Another look at pot escalation

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I want to discuss pot escalation again and one of the key areas that gets an awful lot of people into trouble in NLHE is when you have to use more money than you actually stand to gain. Let us say that your stack is $100 and the stakes are $0.50-$1.00. You want to raise to steal the blinds on the button and you make a conventional raise to $3.50. Now that this stage of play you are risking more money than you stand to gain. If both blinds fold then your stack does not become $103.50 but only $101.50.

Now let us say that the big blind calls and the pot becomes $7.50 and roughly $0.50 is taken in rake and so the pot is $7. You make a c-bet of $5.50 after they check but at this stage the pot is $12.50 and you have contributed $9 to that. So while it is correct to say that money already contributed to the pot has gone, what cannot be ignored is the risk-reward ratio because if your opponent folds on the flop then your stack only rises by a mere $3.50 but you have risked $9 to get that money.

This is not far short of 1/3 odds and while I am not saying that there is something wrong with taking odds as short as that, the fact is that when you do so that the frequency with which you actually get the chips that you were looking to get needs to be very high. So clearly then you need other reasons to raise and this could be to escalate the pot, create situations where your opponents make big mistakes and to get the initiative in the hand. Raising also increases the stakes of the game as well.

Pot escalation is a serious enemy in NLHE if you do not handle it properly. If your only plan is to raise and then try to bully your opponent from the hand with a series of bets on each street then you are no better than a punter that takes very short odds simply because the bet has a high chance of winning.

Carl Sampson is a professional online poker player that plays online at www.888poker.com

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Pot control is more important than you think

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I was having a discussion with a couple of advanced poker players the other day about the concept of pot control. The fact of the matter is that from their perspective, pot control seems like a weak concept and in certain areas it is. For example the entire notion of pot control is such that you are attempting to reduce and limit the final pot size based on the apparent strength of your hand.

The reason why many players think this is a weak concept is because a strong player once they suspect that this is what a player is trying to do will actually jump on this line and deny their opponent the one thing that they are trying to achieve and that is to control the pot size. So if a player raises pre-flop with say the As-7s from the cut-off and the button calls then we go to the flop heads up.

Let us say that the flop comes Ad-Js-9c giving us the top pair with backdoor flush and straight draws. We can clearly bet for value here and we do so with each player having a 100bb effective stack before the hand started. Our hero bets 6bb on the flop into an 8.5bb pot and gets called making the pot 20.5bb. The turn card is the Qd and on this street our hero tries to control the pot while not giving their opponent a free card.

So they bet half pot and make it 10bb but you can see that our hero’s bet sizing as a percentage of what the pot was has got smaller. They bet 6bb on the flop with the pot being 8.5bb and so the percentage of the pot was around 70%. However despite betting more on the turn than they did on the flop, they have only bet 50% of the pot and so that is the key figure. This is a figure that indicates that an opponent desires pot control.

An astute player may jump on this and raise knowing that they have considerable fold equity. Against a tight and defensive player then that is certainly the case for sure. However pot control is a very powerful concept and as with all strategies, they need to be used at the most opportune times. A strategy that was once good cannot suddenly be bad. What happens is that it becomes bad under certain game dynamics.

However if you return to those same game dynamics then the strategy starts working again. Also pot control is a great concept for lower stakes NLHE cash games when you are multi-tabling.

You need to be able to harmonise your entire theatre of operations and if you are spewing money all over the place then that hardly makes you solid on a psychological level. I often play eight tables at the same time and I couldn’t do that if I was spewing money all over the place. I also couldn’t do it if my opponents were too advanced either.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online at www.888poker.com

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The basic of basics

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It may seem very trivial to many people but simply knowing the rules of the game is an area that many poker players don’t even bother with at sites like 888 for example. The rules of poker differ somewhat and they certainly differ from game to game with huge differences in how various forms of poker are conducted.

For example I have run across many players who struggle when moving across from say no limit hold’em to Omaha based on the fact that in Omaha then you have to use two cards in your hand and three from the board.

