know where to even start!

As a 10+ year poker pro myself I have read a few poker books over the years. So I have a pretty good idea of which poker books are best for beginners.

I also know which poker books helped me the most in those

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21 Texas Holdem Tips That Will Skyrocket Your Winnings [2019]

People often ask me what my top Texas Holdem tips are these days.

Texas Holdem is a skill based card game played by people from all over the world in casinos and online. It is particularly popular in America which is also the birthplace of the game.

Many people dream of winning the World Series of Poker Main Event which crowns the unofficial best No Limit Texas Hold’em player every year.

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The Best Free Poker Guide Written by a Poker Pro [2019]

Are you looking for a free poker guide that was actually written by a poker pro?

For the first time ever I am re-releasing my hugely popular "Massive Profits at the Micros" free poker strategy guide.

This is the hugely popular free poker strategy guide (read by over 100k people now), that outlines the exact poker strategies I used to create the highest winnings in online poker history at

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How Poker Pros Deal With a Bad Luck Streak

People often ask me how poker pros deal with a bad luck streak. As a 10+ year poker pro myself I can tell you that I have been through countless long and painful unlucky streaks.

So much so that I have thought about quitting the game entirely on a few occasions when it literally felt like I would never win another hand of poker again!

In this article I am going to break it all down for you.

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This is the Best Free Poker HUD for 2019

People often ask me, what is the best free poker HUD these days? A poker HUD by the way is short for "heads up display" which gives you information on your poker opponents.

This can be highly useful especially when you are multi-tabling online poker or if you play Zoom. It allows you to keep track of dozens of opponents all at the same time.

As a 10+ year professional poker player I believe

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What Stakes Do Professional Poker Players Play? Finally Revealed

People often ask me what stakes do professional poker players play. They also ask me what stakes I personally was playing when I turned pro 10+ years ago.

The truth is that is varies greatly depending on the person.

Most professional poker players will play at stakes of at least NL25 online or $2/$5 live. However, there are many cases where a professional poker player can play at stakes even

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Does PokerStars Have Bots? Here are the Facts [2019]

People often ask me if there are bots on PokerStars. And believe me I get it, there are a lot of tight players these days who seem to play a very robotic style of game.

It is definitely a legitimate concern that some of these players might be non-human bots. A poker bot by definition is a non-human poker player.

So in this article I am going to break it all down for you. Does PokerStars

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The ONLY Poker Courses You Need [2019] – Voted by Pros

People ask me all the time what are the best poker courses. And I know it can be difficult with so many options out there these days.

Also, many poker courses are aimed at different skill levels, beginner, intermediate and advanced. As a 10+ year poker pro I have studied many poker courses over the years to improve my own skills at the poker table.

Many of my poker pro friends have also used

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How Online Poker Allowed Me to “Live The Dream”

I post a lot of pics on my Instagram of world travel, luxury condos, exotic tropical beaches, rooftop infinity pools and so on. And I get DM’s every single day from people telling me that I am living what they call the "dream life."

Some people might even think that my entire life is just one big vacation! And to be honest, it kind of is, I can’t lie. But this was also the entire point all

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PokerSnowie Review by a Poker Pro – Is It Worth It?

People often ask me if they should use a poker AI program like PokerSnowie in order to improve their game.

Well, as a 10+ year poker pro I can tell you that I haven’t bothered with many poker AI programs over the years. I tend to think they are not advanced enough and probably won’t help me.

However, I will say that after testing out PokerSnowie my opinion has changed a little bit about poker

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Phil Ivey MasterClass Review – A Complete Walkthrough

I won’t deny it.

Whenever somebody asks me who my favorite poker player is my answer is always the same, Phil Ivey.

He was a huge inspiration for me especially during my early years when I was struggling to make it as a poker pro.

I love the way he thinks about the game and his quiet confidence at the table. And then there is the famous Ivey death stare at the poker table along with some of

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What is the Best Poker HUD for 2019? [Voted by Pros]

People ask me all the time what is the best poker HUD to use in 2019. A HUD by the way is short for "heads up display" which is a program that allows you to collect data on your opponents and put it right on your screen in online poker.

This information is incredibly useful to have when you are playing online poker especially if you plan to play multiple tables. It can be very difficult to

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How to Play Ace King – This Might Shock You

People ask me all the time how to play Ace King. And I can understand why, it is a tricky hand to play. Two out of three times you see a flop you won’t even hit a pair!

But Ace King is also one of the absolute strongest hands in poker and it will be one of your biggest long term winners. So it is very important that you understand how to play your Ace King optimally in all situations.

In this

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How to Play Pocket Jacks – This Might Shock You

People often ask me how to play pocket jacks. And believe me I get it, pocket jacks is a tricky hand to play. In fact many people absolutely hate this hand!

However, it is also important to remember that pocket jacks is one of the absolute strongest hands you can be dealt in No Limit Hold’em, and therefore, it will also be one of your most profitable hands.

But it is important to know when to

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How to Play Pocket Queens – This Might Shock You

People often ask me how to play pocket queens. And I get it, pocket queens is a tricky hand to play. If the flop comes with an ace or a king in particular it can be difficult to know where you stand.

But in my experience there is definitely a "right way" and a "wrong way" to play your pocket queens in No Limit Hold’em.

Pocket queens should be one of your absolute biggest winnings hands. And

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How to Play Small Suited Aces – This Might Shock You

People often ask me how to play suited aces in poker. And this is because they are tricky hands to play, you often don’t really know where you are at in the hand.

And just to be clear in this article when I am talking about suited aces I mean hands like:

A♥7♥

A♣6♣

A♦5♦

A♠4♠

I am NOT talking about big suited aces in this article like:

A♥K♥

A♣Q♣

Because after all, these hands

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Is Online Poker Beatable in 2019? Here’s the Facts

People ask me all the time if online poker is beatable still in 2019. And as I mention all the time on this blog, yes it is, but you have to have realistic expectations.

Online poker is not the gold rush that it was 10 years ago. Also, in my experience the majority of people who get into online poker approach it like a hobby, not as a business. And this turns out to be their downfall.

So in

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Here’s the #1 Basic Poker Strategy No One is Talking About

In my experience people absolutely love to over-complicate the game of poker.

They want to believe that you need to know a bunch of complex math and formulas in order to win. Or that you need to be able to "read their soul" and bluff raise them on the river.

In fact I have even written entire articles in the past about how detrimental a lot of this over-thinking and over-analyzing is to your

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The Top 50 Best Poker Players of All Time (Money List)

Have you ever wondered who the best poker players of all-time are? Well, one way of trying to figure that out is by using the Hendon Mob’s all-time tournament poker money earnings list.

Now, this list is a bit problematic because it only counts tournament winnings and does not (to my knowledge) include tournament losses. This is not even to mention stuff like travel expenses!

Also, even more

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How to Play Suited Connectors – This Might Shock You

People often ask me what is the best way to play suited connectors. And this is because they are tricky hands to play.

By the way when I say suited connectors I am talking about hands like J♥T♥, T♣9♣, 9♦8♦, 8♠7♠ and so on. These types of hands have a lot of potential in No Limit Hold’em to win a big pot.

There are many different ways to play your suited connectors depending on which type of

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How to Become a Poker Pro in 2019

Do you want to make it big in poker? Do you have a dream of becoming a poker pro one day or at least a successful semi-professional?

This is the first question that I ask everyone who joins my free poker newsletter. And I have received thousands of replies from many of you guys telling me that yes, you do.

But here’s the problem.

Poker is not easy in 2019. And yes, even at very low stakes

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How to Think Like a Poker Pro – 3 Rules For Success

Poker is the ultimate game of mental warfare. Because it doesn’t matter how good you are, you will get humbled by this game sooner or later.

In fact, I don’t care if your name is Daniel Negreau or Phil Ivey, you will get humbled again and again and again by this game.

And this is the main reason why so many people are ultimately not successful at poker. It is unbelievably difficult at times

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This One Little Word is the Key to My Poker Success

Have you ever made a call at the poker tables even when you absolutely knew for sure that you were beat? Perhaps you just had to see it?

Well, if so don’t worry because we all have. They even have a name for it. They call it a "crying call." But what if I told you that there is actually no such thing as a crying call in poker, only bad calls?

It is true.

There is actually one little word in

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How to Make $20 a Day Playing Poker – Proven System

People ask me all the time how they can make $20 a day playing poker or some other amount like $50 or $100. Now, unfortunately poker doesn’t really work this way.

However, if you want to make $20 a day playing poker on average, then there are some surefire ways to go about that. Such as, playing a tight and aggressive style in low stakes cash games like NL2 or NL5 while playing multiple

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Can You Consistently Win at Poker? A Simple Answer

Something that people often ask me is if you can consistently win at poker. Well, this is a bit of a difficult question to answer.

Here’s why.

Yes, you can consistently win at poker at the lower stakes but even the best player in the world will still have losing days at these limits. At much higher limits it might be closer to a 60/40 split for a top level player, winning versus losing days.

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12 Poker Beginner Mistakes That Will Kill Your Winnings

Everybody was a poker beginner at one time or another. And it is easy to make a lot of mistakes when you are first starting out.

I know that for me, before I ever turned pro and ended up writing books about this game, I went through many, many years of making a lot of the same mistakes at the poker tables.

In most cases, I had to learn through trial and error what works and what doesn’t. But

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Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing? It Might Shock You

People often ask me can you win at poker without bluffing and I think my answer is a little bit shocking to some of them.

Yes, you absolutely can win at poker without bluffing! In fact most big winning poker players actually do very little bluffing. Televised poker in particular tends to skew our perception of the game by hand picking a lot huge bluffs to show us.

But the truth is that most

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Can You Win at Poker Without Bluffing? It Might Shock You

People often ask me can you win at poker without bluffing and I think my answer is a little bit shocking to some of them.

Yes, you absolutely can win at poker without bluffing! In fact most big winning poker players actually do very little bluffing. Televised poker in particular tends to skew our perception of the game by hand picking a lot huge bluffs to show us.

But the truth is that most

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You Need to Fold a Premium Hand in These 5 Situations

Folding a premium hand in poker before or after the flop is not something that anybody likes to do. I bet you hate it, I know I sure do!

But sometimes it is simply going to be necessary. And this is the kind of stuff that separates the amateurs from the pros.

By the way, just so we are on the same page here, when I say “premium hand” I am referring to these hands: AK, JJ, QQ, KK, AA

These

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You Need to Fold a Premium Hand in These 5 Situations

Folding a premium hand in poker before or after the flop is not something that anybody likes to do. I bet you hate it, I know I sure do!

But sometimes it is simply going to be necessary. And this is the kind of stuff that separates the amateurs from the pros.

By the way, just so we are on the same page here, when I say “premium hand” I am referring to these hands: AK, JJ, QQ, KK, AA

These

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Poker as a Side Hustle – How to Make $200 to $1000 a Month

Everybody seems to be looking for a side hustle these days. And who could blame them? It’s just smart after all.

You should never rely on just one source of income because this is a recipe for disaster if that one source of income ever goes away.

So many people ask me if poker as a side hustle is possible. Can you make money from it? How much can you make and how much work does it require?

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Can You Make a Living Playing 1/2 No Limit? Here’s the Facts

Do you play 1/2 no limit at the casino? Or maybe you make frequent trips to Las Vegas to play live poker cash games?

If so then you have probably thought at one time or another if you can make a living playing 1/2 no limit. Because after all, these poker games are often pretty easy to beat even for a beginner.

Well, here is the short answer:

Playing $1/$2 poker for a living is hard. And it

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Can You Make a Living Playing 1/2 No Limit? Here’s the Facts

Do you play 1/2 no limit at the casino? Or maybe you make frequent trips to Las Vegas to play live poker cash games?

If so then you have probably thought at one time or another if you can make a living playing 1/2 no limit. Because after all, these poker games are often pretty easy to beat even for a beginner.

Well, here is the short answer:

Playing $1/$2 poker for a living is hard. And it

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The 24 Poker Principles I Live By

I have been at this poker thing for quite awhile now. Close to 15 years to be exact with over 10 million poker hands played.

Many of those years by the way were spent as a full time pro grinding out a living at the low and mid stakes online.

I am also a 3-time poker author, coached hundreds of students (in the past), worked for a leading poker training site, I am a PokerNews.com columnist

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The 24 Poker Principles I Live By

I have been at this poker thing for quite awhile now. Close to 15 years to be exact with over 10 million poker hands played.

Many of those years by the way were spent as a full time pro grinding out a living at the low and mid stakes online.

I am also a 3-time poker author, coached hundreds of students (in the past), worked for a leading poker training site, I am a PokerNews.com columnist

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5 Easy Ways to Stop Overplaying Your Overpairs

One of the biggest mistakes that I see small stakes poker players making these days is overplaying their overpairs.

You know, they have a hand like pocket queens and the board comes all low cards. They get all of their money in the middle without even thinking what the other guy is representing.

And of course he turns over the set or two pair to win the pot.

This also happens when there is

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How to Beat Online Poker in 2019 (Your Step by Step Guide)

As we enter another new year I know a lot of people will be asking how do you beat online poker in 2019. Because unfortunately winning at online poker these days isn’t quite as straight forward as it used to be.

In order to beat online poker in 2019 you need to be playing in the right poker games, using the right poker strategy and studying to improve your skills away from the tables as well.

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How to Beat Online Poker in 2019 (Your Step by Step Guide)

As we enter another new year I know a lot of people will be asking how do you beat online poker in 2019. Because unfortunately winning at online poker these days isn’t quite as straight forward as it used to be.

In order to beat online poker in 2019 you need to be playing in the right poker games, using the right poker strategy and studying to improve your skills away from the tables as well.

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These are the Best Online Poker Games to Make Money

So you are looking for the best online poker games to make money?

Believe me, I get it. While we all play poker for fun, everybody knows that poker is way more fun when it is a highly profitable side hobby or even a job as well.

So here is the quick answer:

The best online poker games to make money are low stakes cash games. You can also make a lot of money from poker by playing formats

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Why I Quit Playing Video Games to Become a Poker Pro

Let me ask you a question. Do you play too many video games?

Does it cut into other (probably more valuable things) like creating that new online business which will change your financial future, finally getting in shape and feeling more confident, meeting the right girl, learning a new language or traveling more?

If so, you are definitely not alone. Video games are more popular than ever

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You Need to Fold Pocket Kings Preflop in This One Situation

Something that people ask me all the time is if you should ever fold pockets kings preflop in poker.

So here is the short answer:

Yes, you should fold pocket kings preflop on a few rare occasions with 100 big blind stack sizes in a full ring poker game versus a 4Bet when all of the action is in early position. In a 6max poker game you should never fold pocket kings preflop for 100 big blinds.

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Winning Poker Tournaments With Nick Petrangelo Review

Recently Upswing Poker launched their brand new premium tournament poker course called Winning Poker Tournaments With Nick Petrangelo.

And I have been itching to have a closer look at this course for awhile now because Nick Petrangelo is currently one of the best tournament poker players in the world with over $16 million dollars in live cashes and two WSOP bracelets.

Perhaps more remarkably

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Why Some People Make Millions From Poker But Most Never Will

Poker is a tough game to consistently win at. And it is even tougher to consistently win at it over the long term, years and decades.

So often we hear about some high stakes poker pro winning a bunch of tournaments. Or some cash game player posting a few months of results absolutely killing the games.

They are the talk of the poker world. Everybody wants to be their friend. Everybody wants

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How to Maintain a 5bb/100 Poker Win Rate in Tough Games

A poker win rate of 5bb/100 in online poker is kind of like the gold standard these days. Sure, at super low stakes like NL2 or NL5 it is still pretty easy for even an average player to achieve this (and much higher).

But once you get to NL10, and especially NL25 and higher, only the very best players are winning at 5bb/100 these days.

Now the easiest way by far to get a poker win rate like

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How to Maintain a 5bb/100 Poker Win Rate in Tough Games

A poker win rate of 5bb/100 in online poker is kind of like the gold standard these days. Sure, at super low stakes like NL2 or NL5 it is still pretty easy for even an average player to achieve this (and much higher).

But once you get to NL10, and especially NL25 and higher, only the very best players are winning at 5bb/100 these days.

Now the easiest way by far to get a poker win rate like

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How Much Poker Winnings Should You Expect in Your First Year?

People ask me all the time how much they should expect to earn in their first 30 days, 3 months, 6 months or a year at the poker tables.

And it is difficult to give a clear answer because it is going to be different for everybody depending on their abilities, work ethic, commitment to improving and so on.

However, there are a few rough rules of thumb though.

You should be looking to master

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9 Amateur Online Poker Tells You Didn’t Know You Are Giving Off

People talk a lot about poker tells but they usually mean at the casino, live poker. What a lot of people don’t realize is that you are giving off just as many tells (if not more) in online poker.

And amateurs in particular are giving off these tells all the time. Poker pros like myself are constantly picking up on these and using them against you.

So in this article I am going to give you

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Is Online Poker Rigged? – Here Are the Facts [2018]

People often ask me if online poker is rigged or not.

And my answer is always the same: if it is rigged, then it is definitely rigged for me. Because I have made a lot of money playing this silly little card game on the internet!

In all seriousness though, this is big concern that many people have. In fact my recent "Is PokerStars Rigged post" continues to get more passionate (and sometimes

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9 Easy Poker Hacks For People With Little Time or Money

Do you want to become a consistent winning poker player? How about just make enough money from poker for a decent side income?

These are reasonable poker goals to have especially for those of you who play the lower limits like I discuss on this blog.

However, many people these days have busy lives full of obligations like work, family, school and so on. This can make it difficult to find the

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This One Little Thing Can Destroy Your Poker Game (Avoid It!)

As they say, poker is an easy game to learn but it can take a lifetime to master. So you need to make sure that you are eliminating any bad habits from your poker game.

And there is one particularly bad habit that can not only destroy your poker game but all of your profits and your bankroll as well.

This bad poker habit is focusing on the short term luck factor. And it comes in a variety of

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Why Poker Forums and Reddit Are Killing Your Poker Results

Poker can be a lonely pursuit especially if you play online. I have played 10+ million hands of poker online and most of that was done while sitting in a room all by myself.

So it is nice to talk to fellow poker players once in awhile, bounce ideas off each other, and discuss poker hands.

But unfortunately this can also be a double edged sword. Many people will turn to poker forums or poker

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3 Surprisingly Simple Ways to Make Money From Poker

We live in a very cynical world these days. Many people have convinced themselves for instance that poker is now impossible to beat.

Only good players these days they say! Everybody plays solid!

But this defies the simple reality that there are plenty of people out there still making good money playing poker. Just because you aren’t making money from poker yet, doesn’t mean somebody else

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How to Make 50 Dollars a Day Playing Poker

People often ask me how they can make $50 a day playing poker. Or $100 a day playing poker, or some other multiple.

And there is a pretty easy answer to this question if we are talking about small amounts of money like this.

It isn’t easy to consistently make $50 or $100 a day playing poker. Because in poker some days you will win and some days you will lose. However, if you want to make $50

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These are the Two Best Poker Games for Beginners

A common question that people ask me is what are the best poker games for beginners. I think this is important to know because some games are far easier to learn than others.

As a poker beginner you also want to give yourself the best chance of winning right off the bat. Because this will help your confidence and make you want to learn and play more.

So here is a quick answer:

The best poker

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How Long Should Your Poker Sessions Be?

Something that people often ask me is how long should your poker sessions be. Should they be 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours or more?

Well, here are some very rough guidelines

In general your poker session should be about 1 or 2 hours at the most if you are a beginner. If you are a professional poker player then your poker session can be anywhere between 2 and 8 hours. You should also

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10 Poker Secrets the Pros Don’t Want You to Know About

Professional poker players keep a lot of secrets about how they play that they would rather most amateurs don’t discover.

These are the tips and tricks that allow them to get ahead and keep winning while most people continue to break even or lose and complain about their "bad luck."

So let’s dive right into the top 9 poker secrets that most poker pros don’t want you to know about!

1. It’s

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Can You Make Money Playing Poker? Yes, Use THIS Strategy

Something that people often ask me is can you make money playing poker. And believe me I get it, I was pretty skeptical at first as well.

The answer to this question is yes, you can make money playing poker, but you need to use a specific strategy. More specifically, this means playing in the right games, playing against the right people and playing the right cards. In order to make money

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Best Poker Instagram Accounts You Need to be Following [2018]

Instagram has really blown up in recent years as arguably the #1 social media platform. And poker players have taken to it in large numbers.

It’s kind of a perfect match after all. Because poker is a very visual game and Instagram is the perfect way to share all your poker triumphs (and defeats) with the world!

So in this article I am going to list the best poker instagram accounts that you

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5 Proven Ways to Stop Losing at Poker

We’ve all been there.

You sit down at the poker table to play another session and despite your best efforts you leave with less chips than you started with.

They hit their flush again, straight on the river and so on. You just can’t seem to win a hand of poker! It all seems hopeless, you are totally sick of losing at poker.

Sound familiar?

If so then this article is for you. Because I am

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How Many Hands Per Hour in Online Poker? Here are the Numbers

If you play a lot of online poker something that you need to know is how many hands per hour your play. The reason why this is important is because some games deal much faster than others.

For instance:

Typically you will get dealt about 75 hands per hour in online poker at a 9-max table and 90 hands per hour at a 6-max table. In fast fold poker games like Zoom, Zone or Snap you will usually

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Best Poker Youtube Channels You Need to Watch [2018]

Poker on YouTube has really taken off in the last several years. There are people making poker vlogs, instructional videos, poker lifestyle videos, poker hand reviews, you name it!

Pretty much if you are looking for good poker content on YouTube these days, there is definitely something out there for you.

So I put together this list of all the best poker YouTube channels that you need to be

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Short Stack Poker Strategy (Free Poker Chart)

People often ask me what is the best short stack poker strategy these days. This means when you are down to 10 or 20 big blinds in a cash game or a poker tournament by the way.

Please note that short stack poker strategy and mid stack poker strategy are absolutely NOT the same thing. They require very different strategies.

If you came here looking for advice on mid stack poker strategy (e.g. 50

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Daniel Negreanu MasterClass Review – A Complete Walkthrough

Recently the Daniel Negreanu MasterClass was launched. And like many of you I was excited to see what would be inside this new poker course.

Daniel Negreanu’s accomplishments in poker kind of speak for themselves. He has $40 million dollars in live poker tournament winnings and he is arguably the most famous poker player on the planet.

So the great thing about this poker educational program

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Best Poker Software – Learn What the Pros Use

I get asked about the best poker software or best poker tools to use in 2018 more than almost any other question. And I believe me, I get it.

It is a bit of a jungle out there!

So as a 10+ year professional poker player I am going to give you an inside look into exactly what poker software I have personally used to create some of the highest winnings ever recorded at the micro stakes.

If you

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15 Best Poker Bluffing Tips Used by the Pros

It is hard to find good poker bluffing tips these days. Most books and videos just focus on teaching you how to play your good hands well.

But what if you have a crappy hand and you just want to bluff them out of the pot?

Well that is why I decided to come up with this list of the 15 best poker bluffing tips that the pros use to win more pots with junk hands.

Hopefully this will help some of

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Should You Quit Your Job and Play Poker? (Read This First)

Many people dream about quitting their job to play poker for a living. I know this because I get the emails all the time from people who tell me that this is their goal.

But as somebody who actually did quit my job to play poker professionally over 10 years ago, I think it is necessary that I let you know what it is really like.

Because I think many people have this rosy vision of

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Poker Copilot Review – A Comprehensive Walkthrough

For the past decade in online poker two HUDs have dominated, PokerTracker and Hold’em Manager. They are the Coke and Pepsi of the poker HUD world.

I have written about both of them extensively on this website in the past. And as a long time online professional poker player myself, I have always used one of them.

Always having HUD data available on my opponents has helped me win tens of

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Good Zoom Poker Win Rates for 2018

People ask me all the time what is a good Zoom poker win rate. And it is always hard to say precisely because it depends on how many tables you play, your skill level, what stakes you are playing and so on.

But I get this question often enough that I have decided to put together this list of what I would consider to be good Zoom poker win rates in 2018. These are the win rates that the very

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The Top 100 Best Poker Quotes of All Time

There have been a lot of great poker quotes over the years from legends of the game like Doyle "Texas Dolly" Brunson, superstar players like Daniel Negreanu, and even from famous poker movies like Rounders.

And I don’t know about you, but even as a professional poker player for many years, I have always considered myself just a pure fan of the game and all it’s characters as well.

So I

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The 10 Best Poker Starting Hands Finally Revealed

Do you have a favorite hand in poker? How about a lucky hand that you always seem to win with? Many people have superstitions like this about what is the best poker starting hand.

However, the truth is that there are clear winners and losers in terms of the profitability of certain hands. In other words, some poker starting hands tend to win much more often than others.

So in this article

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Tournament Master Class Review: A Complete Walkthrough

It is really hard to find good information on how to beat poker tournaments these days. Most of the best poker educational material available is for cash games.

So when I heard that Upswing Poker had launched it’s own poker tournament course with Doug Polk and Pratyush Buddiga I knew I had to check it out.

Buddiga is a well known tournament pro with a vast knowledge of this format and Polk

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70% of Poker Players Lose. Here’s How to Fix That.

I have heard conservative estimates many times that at least 70% of poker players lose in the long run after the rake is taken out.

And I believe it. In fact, I think it might even be higher!

This is crazy though. Why do so many people lose at this silly little card game? How can it be so hard to beat incredibly low stakes like NL2 and NL5 online or $1/$2 live in particular?

Well I am going

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How to Make $500 a Month Playing Poker

Could you use an extra $500 a month playing poker? Most people would probably answer yes to that question. And luckily it actually isn’t as difficult as you might think.

In fact, even for a mediocre poker player, with consistent play, this amount can be made fairly easily at the lowest stakes online like NL2, NL5 or NL10 or in a live poker cash game like $1/$2.

I know because I have done it

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Is PokerStars Rigged? Here Are the Facts

People still ask me all the time if PokerStars is rigged. Or if online poker in general is rigged.

And I have never written an article about it before because I think this just legitimizes what is inherently a pretty ridiculous question.

But I know that the emails and the comments about online poker being rigged won’t stop. And therefore hopefully this article will solve the Great Debate once

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6 Extremely Easy Ways to Play the Turn More Profitably

Learning how to play the turn in poker more profitably can be one of the best things you can do for your overall results. And the reason why is that so many pots are won or lost on this street.

And if you really want to get ahead in poker, then you are going to have to learn to start taking away more than you fair share of pots on the turn. This is especially the case when nobody really has

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My New Poker Strategy: Less Tables, More Study and Brand Building

Let’s face it, poker has changed a lot over the years. This is especially true for the online version of the game.

I can still remember the "good old days" when I could hop on 12+ NL100 tables on PokerStars and be able to literally print money at $100+ an hour almost in my sleep.

I think I and several others thought it would last forever. This was pretty naive thinking looking back now.

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What is a Good Poker Hourly Rate?

Last week I wrote about what is a good poker winning percentage. But something else that people often ask me is what is a good poker hourly rate.

Now as I often say, poker is not like a regular job where you can expect to just show up and earn a fixed income. In poker some months you will be up and some months you may even be down.

Yes, you heard that right. Lose money.

I don’t know of any

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What is a Good Poker Winning Percentage?

People often ask me what is a good poker winning percentage. This refers to the percentage of the time you play poker where you can expect to walk away from the tables with a profit.

Or to "book a win" as some might say.

Because as you probably know, losing sometimes is inevitable in poker. No matter how good you are at poker, some days there just isn’t anything you can do to win.

They have

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When to Cash Out in Poker (5 Step Strategy Guide)

Knowing when to cash out in poker is almost as important as having the right bankroll. Much like you can’t out-train a bad diet, you can’t out-play a bad poker cash out strategy.

People who do not know when to cash out often end up harming their progress at the poker tables considerably. So it is vitally important that as a winning poker player you understand exactly when and why you should be

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Poker HUDs Banned Where You Play? – Do These 5 Things

As much as I talk about the benefits of using a HUD in online poker the reality is that there are several online poker rooms these days that do not allow HUDs.

Now of course most of the major ones do including some of the most popular sites in the world such as PokerStars and 888 Poker.

But several smaller and American facing sites in particular like Ignition or Bovada for instance are well

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The Ultimate Poker Cheat Sheet for 2018

Learning how to play consistent winning poker isn’t always so easy these days. So that is why I decided to put together this ultimate poker cheat sheet for 2018.

This guide below is going to give you everything that you need to know in order to start winning big right now at the lowest stakes online (NL2 or NL5) and live ($1/$2 or $2/$5).

Let me be clear that this guide is NOT going to turn

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How to Create a Good Side Income From Poker When You Have a Busy Life

Everybody is busy these days. Whether it is work, school, family, kids, social media there are a million different distractions these days. And this makes finding time to play poker and improve your skills difficult.

In fact the very reason I am writing this article is because in a recent survey of over 1,000 poker players that I conducted for this website, you guys identified a lack of time

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5 Easy Ways to Use Position to Triple Your Poker Winnings

One of the easiest ways to start drastically improving your poker winnings is to simply play more hands in position where you get to act last. More specifically this means playing more hands from seats like the button, the cutoff and the hijack.

The cutoff by the way is the seat directly to the right of the button and the hijack is two seats to the right of the button.

But you don’t even have

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When You Feel Like Quitting Poker – Read This First

Do you feel like quitting poker? Impossible to win lately? Suckouts piling on top of suckouts and you are at the end of your rope?

Well first off, believe me, I have been there too. Countless times in fact. This is not an easy game. In fact it will test your sanity again and again.

And quite frankly, maybe not everyone is even meant to play this game.

But before you throw in the towel and

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Most Common Poker Stakes and #1 Struggle (Survey Results of 1124 Poker Players)

Last week I asked the roughly 10k readers on my newsletter and the 5k or so more spread out between Facebook, Twitter and Tiltbook two questions:

1. What stakes do you currently play?
2. What is the #1 thing holding you back in poker?

And all I can say is wow. The response that you guys gave me was incredible!

I ended up receiving slightly over 1k emails alone and it was amazing to hear each

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35 Things I Would Do Differently If I Was Starting Poker Again in 2018

I started playing poker nearly 15 years ago. And things were a lot different back then.

Online poker was just starting to become popular. It was really hard to find any good information on how to beat the games. And most people were really bad at poker.

Fast forward to today in 2018 and the poker environment both online and live has changed drastically. There are countless online poker

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6 Ways to Stop Tilting (That Actually Work)

Your mind is your greatest weapon at the poker tables. But sometimes your emotions can get the better of you in this game and cause you to tilt, play badly and ultimately lose money.

If this happens to you frequently, don’t worry because it happens to everybody sometimes, even pros.

In fact, in my 10+ years experience playing and teaching at the lower stakes tilt is easily the number one

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16 Simple Yet Effective Ways to Get Better at Poker in 2018

People ask me all the time how they can get better at poker. And it really isn’t that difficult in 2018 because there are more free tools and resources than ever to get you started.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to start turning at least a small profit this year at the lower stakes online or in your live cash games or tournies.

So in this article I am going to break down my top

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16 Simple Yet Effective Ways to Get Better at Poker in 2018

People ask me all the time how they can get better at poker. And it really isn’t that difficult in 2018 because there are more free tools and resources than ever to get you started.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to start turning at least a small profit this year at the lower stakes online or in your live cash games or tournies.

So in this article I am going to break down my top

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Elite Cash Game Mastery Review: A Complete Walkthrough

Elite Cash Game Mastery is a new poker course from Upswing Poker. And as soon as it was released I was excited to have a look.

The reason why is because this course is taught by Andres "educa-p0ker" Artinano who has been one of the most successful high stakes online cash game players in recent years. He has over 2 million dollars in winnings against the highest level of competition on

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How I Made $44,341 Playing Low Limit Poker

I have made a lot of money playing poker over the years and most of it has been at stakes which many people would consider to be very low. I am talking about games with a buyin of $2, $5, $10 or $25.

In fact, last time I checked I had made $44,341 mostly by just playing in these games. And this is from several years ago by the way. It is a lot higher now.

Also, this figure does not include

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Knowing When to Quit for the Day – A Poker Pro’s Perspective

Something that many new poker players in particular struggle with is knowing when to quit for the day.

Should you call it quits when you are winning, break-even or losing? What about length of time, number of hands and so on?

In short, it can be confusing especially for a poker beginner to know when to call it quits and stop playing for the day.

As someone who has played this game as a pro

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Advanced Heads Up Mastery Review: A Comprehensive Walkthrough

I recently had the opportunity to study the Advanced Heads Up Mastery course by Upswing Poker. I think some of the biggest edges (and potential profits) are in heads up poker so this course really caught my attention.

But the biggest reason why I was excited to have a look at it was because all of the content was created by 3-time WSOP bracelet winner and arguably the best no limit heads up

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3 Simple Steps to Stop Playing Too Many Hands in Poker

A big problem that many people suffer from at the poker tables is playing too many hands. This can be especially easy to do if you have a big stack in a tournament or even in a cash game.

A lot of people will think that they can afford to splash the chips around a little bit more because of this.

But this is a dangerous game to play because many of your opponents will be waiting for a good

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The Poker Advice You Need to Hear, But Don’t Want To

People come to me all the time with their big poker goals and dreams. They are going to beat limits x, y and z by next month and then start crushing the high stakes games.

Then they will hit the WSOP and start crushing that too and make millions more! After that they will retire to their private island in Zanzibar and bask in their poker immortality.

Ok maybe it is not always quite as grand

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How to Put Them on a Hand: 7 Tricks the Pros Use

Putting your opponents on a hand at the poker tables is one of the most valuable skills you can learn. This is especially important in the small stakes games because we all know how crazy the players can be!

Many people struggle with this though. However, it really isn’t as difficult as you might think. There are several "tricks" that I and many other poker pros use to read their hand right

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Full Ring Poker Strategy: The Ultimate Guide

A good full ring poker strategy is vital to your success in the lower stakes games. This is because 9 person and 10 person poker games are still very popular both online and in casinos.

And the core principles to beat these games are really quite easy. Play tight, make good hands and value bet them.

However, if it were really just that simple, then everybody would be crushing these games. You

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Upswing Poker Lab Review: The Solution for Struggling Poker Players

I have heard about the Upswing Poker Lab for quite some time but never really had a chance to have an in-depth look at it until now. Lot’s of people have asked me about it as well.

So I have spent the past week or so going through each lesson one by one (yes all 42 of them), along with all of the rest of the material in this poker course, in order to write this comprehensive review.

The

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$1/$2 Cash Game Strategy: The Pro’s Guide

It is hard to find a lot of good $1/$2 cash game strategy information out there. And this is surprising given the fact that so many people play in these poker games in places like Las Vegas and around the world.

So I wanted to write up an article which specifically covers these games once and for all. Even though I am known primarily as an online professional player, I think there is a ton of

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How to Stop Losing So Much From the Blinds

Something that people ask me about all the time is losing too much from the blinds. After all, if you look at your stats in PokerTracker for instance, it is probably going to show a lot of red.

The first thing that I always remind people though is that everybody loses from the blinds. Yes, even the very best players in the world.

The reason why is because there is no possible way to overcome

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How to Get Your First $1000 Dollar Bankroll in Poker

For many people playing the micros stakes online getting to their first $1000 bankroll is a major target and milestone.

And the reason why it is so important is because it allows you to start playing in the games where you can finally start making some significant money both at the tables and with rakeback as well.

What I really mean by this is stakes like 10c/25c blinds online (aka NL25)

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How to Deal With Somebody Who Keeps Getting Lucky Against You at the Poker Table

We all have that nemesis at the poker table who seems to get lucky against us every time. Sometimes it can be a regular good player. But most of the time it is a recreational player.

And the reason why is because these are the types of players who are known to play all sorts of hands and chase every ridiculous draw. Therefore, when they are hot, it is going to seem like they are playing the

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21 Proven Strategies That Will Double Your Poker Winrate in 2018

With the new year already well under way this can either be the year that you finally start making it happen for real in poker or continuing along with mediocre results like most people do.

I know that for me personally I play this game to achieve the highest winrates possible. Basically my goal is always to absolutely crush the games. 

Poker is not only a lot more fun to play this way,

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How to Beat Online Poker in 2018

As we enter another new year this is the time when many people will vow that they are finally going to start beating online poker in 2018.

They will tell themselves that the breakeven or losing results are going to stop this year. And they will finally start achieving those real consistent winnings that they always dreamed about.

Unfortunately, I can tell you right now that this won’t

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The Micro Stakes Playbook Is Now Available For Kindle and iPad

I am excited to announce that The Micro Stakes Playbook is now available for Kindle and iPad!

First off, I want to apologize for the long wait on this. I know that many of you have been asking about this and waiting for it for a long time.

With books like this that have a lot of graphics though, I have to hire a professional to do the conversion. This requires a lot of back and forth in

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How the Best Poker Players in the World Think Differently Than Everybody Else

I get a lot of email from struggling poker players at the micro stakes. Too much sometimes in fact! But this is because poker is a hard game to really master and many people find it difficult to achieve real lasting success in it.

I hear a lot of the same struggles and problems over and over again. So much so that I feel like a broken record at times giving the same replies again and again.

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Delayed CBet Strategy – The Definitive Guide

A delayed CBet is a very powerful weapon to have in your poker arsenal no matter what stakes you are playing.

And the reason why is because it balances your betting and bluffing ranges and makes you a more difficult poker player to read and play against.

But many people who are just starting out in the game don’t know exactly what a delayed continuation bet even is or how to use it.

So in

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How to Stop Playing Break Even Poker Once and For All

Are your results in poker basically a flat line? In other words, you aren’t losing but you aren’t winning yet either?

This means that you are playing break even poker which is a spot that many people find themselves in.

It’s not all bad though. Most people actually end up losing at poker in the long run. So break even results means that you are definitely doing some things right.

But I

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How to Stop Playing Break Even Poker Once and For All

Are your results in poker basically a flat line? In other words, you aren’t losing but you aren’t winning yet either?

This means that you are playing break even poker which is a spot that many people find themselves in.

It’s not all bad though. Most people actually end up losing at poker in the long run. So break even results means that you are definitely doing some things right.

But I

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12 Ways Poker Beginners Sabotage Their Results: Don’t Make These Mistakes

People who are new to the game of poker tend to make a lot of the same mistakes over and over again. And these are mistakes that seem almost silly to more advanced players.

But sadly a lot of these poker newbs end up quitting the game because they can’t achieve any success, convinced that either they are the unluckiest person on earth or it is all rigged against them.
However, there is no reason

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Why HUDs are at the Center of a Philosophical Online Poker Civil War

This is a guest post by Ivan Potocki of BeatTheFish.com

Heads Up Displays, or HUDs as they are commonly referred to in the poker community, are among the most useful and most powerful tools serious poker players (grinders) have at their disposal.

While the exact setup and the on-screen appearance of a HUD can vary greatly, all of them have the same common goal: gather relevant information

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6 Bet Sizing Tricks to Skyrocket Your Poker Winnings

Bet sizing in poker is something that a lot of people disregard these days. But sizing your bets properly can actually make a massive difference to your bottom line at the tables.

No Limit Hold’em in particular can be best viewed as an art. You are free to bet anything from the very minimum amount (one big blind) to your entire stack at any stage of the hand.

So you should never stick to so

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Poker HUD Stat Sample Sizes Explained

I often talk about the benefits of using a HUD when playing online poker on this blog. Having important information on my opponents displayed directly on my screen has no doubt helped me make 10’s of thousands more dollars over the years.

However, a key problem that I have seen again and again especially with students is not understanding poker HUD stat sample sizes properly.

You see, it

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The Optimal 50bb Poker Strategy Guide

People ask me about 50bb poker strategy all the time. This is because there are several poker sites online that run these games and you can buyin with a short stack in many live games as well.

Those of you who read my blog, books or watch my videos know that I regularly talk about 100bb (big blind) strategy. There is a huge difference between playing a 100bb stack and a 50bb one though.

So I

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Why Can’t I Win at Poker? 5 Reasons

If you often ask yourself why can’t I win at poker, don’t worry. Every poker player asks themselves this at some point. Even if you are a long term winning player, you are bound to go through stretches where it seems like you will never win again.

But for some people, they truly have never had any success in poker at all and so this can be even more difficult to understand. Almost always

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How to Study Your Poker Hands and Fix Your Leaks

Studying your hands (and those of your opponents) is by far the best way to get better at poker in my opinion. This is because it allows you to find your leaks and learn from your own mistakes.

And this ultimately means that you can actually change the actions that you make at the poker tables and finally get the long term winning results that you work so hard to achieve.

But here’s the thing

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How to Study Your Poker Hands and Fix Your Leaks

Studying your hands (and those of your opponents) is by far the best way to get better at poker in my opinion. This is because it allows you to find your leaks and learn from your own mistakes.

And this ultimately means that you can actually change the actions that you make at the poker tables and finally get the long term winning results that you work so hard to achieve.

But here’s the thing

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Is Poker Still Profitable?

People ask me all the time is poker still profitable or not these days. Or they want to know if you can still make a lot of money playing online poker in particular.

And this is the case because some people are pessimistic about poker these days with the tighter games and governments constantly meddling in the industry, just to name a few reasons.

So in this article I am going to discuss if

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9 Critical Preflop Mistakes That Are Costing You Money at the Poker Tables

Everything in poker begins before the flop so if you make mistakes on this street it can snowball into even bigger problems for you later on in the hand.

One of the biggest reasons why some people fail to achieve the success that they want at the lower stakes is because they make crippling preflop mistakes that end up costing them big time on the flop, turn and river.

In this article you are

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9 Critical Preflop Mistakes That Are Costing You Money at the Poker Tables

Everything in poker begins before the flop so if you make mistakes on this street it can snowball into even bigger problems for you later on in the hand.

One of the biggest reasons why some people fail to achieve the success that they want at the lower stakes is because they make crippling preflop mistakes that end up costing them big time on the flop, turn and river.

In this article you are

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How to Easily Spot the Fish at the Poker Table

I talk about poker fish all the time on this blog and elsewhere. But many people may be left wondering what exactly is a fish and how exactly do you spot them at the poker tables.

Well, in this article I am going to explain precisely what a fish is in poker (also sometimes called "fun players" or "recreational players") and how to quickly identify them at the tables.

And the reason why this

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Moving From NL10 to NL25: What to Expect

Moving From NL10 to NL25: What to Expect
Moving From NL10 to NL25: What to Expect

Moving up through the stakes is the dream of every poker player. We all start small but almost all of us have designs to some day play for high stakes and win a lot of money from the game we love.

Naturally, your climb through the ranks will have to start from the micros. I have already covered the differences between NL2 and NL5 and what to look out for when moving up from NL5 to NL10. Today I want to talk about the next step in your progression to becoming a poker legend: moving from NL10 to NL25.

I should start straight away with some bad news: The differences between NL10 and NL25 are one of the biggest out of any jump in stakes. That’s because at NL25 you will encounter many “pros” on a regular basis for the first time.

This is simply not the case at NL10. It is almost impossible to make enough money from poker to live off at those stakes, even if you’re living in a low-cost country like Thailand or Romania.
However, even though NL25 is much harder than NL10, you can still beat those games by playing a solid TAG style and keeping your tilt to a minimum.

Even the regs in these games usually have quite a few leaks and of course you will still find plenty of fish there too. So, let’s take a look at what exactly you can expect when you move up to NL25 and how to start crushing it!

NL10 Versus NL25

NL10 (5c/10c blinds) is usually the 3rd lowest limit for cash games on most poker sites and normally has a maximum buy-in of $10 (100 big blinds). NL25 (10c/25c blinds) is usually the 4th biggest limit with a maximum buy-in of $25.

You can see straight away that the difference in stakes and buy-ins between NL10 and NL25 is substantial. It is one of the only jumps in online poker where the stakes go up by a factor of 2.5 instead of just double like the previous limits.

The big increase in buy-ins means one thing especially: NL25 is the first limit where players from low-cost countries can make enough money from poker to make a living. With a winrate of 8bb/100, and playing 50,000 hands, you can pull in $1,000 a month playing online poker before rakeback. That is more than enough money to live comfortably in many countries.

The result on the games is that a large number of your opponents will be solid, multi-tabling regs. The ratio of recreational players will be much lower than at NL10 and below. But while NL25 is definitely more difficult to beat, with the right strategy and a little bit of table selection you can still turn a decent profit in these games.

NL10 Regs Versus NL25 Regs

A “reg”, which is short for regular, refers to the opponents that you will see at the poker tables day in and day out. They take the game fairly serious like you do and they might even study on the side to improve their game.

The difference in skill level between a typical NL10 reg and a reg at NL25 can be quite big. Above all, regs at these stakes will be much more aggressive and give you a hard time in a lot of spots.

At NL25, you will get 3Bet way more than at NL10, especially when stealing the blinds or attacking limpers. Likewise, if you 3Bet other regs at NL25, they will often come over the top and 4Bet you. Both of these situations are tricky and can be frustrating as well, especially if they happen over and over.

