Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Steve Brecher Presents: 'Check-Raising on Draws'

In No-Limit Hold 'em, drawing hands can be very difficult to play out of position. Most beginners take a straightforward approach when they flop something like a straight or a flush draw; they check, then call a bet and hope the turn brings something helpful. But, simply check-calling can present difficulties later in a hand. If you miss on the turn, you'll probably have to check and, oftentimes, end up facing a turn bet that is too large to call. Any bet of normal size in relation to the pot will be too large because the odds against hitting your hand are typically more than 4-to-1.
The problems don't end there. What happens if you check-call the flop, then hit your draw on the turn? If you check the turn, your opponent might very well check behind you, fearing that you hit. If you lead at the pot, you're pretty much announcing that you made your hand and your opponent might fold. So, even if you hit, you may not get paid in proportion to the risk you took by calling on a draw.
Rather than check-call, I often like to check-raise when I flop a draw out of position. This sort of situation comes up most frequently when playing from the blinds. For example, say that I'm in the big blind with Ad-6d and I call a raise from a late position player who popped it to three times the big blind. The flop, Td-5d-3s, gives me the nut flush draw.
Board Left<> <> Board Right <> After calling from the blind, I'd expect to check the flop almost every time. It's the natural progression of the hand: my opponent took the lead pre-flop and I'm going to allow him to keep it. I'd expect him to make a continuation bet most of the time, even when he misses the flop completely. Most aggressive players will stab at small pots in these situations.
If he does bet, this is the perfect kind of flop for a check-raise. It's likely that my opponent raised with two big cards - something like A-K or A-Q - and, if that's the case, he's missed this flop completely and will almost certainly fold to the check-raise. Or, if he's got something like A-T or K-T, he may be worried that he's run into a bigger hand and he'll likely just call the raise.
If he does call the check-raise, I can then make a decision on the turn. Sometimes I'll check and sometimes I'll lead out, regardless of whether I hit my draw. If I missed, I may continue the semi-bluff or I may check with the hope that my check-raise on the flop was sufficient to make my opponent nervous and get me a free river card. If I hit, I may choose to continue my aggressive play and put my opponent to a decision or, I may check, deceptively representing fear of my opponent's having the draw.
Of course, things won't always work out. If the initial raiser has something like pocket Aces or a set, I'm likely to be re-raised and shut out of the hand. But nothing works out every time in poker.
Try varying your play when you flop draws. Look for opportunities to check-raise. It may be the best way to proceed with a draw when playing out of position.
>> Another good Fulltilt Tips from the pros. I play on Fulltilt everyday it's a great site. Give it a try. (I have a link at the top of this blog.) Be careful of me - LOL. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Sunday, August 27, 2006

$10-20 at the Taj.

My wife and I decided to go down to AC for some $10-20 Holdem. The games at the Taj on a saturday are juicy, to say the least! It was her first time in a game this high. She was nervous and was affraid of getting run over by the "Aggressive play". These ideas quickly disappeared. The game was loose passive pre-flop and then loose crazy after words! 7 or 8 people seeing a flop was common. There was money to be made here. We had 1 problem, on the ride down I was hungry so we went to a drive thru. for some fast food. Big mistake, huge! I had the runs for an hour and a half. I paid my time twice in the first hour and got to look at like 5 hands in between running back and forth to the bathroom.(By the way at the Taj they charge $5 a half an hour for $10-20, instead of a rake.) Anyway back to the game. Theresa had no problem adjusting to this game. She won almost every pot she was in. We only played for 2 hours being I was really sick and needed to sleep it off. She won $370 in this time, I won $80. What a great game. Here is an example of the crazy post-flop play. The under the gun player brings it in for a raise. The flop gets seen by 4 players, comes off A, 4, 5 rainbow. Original betters leads out, loose agressive asian player raises, everyone else folds. They go into a raising war getting $60 in there, which by the way I believe was too many raising being they weren't heads up on this round. (Didn't say anything, didn't want to be the table captain.) On the turn a 9 comes off and the original bettor leads and gets raised again, he calls. They both check the river. First guy had A-J off for a pair of aces, loose aggressive shows A-2 offf!! He did all that raising with top pair no kicker and a gut shot. Also called pre-flop raise with A-2 off. What bad play. I highly recommend this game to anyone that wants to make money. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The WSOP: Are We Having Fun Yet?