The game rules in Omaha confuse many a novice player and this can be easily highlighted for example with the following hand. Let us say that in four card Omaha you get dealt the Kc-Jd-10h-8s and the final board is 9s-9d-8c-4h-8h. In hold’em then you would have a full house of nines over eights because you can play one card from your hand.

However in Omaha then the rules state that you must play two cards and so you only have one eight from your hand plus one other card! For you to be able to make a full house here then you need to have a four in your hand or a nine or possibly a pair of fours.

Another example could be if the final board is 9-9-4-4-9, taking your previous hand then you still do not have a full house. Remember that you must use only three cards from the middle and so the three nines must combine with two cards from your starting hand. Seeing as you do not hold a pair then you cannot have a full house.

You would be amazed at just how many players I have seen commit huge errors in this area and even experienced players who should know better often misread their hand in Omaha. Just like in any form of poker then not knowing the rules of the game can really hurt you where it hurts the most…….in your pocket.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online at www.888poker.com

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Listen to Alan Potts to become a better poker player

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Some years ago I read two great books by the professional punter Alan Potts. These books were called “The Inside Track” and “Against the Crowd”. In those books Potts discussed how to base your strategies and ideas around what your opponents were doing and then taking the opposite approach. It was only years later when I discovered that professional stock market traders often used similar strategies in principle and they referred to them as “contrarian”. So just what does that mean with regards to online poker? Well for a start we are concerned here with long term profitability as a poker player and not just short term profits.

Short term profits can be simple variance or it could be down to your successful strategy. However a strategy in gambling can often be only temporarily successful because of game dynamics. This means that making money this week or this month or even this year may not be possible in the future. Poker is part of a moving landscape and the poker environment is in a constant state of shift. This is especially the case with online poker where in recent years there have been many more players that have looked to improve their poker games.

These days there are just too many people looking to play poker in the same way. So what exactly is that way? Well it all depends on the type of poker that you are playing. In full ring games for example then there are too many multi-tabling regular players who are all playing tight-solid poker. They are playing for rakeback and sign up bonuses and looking to exploit the odd fish. This is a strategy that worked far better a few years ago than what it does now. However it is when you try to execute this strategy at higher levels that you can now get into a trouble.

A combination of rake and players not making mistakes means that value is getting very hard to find now at NL50 and above when multi-tabling. In fact I have heard of some very good players who were previously beating NL400 and NL600 that were finding life very tough indeed. So to gain an edge means using strategies that other players simply do not use. At the end of the day then there are many roads that lead to Rome in poker and it is all about finding one that takes you to where you are trying to get to.

Some time ago I was multi-tabling up to twelve tables but I also found that my earn rate was falling. At first it is difficult to see if this is variance or something more serious. However over time it became apparent that something was wrong and this was to do with my games having less value in them with regards to the strategies that I had been using. So I switched to only playing one table but playing higher levels. This allows me to drop in an out of games whenever I feel like it without having to play on too many tables at once and build my tables up.

I much prefer to play poker in this way because of the fact that I can move in and out of levels and even switch sites if I have to. I do feel that my ability to multi-level think allows me to gain an edge over players that are playing more than one table and especially those that multi-table. I do try and make it my goal though to use strategies that are different to what anybody else is using because in my mind then that is the only way to gain an edge.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at www.888poker.com

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Don’t Shirk the Boring Stuff

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The best online poker players are absolutely ferocious at how they go about getting information from the screen because they know that this equates to profits.

At the end of the day, knowledge is power. Every piece of information that you get from the screen equates to money that is tacked on to your earn rate.

In the tough modern world of online poker then your profits do not always stem from how you play your cards. This may sound strange at first but many players simply log onto a poker site and play poker. This usually entails players simply playing their hands in a standard ABC way without taking much notice to the different strategies that need to be employed against each opponent.

It is a fact that knowledge is power but in this instance then if you are serious about making money from online poker then you have to be absolutely ferocious at accumulating as much knowledge as you possibly can. Even if you think that the knowledge that you are accumulating is worthless……it may seem that way at the time but trust me when I say that it isn’t. So just what sort of knowledge can we get from the screen in front of us?