Another trait of NL25 players is that they will be much stickier after the flop. Your CBets will get floated more often and you will face more bluff-raises postflop as well. Again, this can be tough to play against since very often you will find yourself on the turn with a weak hand and feeling completely lost.

There are two keys to mastering these situations:

1) You have to stay calm and avoid tilt.
2) You have to increase your aggression against other regs as well.

Think about it this way: If you and your opponent play the same way against each other, the winner will be the player who tilts the least. So you have to learn that dealing with aggressive poker players is just part of the game, and you’ll be facing these players on a regular basis on any limit higher than NL25 anyways.

And sometimes, you can use your own aggression to take the pot away from them as well. The key here is to wait until you have a decent sample size on your opponent so you can see what he’s up to through your HUD (heads up display).

Until then it’s usually better to give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s better to fold a bit too much than to raise blindly into unknown players who could have a strong hand.

Finally, even though the regs at NL25 are generally decent players, almost all of them will have some major leaks in their games. This is just pure logic. No seriously strong player would hang around NL25 for too long. There is way more money to be made at higher stakes.

So some common leaks you will find in NL25 regs are:

  • Playing too aggressive
  • Playing too tight
  • Calling too much
  • Folding too much
  • Playing a robotic predictable style

It’s essential that you use your HUD at these stakes. If you look closely, you can identify weaknesses in almost any reg and then exploit them. This is how you can really crush this limit.

For instance, you might see players with an Aggression Factor (AF) of 4, 5 or even higher. That means they are bluffing a large percentage of the time and you have to be prepared to call them down to the river with hands like 2nd pair.

Or you will see regs with a Went to Showdown (WTSD) percentage of 30%, 40% and up. This means that they are basically calling stations and you have to stop bluffing them and instead value bet your top pairs on all three streets!

Making adjustments like these is the key to becoming a great poker player. And it’s the only way you can separate yourself from the pack and achieve higher winrates than the other NL25 regs.

NL10 Fish Versus NL25 Fish

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Fish are fish at any stake. There really aren’t many differences between the fish you’ll find at NL10 and those at NL25. They will still make the most outrageous plays and work hard to give you their money.

What this means of course is that just like with all the other limits, most of your profits will come from playing against the bad players. You can outplay the other regs as much as you want but if you really want to crush NL25, then you have to find the games with fish.

Not only that, you definitely want the fish to be on your right. This will give you position on them almost every single hand and make it much easier to isolate them and play the pot heads-up. This is how you beat them for the highest win-rate.

If the fish is on your direct left instead, then it will be very hard to outplay them because they will be the ones with position almost every hand. This makes it much harder to value bet them, bluff them and so on.

And despite the supposedly unbeatable games today (according to some), there are in fact still large numbers of recreational players at NL25 even at the toughest sites like Pokerstars. But they will not come to you. You have to table select like it is your job in order to find them.

The good news is that most people are simply not willing to put in this kind of effort and they pay for it dearly in their results. So you can gain an absolutely huge advantage over the other regs at these stakes by simply paying more attention to the details like this.

Always remember that fish are where the profit comes from in poker. Make sure there is always one at your table and poker is an easy game.

Winrates Between NL10 and NL25

If you’re moving up from NL10 to NL25, then naturally your winrate will drop. This happens anytime you move up to a new limit.

So for instance, if you’re a 5bb/100 winner at NL10 right now, then you might average 3-4bb/100 at NL25. However, this would still make it a profitable decision to move up as you will win more money per hour overall.

It is important to note that rakeback is also substantially more at NL25. In my experience this is the first stake where you can start clearing signficant bonuses and making hundreds of dollars a month on top just for playing.

Furthermore, it is also important to note though that smaller winrates mean more variance, so proper bankroll management is extremely important when moving up in stakes. My general advice is to only move up once you have at least 40 (or even 50) buy-ins for the next limit. That would mean around $1,000 to $1,250 for NL25.

Also, if you set a rule for moving up then you should also set one for moving back down. So a good approach would be to move up once you have 50 buy-ins at NL25 and move back down once you drop below 40 buy-ins. Using this strategy, you will never be in serious risk of going broke.

Making the Move from NL10 to NL25

As always, there are a number of rules to follow when moving up in stakes:

1) Make sure that you are consistently beating your current stake for a reasonable winrate (2bb/100 or more) and over a decent sample size (20k hands minimum).

2) Make sure that you are properly bankrolled (just discussed above).

3) You should definitely NOT be in a downswing currently and you should be feeling confident about your game.

4) Move up on a weekend or a prime traffic time when the games are likely to be the easiest to beat. Evenings, North America or Europe time, on the weekend is generally the best time to play.

5) Don’t get into large scale “reg wars” (battles with other solid players) until you have a solid amount of HUD data on them.

Another important strategy is to cut down your table count and table-select super hard in the first few days after moving up to NL25. Make sure you find the very best tables to make your transition as easy as possible.

Lastly, don’t worry about the bigger pots and just play your game. After all, you are properly bankrolled for this game right?

You will find that in the end NL25 is still poker and if you’ve been crushing NL10 then you should do just fine at NL25 too.

And lastly lastly, even if your move up attempt does not work out the first time, don’t beat yourself up about it. Many great players fail multiple times when moving up even at the micros.

It is simply a rinse and repeat process and eventually you will stick at the new limit (NL25 in this case) and finally start making some decent money in this game.

Don’t sell yourself short. You belong in these games. Now go make it happen!

Final Thoughts

I am not going to sugar coat it. Moving up from NL10 to NL25 is one of the hardest jumps in stakes that you will face in your poker career. I am not afraid to admit that I failed to make this jump several times early on in my poker career.

Probably for the first time in your life, you will encounter professional players on a regular basis at NL25. They aren’t world beaters by any extent but they are playing to pay their rent in some cases. This changes things.

The games will also be more aggressive and of course the pots will be quite a bit bigger than you are used to as well.

However, if you stay calm and play your game then you will soon get used to the different play at NL25. The best advice that I can possibly give you is just to keep doing the exact same things that have already brought you success at NL10.

And if you find good games where you have position on the fish, then you will also have a much better chance of making your first shot at NL25 stick and post consistent winnings from the start.

Look poker is still poker and while NL25 is harder than NL10, it is still very much beatable if you play a solid game, keep your tilt at a minimum and use your HUD to exploit your opponents.

Finally, always remember to keep it fun because moving up in stakes is actually one of the most exciting times you will experience as a poker player. If you manage to win consistently you will soon become familiar with the regs and the pot sizes and you will find that NL25 is really a piece of cake.

If you want to know the exact strategy that I use to beat NL25, and all limits at the micros, make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker ebook.

Lastly, let me know in the comments what it’s been like for you moving from NL10 to NL25. And if you found this article helpful, give it a quick “Like” or a “Tweet” below.

Moving From NL10 to NL25: What to Expect

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How to Float the Flop (And Take Away The Pot)

How to Float the Flop (And Take Away The Pot)
How to Float the Flop (And Take Away The Pot)

One of the absolute best strategies for beating up on the bad regs in today’s micro stakes games is to float them frequently on the flop. This means that you call their continuation bet (CBet) with the intention of taking away the pot on a later street.

This has arguably been my biggest profit source in low stakes cash games in recent years. And the reason why is actually pretty simple when you think about it.

You can’t win at poker by folding! You simply have to start taking some more pots away from the regs in order to win big.

And even though there are going to be plenty of situations where the best option is definitely to fold (i.e. when you have nothing at all). There will be many other occasions where a pot is certainly winnable if we are just willing to fight for it a little bit.

Two Reasons to Float the Flop

There are two specific reasons to float the flop:

  • We have position
  • We have some sort of equity (to be explained more below)

The great thing about floating the bad regs at the lower stakes is that many of them still make it way too easy to take the pot away from them. It’s literally like taking candy from a baby sometimes.

The reason why is that you will encounter many Nits and TAGfish at the lower stakes who have a wide gap between their flop CBet% and their turn CBet%.

What this means in plain English is that they will frequently fire a bet on the flop but often they will give up on the turn if their opponent is still around in the hand.

By the way, if you want to know this for sure, then I would suggest that you download and use my free poker HUD.

So when they give up on the turn this often a simple bet is often enough to take it down. Sometimes it is so predictable that our actual hand becomes almost irrelevant.

Let’s look at a few examples.

Using Position to Take the Pot Away From a TAGfish

Example Hand

TAGfish villain raises from early position

You call from the button with:

float the flop versus the regs

Flop:

beat the nits poker

Villain CBets

You should CALL

In this situation we choose to flat call in position preflop against one of the weaker regs, a TAGfish.

It is important to open up your preflop calling range a little bit versus these types of players especially when you are in position. Because once again, you can’t win at poker by folding all the time!

Versus the weaker regs in particular I know that I can outplay them often enough to turn a profit here. If I can hit my hand, that’s great. But my plan is to try and take the pot away from them in many situations regardless of this.

And this is one of them.

On this dry board we didn’t really flop that great and our opponent is going to make a CBet a large amount of the time. What should we do?

Well, the most obvious play would be to just fold. We have no real pair or draw and our opponent is showing aggression. But elite poker players know that there is a more profitable decision here which is to float instead.

Look here’s the thing:

We can’t call preflop with a hand like this and just give up every time we don’t hit a pair or a good draw. This is a losing poker strategy since we won’t flop these hands very often and our opponent will frequently CBet.

So we are going to need to continue on some boards where we catch a small piece as well. And we did in fact flop a little bit of equity in this hand. We have a backdoor flush draw to the nuts and two overs.

Another reason why I am going to float on this board is because it is very unlikely to have connected with our opponent in any major way.

A fairly tight reg like this who opened in early position is going to have a range mostly consisting of pocket pairs, broadways and big aces. Very few of these hands will connect with this board in any meaningful way.

And perhaps the most important point of all. What do weak players like this do on the turn when we call and they have nothing?

That’s right, they give up.

Even if they do fire again on the turn there are still multiple ways that we can win the pot later on such as double floating, semi-bluff raising the turn and bluffing the river.

Since we are in position in this hand (which is a huge, huge key by the way), it makes all of these separate lines of attack much easier to successfully pull off.

If you want to start turning your winnings around at the lower stakes then hands like this are literally ground zero. Winning more of all these little pots that nobody really wants to fight for is the heart of next level poker.

This is a very winnable spot in position versus a weaker reg with some backdoor equity. Start taking away a few more pots like this instead of just folding like everybody else, and watch your winrate skyrocket.

Outplaying a Nit From the Blinds

Example Hand

Nit villain raises on the button

You call from the big blind with:

float the tagfish poker

Flop:

float the tight aggressive players poker

You check

Villain CBets

You should CALL or RAISE

Let’s look at another spot here against a weak reg (Nit) but this time we are out of position. Floating when you don’t have position in the hand definitely makes things a bit more difficult.

This is because we can’t just wait for them to give up on the turn and then make the easy bet to take it down.

Instead we will have to act first which means that we don’t have any information on whether they are giving up this time or they actually have something good.

While this definitely sucks, we still have to fight for some pots even when we are out of position. If not then we would be better off just folding preflop with a speculative hand like this.

This is definitely another one of those spots where the pot is winnable though. While we didn’t flop a pair or a strong draw we did in fact catch a small piece.

We have a gutshot to the nut straight, a backdoor flush draw and two overs. This gives us a decent amount of equity even if our opponent happens to have something really strong like top pair.

float the flop and bet the turn

And remember this is the worst case scenario (i.e. the top of our opponent’s range). Yet we still have almost 42% equity in the pot!

So at the very least I will be calling the flop CBet. When you are out of position like this it is also a good idea to mix in some flop leads and check/raises once in awhile as well though.

Since floating is quite a bit more difficult when out of position these lines allow you to try and take down the pot right now or at least regain the betting lead.

No matter which line of attack we choose there are several paths to victory on the turn as well. We are going to be continuing on a ton of different cards which improve our equity.


So in this case:

  • Any spade (9 cards)
  • Any 8 (4 cards)
  • Any J (3 cards)
  • Any T (3 cards)

This amounts to 19 cards which is nearly half of the remaining cards in the deck. This means that we will be floating again or applying pressure on the turn close to 50% of the time.

This is going to make it very difficult for a weak reg like this to continue unless he happens to have a really big hand.

Forcing the bad regs into uncomfortable spots like this cuts to the very heart of what winning poker is all about at these stakes. They simply aren’t going to be willing to go to war very often here.

So we can take advantage of this by floating and making aggressive plays at the pot when we flop any kind of reasonable equity.

Floating a Loose Aggressive Regular Blind vs Blind

Example Hand

LAG villain raises from the small blind

You call from the big blind with:

float the flop versus a loose aggressive player

Flop:

float the flop and bet the turn

LAG villain CBets

You should CALL

Versus the good regs you should also be floating a lot more often these days as well. And even though we should expect them to keep applying pressure on the turn more often, we have to get involved or we risk being run over.

We called preflop here with a hand that isn’t particularly amazing and doesn’t exactly play that well after the flop either. However it stands to be ahead of our opponent’s range and of course we have that beautiful thing called position as well.

In a blind versus blind situation like this you can expect a highly aggressive reg to be raising with a range as wide as 30%, 40% or sometimes even higher.

Here is how our hand does against a 35% range:

equity when floating the flop poker

Many regs at the lower stakes raise very light when it folds to them in the small blind because they know that they only have one person left to beat. And a lot of people still surrender their big blind far too easily.

This is why you should defend with a wide range in a situation like this. However, you don’t want to just 3Bet them every time or a thinking player like this will just go ahead and start 4Betting the crap out of you. So it is important to mix in some flat calls as well.

On this extremely dry paired board we need to be floating the flop once again. An aggressive player like this is going to be CBetting with nearly his entire range on this board. And there is no way that he connected with it very often.

We could also consider raising here. But the problem with this line is that we are representing so little on a board like this.

And a really smart player could realize this and bluff/re-raise us back, forcing us to fold. So this is a perfect spot to just float and try to take the pot away on later streets.

And yes, even though we expect to face a double barrel on the turn frequently from a player like this, there are still going to be many ways for us to win the pot.

The bottom line here is that you need to start fighting for more pots against the good regs as well. Floating the flop with a wider range in position is one of the best places to start.

Final Thoughts

Floating the flop and taking away the pot on the turn or river is literally a game changer at the micro stakes today. The best players are abusing the weaker regs over and over again with this simple play.

You want to really target the players with a wide gap between their Flop CBet% and Turn CBet%. This will almost always be the Nit and TAGfish player types.

It is important to float the better regs more often as well though as we discussed in the final example hand. Because once again, you don’t win at poker by folding!

This entire strategy discussion (and the example hands) in this article were taken from a sample chapter in my brand new poker book The Micro Stakes Playbook.

In the full length book you will learn all of the strategies to exploit every player type in today’s micro stakes poker games.

You will also learn dozens of more simple plays like this one that I have used to crush these games for some of the highest win-rates in online poker history.

You can learn more here.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below on floating the flop. How often do you use this strategy at the micros?

Lastly, if you found this article helpful do me a quick favor and give it a “Like” or a “Tweet” below. Thanks!

How to Float the Flop (And Take Away The Pot)

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The Ultimate Guide to Micro Stakes Poker Tournament Strategy

The Ultimate Guide to Micro Stakes Poker Tournament Strategy
The Ultimate Guide to Micro Stakes Poker Tournament Strategy

Even though I’m primarily a cash game specialist, I know that many of you are interested in micro stakes tournament strategy as well.

Maybe you just play tourneys on the side. But who wouldn’t want to hit a big score in one of them a little more often right?

Since I have played my fair share of tournaments over the years, I thought I’d put together a guide for beating multi-table tournaments (MTTs) at the lowest stakes.

If you apply the strategies from this article, you will have a strong edge on the field and you will show a profitable ROI (return on investment) over a large sample.

That of course is the key to MTT success: Your results in the short run are almost always going to be meaningless. You have to be aware from the start that you are in it for the long haul.

That being said, micro stakes tournaments probably have the softest fields out of all the poker formats out there right now, so it shouldn’t take too long for you to show a profit.

Reasons Why You Should Play Tournaments

There are actually some good arguments for becoming an MTT grinder these days, as cash games are not always the easiest to beat.

For me personally this harder competition was never a big deal as I value the freedom of cash games too much.

Being forced to play until the tournament finishes (which can take over 6 hours for big field MTTs) and not being able to table select are two things that I don’t want to put up with every day.

In a cash game I can also choose the most profitable seats and leave whenever I want. And the winnings are a lot more consistent as well.

However, if you can live with these things then focusing on MTTs might actually be a more profitable strategy in the long run. Like I said, they are basically fish magnets. The lure of the big score will always draw the pure gamblers too.

This is why a lot of the very simple strategies for exploiting the bad players that I talk about in Crushing the Microstakes actually transfer over well to low stakes tournaments as well.

There is also a fun factor to them that simply cannot be replicated in a cash game. Anyone who has reached the final stages of a big tournament will know what I am talking about here.

That adrenaline rush of hitting the big score is a feeling that is unique to poker tournaments.

So whether you’re planning on becoming an MTT specialist or you’re just playing them occasionally in order to try and bink a big payday, there is lot’s of potential value to be had here.

The optimal strategy can differ greatly from that of cash games however. So without further ado, here is my step by step strategy for crushing micro stakes MTTs.

What are Micro Stakes Tournaments?

First things first, what exactly are micro stakes tournaments?

Micro stakes MTTs are characterized by two things: small buy-ins and very large fields. A micro stakes tourney will have a buy-in of less than $5.

So because the buy-ins are so small, virtually anybody can play them. Most tourneys have fields with well over 1,000 players, sometimes even more than 5,000.

And then there are even special events like The MicroMillions on Pokerstars where fields regularly top 20,000 players or even more.

I will never forget my first micro stakes tourney victory. It was a $2 buyin with a little over 3000 runners in it. I took first place for $893.65.

Not bad for about 6 hours work!

At the time this was an absolutely massive boost to my bankroll. It tripled it in fact. So I was over the moon about this victory and it helped propel me towards playing in bigger cash games as well.

Now back to reality here. Obviously the chances of winning a tournament of this size are very slim, no matter how good you are. There is no doubt that I got extremely lucky at many points along the way in order to win.

However, over the long run a decent player can expect to make a nice profit in these games. The reason why is because micro MTTs are filled with some of the worst players you will find anywhere, and if you play a solid game you should get your fair share of cashes and more.

And of course the large field sizes do have one distinct advantage: Should you make the final table or even win one, then you’re looking at a very nice payday.

What’s the Best Strategy for Beating Micro Stakes MTTs?

The optimal strategy for micro stakes tournaments is very different from the one you would use in a tourney with a larger buy-in. The reason why is all the crazy play only leaves you with one option: tighten up!

Other than that it’s hard to give general advice as the individual stages of the tournament should be handled differently. Here is what to do at each stage of the tourney.

Early Micro Stakes Tournament Strategy

In tournaments with higher buy-ins, your plan should be to play a lot of hands early on. There are two reasons for this: Most high buyin tourneys start out with deep stacks (200bbs+) which means you are getting the right implied odds to see a lot of flops.

The second reason is that you want to play against the bad players early on, since they will get knocked out as the tournament progresses and you will face much tougher competition in the later stages.

Both of these reasons don’t really apply in micro stakes MTTs though. The play is just too crazy to do anything but play tight. Most hands have 4 or more people seeing the flop, which means you will get drawn out on regularly.

It might be tempting to see a lot of flops in the hopes to catch two pair or better and play a big pot. However, this is the strategy most players use in these things so that’s not really what you want to do.

Instead, you want to mostly just wait for premium hands and then bet them very hard for value. The beauty of micro stakes MTTs is that your opponents will call much bigger bets and raises with weak holdings than they should.

You can and should make raises of 3x or 4x the big blind or even more if the pot is unopened and you have a hand like KK or AK. If someone opened before you, just raise the pot or around 3x-4x your opponent’s bet.

Micro Stakes Tournament Strategy

After the flop the strategy is very similar: You should bet your strong hands and mostly check/fold your weak ones. Your opponents won’t fold anywhere near enough to make bluffing profitable, so don’t even bother with it.

By playing ABC poker like this, you will get a ton of value from your strong hands and you will show a solid profit over a large sample size.

Now obviously with opponents calling you down all the way with weak hands, you will see a ridiculous amount of suck-outs (think NL2 on steroids here).

I can’t tell you how many big pairs I have gotten cracked because my opponent called the flop and turn with bottom pair and spiked two pair or trips on the river.

You are going to face countless river suckouts in micro stakes tourneys. I am warning you now, you need to be prepared for it.

This is just something that can’t be avoided when playing against bad poker players though. Just look at it this way: Every time somebody draws out on you, you just made money in the long run.

The reason why is that you can’t fight the math in poker. If you keep getting your money in with the best of it, eventually you will bust them all.

Bubble Strategy

The bubble is the stage in the tournament when the first payouts begin. So the play tends to tighten up considerably around this point as all the smaller stacks want to make sure they earn a profit.

Your strategy on the bubble depends mostly on your stack size. If you have a short stack of 30bbs or less, then you should wait for premium hands and play them aggressively to try to get all in as a favorite or pick up the dead money.

However, don’t play too tight: You don’t want to let your stack dwindle down to a few big blinds just so you can score a min-cash.

This strategy might make sense if you won a satellite into the WSOP Main Event for instance, but the best micro stakes poker strategy is to make as many final tables as possible. Because that is where the real money is.

If you have a big stack on the bubble though, then you can play a lot more aggressively and increase your stack. This can be hugely beneficial later on in the tournament.

Even in micro stakes tourneys, many players will be afraid of going out on the money bubble. This means that you will get lots of folds when attacking the blinds of short stacks.

So make sure that you open the pot with plenty of hands if you have a big stack on the bubble. I would just use a mini-raise at this point by the way as well in order to risk the least.

However, there is one caveat to this strategy. If they shove all-in on you shouldn’t call them too light. This is because usually they will have something pretty decent.

In some cases it might be mathematically correct to call a short stack’s all-in. But overall you want to respect their shoves. Don’t call with garbage.

In the Money

Once the bubble bursts, things will get pretty crazy. Most players who folded every single hand on the bubble will now be eager to shove lighter and double up in order to make a big run.

In most cases, you should go back to playing fairly tight and taking advantage of your opponents’ loose playing style.

Your strategy should depend on your particular table though. If your opponents play tight and you have the most chips at the table, then the best strategy is to apply aggression.

Your goal should be to accumulate as many chips as you can so you can make a run at the final table and ultimately win the whole tournament.

Your odds at the final table will improve greatly depending on the size of your stack.

Small Stakes Poker Tournament Final Table

Also remember that the payout structure of MTTs is very top-heavy, which means that the top few finishers will receive a disproportionately large share of the prize pool.

Therefore, it is important that you try your best to build up a big stack as this will make it much easier to not only make the final table, but also win the whole thing.

The Final Table

You’ve made the final table. Congratulations! Here is where the real fun begins. But now is also the time to focus and play your very best poker.

The difference between 1st and 9th place money can be huge, so it is crucial that you play as well as you can. If you have other tables open, then either close them or move them to the side and only play premiums hands so that you can focus on the final table.

At this stage of the tournament, you are often playing against some decent opponents. Just like you they have managed to outlast thousands of other players in some cases, so the amount of fish will likely be pretty low.

One upside though is that your bets and raises will finally get some respect. So playing more aggressively can pay off big time at the final table!

My advice is to play confidently and fearlessly. Don’t be afraid to follow your gut and make a big play. This is the time to really go after it.

But you also need to recognize when a tight player is clearly telling you that you are beat. Don’t allow yourself to get reckless and call off large amounts of your stack with a mediocre hand.

Should You Make a Deal?

You should also be prepared for the likelihood that somebody brings up the idea of making a deal.

This is basically an agreement to split up the prize pool money more evenly so that there isn’t such a big difference between 1st and 5th place for instance.

My advice (and this is just my opinion), is to either say nothing at all or to politely decline. I don’t make deals. I am there to win.

If it’s the WSOP main event and there is millions of dollars on the line, ok let’s talk. But in these small buyin micro stakes tournaments, I am in it to win it. No deals.

Look, winning a large tournament isn’t easy, so don’t be disappointed if you fall short. You are simply not going to win most of the time. That’s just the simple math.

So the biggest key is to just do the best you can and be happy with your play. And also, have fun as well!

Making a final table is about the most exciting experience you can have as a poker player. Every pot matters and every all in will create a huge adrenaline rush.

Plus, this is (probably) the only time that you get to make bets of hundreds of thousands or even millions of chips.

So make sure to soak it in and enjoy it all. But also play hard and play to win.

Final Thoughts

Micro stakes poker tournaments are not for the faint of heart. They are without a doubt the format with the most brutal variance. If you play your fair share of these, then you will receive crushing bad beats on a regular basis.

And even without all the crazy players at the micros the variance of MTTs in general is through the roof. It is not uncommon for instance to bust 20 or more in a row without scoring a single cash.

So make sure that you have a healthy bankroll if you choose to take a serious shot at tournaments. I would recommend a starting bankroll of at least 100 buy-ins.

The good news though is that these low stakes tourneys also offer some of the softest player pools imaginable. Believe me, the play in these things can be truly horrendous at times.

While the variance might be brutal in the short run, with the right strategy you can expect to make a very nice profit over a large sample size. Plus there is nothing better on earth for your bankroll than winning a large poker tournament!

Let me know you thoughts on micro stakes tournaments in the comments below. What strategy do you use? Have you ever hit a big score?

And if you found this article helpful, do me a quick favor and give it a “Like” or a “Tweet” below.

Lastly, if you want to know my complete micro stakes poker strategy, which I used to produce some of the highest win-rates ever recorded, pick up a copy of my free ebook.

The Ultimate Guide to Micro Stakes Poker Tournament Strategy

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How to Defend Against 3-Bets – The Definitive Guide

How to Defend Against 3-Bets – The Definitive Guide
How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

Learning how to defend against 3-Bets well in today’s small stakes poker games will be a big key to your success. This is when you raise preflop and then somebody re-raises you back.

It is important that you find that fine balance between knowing when to call, fold or get even more aggressive by re-raising them right back (also known as a 4-Bet).

We don’t want to become one of those easily exploitable regs who fold to 3Bets way too much. But we also don’t want to just mindlessly call 3Bets with no plan on how to win the pot either. Because this is an even faster way to lose money!

So the real key to a successful 3Bet defending strategy is knowing when to call, when to 4Bet and knowing when to simply back down and choose a different battle to fight.

Now of course nearly everything in poker is infinitely easier to do while in position. So I would certainly suggest defending wider when you are in position as a default strategy.

This means that your calling range when you are in position should always be a little bit wider than when you are out of position. Let’s break it down a bit further than this though.

What Should Your 3Bet Calling Range Be?

So what range of hands should you actually defend against a 3Bet with then? Well, it depends a lot on our position but even more importantly on the player type.

We want to know exactly how wide their range is when they 3Bet us. This is where your observational skills will come into play if you play live.

How active have they been lately? Have you seen them 3Betting frequently before? What hands have they shown up with when they 3Bet?

If you play online then you can just refer to the 3Bet% stat on your HUD. Most Nits and TAGfish (tight regulars) will have a 3Bet of somewhere around 5% at the most.

Here is an example of what a 5% 3Bet range might look like:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

However, many of the TAGs, LAGs and Maniacs (aggressive regs and aggro fish) at these stakes will 3Bet you with a much wider range of 8%, 10% or even higher.

Here is an example of what a 10% 3Bet range might look like:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

As you can see there are a lot more weak pairs, broadways and even purely speculative hands like suited connectors in this range.

So clearly, we are going to need a very different strategy versus these two ranges. Also, keep in mind that in some cases we will be 4Betting. More on that in the next section.

Legend:

  • IP = In position
  • OOP = Out of position
  • S = Suited only

1. My calling range versus a 5% 3Bet when IP:

AK, AQ, AJs, KQs and 66+

I will keep it relatively tight versus a 5% 3Bet even when I am in position due to how strong their range is. It doesn’t matter what the player type is, getting somebody to fold their aces or kings isn’t easy!

With that said though, there are still many more combos of hands like AK and AQ in their range which will miss the flop 2 out of 3 times. I expect to be able to outplay a lot of my opponents in position, especially the bad regs.


2. My calling range versus a 5% 3Bet when OOP:

AK, AQ and 88+

When I am out of position I will tighten up my calling range even more because it will be a lot harder to move somebody off of a strong hand while having to act first on every street.

Also, another key drawback to being OOP is that it is much more difficult to extract full value when we finally do hit our hand.

3. My calling range versus a 10% 3Bet when IP:

AK, AQ, AJ, ATs, A9s, KQ, QJs, JTs, T9s, 98s, 22+

I will defend a lot more often versus a 10% 3Bet because of how much wider their range is. They are 3Betting us light frequently and therefore I will take advantage of this by calling a lot wider as well.

I will be looking to use my position in order to outplay them after the flop on many different board textures.


4. My calling range versus a 10% 3Bet when OOP:

AK, AQ, AJs, ATs, KQs, 66+

Even though I know they will be 3Betting me wide I have to tighten up my calling range when OOP a little bit. And this is for all of the same reasons that we just discussed above.

It is just simply much harder to outplay someone when you have to act first on every single street. Also, it is much more difficult to get paid off when we actually do make a hand.

Example – Calling a 3-Bet From a Tight Player

You raise from middle position with:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

A Nit in the big blind 3Bets you

You should CALL

This hand is a little bit close. We already know how strong of a range some Nits can have when they 3Bet. Therefore, there is a decent chance that we are a mathematical underdog at the moment.

But given the fact that we are in position against a weaker reg we can probably turn this into a +EV call. And we will accomplish this by making some plays at the pot after the flop even when we miss.

If you are not prepared to make a few light calls and bluffs postflop then you would be better off folding preflop here.

Luckily there are tons of easy ways to take away pots from the tight players.

Example – Folding Versus a 3-Bet from a TAG

You raise from middle position with:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

A TAG on the button 3Bets you

You should FOLD

Even though we know that this tight and aggressive (TAG) player’s range is going to be very wide here, I still prefer a fold in this situation.

The reason why is because it is going to be very difficult to win the pot after the flop with a small pair OOP versus a good player.

Unless we happen to flop a set (only happens 1 in 8.5 times), we are likely to be looking at a board full of overcards. This will make it very difficult to make any plays at the pot especially when OOP.

Sometimes the smart money in poker is knowing when NOT to fight back. This is one of those spots where it is going to be difficult to turn a profit. The great play is simply folding and cutting your losses now.

How to Dominate 4-Bet Pots

Truthfully though, one of the best counters to a 3-Bet is actually just to 4-Bet them. This is one of my biggest money-making plays in recent years because it lays the hammer down especially on the aggressive regs.

The beautiful thing about poker is that there is always a counter to any style of play. If they are going to 3-Bet you wide, then you can just go ahead and 4-Bet them wide as well.

However, it is important not to get too ahead of ourselves here. Remember that a 4Bet tends to commit nearly 1/4 of our stack. So it is very important that we don’t just go randomly 4Betting people whenever we feel like it.

As we just discussed above, many of the weak/tight regs (Nits and TAGfish) that you will find at the lower stakes are 3Betting with a strong range. Therefore it would be a really bad idea to start 4Betting them light a lot.

In fact, against these kinds of players there really is no secret 4Betting strategy here. Your hands are completely tied. You really should only be 4Betting them for value with strong premium hands.

The same thing goes for the recreational players (the fish) but for different reasons. Since we have such a massive skill advantage against them, unless we have an absolutely huge hand it is better to just keep the pot small and outplay them after the flop.

So you can probably guess by now that we will be 4Betting most frequently versus the good regs, TAGs and LAGs. These are the players who are most likely to be 3Betting you with a wide range.

And therefore, they won’t be able to stand a re-raise.

What Hands Should You 4-Bet Bluff the Regs With?

Now the key to this strategy is to 4-Bet them with all of our big value hands but also to throw in some bluffs on occasion as well. I like to employ a roughly 2/1 ratio of value hands to bluffs.

This means that roughly 1 out of every 3 times that I 4Bet them, it will be a bluff. 2 out of 3 times though, I have a monster.

This makes it very difficult for them to find an effective counter strategy. They know that we have bluffs in our range but they also know that they are going to get stung more often than not.

This in turn will cause them to think twice about 3Betting us light in the future. There are just too many other regs out there who are easier targets for them.


Here is my 4Bet range versus a TAG or LAG with a high 3Bet%:

AA, KK, QQ, JJ, TT, AK, AQ, A5s, A4s, A3s

So we have all of the usual big premium hands in this range. I won’t always 4Bet all of these hands. Sometimes I will just flat depending on the situation and in order to mix things up. But for the most part, I am 4Betting all of them for value.

But then there is also a grouping of small suited aces in this range as well. These are the bluff hands. There are a couple of reasons why I choose them in particular.

Firstly, small suited aces act as good blockers versus other ace hands. When we have an ace in our hand it just makes it statistically less likely that our opponent also has one.

Secondly, small suited aces tend to have some decent equity (roughly 30%) versus big pairs like KK, QQ, JJ or TT. Not only can they make top pair against these hands but also the nut flush and the wheel straight.

So this gives us a better chance of simply “getting lucky” sometimes which is always a good thing.
Lastly, it should be noted that position isn’t really that important when 4Betting because most of the time I expect the hand to end right there.

Let’s look at an example.

Example – 4Bet Bluffing an Aggressive Reg

You open raise from the cutoff with:

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Definitive Guide

A TAG villain 3Bets you from the button

You should 4Bet BLUFF

This is a spot where we don’t really want to be calling out of position. Our hand is simply too weak and playing OOP versus a good player sucks.

However, instead of just folding (which is a guaranteed LOSS) there is considerable value here in 4Betting light versus this player once in a while.

The reason why is because we know that an aggressive TAG like this is likely to be 3Betting us very wide here especially in a button versus cutoff situation.

The better regs are often fully aware that our range is going to be wide from a steal seat. Therefore, they will adjust by widening their 3Betting range especially when IP.

But since we know this as well, then we can take it to the next level and make the great play of widening our 4Betting range.

This play puts all of the pressure back on our opponent to show up with a real hand. And since they know that most of the time we will actually have the goods here, it makes it very difficult for them to call us or shove all the money in.

They know that they are going to get snap called by hands like AA, KK, QQ or AK plenty of the time. Find a spot like this to outplay a good reg preflop even just once a session and you have yourself a very nice new profit source.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to defend against 3-Bets efficiently in today’s micro stakes games is an extremely important part of your success. The real key is learning when to call, when to let go and when to shove it right back in their face with a 4-Bet.

As with nearly everything in poker, the most important consideration is what type of player you are up against. As we saw, the aggressive regs and aggro fish will have a much wider range than the weak/tight regs. It is very important to know the difference here.

Position also plays a key role because if we decide to call, then we need to be able to take away our fair share of pots after the flop as well. This is infinitely easier to do when you have the advantage of acting last on the flop, turn and river.

The 3-Bet defending strategy and the example hands in this article were actually taken from a sample chapter in my brand new poker book – The Micro Stakes Playbook.

The full length book includes 20 more strategy chapters just like this one and over 50 example hands showing exactly how I created some of the highest win-rates in the history of online poker at the micro stakes.

And in the professional poker section of the book I draw upon my 10+ years as a pro to teach you the most cutting edge methods to study your opponents, find their weaknesses, plug your own leaks, always play in the best (softest) poker games and to finally stop tilting.

You can pick up your copy of The Micro Stakes Playbook at this link.

Let me know in the comments below how you defend against 3bets. And if you found this article helpful, do me a quick favor and give it a “Like” or a “Tweet” below. Thanks!

How to Defend Against 3-Bets - The Micro Stakes Playbook

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How to Build a Poker Bankroll With $20

How to Build a Poker Bankroll With $20
How to build a poker bankroll with $20

People often ask me if I have a strategy for how to build a bankroll with $20. My answer is almost always the same: if you’re starting with an amount like $20, then there’s a decent chance that you’ll wind up going broke.

With the variance involved in poker, there is simply no way around that. The smallest cash game limit on offer for instance is typically NL2. If you bought in for 100 big blinds each time (a strategy you should definitely follow) then you will only have 10 buy-ins available. Even the best players in the world could wind up losing 10 buy-ins in a row at NL2 due to a bad run of cards.

So the best advice therefore is to invest a little bit more in your poker career from the start and bring your bankroll to a minimum of $50-60. This would give you 25-30 buy-ins for NL2, which will reduce your risk of going broke significantly. If you’re a sit and go or MTT player, then this will give you around 50 buy-ins for the lowest stakes you’ll find, which is still a bit on the low side but not terrible.

The main reason I don’t recommend starting your poker career by playing with a $20 bankroll is because it might cause you to develop some bad habits and a tendency to gamble. By having proper bankroll management from the very start, you’re going to do the best you can to set yourself up for success in the long run.

Now despite all of the above, I understand that not everyone wants to invest a lot of money in poker, especially if they’re still learning and are afraid to lose it all. That’s why today I want to give you my top tips on how to build a bankroll with $20. Let’s go!

Which format should you play with a $20 bankroll?

The first consideration is obviously which games to play in, cash, sit n gos or tourneys. Although your game selection will have large implications for your bankroll, this shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision.

When thinking about which format to play, you should choose the one you’re looking to focus on in the long run. Specializing in one format will give you the best shot at becoming really good at it. If you mix it up too much you’ll likely wind up being decent at all of them, but great at none.

Of course, if you’re just starting out then you might not know which format you want to keep playing for the rest of your career (or a significant part of it). This why I would recommend checking out my guide on which poker games to play first to give you a better idea of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

And of course it’s totally fine to experiment as well. In fact, you should try cash games, sit n gos and tourneys when you are just starting out. In order to succeed in building a bankroll with $20, let’s take a look at which of the formats will give you the biggest chance of success.

Cash Games

As I noted above the smallest stakes that most poker sites offer for cash games is 1c/2c, also known as NL2. The minimum buy-in on most sites these days is 40 big blinds, which would give you 25 buy-ins.

While I generally don’t recommend buying in for less than 100 big blinds, when playing with a $20 bankroll you could make an exception as this will (at least in theory) help protect a lesser experienced player from going broke as fast. Like I said above though, you simply can’t avoid this risk if you’re starting with a bankroll this small.

In fact, as Pokerdope explains in it’s variance calculations, for a player who is a small winner (2.5bb/100), with a standard deviation of 100bb/100, there is a 76.83% chance that you will go broke with a $20 bankroll (1000bb) no matter what amount you choose to buyin for:

How to build a poker bankroll with $20

They ran these simulations over a sample size of 100 million hands by the way just in case you had any doubt. This is why I and many others constantly preach about the importance of proper bankroll management.

Luckily though, the thing about NL2 is that it’s still an absolute circus even in 2017. Even if you’re relatively new to the game, you can expect to win by simply playing tight and betting your good hands strongly on each street (also know as “ABC Poker”).

If you’re a halfway decent player then you can expect to have a solid winrate at these stakes (much higher than 2.5bb/100), which will lower the risk of a big downswing significantly.

Sit and Gos

The second format for building a bankroll from $20 are sit and gos. The problem with this choice is that you don’t have the option to play it safe as with our 25 buy-in example at NL2. The lowest sit and gos on offer are usually $1.10 or somewhere in this region, which will only give you around 20 buy-ins. This is extremely low by any standards.

So if you’re looking to play sit and gos to build your roll, you should be prepared to lose it all and not feel too bad if it happens. Keeping your expectations realistic is the best way to avoid tilt, so always try to be honest about your chances upfront.

With that being said, sit and gos do have one thing going for them: You can bink a couple of them in a row and give yourself a chance to build a healthy bankroll in a very short time. This is not really possible with cash games, so this high risk / high reward strategy can definitely make sense. Just remember to exercise good bankroll management as soon as you’re out of the danger zone and don’t keep gambling after that.

Multi-Table Tournaments (MTTs)

MTTs are easily the worst choice for playing with a $20 bankroll. Proper bankroll management for tournaments requires well over 100 buy-ins for each stake. Since the smallest tourneys are also usually around $1, you will be well short of that.

The problem with MTTs is that it is much harder to bink a win in the short run than with sit and gos. This is especially true of low-stakes MTTs, since these tend to attract huge player fields of well over 1,000 players. Even cashing in these is not an easy task, since you’ll have to beat 800-900 players to do so.

Taking 20 shots at low-stakes MTTs is just a complete crap shoot, there’s no other way to say it. Again, if you accept the risk of going broke you can roll the dice and try it, but you’ll be better off just topping up your bankroll upfront.

What other strategies can you use for building a bankroll from $20?

As mentioned above, when choosing the right format you should think about your general strategy for building your bankroll. Do you want to take a higher risk and have a better chance of building a good-sized roll quickly? Or do you want to take it slow and steady and grind yourself up?

These are important considerations not only for picking your format, but also for the style of play you’ll use at the tables. When choosing a high-risk strategy, you might want to play looser than normally in order to score big (i.e. loose and aggressive or LAG). It’s a viable strategy if you know what you’re doing, although I personally wouldn’t recommend it for most people.

Poker is a marathon and you should treat it like that at any point in your career. Developing a gambler’s mindset can create big problems for you later on. With that in mind, here are some strategies that will help you succeed in building your bankroll from $20.

Play Tight

If you really want to avoid going broke as much as possible with your small bankroll, then playing tight will be by far the best strategy. By only playing strong starting hands, you can decrease variance significantly and reduce the risk of any downswings as much as possible.

I would recommend playing as little as the top 15% of hands in full ring (9 handed) and the top 20% of hands in a 6-max game.

Another reason for playing tight from the start is that I generally recommend playing a tight style for most of your journey through the micros. Playing a loose style only works if your post-flop game is very strong and if you can expect to frequently outplay opponents that hold better hands.

Remember that I’m only talking about playing tight, but never passive. Once you do enter pots, you should be betting and raising with your strong hands a lot in order to build big pots. This style, which many of you will know as the TAG (tight-aggressive) style, is by far the most optimal in most games.

Another reason for playing tight is that with a bankroll of $20, you’ll be playing in some truly crazy games. There is simply no point in playing weak hands in crazy NL2 games where nobody’s folding post-flop. Just play as tight as you can stomach it and count your money later.

Freerolls

While I advised against playing MTTs when playing with a small bankroll, there is definitely one exception: you should play as many freerolls as you can, especially if you’re planning on sticking with MTTs later on.

While freerolls hold little interest for players with bankrolls of $100 and higher, they can be absolutely fantastic in your particular situation. If you manage to win a huge freeroll, you can often win well over $20, which can triple or quadruple your roll with no risk at all. Even final tabling one will usually pay out a few dollars, which can increase your roll by 25% or more.

As you’ll probably be at the start of your poker career with a bankroll of $20, freerolls offer a great chance to improve and get some hands in without having to risk your own money.

Cardschat has put together an excellent strategy guide for freerolls. Here are their top tips:

How to build a poker bankroll with $20

Don’t Tilt if You Go Broke

Now I know this is easier said than done, but as I mentioned before, it is crucial to always have realistic expectations in poker. The single biggest reason people tilt is because they overestimate their skill and underestimate the role of variance in the game.

After all, if you’re truly prepared for something, then why would you get angry if it happens?

That is absolutely true for playing with a tiny bankroll. The risk of losing it all is significant and can’t be avoided. If you want to play it safe then you need to start with a bigger roll, period. However, exercising good tilt control from the start and learning to deal with setbacks can be incredibly valuable in the long run.

Remember, even though you are gambling on a short roll, sometimes you will get lucky as well and everything will work out. One thing you can’t do in poker though is fight the math so you shouldn’t get too down on yourself if setbacks occur.

Final Thoughts

While I generally don’t recommend starting with a bankroll of less than $50, there are definitely a lot of things you can do to increase your chances of success. Choose the right format, play a tight-aggressive style and use as many freeroll offers as you can.

And above all: just remember to run really really well and you will soon find yourself with enough room to exercise proper bankroll management!

To learn the strategy that I used to create some of the highest winnings in the history of online poker in these games, make sure to grab a copy of my free poker ebook.

Do you have any other strategies for how to build a bankroll from $20? Or have you actually pulled it off before? Then let me know in the comments!

Lastly, if you found this article helpful, do me a quick favor and give it a “Like” or a “Tweet” below. Thanks!

How to build a poker bankroll with $20

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How to Beat Tight Poker Players – The Essential Guide

How to Beat Tight Poker Players – The Essential Guide
how to beat tight poker players

If you play low limit poker then you have undoubtedly encountered many tight poker players. They are also often referred to simply as nits.

A “nit” in poker is somebody who plays extremely tight. They only play very strong hands before the flop, and usually if they are betting after the flop, then they have something very good as well.

Learning how to smash the nits is absolutely essential for your success in today’s micro stakes games. And the reason why is because they will be your most common opponent by far.

Go load up any game at NL50 and under right now and you will see countless players folding like it is their job!

Now it must be noted right from the start that there is no way that you are ever going to turn a massive winrate against these types of players. And this is because by playing so tight they actually protect themselves from ever losing too much.