The WSOP: Are We Having Fun Yet?
Are we having fun yet? The diminution of the fun factor as the World Series of Poker grows ever larger is one of the themes echoing through the halls of the Rio recently.
It’s coming primarily from players and media members who have a long association with the WSOP, and are in a position to compare the current state of this event with the good old days — which, in case you’re wondering, is anytime from the WSOP’s inception through 2003.
Right now the WSOP is less fun and more like real work. A Canadian player I’ve known for some time was lamenting the loss of informality the WSOP used to have, when you knew everybody and everyone knew you. Now my friend feels like a stranger in a shopping mall the week before Christmas, beset by throngs of people who are pushing and shoving, and the informality and joy of the event is lost somewhere in the shuffle. While my friend is not a professional player in the sense of earning his entire living from poker — he has another career — but he does supplement his income with his poker winnings, writes extensively about poker, and helps promote the game wherever and whenever he can.
Whether the loss of the fun factor is a result of the WSOP’s corporatization, or the just something that comes with the territory when an event becomes so large that it cannot be planned, managed, administered, or run informally any longer is an open question. Perhaps it’s a mix of both, but pinpointing the reason does nothing to ameliorate longings for the good old days.
I remember eating breakfast in Binion’s coffee shop with a couple of other media guys in 2002 or 2003. When we were finished we walked up to the cashier, flashed our media badges, signed our checks, and walked out. We could have eaten ten breakfasts a day with that kind of system in place, but everyone knew each other; there was a modicum of trust in place, no one pushed the envelope too far, so it worked. What might have been lost in efficiency when compared to a system that would have required meal tickets to be issued to media members each day was offset by the informality, easy of administration, and the goodwill that was engendered for the WSOP. We loved it, and it was fun.
With the advent of the Gaming Expo, which I love — it’s a terrific addition to the WSOP and necessary for the growth and development of poker as an industry — the licensing of all sorts of direct and ancillary rights surrounding the WSOP, and ESPN’s need to produce compelling television, something has been lost and I’m wondering if we can ever get it back.
The fun factor is hard to define, and harder still to measure. But when it’s missing, everyone knows it, and everyone who experienced it in the past longs passionately for its return.
Bigger does not always mean that the fun factor will be lost or ignored. But it’s a challenge building it into an event that threatens to spiral out of control with each additional player who signs up for an event. The Grateful Dead never lost that informal, funky, friendly, down-to-earth sense of being regardless of how popular they were. Neither did Willy Nelson or Bruce Springsteen. Disneyland tries its best to retain that sense of personalization and fun, though it’s admittedly hard when you’re running a theme park with a gazillion visitors coming through the gates each year.
Minor league baseball does it with fan-friendly (though admittedly hokey) promotions in a way that major league baseball never can. But MLB tries. They have scads of promotions, from fan photo days and bobblehead doll giveaways to all sorts of other events designed to narrow the distance between the guy buying the tickets and the players on the field.
Can the World Series of Poker get back to the way it was? I don’t think so. In fact, I don’t want to see that kind of shrinkage. After all, no one wants to return to the days when 300 entrants into the main event was considered a big turnout. But there is much that can be done to regain much of the intimacy that has been lost over the past few years.
At this point in its history the WSOP appears to be a prisoner of its own success. Everything has grown so very large so quickly, except for the fun factor. That’s been shrinking. I’m hoping that Harrah’s sees the need to bring it back, and understands its importance in the WSOP experience.
If they can grow the WSOP while retaining a player friendly sense of informality, and raise the fun factor in the process, perhaps my Canadian friend, and others I’ve talked to who expressed very similar opinions, will come back next year instead of seeking out other venues for their poker fix.
When that happens, the answer to the “Are we having fun yet?” question will be a resounding “Yes!”
>>Great Post by Lou Krieger. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

ESPN's WSOP Coverage.