This is a vital statistic because it basically tells you how tight or loose your game is. While most if not all of the games at your level will be pretty much universal as to how many players are seeing the flop on average, it is still very useful information to have. You can see this percentage simply by looking in the lobby screen.

If the game is ten handed and only 26% of players are seeing the flop then this is a tight game. It means that few players are limping in and so limping in with say pocket fours in early position is probably a losing play. The hand will not be multi-way and you will likely get raised from position by a tight aggressive opponent.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at www.888poker.com

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The SNIPER professional poker coaching and staking partnership

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As you know my name is Carl Sampson and a few of you may be already aware of my pen name of “The Dean” as I have authored several books on gambling and written for numerous main poker magazines in the past like the WPT and Bluff Europe and hundreds of websites.

I am currently a poker pro at 888 and you can see my blog at http://pokerworld.pacificpoker.com/pokerblogs I would now like to announce a project that I have been working on for quite some time in connection with Poker Pro Europe and Online Poker Pro magazines that I currently write for.

This is “Project Poker Pro” or in other words, a coaching program that is designed by me to try and convert one hundred people into being winning poker players using the very same system that I use and have used for many years…….a system that I affectionately call “The Sniper”.

Hopefully some of the students will be so successful that they become fully fledged poker pros’ and the ones that do well will be featured in either of these two widespread and widely read poker magazines.

I am now taking inquiries from interested parties who would be willing to strike up a deal with a professional poker player and coach to be coached and then staked to play cash games. There will be an initial sign-up fee and that is both for my time and for access to the Sniper program and course lessons as well as permanent ongoing back up. This is also to show commitment and to prevent people from simply “stealing” the course data.

Permanent Back Up

Also I am available 24/7 to answer questions on the course and also to provide back up for any poker related questions full stop after the sign up process and coaching begins.

This in my opinion makes the sign-up fee almost irrelevant as I wish that I would have had the advantage of working with a professional poker player years ago instead of buying countless books and going down numerous blind alleys, it is also rather unique to be able to work with a professional player and coach in this way on a permanent basis and so this project brings a lot of new things to the table as it were.

So the initial sign up to come on board with Project Poker Pro gets you access to the program and being able to work with me, access to the 155k word Sniper documents which will give you the entire blueprint for no limit hold’em cash games including my unique FERN and WOM systems for hand reading.

Also the student gets 24/7 back up while all the time being coached to a level where I will then stake them when the correct stage is reached. The staking will go up to a maximum of 2000USD for the players that show the most maturity and the most talent.

Hard Work and Desire

However these two requirements are not just what I am looking for. I am looking for commitment and the desire to not only play poker but to immerse yourself within the game totally. These are the types of players that I want to work with and we then enter a new phase where players are playing on my money and I get a percentage split of the winnings. I also need to say that in no way is this connected to 888 and players are at liberty to play poker wherever they wish and at what times they choose.

So you can see that I have total confidence in my methods and system and I am prepared to put my money where my mouth is and who can argue with that?

However I only have so much time in any one day and I work on my own and so I cannot take on loads of students at any one time. So now can you see that I am looking for people to be committed into not just playing poker but also studying and wanting to better themselves as players?

Being Flexible to Suit You

I also understand that many peoples’ lives simply do not allow for such total commitment and so anyone that merely wants to purchase Sniper and the coaching but without wanting the commitment of the staking afterwards then I am cool with that.

It is a totally flexible operation but if I am going to tie up a potential 2000USD of my money in somebody then that somebody needs to be playing poker with that money and for at least 15 hours per week.

That should be plain to understand but anyone that wants further details then simply e-mail me at sharkpooldean@yahoo.co.uk in the first instance to express an interest in either the Sniper professional poker system and or the combined system/coaching and staking on Project Poker Pro.

Look forward to hearing from you.

Carl

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The value of patience to a poker player

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Let us begin by looking at a hand example taken from $1-$2 online no limit Texas hold’em. It is folded around to you in the cut-off and you have the 7d-5c. You raise to $7 but what is your reason for raising with this hand and what is your underlying poker strategy here?