You can only ever expect to truly win big against the players who are making tons of huge mistakes and playing way too many hands (i.e. the recreational players). But that is a topic for another article.

However, there are several ways to exploit the tight players in today’s small stakes games in order to make sure that you are at least earning a solid profit against them.

And I actually have a few bonus tactics that you will find at the end for how to put them on tilt and potentially get them to spew off ALL of their chips to you.

So let’s get started!

1. Play loose and steal their blinds

The first way to start making a steady profit against the tight players is by playing loose and stealing their blinds more often. Now you may have heard this before. However, it still amazes me how many people fail to have a look at who is in the blinds before they raise preflop. 
When you see a couple of nits who are going to fold perhaps 80% or 90% of their hands when you raise, then you can profitably raise with an absolutely huge amount of hands.
This is especially the case when it is folded to you in late position (the cutoff or the button). I always cringe a little bit inside when I see regs folding so much from these positions when there are a couple of extremely tight players in the blinds waiting to give their money away.
This is especially the case if they are the kind of nits who do not fight back very much either. You can quickly check their 3Bet% on your HUD in order to make sure. If it is below 5, then you should literally be attempting to steal their blinds all day.
I would be raising something like the top 50% of hands. This means anything that is even remotely playable. Any ace, any king, any broadway, any pair, suited connectors, suited one gappers, heck even suited two gappers! You get the idea.
You only need to risk a small amount when attempting to steal the blinds, 3x or 2.5x the big blind is fine. Some people even just miniraise it.
For Example: 
You are playing NL2 online where the big blind is 2 cents.
  • 3x the big blind = 6 cents
  • 2.5x the big blind = 5 cents
And it is important to remember that every time you successfully steal the blinds you earn 1.5 big blinds in super easy and variance free profit. 
Since most people only win a few big blinds for every 100 hands that they play at the micros these days, stealing the blinds a little bit more often could potentially mean doubling or even tripling their winrate!


Example #1

You are on the Button with:
86
The small blind is a nit and the big blind is a nit.

You should RAISE!
Example #2
You are on the Button with:
K5
The small blind is a nit and the big blind is a nit.

You should RAISE!
Play looser overall at a table full of tight players and steal their blinds more often. Watch your poker winnings increase. Thank me later 🙂

2. Re-raise them before the flop

Another way to abuse the tight players is to re-raise (3Bet) them frequently when they are clearly just trying to steal the blinds themselves. Just because nits tend to play really tight doesn’t mean that they don’t know about the profitability of stealing the blinds as well. 
Most nits these days will be trying to steal the blinds with as much as 30% of hands when it is folded to them in late position. Sometimes even more.
Here is an idea of what the top 30% of hands looks like:
beating tight poker players
Now the question to ask yourself here is how many of these hands is a nit likely to call with if you re-raise? Remember that this is typically a risk averse type of player who doesn’t like to play a big pot with a weak hand. 
I think you already know the answer to this question. Not very many.
It is always a good idea to check the Fold to 3Bet% stat on your HUD first if you have any doubts. Many of the tight regulars that you will encounter at the micros will fold to a 3Bet 80% or more of the time. 
Therefore, you can once again make a variance free easy profit by simply re-raising them preflop a little bit more often when they are trying to steal the blinds.
The key is to do it just often enough to keep them guessing if you out of line or you just happen to pick up AA more often than everybody else. 

3. Bet again frequently on the flop

Sometimes you won’t be able to shake the nits preflop though. Sometimes they will either call your preflop raise or call your preflop 3Bet. What do you do then?
Well, the easiest way to turn a profit against tight poker players like this is just to continue betting on the flop most of the time.

As Partypoker points out in a recent strategy guide, the simple math tells us that the odds of flopping a pair after the flop with a random hand is only about 1 in 3. So we know that 2 out of 3 times they won’t have much of anything at all on the flop.

The other thing to note is that you only need to make your bet on the flop about 50% or 60% of the size of the pot. 
For Example:
The pot is 10 cents on the flop. You should bet 5 cents or 6 cents.
When you are betting such a small amount you only need to get a fold about 1 in 3 times in order to break even.

Pretty much any nit that you will encounter at the micros these days will fold versus a flop bet this often. Usually it will be much, much higher in fact.

Once again you don’t need to guess though. You can simply double check this on your HUD by looking at the Fold to Flop CBet% stat.

4. Call them when they bet

beating the nits

One of my favorite methods for beating the tight players in today’s small stakes games is to call them when they bet into me. This is also often called a “float” in poker. 

The reason why you want to be floating the nits frequently at the lower limits is because they often won’t have the heart to keep betting on later streets unless they have an extremely strong hand.

You can double check this once again on your HUD by comparing their Flop CBet% with their Turn CBet%. If there is a gap of 20 or more points, then they are a perfect target for floating.

When they check to us on the turn this gives us a ton of different ways to take the pot away from them especially if we are in position.

And this is a crucial point that many people forget. It is important to remember that the entire point of a float in poker is to win the pot on a later street (i.e. the turn or river).

So if I float a tight player on the flop and he checks to me on the turn, then I am pretty much going to be betting 100% of the time. My cards literally do not even matter.

Now it is important to make sure that you always have some sort of equity or outs when attempting this play. You don’t want to float people in poker with absolutely nothing because you are going to get looked up sometimes.

So you always want to have a little bit of equity in your back pocket. This gives you a chance to win the pot later on by simply “getting lucky” as well. 

So I will often call their bet on the flop with hands like:
  • Middle pair
  • Bottom pair
  • A flush draw
  • A straight draw
  • An inside (gutshot) straight draw
  • Two overcards
So as you can see I am calling the tight players on the flop with a wide variety of hands. Often they aren’t the best hands right now (i.e. I am mathematically behind) but they have plenty of outs to win the pot later on.

And also, I am planning on pouncing on any weakness that they show me later on in the hand. So I will often win the pot without having to showdown the best hand anyways.

This float and take it away on the turn play can do absolute wonders for your redline or non-showdown winnings by the way.

And you can check out my complete guide to improving your redline for 8 more ways to take more pots away…without the best hand.

The bottom line is that you have to start getting involved more often versus the tight players (and all regs for that matter) if you really want to start turning a bigger profit against them. 
You simply can’t expect to win big in poker by folding all the time. You just won’t make hands often enough for this to be the case. So floating the tight risk averse players like this, especially in position, is a great place to start.

5. Raise them on the flop or turn

Another way to abuse the nits is to raise on the flop or the turn. Once again you want to do this with a wide variety of hands that aren’t necessarily the nuts. In other words hands like draws, middle pair and so on. 
You certainly don’t want to be doing this all the time. But sometimes you need to find more ways to apply more pressure against the tight players in order to win more pots against them. 
So here is an example of a situation where instead of calling I might consider raising from time to time. 

Example #3

You have:
T9
Flop
85J
A tight player bets
You should RAISE!
This is a great spot to take a pot away from a tight opponent by making a raise instead of a call. We have an open ended straight draw (8 outs) and we also have a backdoor flush draw. It is important not to forget those backdoor outs!
We could just call here and we definitely should do that plenty of the time. But what do we do when the turn comes with another high card and they bet again? Fold?

You don’t win at poker by folding. 

We could raise instead in this situation though and then bet the turn regardless of whether we make our hand or not. This puts an enormous amount of pressure on a tight player to show up with a real hand. 
And what’s even better is that we still have the exact same odds of making our hand by the river whether we choose the conservative calling option or the aggressive raising option.
In other words sometimes we will still win the hand the old fashioned way by simply making the best hand. Try applying some real pressure on the nits like this more often when you have some sort of draw or reasonable hand. 
You might be surprised at how many more pots you start winning. And this is because you have given yourself more ways to win. You can make the best hand OR bluffing them out.

6. Bluff the river more often

crushing the nits
Another great way to start turning a bigger profit against the nits at the lower stakes is to start bluffing the river more often. And the reason why this works so well is because one of the main weaknesses of tight poker players is not wanting to go to showdown without a strong hand. 
This is another reason why I recommend using a HUD so much at the micros. Because you can easily double check this as well by looking at the WTSD% (went to showdown) statistic. It basically tells you who you should bluff and who you shouldn’t.

Here are a few rough rules of thumb for WTSD%:

  • 26 or higher = calling station, don’t bluff
  • 23, 24, 25 = it’s close
  • 22 and below = risk averse player, bluff them frequently
So when I get to the river versus a nitty player who I know doesn’t like to go to showdown without a strong hand, then I am frequently going to be trying to bluff them. I am specifically looking to do this on:
  • Big broadway scare cards (ace or king especially)
  • Draw completer cards (cards that complete an obvious flush or straight)
You can often bluff them out of the pot by betting on these cards and pick up some really easy profit. This works especially well if you have a relatively tight table image yourself. They won’t expect you to be getting out of line.
Often they will think it over for awhile but ultimately decide to make the disciplined fold with their middle pair or even top pair. It is important to make sure that you never show them the bluff. Always keep them guessing. 

Advanced Bluff/Raising Strategy

Another relatively advanced way to win more pots on the river is to mix in some bluff/raises as well. This is especially effective when a really scary card falls. A situation where the board has one card to a straight for instance.

Flop

34J

Turn

6

River

7
When a tight player bets into me on this river I know that they are often making when is referred to as a “blocker bet.” This means that they have some sort of decent hand (such as top pair) that just wants a cheap showdown.

But what they probably don’t have is the only hand that actually matters on a board like this, the straight. After all, how many 5’s is a tight player likely to have in his range? Very few. They will fold almost all of them preflop. 

So you can consider putting in the bluff/raise in a spot like this to represent the straight and make them fold their top pair or overpair hand. Once again, make sure that you never show them the bluff.

7. Put them on tilt

One of my absolute favorite ways to make a solid profit against the nits is to put them on tilt. When you can successfully put someone on tilt and get inside their head, this can cause them to start playing very poorly against you. Getting all their chips therefore becomes very easy.
So when I begin a new poker session I will often pick one or sometimes two tight players that I notice are on several of my tables. And I want to make sure that I have position on them as well. 
From there I will just go ahead and start re-raising them literally every single time they enter the pot. I am going to make it as obvious as humanly possible that yes, I am out of line. I am going out of my way to ruin their day at the poker tables.

beating the poker nits
How I picture them once I start raising them every hand
Now even though most nits these days are just auto-piloting on a bunch of tables while waiting for the nuts, when somebody starts re-raising the crap out of them, they are going to take notice. So it often won’t take very long for them to start adjusting by calling me more or even re-raising me back. 
It is important not to let this deter you. You should still go ahead and try to bluff them out of the pot several times after the flop as well. Usually in the early going (before they are 100% sure that you are messing with them), they will still give you the benefit of the doubt and make the tight folds.
You can often pickup several pots by just straight up bluffing the nits like this before they realize what is going on and start calling you down. At this point you want to revert back to totally normal play and only show them strong hands.

The great thing about this strategy is that it causes many micro stakes regulars to tilt very easily. This is especially the case if you are running good and winning most of the pots. This can cause a tight player to come out of his shell and start making all kinds of terrible calls that he wouldn’t normally make against you.

I recommend trying this strategy out at NL2 first if you have never done it before because the money is relatively meaningless to most people at this stake. Just pick one tight reg and start raising them every single hand. You might be surprised at just how easy it is to quickly put them on tilt.

8. Set them up for future mistakes

beating nitty poker players
The other amazing benefit of this strategy is that it sets them up for future mistakes as well. This is often referred to as the “meta-game” in poker.

You need to remember that you are playing against many of these same tight players every single day at the poker tables. If you truly want to get ahead against them then you need to start employing some mind game tactics like this.

Poker is psychological warfare and the battle is won or lost over long periods of weeks, months or even years. What matters in a single session is not important.

However, in my lengthy experience of trying to tilt the regs at the micros I have often found that it takes them a very long time to forget that single session when I was totally out of line against them. 
I have gotten paid off months down the road in some cases because of this. There have even been a few occasions where they were so embarrassed by what they called me with that they felt compelled to explain their actions in the chat.

It was because I played like a total lunatic against them in some hand weeks or months ago that I barely even remember! They remembered it though, and they probably had a note on me that I am “crazy, love to bluff” etc.

And the other reason why this strategy works so well is that there are very few players at the lower limits who do it. You don’t start seeing the regs radically changing their game from session to session like this until much higher limits.
So when you do it at the micros it will make you stick out like a sore thumb. They will be furiously taking their notes on you if you show up with even one crazy bluff.

This can pay off weeks or even months down the line when you pick up AA against them and suddenly you are getting all the action you ever wanted.

Final thoughts

Learning how to beat the tight poker players in today’s games is absolutely crucial to your success. And the main reason why is that they will be your most common opponents by far. But luckily there are still several ways to exploit their weaknesses. 
First off, make sure that you are playing loose and raising their blinds frequently in order to take advantage of the most obvious leak in their game, folding too much preflop.

Also, re-raise them before the flop a lot when it is clear that they are just trying to steal the blinds. They won’t have a hand strong enough to call you with very often.

After the flop make sure that you are applying plenty of pressure as well. There are numerous ways to do this such as betting the flop, floating, raising and bluffing the river. 
You should also go out of your way to tilt some of the tight regulars from time to time. This is one of the easiest ways to get them to come out of their shell and finally start making some really big mistakes against you.
Lastly, if you want to read my entire “playbook” on how to smash the nits (and everybody else at the micros for that matter), then make sure you pick up your copy of my brand new book that was just released last week, The Micro Stakes Playbook.
I hope this article gave you some ideas on how to start beating all the tight players at the lower stakes. Let me know in the comments below what some of your best strategies are for abusing the nits!

If you found this article helpful, do me a quick favor and give it a “Like” or a “Tweet” below. Thanks!
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Announcing the Release of The Micro Stakes Playbook

Announcing the Release of The Micro Stakes Playbook
The Micro Stakes Playbook

Official Release: The Micro Stakes Playbook

I am extremely excited to finally announce the release of my new book, The Micro Stakes Playbook. This book has quietly been in the works for a year now and it has been a massive undertaking.

After the overwhelming response to my previous two books, Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes, I knew that a final installment bringing it all together was necessary.

The reason why I wrote The Micro Stakes Playbook is because I still get people emailing me and commenting on my posts all the time who are having trouble beating even the very lowest limits in some cases.

And when I have a quick look at some of their hands, I can see right away why this is the case. In many key situations they are making what I would consider to be the 2nd or even 3rd best decision instead of the optimal one.

So this book represents everything that I have learned about crushing the micro stakes games as a professional for over 10 years now. It is more or less the complete strategy “playbook” that I have always wanted to put together for the micros.

That is, how to make the best possible play, as often as possible. Because this truly is the heart of winning poker.

Let me start by saying that this is NOT a beginner’s book. The Micro Stakes Playbook won’t teach you what hands to play, how much you should bet, how to use position and so on. Teaching these basic fundamentals of the game was the entire purpose behind my previous books.

The Micro Stakes Playbook is instead a pure strategy book which consists of 21 of my best “plays” or strategies that I have used to crush the micros online for some of the highest winnings ever recorded.

This book is the culmination of millions of hands of experience and experimentation on exactly what works and what doesn’t in today’s games.

This book was written for those who are currently struggling to even beat the micros. And it has plenty of advanced strategies in it as well for those who are already winning and want to take their game to the next level.

In fact, let me just show you exactly what you are going to find in the book.

The Official Youtube Release Video (Table of Contents)

Table of Contents (Screenshots)

The Micro Stakes Playbook by BlackRain79
BlackRain79 new poker book
BlackRain79 MSP
The Microstakes Playbook Nathan Williams
The Micro Stakes Playbook Nathan Williams
New poker book blackrain79

Who The Micro Stakes Playbook is For

The Micro Stakes Playbook covers all micro and small stakes games online and live as well. It is also meant for 6-Max, full ring and fast fold games online (i.e. Zoom, Snap, Zone etc.)

Starting from the beginning I break down the 6 different player types that you are going to find in these games. I show you exactly what to look for, what their weaknesses are, and how to create the most profitable counter strategies against them.

I then discuss hand reading at the micros and how to put your opponents on the correct range at all stages of a poker hand. These two things are absolutely crucial to all of the strategy discussion that comes later on in the book.

After that, starting from preflop, I break down my top 21 most profitable strategies at the micros. Each play is thoroughly discussed and then illustrated via the 50 highly in depth example hands throughout the book.

These plays range from beginner level stuff like stealing the blinds more effectively and CBetting strategies versus the regs, to highly advanced stuff like bluff/raising the turn all-in and making big multi-street calldowns versus the good regs.

In short, this book was written specifically for the micro/small stakes game online (and low stakes live as well), and focuses solely on how to crush these games.

What You Will Learn in the Micro Stakes Playbook

Here are just a few of the strategies that you will learn in this book:

  • How to double your winrate with an optimal blind stealing strategy
  • How to 3Bet light versus the weak regs again and again
  • How to flat 3Bets and then take the pot away postflop
  • How to 4Bet bluff the aggressive regs
  • How to start winning WAY MORE pots after the flop by floating and raising
  • How to bluff/raise the turn and make them fold
  • How to bluff the river (exactly when to do it and WHY it will work)
  • How to study your poker game and plug your leaks
  • How to setup your HUD and find the fish
  • How to rapidly move up the micros (Your one year blueprint for success)
  • How to overcome bad beats and stop tilting

And so much more.

The Micro Stakes Playbook not only covers the exact strategies that I have personally used for over a decade now to crush the micros, but it also covers many of the top aspects of the game that I know are causing you the most trouble.

I know this from coaching hundreds of people at these limits over the years and receiving thousands of emails and comments on my blog posts. I have been listening to exactly what is holding YOU back at these stakes and taking notes.

Also, these strategies are the result of analyzing millions and millions of my own hands in PokerTracker in order to find out exactly what works and what doesn’t at these stakes. I show you how to do this step by step for yourself in the book by the way as well.

The purpose behind every strategy in this book is to increase your winnings (or to get you winning) at the poker tables right now.

And this really is the key difference between this poker book and almost every other one out there. I don’t write “theory.” I don’t write stories. And I don’t write to entertain you either.

I wrote The Micro Stakes Playbook in order to improve your bottom line at the poker tables. That’s it. The entire point of this book is for you to take these strategies to the tables yourself and start winning with them immediately.

This is the #1 reason why my previous books have proven to be so insanely popular despite the fact that I am 100% self-published, do absolutely no marketing and only release them on this tiny little website.

Results are what actually matter in this game. We keep score with money. Winning ends all doubt. And that is what my books teach people to do.

The best “thank you” emails that I receive are from people who tell me how my strategies took them from a losing poker player to breakeven or from a small winner to a huge winner. They often send me their graph as “proof” as well.

I want to see YOUR winning graph next!

Simple Poker Strategies That Work

The other thing that you will notice about The Micro Stakes Playbook is that there is barely any complicated math in it, no fancy new buzz words, no “game theory optimal” strategies or other such nonsense.

I get people coming to me all the time whose heads are literally spinning from all of the “theories” and complex formulas that they have been told that they need to know in order to beat the $5 games online.

My approach to the game has always been a lot more simple and down to earth. And this is because I know from first hand experience that you don’t need to know any of this stuff in order to crush the lower limits.

This is the micros that we are talking about after all!

This is where you are going to find some of the weakest players on the planet. You do not need to re-invent the wheel in order to beat them. You don’t need any 10th level thinking that will go right over their heads either.

What you need instead are simple and proven strategies to exploit the numerous mistakes that your opponents will make at these limits.

So this is why in The Micro Stakes Playbook you are going to find common sense strategies that work against real people in real games at the micro stakes.

Nothing more and nothing less.

How to Get Your Copy of The Micro Stakes Playbook

The Micro Stakes Playbook is available starting today on my website. It is available in PDF format only for now. Mobi and Epub versions will be added in the near future. Once these are released they will be made available free of charge to all previous buyers.

The other thing about The Micro Stakes Playbook is that it won’t cost you an arm and a leg either. I could easily charge $100 or more for this book. After all, I have made tens of thousands of dollars at the poker tables using these exact strategies.

But it won’t cost you anywhere near that much. You can pick up your copy of The Micro Stakes Playbook today at the special new release price of just $29.95

Click “Add to Cart” below in order to get instant access.

The Micro Stakes Playbook by BlackRain79

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Free Bonuses Included With The Micro Stakes Playbook

Pick up your copy of The Micro Stakes Playbook today and you will also receive these free bonuses.

1. The Starting Hand Cheat Sheets

These cheat sheets will tell you exactly what hands to play from every position in both 6-Max, Full Ring and Zoom games online.

These are ideal especially for a beginner who doesn’t quite know the basics yet. This guide takes the guesswork out of it for you.

These “cheat sheets” will tell you exactly which hands to play from each position. They also tell you exactly how much to make your bet sizes.

2. The Ultimate Zoom Poker Strategy Guide

This all new ebook provides you with a complete guide on how to adjust your strategy in 6-max and full ring Zoom poker games (Snap, Fast Forward and Zone as well).

Never before has anyone written a complete strategy book for how to dominate Zoom games with several highly detailed example hands to help guide you through as well.

This comprehensive Zoom poker strategy book is ONLY available as a free bonus for purchasers of The Micro Stakes Playbook.

3. Lifetime Access to my Private Forum

The Micro Stakes Playbook bonus

I have a private forum which is only available for purchasers of my books. Here you can ask me any questions that you want about the material and get feedback on your play.

You can also post your own hand histories and get advice from me personally and others as well.

*Create a free account on my forum and then make a quick post in “Access to the Private Forums” in order to gain access.

Don’t miss your opportunity to start turning your results around at the micros today. The Micro Stakes Playbook is available for a limited time at the special new release price of just $29.95

For the cost of only a buyin or two at the lower limits you can start learning the strategies that will quickly get you beating these games and making a nice side income (or even a full-time one in some cases) playing the game that you already love.

In fact with some of the plays in this book I even show you exactly how much it will increase your winnings. If you play poker even semi-regularly, then this can easily add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars per month.

Pickup your copy of The Micro Stakes Playbook today and you will also receive:

  • A free copy of “The Starting Hand Cheat Sheets” AND “The Ultimate Zoom Poker Strategy Guide”
  • Lifetime access to my private member’s only forum where you can post your hands and get direct feedback from myself and others.

Don’t keep spinning your tires at these stakes for years on end. Learn the proven winning strategies today to start crushing the micros and quickly moving up the stakes.

Download The Micro Stakes Playbook

Purchasing Options

1) Purchasing with a Credit Card or Debit Card

Click “Add to Cart” above. Choose “Checkout with Paypal”

Buy The Micro Stakes Playbook BlackRain79

On the next screen select “Pay with Debit or Credit Card”

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Click “Add to Cart” above. Choose “Checkout with Paypal” and then enter your Paypal details on the next page.

3) Purchasing with Skrill

Send $29.95 to blackrain79@dragthebar.com and then send me a quick email at this same address. I will then send you your copy of The Micro Stakes Playbook ASAP.

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The Micro Stakes Playbook

Pages: 271
Word Count: 49,443
Format: PDF (Mobi and Epub to be added soon)
Copyright © 2017 by Nathan Williams

Final Thoughts

Writing a poker book is a little bit like climbing a mountain. Several of them in fact. The road often seems to be straight uphill and the inspiration comes and goes. This is probably why it has been over three years since I released the last one!

But it is only due to you guys (and a few gals too) that I have now been able to complete this project, my third book. I want to thank each and every one of you who continue to read my blog posts every week and support my work so much.

I want to thank the now 10k+ people on my free newsletter as well which is an even more mind blowing number!

The encouragement and support that you guys provide me is the main reason why I am able to do this. It is absolutely amazing how much this little blog has grown over the years into one of the top visited websites on the internet for micro stakes poker strategy today.

Going forward you can expect the same in depth weekly articles on how to crush the micros. That really has been the bread and butter of this website for years and I have no plans to stop.

Thanks as always for reading and all the best at the poker tables!

— Nathan “BlackRain79” Williams
Nathan "BlackRain79" Williams

If you have any questions about The Micro Stakes Playbook feel free to leave them below.

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9 Ways to Bust the Fish Even Faster Than You Normally Do

9 Ways to Bust the Fish Even Faster Than You Normally Do
9 Ways to Bust the Fish Even Faster Than You Normally Do

When people ask me what is the secret to success at the micros I often give them a simple answer. Bust the fish faster.

And it is pretty easy to see why this is the case. In today’s poker games, even at the lower stakes, you often have a table full of regs and one bad player who everyone is keying on.

While you can and should be developing methods to beat the regs you are never going to turn a big profit against them. They just don’t make enough mistakes for this to be possible.

So the best way to get ahead in poker is to get the fish’s money faster than all of the other regs do. And luckily this is still pretty easy to do at the micros.

1. Isolate the Fish Like Crazy

I have talked about isolating the recreational poker players many times on this blog and in my books and videos. I am raising them up with anything that is even remotely playable:

  • Q4
  • J8
  • K2

You get the idea.

If it has any reasonable chance of making a hand after the flop, then I am raising the fish with it when they limp in order to get the pot heads up against them.

Luckily at the micros most regs are still pretty passive so they will just let you keep isolating the recs all day unless they happen to wake up with a big hand.

If you want to bust the fish faster, then you absolutely have to find more ways to get involved in pots with them. This is ground zero. You don’t need to wait for the nuts.

2. Put Them on Tilt

The 2nd way to start busting up the fish faster is to put them on tilt. Fish get easily frustrated when things don’t go their way. And this causes them to play even worse than they normally do.

The easiest way to put the fish on tilt is to isolate the crap out of them like I just mentioned and then CBet them almost every time.

Now I know it can be annoying sometimes if they keep catching a pair and your can’t flop anything. But even just the act of being aggressive like this is setting them up for the big pot.

Because eventually you are going to make a big hand and guess who they are likely to call down with their bottom pair, an aggressive guy who has been raising and betting into them every hand or the quiet nit who hasn’t played a hand in 20 minutes?

3. Fast Play Every Value Hand

Another way to wreck the fish is to make sure that you are value betting them like crazy any time you have a hand. It is important to remember that fish are usually extremely passive poker players. They aren’t going to build the pot for you!

So you have to build it yourself. And you accomplish this by just continuing to make the most stupidly obvious bets against them. Don’t try to get tricky or even think about trying to “trap” them. This will just go right over their heads.

Any time you have a hand that is likely to be ahead just start betting and keep betting until they give you a clear reason to hit the brakes.

And don’t be afraid to make your bets on the larger side either or even overbet like I talk about in Crushing the Microstakes. If you have them on tilt and they caught a piece of the flop, they are going to call.

4. Get on Their Left

One of the biggest things that people fail to realize is that finding the tables with the fish on them is only half the battle. Getting the right seat against them is just as important.

The seat to the direct left of somebody is always going to be the most profitable. This is because it allows you to act last against them in literally every single hand.

The power of position is so important in poker that if you took two evenly skilled players but gave one of them direct position every hand, he would eventually bust the other player for every last chip.

When you also have a substantial skill advantage over the fish, and you get direct position on them, then it is going to be a massacre.

5. Shove All-In on Action Rivers

Another way to bust the fish at the speed of sound is by overbetting action rivers especially once you already have them on tilt. I busted one rec player in particular with this play on multiple occasions in the NL2 video series that I put out last year.

The key point to remember here is that fish don’t fold straights, flushes or full houses. They just don’t do it!

So if you encounter a board runout by the river where it is possible that they have a big hand like this, and you can beat it, then the correct play is to simply shove all-in.

Here are a few examples:

24568

44423

On the first board if you have a 7 in your hand then you should always just shove all-in because they will never fold a 3.

On the 2nd board, if you have a high overpair like AA, KK, QQ or JJ then you should also always shove. This is because they will never fold 55, 66, 77, 88, 99 or TT.

Don’t make a “standard bet” like every other reg out there and win a medium sized pot. Shove all the money in the middle and stack them instead.

6. Show Them a Big Bluff

I don’t normally suggest trying to bluff the fish because calling after all is what they do best. But if you are ever going to run a big bluff against them, then you should do it early on and absolutely 100% make sure that you show it to them.

The reason why you want to do it early on against them is because people tend to give somebody who is an unknown more credit. Therefore, this is when bluffs are going to be most effective. A lot of people will just give you the benefit of the doubt for now.

And unlike when you bluff the regs you absolutely want to show it to the recreational player when you bluff them. They don’t forget stuff like this and they will call you down very often in the future.

This is why once you show them a big bluff once you don’t ever want to do it again. If you play a big pot against them again, make sure to show them the goods.

7. Chase Them Around

Anyone who reads this blog knows that I am a huge fan of table selection. If you want to win big in today’s games, then you should be treating it like your job in my opinion.

So another way to get under the skin of the fish, and to make sure you are playing in good games, is to constantly follow them around.

On most poker sites there is a search player option. Any time I identify a recreational player I will be searching what other tables they are playing at. I don’t care if they are playing Omaha, I am gonna join that table too.

This way I am able to get involved in even more hands with them and keep isolating and tilting them. This improves my chances even more of getting their money before all of the other regs do.

8. Bully The Fish

Recreational players play poker with their pride on the line. A loss of face is more important to them than an actual monetary loss. They don’t like to be pushed around or “bullied” as they like to put it.

So what should you do then? Bully them of course!

So along with isolating the crap out of them every time they limp I also like to mix in some ridiculous overbets (with the goods of course) from time to time just to irritate them even more.

So if I am already under their skin a bit and I flop something strong like top pair top kicker and they lead into me, I might just shove half my stack in the middle occasionally.

I know that they are going to fold most of the time. Although once in awhile I will get lucky and they will decide to play sheriff against me.

The real point of this bet though is to embarrass them and attack their pride. Because once I get somebody to start making poker decisions based on their ego instead of their wits, their money is mine.

9. Hollywood Your Big Bets

The final way to bust up the fish at lightning speed is to always be cognizant of your timing tells when you make a big play such as a raise on the river.

Remember that fish are usually only playing on one or two tables. They are paying attention to exactly how long you are taking to act.

So if you are making a big value raise it is best to let your timebank run down a little bit (about 10 seconds or so) and then make the big raise.

This looks extra bluffy to a fish. In their mind they interpret this as somebody who is trying to make a big play on them. When in reality I have AA and I just want to make sure I get them to call!

It is really important to “hollywood” your big hands like this in order to make sure that you get the most calls from the rec players. Don’t make quick decisions that might convince them that you really are strong.

Final Thoughts

Busting the fish is one of my favorite things to do at the poker tables and it should be for you too. After all, if winning money in poker is your goal, then this is the best way to go about it.

The real focus in today’s games needs to be on getting the fun player’s money before the rest of the regs do. And luckily this is still pretty easy to do as most regs are just robotically clicking buttons and not focusing enough on the recs.

You can make sure that you get the fish’s money faster than they do by isolating the crap out of them, tilting them, chasing them around, overbetting and bullying them.

Let me know in the comments below what some of your favorite ways to bust the fish are.

Lastly, if you want to know the strategy that I use to create some of the highest winrates ever recorded at the micros online, make sure to pick up a copy of my free poker ebook.

If you found this article helpful, also be sure to give it a “Like” or a “Tweet” below. Thanks!

9 Ways to Bust the Fish Even Faster Than You Normally Do

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The #1 Reason People Fail at Poker (And How to Avoid It)

The #1 Reason People Fail at Poker (And How to Avoid It)
The biggest reason why some people fail to win at poker

After 10 years in poker now, both playing the game professionally and writing several books about it, I have seen A LOT. I have seen so many people come and go. So many monumental changes in the industry and so on.

But I still occasionally see some of the same names and faces at the poker tables. Some of the same players who I have been battling against in some cases for a decade now. Some of them have even moved up to the highest levels of the game.

What is it that makes these people different? So many other people end up failing to even win at poker at all. Yet there always seems to be a handful of players that you see consistently crushing the cash games and making final tables.

Well there is exactly ONE reason why in my opinion.

Turning Knowledge Into Results: Execution

The #1 reason why most people fail to win at poker in my opinion is not due to a lack of knowledge. In fact, sometimes these days players even at the lowest limits know far too much theory!

The real reason why they cannot produce actual results at the poker tables is because they fail to consistently apply this knowledge in all situations.

They fail to make the correct play when it really matters. And this boils down to one thing:

Execution
ex·e·cu·tion
noun



1. The carrying out or putting into effect of a plan, order, or course of action.


You see poker is an easy game to comment on and give your opinion. Anybody can do it. Everybody seems to be a genius away from the felt.

But there is one crucial difference between all of the armchair experts out there and the very few who actually produce real world results in this game that change bank accounts and lives.

That is, they consistently apply their poker knowledge in the heat of the moment. And they don’t just do it “sorta sometimes if they feel like it” or as long as they are running good.

No, elite players execute and apply their knowledge at the poker tables all of the time, even when things are going horribly, horribly wrong for them.

In fact, as I have discussed before, the real test of a poker player is how they react when they run really, really bad for a long time. This is the exact spot where you can still gain a massive edge even in today’s tougher games.

Anybody can play good when all the cards are falling the right way for them. It doesn’t take any real skill to play like a pro when you are coolering everyone and avoiding the bad beats.

But most people react very poorly when they hit a bad run of cards, when they can’t make hands and the bad beats start to happen again and again and again. They start getting frustrated, make bad calls and sometimes even go on full blown tilt where they are literally just giving their money away.

The very best players though see this moment as a prime opportunity to get ahead of everybody else. They see this as the time when they get to separate themselves from the masses of breakeven and losing poker players by simply reacting better to adversity than they do.

How Do You Execute Your Poker Knowledge All the Time?

So how do the top players actually maintain this mental toughness, control their emotions and make the right play no matter what? Well first and foremost it begins with good preparation.

You have to know what the right play is in order to make it!

So elite players know the value of studying the game properly. And what this really means is studying the right material and then applying it at the poker tables.

They also prepare better for sessions both mentally and physically. So for instance they will never play when:

  • Tired
  • Stressed
  • Depressed
  • Drunk

Also, many of the poker pros who I know take care of themselves better than most people. This means that they choose to eat right and exercise regularly as well.

Not exactly mind blowing stuff though right?

Everybody knows that if you eat right and exercise then you will feel better, sleep better and think better. This will have a direct positive impact on your ability to play your best poker at all times.

But so few actually do it.

The Will to Succeed: Discipline 

And this leads me to my 2nd and even more important reason why the best poker players are able to execute and apply their knowledge in the moment better than others. Discipline.

In a recent Youtube video Doug Polk listed discipline as the #1 trait of the very best poker players. And I agree completely.

If you don’t know who this guy is by the way, he is often regarded as one of the top heads up no limit players in the world. He is also one of those players who I was referring to before that I have seen for over a decade now at the tables and played against many times.

So let me just be totally blunt here.

If you suffer from a lack of discipline (that is, doing something that you know is the right thing even when you don’t want to do it), then poker is probably not the game for you.

This game doesn’t care about your feelings. It doesn’t care if you have had too many bad beats lately. It doesn’t care if you are feeling frustrated, stressed out or even cursed.

It only rewards those who have the will to push through it and keep making the right play regardless of how they feel.

It also only rewards those who know when to quit if they are on tilt, make the effort to practice good table selection and put in the time studying the game away from the tables.

And all of this boils down to one thing, discipline.

Experience is the Great Equalizer

There is one other thing though that can take you a long way in this game and that is experience. I say it all the time on this blog and elsewhere, there is one common thing that almost all great players share:

They always seems to be at the tables playing poker!

The best poker players that I know have all played millions and millions of hands of poker or logged incredible amounts of hours live.

All of this experience forces you to see the same situations over and over again. For instance, in a small stakes game when you double barrel the turn with your overpair and a tight/passive player raises you, this is almost always going to be the nuts.

Usually even the most stubborn person in the world is eventually going to get the message to start folding here more often.

I know because this is exactly what happened to me. I learned this game almost 100% through trial and error. I had to lose all my money over and over again in spots like this before I finally learned to start folding more often.

Now it is important to point out that playing a maniacal amount of poker hands like I have won’t guarantee that you will become a great poker player. It is a necessary condition of success though in my opinion.

I don’t know any top players who don’t have massive amounts of experience playing this game.

Final Thoughts

The #1 reason why most people fail to win at poker actually has nothing to do with their knowledge of the game. In fact many people know too much these days especially at the lower stakes.

A very simple strategy like the one that I recommend is actually far more effective in most cases.

What most people lack instead is the ability to consistently apply and execute this knowledge in the heat of the moment when it actually matters.

The very best poker players out there, the ones who crush the games, often take care of their mind and bodies better so that they always approach each session ready to play to the very best of their abilities.

They also tend to have incredible work ethic putting in enormous numbers of hands and hours logged at the poker tables.

But the biggest reason why they are able to achieve top results is because they are more disciplined than others. And when you really break it down, discipline is just a bigger will to win than the next guy.

You are either going to make the right plays consistently or you are not. It’s totally up to you each and every time you sit down to play poker. Your results in this game will be the direct byproduct of the choice you make here.

Let me know in the comments below what you think holds most people back in poker.

The reason why people do not win at poker

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5 Ways to Win More With Your Overpairs

5 Ways to Win More With Your Overpairs
How to win more with overpairs in poker

When you have an overpair in poker with a hand like AA, KK or QQ it is vital that you get the absolute maximum value out of it. The reason why is because these hands don’t come around very often. They will also be by far your biggest winners in the long run.

Many people at the micros though routinely play their premium pairs far less than optimal even when they have an overpair to the board. More specifically they will win a small pot when they should have won a much bigger one. This ends up having a highly negative effect on their win-rate and therefore overall winnings at the poker tables.

So in this article I am going to provide you with 5 surefire ways to start getting much more value with your overpairs. No more winning small pots!

1. Bet Your Overpairs Like Crazy

The easiest way to win the most with your overpairs is to simply shovel as much money into the pot as possible. Since most players at the micros are fairly passive, the best way to do this is to just bet, bet and bet some more.

As I talk about in my first book, Crushing the Microstakes, your standard line with an overpair against the fish in particular should pretty much always be: raise preflop and then bet, bet, shove.

Simple, easy, and wins the absolute maximum.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t be taking the same line against most of the regulars at the lower stakes though as well. Unless there is a strong reason to believe that they are going to bluff at the pot if you check it to them, then you are just giving them free cards and setting yourself up to win a small pot.

It is true that sometimes when you bet they won’t have anything and it will force them to fold. This will happen against the recreational players too. This is just poker though.

There is nothing that you can do about it. Two people need to have hands in order for big pots to happen. When somebody has 9 high and no draw it doesn’t matter what you bet, they are folding.

Keep things astoundingly simple at the micros. Bet strong and frequently with your overpairs and you will win more.

2. Create A Table Image That Gets You Action

People send me emails all the time though complaining that they never get any action with their overpairs. Every time they bet big their opponents just fold.

Well first off, it is almost always a sample size problem. You can’t make sweeping judgements like this based off of what happened in the past couple sessions which is nearly always the case. You would need to analyze thousands of hands in Pokertracker to actually state this as fact.

But the real reason why they don’t get paid off? They are huge nits!

We have all seen those people at the micros online playing 18 tables at once. Or the guy in a live game who suddenly plays a hand after folding every hand for the past hour. I can spot them a mile away because I used to be one of them!

I don’t even need to look at my HUD stats on them in order to see that they only give action when they have the nuts.

I absolutely never pay these guys off. In fact nothing tilts me more than giving money to the nits because there is no skill in playing on a bajillion tables at once and waiting for the nuts. I go out of my way to make sick hero folds against these guys all the time.

If you want to start getting paid off with your overpairs, then you need to start betting with some marginal hands more often, raising your draws and so on.

If you are only going to put significant money in the pot when you have top pair/top kicker, a set or an overpair, then you simply can’t complain when everybody starts insta-folding when you bet. It’s just so obvious what you have.

If on the other hand you learn how to create a crazy table image (or at least give some action with hands that aren’t the nuts), then I can guarantee that you will start winning a lot more with your overpairs and all of your other good hands as well.

3. Overbet Versus the Fish

Almost nobody makes good use of the overbet in small stakes games these days yet it is such a powerful weapon. One of my favorite things to do against the recreational players is to just bet twice the pot sometimes with a hand like an overpair for something to do.

This is especially effective if I have been isolating the fish and pounding on them of late which is something that I absolutely recommend that you be doing at all times.

Rec players view strong bets, and especially overbets, with suspicion. When you show huge strength they see this as weakness instead. They view big bets as a bluff. They see it as somebody trying to “bully” them.

So the easy counter to this is to simply bully them with the nuts. Let them play sheriff and call you down with their nonsense and lose. You don’t even need an overpair to do this. I do it with top pair all the time too.

Once again though, this play will not work if the fish doesn’t have anything. You need to always remember that most of the time in this game nobody actually has anything good. You can’t do anything to change that.

But sometimes if the rec player happens to have a pair or a draw, and you have been creating that aggressive dynamic with them that I talk about all the time, an overbet will set them off and allow you to win an absolutely huge pot with ease.

In the video course that I put out last year I showed this in action on several occasions, betting big and stacking the fish often with just top pair. They were sick of being “bullied” by me and decided to make their stand.

They were right. I didn’t have the nuts. But I still had the best hand. The relentless pressure and big bets (sometimes overbets) caused them to flip out and literally just start handing me their money.

4. Check/Raise the Aggressive Regs

Now even though the best play with your overpairs is to bet, bet, shove against most opponents at the lower stakes these days, it is a good idea to mix things up against the better aggressive regs.

These are the ones who will actually be paying attention to the lines you take with certain hands. Therefore, if you do the same thing every single time with your strong hands, they will read you like a book and stop paying you off.

This is why point #2 above is so important especially as you move up the stakes. If you can have draws in your bet, bet, shove range for instance, this changes everything. 

Now they will be forced to give you action more often or risk getting bluffed and laying down the best hand too often. That is a topic for another article though.

One of the best ways to start mixing up your value lines versus the better regs is to check/raise the turn or the river with your overpairs.

Check/raising here is great for two reasons:

  • It allows you to get the most money in the middle
  • It lets them know that there will be a price to pay for floating us too often

Now it is extremely important that I underscore the point here that I will only ever attempt this play against the good aggressive regs (or the rare maniac fish).

The reason why is because these players will regularly pounce on weakness when you check (as they should) and try to take the pot away from you. The vast majority of players at the lower stakes will not do this.

Most of them will check behind frequently even with a pair or a decent draw. Same thing with the fish. No point in trying to check/raise somebody who won’t bet.

Try check/raising your overpairs every once in awhile versus the aggressive regs to confuse them and win more. If you take the same line with your overpairs every time against thinking players you become too predictable and easy to play against.

5. Design Your Bet Sizes Based on Their Range

As we already discussed, against the fish you should just bomb the pot with your overpairs and hope that they have something to call you with. Their range is so wide that there is no point in even trying to predict it.

But versus the regs (good ones and bad ones) it is a lot easier to put them on a range of hands especially by the later streets like the river.

Many people though make the mistake of betting huge on the river, especially if the turn went check/check, in order to get some value.

Now this is a perfectly logical thing to do of course. The problem though is that often the reg ends up insta-folding versus their bet and they are left wondering why they can’t get paid off.

Well as mentioned above, a nitty table image is one reason for not getting paid off. But another important reason why the reg gave them no action is because they failed to consider the board and their opponent’s range.

Many times the reg would have happily paid off a 40% or 50% of the pot bet but will insta-fold versus an 80% of the pot bet. Since bet sizes are the biggest on the river, it is absolutely a crime against your win-rate to miss these important value bets.

Let’s look at an example to help illustrate this better.

Example Hand:

Hero raises from the button with AA

Nit Reg Villain flats in the big blind

Flop:

446

Villain checks

Hero CBets

Villain calls


Turn:

K

Villain checks

Hero bets

Villain calls

River:

4

Villain checks

Hero bets…how much???

Preflop we open raise with the mortal nuts from the button and get called by a Nit in the big blind. He will be set-mining here a lot (small and mid pairs) and have a few broadways as well (KQ, KJ, QJ).

Nits will call here frequently with big aces too (AK, AQ, AJ) but since we block these hands so heavily in this example, it will be difficult for him to have them.

We make our standard CBet when he checks to us on the flop on this dry paired board with a flush draw. When he checks to us again on the turn we bet again in order to keep getting value as I recommended above.

He will often get stubborn with mid pairs like 77, 88 and 99. I would rather get more value now versus these hands then wait for another overcard to fall on the river and scare him even more.

He can also call with the heart flush draw here. It is always important to note that with two black aces we do NOT block this draw (definitely a good thing).

When the flush misses on the river and the board comes with another 4 he checks to us again. What can he have at this point? What kind of bet will he be willing to call?

Finding the Perfect Bet Size

Well, considering the preflop range that we put him on he has a missed flush draw here sometimes. This means that he is never calling us no matter what we bet unless he has exactly:

KQ or KJ

*These are the only two King hands that would call preflop and then check/call this flop.

But plenty of the time he will also have some sort of middle strength full house with a hand like 55, 77, 88 or 99. It is unlikely that he will ever show up with a strong full house here (KK, QQ, JJ, TT) because he would have 3Bet us with those hands preflop.