Credit needs to be given to ESPN's 2006 WSOP coverage. We watched the first 2 hour long episodes last night. I was
very impressed with how good the coverage was. They made the early levels interesting, even though the real drama took
place later on in the tournament. This years tournament is real special to my wife and I. We were in Vegas for the
opening day on the final event this year. I was disappointed that we weren't able to be "railbirds" on the start of day
one. I can't fault Harrah's on this, being there were more then enough actual players in the room. All they needed was
a few hundred extra people getting in the way. As it was the preliminary events we played in were nuts. Each day there
were 2 events going on, a final table from the previous day, satellites, and around 50 live tables. All these things
going on at once and tons of promotions going on in the hall ways. We had a blast at the Poker trade show that started
on day 1 of the main event. We got plenty of free poker related stuff to lug onto the plane, LOL. Back to ESPN's
coverage of the main event. I look forward to the next 5 tuesday nights to see how they unfold the story of the 2006
WSOP. Of course we all know how the story ends, but it will still be fun to hear the side stories of the tournament
that ESPN chooses to tell us. I also look forward to more coverage of Daniel Negreanu. He is very entertaining to
watch play. It's a shame that Mike Matasow and Phil Hellmouth both got knocked out, in last nights coverage. Anyway
look for some more WSOP posts from me soon. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Running Bad!

Lately I have been running so bad in live play and online that I feel like I can't beat the games anymore. It feels
like I am the fish at every table I am playing at. My Jacks and queens keep running into Aces. When I am running good
I am able to lay hands down when I know I am beat. To be fair to myself a few times the board had been 10 high with no
realisitic staights or flushes out there. Then when I do have aces or A-K on a king high board some yo-yo with q-2
chases me down with bottom pair. (Of course catching a 2 on the river and raising me up.) I not believing that 2 helped
him pay him off! I was long overdue for this losing streak. I have not had 3 losing days in a row in over 6 months! I
have been here before and I always feel lousy about it. I have moved down in stakes. (Have gone from $3-6/$2-4 to $1-2
online now.) Last night it feels like I have finally turned the corner. I had my first winning night in a week. Very
small win of $8 in 2 hours. Doesn't sound like much but 2BB an hour is a good win rate. Tonight I will try to put
another small win in my record books. Whenever I feel my play is slipping these small victories always help rebuild my
confidence. One of these days soon I will continue with my WSOP posts about our Vegas trip. I will also do some posts
after we play at the Borgata Open and the USPC at the Taj in September. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Jay Greenspan Presents: "Learning From Allen Cunningham"

On Friday, Allen Cunningham completed anotheramazing World Series of Poker. He made three final tables in the 2006 WSOP,won one bracelet, and finished 4th in the Main Event. This comes on theheels of his 2005 WSOP performance, when he was named Player of Year aftermaking four final tables and winning a bracelet. During this year's WSOP, I wrote a blog for Full Tilt Poker and, during theMain Event, I decided to focus my coverage on Allen. For four days, Iobserved his play and, in that time, I came to see some of the qualitiesthat make him so great. For this tip, I thought I would share some of what Ihave learned about the best WSOP player over the past two years.Big Pot - Big HandThe pros often say they're not going to play big pots without big hands, butAllen applies this principle better than most. Over the two days leading tothe final table (about 18 hours of play), Allen played a total of four bigpots. In two of them, he had sets. In one, he had the nut flush and, in thelast, he had pocket Aces and was all-in pre-flop against pocket Kings. BoardLeft<><> Board Right<> When he had something like top pair, Allen played far morecautiously. He'd simply call bets or check one street so that he couldcontrol the size of the pot. When the big money went in, Allen had a handthat would hold up. Don't PanicThe WSOP Main Event is a grueling two weeks. During that time, there arebound to be big shifts in fortune and Cunningham saw his change severaltimes. On days 2 and 3, he was among the chip leaders. But a bad stretch ofcards brought him close to the felt on day 4 and again on day 5. At onepoint on day 5, Allen had to survive a race to stay in the tournament.When his chips got low, Allen didn't panic. He didn't push his chips in thepot with dreadful cards. While he had enough chips to survive a few roundswith the blinds, he waited for a hand that could win at showdown. Of course, it took some luck to survive when his stack got low, but by beingcalm and patient, Allen gave himself the best possible chance to see anotherday. Always the ObserverAt the table, Allen is quiet, but friendly. He doesn't say anything duringthe course of a hand and he never shows his cards unless a hand goes toshowdown. In the Main Event, Allen's opponents regularly showed their bluffsor tabled big hands that were uncalled. This gave Allen a distinct advantagethat he could exploit. He was gaining knowledge on how they played their bighands and their bluffs, while his opponents were learning next to nothingabout him. Allen was always focused on his opponents, even when he wasn't in a hand.When a big confrontation occurred at his table, he studied the players'actions, picking up information that he could use later. It's been an incredible year for Allen Cunningham. When ESPN broadcasts hisplay in the coming weeks, you'll get to see just how well he played in thisyear's WSOP. Jay Greenspan
>> Another great article from FullTilt Poker. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Las Vegas Downtown Poker Rooms.