If you do not know why you are raising then you have something of a problem. If you find that you are raising because you crave some action then that is not the proper reason to raise. Likewise if you are raising because you have just taken a series of beats, this too is a bad reason to be raising and is often referred to as tilt.

Folding is the secret weapon

In online poker then patience is often the secret weapon that underpins success. Many players in online poker are able to win big pots but not many players are capable of losing the minimum in the pots that they lose. Quite often the hands that you fold make the hands that you win even more powerful. It is often a long series of tiny amounts that you haemorrhage away……a limp here…..calling a raise there that really kill your earn rate and profit potential.

At the end of the day then the game of online poker will only allow you to make so much money. If you try to force it by getting involved in highly marginal or even –EV situations then your earn rate will end up going backwards. You will find that patience in online poker knocks on into other areas as well and one of those areas is your emotional control.

For example when you are going through a bad run or you have experienced a string of really negative beats and outdraws then emotionally you are probably not at your best. This is when some players can be at their most vulnerable psychologically. However when you fold more then you avoid many of the situations in which you will lose money.

Tight aggressive poker is the way

All of the best online poker players in all forms of poker play in a style that can be deemed as tight-aggressive. You will no doubt have heard of this terminology at some stage. There are four main broad generic styles in poker and these are tight-aggressive, tight-passive, loose-aggressive and loose-passive. The first part of that description refers to how often you play your hands and the second part refers to how you play them. If you play too many poker hands then you are merely no better than the weak poker players and the novice recreational players who play for fun and lose their money.

What should really separate you from these losing players is how often you play your hands. Playing too many poker hands means that you will be playing too many hands that have poor profit making potential! By sheer definition then if your hand has poor profit making potential then your results will suffer.

So what really underpins all of this is in how much patience you have and this applies especially to your hand selection strategy before the flop. Patience ultimately makes money in online poker and this means that folding more than your opponents is often the proper poker strategy.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at www.888poker.com

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Playing around the blinds in NLHE

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If you play full ring no limit cash games in online poker then the majority of your playing decisions will come from around 50% of the seats at most. These five seats are the hijack seat, the cut-off seat, the button and the two blinds. You will play the vast majority of your hands from the blinds and the button. This is because you have absolute position on the button and in the blinds then you are already in the pot anyway.

These seats are closely followed by the cut-off and the hijack seats. Because you will play the majority of your hands from these seats then it stands to reason that you’re playing decisions are very important in this critical area of the game in no limit hold’em. In order to be a decent winner in no limit Texas hold’em cash games then you need to learn to think and to play on numerous different levels.

Be aware of the basic ABC play

Let us say that is has been folded to you and you are in the cut-off seat and hold the Jc-9c. You make it 3.5bb to go and the button three bets you to 11bb. Both blinds fold and you decide to fold also as your hand is difficult to play out of position against a re-raiser. However on the very next orbit you see 8c-7c in the same seat and you once again make it 3.5bb to go. History repeats itself and your opponent once again makes it 11bb by re-raising.

Now you have a problem and many players would fold and if you fold here then you are down 7bb on the two plays with your opponent showing a total profit of 10bb with your money and the blind money. But the dynamic shifted on the very first hand of this sequence because your opponent saw you raise from position and then fold to a re-raise. This indicated to them that you were stealing and so this increases the chances that they are re-raising you on a much wider range.

In order to know that your opponent (you in this case) is stealing then you need to be aware of straight forward ABC play and what that means. Once you know how to play ABC solid poker then you will be aware of how other players are playing the same way.

Taking your poker to the next level

The majority of your profits in online no limit Texas hold’em poker will stem from what happens around the blinds and this is especially so in six max online poker. However you do need to be aware of what level your opponents are playing on.

If you raise to steal the blinds and a player three bets you who three betted you on the previous round of play then you can seriously contemplate four betting. If they three bet you from the blinds then you can four bet or float them and then look to play a pot post flop with this opponent. You simply play ABC poker when playing online and you only get out of line when your opponents get out of line.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at www.888poker.com

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The isolation play in NLHE

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I want to take the opportunity to look at isolating once again. This works in two ways, you first identify a potential weakness and then you attack it by isolating against it using a particular strength. The isolation doesn’t always work but it is a numbers game plain and simple. Let us look an example to show you what I mean. It is folded around to a very aggressive player in the cut-off who raises once again to 3.5bb. You have noticed that this player raises with almost their entire range from the cut-off when folded to.