So given this range of hands you can probably see where this is going by now…

Betting 80% of the pot bet here would be a serious mistake. Betting this much is a good way to get him to fold all of those middle strength full houses that we desperately want a call from!

A 40% or 50% of the pot value bet here though will likely get a call from these hands a much larger amount of the time. And if we have an aggressive table image a smaller bet like this might even induce some crazy hero calls from worse hands or a flip out bluff/raise from missed flush draws.

Since this is a triple barrel pot, betting 40% or 50% of the pot will easily amount to 15 or 20 big blinds. With top win-rates at the lower stakes these days often being just 5bb/100 or 10bb/100, missing a value bet frequently in a spot like this could easily be the difference between you being a breakeven player and a huge winner.

Elite players who crush the games do not miss bets like this. Average players miss them all the time though because they don’t think about their bet sizing.

Always make sure to consider your opponent’s range (with regs, not fish) and how it connects with the board especially on the later streets. This way you can design your bet sizes according to their likely hand strength and get the maximum value every time.

Final Thoughts

Learning how to win more with your overpairs will have an immediate positive effect on your overall poker earnings. And usually all it takes is a few subtle adjustments in order to make this happen.

First off, just step on the gas pedal versus the fish and the bad regs. You can’t win a big pot without betting strong and frequently against these player types. And don’t worry, they will let you know if you are beat and you have to fold your overpair.

Versus the better aggressive regs you can create more action with your premium pairs by mixing in some check/raises sometimes and designing your bet sizes better based off of their range and the board on the later streets.

Lastly, versus all player types the easiest way to start winning more with your overpairs is to simply start giving more action when you don’t have an overpair. If you always need to have the nuts in order to play a big pot, nobody is going to pay you off when you want them too.

If you want to know my complete strategy for crushing the micro stakes games (and how I created some of the best results in online poker history) make sure you pick up a copy of my free poker ebook.

Let me know in the comments below how you play your overpairs.

Winning more money in poker with overpairs

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The Ultimate 6-Max Poker Strategy Guide

The Ultimate 6-Max Poker Strategy Guide
6-Max poker strategy

6-Max poker has really taken off in popularity in recent years. Full ring games (9 or 10 players) used to be the norm, and actually still are if you play live, but 6-Max now dominates the world of online poker.

You can log on to PokerStars for instance (the biggest online poker room in the world) at any time of the day and look at any stakes from the micros to the nosebleeds. You will typically see twice as many 6max tables running as full ring these days.

Just 5 years ago it was much closer to an even 50/50 split. And 10 years ago full ring dominated online. The times have changed though and people clearly prefer the more action orientated game of 6max over full ring.

What is surprising to me then is that I haven’t seen a comprehensive guide to 6-Max poker strategy anywhere online. Most material out there tries to cover both formats. Which is fine in most instances, but there are also some key areas where you need to make adjustments if you truly want to crush 6-Max.

So this article will be my complete guide to 6-Max poker strategy. I will be sharing with you my top tricks and tips that I have learned over the years from playing millions of hands of 6-Max and crushing these games.

1. Play More Hands in 6-Max

The first big adjustment that you have to make if you are coming over from 9 or 10 handed games is to understand that at a 6-Max table you need to open up and play more hands. Let’s start off by talking about some exact ranges.

At a full ring table I would typically suggest playing about the top 15% of all hands that are dealt to you. Here is a rough visual representation of what that might look like:

6-Max poker strategy

It is important not to get too wrapped up in the actual hands above. This is just an average selection. You should play less hands than this in the first few seats and more hands in the cutoff and button due to the incredible power of position in poker.

However at a 6-Max poker table, I would typically suggest playing about the top 20% of hands that are dealt to you. Once again here is a rough visual representation of what that might look like.

6max online poker strategy

And again, please don’t try to play these exact hands in every situation. This is just an example. You should be playing less hands that this in early position and more hands than this in late position.

The key takeaway here is that whatever hands you are currently playing at a full ring table, you need to add a few of the next worst hands if you decide to start playing 6-Max. 
For instance, by comparing the two charts above you can see that in full ring suited aces down to A5 are selected. However in the 6-Max chart, A4 suited, A3 suited and A2 suited are selected as well. This is what I mean by adding a few of the “next worst hands.”


Here is Another Example:

In a full ring game let’s say that you currently open raise on the button with KQ, KJ and KT. Well, if you start playing 6-Max it would be a good idea to start raising with K9 and maybe K8 in this spot as well. 
You should make this adjustment for literally all situations in a 6-Max game. This means expanding your blind versus blind opening range, your early position opening range, your 3Bet calling range etc. You should add a few of the next worst hands in every scenario when you play 6-Max.

Why do you actually need to play more hands in 6-Max?
The reason why you need to play more hands in all situations in a 6-Max game is very simple. Less people at the table means there is less of a chance that anybody has anything good.
If you only take one thing from this entire article let it be this: Most of the time in a 6-Max game nobody actually has anything very good at all. 
Also, it is important to remember that the blinds come around a lot faster in a 6-Max game which means that you can’t just sit around waiting for the nuts all day like you can in a full ring game. 
So therefore, it is necessary to get in there and start mixing it up with a few more hands in order to keep winning your fair share of the pots. 
I have seen far too many full ring guys at the lower stakes switch over to 6-Max and play the exact same range of hands that they do in a full ring game. And yet they wonder why they aren’t winning!
Don’t be that guy.

Quick Bonus Tip:
There is actually an even easier way to think about this. When you play in a 6-Max game just pretend that you are playing at a full ring table and the first three seats have been removed (or the first 4 seats if you are used to 10 handed live poker games).
Because in reality, this is all that a 6-Max poker game really is. 
6-Max online poker strategy
So if you are first to act preflop in a 6-Max game, just pretend that you are playing a 9 handed game and three people have already folded before you. 
Play the exact same range of hands that you would from middle position (MP) in a full ring game and so on and so forth from every other position at the table. This will quickly have you playing the right hands in 6-Max.

2. Bet More Often After the Flop in 6-Max

Postflop there are many adjustments to be made when you play 6-Max as well. One of the biggest ones is the necessity to bet more often on all streets after the flop.
And the biggest reason why is because strong hands are harder to come by in 6-Max. People will play more hands overall and therefore their ranges tend to be weaker on all postflop streets. 
So for instance, in 6-Max there is a better chance that your Ace high on the flop is actually still the best hand. Therefore, you don’t even need to think of your CBet as a bluff. Since there is a good chance that you have the best hand, it is often actually for value.
In full ring things are a little bit different. This is a game where Nits can still turn a small profit sitting around waiting for AA and sets all day. You simply cannot get away with this in 6-Max and expect to win though. The blinds will eat you alive and the better regs will push you around all day. 

Here’s What You Need to Do:
In 6-Max you should be betting the flop and firing additional barrels on the turn and/or river more often than in a full ring game. Your opponents just can’t possibly have a hand often enough to call you down every time. 
“Red line” (or non-showdown winnings) are a lot more important in 6max than full ring. A larger share of the pots are won because somebody simply wanted it more, not because they showed down the best hand.
Check out my complete guide to increasing your red line winnings for more.
And furthermore, many players at the lower stakes still haven’t made the adjustment in 6-Max to call wider versus aggressive players. They still operate with a full ring mentality where they want to wait for the nuts before putting any significant money in the pot. 
Let’s look at an example to help illustrate this all better.

Example Hand
Hero raises to 3x from early position with AJ
Nit Villain calls on the button
Flop:
366
Hero CBets
Villain calls
Turn:
2
Hero???
We raise preflop with a strong suited Ace in early position and get called by a nitty (tight) reg on the button. His range here has a lot of small and middle pairs that he is trying to set mine us with. He will also have a few big Aces and broadways that he was too afraid to 3Bet with.
Villain’s Likely Range: (22, 33, 44, 55, 66, 77, 88, 99, TT, AK, AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ) 
We make a standard CBet on this extremely dry flop which should fold out all of his non-pair hands. More specifically a Nit will probably fold all his AK, AQ, AJ, KQ and KJ hands here.
Since this is a paired board the chances that he has a set are very low. But we expect him to hang on with some of his small pairs like 44 or 55 and all of his mid pairs (77, 88, 99, TT) as well.
Now in a full ring game when I get flatted on this flop by a Nit I would often just give up on this total brick turn card. In fact in my article last week I talked about exactly why this is generally a bad card to double barrel on.
But it is a lot closer in 6-Max. I know that it is harder for them to have something to call me with. I also know that this specific type of player is often looking for any excuse to fold. Make sure to check their Went to Showdown numbers (WTSD%) on your HUD for more evidence of this.
It is important to note that if I decide NOT to double barrel this turn, then I am going to bluff plenty of rivers in 6-Max for all of the same reasons. I will be betting any broadway card for instance (T, J, Q, K or A) and possibly some hearts as well.
Bottom Line: Bet more often in 6-Max. It is simply harder for them to have a hand. Many of the weaker regs (Nits and TAGfish in particular) also still fold way too much at the lower stakes. 
Check out my full guide on player types at the lower limits for more on which regulars to target.

3. Float More Often After the Flop in 6-Max

In addition to betting more often in a 6-Max game you should also be floating when they bet quite a bit more often as well.
A float in poker is simply the act of calling a continuation bet after the flop. And preferably in position most of the time because this makes it much easier to take the pot away from them on later streets.
In a full ring game you can often just lay down your Ace high or even bottom pair on the flop. However, it is much more necessary in a 6-Max game to continue with hands like these. 
The reason why? Because once again, most of the time nobody actually has anything!
Also, floating is arguably the very best way to break the Nits in today’s small stakes games. This will be a heavy focus of my new book to be released later this year.
So often these days you will encounter regs at the lower limits who have a gap between their Flop CBet% and Turn CBet% of 20 points, 30 points or even more. This is unbelievably exploitable.
Here is an example of a typical tight 6-Max reg at the micros these days.
6max online poker strategy
On my HUD display which you can download and use for yourself for free right here.
  • CBF = CBet Flop 
  • CBT = CBet Turn

*Note the 35 point difference with this reg.
What this means is that he will often fire a continuation bet on the flop, but if he doesn’t have much of a hand by the turn (which is the case most of the time), then he will just go into shutdown mode and give up on the pot for the most part.
This gives us tons of opportunities to win easy pots on the turn and/or river by just making a simple bet. Our actual hand becomes almost irrelevant. Red line goes through the roof. Easy game.
Now despite these very basic betting errors that many small stakes players still make we don’t want to be floating with just any two cards. We still want to have some standards as I will explain below.
But if you are folding the flop more than about 60% of the time in a 6-Max game, I would say that you are leaving serious money on the table. I would shoot for closer to a 50% fold rate. If you are highly confident in your postflop game, then you can fold even less than this and show a profit at the lower stakes.
So What Hands Should We Float With?
You should of course be calling the flop (or raising) with all of your strong hands like overpairs, top pairs, flush draws, straight draws and two pair or better.
However, you should also be routinely floating the flop in 6-Max with many of your:
  • Middle pairs
  • Bottom pairs
  • Gut shot straight draws
  • Backdoor draws (straight or flush) with over(s)
And just to be clear I want to note that I am only talking about 100 big blind effective stacks and heads up pots here. Versus short stacks or multiple opponents the strategy can change significantly.
But hopefully the point is clear. In a 6-Max game you need to be continuing with a lot more hands after the flop. You can’t just sit around waiting for the nuts all day and expect to win. Let’s look at an example.
Example Hand
Nit Villain raises to 3x in early position
Hero calls on the button with AJ
Flop:
366
Villain CBets
Hero???
You might notice that this is actually the exact same hand that I discussed before. I just switched the seats and the preflop action around. We are the preflop caller this time and we have position as well.
This nitty regular is almost certainly going to CBet on this dry board. We have two nice overcards and the backdoor nut flush draw. So I am never folding when he bets here. From time to time I will even mix in a raise as well.
The reason why is because I think that a weaker reg like this will give up a lot versus either line. He will fail to make a CBet on the turn a lot of the time or just give up on the flop versus a raise sometimes. 
Even if he gives us action there are tons of turn cards that we can bet or bluff on with plenty of equity.
These are cards like:
  • Any broadway (T, J, Q, K or A)
  • Any diamond

This amounts to half of the deck when you count them all. Also, since we have position we will be able to dictate the pace of the action the rest of the way. We can just check behind on some turns that aren’t good for us and bluff some rivers as well.
Basically, there are tons of ways for us to win here. You have to get involved in 6-Max and fight for more pots. In position against the weaker regs is a good place to start mixing it up more. You can make a small fortune at the micros by floating these guys and outplaying them on later streets.

4. Raise More Often After the Flop in 6-Max

Something else that you need to be doing more often in 6-Max compared to full ring is raising after the flop.
I have done a lot of research in Pokertracker 4 about postflop raising ranges for regs at the lower stakes online. Most are only raising around 10% of the time on the flop and this is the street where people are most likely to raise.
This is pretty crazy because if you are only raising the flop 10% of the time this means that you pretty much always have a set or a monster draw. This is almost trivial to exploit. 
I would recommend raising the flop a lot more often than this (as much as double) and more often on the later streets as well. 
You should definitely still keep raising with your sets and monster draws most of the time. But you should also be raising frequently with regular draws (flush and straight) and even sometimes with just two overs and a backdoor draw like we saw in the previous hand. 
Adding these types of hands to your postflop raising range will make you infinitely more difficult to play against because your opponents won’t be able to put you on a monster every time and make the easy fold.
Raising more after the flop is also highly effective in 6-Max because they won’t have a strong hand to call you with very often. And even if they get stubborn with some sort of pair, a followup bet on the turn and/or river is often enough to turn them into a believer.
Let’s look at an example to help illustrate this better.
Example Hand
Nit Villain raises to 2.5x from the button
Hero calls in the big blind with JT
Flop:
39A
Hero checks
Villain CBets
Hero???
A nitty regular raises from the button in this hand. Since he is in a steal position we know that he will be opening with a wide range here, perhaps as much as 30% or even more hands.
It is important to also note the 2.5x the big blind open which is pretty standard these days even at the lower stakes especially from a steal seat (button or cutoff).
Five years ago most people would make it 3x or even more sometimes in this spot which gave you much worse odds to call out of position. Therefore the play was often to either 3Bet or fold. 
But with the smaller open raise sizes in today’s games (2x or 2.5x) flatting with a hand like this is certainly an acceptable option as well. 
On the flop there are also multiple lines that we could take with this hand. You could throw in some leads here once in awhile just to mix things up and keep them guessing. I prefer to just check it to the preflop raiser most of the time though and that is what we do here.
After the reg makes his CBet we could just call out of position here. But it doesn’t really put us in a great spot on the turn since we will miss our flush 80% of the time and be out of position still with just a draw.
Check/Raise!
So I think it is a good idea to mix in some check/raises in a spot like this more often. We don’t need to fear the Ace too much (remember this guy is opening with 30% of hands from the button here). And by raising we also give ourselves a chance to take down the pot unimproved right now or with a followup lead on the turn. 
People often complain these days about not getting any action with their big hands like AA or sets. A big part of the reason why is because everybody and their dog knows that they have the nuts when they raise!
If you can show up with hands like this (regular flush draw), or even worse hands on occasion, not only will you get a lot more action when you actually want it, but you will start taking away more pots from the regulars and ultimately winning more.
Bottom Line: In a 6-Max game you have to find more ways to get active postflop because so often nobody really has anything good. Raising more often with decent equity hands like a flush draw is a good way to go about that.

5. Isolate the Recreational Players More Often in 6-Max

The final adjustment that you need to make for 6-Max is to zero in on the fish even more than ever. By this I mean that you should be isolating the recreational players like crazy at the lower stakes. 
As I discuss at length in both of my books, playing against the fish is by far the #1 way to increase your poker winnings. There is no strategy on earth that you will ever learn in any guide, video, book or from any coach that can even come close.
Bad players = $.
And the great thing about the lower stakes games (online or live) is that most of the regs won’t fight with you to get in hands with the fish like they will at higher limits. This means that when the recreational player limps into the pot you can often raise it up and get the pot heads up against them pretty easily. 
Even if you are out of position this is still a great opportunity. Recreational players are where the bulk of your profits will come from in this game because they make massive fundamental mistakes all the time. They also tilt like crazy.
So you can and should be taking control of the pot preflop with an even wider range of hands than normal if a fish limps in. 
If I am in position, especially on the button, then I will be raising with nearly half the deck when they limp in. The reason why is that my edge in this spot is simply too big to pass over.
I expect to be able to turn a profit with hands as weak as:
Q7
or 
KT
The other great thing about 6-Max is that since there are less players at the table, you get to play hands against the recreational players way more often. 
You should always be focusing heavily on your poker table selection and playing on easy poker sites in today’s games. But I would say that it is even more important in 6-Max. 
If you always have at least one bad player at the table, then it is literally impossible not to win big even if you just play like a complete nit. And at 6-Max, you get to bust them even faster.

Final Thoughts

6-Max poker strategy is not really that complicated. It really just involves expanding your range a little bit in nearly all facets of the game. But it is important not to go too crazy. A 6-Max poker game is still way closer in theory to full ring than to heads up for instance. 
But if you really want to start crushing the lower stakes 6-Max games, then it will be necessary to start shedding a few of your nitty ways. And believe me, as a former massive multi-tabling full ring nit grinder I know all about this!
You need to start playing a few more hands from all positions preflop as well as betting and barreling more postflop. You should be floating and raising more often as well especially against the weaker regs.
In time you will start to think with more of a 6-Max mentality. There are tons of easy pots up for grabs that nobody really wants to fight for. And you don’t need to have the nuts in order to start winning more of them!
The other great thing about 6-Max is that you get to play hands more often against the fish. Make sure you are getting involved with them as often as possible and getting their stack before the other regs do.
If you want to know the full strategy I have used to create some of the highest win-rates in online poker history at the micros (both 6-Max and full ring), then make sure to pick up a copy of my free poker ebook. 
This post took a long time to write. If you found it helpful please consider giving it a “Like” or a “Tweet” below. Thanks!
6-Max poker strategy
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When to Double Barrel the Turn Cheat Sheet – Bet Again on These Cards

When to Double Barrel the Turn Cheat Sheet – Bet Again on These Cards
When to Double Barrel the Turn in Poker

A lot of people who are new to poker or play at the lower stakes have trouble with the idea of when to make a double barrel. This is a bet again on the turn after you raised preflop and then bet the flop.

And more specifically, they don’t understand what cards to continue betting on.

So what happens instead is that in the interest of appearing aggressive they end up randomly barreling against their opponents. This leads to what I often refer to as “clicking buttons.”

Randomly clicking buttons is not how we win in online poker (same thing for live poker too). Yes it is good to be aggressive. You need to be aggressive in order to be a big time winning player. But you have to know why you are betting and what type of opponents to do it against.

So if you have any signs of clicking buttons syndrome, don’t worry, this is the article for you. In this post I am going to talk about what types of turn cards and versus which opponents we want to continue betting on. I will also discuss which ones to avoid.

Player Type is More Important Than Anything

Before I even get started though I need to mention that the type of player who you are up against is actually more important than what the turn card is when double barreling.

You should always be playing the player at the poker tables and this means knowing exactly what type of opponent you are up against.

Barrel the Weak/Tights

In general, the players who you want to be double and even triple barreling against the most at the lower stakes are what are often referred to as weak/tight regs or sometimes just bad regs.

These are the players who play fairly tight but they aren’t willing to risk big portions of their stack without the nuts.

This will be by far the most common type of opponent that you face at the lower stakes by the way. This is why I am focusing heavily on how to crush them in my new book.

Don’t Barrel the Fish and Good Regs as Much

The players that you want to sometimes avoid double barreling light on the other hand are the recreational players and some of the good players as well.

The fish will simply call you down because they don’t think about the game on any kind of deeper level at all. So this is why you typically want to have a good value hand like top pair or a huge draw when barreling against them.

The handful of really good winning regs that you will find at the lower stakes will notice if your bluffing frequencies are too high. So you can’t just barrel every scare card that comes up on the turn or they will correctly adjust and call you down with middle pair. So you need to pick your spots a little bit better here as well.

For more on the various player types and what they correlate to with HUD stats as well, I would suggest checking out my popular article on the various types of regs here.

Double Barreling Turn Scare Cards

The most common type of turn card that you should be double barreling on is a scare card.

What is a scare card?

A scare card is usually referred to as some sort of big broadway card like an ace or a king. The reason why this is scary to them is because our perceived range as the preflop raiser includes tons of ace and king hands.

Let’s have a look at an example hand.

Example:

Hero opens to 3x from EP with 55

Weak/tight villain calls on the button

Before we even get to the flop let’s consider villain’s range here. When a tight reg like this flats me preflop in a spot like this I expect him to show up with a lot of small and middle pairs that he is trying to set-mine me with. I also expect him to show up with a few big aces that he was too scared to 3Bet me with.

He will probably be putting me on a lot of big aces, broadway hands like KQ and lots of big pairs and middle pairs.

Flop:

244

Hero CBets

We make a pretty standard CBet on a low board like this. I expect to get called most of the time by my opponent’s pair hands. I expect to fold out pretty much all of his big ace hands.

Turn:

A

This is the perfect card to double barrel a weak/tight nit on because he is going to be scared to death that his 77 or 88 or 99 is beat now and he will look to make the hero fold.

We also pick up a bit of equity with the gut shot to the 3 which is great too. So this is an easy +EV double barrel spot that you should be making on a regular basis against the weak/tight regs in particular.

What Are Some Other Good Cards to Barrel On?

There are plenty of other good cards that you can barrel on as well though which will increase your bluffing frequencies and have you showing a solid profit against the weak/tight regs.

These are cards where you pick up some equity which usually comes from a backdoor draw. Let’s look at another example.

Example:

Hero raises in EP with KQ

Weak/tight villain calls on the button

Flop:

3T5

Once again we are going to CBet on a dry flop like this with pretty much our entire range. It folds out all his big aces and we plan to barrel plenty of scare cards on the turn as well.

But here are some other turn cards that we can also continue betting on:

  • Any diamond (there are 10 more of them in the deck)
  • Any 9 or J (there are 8 of them in the deck)

The diamond gives us a solid backdoor flush draw which we will hit 20% of the time on the river. And the 9 or the J gives us a gut shot or open ended straight draw which will also come in from time to time on the river.

Furthermore, some of these cards might even be overcards to whatever middle pair our opponent is hanging on with. This could scare him out as well.

Lastly, if all else fails there is a very good chance that our two overs with the K and the Q (6 outs) will be good on the river as well.

This is how you can analyze a turn situation and understand exactly why you are betting again, rather than randomly clicking buttons and hoping for the best.

For instance, here are a few examples of turn cards that I would choose NOT to double barrel on in this spot:

2

4

The reason why?

These cards do nothing to help improve our hand and they also will not scare our opponent at all. These are the type of turn cards where it is best to just check and give up and hope you spike one of your overs on the river.

Remember, you can’t win every pot in poker. Sometimes you need to be willing to just give up on the pot because there is simply more value (lose the least) in check/folding given the opponent and the board.

This is something that is extremely important to understand at the micros in particular. Learning how to check/fold more often against many of the terrible opponents that you will often encounter in these games is actually one of the biggest keys to my success.

Conclusion

I hope that this article gave you a few ideas on how to double barrel more effectively on the turn at the lower stakes.

Firstly, you should barreling most often against the weak/tight opponents who will be the most likely to give up on their middle pair type hand and let you have the pot. Luckily they will also be by far your most common opponent in small stakes games these days.

Versus the fish and the good regs you should have a bit more value in your range in this situation. It’s not like I won’t ever double barrel bluff them but I won’t be betting again on every backdoor draw or scare card that comes.

Furthermore, you should also be looking to make your double barrels strategically on the right turn cards. Specifically these are broadway scare cards (especially aces and kings) and runner cards that provide you with a decent backdoor draw such as a flush or straight draw or even a gut shot.

On all other cards you should typically just be giving up on the pot. This will keep your turn barreling frequencies in good shape against the weak/tight nit army and have you easily destroying them in this situation in the long run.

If you want to know my complete strategy and how I created some of the biggest winrates in the history of online poker at the micros make sure you pick up a copy of my free ebook.

Let me know your thoughts below about double barreling at the lower stakes. Which cards do you like to bet on?

When to double barrel on the turn

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How to Play Ace King From the Blinds – The Complete Guide

How to Play Ace King From the Blinds – The Complete Guide
How to Play Ace King From the Blinds

How play AK from the blinds is a very common strategy question that people send me and that I see all the time on poker forums as well. I have long promised that I would write a guide for this specific spot one day and so here it finally is.

I want to be clear up front though that the reason why so many people have difficulty with this spot is because it is not easy. There is rarely one right way to play it.

It depends on so many different factors such as where the raise came from, who made it, if there were callers in between, history, stack sizes, game dynamics and so on.

Furthermore, as I will also discuss in this post, you should be mixing up your play not only for balance against the better players, but also against the range of the weaker opponents.

Anyways, there is a lot to discuss so let’s just get started!

Ace King From the Blinds in a Limped Pot

Let’s start with the easiest of scenarios, AK in a limped pot. This sort of thing will still happen from time to time in loose passive games at the lowest stakes online and certainly in live games sometimes as well.

You should ALWAYS raise in this spot. There are very few “100% plays” in poker but this would be one of them. Always raise even if the entire table has limped already.

Why?

Because AK is an incredibly strong hand and you often have a solid equity edge before the flop. The raise is purely for value.

Also, we win in poker by playing aggressively. Most of the time nobody has anything very good after the flop. The person who was the preflop aggressor often takes down the pot in these situations.

How much should you raise it?

I will typically make my raise 4x the big blind when out of position like this and then add one more big blind for every limper. If the table is extra loose then you should consider making it even more.

Let’s take the most extreme example possible (family pot):

6max: Hero has AK in the big blind and the entire table limps.

I would raise it to 9x the big blind here. If the big blind was $1 for instance, then that means that I would make it $9 to go here. 4x standard plus 5x for all the limpers (5 of them).

Once again, if there are some huge fish at the table who will call anything, then you should consider making it even more here. A lot of people make the mistake of making their raise size too small in spots like this and end up getting called by the entire table.

This is a disaster.

The last thing that you want is for one fish to call and then everybody else calls as well because they all think that they have “pot odds.”

So you should be paying attention to the table dynamics and the player types at all times whether you are playing online or live. And you should know what amount it is going to take to get most of them to fold. Or even all of them, which is a totally fine result also.

AK From the Blinds Versus a Raise

Ok let’s get to a much more common scenario now. You have Ace King in the blinds and there is a raise in front of you.

Well, there are two things that are of prime importance here:

  • Where did the raise come from (what position)
  • Who made the raise (what player type)

The Raise Came from Early Position

If the raise came from early position and from a tight player it is not a crime to just flat call here. Many people think that they have to auto 3Bet AK no matter what.

But if you think about your opponent’s range in this spot it might be as narrow as 66+ and AJ+. This is especially true if you are playing full ring.

It is very unlikely that this type of player is going to call your 3Bet with a hand that you crush. He will almost certainly fold AJ and will sometimes fold AQ as well. He will call you with a bunch of pairs that you flip with (88, 99, TT, JJ and QQ) and usually re-raise you with the two hands that crush you (AA and KK).

So in this spot it can certainly make plenty of sense to just flat sometimes even though we are out of position. This is because it keeps some hands in his range that we are way ahead of. This allows us to win a big pot should the Ace come for instance versus his AJ or AQ.

3Betting of course is fine here sometimes as well in order to mix things up and for value. I like it even more when I am squeezing. This means when there is a caller in between.

This player (the caller) usually has a weaker speculative hand that cannot stand a 3Bet (e.g. small pair or suited connector) and is therefore referred to as “dead money.”

The Raise Came From Late Position

Now if the raise came from late position things will be quite a bit different. Typically when somebody raises from LP (cutoff or button) they will have a much wider range.

They can be attempting to steal the blinds with as much as 30% or more of the deck in some cases. This means that they are playing nearly every ace, a lot of different kings, all pairs, all broadways etc.

We crush a lot of hands in this range. Also, when we 3Bet in this spot it doesn’t look nearly as strong because most players these days expect to get played back light here.

We know that they are raising light from late position so we will mix in more light 3Bets from the blinds. But any good player at the lower stakes knows that we know this and will therefore flat or even 4Bet us lighter than normal.

This means that we will get action more often from a wider range and by several hands that we crush with AK. These would be hands like AT, AJ, AQ and KQ.

It is important to remember that we are at the top of our range here and this is a great spot to be in versus a thinking opponent.

So while you should still flat from the blinds on occasion here versus good players just to stay somewhat balanced, I would lean more towards 3Betting in this spot.

Versus bad regs and recreational players you should play much more exploitatively as I talk about at length in both of my books. This means just 3Betting them heavily here.

Quick Note: I will be referencing “good regs” and “bad regs” a lot in this article. If you don’t know the difference go check out this post of mine.

AK From the Blinds Versus a 3Bet or 4Bet

Sometimes the action is going to get heavy preflop and once again there are several different ways to play it depending on the players involved and the ranges in particular.

Versus a 3Bet

If you are in the blinds and there is already a raise and a 3Bet in front of you the right play will be extremely dependent on the player types involved.

I would say that the safe and most common play here is just to flat call. The reason being is that when you cold 4Bet it just looks so ridiculously strong. And so you often get one of those situations again where they fold all hands that you crush and only give you action with hands that flip or crush you.

But if the game is playing particularly wild and loose or if both players are just really loose and aggressive regs, then it can be fine to make the cold 4Bet for value anyways.

This is often a judgement call that only you can know by paying attention to the players at your table or referring to your HUD if playing online.

The action in the hand is also extremely important. As we already discussed above raises in early position and late position often mean much different things.

Versus a 4Bet

Let’s discuss the final situation. You 3Bet your Ace King and somebody 4Bets you.

This situation is a lot more simple. Most of the time you should either be shipping the rest of your stack in the middle or folding.

The reason why we don’t want to be calling too much here is because we will be out of position after the flop with nearly 1/4 of our stack in the middle (assuming 100bb effective to start the hand).

And what’s worse, Ace King is going to miss the flop 2 out of 3 times. It really sucks to put 1/4 of your stack in the middle and be left dealing with ace high out of position so often.

However, for range balancing versus good players you should still have a small calling range here. Once again versus bad regs and recs though I will play it much more exploitatively with almost no calling range (shove or fold).

Against bad regs and recreational players I will fold if they are clearly only 4Betting me with the mortal nuts, 4Bet ratio of 1 or less. See my massive HUD setup article for more on this.

Or if I think they can be 4Betting me relatively wide, then I will often just ship my stack in knowing that even if called I am probably at least a flip most of the time.

How to Play AK on the Flop From the Blinds

Ok, let’s get to postflop finally here because it is a lot more interesting. When people write me about playing Ace King from the blinds the scenario is almost always a 3Bet pot where they missed the flop.

So let me just state a simple fact about this situation before I even begin.

It sucks!

There is no strategy on earth that is going to allow you to be highly profitable here. Out of position, 3Bet pot, no pair, it sucks!

When they called our 3Bet preflop they often have some sort of mid to high pair and they probably won’t fold to a CBet on the flop all that often. Remember that we block both ace and king hands so it is less likely that they have no pair like us.

So we will have to be prepared to double or triple barrel them with ace high and hope they fold. This is rarely going to be a winning strategy at the lower limits versus bad regs or recreational players.

Why?

Because they will often just call your ass down with their 99/TT/JJ anyways!

So if I am up against a calling station bad reg or recreational player and the flop is all low cards and I have no draws at all, I will usually just give up. By this I mean check/fold.

In a spot like this it is often better to just not even waste a flop CBet on them. You will get called too frequently and only have 6 outs to improve.

Barreling With Equity

Now if I have some kind of equity at all though, the situation can be different.

For Example: 

Hero has: AK

Flop #1: 468

and

Flop #2: QJ3

On the first flop even though it is all low cards there is a diamond which gives us a backdoor flush draw. This will be enough to sometimes make me fire a CBet on the flop.

While we are still a pretty big underdog to a hand like 99, the backdoor flush draw gives us a 5% spike in equity. Also, this means that we can barrel nearly half the deck on the turn. Any diamond, T, J, Q, K or A.

On the second flop I will be even more likely to fire the flop CBet because we actually have some pretty decent equity now with the backdoor flush draw, gutshot straight draw to the nuts and two overs.

It is very important that you learn how to read boards like this in order to determine your real equity. Not all flops that we miss are created equal. Not even close.

Versus Good Players

Now as you have seen throughout this entire article my play definitely changes a bit when I am up against the few good players who you will encounter at these stakes.

You can’t play so exploitatively against thinking opponents. You need to mix up your play here on all types of flops and sometimes mix in more creative lines as well such as: check/raise or check/call lead turn.

Versus the bad regs and recreational players (who are the large majority of your opponents at the lower stakes), you should just be playing the value based exploitative style of play described above.

How to Play AK on the Turn and River From the Blinds

Let’s assume that you did decide to fire that flop CBet though. How should you play Ace King on the turn and river?

Well once again it totally depends on the players involved in the hand, their likely ranges and of course the turn/river cards as well. Also, it depends on if it is a single raised or a 3Bet pot.

In single raised pots I am going to be more likely to fire the double barrel because it doesn’t commit me to the pot quite so much.

However, in a 3Bet pot, a double barrel will often force you to stick as much as half of your stack in the middle.

You don’t want to be doing this very often unless you believe there is a good chance of winning the pot. This is why it is crucial that you understand who you are up against and how likely they are to fold.

I would say that in general at the lower stakes (especially NL10 and under or $1/$2 live) you should just be giving up most of the time when you fire on the flop, get called, and still have nothing but two overs on the turn.

This is because the lower stakes (whether online or live) are where you will find the most beginner level players and complete recreational players as well.

As I discuss in Crushing the Microstakes, these types of players are often deeply suspicious of being bluffed. This means that they love to play the sheriff and call you down. So frequently running big bluffs against them is going to be a great way to destroy your win-rate quickly.

Keep it Simple at the Micros = Profit

I often talk about the discipline required to win at the lower stakes and this is a prime example. It is easy to keep barreling with your Ace King high hand, but if your chances of getting them to fold are very low, you are literally just lighting money on fire.

As much as it sucks, a lot of the time in a spot like this you need to simply give up (check/fold) and just lose a smallish pot. This is actually the “most profitable” play.

Winning poker, especially at the micros, is not about trying to win every hand. You simply can’t do it when many of your opponents have high went to showdown %’s of 25, 30 or even higher.

There will be some rare cases where you can try to run a big bluff but you have to know the player very well. They should be a weak tight type of opponent who is actively thinking about your range.

The biggest reason why the bad regs and recreationals will not fold to your big bluffs is because they aren’t even thinking about what you can have. They are only thinking about their own hand.

A decent to good reg though knows that you are repping a strong overpair here. If your range typically has a lot of strong overpairs in it, then you can get them to fold a hand like 99 a reasonable amount of the time if they play more on the timid side (e.g. are afraid to make the big call).

But hopefully you get the point here. Big bluffs with AK at the micros will usually be a bad idea. Often it is better to lose a small battle in order to win the war.

Final Thoughts

There are no easy answers to playing AK from the blinds. There is a reason why so many people have trouble with it. It is because it is a difficult spot!

There really are no clear answers for how to play it in every scenario because so much of poker is about playing the player and their range. There are tons of other factors as well that I didn’t even get to in this article like stack sizes, history and game flow.

But hopefully this article gave you some ideas of how I think about playing AK from the blinds in a variety of different situations and against different player types.

If you want to know the strategies that I use for all hands to create some of the highest winnings ever at the lower stakes online, go grab a copy of my free poker ebook.

How do you play Ace King from the blinds? Let me know in the comments below.

Winning poker strategy with Ace King

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5 Unconventional Tips to Create Big Poker Profits

5 Unconventional Tips to Create Big Poker Profits
Create big poker profits with these 5 unconventional tips

Winning at poker these days is not always as simple as just playing a tight and aggressive style and avoiding tilt. Sure, these two things along with good game selection will go along way towards your success. And frankly at the very lowest stakes (NL2 and NL5 online, $1/$2 live) this is definitely still all that you need.

However, once you start climbing up the stakes, you will notice that the regulars get quite a bit better. They aren’t all just mass tabling zombie nits anymore like at the lower stakes. They have learned to think about hands on a bit deeper level and they are even actively considering how to exploit you in some cases!
So the strategies required to beat the games as you move up start to change as well. You can’t just use the same cookie cutter strategy that everybody else is using and expect to turn a big profit. In this article I am going to provide you with 5 unconventional ways to start thinking about the game in an elite way and ultimately crush even good players.

1. Forget Hands and Start Thinking About Ranges

One of the biggest keys to moving forward as a poker player is getting rid of the idea that your opponent has AK or JT or 99. They don’t have any of these hands. 
Instead they have what is called a range of hands. 
In any given situation a decent thinking opponent that you will encounter at higher stakes will show up with hands that could be classified as such:

  • The nuts (straight, full house etc.)
  • Strong hands (top pair top kicker, top pair good kicker)
  • Medium strength hands (middle pair, bottom pair + draw)
  • Weak made hands (3rd, 4th or 5th pair)
  • Draw (flush draw, straight draw, gutshot straight draw)
  • Air (everything from ace high with two overs to 3 high no pair, no draw)
It is your job as a savvy hand reader to then understand the situation and the board, your opponent’s actions and use that information to construct their entire range. That is, the frequency that they show up with each of these types of hands.
For example:
Because my opponent raised the flop here and based on x and y HUD stats with our past history taken into account, I expect him to show up with:

  • The nuts 10% of the time
  • Strong hands 10% of the time
  • Medium strength hands 10% of the time
  • Weak made hands 10% of the time
  • Draws 30% of the time
  • Air 30% of the time
You don’t have to create exact numbers like this in every case and obviously they will only ever be rough guesses anyways. However, hopefully you get the idea here.

We are interested in their entire range of hands. What particular hand they actually have this time is not important at all. They will show up with various parts of their range according to chance.

So from here based off of the strength of our own hand, we can then take the most profitable line. And this is really just an exercise in logic.

So for instance, in this situation our opponent’s range is pretty weak most of the time (he only has a strong hand or the nuts 20% of the time). So re-raising would be a pretty poor option if we happen to have a strong hand or the nuts ourselves.

This is because he will just fold most of the time. Therefore, we should just flat and let him continue to keep bluffing with the 80% of his range that we are ahead of.

However, if we have a weak hand or nothing at all then 3Bet bluffing is a decent option here. We could also just fold as well if we think that this is the type of opponent who gets really sticky with his draws and weaker hands. 

2. When They Zig, You Zag

Getting back to a point I touched on earlier is the idea that if you play the version of “good poker” that everybody else thinks they play, you will likely only become a mediocre winner at best.
The best players out there today are the ones who are actively creating the cutting edge strategies which crush today’s games. There is this silly belief out there that the games are so hard and unbeatable for any kind of a big winrate anymore. 
But there are countless examples every single year of people who shoot up the stakes like a rocket and prove this myth wrong all of the time. 
The reason why is because they are not zombie robot nits trying to copy some “TAG system” that they read about on some forum, in a book or saw in a training video. 
This is why I stress repeatedly in both of my books that my strategy advice is really only just a starting point to get you thinking about poker in the right way. It is up to you to actually learn how to fly. No book, coach, training video or forum guru can teach you that. 
Try weird stuff at the tables that everybody else thinks is crazy. 
Several years ago I pioneered the 10x raise at the lower stakes online with premium hands. Everybody laughed at me in the chat, on forums, everywhere. But once they realized just how well it was working they all started copying me. This is especially after I talked about it in my videos and books. 
Now everybody knows what it means and I basically never do it anymore when I play these limits unless I am against some total fish. 
When they zig, you zag. Don’t listen the the masses of breakeven armchair experts out there. There is no such thing as a “standard play.”

3. Raise Your Mental Game

It’s been a little known secret for many years among the top players that the biggest differences these days are actually not in technical ability but in the mental game. 
This is why you can go on any online poker site these days and see for yourself that the high stakes games will only run when one of two conditions are present:

  • There is a big fish at the table
  • A regular is on tilt
Since fish are extremely rare these days at high stakes and almost all players are world class pros at this level, the games literally do not run unless one of them is on tilt. This should tell you everything you need to know about how important the mental game is.
You simply cannot afford to tilt in today’s games. You can immediately skyrocket your winnings by removing yourself from the tables when you are not playing your best.
So this is why I think a stop loss strategy is a good idea for most poker players. If tilt is something that you have problems with to any degree, try creating a plan to remove yourself from the tables when you lose a certain amount of buyins. 
I have used a 5 buyin stop loss for years myself. But sometimes when I am in the grips of a particularly brutal downswing, and I know my patience is thinner, I will use a 3 buyin stop loss instead. 
The bottom line is that if you can prevent yourself from sabotaging your poker results like everybody else when things inevitably go bad at the poker tables, your results will improve rapidly. 

4. Lower Their Mental Game

Conversely, any time you can cause your opponents to tilt and play worse is of course going to be a great thing for you. 
If you watched this year’s World Series of Poker Main Event then you will know that William Kassouf is still being talked about and probably will be for years. And the crazy part is that he didn’t even make the final table!

table talk poker william kassouf
Photo credit: www.pokerlistings.com

The reason there is so much interest surrounding this guy is because he took table talk, or “speech play” as he calls it, to a whole new level, absolutely annoying the crap out of everyone and tilting the entire table. His constant stalling over very simple decisions also had everyone ready to grab him by the throat.
Will is a solid poker player in his own right though and his overall “annoy everyone” strategy was working brilliantly. They were almost giving away their chips to him at times. Indeed, it took a huge cold deck and then a massive cooler (running his KK into AA versus another big stack) to spell his ultimate demise. 
Now I am not going to sit here and defend everything that he did or discuss it in great detail. I think they have to make some sort of rule to prevent massive stalling like this for simple decisions. But the speech play is fair game in my opinion. 
The bottom line is William Kassouf showed us once again how important it is to use every single tool available to you at the poker tables to your advantage. Every tool that is within the rules of course.
I personally would never intentionally stall in my decisions and make the whole table wait unnecessarily. However, if there was a huge fish at the tables who I knew this would tilt the crap out of, I would certainly think about it. 
Constantly think outside the box in today’s games. There is a chat box in online poker. I have advised against using it for years. But if you think that you can tilt someone with it, then go ahead. 
I have already written a popular article in the past about intentionally tilting the regs by 3Betting and bluffing the crap out of them. This is something that I regularly do and so should you.
Raise your mental game but at the same time always look for ways to lower theirs.

5. Turn Your Hand Into a Bluff

Something that good players have been doing more and more in recent years is taking a decent hand like middle pair or a weak hand like bottom pair and turning it into a bluff.
Why?
Because mindlessly calling down and hoping to win with a pair is not a very good strategy for success at the poker tables.
The other thing these days is that most regulars at the lower stakes still fear the turn and river raise in particular. This is because they have been told countless times that it is usually the nuts. 
And they are right, it usually is!

So again, we should start taking advantage of this by doing the exact opposite of what they expect. When they zig, you zag.

When all of the other low stakes regs only raise the river with the nuts and furthermore, they believe that everybody else is doing the same thing, we can take advantage of this by raising with plenty of other hands as well. 
For example:
We called preflop with 77, called a CBet on the flop, check/check turn, villain leads the river. Here is the board: 
T54Q9
Now his bet here of course absolutely reeks of a value bet.

We are going to be behind a lot if we call. We really only catch his bluffs with AK or AJ. There really aren’t any hands that a decent player is going to bet for value here that we are ahead of with a pair of sevens.

So calling would be a pretty bad idea against most regs. However there is a better option than folding here which is to raise. 
If you think about his range for value betting this river there are very few nut hands in it. Furthermore, we can represent a ton of different scary hands like flushes, weird straight draws that got there, a slow played set, two pair and so on. 
In fact, you could probably get most regs at the lower stakes to lay down their AQ here with a simple raise. 
The key takeaway here is this:

Look for situations on the later streets in particular where you are only really beating bluffs at showdown but you can represent a lot of scary hands by raising. 

Folding would be just fine here of course. That is the “standard play” after all. But in order to really win big in poker, you have to learn how to read ranges and boards a little bit deeper than this and find the hidden profit sources. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming a huge winner in poker is not easy no matter how you cut it even at the lower stakes these days. The players are often decent and the fish are sometimes hard to find. 
But the one surefire way to mediocrity is by listening to what everyone else says you should do. Nobody ever got ahead in this world by following that strategy.
No, instead they decided to try new things on their own, test bold new ideas and push forward in ways that might seem weird to others at the time. 
Hopefully a few of these unconventional tips will help you start thinking about the game a little bit deeper and ultimately make bigger profits at the poker tables. 
If you want to know how I created some of the biggest winrates in the history of online poker at the lower limits, make sure to check out my free poker ebook. 
Let me know in the comments below what kind of weird strategies you use to crush the small stakes poker games!
weird but successful poker strategies
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7 Advanced Strategies You Can Use To Crush Bad Poker Players

7 Advanced Strategies You Can Use To Crush Bad Poker Players
Crush the bad poker players

Ah bad poker players, you gotta love them. These are the guys who play way too many hands, call you down with anything and ultimately just give away their money in the long run.