On our WSOP trip to Vegas we stayed downtown at Binion's. The original home of the WSOP. My wife and I like it for it's history. (Also it is very economical to stay there :-).) In this post I will review the 3 rooms we played at downtown. Here they are:

1) Binion's - Great room. Lots of action. The $4-8 game with a full kill was wild every night. Lot of gambling going on. There $1-2 No limit was at times tight, at other times loose and wild. A real roller coaster. Good thing is it was going almost 24 hours a day. When I got up early I could always find a game. Their No Limit tournaments are tough but very good practice for bigger events. There comp. policy is awesome, play like 2 hours and they give you $8 to use in the coffee shop. Overall the best room downtown.

2) Golden Nugget - They just opened up a new 10 table room. Love the look and feel of it. Only problems are the chairs are very odd. Sit on them for a few hours and your butt is in pain! Also the tables are way to close together. The action is good in the $1-2 no limit game. The $3-6 game was full of tourists, great wild game. They have an awesome tournament everyday at 11:00am. Full of people that are totally new to no limit tourns. (Had some locals in it also.) Room is run very well. They just added high hand bonuses for any 4 of kind or straight flush. I love this room and would recommend it to anyone visiting downtown.

3) The Plaza - This room is falling apart since our last trip.(About 6 months ago.) Nothing going on here at all! They usually only have $2-4 games going. In the morning half the game is made up of their dealers trying to keep it going! They also seam to appeal to low class locals from the bad areas of Vegas. I wouldn't bother going here at all.

That's it for today. I will post more about the WSOP tournaments I played in soon. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Another Good Tips from the Pros.

Acknowledging MistakesTeam Full TiltAugust 7, 2006

At this year's World Series of Poker, there are thousands of players walking the halls of the Rio. Moving through the corridors, you're bound to hear players telling tales of the hands that bounced them from tournaments. Often, the players are upset as they tell the stories of bad beats and lousy luck. The Full Tilt Poker pros also share stories of their more interesting hands. However, among the pros, you're far more likely to hear someone say something like, "I played that really badly."
The best players have the ability to acknowledge and learn from their mistakes - it's one of the qualities that make them so good. John D'Agostino noted, "When you listen to the general public you hear, ‘I got so unlucky.' Generally, all you hear the pros talk about is how they played a hand poorly. We understand we make mistakes and we try to get better from them."
Chris Ferguson noted that humility is vital to winning poker. "To improve, you have to know you're making mistakes," Ferguson said. "There are a lot of hands I don't know how to play. There are a lot of situations I don't know how to handle. If I thought I knew everything, I'd never improve."
How often do the pros make mistakes? D'Agostino says, "[We] make mistakes almost every single hand. They're small mistakes, but maybe I could have gotten paid off a little more on a given hand or avoided a bluff."
Howard Lederer says, "To become a pro or a really good player, you have to become brutally objective about your game. If you aren't, you won't make the changes and improvements you need."
While Lederer believes in the need for tough self-assessment, he notes that there's no need to dwell on past errors. "You have to be honest with yourself and you can't gloss over mistakes," he says, "but there's no need to beat yourself up. You need to learn from the mistakes and move on.""
Many of the pros refuse to discuss hard-luck hands in detail, knowing that there's little to learn form a stab of bad luck. Recently, after Chris Ferguson busted from a tournament early on, he was asked about the hand that put him on the rail. "Bad beat," was all he said. He didn't feel the need to offer any more detail. If you avoid talking about luck and concentrate on the hands where there is something to be learned, your game is bound to improve. Emulate the pros by finding the will to say, "Boy, did I mess that one up."
>> Don't have time for a post today so here is another FullTilt Post. I will continue my Vegas card room review tommorrow. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Online Freerolls