But many people do not know how to get the maximum value out of them when they finally get a good hand. They leave serious amounts of money on the table by trying to get fancy with slowplay, under betting the pot and so on. 
Since these players are often rare in today’s games this is a seriously terrible blow to your winrate. The top winners know that you absolutely have to take full advantage of the situation when these players are at your table. 
In this article I am going to provide you with 7 actionable strategies that you can use right now to start crushing the bad poker players.

1. Get Involved

One of the biggest reasons why a lot of regulars in today’s games do not get full value from the fish actually has nothing to do with any technical poker ability. 
It is because they simply do not play enough hands when the bad poker player is at the table!
It is fine to nit it up if you are grinding a ton of tables against the regs. I mean, I don’t really suggest this strategy these days if having a big winrate is what you are after. But fine, I get it. Wait for the nuts, just grind. 
But once you find the big fish it is a serious mistake to keep folding so many hands. The only way that you are going to win a big pot is by getting involved with the bad players. 
If you need to wait until you have aces, kings or a set every time before you play a big pot with them guess what is going to happen? Another reg like me who is actively targeting the fish will have busted them long before you ever get a chance.
If a bad poker player is at your table, and especially if you have position on them, you should start opening up your game by playing a lot more hands and isolating them with a wide range. 

2. Adjust Your Bet Sizing Upwards

Another huge mistake that people make when playing against the recreational players these days is using cute little GTO style 50% of the pot bets. 
Again, this is a totally fine strategy if you are playing at a table full of regs. But if you have a fish at the table you are costing yourself a fortune by continuing to under bet the pot. 
As I talk about in my first book, I will bet at least 75% of the pot with a good hand versus the bad players and often I will just pot it. 
Now some people are actually afraid to do this with a good hand because they think they will “scare the fish away.” This is a mistake in thinking because recreational players love to call if they have anything. 
If they like their hand they are going to call a 50% of the pot bet just as readily as 75% or 100%. But sometimes they simply won’t have anything at all and they will fold. There is nothing that you can do about this. 
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you somehow scared them away. Two people have to have something in poker for big pots to happen. Just the way the game works.

3. Do Not Slowplay

Another way that regs routinely leave huge amounts of money on the table versus the bad players is by slowplaying their big hands. 
This is a serious mistake because once again they are not adjusting for how a recreational player thinks about the game. The fish is thinking about his hand only. If he likes his hand, he will call. That simple.
Therefore, you do not need to ever get tricky against players like this. In fact you are only costing yourself money by doing so because you missed a bet that they would have called. 
Versus a table full of regs, once again it is a totally different story. You should absolutely mix things up and balance your ranges in all situations in order to keep them guessing. But against a level #1 thinking recreational player slowplay is just suicide for your winrate.
Just bet every street against them. Make the totally, ridiculously, obvious play and profit more.

4.  Check/Raise or Check/Call the Aggro Fish

Most recreational players at the micros are passive as heck. They will show up with stats like this on your HUD:
  • 44/6/1 (VPIP/PFR/AF)
However, once in awhile you will encounter an aggro fish or a maniac with stats like this:
  • 44/34/4
Getting max value out of this type of player requires a totally different strategy. At the risk of totally contradicting what I just said, you can get a little tricky against a bad player like this sometimes.
Why?
Because unlike the standard fish, this type of recreational player loves to bluff at the pot if you show any sign of weakness. Therefore, instead of taking the ridiculously obvious bet, bet, shove line with your good hands like you should against most fish, often against the maniacs you should either check/raise or check/call.
The main reason why is that lines like this allow them to toss dead money in the pot with their bluffs. If you just constantly mash the pot button when you make a hand, you take this play away from them. 
Aggro fish are extremely rare at the micros. But they will show up sometimes especially on the weekends (often drunk) and it is pretty hard to miss them.

But be on the lookout for wild stats on your HUD like:

  • High VPIP (40+)
  • High PFR (30+)
  • High AF (3+)
  • High 3Bet (8+)
If you encounter a player like this and you have a good hand give them a little bit of rope to hang themselves sometimes by taking check/raise or check/call lines. And never ever try to bluff a player like this. 

5. Tilt Them Until They Are Your Personal ATM

One of my truly all-time favorite strategies to crush the fish is to tilt the crap out of them until they become my personal ATM machine. 
How do you do this?
Well first off, you really need to make sure that you get on their left. This makes isolating them and CBetting a ton much easier. 
But secondly, like I mentioned in point #1 above, you just have to get involved with them a lot more often.

You want the bad player to view you as a bully, as pushing them around. You simply can’t do that if you are sitting around like a little mouse waiting for your aces.


So any time I see them limp I am in there raising it up with all sorts of ridiculous hands like:
  • Q7
  • J8
  • 75
  • K2
Preferably suited of course but often unsuited as well. But how can you play all these terrible hands you might ask? Maybe it is me who is actually the fish?
The reason why you can get away with this is because they are playing all sorts of crap as well. And secondly, since you have position on them, and a huge skill edge, you are actually a big favorite to win most hands anyways. 
But most importantly, I am trying to put them on tilt by relentlessly raising and betting them. And maybe occasionally getting lucky against them too. 
So even if I am giving up a little bit of equity right now with some questionable starting hand selection, this is likely to pay off for me big time down the line when I finally catch a big hand.

6. Shove Action Rivers

One of my all-time favorite tactics to stack the fish is to shove action rivers. I mentioned this several years ago in Crushing the Microstakes and I displayed it in action several times in my recent video series. 
There was one particular fish in those videos who I stacked again and again by getting him on tilt and then shoving every action river. This is why my winrate was something ridiculous like 34bb/100. 
But hang on, what do I actually mean here by an “action river”? I mean a board that looks something like this:
34678
or 
6678T
The river card on both of these boards completes an enormous amount of draws like straights and flushes.
Let me let you in on a little secret here. Bad poker players do not fold any straights or flushes. You can literally bet any amount on earth, they will re-mortgage their house to call you down. 
So this is why when I happen to have a monster on these boards such as a full house, the nut flush or the nut straight, I will always just over shove the river.

The pot might only have $5 in it. I am shoving $50, $100 or whatever I have in front of me into that pot. That is what I mean by “over shove.”

This allows me to win an absolutely massive pot out of nowhere. This is a huge amount of big blinds that most regs miss out on by the way. This is one of the biggest reasons why my winrates are elite whereas most regs struggle to get by.
I make the recreational player pay the absolute maximum every single time in situations like this. Fish don’t fold straights, flushes or even two pair sometimes. If you have the nuts or close to it, it’s all-in on these rivers every time.

7. Chase the Fish Around

This last tactic to crush the bad players is frowned upon by some as “predatory” but I disagree. My goal in poker is always to win at the absolute highest winrate possible. So I am going to use whatever strategies possible, which are within the rules, to achieve that.

If I bust a fish and he leaves the table (or even if somebody else busts him), the first thing I am going to do is pull up the search feature that most sites have and find out what other table he joined. I will then immediately join that table. 

You see most fish live in a fairytale world of make believe where some tables are “lucky” for them and other tables are “unlucky.” If they are doing poorly at a certain table, they will often go join another more lucky one. 
I personally don’t live in this make believe world though. So I am happy to keep chasing them around and busting them all day on whatever table they want.
In today’s tighter games table selection is more crucial to your winrate than ever. Not only should you always be playing with at least one fish at the table but after you bust them, you should actively go chase them around as well. 

Final Thoughts

Bad poker players bankroll the entire poker industry. You can’t have a bunch of people (and the poker sites themselves) constantly taking money out, if a bunch of other people aren’t putting money back in. 
This is where the bad poker players come in. They play the game for fun, make all sorts of ridiculously awful plays, get lucky on occasion but mostly just lose their money at a frantic pace. 
Because of this they regularly have to deposit more funds into their accounts and this is the money that the winning poker players and the poker sites make a profit from. 
So it makes no sense to sit in bad games full of regs. If you are having a hard time finding the fish at the poker room that you play on, then go play on one of the soft poker sites.

But just as important, once you get on the same table as them, you absolutely have to be getting the maximum value out of them. 

More specifically you need to play plenty of hands against the fish by isolating them in position, CBetting and hopefully tilting them. You should also be betting big and frequently anytime you make a good hand. 
And lastly, you should even chase the bad poker players around and keeping busting them up so long as they have more money in front of them. This is what all the top pros have long known because they know where the money comes from in this game.

If you found this article helpful, do my a favor and “Like” or “Tweet” it below. Thanks!

Let me know your thoughts below about how you crush the bad poker players. Do you have any tips for stacking them faster?
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How to Deal With River Suckouts

How to Deal With River Suckouts
dealing with river suckouts and bad beats

Did that fish just hit his lucky 3 outer against you again? Are you tired of all the river suckouts? How many times will these BS sites like Jokerstars keep rewarding them for their bad play!

These are just a few of the battlecries that you regularly hear from people who don’t quite get how this game works yet.

Poker is a game that regularly turns what appear to be rational human beings into complete lunatics. Go to Google right now and type in “river suckouts” or “jokerstars” and see for yourself.

This really isn’t a bad thing overall though. It is in fact direct evidence, exhibit A, as to why poker will always be so profitable. There is a certain segment of the population that just can’t handle this game. Yet they keep playing anyways. The very definition is insanity.

This doesn’t have to be you though! Even if all the river suckouts have you close to entering the loony bin, in this article I am going to explain why they happen and how to deal with them better.

Poker is a Cruel Hearted Bitch

The real core of the problem lies in expecting poker to be “fair” or that after a certain while it “owes” you something. Much like everything else in life, this clearly just isn’t the case.

Poker is simply a game of mathematics and odds. It is a cold hard bitch who does not care about you or your feelings.

Anyone who has ever been through a lengthy downswing will know this. I have been through several that lasted over 100k hands myself. This is the equivalent of a month or two of regular play online or a year for somebody who plays live, where I literally could not win a hand to save my life.

I am not going to lie, I was close to losing my mind on all of those occasions. And the biggest reason why was because I could not accept the fact that the bad beats, suckouts and coolers really could keep continuing for weeks or even months on end.

I felt like after running bad for awhile that I had paid my dues. Haha, funny joke poker gods! Now give me what I am owed. Give me the higher set or the aces over kings for once. Let me hit a flush draw once in awhile instead of it always being them.

But of course this simply isn’t the way that the game works. That fish who has been getting lucky against you all night will still hit his gutshot straight draw against you by the river exactly 16.4% of the time over the long run.

To put it another way, this is roughly 1 out of every 6 times. Let’s be real, there is nothing really that amazing about an event happening 1 out of 6 times is there?

It is going to happen of course. And it can and will happen several times in a row on rare occasion. So why do so many people lose their minds when stuff like this occurs?

Our mistake is thinking about our recent history of bad luck against a particular player or even just our recent bad luck in general. And then thinking that somehow that history has some impact on the present hand.

Which of course it does not.

Poker does not owe you anything. Poker has no past and no future, only a present. Poker is cold hard statistics and odds and that is it.

Suckouts are Actually a Good Thing (Really)

Obviously nobody likes to lose a pot when they had the best hand or the best odds to win. But suckouts are an inevitable part of this game and they are actually a good sign as well.

I recently interviewed mental game expert Jared Tendler here on my blog and I think he put it best:

“They’re unavoidable [suckouts/bad beats] and frankly they’re evidence of quality play. If you’re not taking bad beats, it means you’re not playing well enough to be a favorite.”

And I would actually take this one step further by pointing out that frequent suckouts are also evidence that you are playing in good games.

As I mention all the time on this blog, if you are not playing in soft games against bad players, there is simply no way that you are going to win big in this game. 
When you are on the receiving end of lots of bad beats and suckouts, then this is the surest sign of all that you are playing against the right kind of opponents. 

Change the Language of the Game

The very language that we use in this game is often at the heart of why we have so much trouble accepting losses when we had the best hand as well.

Just think about terms like:

  • Suckout
  • Setup
  • Bad Beat

All of these phrases are pejorative in meaning. They make it sound as if somebody has personally harmed us or if the game itself is conspiring against us to fail.

And so therefore these phrases tend to just reinforce the negative ways of thinking that we all have when things go bad for a really long time at the poker tables.

They also aren’t an accurate depiction of reality. Nobody “sucked out” on you. They just hit their mathematical equity in the hand.

You were not “set up” to fail when you ran your trips into a full house. Actually this is just a common occurrence in poker. Situations like this are often the very reason why we play big pots and everyone will get their fair share of being on the winning and losing side in the long run.

And finally, nobody “bad beat” you. Seriously, who came up with these bizarre terms in the first place?

The other person simply had a certain amount of outs (cards that would allow them to win the hand) and this translates into a mathematical percentage. Their mathematical percentage to win happened to come through in this particular instance.

Keeping Your Sanity When You Seem to Run Bad Forever

Now of course no matter how many exercises in logic, mathematical analysis or semantics that I write about here will not change the fact that poker is an absolutely brutal game sometimes.

I was just reading the “rumours” that Tom “durrrr” Dwan may have lost a 20 million dollar pot earlier this year in Macau by running middle set into top set and is now teetering on the brink of busto.

This makes me sad if true although I am sure he will rebound. He is a great player and someone who inspired me a lot back in day.

Poker really has no heart and no soul. And what’s even worse, nobody else cares about your results either. Nobody wants to hear your bad beat stories and nobody is going to hold your hand when you hit that soul crushing downswing.

This is a seriously cutthroat business and one of the most individual (selfish perhaps even) pursuits you can be involved in.

I personally see this as a positive though. I have never really been a fan of team sports or working for somebody else. I would much rather get all the glory for my wins and take all of the blame for my losses.

So I see poker more as a personal challenge than anything else. And since poker is a game played against other people I see it as an opportunity to make better decisions and react better to adversity than everybody else.

As the mental game expert Tommy Angelo famously stated, this “reciprocality” is indeed the cause of all profit in poker.

Poker is the Greatest Life Coach You Will Ever Have

After more than 10 years in this game I still have a deep passion and respect for it. And this is not because of all the money I have made playing poker or the writing career that has also flourished because of it.

No, it is because this game taught me many powerful life lessons at a relatively young age. Especially when I went pro for the first time fresh out of university at the age of 24. I had to learn things like work ethic, emotional control, self discipline and perseverance on the fly.

When you rely on this game to pay the bills you tend to learn stuff like this real fast or else you starve. You stop all the complaining and making excuses and you just grind hard every day. You hustle and you succeed.

And frankly if you can build the mental fortitude to handle this crazy game over the long run, then you will probably be successful in many other areas of life as well.

Embrace the madness and the adversity that poker will bring your way. You will get mad and you will get frustrated at times. Don’t even bother trying to be perfect. Take time off if you need it. The game will always be there when you return.

However, see poker as more of a personal challenge to better yourself and react better than the next guy. Control the things that you can control and let other people lose their minds while you quietly rake in their chips.

Let me know in the comments below how you handle bad beats, river suckouts, coolers and the like in this game. Do you have any tips on how to keep your wits about you when things go bad?

Lastly, if you are new here make sure to check out my Start Here Page (and my free newsletter below) for all of my best strategy advice on how to start crushing the micros!

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How to Play Against Highly Aggressive Poker Players

How to Play Against Highly Aggressive Poker Players
play against highly aggressive poker players

Years ago when I first started playing poker online at the micros all of the regular players that you would encounter each day were extremely passive and tight. So much so that any time they 3Bet you or raised you after the flop you could be sure that they had aces or a set.

But times have changed and even at very lowest stakes now you will sometimes encounter very aggressive players. They will 3Bet you light and raise you and float you with all sorts of hands after the flop as well.

Since most of the time in poker nobody has anything very good, this aggressive strategy that they use is highly effective and difficult to combat. However, thefre are still several adjustments that you can make to play effectively against these kinds of players.

In this article I am going to discuss some of the key ways to beat the aggressive regulars in small stakes cash games.

Don’t Get Into Reg Wars

One of the most annoying things in poker is having a highly aggressive reg on your direct left. This is because they can just 3Bet the crap out of you every time you raise a hand and basically make your life suck.

This is such a frustrating spot to be in that sometimes I will just leave the table or rejoin in another seat. But more often than not I am at the table for a reason (i.e. there is a fish on my right). So therefore, I don’t really want to leave.

So if you choose to stay at the table how do you deal with the aggressive troublemaker on your left without losing your mind?

Well let’s first talk about what most people do.

Most people let their ego get involved and they start 4Betting and 5Betting the aggressive player light with all sorts of ridiculous hands. They will also start calling 3Bets out of position and floating and raising postflop with weak hands.

Both of these strategies are doomed to failure and here is why.

When somebody has direct position on you in poker, you are always fighting an uphill battle. This is like voluntarily choosing to fight someone with both of your arms tied behind your back.

The aggressive regular on your left is always going to have a big advantage over you in each hand because he gets to act last on every street. In other words, he gets to see what you do first before making his decision.

You on the other hand will make all of your decisions in the dark with zero knowledge of how your opponent will react. This is a massive handicap to overcome.

Furthermore, you are choosing to focus your attention on another regular who is probably somewhat close to you in skill level meaning that your overall edge is minimal.

And at the same time this takes away your focus from the entire reason that you are at the table in the first place, the fish!

Talk about a disaster.

So for all of these reasons it is important to keep your cool in these situations and avoid getting in the proverbial “reg war.” Even if you win the battle, you will still lose the war.

Tighten Up Your Opening Range and Widen Your 4Betting Range

The smart approach is to instead recognize that this guy is going to 3Bet you light a lot and simply tighten up. This is not to be viewed as a sign of weakness.

This is simply assessing the situation as it is and taking the appropriate response. And this applies the most around the button because this is where the aggressive player is most likely to 3Bet you a lot.

So instead of opening with your typical 30%-40% steal range get rid of a lot of the weaker speculative hands, especially stuff with no high card strength like some of the suited connectors and all off-suit connectors (i.e. 54, 65, 76, 98, JT).

Get rid of a lot of the dominated broadways and crappy aces and kings as well. By this I mean hands like: QT, KT, A8, K9.

On the flip side you also want to open up your 4Betting range. Since we know that the aggressive reg is going to 3Bet us with all sorts of broadways, pairs, suited connectors and suited aces we know that a lot of the time he will not be able to continue versus a 4Bet.

So if you typically only 4Bet with hands such as AA, KK, QQ, JJ and AK, then start adding in TT, 99 and AQ for instance. Add a bluff or two in there on occasion as well with a suited ace blocker hand like A3 or A5.

You should also flat the 3Bet out of position from time to time with a decently strong range in order to balance your range.

Now I know that I consistently advise against flatting 3Bets (and even opening raises) out of position in both of my books, my blog posts and videos. And if you play at stakes of NL10 or lower (or are new to the game in general), then I think this is perfectly fine.

However, once you get to stakes such as NL25 and higher where the regs start to get a lot better, you can’t only 4Bet or fold when out of position or they will exploit this. So you should start to develop a bit of a flatting range with reasonably strong hands out of position as you move up the limits.

How Should You Play a 4Bet Pot Postflop?

So obviously the aggressive player is not going to lay down and die every time we 4Bet him. Sometimes he will flat. Also, as just mentioned, sometimes we will just flat the 3Bet ourselves at higher limits.

So how should we continue postflop in these situations? Well, let’s talk about what we should do as the preflop aggressor first.

The thing about a 4Bet pot (assuming 100bb stacks to start the hand) is that there really isn’t a lot of room to manoeuvre. By this I mean that the stacks will be very shallow.

A typical raise progression before the flop will look something like this:

  • 3bb open > 10bb 3Bet > 22bb 4Bet

So by the time you see a flop in a 4Bet pot you will already have close to 1/4 of your stack in the middle.

Since the actual pot size is going to be close to 50bb then (assuming just one opponent), if you make a CBet you will have nearly half of your stack in the middle.

So what this basically does is create a situation where if you have an overpair, hit top pair or a good draw there is almost no way that we are folding.

I will probably just CBet and look to get it in with any made hand. With a draw it is a little bit different because I don’t want to call it off. So often this is a good spot to try and check/raise the flop all in to put the pressure back on them.

How Should You Play a 3Bet Pot Out of Position Postflop

Playing a 3Bet pot out of position postflop is a difficult situation to be in. Most of the time you will miss the flop and be first to act in a bloated pot.

This is why I specifically advise against getting into a spot like this so often for newer poker players at the lower limits.

However, once we got ourselves in this mess what do we do now?

Well, if there is one thing that highly aggressive poker players like to do it is to be aggressive of course. So if we check, then we can probably expect to face a CBet a large amount of the time.

Now a 3Bet pot is totally different from a 4Bet pot. We don’t have nearly as much of our stack in the middle and therefore we can still get away from plenty of hands if we think that we might be behind.

However, we do still need to fight for plenty of pots or else calling preflop out of position will be a disaster for our non-showdown winnings (red line) and therefore our overall winnings as well.

This is exactly where most people go wrong.

So you will need to mix in a whole array of different lines such as:

  • Check/call
  • Check/raise
  • Donk Bet

Now when to do each of these is a vast topic that can’t possibly be covered in a little blog post like this. However, a lot of it will have to do with how the aggressive reg reacts to these various lines.

This is why I am such a big proponent of having a good HUD setup so that you already have data right in front of you on how your opponent is likely to react.

But in general you should just be mixing up your play here with all sorts of hands from top pairs, middle pairs to draws and even semi-bluffs and total air on occasion.

Versus an extremely over-aggressive reg (high 3Bet%, high flop CBet, high turn CBet), you can absolutely destroy them with a turn check/raise all in line here that includes plenty of value hands and strong draws.

Of course let me be clear that you should also simply fold to the CBet on the flop a fair amount of the time as well. Fighting for every single pot out of position against a competent reg will not be good for your winrate.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a highly aggressive poker player on your left is never an easy thing to handle. In fact it just plain sucks no matter how you cut it.

Getting your ego involved though and fighting fire with fire will usually be a mistake for the simple reason that you are always fighting an uphill battle.

Don’t get me wrong, it is definitely a good idea to mess with the regs. In fact I do it all the time, such as when I try to intentionally tilt them.

Don’t go to war on their soil though. Counter their aggression with more aggression (or just flat the heck out of them) when you are the one in position.

When you are out of position though the only thing that you can do is tighten up. However, you can also expand your 4Betting range and even flat out of position a bit wider as well if you play at higher stakes.

Let me know in the comments below what you do when there is an aggressive reg on your left at the poker tables. Do you have any tips on how to handle them?

If you found this article helpful, then do me a quick favor and click the “Like” or “Tweet” button below. Thanks!

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How to Know When You Should Fold an Overpair

How to Know When You Should Fold an Overpair
how to know when you should fold your overpair

One of the hardest things for new and experienced players alike to do in poker is to fold an overpair. After all, you wait so long to finally get dealt your aces or kings. Nobody likes to fold them.

But of course sometimes this is the right thing to do. I am sure that you can remember many times where you stuck around only to see your opponent flip over trips or two pair.

It probably seemed fairly obvious after the fact didn’t it? But for some reason you just couldn’t find the fold button.

In this article I am going to discuss the top 3 situations where it is correct to fold an overpair in poker and how to discipline yourself to make the right decision.

When Your Double Barrel Gets Raised

The first (and in some ways the easiest spot) where you should consider folding your overpair is on the turn when your double barrel gets raised.

A double barrel is when you raise preflop, bet the flop and then bet the turn as well.

One of the key things to remember about most players at the lower stakes is that they are passive. If you use a HUD such as Pokertracker the AF (total aggression factor) will tell you this.

Many players at the micros will have an AF of 1 or 2 which means that they are basically only making strong aggressive plays when they have a big hand.

When somebody raises your double barrel this is a very strong aggressive play.

The reason why is because it says that “I want to play for stacks.” When somebody raises your double barrel they will typically have about half of their stack already in the middle. Therefore, it is pretty unlikely that they are going to fold their hand.

Passive players just do not put this amount of their stack in the middle especially as the aggressor without a very strong hand.

There might be a few maniacs and loose aggressive regs who are capable of raising the turn as a bluff or with a balanced range at the micros. But these players are extremely rare and it will be very obvious from their HUD stats.

Against the overwhelming majority of players at the lower stakes (at least 95% of them), the correct play is to fold your overpair when your double barrel gets raised.

If you continue, you will get shown a set, trips or two pair a huge amount of the time.

Folding an Overpair in a Multi-Way Pot

Another situation where you need to consider folding your overpair is in multi-way pots. And at the lower stakes these are going to happen a lot.

You can try using over-raises in some exceptionally crazy games but the bottom line is that sometimes you are going to be in a big family pot with your aces no matter what.

It is important to understand that in a situation like this there is a significant chance that one of them will hit something strong after the flop.

You may have had the best or the second best hand in poker before the flop but after the flop your hand is still only just one pair.

Your opponents are going to be in their with all sorts of small pairs, middle pairs, suited connectors and suited aces. Therefore, the boards that you really want to be careful of the most are highly coordinated and wet with low or middle cards.

For example:

  • 2♥4♥5♣
  • 6♦7♠8♠

On boards like this there are tons of flopped straights, two-pairs, pair + draw and sets that could already have you crushed or be a statistical favourite against you.

You should still go ahead and make your CBet on these boards because you don’t want to just give them a free card to hit their flush, straight or some silly two-pair.

However, if somebody starts giving you big action by raising, then you should really consider backing down.

It is important to keep the action in the hand in mind as well.

Often a big clue that people miss is who somebody raises. Are they only raising you or are their several other people left to act as well?

Ask yourself how likely it is that a passive player will raise the entire table with a weak hand in a situation like this. I think you already know the answer.

No Reads and No History

The last set of clues that I look for when considering if I should fold my overpair are the history that I have with this person and any reads that I may have gathered in the past.

If you encounter a player at the micros who is sophisticated enough to be able to bluff-raise or semi-bluff raise your double barrel for instance, they are much more likely to do it when there is significant history.

When they don’t know anything about you, then they have no way of knowing whether you will fold or not. But if they have a history of tight play versus you for example, then maybe they will think that they can get away with it.

This is why if you read this blog a lot I actually suggest that you do the exact opposite. That is, make some crazy bluffs when there is no history at all because they will be less likely to suspect it.

I think this should be a vital component of any Zoom poker strategy in particular due to the limited information in that format.

The other thing that I am looking for is any history of making wild plays against anybody, not just me.

While I don’t really bother taking notes much when playing at the micros online because there are simply too many players, if I have some downtime and I see a reg show up with a crazy hand I will sometimes make a note.

Also, if you are playing live or on just a handful of tables online then you should always be making at least a mental note of what the other players are doing anyways.

So to sum up, if there is very little history and I have never seen my opponent make any crazy out of character plays in the past, then I will be more willing to give them credit and possibly fold my overpair.

How Do You Discipline Yourself to Make the Right Fold?

So now for the million dollar question. Even knowing all of the above, how do you hit the fold button in the heat of the moment with your aces, kings, queens etc?

Well I am sorry to be anti-climactic but there is no magic pill or math formula in order to make yourself do this. Much like keeping yourself off of tilt, the real key is experience and some good old fashioned self control.

By experience I mean getting shown the trips, two pair or straight enough times that you are finally sick of it. If you want actual proof then you can simply run a bunch of filters in Pokertracker like I discuss in this post and go see the raw brutal evidence yourself.

You can even pull up your graph for when you decide to continue on in the hand after your double barrel gets raised. I gotta warn you though, it won’t be pretty!

The second way that you will learn to find the fold button is by learning to take your time in important spots like this and recognize the scenario in front of you.

The nit just raised your double barrel! You know that he hit his set.

You can either pay him off like every other mediocre player out there or you can exercise some self control and logical decision making to make the right choice here.

With enough experience it will become like second nature. You won’t “have to see it.” Because you “already know it.” Just make the fold and move on.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this article helped you to understand a few of the scenarios where it correct to fold your overpair.

It never really gets easy. Nobody likes folding an overpair. But once you learn to recognize the common spots you will hopefully learn to start finding the fold button a little bit more often.

And if nothing else, the experience of getting shown the nuts again and again should help you learn how to exercise more self control eventually and make the right fold.

I just want to quickly end by letting it be clear that there is no way that you are going to make the right fold every time. Nobody plays perfect poker. It is important not to beat yourself up about making the wrong decision sometimes.

Sometimes you are just going to get stacked and that is ok. The purpose of this article was to help you move the chains just a little bit and start making some of the more obvious folds such as against the nit who raises you on the turn.

Let me know in the comments below what the main situations are where you have a problem folding an overpair. Do you have any advice on how to get away from overpairs?

*New Here?* If you are new here and enjoyed this article, then make sure to check out my “Start Here” Page for all of my best micro stakes strategy articles.

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Why You Need to Keep it Simple at the Micros in Order to Profit More

Why You Need to Keep it Simple at the Micros in Order to Profit More
keep it simple at the micros

One of the biggest reasons why some people fail to achieve their goals in online poker these days is over thinking. Go to any poker strategy forum online and you will see an insane amount of over analysis regarding very simple situations.

Since the games have gotten a bit tighter in recent years (and win rates have declined as a result), many people think that you need to be some sort of super genius and study every advanced theory in order to win.

Nothing could actually be further from the truth.

A very simple approach is still by far the best way to achieve maximum success especially at the lowest stakes online. I am going to talk about exactly how to do that in this article.

Tight Does Not Necessarily = Good

I think all of this over thinking and over complicating starts from one simple false belief that a lot of people hold. That is, they think that because somebody plays tight, then they must be good or at least competent.

The reality is much different.

Learning to start folding some bad hands is definitely the first and most gigantic step that there is to becoming a better poker player. However, it does not in and of itself guarantee you success.

In fact playing tight does not necessarily make you a good player at all. There are many absolutely terrible nits at all levels of the micros! And by this I mean consistently losing poker players.

And this is really what we have at the micros today, especially at the lower limits (NL2, NL5 and NL10), a bunch of beginners who have learned to play tight.

I showed this conclusively in my latest video series. In 6 hours of live play at NL2 I encountered one halfway decent player in the entire time that I played. Yes, you read that right, one.

The entire video series was also recorded on Pokerstars (including Zoom games) which is generally regarded as one of the toughest online poker sites that you can play on. I also did very little table selecting and played at some of the absolute worst times to play.

The games were so easy that it was literally like taking candy from a baby. Though the sample size is admittedly totally insignificant, my results (something silly like 35bb/100), tell you enough.

The bottom line is that yes, the micros do play tighter these days. There is no question about that. And this does by default protect a lot of these players from making the huge mistakes that fish make.

But don’t confuse this with good play.

The skill level at the lower end of the micros at least is still very poor overall. And this is not even to mention how easy it is to tilt the regs at these stakes and turn them into human ATM machines.

A Simple Strategy for Simple Opponents

So this is why my approach and strategy in these games really all revolves around a very simple exploitative strategy.

Versus the recreational players you should always apply a very basic strategy of isolating them frequently and then value betting the crap out of them.

This is because they think about poker entirely at what is often referred to as “level 1.” More specifically this means that all they are concerned with is their own hand and whether they like it or not.

They are completely oblivious to everything else. This is why you have to be patient and keep you play incredibly simple in order to beat players like this.

But even against the regulars in these games, there is no wizardry required in order to destroy them. My strategy to beat them does not involve any complicated math, any 5th level thinking or crazy bluffs.

The key to beating the tight regulars in todays micros is actually very easy as well. You simply, find their weaknesses and then you exploit them.

How to Use an Exploitative Strategy Against the Regulars

So how do we actually put this into practice at the poker tables?

Well an exploitative strategy is very easy to understand. Basically it is all about them. It is all about playing the player. You find out where they make large mistakes and then you capitalize on them.

The key thing to realize about most players at the micros is that they are completely unbalanced in almost everything that they do. I am talking about the regulars here once again by the way. The fish of course always have no clue.

By the regs being unbalanced I mean that they will almost always be either way too passive or way too aggressive in any situation.

For instance, they will:

  • 3Bet way too much or not often enough
  • CBet way too much or not often enough
  • Bluff the river way too much or not often enough

When your opponents are so completely unbalanced like this all you have to do is recognize where their weaknesses are and then counter them in a logical manner.

Because no matter whether they are too passive or too aggressive they are always leaving themselves open in some way.

So For Example:

Here are a few scenarios and the logical counters.

1) If they only 3Bet you with the nuts (Preflop 3Bet% of 4 or less), well then steal their blinds all day and always fold when they finally fight back.

2) If on the other hand they 3Bet you too much (Preflop 3Bet% of 8 or more), then open with less hands especially in late position and 4Bet them lighter.

3) If they CBet the flop too much (Flop CBet of 80% or more), then float them more or raise depending on how they react.

4) If on the other hand they don’t CBet enough (Flop Cbet of 50% or less), then take more stabs at the pot but give up more often if they fight back.

There is nothing complicated about any of this and there is no complex math or odds analysis required. These are simply logical counters to the mistakes that your opponents are making.

Use Your HUD Effectively:

Now of course this is all much easier to do if your HUD is optimized properly for the micros. You should have all of these stats readily available for each player at the table.

However, even if you play live (or online without a HUD), with a little bit of observation, you can tell what type of player you are up against and how they are unbalanced.

The bottom line is that an exploitative strategy is all about playing the player. Nearly all players at the micros are either too aggressive or too passive in most spots.

There is a logical counter to exploit this every single time. Recognize their mistakes, capitalize on them, and then everybody becomes a fish.

You Should Play a Loose Aggressive Game to Beat the Regulars

Speaking more broadly now, you should also employ a loose and aggressive game to beat the regulars in today’s micro stakes cash games.

Browse nearly any online poker room today and have a look at the table averages for VPIP at the lower limits. This basically means the average percentage of hands that the table as a whole is playing.

You are often going to see numbers like 10%-15% for full ring and 15%-20% for 6max.

What does this actually mean? It means that you basically have a bunch of people sitting around playing ridiculously tight and waiting for the nuts.

This also means that they are volunteering to give up in a huge amount of situations if faced with enough pressure. This is because we all know how hard it is to make the nuts in poker.

So for instance, you should start playing quite a few more hands from all positions. Versus the players who will fight back by 3Betting light I already talked about how to counter that above (tighten up a bit and 4Bet wider).

After the flop as well you should continue to use a loose and aggressive strategy against the regulars. This means that you should CBet and then double and sometimes even triple barrel more often.

You should also raise them more often and float with a wide variety of hands. Again, your HUD will tell you exactly where they are weak so that you can find the best line to take.

In my book, “Modern Small Stakes” there are over 100 detailed example hands on exactly how to apply big pressure versus every type of regular that you will encounter at these stakes.

In sum, playing a loose aggressive game against the tight regulars at the micros will absolutely destroy them. The big key is to make sure that you give them their due respect when they fight back in a big way.

I think this is the mistake that a lot of people make. Believe me, they aren’t bluffing you when they raise you on the turn. They have been sitting around waiting for the nuts for the last hour. When they bet big, they have it. Just laugh and fold. Easy game.

Final Thoughts

I hope this article helped prove useful to a couple of you struggling at the micros out there. I know it might sound counter intuitive but the way to beat these games couldn’t be more simple these days.

Even though the micros often play tight this does not mean that your opponents are necessarily good. In fact, most are not.

Most have large fundamental problems with their game and they are usually very unbalanced across a wide variety of situations (either way too aggressive or way too passive).

You don’t need to know any complicated GTO in order to beat players like this, calculate exact odds or get involved in levelling wars.

The strategy here is very simple. Find out where they are leaving themselves open and then use the logical counter to exploit that.

If they give up a lot in a specific spot, then bet more often. If on the other hand they are clearly bluffing too much, then float them more and call down lighter.

Winning poker at the lower limits is really just like a puzzle that you need to solve. All of your opponents are making big mistakes. Simply put the pieces together by finding the logical counter and you will win big.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. What type of strategy do you use to crush the micros today?

If you found this article useful then do me a quick favour and hit the “Like” or “Tweet” button below. Thanks!

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5 Psychological Insights I Use When Designing My Bet Sizes

5 Psychological Insights I Use When Designing My Bet Sizes
psychology and bet sizing poker

Be honest, do you always bet the same amount in every situation in poker?

Or do you adjust your bet sizes according to stuff like the player you are up against, what you think he has, what you have, the community cards and the game flow?

If you said the latter, congrats, you are doing it right. If the former, then you need to read on in this article.

In No Limit Hold’em we can of course bet whatever amount we want in any situation. There is no “standard” bet sizing.

The best players are always getting creative with their bet sizes in order to achieve whatever end they want be it a call, a fold or even to induce a raise.

In this article I am going to discuss the top 5 psychological strategies that I use when designing my bet sizes in order to get my opponents to take the action that I want them to.

1. The Preflop “Want Action” 3Bet and the “Do Not Want Action” 3Bet

Preflop 3Bet sizing is the perfect place to start because I am always mixing up my bet sizing in this situation.

As I talk about in my first book, “Crushing the Microstakes”, my default preflop 3Bet sizings at the micros online are:

  • 3 times the original raise when in position
  • 4 times the original raise when out of position

Why do I do this?

Because when I am going to be in position after the flop I absolutely don’t mind getting action. In fact I am inviting them in a sense to come join me with a price of only 3 times their raise.

But when I will be out of position after the flop (i.e. I am in the blinds), then I know that I will be at a significant disadvantage on all streets and it will be much harder for me to win the hand.

This is why I choose to “raise my prices” if you will to 4x their raise. I want them to think a little bit harder about whether or not to call me.

Basically what I am doing here is using my bet sizing to try and manipulate the response that I get from my opponents.

When I am in an advantageous position and don’t mind a call, then I will make it less. However, when the odds are stacked against me and I would prefer a fold, then I will charge them more to get involved with me.

This is also a useful strategy to use against short stacks in preflop situations. Again, this is No Limit Hold’em – there are no rules.

So I might make my 3Bet as little as 2.5 times their raise or even just double if I want action. And maybe I only need to make it 3x in order to discourage them from calling due to their stack size.

In a live deep stacked game with tons of loose players I might do just the opposite and make my 3Bets 5x, 6x or more if they seem to be calling me with any two cards.

The bottom line is always be thinking about what you want your opponent(s) to do when making your preflop 3Bet sizing. Adjust upwards or downwards depending on the player and the desired outcome.

2. The Overbet Fake Bluff Versus Recreational Players

As I also talk about in Crushing the Microstakes I am constantly using mental trickery versus the bad poker players in order to get them to do what I want.

In fact there is an entire section near the end of the book entitled “Fish Psychology.”

In that section I talk about how recreational poker players interpret nearly everything backwards in poker. This is in fact a big reason why they lose so much.

And one of the biggest mistakes that they make is viewing big bet sizes as a bluff. In their mind they see a big bet as somebody who doesn’t want action. Somebody who is trying to “bully” them out of the pot.

So what do I do?

Ya, I bet big against them with the nuts and let them call my “bluff.”

This works especially well when you already have the fish all worked up because you have been isolating the crap out of them and taking down pots. If you read this blog a lot, then you will know that this is something that I am always suggesting that you do.

So when I finally make a good hand such as top pair good kicker (it doesn’t actually have to be the nuts) I will often just pot it or even over-bet on all 3 streets postflop.

Once again this is only against the fish and usually only when I have them all rattled and annoyed with me already.

Often in a spot like this, if they have any piece of the board at all they will snap call me down for their entire stack.

In my recent NL2 Mastery Course video series I showed this numerous times. I stacked fish again and again by simply getting on their nerves, finally making a big hand and then betting like a lunatic with it.

I got called by all sorts of crazy hands just because they thought I was bluffing with my big bet sizes.

The bottom line is understand how your opponent interprets your bet sizing and then do the exact opposite.

3. The GTO Bet Sizing Strategy Versus Good Regulars

Now of course the problem with good players is that you usually can’t get away with these kinds of wacky over-bets and inducing a raise which I will talk about in point #4 below.

They are too good for that and will see right through your little ruse.

So with good regulars (note: NOT bad regulars) I will often keep my bet sizing uniform throughout the hand. This is sometimes referred to as game theory optimal or GTO.

So for instance I will typically bet 60% of the pot on the flop no matter what I have and make it 70% of the pot on the turn and river once again whether I have the nuts, middle pair or a complete bluff.

Why do I do this?

I do this in order to keep them from ever knowing what I have according to my bet sizing.

When I am always betting the exact same amount no matter what I have (nuts, mediocre hand or air), then they can never know which one I will show up with this time.

Therefore, they can never devise a counter-strategy to exploit me. They will always be playing the guessing game.

Once again, I only do this against the good regulars at the micros and there aren’t too many of them at the lower stakes anyways.

Against the bad regulars and definitely the fish, you should be adjusting your bet sizing in all situations in order to exploit their weaknesses to the fullest and make them dance to your tune.

4. The Undersized “Please Raise Me” Bet Sizing

Sometimes in poker when I have a good hand I want to try and induce them to raise me.

So versus the bad regulars in particular I will often use an under-betting strategy in order to try and make them do just this.

As I discussed above in point #2 it is important to understand your opponent and more specifically how they will interpret your bet sizings.

As mentioned, fish will typically view big bets as a bluff. Bad regulars though will often see them as strong. Or even if they are suspicious, they will at least have the discipline not to hero call you with something silly like the fish will.

On the other hand though, bad regs will also often view small bets as a sign of weakness. They will therefore sometimes raise either as a bluff or even thinking that it is for value.

So when I make a strong hand versus a bad regular I like to mix in some undersized postflop bet sizings such as 30% of the pot or 40% of the pot.

If nothing else I just want to get in their head and make them ask themselves what in the heck am I doing.

The bomb the pot strategy doesn’t really work against the bad regulars like it does against the fish so it is important to devise other methods in order to get them to flip out and do something silly.

Try mixing in some small bets with really strong hands (and even bluffs on occasion too) just to get them thinking if nothing else. If they are spewy aggro bad regs try mixing in some check-raises as well.

5. The River “I Know What You Have” Bet Sizing

Something that I also talked about at length in my recent NL2 Mastery Course video series was making bet sizes on the river according to the strength of your opponents hand.

By the river we always have the most information on our opponent’s likely range. If you are good at hand reading then you should be able to narrow it down to a few specific hands in particular.

The board also plays a key role. I am talking in particular about stuff like double paired boards:

J4466

or very scary coordinated boards such as:

34578

Often by our opponent’s actions preflop, on the flop, on the turn and even on the river if they act first, it is very easy to tell what type of hand they have.

If they are acting meekly on the two boards above and clearly just want to get to a showdown then betting big is not going to accomplish a lot regardless of the player type.

On the first board they will often have a hand like a mid pair or even just ace high. On the second board they might have middle pair, top pair or a small overpair.

None of these hands can call a big bet so it would be a huge mistake to bomb the pot here (assuming that you are betting for value).

So this is why I will often go for the 30% of the pot “best price in town” bet sizing in a spot like this. They are dying to know what I have and for this price they often cannot say no.

This works especially well against the recreational players because we all know how much they love to call.

Conversely, if you are bluffing on one of these boards, then this is a good spot to indeed go for a big bet. Although I would definitely caution against doing this against fish for the exact same reason.

Final Thoughts

Bet sizing is a key component of No Limit Hold’em that many people do not use to it’s maximum potential.

You should always be using your bet sizing as a weapon at the poker tables in order to get your opponents to take the actions that you want them to take.

The actual bet sizing that you should use depends a lot on the player type, the board, your hand, their likely hand and even the stack sizes.

Hopefully some of the tips in this article will at the very least get you thinking about some ways to use creative bet sizing in order to outwit your opponents and ultimately increase your winrate.

Let me know in the comments below the psychological bet sizing strategies that you use at the poker tables.

New Here? If you want to learn my complete strategy for crushing the micros then make sure to check out my Start Here page. Also, make sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more top strategy advice and my free ebook!

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Set Over Set – Should You Always Go Broke?

Set Over Set – Should You Always Go Broke?
set over set in poker

If you play enough poker set over set is something that is going to happen to you eventually. It is a difficult situation to be in because you have what amounts to an incredible hand, but there is only one card in the deck that can allow you to win the hand.

And I don’t think I even need to tell you how low the odds are of hitting that!

So in this article I am going to talk about what to do on those rare occasions in poker when you get set over set. Is there any way to get away and not go broke in these situations?

Set Over Set is Exceedingly Rare

First off it should be noted that getting set over set is an extremely rare occurrence in poker.

In fact, the math suggests that somebody will flop a higher set than you in a full ring cash game once every 7.8k hands. It is even more rare in a 6max game, where it will only happen once every 12.6k hands.

This is why set over set is commonly referred to as a “cooler”. That is, a hand that is simply an unlucky break and pretty much everybody is going to lose all their money.

Let’s assume for a moment that you do in fact put all of your money in the middle every time you are set over set. As we know, you will lose the vast, vast majority of the time.

However, it is important to note that you are going to cooler somebody else (by set over setting them) once every 7.8k or 12.6k hands as well. And believe me, they are almost surely going broke against you too.

So the key takeaway here is that set over set situations are exceedingly rare and pretty much everybody goes broke when they happen.

This makes the whole debate of whether or not you should always go broke when they happen a bit pointless.

This is because even if you stick all the money in the middle every single time this situation arises, your opponents are going to do the same when you happen to have the higher set.

So therefore, in the long run this is pretty much a neutral EV (expected value) situation.

Should You Always Go Broke With a Set?

Bet let’s address the question or whether or not you should always lose all your money with a dominated set anyways.

Why?

Because we should always be looking for an edge in poker no matter how small especially in today’s tighter games.

If we can successfully make a good fold with a lower set even just once every 10 times it happens, then we can turn this into a positive EV long term situation for ourselves and a negative EV one for our opponents.

This in turn will directly impact your bb/100 (also known as your winrate) in a positive way, which is the most important thing in this game.

But should you ever really fold a set especially at the lower limits where there are so many wild and crazy players?

Well, folding a set should definitely be an exceedingly rare event. In fact, the only time you should ever really be folding a set is when one or both of the following conditions are true:

  • You are against a tight/passive opponent who is giving you big action
  • The community cards allow for a lot of other nut hands (straights, flushes etc.)

The most important factor in nearly every decision in poker is the player type that you are up against. I am simply not going to be folding a set versus any fish or aggressive regs unless the board is absolutely ridiculously bad for me (e.g., four flush).

Why?

Because these player types have way too many hands in their range (and even total bluffs) that my set is miles ahead of.

And in the case of recreational players in particular, they tend to think about hand strengths incorrectly anyways. For instance, they will often massively over-value a hand like top pair.

Secondly, the board texture (especially by the river) is hugely important if I am ever going to consider folding a set.

On a dry uncoordinated board like:

258TK

There is very little chance that I ever fold because there are no possible straights or flushes that could beat me.

However on a board like:

689JK

There are multiple straights and flushes that could beat me and therefore it is easier to get away.

Lastly, you will sometimes encounter a crazy board like:

23467

Where there are so many ways for you to be beat that folding your set to a big bet is almost trivial.

When Would I Really Consider Folding a Set?

Anyone who reads this blog on a regular basis though (or has checked out either of my books) knows that my whole poker game and strategy is heavily based around playing the player.

So assuming the board doesn’t go totally crazy like in the last example above, the main determining factor for me is often a tight/passive player type. We have all seen these kinds of players at the micros.

Their stats might look something like this:

set over set poker
Typical nitty 6max regular

The numbers in blue are VPIP/PFR/AF. This is a typical tight/passive 6max regular. A VPIP of 18 indicates a tight player and an AF of 2 is definitely on the passive side.

This is essentially type of player which picks his spots and is very cautious at the poker tables. So you would be well advised to give them some credit when they start tossing the chips around.

By the way, for a complete breakdown of what each stat above means, check out my complete HUD setup article.

Another thing that is important to remember is that these types of players will typically be the ones who are playing on many different tables at once.

So when they wake up out of the blue and suddenly start giving you big time action, this is when the alarm bells need to start going off. They didn’t just randomly pick you on one of their 16 tables to suddenly run a wild bluff against.

But still, should we really fold a set especially on a dry uncoordinated board like the first one above? To be honest, if it is just heads up with me and one of these tight/passive opponents, I am still going broke most of the time.

The reason why is that at the lower stakes I still believe that enough wacky stuff can be going on for me to be ahead sometimes. They can be overvaluing a hand like an overpair for instance. Also, it is just really damn hard to fold a set!

Something that is also extremely important to note here is the type of set we have. On a dry uncoordinated board I am never folding middle set. Top set is quite literally the best hand possible so that obviously never gets folded either.

The reason why I am always willing to felt middle set in this spot is because my opponent has an equal chance of having a higher set or a lower one. And this is not even to mention a whole host of other non-set hands that I destroy.

So, if I am ever going to fold a set (which is exceedingly rare), it will only ever be bottom set.

The One Situation Where it is Correct to Fold a Set

Ok so enough build up!

Is there actually a specific spot in poker where you can correctly make an incredible fold with your bottom set versus a higher set on a harmless board?

Yes. There is one.

This is the extremely rare situation where you are up against multiple tight/passive opponents with bottom set on a dry uncoordinated flop. Furthermore, before the action even gets to you there is a CBet by the preflop raiser and a raise by one of the preflop callers.

As crazy as it might sound, this is a situation where if you continue on in the hand there is a good chance that you will be shown a higher set by the flop raiser.

The key thing to remember here is the player type. Simply ask yourself why a tight/passive player would make the insanely aggressive move of raising the preflop raiser (with more people left to act behind as well!) on a completely harmless board like:

259

I will tell you why. It is because his 99 or 55 has your 22 absolutely crushed.

I gotta be honest though, even in a somewhat obvious spot like this, I don’t always make the right fold. It is especially hard at the lower limits because I just assume that everyone is bad until I am proven otherwise.

However, this is a rare situation that you might want to be on the look out for. As difficult as it might appear at first, being good enough to fold bottom set here can save you a lot of money in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Set over set situations are one of the most common types of hands that you will see posted on poker forums in particular. This is because everybody wants to know if they should have gotten away.

Often they really just want to hear those four magic words to soothe their pain “it’s just a cooler”.

And to be honest, it is just a cooler in the vast, vast majority of cases. To go around routinely folding sets (especially at the lower limits) is a serious mistake that will negatively affect your winrate in a big way.

And also, it is important to remember that even on the rare occasions that you are behind to a straight or a flush, you still have 10 outs to a full house or quads. This is by no means an insignificant amount of equity.

So to answer the age old question of whether or not you should always go broke when you are set over set, the answer is yes in the vast majority of cases.

As I discussed above this situation is extremely rare and most of your opponents are always going broke when the roles are reversed as well. Therefore, even if you decided to stick all the money in the middle every single time, it would be close to neutral EV in the end.

However, there might be one or two rare spots where a couple of tight/passive nits are in a raising war in front of you and you have bottom set on a dry and uncoordinated flop. I am not saying that you should always fold here but alarm bells should be going off at the very least.

Let me know in the comments below how you approach set over set situations. Are you able to make a sick fold in these spots sometimes?

New Here? If you want to learn my complete strategy for crushing the micros then make sure to check out my Start Here page. Also, make sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more top strategy advice and my free ebook!

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Small Pocket Pairs: The Proven Way to Win Big With Them

Small Pocket Pairs: The Proven Way to Win Big With Them
how to play small pocket pairs

How to play small pocket pairs is one of the most often discussed topics in poker. And the reason why is because there is mass confusion out there about how to play them effectively.

Should you limp? Should you raise? Should you even fold them?

Well, after playing millions and millions of hands at the micros and running countless experiments and tests in Pokertracker to assess their profitability, I am going to clear up that issue today.

In this article I am going to provide you with the best ways to win big with your small pocket pairs in small stakes cash games.

 The Correct Way to Play Small Pocket Pairs

Many newer poker players underestimate the value of small pocket pairs even though they can be some of your biggest long term winners especially at the lower limits.

By the way, just to be totally clear, I am talking about specifically, 22, 33, 44, 55 and 66 in this article.

The reason why a lot of beginners discount their value is because often (8 out of 9 times) they do not improve to a set after the flop. And most of the time you are stuck with three over cards on the board and no clue where you are at.

So therefore, if you choose to play these hands passively all the time, then it is going to be pretty difficult to turn any kind of a profit with them. So many times you will just end up check/folding on the flop.

This is why when I play small pocket pairs at the micros I tend to be aggressive with them as often as I can.

What do I mean by this?

  • If I am the first person in the pot, then I am always raising with them
  • In late position situations I will often 3Bet them against weaker players
  • If I have the betting lead on the flop, I will often be CBetting or even barreling with them

I want to be clear that I do still just flat versus a raise with my small pairs plenty of the time as well. When a tight player raises from early position for instance, it would be suicide to 3Bet here. Flatting is the only play that makes any sense.

However, by finding ways here and there to play my small pocket pairs in an aggressive manner, both preflop and postflop, I am giving myself more ways to win the pot.

The person who always plays these hands passively by limping or calling and then folding when they don’t hit their set only gives themselves one way to win the pot – make the best hand.

And as we know, this doesn’t happen very often.

But by playing them aggressively quite a bit of the time, I give myself two ways to win the pot – make the best hand or force my opponents to fold.

What Should You Do If You Hit Your Set?

The other thing that playing your small pairs in this manner does is give you an aggressive table image. And indeed, this is the goal of my entire strategy at the poker tables, not just with small pocket pairs.

I want to be perceived by my opponents as somebody who is playing plenty of hands and bluffing up a storm.

Why?

Because this allows me to get a lot more action when I finally hit my hand. If you have folded the last 15 hands in a row and suddenly start betting and raising out of nowhere, most people are going to be likely to give you credit and even make a tough fold.

My style of play though ensures that they will never fold their over pair or top pair to me. So when I hit my set with pocket 4’s for example, I am going to get their whole stack.

So how do I play my small pocket pairs when I hit a set?

You guessed it, aggressive as well.

If I am going to try and be aggressive a lot with my baby pairs when I don’t hit a set, it would be crazy not to do this when I finally make the nuts.

The other beautiful thing about low stakes games is that people generally do not like to fold and a set is such a well hidden hand.

For example, nobody is going to worry for a second with their KQ on a flop of:

K94

But our 44 is a virtual lock to win the hand with 96% equity!

baby pairs

So the bottom line for me is that when I finally hit my set with a small pocket pair this is not the time to be slow playing. On the contrary, this is the time to be getting aggressive by betting and raising.

You can’t win big in poker unless you win big pots. And you can’t win big pots in small stakes games by waiting for your passive opponents to bet for you.

Also, the whole reason that I build an aggressive image at the poker table is so that I can get paid off with my big hands like this.

When Should You Fold a Small Pocket Pair?

Now of course most of the time you will fail to hit your set. As I mentioned before, you can try to win the pot in these situations especially if you have the betting lead by making a CBet or even a double barrel after the flop.

And even if you are the preflop caller, sometimes you can try to take the pot away from a weaker opponent by floating and then betting the turn for example.

But you should know for sure that the most “profitable” way to play your small pockets unimproved after the flop is indeed to simply fold versus any aggression most of the time.

You have to realize that there are many pots in this game that you simply cannot win. And this is especially the case at the micros against bad players who do not like to fold.

The problem with these baby pairs is that when you do not hit your set and the board is mostly over cards, you only have 2 outs in the deck to improve to the best hand.

And if you are up against an opponent who doesn’t have a fold button, you are just lighting money on fire by staying in the hand.

There is even a case to be made for simply folding your small pocket pairs preflop as well. I think the opposition is so weak at stakes like NL2 and NL5 that I always try to play these hands no matter what.

However, at NL10 and higher I will often simply fold 22-66 in early position at full ring tables before the flop (I don’t fold them in 6max). The reason why is that players are smarter and more savvy at these stakes.

This means that they are less likely to pay you off in a big way when you hit your set. They are also much more likely to understand the power of position in poker and use it to their advantage.

Final Thoughts

Small pocket pairs tend to create a lot of confusion for many poker players. But really they are a very simple set of hands to play.

On occasion you will hit a set with them which is going to be a virtual lock to win the hand against almost anything that your opponent could have. You should bet strongly for value against most players at the lower stakes in these situations.

But far more often you will miss your set and be facing three over cards on the flop and no clue where you are at. If you have the betting lead (which you should a lot), then you should simply make a CBet and try to take it down quite a bit of the time.

If you were the preflop caller though (or your opponent has raised your CBet on the flop), then you should simply fold your hand most of the time and cut your losses.

Small pocket pairs will never be as profitable as middle or premium pocket pairs but when played correctly at the lower stakes there is no reason why they can’t all be decent long term winners for you.

Let me know how you play your baby pairs in the comments below. Do you have any tips or tricks on how to get extra value out of them?

New Here? Check out my “Start Here” Page to learn much more about how to crush small stakes poker. Also, be sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more great strategy advice and freebies!

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Interview With Renowned Poker Mental Game Coach Jared Tendler

Interview With Renowned Poker Mental Game Coach Jared Tendler
interview with poker mental game expert jared tendler

The mental side of poker is arguably more important than the strategy side especially in today’s tighter higher variance games. Yet it seems like 95%+ of the educational material out there is about the latter.

This has always seemed crazy to me.

This is why I am happy to bring on my blog today arguably the world’s most well known poker mental game coach and author, Jared Tendler.

He has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry. And he helped me out early on in my poker career as well.

So without further ado let’s get right into the interview!

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background.

I’m a Virgo, 37, like long walks on the beach…lol. I’ve been a mental game coach now for over a decade. I started back in 2005 working with golfers – I was an aspiring professional golfer myself and so it was a natural fit for me to start working with them.

I got into this field because I had my own mental hang-ups as I was playing in some big national golf events. I did really well overall – I was 3x all-american and won 9 tournaments  in college, but in the big time national events, I was choking.

First time it happened in 1997, I missed a playoff to get to the second stage of US Open qualifying by a shot and I missed a bunch of short putts! It was brutal but that drove me to figure out how to solve my mental problem. What I found didn’t really work for me so I decided to find answers.

That led me to get a Master’s degree in counseling psychology and get licensed as a therapist – which took 2 years of full time work. All in an effort to understand how to solve mental/emotional issues at a deeper level.

How did you get involved in working with poker players?

Pretty random actually. I met Dusty Schmidt (aka “Leatherass”, legendary online grinder) on the golf course because we had some mutual friends in common. This was in 2007 and he was trying to make SuperNova Elite in just 10 months – which was unheard of back then.

The problem was that he was tilting badly. Destroying computers, mice, and the walls in his office. He basically paid for my coaching with the money he saved on new equipment.

The results of my work with him were immense – he went from winning 20-30k/month to winning over $600k in the subsequent 4 months. After that success I got involved with Stoxpoker and started making a name for myself.

What are the biggest mental game issues that poker players come to you with?

Before I wrote my books, it was far and away tilt. This is something that nearly every poker player I talked to was struggling with. These days, the issues are more related to confidence and motivation.

Do you think that high stakes players have similar mental game hang-ups as low stakes players?

Absolutely. The stakes don’t change the issues, they just change the unique ways those issues can show up. Tilt, fear, motivational issues and confidence issues exist everywhere. No poker player has solved the mental game.

Most of my readers here play at very low stakes. Do you have any general advice for them on dealing with bad beats and limiting tilt?

Bad beats are like a business expense. They’re unavoidable and frankly they’re evidence of quality play. If you’re not taking bad beats, it means you’re not playing well enough to be a favorite.

Bad beats are not fun, but the more you realize they’re part of the game, and that variance is an uncontrollable part of the game, the less they’ll affect you. This is all easy to say, and many of you may already be aware that this is true.

To really make them not affect you, you have to train your mind. Read and think about this paragraph every day you play for the next 60-90 days. Training doesn’t happen overnight.

The Mental Game of Poker and The Mental Game of Poker 2 have both received wide praise. What inspired you to write them and how do you think they would benefit micro stakes poker players in particular?

Micro and low stakes players were a primary motivation in writing them. I know they’re priced out of getting coaching with me and I wanted to give them an opportunity to learn more about the mental game at a lower cost.

Basically they’ll get the information that I share with my private clients. The key is that they’ve got to work a bit harder to really get the benefit. A lot of players – at all levels – falsely assume that just reading the book will cure them.

Like a lot of things in poker, to improve you’ve got to work at it. The same is true here.

I know that you also have a popular podcast where you have interviewed some of the biggest names in the industry like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Galfond and others. What inspired you to start this and what has it been like?

It was a great opportunity to have high level conversations with some of the best poker players/minds around. I’ve really enjoyed it! But to be honest the conversations started to get a bit stale.

So recently I’ve gone in a different direction and have interviewed other people in psychology and other professionals, like a client of mine who is one of the top pool players in the world. It’s been fun to mix it up.

Thank you very much for doing this interview Jared! Where can the readers find your website, your books, your podcast, coaching, social media and anything else?

Absolutely! Here’s my website and they can find info there on where to pick up my books. I also have a ton of free articles, blogs, and my podcast there.

They can also get the audiobook of The Mental Game of Poker 1 or 2 for free – info is here. Here’s the links to my Twitter and Facebook.

Final Thoughts

I hope you guys got some useful stuff out of this interview. I think the most fascinating thing that I will take away is that high stakes players actually have a lot of the same mental game issues as low stakes players.

Also, I thought the part about bad beats being a “business expense” and a sign of good play was also brilliant. I couldn’t agree more. If you read this blog a lot, then you will know that I often refer to them similarly as a “tax” that we all have to pay.

As Jared rightly points out, improving your mental game is a process that takes considerable time in training your mind. Hopefully some points in this interview will get you going in the right direction. Make sure to check out his books for more.

If there is anything that you would like to ask Jared or myself in the comments below about the mental side of poker, go right ahead. I would also like to know, what are some of your biggest mental hangups in this game?

Lastly, if you found this article helpful, do me a favor and give it a “Like” or a “Tweet” below. Thanks!

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How to Play Pocket Kings

How to Play Pocket Kings
playing pocket kings

Knowing how to play pocket kings well is one of the best things that you can do for your winrate at the poker tables. The reason why is because KK is the second best hand that you can be dealt in poker. “Cowboys” (as they also called) will also be your second most profitable hand in the long run behind only pocket aces.

So learning how to play your kings well and maximizing your value each time you are dealt this hand is crucial. But many people get confused about what to do when somebody goes all-in preflop or when an ace flops for instance.

In this article I am going to cover these situations and more in order to get you playing pocket kings in the most profitable way.

Always Raise (or Re-Raise) With Pocket Kings

As I talked about in my how to play pocket aces article, it is really important not to screw around with hands like this at the lower stakes.

In small stakes cash games or tournaments you will consistently run into bad players who love to call with a very wide range. Even the so called good tight players often still have a lot of problems folding to a 3Bet for instance at these stakes.

If you are the first person to enter the pot, then you should always raise with your kings. Do not ever limp. And if somebody has raised it up already, then you should re-raise them the vast majority of the time.

The only time when you might want to consider slow playing (and it is very rare) is when you have a long history with a specific player and you want to mix up your play on occasion to keep them guessing.

The other time is when you are up against one of the few small stakes players who folds to 3Bets too much (e.g. 80%+). This is why it is a good idea to have the fold to 3Bet stat prominently displayed on your Pokertracker HUD.

Should You Go All In Preflop With Pocket Kings?

The short answer is yes, 100%

Look here’s the thing. While we all tend to distinctly remember that one time (or even 3 times in a row) where our opponent happened to have aces when we got it all in, the simple math tells us that this is an exceedingly rare event.

In fact Sitandgoplanet.com reminds us that the odds of running your kings into aces at a full ring table (9 people) are only 4% and at a 6max table it is only 3%!

Furthermore, these numbers do not even take into account all of the times (read: the vast majority) when your opponents go all in and show up with hands like:

  • AK
  • AQ
  • QQ
  • JJ
  • TT

Our kings of course crush all these hands. And this is not to mention all the times when your opponent just goes all in with something silly too just because they are on tilt.

So for all of these reasons, let’s end the argument here once and for all. You should always go all in preflop (assuming 100bb stacks) with your pocket kings.

It is true that on extremely rare occasions you will run into pocket aces and have only 20% equity. But it is important to remember that this happens so infrequently and that most of the time you are way ahead.

Also, believe me, the great thing about this game is that the shoe will always be on the other foot eventually. By this I mean that you will be the one holding aces to their kings one day.

They aren’t folding to you. So it all evens out in the end anyways.

How to Play Kings Postflop

So now that we have got the preflop game out of the way let’s talk about how to play cowboys after the flop.

Well frankly, things don’t change much. You should be betting and even re-raising with your kings the large majority of the time.

Once again we need to remember that low stakes online and live poker players are notoriously calling stations who love to hang on with any pair or draw. Why would you want to ever slow play against these kinds of players?

Furthermore, even if you are up against a decent regular who has a fold button, you want to build an aggressive reputation anyways. This because, having an aggressive poker table image ensures that you will get the most action when you want it (such as when you have kings).

You should be making bets on the flop and later streets against the decent regulars with your draws, ace highs, middle pairs and so on a lot of the time. So why wouldn’t you make the same bet when you have a big value hand like KK?

What if an Ace Flops?

Now a common trouble spot of course is what to do with kings if an ace flops. This is a tricky situation for which there is no clear-cut answer. As usual in poker, “it depends.”

It really depends mostly on your opponent in this case and how many aces you think are in their range. Recreational players in general are more likely to have the ace than the regulars.

However, the other issue here is that regardless of what they have, the ace is going to slow the action down. They might call one bet with their middle pair hand for instance but after that they will be done.

This is why I will sometimes take a check call line or a check behind line with pocket kings on an ace flop. This under-reps my hand and often allows me to get more action on the turn and river.

However, you definitely should still be betting the ace on the flop a fair bit as well. You don’t need to be afraid of it every time it flops. Remember that an ace is just one small part of their overall range.

Should You Ever Fold KK Postflop?

On occasion yes. It is important to remember that a hand like KK is still just one pair. Just because you got dealt the second best hand in Hold’em does not give you a license to print money.

The great thing about this game is that somebody almost always has equity. That is what allows the fish to get lucky sometimes and win. This keeps them depositing more money into the poker economy for years even when they clearly lose in the long run.

So it is important to recognize the signs when your pocket kings might be beat and you need to fold. Here are some of the common things that I look for:

  • Tight regular giving me lots of action especially on the “big money streets” (turn and river)
  • Wet and heavily coordinated board

So first off, the players who you want to make your hero folds against are the tight nits who sit around waiting for the nuts all day and never bet unless they have something huge.

When these guys wake up and start wanting to play for stacks against you, the alarm bells in your head should start going off.

Secondly, the board plays a key role in my decision to possibly fold kings as well. By “wet and coordinated” I am talking about a flop like:

789

On a board like this there are so many two pairs, sets and even made straights that have us crushed. There are also tons of combo draws (such as T9) that either have huge equity against us, or even have us beat!

Versus an absolutely monster draw like T9 we would actually be significantly behind if we were to get all the money in on this flop.

how to play pocket kings

Final Thoughts

Pocket kings is one of the best hands that you can possibly be dealt in poker. Therefore, it is important that you play it well.

For the most part you should simply be raising and re-raising with it both preflop and postflop. You want to stay away from slow playing KK versus all of the calling stations and bad players at the lower limits.

This also means that you should get all the money in before the flop if somebody else wants to tussle. It is very rare that they will flip over aces. Most of the time you will be in a very good spot instead.

Lastly, there are some rare occasions where you might want to consider getting away from kings postflop. This is especially the case versus a tight regular who is giving you a lot of action on a highly coordinated and wet board that also hits his set-mining range hard.

Let me know in the comments below how you play your kings. Do you have any tips for how to maximize your value with them?

New Here? Check out my “Start Here” Page for all of my best poker strategy articles. Also, be sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more helpful tips!

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How to Play Pocket Aces

How to Play Pocket Aces
play pocket aces

Pocket aces is the best hand that you can possibly be dealt in Texas Hold’em. And while many like to complain about all the times they lose with it, the bottom line is that AA will far and away be your most profitable hand in poker over the long run.

So more than any other starting hand in this game, it is a good idea to have a solid strategy for how to play it. It is also a good idea to have a clear strategy for when to fold it (yes you should be doing this on occasion).

In this article I am going to discuss how to play pocket aces in the most profitable way in poker.

You Should Almost Always Raise With Pocket Aces

Your default strategy in any poker game should be to raise or re-raise when you get dealt aces. If you are new to a table and you don’t know anybody, then you should employ this strategy 100% of the time.

Why not slow play your pocket rockets you might ask?

Because AA is the best starting hand in the game and the only way that you are going to win a big pot with it is by building the pot yourself. This is especially the case at the lower stakes.

Many people fail to remember that most players at the lower limits are extremely passive. This means that they won’t do the raising or the betting for you unless they happen to have a monster themselves, which is unlikely.

Therefore, the only way to actually win a big pot against them is by putting lots of chips in the middle yourself. If they don’t have anything, well there is nothing that you can do, they would have folded anyways.

But if they have any kind of hand that they like (or piece of the board), then they are likely to call. When you have pocket aces, this is exactly what you want them to do.

Now with all of that said, yes there is a time and a place for slow playing aces. This depends mostly on the history that you have with a specific opponent. If you play against a particular person often, then it is a good idea to mix things up from time to time in order to keep them guessing.

Another instance where it would be a good idea to slow play your aces from time to time is versus somebody who has already raised preflop but folds an abnormally high amount of the time to a 3Bet (e.g. 80%+). Your HUD stats will provide you with this information.

The bottom line though is that you want to be raising or re-raising with pocket aces the vast majority of the time that you play them. This will almost always be the most profitable way to play them especially at the lower stakes.

What Should You Do With Aces After the Flop?

My approach after the flop with pocket aces is very similar to my preflop strategy. That is, the large majority of the time I will be making the obvious straightforward play of just betting them.

Since AA is such a strong pair this means that I will be betting the flop on all sorts of boards. It really doesn’t matter what it is to be honest:

  • 234
  • 885
  • Q62
  • KK9
  • AT4

You get the idea.

And yes, I will even be betting the a large amount of the time when I happen to flop top set.

Why?

Because as I alluded to before, the two common traits that you typically find among low stakes poker players is passive play and a willingness to call.

In other words, if they have anything that they like (bottom pair, middle pair, top pair, any draw etc.), then they are going to call you. However, they typically will not make the bet for you if you choose to slow play. This is why I will just be making a default bet on nearly any board with aces.

Now of course versus opponents who I have a deep history with, I will once again choose to mix it up from time to time. I will perhaps choose to check raise or check call once in awhile instead in order to keep them guessing about the way in which I play my hands.

But against a random opponent or somebody with whom I have very little history, I will just make a bet on the flop nearly 100% of the time.

What if You Get Raised With Aces?

Now of course we aren’t always going to take down the pot uncontested after we make our bet on the flop. Sometimes they are going to call us or even raise us.

What to do in this situation depends a lot on the player type that you are dealing with. However, in general when I am called, I am just going to continue betting on later streets when I have pocket aces.

If I am raised then things get a little bit more interesting. First off, I want to know about the tendencies of my opponent. In particular I want to know if this player raises a lot after the flop and how aggressive they are in general.

The two key stats here on your HUD are:

  • Flop CBet Raise %
  • Total Aggression Factor

A Flop CBet Raise of 15-20% is pretty typical for most tight aggressive regs. If they are significantly above this then I will be likely to at least call. If they are significantly below this though, then I will be extremely cautious and might even consider folding.

The Total Aggression Factor stat in Pokertracker is a mathematical formula which gives us an overall indicator of postflop aggression or passivity of a particular player. The least aggressive value is 1.

This stat is useful when you have a small sample size on your opponent. A value of 2 or 3 is fairly typical for most regulars at the micros. So if they are 1 or 4+ then once again you can adjust your reaction to their raise accordingly.

If you are playing live poker, then obviously you do not have access to this kind of information. So in order to know how to proceed versus a raise when you have the pocket rockets this will depend on your overall read on your opponent.

Board Texture Plays a Big Role

Online or live though, the board texture also plays a key role in my decision.

When you get raised on:

789

This is a lot different than getting raised on:

KK2

With the first board there are just so many draws, pairs and pair+draw combo hands that they can have. However, on the second board they are representing almost nothing with a raise. Most people would slow play trip kings here and the only other value hand is the unlikely 22.

So if I got raised on the first board versus an aggressive opponent I might actually consider re-raising for value (or at the very least calling) and then playing more aggressively later depending on the turn and river cards.

Versus a tight passive player I will be very cautious though and might even consider folding. This is because this board hits their set-mining range very hard and I don’t expect them to be raising me with their draws anywhere near as often.

On the second board though I will almost always be just calling regardless of the player type. Re-raising in this situation puts you in a spot where you are likely to only get action from better hands and fold out all worse. I would rather keep their bluffing range wide and under-rep my hand here since I am almost certainly ahead.

Final Thoughts

Playing your pocket aces well is extremely important in Texas Hold’em poker. This is because the good old pocket rockets will be your most profitable hand over the long run. Therefore, the amount that you are able to win each time you play them will go a long way towards determining your overall winrate.

Most of the time, the straightforward way of raising and betting is going to be the most profitable way to play your aces. However, from time to time you might want to consider slow playing for deception against the regulars who you encounter a lot.

And on occasion as well you might even need to make a difficult fold versus a tight passive player especially when they start giving you big action on boards that are likely to hit their set-mining range.

Let me know your thoughts below on how you play your pocket aces.

New Here? Check out my “Start Here” Page for all of my best poker strategy articles. Also, be sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more helpful tips!

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Card Dead at the Poker Tables? Here’s What to Do

Card Dead at the Poker Tables? Here’s What to Do
poker card dead

You often hear poker players complain about being card dead. This essentially means that they aren’t getting dealt anything very good or “playable.”

It’s not a lot of fun because when you sit down to play poker you want to make something happen. But when you are getting dealt trash again and again it is like your hands are tied behind your back.

And this is even moreso the case in a tournament structure because you are getting blinded down and you can’t just reload like in a cash game. However, you also know that playing bad hands is a recipe for disaster at the poker tables.

So in this article I am going to discuss some strategies for dealing with being card dead in cash games and tournaments, both live and online.

You Can’t Force Your Way Out of Being Card Dead

The first thing that you need to remember about getting dealt a bunch of bad hands is that this is a natural part of the game and everybody goes through it. Sometimes you are going to get dealt great hands non-stop so this has to be counter-balanced with the bad side too.

So there is no real need to get frustrated by it and try to force something to happen. Because you simply can’t force your way out of it.

One of the biggest keys to being successful in poker is knowing when to be disciplined. You already know that bad cards like 96, 74 or T3 (and even when suited) are referred to as “junk” for a reason.

This is because they tend to produce really bad results when you play them!

Yes, on rare occasions you will get lucky and flop a straight or three 6’s with the good old 96♦. But you know full well what happens most of the time when you play a hand like this.

You will:

  • Miss the flop a lot
  • Lose to a better high card hand
  • Hit a pair and get beat by a better kicker
  • Hit a pair and lose to a higher pair
  • Hit two pair and lose to a higher two pair

And so on. You get the idea. This is why it is a bad idea to play cards like this.

So this really becomes a discipline thing at the end of the day. Just because you are card dead (again, a natural part of the game), does not mean that a hand like 96 suddenly becomes playable. It is a fold under any circumstance.

In a Cash Game You Never Have to Force Anything

The great thing about cash games (which is primarily what I talk about on this blog) is that there really is no need to ever try and force anything to happen. The blinds do not increase and you can reload at any point.

Also, with the speed of online poker and the ability to multi-table you don’t really even have to wait very long to get dealt a good hand.

Furthermore with the addition of Zoom poker in recent years you can now just literally “fast fold” your way to the nuts and eliminate being card dead forever.

However, getting dealt bad cards for a lengthy amount of time can still be an issue in slower formats like live poker or if you only play one or two regular tables online.

Once again this just has to come down to a discipline thing in the end. You know that you can’t break the fundamental rule that bad cards produce bad results. So you need to prevent yourself from trying to force something to happen even if it seems like you have been folding preflop forever.

Honestly, for me, this is one of the reasons that I rarely play live poker. Despite the fact that there are usually a lot more fish, the pace of the action can be really slow at times. With online poker though, if you are sick of folding a lot of bad hands, I would suggest just adding more tables.

Many people say that they cannot concentrate on more than one or two tables at a time online but if you find yourself sitting around waiting a lot and feeling card dead, then you could probably add another table and still remain focused.

Being Card Dead in a Tournament Presents Some Unique Challenges

Tournament poker of course is a different beast altogether because you are dealing with the ever increasing blinds and you are only going to survive if you make something happen.

But it is still the case (especially in the early stages of a tournament or a sit and go) that being patient and waiting for the right opportunity is the best course of action. This is especially the case at the lower stakes.

Much like in low stakes cash games, there are so many bad players in small buyin tournaments that trying to force something to happen will often only end in failure. They are just going to call your bluff down with their bottom pair and you will be even more frustrated.

Most big multi-table tournaments online give you about 75 big blinds to start and there are also deep stack events that you can play in as well. Therefore, there really is no need to worry about anything during at least the first hour in a format like this.

During the middle stages of the tournament you need to start pushing the chips around a little bit more but there is still plenty of room to maneuver. It is only once you get down to about 10 big blinds that you need to start making something happen.

But even then, most of your “plays” should be well calculated late position shoves intended to steal the blinds and have some reasonable equity even if called.

The bottom line even in tournaments is to relax if you are card dead. Forcing something to happen with a bad hand is a sure way to get yourself quickly eliminated.

There is no need to worry even with a short stack. It only takes one or two double ups and you are all of the sudden among the chip-leaders again. Be patient and get the money in good.

Conclusion

Being card dead in poker is a natural thing that we all go through from time to time. However, the best players know to still remain disciplined during these times.

A bad hand is still a bad hand no matter what has happened in your recent playing history. Remember to view each poker hand as an independent event. Trashy hands like 96 are a fold under any circumstance.

With cash games, it is much easier to handle getting dealt a lot of poor hands. The blinds are static and you can always reload. Just stay disciplined and wait for the right spots. If you still find yourself getting antsy, then try adding an additional table. Or play Zoom poker and never be card dead again!

With tournaments, once again the whole card dead thing is mostly in your head. You don’t really need to force anything to happen until you are seriously short stacked (e.g. 10bb or less). And even then, you should still only be shoving semi-decent hands in late position steal situations.

Bad cards are bad cards no matter the circumstance. One of the biggest keys to success (especially in low limit poker) is learning to be more patient.

Don’t allow a run of bad cards to get you down. Poker is a long run game and everybody goes through being card dead from time to time. Stay disciplined, stick with the game plan and you will be rewarded in the end.

New Here? Check out my “Start Here” Page for all of my best poker strategy articles. Also, be sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more helpful tips!

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Building Your Poker Table Image and Exploiting It

Building Your Poker Table Image and Exploiting It
Poker table image

Your poker table image is something that is very important to always be aware of. The reason why is because how others view you at the poker tables will go a long way towards how they play against you.

I talk a lot about using HUD stats to your advantage on this blog but the bottom line is that poker is still a psychological game and that deeper meta-game (the history, the dynamic) between you and someone else is always there and sometimes more important.

You can almost look at your poker table image as your reputation. People are going to react to you very differently depending on how they view you as a person (as an opponent in this case).

So should you seek to have a good poker table image or a bad one? And also, how can you use this perception of others to your advantage? Well, these are the two questions that I am going to address in this article.

How to Build Your Poker Table Image

First things first, how do we build our table image? Well, as soon as you sit down to start playing the other players at the table are going to start taking mental notes (to varying degrees) about your play.

In other words, they will try and make judgments about your play. For instance, Oh, that’s the tight passive guy. Or that guy is a loose aggressive maniac!

There is nothing wrong with making these judgments about your opponents. In fact this is something that you should be doing all the time. I have 6 different categories of regs based on HUD stats that I often talk about for instance.

Categorizing players like this simply allows me to predict their actions a little bit easier. While every player is unique, certain player types tend to make the same actions in various situations.

But if your opponents aren’t using a HUD (or you are playing live) the way that you are going to build your table image is really based on what you do in the first couple orbits.

Much like first impressions in life the same thing applies in poker. For better or worse, most people are going to draw conclusions about your play based off of what they see out of you in the early going.

Table Image Depends on What Cards You Get Dealt Though Doesn’t It?

Yes and No.

Now of course the table image that you create is going to be based somewhat on what cards you are dealt. If you are getting stuff like T2 every single hand, it is going to be hard to do anything other than appear to be a total nit.

But the reality is that you will probably get dealt a few reasonable hands as well in your first couple dozen hands when people are trying to draw conclusions about you the most.

As I have discussed before, especially with regards to Zoom poker strategy, often you can use this unknown factor to your advantage. When people don’t know anything about you is when you can get away with murder.

So I actually prefer to do a lot of light 3Betting/4Betting and postflop bluffs in the early going when nobody knows much about me.

Now I am not going to be making plays with T2 but if I get dealt something even halfway decent like J9, A3 or 44 I might be playing it a little bit more aggressively than normal in the early going.

Really what I am getting at here is that I do not agree with the age old advice that you may have heard before to keep it tight and simply observe when you first sit down at a new poker table.

Na, screw that.

When I first sit down at a new poker table I know I am going to get the most respect regardless of whatever table image I eventually build.

Therefore, this is the time when I want to be taking advantage of that unknown factor. This is when my opponents will often just lay it down and “wait for a better spot.”

bad table image

It is Better to Have a Bad Table Image

Another reason why I like to be aggressive early on at a new table is because I want to build a bad table image.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with building a tight, solid reputation at the tables. This will get you the maximum respect from the regulars.

This will also allow you to get away with some key bluffs from time to time if you know how to use your table image to your advantage. I will get to this in a bit.

However, overall it is always better to have a bad table image. The reason why goes back to the age old poker wisdom that you “get action when you give action.”

I want to be known as the guy who is in there splashing the chips around and playing reckless. This is going to allow me to get paid off much easier than the tight nit who everybody knows is just sitting around waiting for aces.

Basically, a LAG (loose and aggressive) strategy is going to have a higher profit ceiling than a tight strategy. This is especially the case when you start moving up the stakes, where people tend to pay more attention, and nits get paid off even less.

For more on this, I recently wrote an entire article on transitioning from TAG to LAG.

Poker Table Image is an Illusion

However, there is one key point here that must be noted. This whole idea of being a reckless, chip spewing LAG is really just an illusion that I am creating.

The real key to making this strategy work at the micros in particular is appearing to be crazy with plenty of early street raising and aggression. However, when the big money goes in on the later streets, I always have it.

This works exceptionally well in lower stakes cash games (and MTTs and SNGs as well) because most of your opponents are not considering your actions and range well enough at all stages of the hand.

In fact, often all they are thinking about is “this guy has 3Bet me 3 times in a row, he must be totally crazy!!!”

Wrong.

My preflop and flop hyper aggression (small money streets) does not necessarily mean that I will play the same on the turn and river (big money streets).

I am making a few “moves” especially when I first sit down at a new poker table as I discussed above but I am not gonna stick all the money in the middle with 2nd pair or a draw.

My stack off range is still going to be very similar to almost any other regular. I am going to need something really strong, typically the nuts.

Using Your Poker Table Image to Your Advantage

So the real key to creating a table image in poker is understanding the illusion that you are creating. If you want to create a bad table image (which I suggest), then you need to realize that you are going to get more action especially on the later streets.

So it is important to tone it down at a certain point if you don’t have anything. Your river bluffs are going to get looked up wider, your double barrels are going to get called lighter etc.

So knowing this, once your bad table image is established, you need to slow down with the complete air bluffs on the later streets. However, on the flip side, this is a spot where you could get away with some amazingly thin value.

For Example:

You have 99 and the board on the river is:

A68K3

If I have a bad table image I am probably going to be firing on this river for value most of the time. This is because I know they are going to try and hero call me here a lot with 8x or even 6x hands.

Conversely though, I would never bet with total air here because I know I am going to get looked up super light. The real key here is understanding what your table image is and using it to your advantage.

From the other point of view, if you want to be the good guy and create a good table image (there is nothing inherently wrong with this by the way), then you can also take advantage of your table image in a spot like this.

If you have a good table image, this is exactly the kind of river that you want to be betting with total air. In fact this is a great board to simply triple barrel bluff on especially if the table sees you as a tight, solid player.

The reason why is that your opponents are going to put you on a strong ace or a king a lot and therefore they will be likely to fold their weaker pairs. Conversely though, I would very rarely go for thin value here with a tight table image.

Why?

Because if we know that we are very rarely getting value from worse hands and only getting called by better hands, then what really is the point of betting? We may as well just check it down and win the pot with the best hand.

Final Thoughts

Creating a poker table image is something that you do when you first sit down and start playing whether you realize it or not. People are going to start trying to categorize you and draw conclusions about what type of poker player you are.

This is why it is good to always be cognizant of exactly what type of table image you are creating and then use it to your advantage later on.

I think that having a bad table image is ultimately going to be more profitable most of the time compared to having a good one. The biggest reason why is because when you appear to be a reckless maniac to everyone else, you are more likely to get paid off.

And frankly, getting action with your big hands is really the whole point of the game. This is how you are going to build a big winrate and profit big at the lower stakes in particular.

But there is nothing wrong with creating a good table image as well. The real key is knowing how to use it to your advantage. You can get away with more well timed bluffs than somebody with a bad table image can for instance.

Let me know in the comments below what kind of table image you prefer, good or bad?

If you found this article helpful, then please do me a favor and “Like” it or “Tweet” it below. Thanks!

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What is VPIP? How to Use VPIP at the Poker Tables

What is VPIP? How to Use VPIP at the Poker Tables
definition of vpip in poker

VPIP is a technical term that we use with modern poker tracking programs such as Pokertracker and Hold’em Manager. It stands for Voluntarily Put $ in Pot.

In plain speak what it really means is what percentage of hands does a particular player play. More specifically, of the hands that they are dealt preflop, what percentage do they decide to call or raise with.

VPIP is probably the most useful stat that I use at the poker tables. In this article I am going to describe how I use the numbers and make decisions with it at the poker tables.

VPIP Tells You About Player Type

Understanding the type of player that you are up against is one of the most important things in poker. This can often dramatically affect my decision making at the tables.

For instance, if I am up against a very tight regular opponent I might be cautious about getting AK all in preflop even in a 6max game.

However, if I am up against a loose aggressive recreational opponent, then this is a slam dunk all in for me with a fist pump included. This is because I very likely have the best hand.

Once you start to get used to using a poker tracking program like Pokertracker 4 for instance, you can setup your HUD (heads up display) and start showing this stat for your opponents at the tables.

By the way, for a full breakdown on this I would recommend checking out my how to setup your HUD article. You can also download my own HUD setup for free and start using it yourself right away.

VPIP Numbers and Player Type

So let’s talk about some concrete numbers now. So when the stats for my opponents start showing up on my screen I will roughly apply player types like this:

  • 0-10: very tight
  • 11-20: tight
  • 21-30: loose
  • 31-40: very loose
  • 40+: recreational player (fish)

I want to note one important caveat here. It is crucial that you have a sample size of at least 10 hands before drawing any conclusions about the player type.

The reason why is because even an extremely tight player could happen to just pick up a few good hands in a row. Or vice versa, a really loose player could be card dead.

So always make sure that you have a bare minimum of 10 hands on your opponent before making any judgments about them with regards to VPIP.

Poker Strategy with VPIP

So now that I know what type of player I am up against this will influence my decisions at the poker table in a number of ways.

1. The Hands That I Play

So first off, the hands that I choose to play preflop will be affected by my opponent’s VPIP.

Say it is folded to me on the button for instance. If I see that the two remaining players in the blinds are both 10% or less VPIP, then I will probably try and steal the blinds with any two cards.

Why? Because these players are both extremely tight and I expect to take it down a lot.

However, if I notice that both players are say 35% VPIP (and especially if they are aggressive as well), then I will probably be much more selective with the hands that I play. The reason being that I know I will not take down the blinds uncontested anywhere near as much.

2. Postflop Play

My postflop play will also be heavily affected by my opponent’s VPIP. If I am against one of the tighter opponents I will often give them more credit after the flop.

So for instance, if I have 87 on a board of:

22743

I might choose to just check back the turn for instance for a little bit of pot control and deception (and then bet the river). The reason being that I don’t expect them to have too many worse hands in their range that will call me on all 3 streets.

Versus a loose opponent though I might choose to just bet all 3 streets because they are much more likely to have a worse made hand or a draw on this board.

Also, it should be noted that loose players are much more likely to be fish or bad poker players. And bad poker players love to call more than anything in the world. Tighter players on the other hand are more likely to make a tough fold.

VPIP Hand Ranges

In terms of actual hands played we can also create a rough breakdown of that depending on the numbers.

  • 0-10: Any pair, any premium and most broadways
  • 11-20: Any pair, any premium, any broadway, most suited aces and most suited connectors
  • 21-30: Any pair, any premium, any broadway, any ace, most kings, any suited connector, any suited one gapper
  • 31-40: Any pair, any premium, any broadway, any ace, any king, any connector, any one gapper, any suited two gapper 
  • 40+: Almost any two cards depending on how high the VPIP is

This is just a very rough guide but hopefully it gives you a better idea of how to put a player on a range of hands according to their VPIP.

Basically, the higher it is, the more hands you need to start adding to their range. Once you get to the very loose players and the recreational opponents (e.g. 30%+ VPIP) it honestly becomes a little bit pointless to even bother constructing a range of hands for them.

The reason why is that they are playing so many hands that it becomes almost impossible to narrow it down properly, at least in the early stages of the hand. Based on the decisions that they have made throughout the course of the hand though, we can often narrow down their range by the later streets.

Check out my hand reading article for more on this.

Final Thoughts

VPIP is a very valuable tool that you should be using at the online poker tables. It tells you so much about a player. More than any other stat in fact.