FreeRoll Tournaments:
The BenefitsThe popularity of Texas Holdem poker, and in particular, online Texas Holdem is due in large part to the wide variety of games available. Online poker tournaments are available 24 hours a day, and come in a wide variety. TexasHoldem players can get a lot of good experience, have a lot of fun, andpossibly win quite a bit of money through online poker tournaments. Freeroll tournaments are another great way to play Texas Holdem. You can getinto freeroll Texas Holdem tournaments in a couple of ways. Online pokerrooms will often allow you to play in freerolls just for making your firstdeposit, and sometimes for making additional deposits. In addition, onlinepoker rooms will set up regular free-roll tournaments that you can play insimply for putting in time in regular ring games, usually measured by"points." It's quite simple: accrue enough points by playing in regulargames, and you can qualify for free-roll tournaments. The best part about playing Texas Holdem freeroll tournaments is that youare playing with OPM: other people's money. If you are new to Texas Holdemtournaments, this is a great way to get a feel for the aspects of tournamentplay. Use this opportunity to evaluate different styles of play, and payattention to other people. See what works, and what doesn't, and then youmay be able to pick up some ideas for yourself, or find some things "not" todo. Another great advantage of playing in a freeroll Texas Holdem tournament isthat you are able to try out new strategies. Without worrying about riskingyour buy - in, you can try a method of playing that you haven't triedbefore. If you are an extra aggressive player, try tightening up for theentire tournament and see if that style works for you. Conversely, if whileplaying in regular Texas Holdem tournaments, you find that you keep losingbecause the blinds raise so fast, this may be a good time to practice beinga little bit more aggressive. Free-roll tournaments are a great way to finetune your game. There are some other strategies you may want to try out. You may want tojust concentrate on playing your button. The button position is the mostadvantageous position in all of Texas Holdem poker, and playing it correctlyis a key to successful poker. Try playing your button extra aggressively,and see how that affects your success. On hands that you would normally makea marginal raise, go ahead and make a substantial raise, or even raiseall-in pre-flop. Go ahead and take a chance with that 10-J and see how manytimes you simply steal the blinds by making a little larger than averageraise. In addition, try making a large bet when you would normally check. Checking,especially in late position, is usually a mistake. There is a reason why"tight-aggressive" play is so well revered, but unfortunately, few peopleactually understand it. Notice how often you will win a hand by making alarge bet, versus simply calling or checking and losing. Free-roll tournaments are also a good time to experiment with differentstrategies for playing the blinds. The small blind is often the mostproblematic for many players. Since they are already in for half of the bigblind, they often call with marginal hands. This is not always a mistake, asit makes it difficult for other players to put them on a hand. But, if youfind that you are consistently losing your small blind hands, try theopposite of your normal style of play, and see if it works better for you.If it does, adopt in to your regular style of play. Don't ignore your bigblind play as well: if you normally just "check" your big blind, try andmake some substantial raises, even with marginal hands. You may be surprisedat how often many people who called the original blind will now fold, and ifyou win the hand, that's essentially free money - you didn't have to beatthei In short, think of free-rolls as a way to fine-tune your game. A good TexasHoldem player never stops learning new ways and better ways playing game:tinkering with their aggressiveness, of how they play the blinds, and whento make larger raises or get away from hands completely. Be sure to usethese opportunities to improve your game, and don't be afraid to incorporatethem into your regular Texas Holdem game.
> Sorry no time for a post today. So I downloaded this article instead. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Monday, August 07, 2006