This is because the biggest difference between the various opponents that you will face at the poker tables is how tight or loose they are. The VPIP stat gives you that exact information.

This is especially important in the fast paced multi-tabling world of online poker where it can be difficult to keep track of everybody. Having the numbers right there on your screen makes it much easier to identify the player type.

So make sure that VPIP is a stat in your arsenal at the online poker tables and you will be able to make better informed decisions. And therefore you will ultimately profit and win more!

New Here? Check out my “Start Here” Page for all of my best poker strategy articles. Also, be sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more helpful tips!

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7 Effective Ways to Stay Motivated to Play Poker

7 Effective Ways to Stay Motivated to Play Poker
motivation to play poker

Motivation is something that a lot of people struggle with at times in poker. It is the easiest thing in the world to sit down and play when everything is going your way at the tables. But once you hit that soul-crushing downswing playing poker will seem like the last thing in the world that you want to do.

But being able to persevere and put in the hands regardless of the circumstances is really the mark of a true professional. It is also the reason why people achieve anything in life, in poker or otherwise. That is, they are able to get themselves to do the thing that they know they should do, even when they don’t feel like it.

So in this article I am going to provide you with 7 effective tips that I have used over the years to motivate myself to put in the hours at the tables.

1. Set Public Poker Goals

It might sound cliche but goal setting is one of the most important ways to keep yourself motivated to do anything. But even more important is setting public goals.

If you go back through the long history of this blog, this was exactly the original intent. I would publicly state goals which were usually related to the number of hands that I was going to play over a period of time such as a month.

Guess what happens when you set a public goal and then fail at it? You have egg all over your face and you feel like you let yourself and others down.

This is why publicly stated goals are so powerful. You will hold yourself more accountable because there is nothing worse than saying you are going to do something in front of others and then failing miserably. Other people will also follow your progress and help keep you motivated as well.

Start that poker blog today. Just use a free service like Blogger or Tumblr and let all your friends know about it. Or start a Twitch or a Youtube channel if that is more your thing. Set public goals and go accomplish them.

2. Find Other Highly Motivated Poker Players

We all have those inspirational poker players who have achieved the kind of success that we strive for in this game. This could be anyone from a solid micro stakes grinder to the latest high stakes phenom. No matter who they are, it is very likely that they got to where they are through consistent effort.

I have said it again and again before on this blog and elsewhere. The #1 most common trait that you will find among nearly all successful poker players is a huge number of hands played.

In fact, they always seem to be at the tables playing the game!

Nearly every successful poker player these days has some sort of blog, twitter, tiltbook or something. Follow the people who inspire you. Comment and engage in discussion with them. And find out what motivates them.

Surround yourself with highly motivated winners and it is very likely to rub off on you.

3. See Each Poker Session as a New Opportunity to Learn

The reason why most successful poker players have played way more hands than everybody else is because like most other things in life, you get good at something by doing it often.

I think you should definitely set aside plenty of time to improve your poker game through study and discussion with other (preferably better) poker players. But the #1 way that you are going to get better at poker is by throwing yourself into the fire consistently.

This is how your brain is going to really make those connections that certain plays work and certain others do not. Essentially, every new session gives you a new opportunity to learn and expand upon your understanding of the game.

Always make playing the game your #1 priority. This will help you improve faster and get the results that you want.

4. Each Poker Session is an Independent Event

One of the biggest reasons why people lack the motivation to play poker on certain days is because they are in the grips of an awful downswing.

Most of us have been there. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry, it will happen to you eventually. This is when you can’t win a hand to save your life for days, weeks or even months on end.

It seems like literally every time you have KK, they have AA. Hit a set? They have nothing. Have an over-pair? They have a set. Have a flush? They have a higher one. You get the point.

I know from going through numerous horrific downswings during my poker career that sometimes the hardest thing in the world to do during times like this is to even want to play anymore.

But one of the most important things that you need to remember is that every poker session (every poker hand in fact) is an independent event. Just because you have lost 5 coinflips in a row does not mean that there is something wrong with the coin.

Your chances of winning the next coinflip are still exactly 50/50.

As difficult as it can be during a brutal downswing you need to realize that the only way out is by playing. And since you are a winning player your odds of winning in each particular session are better than average.

Your recent results have no impact on what will happen today. Just play as little as a couple hundred hands. If things go poorly again and you feel tiled, fine, go ahead and quit.

But don’t avoid playing altogether because you think you are somehow “cursed” or some silliness. Each poker hand or session is an independent event.

If you are indeed a winning poker player, then the only way that you will fail from an EV (expected value) perspective, is by not playing.

5. Use Meditation, Music or Inspirational Videos 

People will always debate about whether or not poker is a sport but the bottom line is that this is a very serious pursuit for many of us. For some of us it even pays the bills.

So why wouldn’t you approach it like a professional?

Professional athletes often prepare mentally for hours before the big game. They will listen to music, review game film and listen to their coaches. All of this is really just a process of getting their mind right in order to perform better.

There is no reason why you shouldn’t be doing this with poker as well. Mediation may work for some. Spend 10 minutes doing some simple deep breathing and positive mindset exercises before your next session.

Listening to music might help as well. I tend to listen to a lot of house and trance when playing poker because it is often uplifting and has minimal vocals.

Lastly, you can find countless awesome inspirational videos on places like Youtube these days. I have lengthy playlists that often get me going on those days when I don’t want to play poker, write or go to the gym.

If you have 1 minute and 19 seconds of your life to spare, listen to Joe Rogan dropping some serious wisdom right now!

6. Get Mad

Seriously, how long have you been playing this game now? Have you achieved the success that you know you are capable of? If you aren’t happy with your answers to these questions, then perhaps it is time to look inward and even get a little bit pissed off.

Most people have an endless list of excuses for why they haven’t achieved their goals in this game yet. It is never their fault. The real reason why they haven’t made any real progress though is because they haven’t been willing to put in the effort.

The truth is that if you truly want success in this game (or anything in life), then it is right there for the taking every single day. You won’t get it by wasting more time on Facebook, Reddit or watching TV though.

The people who are achieving big time success in this game are at the tables every single day and working hard to improve their game away from them as well. In other words:

They aren’t talking about it, they are doing it.

I have mentioned several times before about how I “went pro” many years ago. I was working a full-time job at the time. When I came home I played online poker for 3 or 4 hours every single night for a year. I would simply play all day on the weekends.

Why?

Because I was sick and tired of not achieving the success that I knew I was capable of in this game. I also absolutely hated my job at the time as an underpaid and overworked office slave.

Basically, I was finally mad enough (at myself) to actually do something about it and stop complaining and finding excuses.

After that year was up I had gone from NL2 to NL100. I had a 10k bankroll with plenty more in savings, and I decided to try and do this thing full time.

That was over 9 years ago.

7. Switch Up the Games That You Play

The last way to motivate yourself to play poker more consistently is surprisingly simple and yet so few actually do it.

Tell me, why did you first start playing poker in the first place? Probably because it was fun, exciting, thrilling even, am I right?

Here’s the thing. When you always keep this “fun factor” involved, then it is a lot easier to motivate yourself to play poker. We like doing things that we enjoy.

One of my favorite ways to pump in some hands when I am absolutely hating this game is to simply play another format. If cash games are sucking big time for me, I will go play some low limit tournaments or even some sit n gos or spins.

Even though I consider myself a cash game specialist, and I am no expert in these other formats, the competition is typically very weak at the lower stakes. In fact, often much worse than cash. So I feel that I can easily turn a long term profit in these games too.

But the biggest reason why I play them is because it gets my mind out of the gutter and allows me to just have fun again. And the great thing with MTTs or SNGs is that you risk a small amount but you could potentially hit a huge score.

Winning a tournament will cure that cash game downswing of yours in a hurry!

If things have been going badly in your main games go play something totally different just to mix it up. Heck, even go learn PLO or Triple Draw!

Just mix it up from time to time in order to always keep the fun factor involved in this game. This will in turn keep you motivated to play more.

Final Thoughts

Staying motivated to play poker every day is not an easy thing to do for most people. But it really is the only way that you are going to break through and truly achieve the success that you want in this game.

Nobody gets to the top by half assing it. Nobody climbs up the ranks by putting in a couple of hours a week, you know, if they feel like it.

No, the best players in the world are always at the tables grinding and making it happen. They are “all-in” with this game because they want it more than anything.

Hopefully a few of the tips in this article can help you improve your motivation to put in the hands on a consistent basis.

What strategies do you use to get yourself motivated to play poker? Do you have any tips for getting yourself to play during bad downswings?

If you found this article helpful, then do me a quick favor and click the “Like” or “Tweet” button below. Thanks! 

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Announcing the Release of The NL2 Mastery Course

Announcing the Release of The NL2 Mastery Course
The NL2 Mastery Course BlackRain79

The NL2 Mastery Course is something that I have mostly kept quiet about but have been working behind the scenes on for quite some time.

As many of you may know I am the author of two popular full length books on the micro stakes cash games. Crushing the Microstakes (NL2, NL4 and NL5) and Modern Small Stakes (NL10, NL25 and NL50).

But many people have told me that they would also like to see the strategies and ideas presented in those two books in action for themselves at the tables.

This is why starting this year I am going to be releasing a series of Mastery Courses starting at NL2. NL5 and NL10 will be forthcoming later this year.

The Mastery Courses are full length video series (typically 6+ hours) of live play at the micros online. You essentially get to look over my shoulder as I show you how I have produced some of the best results in history in these games.

What is the NL2 Mastery Course?

The NL2 Mastery Course is a 9 part video series featuring 6 hours of live play at the full ring, 6max and Zoom tables on Pokerstars.

In this video series you will learn:

  • How to employ an exploitative TAG strategy at the micros
  • How to find the fish and tilt them
  • How to stack the fish as fast as possible over and over again
  • How to exploit the regs
  • How to play effectively in 3Bet pots
  • Zoom Poker Strategy
  • Flop and Turn CBet strategy
  • River ranges and bet sizing

And much, much more!

Videos #1, #2 and #3 (Full Ring)

(Total running time: 118 minutes)

In the first 3 videos in this series I play live at NL2 full ring on Pokerstars varying between 1 and 4 tables at a time. Implementing a TAG strategy I focus heavily on exploiting the numerous fish that I find at the tables. As I stack them again and again I discuss the specific strategy nuances of full ring poker.

Here is a short preview of what you can expect:

Videos #4, #5 and #6 (6max)

(Total running time: 124 minutes)

In videos 4, 5 and 6 in this series I play live at the 6max NL2 cash games on Pokerstars. I talk about how to make adjustments for 6max both preflop and postflop. I employ a highly position based TAG strategy. I stack numerous fish once again and talk about how to exploit the regs.

Here is a short preview of what you can expect:

Videos #7, #8 and #9 (Zoom Poker)

(Total running time: 117 minutes)

In the final 3 videos in this series I focus on Zoom Poker (both 6max and full ring). I discuss the specific strategy adjustments needed to beat these games for the highest winrates possible. Once again I employ a highly exploitative TAG strategy, abusing the regs and stacking the fish.

Here is a short preview of what you can expect:

Let’s Start Crushing the Micros!

I write about the micros non-stop on this blog as many of you know (roughly one new post a week). And while the games have gotten a bit tougher in recent years the real purpose of this video series is to show you that you can still absolutely crush these games for some truly insane winrates.

Here are my results from this video series (note the winrate):

BlackRain79 Videos

Now there are a few fairly big caveats here of course.

Firstly, the sample size is so small that it makes my results pretty insignificant. However, considering just how high the winrate is (especially when I ran fairly normal in this video series – neither great nor terrible), that should tell you something.

Secondly, I only play on 4 tables at the most in this video series and sometimes as little as 1 or 2 especially when playing Zoom. If I was playing 12+ tables at a time I would not be able to maintain 34bb/100.

With all that said though, I do think that crazy results similar to this are still possible in today’s games over the long run if you:

  • Employ a solid exploitative TAG strategy
  • Use effective table selection
  • Control your emotions when things go bad

The biggest reason why is due to the quality of the competition that you will face in these games.

NL2 is a Circus

NL2 is the very lowest stake of online poker. Therefore, this game is populated by some of the worst players on the planet. Yet, most people who play at this limit not only don’t turn a profit, they actually lose money!

As somebody who has made 15k+ at just this stake alone with rakeback added (quite possibly the most ever), this is just absolutely crazy to me.

As you will see in The NL2 Mastery Course, these games are still a total joke.

I actually employ very little table selection throughout this entire video series and I play at some of the absolute worst times as well (Sunday night for instance in North American time zones). This entire video series was also recorded at the supposedly hardest site out there, Pokerstars.

You see my results above.

I can remember identifying one player (yes ONE), throughout 6 hours of play, who in my opinion looked like a reasonably solid poker player. Everybody else ran the gamut from pure beginner to absolutely no clue what they are doing.

I encountered numerous massive fish at full ring, 6max and Zoom with VPIPs as high as 80%. On many occasions I had 2 or 3 of them at each table. You can clearly see them in the promo videos above.

Anybody trying to tell you that the NL2 games today are full of good regs is either completely blind or does not understand what “playing good” actually means in this game.

I have long referred to NL2 lovingly as “The Circus” because it is full of huge fish and total beginner regs with massive leaks in their game.

No more excuses.

You should be absolutely annihilating these games and that is what this video series shows you how to do.

High Definition Downloadable Videos

Download NL2 Mastery Course

All videos in The NL2 Mastery Course were recorded using professional screen capture software and a professional grade microphone. So when you watch this video series it is like you are in the room looking right at my laptop screen.

Also, it is important to note that in this video series you will be watching me play poker (and explain my decisions) in real time. This is not one of those “voice over” replayer video series where I get the benefit of hindsight.

And if you want to download this entire course and take it on the go, then that is no problem as well. There is a download button under every single video. You can of course stream the entire thing online in HD as well.

Bonus #1 – The NL2 Mastery Course Starter

nl2 mastery course blackrain79

Kit

The starter kit includes a free copy of my “Massive Profit at the Micros” ebook which breaks down the strategy that you will see in action throughout this entire video course.

It also includes a free copy of The Starting Hand Chart Manual. This is basically a cheat sheet where you can see every single hand that I play from every single position in a 6max or full ring cash game (both Zoom and regular tables).

The starter kit also includes an overview of several key topics discussed in this video series and links to important articles of mine to learn more.

Bonus #2 – Free Lifetime Access to the Member’s Only Area of My Forum

Every single person who purchases this course will receive free lifetime access to the member’s only area on my forum where you can personally ask me questions about ANY hand in this video series.

You can also post your own hands for review.

If You Struggle at NL2 Then This Course is for YOU!

Here’s the thing, you can go out and spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on coaching, training sites and books in order to learn complex theories on how to beat the complete beginners that you will encounter at NL2.

You will probably end up being just as confused as when you started and still wondering why your results are lacking.

Or you can see first-hand the proven common sense strategies that I have long used in these games to produce some of the best results ever.

No speculation, no theories and no complex math. Just results.

If you are still struggling at NL2, then invest in yourself and get this video course. I promise it won’t cost you hundreds of dollars either!

Not even close in fact.

Click the button below to get started.

Retail Price $49.95
Your Price $29.95
You Save $20.00 (40%)

The NL2 Mastery Course by BlackRain79

Purchasing Options

1) Purchasing with a Credit Card or Debit Card

Click “Add to Cart” above. Choose “Checkout with Paypal” and then select “Pay with a debit or credit card” on the next page.

2) Purchasing with Paypal

Click “Add to Cart” above. Choose “Checkout with Paypal” and then enter your Paypal details on the next page.

3) Purchasing with Skrill

Send $29.95 to blackrain79@dragthebar.com and then send me a quick email at this same address to let me know. I will send you your copy of The NL2 Mastery Course ASAP.

If you have any questions concerning the payment process (or anything at all regarding this course), please send me an email at blackrain79@dragthebar.com.

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Final Thoughts

I just want to thank each and every loyal reader of this website who has been following me for years. You know who you are.

You are the reason I am inspired to keep putting out articles each week and even get around to something really big like a book or a video course every once in awhile.

Truly, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support, the emails, the comments and more.

My hope with The NL2 Mastery Course (like with my previous two books) is that it makes a real discernible difference in your results at the tables, immediately.

We all started playing this game for fun. But let me tell you, the real fun begins when you start consistently winning big. Because that really is the entire point of the game.

Hopefully this video series helps shine a little bit more light on your path at the micros.

The NL2 Mastery Course by BlackRain79

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How to Stop Making Bad Calls in Poker

How to Stop Making Bad Calls in Poker
Stop making bad calls in poker

Making bad calls at the poker tables is one of the easiest ways to screw up a good win-rate. But there is a big difference between a call made for the right reasons and one that is made simply due to emotion and poor logic.

We definitely want to make plenty of the former (good calls) and avoid making the latter. In this article I am going to explain exactly what the difference is between a good call and a bad call. I am also going to give you strategies to stop making bad calls.

What is a Good Call?

Let’s start by talking about the kind of calls that we want to be making. A good call is one that is made for any of the following reasons:

  • You think you have the best hand 
  • You have the right odds to continue 
  • You are setting up a bluff for later on in the hand 

All of these reasons for making a call are based on solid logic and entail a plan for the hand. There is no emotion involved.

A good call also presupposes that you have weighed your other two options (raising or folding) and have decided that there is a higher EV (expected value) in calling.

Let’s look at a few examples of each of these.

1. You Think You Have the Best Hand

Hero has A♥J♠

Villain bets $5 into a $10 pot on this river

Q♣J♣7♠4♥3♦

Hero???

We could make the call in this spot if we think that we have the best hand. There are plenty of missed straight draws (T9 and KT), missed flush draws (any two clubs) and even a few worse Jacks that might be trying to value bet (KJ, JT).

We do not expect to be right all of the time though. It is important to remember that in poker we play against ranges, not individual hands.

So while our opponent’s range might include several missed draws and some worse Jacks, sometimes we will also be shown a Queen, a set or something else that beats us.

Our decision in this spot really depends heavily on the player type. Some players are going to have more value hands here. Some will have more bluffs.

2. You Have the Right Odds to Continue

Another reason to make a “good call” is because you have the right odds (i.e., the poker math makes sense). So in the example above for instance villain has bet $5 into a pot of $10. Our pot odds here (Bet + Pot Size / Bet) are 3 to 1.

What does this mean to us though?

It means that we should be 3 to 1 against at most to win the pot. Or more specifically, we need to be right here at least 25% of the time. As long as we think that we have the best hand here 1 out of every 4 times or better, we can profitably call.

If we were in a situation say on the turn with a draw then a similar logic would apply. If the odds of making our hand are equal to or better than our pot odds, then we can profitably continue.

For example:

We have a flush draw on the turn. A flush draw is roughly 4 to 1 against to hit on the river. If we are getting 4 to 1 or better pot odds, then we can call and make an immediate profit.

Furthermore, if we have implied odds on the river as well, then sometimes we don’t even need to have the right pot odds in order to make a profitable call.

I don’t want to turn this into a lengthy treatise on poker math though. I have talked about poker math in detail before on several occasions. You can find a recent article here.

3. You are Setting up a Bluff Later on in the Hand

This last reason for a good call is a little bit more complicated and it is not something that I suggest doing very often if you are new to the game or playing at the micros.

Nonethless, it can certainly be a valid reason to make a call. Here is an example:

Hero has 8♦7♦

Villain CBets on a flop of

9♥5♠2♦

Hero???

We could call in this spot with the intention of taking away the pot on a later street. We don’t have much equity (gutshot and a backdoor flush draw) and so this is much more about playing the player rather than the cards.

If we are up against someone who CBets the flop frequently for instance but then gives up a lot on the turn, then this could be a profitable spot to float and then bet the turn when checked to.

For specific examples of the types of regs to do this against and the associated HUD stats, you can check out my article on beating the regs.

What is a Bad Call?

Ok, so now that we have outlined some of the main reasons for making a good call let’s talk about some of the reasons (or lackthereof) behind bad calls.

A bad call is made for any of the following reasons:

  • Tilt 
  • There is no reason 
  • Faulty Logic 

Bad calls, as opposed to good calls, are made based off of emotion and/or a lack of logic. And sometimes there is simply no reason at all. 

Furthermore, when somebody makes a bad call, often they have not even considered their other options in the hand. It is often the case in poker that raising or folding will show a higher long term EV.
Let’s talk about these “reasons” for making a bad call one by one.

1. Tilt

Tilt is the 800 pound elephant in the room that affects every poker player on earth to varying degrees. Poker is an emotional game with endless ups and downs. Most people are not very good at dealing with downswings in particular and it can affect their decisions at the table in a negative way.
Here is an example of a bad call based off of tilt.
Hero has 9♦9♥
Villain (Nit regular) triple barrels on this river
2♠2♣4♥7♠2♦
When a nitty regular at the micros triple barrels us here (raised preflop, bet the flop, turn and river) we are going to get shown a higher overpair (higher boat technically on this board) a very high percentage of the time.
The correct play here is to fold. 
But this is a spot where some people may have a problem laying their hand down especially if they have been losing a lot and they are on tilt. They will make a so called “crying call” here when deep down they know that there is very little chance that their hand is good. 
2. There is No Reason
Newer or inexperienced poker players in particular may often make a call without any real reason at all. We have all seen this countless times when playing against recreational players for instance. 
The river comes with an ace, we check it down and they turn over the rivered ace. We are dumbfounded as to why they are even in the hand. But this is just what bad or inexperienced poker players often do, call for no reason. 
3. Faulty Logic
The last reason for making a bad call I will loosely just call “faulty logic.” This can mean stuff like not understanding how to calculate pot odds and hand odds correctly as I discussed above. 
This can also include making a bad call based off of superstition. Some people have a “favorite hand” for instance. There is no logic or reason for them behind making a call in a specific spot. They just
happen to love 8♦6♦!!

How to Stop Making Bad Calls

Now that we know the differences between good calls and bad calls let’s talk about how to stop making the bad ones. Good calls which are made for the right reasons can have a beneficial impact on our win-rate in the long run.

But as I mentioned at the top, bad calls can have a very negative affect on our win-rate especially if you make them frequently. 
1. Always Make Calls in Poker for a Reason
Most importantly, the #1 way to stop making bad calls is to always demand a reason out of yourself for why you are making a call. Do not allow yourself to just blindly hit the call button or throw the chips in the middle…just because.
Poker is game where we get ahead by making better decisions than our opponents. If you are routinely not even thinking about why you make the decisions that you do, then you may as well just give away your money or go play Bingo.
We need to always have a reason for the actions that we take at the poker tables and a plan for the hand. If you are going to make a call, then once again, it should be for one of these reasons:
  • You think you have the best hand
  • You have the poker math on your side 
  • You are setting up a bluff for later

2. Always Make Sure You Have Weighed Your Other Options
Secondly, before making a call always make sure that you have considered raising or folding as well. You should have clearly determined that both of these options are inferior to calling. 
So many people just randomly click buttons in this game without even thinking. It is often the case that raising or folding actually are the better options in poker. Show me somebody who likes to call a lot and I will show you a losing poker player. 
Make sure that you have carefully considered raising (either as a bluff or for value) or simply just folding, before you hit that call button.
3. Quit When Tilt Takes Over
Lastly, the biggest reason why people make bad calls is because they are on tilt. They are frustrated by a recent run of bad beats/coolers and therefore their logical decision making skills are diminished. 
Countless studies have concluded that emotions (and frustration/anger in particular) negatively affect our reasoning abilities. For instance, in a recent Harvard study Litvak et al. found that angry decision makers frequently exhibit signs of increased “aggression and unrealistic optimism.”
In poker terms this means that when you make that tilt induced bad call on the river it is often because you subconsciously want to get back at your opponent by showing them that you won’t back down. The problem is that there is no room for ego in poker. When you are beat, you need to fold.

When on tilt you may also find ways to convince yourself that they are bluffing more than they are in reality. Or you will simply make that crying call because you just want to see it (even though you know that you are beat deep down).

Obviously both of these are very negative and unprofitable ways to approach the game. This is why when you know that you are on tilt the best decision is pretty much always to simply quit. 
In your poor state of mind your ability to even discern the difference between a good call and a bad call can be severely comprimised. Making bad calls while on tilt is one of the biggest destroyers of bankrolls and win-rates.
The acclaimed poker mental game coach Tommy Angelo famously talked about the need to “Lop off your C-Game.” What he meant by this is quitting when you dip into your C level game (or even worse D, E, F) because during these periods your ability to think straight and make high quality poker decisions is greatly reduced.
The bottom line is that if you can learn to quit when tilt starts to take over, then you will almost over night say goodbye to a large number of your bad calls.

Final Thoughts

I hope that this article helped provide you with good outline of the differences between a good call and a bad call in poker. Good calls are based on logic and mathematics. Bad calls are based on emotion, faulty logic or even no thinking at all. 
The best way to stop making bad calls in poker is to simply get better at quitting when tilt starts to get the best of you. When in this state our ability to think clearly and even determine the difference between a good call and a bad call is severly diminished. 
Furthermore, in order to avoid making bad calls, always make sure that you can give yourself a solid reason for why you are making the call (you have the best hand, poker math etc.). 
Lastly, make sure that you have weighed your other options and you can confidently conclude that calling is indeed the best course of action.   
Let me know in the comments below how making bad calls in poker affects you. What methods do you use to prevent them from happening?

If you found this article helpful, then do me a favour and “Like” or “Tweet” it below!
How to stop making bad calls
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Interview With 2x Supernova Elite Sit & Go Beast Aaron "abarone68" Barone

Interview With 2x Supernova Elite Sit & Go Beast Aaron "abarone68" Barone
Poker player Aaron "abarone68" Barone interview
Moving abroad has allowed me the opportunity to meet and make friends with several other very talented online poker pros. A couple of weeks back I interviewed German small stakes cash game crusher Kieran “KieHa” Harding. 
This week I am happy to bring on one of the best mid stakes Sit & Go and Spin & Go players in the world. This is two-time Supernova Elite Aaron “abarone68” Barone.
While this blog is primarily about small stakes cash games I wanted to invite Aaron on anyways because the success that he has managed to achieve in this game goes way beyond what even most online poker pros dream of. This may be inspiring to some of you.
Also, from sitting down and having coffee with this guy countless times here in Chiang Mai (and also in my hometown of Vancouver) it is very clear to me that his technical knowledge of the game is extremely high. This ability to think about poker on a much deeper level than others transcends the various formats.
Also, his story (as you will see below) is amazing.
So without further ado!

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your travels.

On April 14, 2011, I signed a one-year lease for an apartment in Sacramento, California. I went to bed that night and by the time I woke up, the U.S. government had made online poker illegal. I remember walking into the leasing office to ask about breaking my lease. They thought I was joking. I wasn’t. 

At the time I was wallowing all sorts of negative emotions – denial, anger, disappointment – but several years later I look back on Black Friday with fondness; that legislation changed my life, forcing me not only out of my home country, but my comfort zone.  
A few fellow poker players and I attempted to get set up in the Bahamas only to be foiled by odd bureaucracy – The bank wouldn’t open up an account unless I had a rental agreement, but the real estate agent wouldn’t rent to me unless I had a bank account.  
Thankfully the group of us put our heads together and audibled to Vancouver, B.C. It was a fantastic decision, as I fell in love with the area and have lived there off and on for the better part of five years. 
In addition, I’ve spent time in Thailand (Chiang Mai) and several parts of Mexico (Playa Del Carmen, Rosarito, and Puerto Vallarta).

How and when did you first get introduced to online poker?

My friends and I started a weekly cash game around the time of the Chris Moneymaker-boom. I wasn’t close to the best player in the group. Initially I thought the game was all luck, but nearly every week the same guy would end up winning and I couldn’t stand looking at his shit-eating grin when he raked in the chips.  

I was filled with a combination of competitive fire and insecurity which drove me to search the internet for ‘poker tips.’ I then stumbled across the Cardplayer forums and read countless posts about
how to improve and which online sites to play on.

What stakes did you start out at? Did you have success right away?

For the majority of my career, I’ve been a Sit and Go grinder (more recently, Spins) but I started out playing cash.  Pretty sure it was $25 NL. I definitely did not have success in that format, as I found myself unable to leave the game while in profit.  

I’d always keep playing until I suffered some horrendous beat or punted away a stack and then close the client in despair.  Moving to SNGs solved that problem immediately and I began to post winning sessions.

What stakes do you play at now? What was the journey like for you to get to this point?

Currently I’m a $60s/$100s Spin and Go regular.  From time to time I also dabble in 9-max SNGs and low to medium stakes MTTs, but I prefer Spins because of the lack of a time commitment.  

Up until the past few years, the journey was relatively smooth and stable. I spent the first part of my career playing lower limits in an effort to have a larger edge on my opponents and experience less variance.  
Eventually I recognized that I was ‘good enough’ to move up and had a higher expectation at incrementally higher stakes, so I took a shot. I’ve been Supernova Elite in 2014 and 2015 and while there’s been more variance in the higher stakes, the past two years have also been my most profitable ones.  
[BR79: Here are some of Aaron’s results over the past several years]
Spin & Gos (May 2015-Present)
Interview Aaron Barone Poker
Sit & Gos and MTTs (2007-2015)
abarone68 spin and go interview

Do you have any advice for people just starting out in poker who are struggling at lower stakes?

Be honest with yourself and your weaknesses. There’s so much ego in this industry and even more delusion.  It’s easy to put the blame on the cards, bad luck, or a “fishy” opponent, but that doesn’t do anything to help you improve. The goal should be to get better as a poker player, not to justify subpar results.

What is your opinion on the future of online poker (especially with regards to the recent changes at PokerStars)?

Yuck. I wouldn’t say the future of online poker is bleak, but I do think it’s trending in the wrong direction: higher rake, fewer legitimate competitors, more country-wide segregation, etc.  

My biggest issue with the changes at PokerStars (in regards to them scrapping the upper end of the VIP system) is not that they decided to alter the program, but that they did so without proper notice. 
The Supernova Elite program was a two-year agreement and advertised as such on PokerStars’ website; if a player paid enough rake in a calendar year, they not only get 53% rakeback (RB) for that year, but earn 68% the following year.  
In November 2015, PokerStars announced that players who reached SNE would no longer earn the 68% RB that was promised to them.  It’s effectively a “bait and switch” as they undoubtedly used the VIP System to motivate customers to pay rake all year only to revamp the rules at the last second.  
I won’t mince words – it’s theft.  PokerStars stole from their most loyal customers.

Do you have a blog or any social media accounts where the readers can follow your progress?

I do, but it’s currently down at the moment.  Hopefully it’s fixed by the time this gets published, the domain is: www.aaronbarone.com
You can also read about me on the Personal Goals and Challenges subforum of 2+2 where I have a thread entitled “Still Grinding”: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/174/poker-goals-challenges/abarone68s-2016-still-grinding-1607074/

Twitter: www.twitter.com/abarone68

Facebook: www.facebook.com/abarone68

Twitch: www.twitch.tv/abarone68

I understand that you do staking and coaching now as well?

Yes, I’m the owner (and one of the coaches) at Psyduck Staking.  We provide backing and coaching for aspiring MTT players who want to bring their game to the next level.  You can contact us on our 2+2 thread, here: http://forumserver.twoplustwo.com/222/staking-offering-stakes/psyduck-staking-low-midstakes-mtts-1580929/

Final Thoughts

I want to thank Aaron for coming on my blog here and telling his story along with his candid thoughts on the industry as a whole and his advice to newer players.

While the games are not always easy these days, I hope that this interview helped provide some inspiration to some of you out there. As his high 6 figures results attest, there is still some pretty big money to be made in this game if you want it bad enough.

And that really is the key. 
Even though Aaron did not mention it in this interview (because he is far too humble no doubt), from knowing him personally over the years I know that he has some of the sickest work ethic that I have ever seen. 
He has worked for every penny and bit of success that he has ever achieved in this game. I have also seen him handle numerous absolutely brutal downswings like a consummate pro.

The other big takeaway that I hope you get from this interview is that being a professional poker player is all about knowing how to adapt.

From being forced to move out of his own country due to government regulation, dealing with unforeseen rakeback program changes, to tackling new formats such as Spins and expanding into staking and coaching, Aaron shows that the ability to constantly re-invent yourself in this game is crucial.

I hope that you enjoyed this interview. If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below and Aaron or I will be happy to reply to them.

Lastly, if you found this article useful, do me a favor and “Like” or “Tweet” it below!

Interview With Online Poker Player Aaron "abarone68" Barone
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Interview With Small Stakes Crusher Kieran "KieHa" Harding

Interview With Small Stakes Crusher Kieran "KieHa" Harding
Interview With Small Stakes Poker Grinder Kieran "KieHa" Harding

One of the best things about moving abroad as an online poker player is meeting new people and especially those in the poker community. And this is really easy to do here in Thailand where there are probably more “poker expats” than anywhere on earth.

One of those people who I have met is German small stakes grinder and pro Kieran “KieHa” Harding. He is also a former student of mine and a good friend now as well.

He has quite the story of climbing up the ranks of online cash games in recent years and becoming a full-time pro with very impressive results in relatively tough NL50 and NL100 games. I thought I would invite him here on my blog to tell his story.

So without further ado!

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your travels.

Hi my name is Kieran. I’m 30 years old and I’m from Germany. I have always loved travelling and being location independent is definitely one of the main reasons that I chose to play poker professionally.

I was 20 years old when I first travelled to Thailand and I instantly fell in love with this country. I travelled all over the place for 3 months and it was just one big adventure. I’ve been back about 6 or 7 times since then and last year I finally decided that flying back and forth was too much of a hassle, so I just moved here!

When did you first get introduced to online poker?

I got introduced to poker around 10 years ago. I was on vacation in the Dominican Republic and it was pouring down the whole day. I had ESPN in my room and they were showing every episode of the WSOP 2005 Main Event [This was the year that Joe Hachem won it all for a cool 7.5 million dollars].

I had never even heard about No Limit Hold’Em before and I was instantly hooked by the complexity of the game and the amount of action. I literally watched the whole thing for about 8 hours straight and didn’t even want to leave the room to go to dinner. That was probably the first clue that I was going to become a poker addict.

I didn’t actually start playing online until about 2 years later. We started playing some home games with friends and I loved playing even more than watching poker but for some reason I didn’t sign up with any online poker room until later.

What stakes did you start out at? Did you have success right away?

No not at all lol.

I actually struggled really hard with poker for the first 5 years or so. For some reason I kept going though (did I mention that I’m a poker addict?). Eventually I stopped messing around and started taking things more seriously.

When I began playing online I think I deposited something like €20 on Pokerstars and jumped straight into the $7 Sit & Gos. I had no clue about bankroll management and played like a huge Nit, just waiting for premium hands and betting them when I hit something.

I ran pretty good from the start and built my bankroll up to about $200. Then I started to play NL25 cash games and from that point I went broke a bunch of times. Who knew that playing with an 8 buy-in bankroll is not the formula for long term success in poker?

I kept going like this for years. I would play solid poker and slowly build my roll but then any sort of downswing would send me on monkey tilt and eat up 30 – 50% of my bankroll.

Finally I stumbled upon your book, Crushing the Microstakes, and things just clicked right away. I dropped down to NL2 and slowly worked my way up the limits with at least 20 or 30 buy-ins for every level.

What stakes do you play at now? What was the journey like for you to get to this point?

Right now I’m playing mostly NL50 on Stars and NL100 on iPoker (6-max exclusively).
Getting from NL2 to NL50 definitely took some time. I would only move up when I had 30 buy-ins for the next level and move back down when I only had 20 left.

There were a number of times when I moved back down after taking a shot which is definitely normal. I think for most people taking it slow and using conservative bankroll management is the only way that will lead to sustained success in this game.

BR79: Here are Kieran’s results (from his blog, linked below) for this year at NL25 and NL50 in the first graph and NL100 in the second one.

Kieran Harding Pokerstars Pro
Kieran Harding iPoker Pro

What is it like living in Thailand and playing online poker?

Life is good here. There are so many reasons that I love this country: the weather, the food, the beautiful nature and above all the people.

Most people here work hard to get by and have a much harder life than people in Germany, yet they seem to be a lot happier in general. Thai people are incredibly friendly and good natured, especially the ones in the north like here in Chiang Mai. I am very happy here and I don’t see myself living anywhere else anytime soon.

Playing poker for a living is definitely stressful at times. Dealing with downswings can be very tough, especially if they last for weeks or months at a time. Also just the day to day grind definitely takes its toll after a while. Grinding for 5+ hours a day is not easy, especially when you’re running bad. It’s definitely true what they say, poker really is the hardest way to make an easy living.

All that being said though, poker can give you a kind of freedom that few other professions are able to offer. You can set your own time schedule. You don’t have to deal with bosses or co-workers. Even most internet jobs like drop shipping require interactions with suppliers and customers. In poker it’s just you and the game.

Then of course there’s the big advantage of being a location independent digital nomad. You can do your job from (almost) anywhere that has an internet connection, and maybe a comfortable chair. And you can travel around and explore the world while you’re working.

At the end of the day poker is also still a game and a very complex and mentally challenging one at that. I definitely still have a big passion for the game and most days when I wake up all I wanna do is just play poker all day!

Do you have any advice for people who are just starting out in poker or struggling at the lower stakes?

Read Crushing the Microstakes lol. Seriously though, if you have any trouble beating the lower stakes, then this book is definitely the best guide to set you on the right path.

Other things I would recommend are just keeping things simple at first. Play strong starting hands and bet them aggressively for value. Steal a lot from late position if it is folded to you. C-bet dry boards and give up on really wet ones unless you hit something. Just make sure you develop a strong fundamental game before you worry about more advanced concepts.

Another important thing is to find games you can beat. Some players might argue that you only improve when playing against better players but I simply don’t agree with that. If you’re a losing player in a game it will create a lot of frustration and mess with your motivation to get better. Make sure you always have weaker players at your tables and that poker is fun. Everything is easier when you enjoy what you’re doing.

Finally, don’t force yourself to play too many tables. I know it feels like a waste of time to only play 4 or 6 tables at NL2 because you can’t make any real money. That is not the point though. If you’re struggling at the micros your only job is to improve your game. Don’t worry about the money, that stuff will take care of itself if you focus on improving. Play an amount of tables that will allow you to think about your decisions and give you the opportunity to learn.

If you exercise good bankroll management and make learning the game your priority then there should be no reason why you can’t move out of the micros and make a very decent side income or even turn poker into a career one day.

I understand that you are coaching now as well? Can you tell us a bit about that?

I recently started coaching others and I really enjoy it. Talking about the game I love and helping players improve is an incredibly rewarding experience. I remember how much coaching helped me when I was struggling so it’s nice to be able to help other players in the same way.

I coach players at limits of NL25 and below, both 6-max and full ring. One method is doing a live Skype session where I will watch the student play and discuss the hands with them.

Another method is going over some marked hands in their database (Pokertracker or Hold’em Manager) and analyzing their stats to find out what parts of their game need the most work.

Lastly, students can also send me a video of themselves playing a session and I will record my thoughts on their play and send it back to them.

I’m also available on Skype every day for questions from my students and I will do my best so that they get the maximum value out of our sessions.

Do you have a blog or any social media where the readers can follow you and contact you?

Yeah, I just launched my own blog at www.kiehapoker.com. I will be writing about my life as a poker player in Thailand and posting strategy articles to help people improve. There is also more information about my coaching and I’ll keep posting updates on my results on a regular basis.

You can also follow me on Twitter.

Final Thoughts

I want to thank Kieran for coming on my blog here to share his story and tips for moving up the stakes at the micros. I agree with basically everything he said above and I think his advice is spot on.

I have seen his progression over the years and I have no doubt that he is probably a better poker player than me now anyways (although he won’t admit it haha). If you have any questions for Kieran please leave them in the comments below.

Also, I will be keeping an eye on his blog and when people ask me about coaching (I don’t coach anymore), he is one of the people that I recommend. Once again, you can find out more about getting coaching from Kieran here.

Lastly, let me know in the comments if you guys like seeing interviews like this one. I plan to do another one soon with a certain SuperNova Elite Sit & Go beast who I also met here in Thailand. That is, if he ever gets back to me with the answers to the questions…ahem!

If you found this article helpful then do me a favor and “Like” or “Tweet” it below!

Interview With Online Poker Player Kieran "KieHa" Harding

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Can You Win at Online Poker Without Using Math?

Can You Win at Online Poker Without Using Math?
Do you need to know math to beat online poker?

A very common question that I see is how much math do you need to know in order to beat online poker. Well, as usual in this game the answer is not so straightforward. But it is usually less than what most people think.

You do certainly need to know some math in order to win at poker whether it is online or live. Poker after all is a game which is based on percentages and odds.

However, you certainly do not need a PHD in mathematics or a deep understanding of game theory in order to beat the lowest stakes. In fact overthinking the math at these limits is a very common problem that holds many people back.

In this article I am going to provide an overview of the 3 types of basic math that you need to know in order to beat the micro stakes cash games online.

1. Poker Hand Odds

The first and most important type of basic math that you need to know is hand odds. This does not actually require you to do any difficult calculations.

I mean you certainly can and should learn how to count your outs (the cards remaining in the deck that will give you the winning hand). And you should also know how to divide this number by the amount of unseen cards remaining in the deck in order to get your exact odds of making the winning hand.

If this is something that interests you, then there are literally hundreds of articles already on the internet (and even entire books) which cover this topic in detail.

But if you read this blog regularly and know my approach to the game, then you will know that I am all about keeping things simple, and more importantly practical, at the poker tables.

We don’t need absolute precision when playing 4, 8 or 12 tables online. In fact, we don’t have time for it anyways.

All you need to be able to do is roughly calculate your hand odds (also called equity in the pot) versus your opponent’s likely range. And the best way to do this is to memorize the odds in several common situations.

What do I mean by common situations? I mean stuff like:

  • A pair preflop versus a higher pair (roughly 20% equity)
  • A pair preflop versus two overs (roughly 50% equity)
  • A flush draw on the flop versus top pair (roughly 35% equity)
  • A straight draw on the flop versus top pair (roughly 30% equity)
And so on. 

You should memorize all of the percentages in common situations like these with one card to come on the turn as well.

In fact an even easier way to calculate all of this on the flop is to simply know that a draw becomes a coinflip at about 13 or 14 outs.

So for instance in the example below the player holding 76 (who has 14 outs) is actually a slight favorite to win the hand with two cards to come.

Do you need to know math to beat the micros?
If you are counting at home that is 9 outs for the flush draw, 3 sixes for two pair and 2 sevens for trips.

This is why it is a good idea to play your monster draws like this very aggressively. You will often get your opponent to fold and take down the pot uncontested. And even if you get called you will still have 50% equity in the pot (at least on the flop).


Quick Reference For Common Postflop Scenarios:

  • Gutshot Straight Draw = 4 outs
  • Open Ended Straight Draw = 8 outs
  • Flush Draw = 9 outs
  • Gutshot Straight Draw + Two Overcards = 10 outs
  • Flush Draw + One Overcard = 12 outs
  • Open Ended Straight Draw + Pair = 13 outs
  • Flush Draw + Pair = 14 outs
  • Flush Draw + Two Overcards = 15 outs


How Do You Memorize Your Equity in All of These Situations on the Flop and Turn?

Well again, you could pull out your calculator or pencil and paper and start counting outs and dividing. But this is 2016 and there are far easier ways.

There are several free equity calculators such as:

  • Pokerstove (I put this link up since this classic little program is no longer supported) 
  • Equilab (Has a few more bells and whistles than Pokerstove)

Simply plug in the cards and the board and instantly get the exact percentages.

I have spent countless hours over the years fiddling with these programs and entering in different scenarios. This is why all of the common spots like those listed above are simply committed to my memory now and I never even have to think about them at the poker table.

It should be noted that if you are using a HUD (yes, you should be using one if you take online poker seriously), then you can also simply just use the equity calculator which is already built right into these programs.

2. Poker Pot Odds

The next type of basic math that you should know is pot odds. You have probably heard this term before and it simply refers to the price that you are getting (or giving somebody else) to call.

Once again, a lot of people massively overthink this in poker. We don’t need exact percentages. We don’t have time for that in the fast paced environment of online poker anyways.

All you need to do is be able to roughly calculate the pot odds with some very simple addition and division.

How Do You Calculate the Pot Odds?

In order to calculate the pot odds all you need to do is look at the pot size and the current bet. You add them together and then divide by the bet.


Here is an example:

The pot is $4 and your opponent has bet $2.

4 + 2 = 6

6 / 2 = 3

Your pot odds in this situation are therefore 3 to 1. Now what does this number actually mean though you might be asking?

Well as mentioned it means that the price that you are getting on the pot is 3 to 1 (risking $2 in order to win $6). But in more practical terms this number is most useful when you compare it to your hand odds.

Your hand odds should always be equal to or better than your pot odds.

So therefore, in order to continue in this hand you should be at most a 3 to 1 dog to make the best hand. This means that you should have a minimum of 25% equity in the pot.