Vegas Poker Rooms

I am so sorry. I had promised to give a review of the Vegas Poker rooms we played in on our WSOP trip. I have been very busy catching up with work.(Also playing online - LOL.) Ok here is what you have been waiting for. I am happy to report that the low limit games in Vegas are still very juicy! I played every night in a wild/lose $4-8 with a full kill at Binion's. Something about this game brings out the nut jobs! The 2 seat was straddling everytime he was under the gun. Then if you tried to isolate him by re-raraising him he would always 4 bet. We had many hands 6 ways on the flop that were capped at $20! It took me a few hours/racks to figure out how to play this game. I ended up winning $225 after 4 hours. Not bad for $4-8, more like a $8-16 game.
My favorite place to play the Mandalay Bay has a great $4-8 game with a half kill. We didn't have any luck their on this trip. I would recommond it as one of the classiest rooms in Vegas. Went over to the Wynn a few times and had much success over at their hyper-agressive $4-8 game. Only thing is the room is very noisy and crazy. No different then the Belligio's room ,you will need to take 2 aspirin to play in. Their $4-8 game is nuts! Raise, Re-raise every hand pre-flop!
The absolute best room we went to was the Venetian! What a well planned excellent room it turned out to be. The tables are spread far apart. The drinks are awesome. The games are juicy! My wife and I made a ton of money in the $6-12 game there. It was much more passive then the $4-8 games we played at everywhere else. Hands down it's the place to play in. Anyway that's all for today. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Friday, August 04, 2006

FullTilt Tip from the Pros.

>> Feeling kind of lazy today so I have posted a good article by Ben Roberts. I hate the fact that I haven't posted in almost a week. Tomorrow I will try to write more about our Vegas trip. Good Luck at the tables. Tony

Winning Poker - It's About More Than Money
Ben RobertsJune 26, 2006
New players who want to be good students of the game often ask me for advice. In response, I often tell them about emotional stability, which I touched on in my last tip. The next point I'd like to make is that they need to be careful when assessing their own play. That's because there are a couple of common mistakes new players make that lead them to draw faulty conclusions about the strength of their play.
After playing for a short period of time, say 100 hours, a player starts to develop an opinion about his or her play. They might think they're playing very well or very poorly, but this conclusion might be far from the truth. The problem is that, in the short term, anything can happen. A player may get very lucky or unlucky and show results that are either far higher or lower than they could ever expect in the long-term. However, over a longer period - say 300 hours or more - a player is going to get a much more accurate view of their ability to beat the game.
So what does this mean for you? In short, I recommend that you keep an eye on your long-term results no matter if you're in the midst of a hot streak or a cold one. While taking the long view will help you more accurately assess your play, it can't help you avoid every pitfall along the way.
For example, assume that I've played the following games of No-Limit Hold 'em and have managed the following debts and profits:
Game: $1/$2Hours: 200 Profit/Loss: -$2,000
Game: $2/$4 Hours: 200 Profit/Loss: -$4,000
Game: $25/50Hours: 30Profit/Loss: +$36,000
At first glance, it looks like I'm dong pretty well, right? I've make a handsome profit of $30,000. Look deeper though and you'll see that I wouldn't want to quit my day job because, in fact, I'm doing quite poorly.
To better understand what I mean, don't think about the actual dollar figures involved but, instead, think of each small blind as a unit. So, in a $1/$2 game, each unit is 1 and in a $25/$50 game each unit is 25.
How have I done in terms of units won and lost? I've lost 2,000 units in the $1/$2 game, 2,000 units in the $2/$4 game and won 1,440 units in the $25/$50 game. Total everything up and you'll see that after 430 hours of play, I've lost 2,560 units. This is bad news.
As you keep records of your sessions, be sure to record the size of the game you're playing and number of units you've won or lost. At the start of your poker career, put more emphasis on units won or lost than on your total profit. It's a more accurate gauge as to whether you're playing winning poker.