Pots Odds Versus Hand Odds

  • If your odds of making your hand are better than your pot odds, then you should definitely continue in the hand (this could mean calling or raising).
  • If your odds of making your hand are worse than your pot odds though, then you should either fold or possibly consider semi-bluff raising. Calling will not be mathematically profitable for you.

Although if you have the right implied odds, this is not always the case.

3. Poker Implied Odds

The last type of basic poker math that you need to know is implied odds. Implied odds are basically the money that you might stand to win in addition to what is currently in the pot, should you make your hand.

We must always remember that this is No Limit Hold’em, not Limit Hold’em. You should always be thinking about the stack sizes and what you could win if you manage to make your hand.

The classic case is when you have a small pair or some other speculative hand preflop versus a tight player who very likely has a strong hand like Aces or Kings. Your implied odds could be very high in a situation like this.

But this is only the case if two conditions are true:

  • Your opponent is likely to have trouble folding his/her hand
  • You and your opponent are both sufficiently deep stacked
    Now implied odds are not really something that you can calculate quite as easily as hand odds or pot odds. In fact most of the time I am just making a mental note of how much equity I have and how much I think that I can win if I hit my gin card.
    If the stacks are sufficiently deep and you think that your opponent will payoff like a slot machine when you hit, then there is nothing wrong with continuing on in the hand even though your hand odds are worse than your pot odds.

    Calculating Your Implied Odds

    Preflop, you can actually put a number on your implied odds when set-mining for instance. I like to have at least 15 to 1 on my call. By this I mean that my opponent has at least 15x the raise that I am calling left in his/her stack. This typically means about 50bb.
    The reason why I want so much is that even though I am only about 8.5 to 1 against to hit my set, I won’t always get paid off.

    There are a few reasons for this:

    My opponent might only have two missed overs like AK on a 369 flop for instance. I probably won’t be getting much out of him here unless he happens to hit his 6 outer on the turn or river. Even then, there is no guarantee that he goes broke with it.

    It is important to remember that even when a tight player raises there are a lot more combinations of hands like AK or AQ than there are of AA, KK, QQ or JJ.

    Secondly, even if my opponent does have a strong overpair, when I hit my set he might be good enough to fold it without losing too much. Not every reg these days goes broke just because they have Aces.

    And lastly, it is important to remember that even when we hit our set (or two pair etc.) we will still lose the hand on occasion when they catch a higher two pair, a higher set or a running flush.

    So for all of these reasons, when I am considering flatting preflop with a small pair or some other speculative hand, I typically want my opponent to have at least 50bb but preferably 100bb.

    If I am out of position I will want them to have even more stack behind, perhaps 75bb. This is because it is much more difficult to extract (i.e., win a big pot) when you have to act first on every single street.

    Final Thoughts

    So can you win at online poker without knowing any poker math? I suppose it is possible in some really soft micro stakes games but even then you would be giving up a lot of EV.

    Poker is a game that is based on mathematics and therefore you should definitely have a solid understanding of the basics (i.e., hand odds, pot odds and implied odds).

    But as you probably noticed above the actual math that is involved here is something that most 10 year olds could handle. And a lot of the odds and percentages can simply be put to memory so that eventually you don’t really even need to think about them.

    I have talked about the overthinking and the over-complicating of the game that holds back so many people at the micros many times on this blog. Poker math is one of the biggest areas where this shows up.

    You don’t need to be a math genius in order to beat the mostly beginner level players at stakes like NL2 and NL5 online. You don’t need to be perfect when doing basic calculations like hand odds or pot odds either. If you are off by a few percent, it will make very little difference to your long term winrate.

    And the latest craze, applying game theory to these stakes is simply absurd and even potentially harmful for your winrate. You should be using an exploitative strategy, like I discuss in both of my books, against players who typically have massive leaks in their game.

    As I always suggest on this blog and everywhere, keep things as simple as possible at the micros and profit the most. This approach has always worked the best for me anyways.


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    Bluffing the River Like a Pro at the Micros

    Bluffing the River Like a Pro at the Micros
    Bluffing the River Like a Pro at the Micros

    One of the best ways to increase your winrate at the micros is to become better at playing the river. The reason why is pretty simple. Bet sizes (and pot sizes) are higher on average on this street than on any other. Therefore, you stand to gain the most by mastering this street.

    Most people at the lower stakes are reasonably good at value betting the river. Maybe they miss a little bit of thin river value here and there but this is not a critical error at these limits.

    However, an area where most people still play well below optimal at these stakes is bluffing the river. More often than not they simply just don’t do it enough. Or when they do, they pick the wrong spots.

    So this article will be all about how to bluff the river like a pro at the micros. The biggest keys are doing it against the right opponents and on the right boards.

    Let’s get started!

    Always Be Playing the Player

    As usual at the micros (or any stakes for that matter) the biggest key to most technical situations is understanding who your opponent is. I have talked about my 6 different types of regs at the micros before. And I have 3 more for fish as well.

    However, this system is nowhere near perfect because every player has their own style of play and specific quirks. One TAG might play the exact same river situation differently than another TAG for instance.

    This is why you have to dig deeper especially into the less commonly used HUD stats for a specific situation like this. However, the river is a bit unique because it can take an absolute mountain of data in order to get statistically solid information on someone.

    This is why I am a big fan of the WTSD% (went to showdown) stat. It is a very simple measure of how often somebody goes to showdown. You don’t need to have thousands of hands on somebody for it to be effective either. Typically 100 hands is good enough.

    Targeting Specific WTSD% Numbers

    When I am looking at whether or not to bluff the river the first thing that I want to know is how likely is it to work against my specific opponent. I obviously do not want to target the calling stations who can’t fold bottom pair to save their life.

    So I use a very rough categorization such as the following:

    • WTSD% = 28 or more — Do not bluff
    • WTSD% = 23-27 — Bluff with caution. Depends on the board and situation
    • WTSD% = 22 or less — Bluff them all day

    Keep in mind that issues such as frequency (i.e., have I already bluffed them 3 times in the last 10 minutes?) can come into play as well. And of course the board and river card are massively important as I will discuss in a bit.

    But overall, I am looking to avoid bluffing the players who are going to showdown in the high 20s or more, proceeding with caution against mid 20s players and bluffing a lot versus low 20s and below opponents.

    Board Texture and the River Card

    Another key component to bluffing the river is the composition of the flop, turn, and most importantly, the river card itself. Something that I talk about a lot in both of my books is perceived ranges.

    In very general terms the perceived range of the preflop raiser is big broadway type hands and big pairs. And the perceived range of the preflop caller is more geared towards speculative hands such as suited connectors, suited aces and mid and small pairs.

    So if you are the preflop raiser it is often not a good idea to be running a huge bluff on a board like this: 47962

    On the flip side, if you are the preflop caller, you probably don’t want to run a big bluff on a board that looks like this: AK88Q

    Perceived ranges are not always accurate though (this is why they are called perceived). But there is some truth to them more often than not. And this is especially the case at the micros where your opponents will be the least creative.

    Bluffing is All About Telling a Good Story

    Not only should you try to stick to bluffing mostly on boards which hit your perceived range but you should also clearly be representing several strong made hands that you could easily have as well.

    This is the crucial part of bluffing, especially on the river, that so many people often miss. A good bluff is essentially a well orchestrated lie. Imagine yourself in the interrogation room.

    Does your story make sense given how you have played the hand up to this point? When your opponent looks at the board after you make your bluff can they think of multiple threatening hands which you could have?

    If you can answer yes to both of these questions AND you are targeting the right kind of opponent (as outlined above), then there is a reasonably good chance that your bluff will be successful.

    Let’s run through a couple of examples to hopefully illustrate all of this better.

    Example #1 (6max)

    Villain = Nit, 18/15/2, 4% 3Bet with a WSTD% of 21 

    Hero raises preflop from MP with A9 and villain calls on the button

    The flop comes,

    K43

    Hero bets,
    Villain calls

    The turn comes,

    5

    Hero checks,
    Villain checks

    The river comes,

    Q

    Hero???

    Let’s go through this hand each step of the way. We make a standard preflop raise with a decent suited ace in MP. We get called by a passive looking nit who has position on us.

    His 3Bet is low for 6max at 4% so his hand feels a lot like some sort of small or mid pair here. He might have some sort of stronger ace that he doesn’t want to 3Bet with from time to time. He might also have a suited connector or broadway type hand on occasion.

    We catch a great flop for our perceived range and make a super standard CBet. When he flats on this board his hand looks even more like TT, 99, 88, 77 or 66 now. There are very few draws and it is fairly unlikely that he hit the king.

    The 5 on the turn isn’t really going to scare him if indeed he has one of those middle pair hands that we listed above. Therefore, we choose not to double barrel here. It definitely wouldn’t be terrible though. It just depends on the player and any history.

    When the river lands with a Q we pretty much have a mandatory bluff against this player. We can now represent several strong hands here such as AQ, KQ or even AK or KJ which decided to pot control the turn. We would play these hands exactly the same way.

    This player does not like to go to showdown very often (WTSD% of 21). He will fold his TT, 99, 88, 77 or 66 a lot here. Easy bluff.

    Example # 2 (Full Ring)

    Villain = TAG, 15/12/3, 6% 3Bet with a WTSD% of 24

    Villain raises preflop from MP and Hero flats on the button with 89

    The flop comes,

    K83

    Villain bets,
    Hero calls

    The turn comes,

    4

    Villain bets,
    Hero calls

    The river comes,

    A

    Villain checks,
    Hero???

    So we flat preflop in position with a suited connector versus a decent looking TAG. Our plan is to try and flop something big or use our position to take the pot away.

    We catch middle pair with a backdoor flush draw on the flop. We know that villain here is going to CBet pretty much his entire range on this board. Raising doesn’t make much sense. But we are always calling.

    The turn comes with a harmless 4 and we pick up a flush draw as well. So it is an easy flat again versus an aggressive TAG who could be barreling wide.

    On the river villain checks on the ace. There are a few things here. The first thing is that we don’t actually need to bluff. This is one of those clear cases of WA/WB (way ahead, way behind).

    The large majority of the time here he has:

    • A king, a high pair or he backed into the ace. 
    • A complete airball double barrel that he decided to give up on. 

    He will make the call very often with the former and insta-fold the latter. We are basically never getting called by worse so we should just always take the free showdown.

    Just for the sake of argument though, even if we had nothing here (and therefore there was a point to bluffing), I would probably still decide against it. This is because of what we talked about before. The K and the A don’t really hit our perceived range. It doesn’t make sense for us to have these cards very often.

    This player goes to showdown a reasonable amount of the time at 24% and appears to be a reasonably competent TAG as well. Therefore he is probably smart enough to sniff out an ill conceived bluff attempt like this even with something like QQ or JJ.

    Final Thoughts

    Making good bluffs on the river (and avoiding the bad ones) can make a big difference to your winrate at the micros. And it really isn’t brain surgery either. The biggest key is simply understanding why you are making a bluff, or why you are deciding not to.

    First things first, make sure you are making bluffs more often against the players who will actually fold. WTSD% is a great indication of this. Most fish will be the types who you want to avoid bluffing. The tight regs will often be the ones who you do want to bluff.

    Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, be aware of what the community cards are and who they likely help in the hand. Also, if you do decide to make a bluff make sure that you can think of several value hands that you would play the exact same way as we saw in the first example above.

    If you follow these simple guidelines, then you should be bluffing the river like a pro at the micros in no time. Let me know your thoughts on bluffing the river in the comments below. Do you have any tips that you would like to share?

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    What to Do When the Fish Fight Back – Crushing the Aggro Donk

    What to Do When the Fish Fight Back – Crushing the Aggro Donk
    How to beat an aggro fish in poker

    If you have been around the low limit poker tables long enough then you have probably encountered the aggro fish. This is the type of recreational player who for whatever reason wants to try and bluff you out of every other pot.

    Now as you might know I am a huge fan of hammering on the fish and isolating them every chance that I get. But the consequence of doing this is that they will inevitably get frustrated with you. This is actually a good thing though because it causes them to play even worse than normal.

    However, once the fish start fighting back it requires a different strategy to beat them. You need to be able to notice the signs of the aggro donk and switch up your approach.

    So in this article I am going to discuss some of the top ways that I go about exploiting the aggressive fish at the poker tables.

    Know the Difference Between a True Maniac and a Fish on Tilt

    One of the first things that you need to know is the difference between a true aggro fish (often referred to as a “maniac”) and a regular fish who is simply on tilt.

    A maniac will have stats which look something like this:

    VPIP: 55
    PFR: 37
    AF: 5

    This means that this player is playing 55% of their hands and also raising with an astonishingly high 37%. This player also has an extremely high aggression factor which is even more insane given how many terrible hands he plays.

    Compare this to the regular fish:

    VPIP: 55
    PFR: 7
    AF: 1

    These are the classic stats of the regular fish (sometimes called a “drooler fish”) that you will encounter most of the time. They play way too many hands like their maniac counterpart. However, when they come in for a raise it is much more likely to be with a strong hand.

    They also have the lowest aggression factor possible because almost all they know how to do is hit the call button. Their maniac counterpart is hitting the bet and raise buttons instead.

    However, if you apply enough pressure (such as raising them up with almost any two like I talked about last week) then they are likely to get frustrated with you.

    With most people (fish or regulars), the tendency is almost always to play more aggressive when they get frustrated. In the case of the regular fish, when they are on full blown tilt they play exactly the same as the maniac (bluffing up a storm).

    Let the Maniac Hang Himself

    Let’s discuss the strategy versus the pure maniac first. A true maniac is very rare at the poker tables but you will encounter them on occasion especially on the weekends when they might be intoxicated. In some cases it might even be a higher stakes reg who is just blowing off some steam at the micros.

    There is really only one strategy that makes any sense against a real maniac. This is to let them do almost all of the betting. They are going to try and bluff you every chance that they get so it is to your benefit to try and keep the pot small and let them hang themselves.

    1. Do Not 3Bet/4Bet Them Light

    Hopefully you have position on them. But even if you don’t it is important to avoid 3Betting or 4Betting them light. It is much better to just see a flop and let them bluff off their stack with some random nonsense.

    Unless you have a big time premium hand (AA, KK, QQ, JJ or AK) I prefer to just flat their initial raise or flat their 3Bet. This prevents me from getting into some ridiculous situation such as a 4Bet pot with 99 where the flop comes:

    AQ5

    …and they keep firing away.

    Just because you almost surely have the best hand preflop with 99 against somebody who raises 37% of hands does not mean that you need to re-raise them every time.

    In fact it often makes a lot more sense to just let them have the betting lead, keep the pot size manageable and avoid getting yourself into some kind of ridiculous spot for your entire stack with 3rd pair.

    Instead, play “small ball poker” if you want to call it that and just flat preflop. Then call down lighter than you would against any other player.

    2. Do Not Ever Try to Bluff Them Postflop

    The same thing goes for postflop. You should never even bother trying to bluff raise the flop against these kind of players. Or even worse, some fancy crap like check/raising the turn with a draw.

    Why? Because they will call your ass down!

    The whole point of a bluff is to try and get your opponent to fold. But against these players you have literally no fold equity at all. So unless you truly have a massive draw (12 outs+) it is better once again to simply manage the size of the pot and let them have the betting lead.

    Hammer On the Regular Fish Until They Get Mad

    So as I talked about last week, I will be raising up the fish in passive micro stakes games with as much as half the deck, the top 50% of hands. I will also be sticking a CBet in their face the large majority of the time we go to the flop whether I have something or not.

    Any fish is going to eventually get pissed off about this. The bro will get mad.

    In their ideal poker world they should be able to limp their garbage hands to their hearts content and make their fish bets after the flop. I am instead forcing them to pay a price for this almost every single time and then pushing them around after the flop as well.

    They are going to start playing back at me. It is hard to say when this will happen because it is different with every fish. With some bad players they might put on their sheriff’s hat and start calling me down after I beat them out of just a single pot.

    With some others it might take 10 pots. You never know.

    It is important to remember that most of these players are insanely passive by nature as well so the progression usually goes something like this:

    • Call you on the flop with anything
    • Call you on the flop and turn with anything 
    • Call you on the flop, turn and river with anything
    • Re-raise you preflop and postflop (donk bet postflop also).
    Basically what will happen is that they are going to start calling you down wider after the flop often with nothing at all. And they will take it further and further until eventually you can’t get away with any bluffs anymore at all.

    After this (especially if you are running well and winning most of the pots) they will hit a point where they “snap” and become the aggro fish.

    You will know that they have hit this point when they start limp re-raising you preflop and raising you on the flop or later streets. They will also start making donk bets into you after the flop. 
    This transition is rarely subtle. Usually it will just happen out of nowhere and they are suddenly a maniac now.

    Adjusting to the Fish on Tilt

    So it is extremely important at this point that you adjust as well. You need to play them like you would against the real maniac. As we saw before this means a lot of pot control and letting them hang themselves with silly bluffs.

    Let’s look at an example hand. I actually played this one just yesterday:

    Villain = 53/7/1 Fish
    Villain limps in EP and Hero raises on the button with 79
    The flop comes:
    37Q
    Villain donks for 1/2 pot
    Hero calls
    The turn comes:
    4
    Villain bets 1/2 pot again
    Hero calls
    The river comes:
    K
    Villain bets 1/2 pot again
    Hero???
    So the key to this hand of course is the backstory. I had just sat down at this table a few orbits ago and I had no previous experience with this player. I had indeed just tagged him as a fish because he had all of the signs of a bad poker player such as a high VPIP, low PFR, constant limping, below 100bb stacksize etc.
    I had position on this player and I had won a couple of pots already by raising up his limps and then firing at the flop. He had folded on the flop the first time and folded to me on the turn the second time. 
    So I raise him up again in this hand because I have the 79 offsuit monster. I actually hit something this time (middle pair) and to my surprise he donks into me on this fairly non-descript board.

    Standard call. 

    The turn came with a fairly meaningless 4 and he donks into me again. This card actually does complete the 56 gutshot and possibly makes some fishtacular bizarre two pair hand. But other than that it looks pretty safe so I call again. 
    The river comes with the big scary king which also completes the flush draw. He fires again. Yikes, what do we do?
    Hero should…Call
    After deliberating for a few moments I figured that there were plenty of bluffs and hands that I beat in this bad player’s range. This is especially due to the recent history between us and him very possibly already being on tilt against me.
    That fact that I am getting 3 to 1 on a call (and therefore don’t need to be right all that often) also plays a role. So even though the pot had gotten reasonably big by the river this was a fairly routine call here for me with 3rd pair, weak kicker.
    Results:
    Villain shows T3 and mucks
    Hero wins the pot with a pair of 7’s
    It should be noted that after I made the call in this hand my opponent here went on complete monkey tilt and handed over the rest of his stack within a few hands.

    Final Thoughts

    Sometimes the fish are going to fight back. But it is important to make the distinction between the drunken Friday night maniac and the regular fish who is prone to tilt. 
    Versus the former you should let them have the betting lead the large majority of the time and widen your calling range considerably. This allows them to keep doing what they do best, bluff away their stack.
    However, versus the regular fish it is important to pound on them every time they limp if you have anything that is even remotely playable. You should follow this up with even more aggression after the flop as well. This will cause them to eventually snap and turn into an aggro donk just like their maniac brethren.

    As we saw in the example hand above, they will start running ridiculous bluffs for no reason at all. It is your job to realize when that switch has been flipped and call down wider.
    Let me know what strategies you use against the aggro fish in the comments below. Are there any specific scenarios which give you trouble?
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    Isolating the Fish: A Complete How To Guide

    Isolating the Fish: A Complete How To Guide
    Raising up the fish.
    If you read this blog regularly then you will know that I am constantly preaching the importance of playing with bad poker players or fish as they are commonly known. But once you find them and get the right seat against them the game doesn’t stop there. 
    Many people make the mistake of simply waiting for a “good hand” to get involved and win a big pot. This strategy will work of course but it is by no means optimal. The best regs will instead go out of their way to get in as many pots as possible with the fish in order to make sure that they get that stack before anyone else. 
    They do this by continually isolating the bad players with a wide variety of hands both in position and out of position. So in this article I am going to show you exactly how I go about isolating the fish at the poker tables and winning the maximum against them. 

    What Does it Mean to Isolate the Fish?

    First things first, what does it actually mean to “isolate the fish?” When you isolate somebody at the poker table it means that you target them in an effort to get the pot heads up postflop.

    The ideal situation is having the fish all to ourselves after the flop in order to exploit the myriad of mistakes that they are likely to make. 

    Typically we will try to isolate the fish after they limp preflop (just call the big blind). This is of course something that they love to do. You will see many fish for instance with stats that look something like this:
    VPIP: 53
    PFR: 6

    This means that they play 53% of the hands that are dealt to them but they only raise with 6%. So the vast majority of the time that they enter the pot it is by just calling the big blind. You should frequently raise up the pot when they do this.

    • I recommend raising it to 4x the big blind

    A standard open raise is typically 3x the big blind and I recommend adding an extra big blind per limper. Hence the 4x the big blind versus one limper.

    But isolating the fish can also refer to 3Betting them. Once again you are raising in an attempt to isolate them and get the pot heads up.

    • I recommend making it 3x their original open when you are in position (IP)
    • I recommend making it 4x their original open when you are out of position (OOP)

    If the fish comes into the pot for a mini-raise (as they often like to do) then I would recommend making it 4x IP and 5x OOP. By increasing the size of our re-raise we force them to play a regular sized 3Bet pot if they wish to continue.

    What Kind of Hands Should You Isolate the Fish With?

    This depends on the type of game that you are playing in. One of the biggest reasons why the very lowest stakes online (NL2, NL5 and NL10) are beatable for such high winrates is because the regulars tend to be very passive. 
    That is, they will essentially let you have your way with the fish unless they happen to have a good hand themselves. 
    This is not the case at higher limits. The regs there think about the game on a deeper level and therefore they know how important it is to get the fish’s stack quickly and they will fight you for it. 
    But in this article I am going to assume that you play at the lower limits where you can get away with murder against the fish for the most part. 
    In these games I suggest isolating the bad players with a range as wide as:
    • The top 50% of hands in position
    • The top 40% of hands out of position
    What does this mean in terms of actual hands? 
    Isolating the poker fish in position
    Top 50% of hands marked in yellow
    Isolating the poker fish out of position
    Top 40% of hands marked in yellow

    Now it is important not to get too hung up on the actual hands listed above. I just plugged these ranges into Pokerstove (link to this free program on my resources page) and this is what it came up with. You could take some hands out and include some others.

    Also, it should be noted that I am talking about when the bad players limp here. I am certainly not 3Betting them with 40% or 50% of hands. It will be far, far less than this and include a lot of premium hands.

    The real takeaway from these two charts is just how wide I am willing to isolate the fish when they limp. I will be raising them up with anything that looks even remotely playable.

    Why the Difference Depending on Position?

    Now you might be asking yourself why I isolate with a slightly tighter range when I am out of position. The reason why is because when you have to act first after the flop it makes it much more difficult to value bet and bluff the bad players. 
    You are always going to win far more in poker versus any type of opponent when you are in position and get to act last after the flop. So in order to compensate for my positional disadvantage I will in fact “tighten up” versus the fish when out of position. 
    But something else I will do is increase the size of my preflop raise. So instead of making it 4x the blind as I mentioned before, I will make it 5x or 6x instead.
    By increasing the price that they have to pay in order to see the flop this allows me to take down a few more pots uncontested preflop. When we are OOP this is a perfectly acceptable outcome.

    3 Reasons Why You Should Isolate the Fish This Wide

    The reason why I isolate the bad players with so many hands (and sometimes even more) is because I understand that my winrate is directly attributable to how often I am playing against them.
    As I have mentioned several times before, you aren’t going to ever turn a big profit against the regulars. These are players who typically take the game seriously like you do. 
    Even though this doesn’t mean that they are necessarily good, they simply do not make the massive preflop and postflop errors that recreational players do. Therefore, your edge against even the very worst regs will never be close to what it is versus the fish.
    So I want to focus heavily on playing against the bad players but I can’t sit around waiting for the nuts either because good hands only come around so often.  
    So here are 3 reasons why it is absolutely fine and recommended in fact that you play a lot of hands versus the fish. 
    1. They Are in There With All Sorts of Random Junk Themselves
    Have you ever really taken a good look at the kind of nonsense that fish usually show up with at showdown? They will regularly show up with hands like:
    • K2, 94, T5, 23, A4
    They aren’t exactly waiting for the nuts themselves! So why should we?

    Even though we will be playing a lot of “trashy” hands (as you saw in the charts above) our opposition is playing at least as many bad hands. So therefore, we aren’t putting ourselves at any sort of disadvantage.

    2. We Have a Huge Postflop Edge
    It isn’t always about the actual hand itself though in poker. It is about the person playing the hand. The reason why the fish lose so much in the long run is because they constantly do dumb stuff like this:
    • Call down with bottom pair
    • Call down with ace high
    • Call down with a gutshot straight draw
    • Call down with two napkins
    It is almost like they aren’t given a fold button and a raise button like the rest of us. They just like to call, call and call some more.
    Therefore they often end up calling down with too many losing hands and they rarely give themselves an opportunity to win the pot by bluffing. 
    They also have no clue about the importance of position in poker and therefore they end up fighting an uphill battle all too often. 
    Since we don’t make these mistakes we already have a massive advantage over them postflop. This is why we can easily get away with playing a few crappy hands like they do.
    3. You Have to Get Involved in Order to Win!
    Probably the most important reason though why you need to play a lot of hands against the fish and isolate the crap out of them is because you can’t win if you keep folding preflop. 
    There is a reason why the top winners at any stake are never nits. You simply can’t win big if you aren’t involved in the action. 
    The other thing (and I am going to talk about this a lot more next week) is that when you are constantly getting involved with the fish you are creating what I call a “dynamic” against them. 
    This means that there is a playing history between the two of you. And the more that you are involved raising them up and constantly sticking a CBet in their face the more that they are going to view you as a maniac who is abusing them. 
    There is absolutely nothing in the world that a fish cherishes more than his/her own pride. Fish literally live to make the big hero call and to show up the “bully” at the poker tables.  
    So some of my biggest winners versus these players actually come from terrible hands like T5. And all I did was hit top pair and go bet, bet, shove. 
    Someone looking from the outside might view me as a reckless maniac who just got lucky against a terrible player who could not find the fold button. 
    Nothing could be further from the truth though.

    What they didn’t see is that I had been applying constant pressure for a dozen hands before this. I knew that the fish was absolutely fed up with me and therefore I could get away with massively overplaying what is normally considered a weak top pair hand. 

    Conclusion

    Isolating the fish on a consistent basis is an integral part of your success at the poker tables. It is not enough to just find them and get the right seat against them. In passive micro stakes games you should be going out of your way to get in pots against them by isolating them with as much as the top 50% of hands. 
    But even when out of position you can still get away with raising the bad players up with a wide range as well. The key here is to get involved in an many pots as you can against them and utilize your superior postflop abilities. 
    An added benefit of constantly hammering on the fish is that it tends to tilt them very easily and absolutely nothing is more profitable at the poker tables than a fish on tilt. 
    Let me know how you go about isolating the fish in the comments below. Are there any trouble spots that you encounter when raising them up?

    If you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

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    15 Smart Ways to Get a Better Read on Your Opponent at the Poker Tables

    15 Smart Ways to Get a Better Read on Your Opponent at the Poker Tables
    How to read your opponent in poker.

    Everybody knows the power of reads or tells at the poker table. But sometimes it can be difficult when playing online to make a read on a player until the HUD data starts rolling in. And a few poker sites these days disallow HUDs altogether so what do you do then?

    Similarly, when playing live there will always be an information gap when you first sit down to play. Furthermore, unless you are a really experienced poker player you might miss out on some important tells as well.

    So in this article I am going to discuss 15 ways to help you gain a better read on your opponents even if you have just sat down at the table.

    1. Stack Size Below 100bb

    You can tell a lot about a player just by looking at the size of their stack. Good players who are confident in their abilities will always want to buyin for the maximum or cover everyone at the table.

    Why?

    Because if you believe that you are the best player at the table (which you always should) then having the maximum amount of money in front of you will allow you to maximize your skill advantage.

    Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that everybody with a short stack is a terrible player. There are a variety of reasons why they might be low on chips. They might even be trying to employ some sort of “short stack strategy” as well.

    But by and large, when you see somebody at the table with a short stack it is likely that they are a weaker player. They may also have an insufficient bankroll and therefore be playing on scared money.

    2. Number of Tables

    If I am playing online and I am curious about a particular player one of the first things that I will often do is check to see how many tables they are playing on.

    Some poker rooms will allow you to block yourself from being searched but only good players are likely to take advantage of this. The fish (even if they know that this option exists) likely won’t care either way. So if you search someone and they are blocked this is actually a player type tell in and of itself (it’s a reg).

    Most recreational players will be unblocked though and they will be on one or two tables at the most. While there are exceptions, most strong regulars online will be playing 8+ tables.

    3. Avatar Selection

    This might sound silly but there are dead tells in online poker based on the type of avatar or picture that someone uses. Common avatars that fish will use include:

    • Pic of their kids
    • Pic of their dog
    • Pic of a famous TV poker player

    Again, there will be some exceptions. There have been some hilarious cases of really strong online poker players using this to their advantage as well. But by and large these are dead tells that it is a recreational poker player.

    4. Age in The Screen Name

    This is another online poker tell which might seem silly at first. However, it is surprisingly effective. Many people will put their birth year at the end of their screen name.

    Now at the risk of sounding like I am age bashing here (I am not exactly a spring chicken myself) it is generally true that a lot of fish are older poker players.

    This makes sense of course.

    Middle aged men tend to have a lot more disposable income on average than younger guys. Also, they are more likely to come from an old school live type background and therefore they might struggle to adjust online.

    Again, there will be exceptions but when I see “1962” at the end of a screen name this is usually the type of player who I want to be playing against.

    5. The Super Quick Call

    Timing tells and betting patterns are some of the top ways to get a read on your opponent whether you are playing online or live.

    One of the easiest ones to spot is the super quick call preflop or postflop. This is almost always a mediocre hand such as a weak pair or a draw.

    If they had a really strong hand or even total air it is much more likely that they would take some time to consider the best way to get value or to run a bluff.

    So if I am getting insta-called the whole way this is a great spot to go for sick value on the river if I have a reasonable hand or to go for a bluff if all the draws missed.

    6. Location, Location

    Again, it might sound silly but there are certainly some real location tells online. There are a ton of Eastern European grinders these days for instance playing the lowest stakes online.

    These are typically countries where the cost of living and average wage is extremely low and a lot of these players are grinding out a side income or even a living. They are often tight regulars who can easily be bluffed but if they fight back you should proceed with a high amount of caution.

    Players from a country like the one I am from though (Canada) are much more likely to be fish. The same goes for many other prosperous Western nations. People from these countries tend to have more disposable income. Micro stakes poker is also much more likely to be a hobby for them since you can’t pay the rent with your NL5 winnings.

    These are sweepingly generalizations of course (just like the age thing) but the location tell is certainly something to consider in many cases especially at the lower stakes.

    7. Sunglasses, Hoodie, Hat

    The live tell for the internet poker player is wearing attire like this. Often they will have the headphones in as well and tend to keep to themselves.

    If I am playing live I am not going to specifically avoid these guys. Just because someone is young and fits the internet poker player profile does not mean that they are necessarily good.

    But I do expect to deal with a lot more online poker style aggression. Therefore, I will do my best to make sure that these players are on my right and not my left.

    8. Limping

    Limping isn’t something that good players really ever do anymore in a ring game online. As soon as you see somebody limp in almost any situation you can peg them as a weaker player.

    Some decent regs at the lowest stakes might still limp behind or complete the small blind with a speculative hand especially after a limp parade.

    However, even this tells me that they lack certain aggressive attributes in their game. I will peg them as a weaker reg and probably try and run some bluffs against them in the future.

    9. Min Betting Postflop

    It used to be the case that mini-betting preflop online was a sure sign of a fish. However, times have changed and the mini-raise open is now very popular and actually standard at higher limits.

    However, no good player will ever make a minimum bet after the flop. A bet of $1 into a $15 pot for instance is only something that a recreational player would ever do. This is because it is a meaningless bet size which literally gives me mathematical odds to continue with any two cards.

    10. The Delayed Turn or River Raise

    There are very few players in small stakes cash games whether live or online who are capable of raising the turn or the river as a bluff. This is especially the case when they do the whole Hollywood thing (taking their time and pretending that they have a hard decision to make).

    When you get shown the nuts enough times in these spots you will realize how easy it is to throw away top pair or even two pair when the nit raises you. Small stakes players are notoriously passive and they are bluffing much less often than you might think.

    11. The Bizarre Buyin Amount

    One of the easiest ways to spot a fish online is when they buyin for a bizarre amount. For instance, $17.23 at an NL25 table.

    This is clearly their entire bankroll.

    Having your entire bankroll on the table is not something that any good player would ever do. Somebody employing a proper bankroll management strategy would buyin full and have at least 20 more bullets behind.

    12. The Big Table Talker

    Live poker is of course a fundamentally more social game than online. So being a big table talker is not always a sign of a fish. Many good live players will in fact use table talk to their advantage.

    However online it is almost always a sure sign of a recreational player. Most good players have the chat turned off altogether. They don’t have time to be socializing anyways with action on multiple tables going on.

    If you are playing online and somebody is constantly yapping in the chat box it is likely that they are a weaker player. This doesn’t mean that they are a huge fish but they almost certainly are not a strong reg.

    13. Isolating the Isolater

    If you see somebody who is constantly isolating a recreational player (raising up their limps) then you can often profitably isolate them right back with a few light 3Bets.

    Since I recommend isolating the bad players frequently you will know that I often have a less than stellar hand. So a quick way to pick up some easy pots against somebody who is pounding on the fish like this is to start re-raising them light.

    It is important as always though not to take it too far and force them to start playing back. We aren’t specifically trying to start a war with the reg here.

    Although, that is ok sometimes as well.

    14. The 3Bet Monkey

    3Betting up a storm has become all the rage in recent years especially online. Many people at the micros take it too far though.

    If you see somebody 3Betting with a high frequency then you can take advantage of this by flatting lighter in position and playing back after the flop.

    You can also toss in a light 4Bet or even a cold light 4Bet if you are extra sneaky from time to time. This works just fine in a live poker game as well.

    15. Timing Out

    If you see a player who is frequently running their timebank online just to fold 72o preflop this is a sure sign of a mass multi-tabling nit. They are usually playing on way too many tables and therefore they are often overly tight and easy to bluff.

    Like with all nits though it is important to proceed with a high degree of caution when they start to fight back. They have 18 other tables demanding their attention. They didn’t decide to just pick on you out of the blue.

    Conclusion

    There are many ways to get a read on your opponent even when you have just sat down at the poker table and have no HUD data or history with them. Hopefully a few of the tips above will help you get a better read on your opponents in these situations live and online.

    Let me know in the comments below if you know of any other ways to get a tell on your opponents when you have limited information on them.

    Lastly, if you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

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    Don’t Get Left Behind: How to Outplay the Regs and Win More Pots

    Don’t Get Left Behind: How to Outplay the Regs and Win More Pots
    Outplay the regs in small stakes cash games.

    One of the biggest keys to success in today’s micro stakes cash games is learning how to outplay the regs (the regulars who you see every day at the tables).

    With the recreational players being fewer in numbers these days it is more imperative than ever that you develop strategies to beat decent thinking opponents.

    Most people these days essentially still just “play their hand” against the regs though. That is, they just play a straight forward ABC game, make disciplined folds and never really get out of line.

    This strategy leads to a lot of trading the blinds back and forth and ultimately a tiny winrate. If you want to win big then you need to find ways to start winning more pots against the regs.

    So in this article I am going to discuss a couple of key ways to outplay the regs in today’s small stakes cash games.

    Outplaying the Regs – Know Your Enemy

    “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

    ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

    In order to stop trading the blinds back and forth with the regs you need to know your enemy. Once you discover their weaknesses then you can start attacking them and turn the balance of pots won in your favor.

    What are some of their weaknesses?

    1. They Are Overly Aggressive When Small Money is Involved

    Ever notice how crazy the 3Betting and 4Betting can get sometimes at the micros today even at very low stakes? You might have noticed a high amount of CBets on the flop and turn as well.

    This is because most regs get over aggressive when small amounts of money (relative to the overall stacks) are involved. This is not a bad thing in and of itself.

    The real problem is point #2.

    2. They Are Overly Weak When Big Money is Involved

    Most regs at the micros these days are like the little dog who is all bark and no bite. They put on a mean face and try to scare you out of the pot with frequent bets and raises on the small money streets.

    However, once a significant portion of their stack is at risk unless they have a monster hand they can’t find the fold button fast enough.

    So there are a few different ways to exploit this.

    The Turn Semi-Bluff Raise

    One of the easiest ways to outplay many of the regs at the micros these days is to raise their double barrel with a wider range than normal.

    Most people will only raise on the turn if they have a huge hand like two pair or better. The problem with this strategy is that every reg out there knows this as well.

    Therefore, when you finally hit your set and raise them on the turn they just make the easiest fold in the world and you are left wondering why you never get any action with your big hands.

    Well, the easiest way to exploit their tendency to double barrel frequently but then fold to further aggression is to simply open up your raising range in these spots.

    So instead of only raising the turn with two pair or better try adding some hands like this:

    • Open ended straight draw
    • Flush draw
    • Middle pair
    • Bottom pair
    • Gutshot straight draw

    Skew it more towards the quality draws and pairs but I think you get my point. Raise the regs more often with hands that have some reasonable equity but aren’t the nuts.

    By raising the turn with hands like this you will take down several more pots uncontested. This will also do wonders for both your winrate and your redline (non-showdown winnings).

    And don’t worry if you get called from time to time. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still win the pot on the river with another well placed bluff.

    You could also simply outdraw them. This is why you should only make this play with hands that have some equity.

    Lastly, on the rare occasion that they re-raise you they clearly have a monster and it is the easiest fold in the world.

    The Double Float 

    You don’t always have to raise the turn though. Another line that you can take is to simply float them twice (call their flop and turn CBets in position) and then bet the river when they check to you.

    Like I said before, most regs at the micros these days are all bark and no bite. This means that they will fire on the flop and the turn but if you can continue (even just by calling) they often won’t have the heart to fire again.

    So you can take many of the same hands that I listed above and instead of folding to their double barrel just call again with the intention of taking it away on the river.

    This last point is extremely important.

    Many people forget that the entire point of floating is to take the pot away. Floating and then not betting when they check to you is like getting the hot girl’s phone number and then not phoning her.

    Massive fail. Facepalm etc.

    So when you double float the turn and they check to you on the river you should be betting with all of your missed draws and bluffing with many of your weak pairs as well.

    Just like before on the turn, you will of course get looked up here from time to time. It is important not to let that deter you. Showing down a bluff or a bad hand on occasion versus a reg can actually be a very good thing because it gives you a bad image which leads to more loose action in the future.

    Don’t Bluff the Sticky Regs

    It is important to note that you should look out for the calling station regs though. The WTSD% (went to showdown) stat on your HUD is a huge help in many situations like this.

    If the reg has a WTSD% in the mid 20’s or higher then I am going to bluff them less often with many of these hands. If on the other hand their WTSD% is in the low 20’s or less then I will be bluffing them all day.

    As I discuss at length in Modern Small Stakes I am often planning all of this ahead of time on the earlier streets though. I will often only double float a player who I know likes to barrel a lot but gives up easily on the river.

    If I see that they like to triple barrel or call down wide though then I will be much less likely to try and run a big bluff against them. I might call down wide myself or just give up on the hand on an earlier street.

    Final Thoughts

    Devising strategies to outplay the regs is extremely important to your success in today’s micro stakes cash games. After all, these are the players who you are going to see by far the most at the tables.

    The biggest key to having success against them is understanding how they view the game, their tendencies and then creating counter-strategies.

    And indeed, this is what winning poker is all about. There is always a ying to every yang. Your opponent is too aggressive? Call down lighter. Your opponent is too passive/weak? Bluff them more often.

    It is important to understand that not all regs at the micros are created the same. But many of them these days do exhibit a tendency towards being overly aggressive on the earlier streets and overly weak on the later ones.

    The turn semi-bluff raise and the double float are two strategies that you can use to counter-act this. Try them out yourself at the tables and you might notice a few more pots coming your way.

    Let me know some of your strategies to outplay the regs in the comments below.

    Lastly, if you found this article helpful then please do me a big favor and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter below!

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    A Step by Step Guide to Making Value Bets That Fish Can’t Wait to Call

    A Step by Step Guide to Making Value Bets That Fish Can’t Wait to Call
    Value bets against fish in poker

    One of the biggest keys to success in poker is value betting against the bad players. Good hands are hard to come by and it is absolutely essential that you get the maximum value out of them.

    But you shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for the nuts in order to get involved in pots against recreational poker players. There are many other situations where you can extract value with a hand as unimpressive as middle pair, bottom pair or even ace high.

    In this article I am going to discuss some of the top ways that I use to extract the maximum value out of fish by making bets that they simply can’t say no to.

    Understanding Fish Psychology

    I have an entire section in my first book devoted to the topic of “fish psychology.” I am not sure if I invented this term but I have never really heard anyone else discuss it before.

    Basically what I mean by it is getting inside the head of a bad player and attempting to see the game how they see it. Easier said than done but bear with me.

    Businesses in every industry do the exact same thing. When you know the customer’s specific wants and needs then you can provide them with the best product or service and ultimately maximize your revenue.

    The same principle applies in poker. Since fish bankroll the entire poker industry I like to refer to these players as my customers. When I can figure out how they see the game then I can make bets which deliver the highest EV (expected value) to me.

    If there is one unifying trait that you will find among nearly all recreational poker players it is this: 

    They are deeply suspicious of everyone.

    Most people tend to think that everyone is bluffing them more than they should especially at the micros. Fish take this to a whole different level though.

    They literally think that everybody is trying to pull a fast one on them every single hand. This is why they are so in love with the call button. It doesn’t matter if they get shown the nuts 9 out of 10 times. That one time that they catch you in a bluff makes up for everything.

    The Big Call is the Entire Reason That They

    Poker fish love to bluff and make big calls

    Play the Game

    A lot of this comes from movies and the way that poker has long been portrayed in popular culture. A lot of us tend to get wrapped up in the modern skill based game played on the internet where we talk about multi-tabling, long term winrates, HUDs and ranges.

    We completely lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of the population still views the game as some kind of luck based machismo contest played by gangsters in smoke filled underground clubs with guns on the table.

    Even if they have progressed from archaic Hollywood depictions of the game to tournament poker on TV these programs are still highly edited to only show the big exciting hands where a player is “put to the test for all of his chips.”

    So it is important to understand that the vast majority of recreational players have a very distorted and inaccurate view of the game where it is all about the big pot, the big decision and the big call.

    So they love getting into ridiculously huge pots with a mediocre hand where they hope to catch you in a huge bluff. If they are tilted then they might try and make a huge bluff themselves.

    This is the very reason why they play the game. They get a huge thrill out of it. It is also the reason why they invariably end up losing big time in the long run.

    Value Bets Need to Always be About Value

    You have probably heard the mantra “don’t bluff the fish” many times. It makes perfect sense when you understand how they view the game. Trying to bluff a player who is deeply suspicious of you and lives for the big hero call is obviously a really bad idea.

    So this is why our value bets versus the recreational players always need to be about value. But as I mentioned above, what often gets left out here is that you don’t need to have the nuts in order to turn a profit.

    1. Thin Value is Key

    Most fish routinely make hero calls with ace high or worse even when they have no history with you at all. Many people make the mistake of waiting for two pair or better to value bet hard though like they would against a reg.

    This is a disaster and you already know why. Yep, it is because middle pair beats ace high. Bottom pair beats it too. Why not get value in these spots (which happen a lot more often) too?

    Anyone can value bet two pair or trips against a bad player. This takes no skill at all. It is the thin value bets with weak hands where good players get ahead.

    2. Size Also Matters

    The other mistake that people commonly make is not adjusting their bet sizes versus fish. They use a “one size fits all” approach towards all players.

    This strategy is a good idea versus reasonable thinking regs. When you always bet the same amount it makes it very difficult from a game theoretical perspective for your opponent to know if you have the value hand or the bluff this time.

    But we are not talking about reasonable thinking opponents in this article!

    We are talking about people who play the game for fun and to relieve stress after work. They are not paying attention to your bet sizes. They are not taking any notes on you. And they definitely aren’t using any sort of a HUD.

    It would be a huge mistake not to take advantage of this by varying your bet sizes in certain situations in order to get the preferred reaction from them.

    So let’s get into some actual example hands here because I think that will help illustrate everything that I have talked about so far.

    Example #1 – The Donk Bet Raise

    Hero raises on the button with A9 and gets called by a fish in the blinds.

    The flop comes:

    89T

    The fish donks out for 20% of the pot

    Hero???

    I have discussed donk bets a few times on this blog before. So you may know that I am a big fan of raising them with a wide range especially versus bad players.

    This hand is a perfect example of that.

    A recreational player calls us from the blinds preflop. Since these play