This actually may work for them depending on how tight the players are to their left. However you can turn that into a weakness by three betting with any decent hand that has good post flop equity. Let us say that you have the 10d-9d and make it 11bb to go. If the raiser really does have a hand like J-5o then you would like to isolate against a weak hand and be able to use your position as well. You also don’t want any other player getting involved and spoiling your attempt to take money from this player.

If you call then one of the blinds may also call. They could also three bet if they perceive what you are up to with your call. Then if that happens you have lost your isolation potential against the apparent weakness. Many players would fear three betting with 10-9s because they may be wrong about their opponent’s hand that may have K-K or Q-Q in it. At the end of the day, this is poker……..you are always making intelligent speculations when you play poker based on statistics and probabilities. There are very few times within a poker game where you can be certain of anything.

Another situation may arise if you have say Ad-Ks in early position in a full ring game. You would like to isolate against a weakness and use your strength. However you cannot be sure that the A-K is the best hand. If you raise then other players can identify your hand. However what about aggressive limping? Many people would ask how in heavens name can limping be aggressive? Well it all depends on the entire line that you are looking to take. You cannot define an action on whether or not it is aggressive or passive based on the opening move.

Which line is the more aggressive and passive out of these two bluffing actions, one goes raise-bet-check-fold and the other goes call-raise-bet-bet. In the first instance there were only two aggressive actions which ultimately resulted in losing the pot. The second example had three aggressive actions that resulted in winning. Sophisticated poker players limp and that is a fact. Remember that a limp enters you into the action and you do not always need to do it with a raise because there are some advantages to limping. For example let us say that another player limped and the button decided to attack what they thought was weakness and made it 6bb to go.

The big blind called the 6bb and now the action is on you. There are now 13.5bb in the pot that isn’t your money and the big blinds call indicated a hand that wasn’t a premium hand. The button raise stands a fair chance of being someone that is using their position to bully and so a limp-raise is a powerful play here. It isolates against the likely weakness of the original raiser. Here we can turn being out of position into an advantage and use our A-K to represent aces or kings. I have even had players flash me Q-Q here as they were about to fold.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at www.888poker.com

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Breaking down a poker hand in Hold’em

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All poker hands have a profit potential attached to them and that profitability is based on several factors. The first three factors are their high card potential, straight potential and flush potential. So a hand like Jc-10c is a much better hand than 7c-3d because it has straight potential, flush potential and also some high card potential while the latter hand doesn’t have anything. However there are other factors at work as well that affect the profitability. One such factor is your position and any hand irrespective of strength does better with good position.

When you look at any situation in a vacuum then it is possible for any hand to make money. It could be folded around to you on the button and you could raise with almost any two cards in no limit hold’em and if your opponents in the blinds have weak hands then your raise will take the pot. But this does not mean that raising with any two cards is a profitable long term strategy. There are also other dynamics at work here also and when hands have straight and flush potential then they make money in other ways by way of semi-bluffing.

Let us look at an example here to highlight what we are talking about. Your opponent raises from the cut-off and you call in the big blind with Jc-10c. The flop comes 9c-6c-4d and having a flush draw allows you to make an aggressive check-raise on the flop. This allows you to win the pot in two ways with the first being that you can win the hand without seeing a showdown if your opponent folds. Secondly of course you could make the flush and win the pot that way.

So much of the potential of a poker hand can be derived from what is known as fold equity and that is in reference to the money that has been contributed to the pot by your opponents who have then folded and how often your opponents fold in relation to the price of your bet. So when you are thinking about playing any poker hand then you need to assess how profitable the hand is likely to be based on the factors previously mentioned. If you can begin to look at poker hands in terms of hand making potential then you will improve your poker game beyond the players who do not think in this way.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at www.888poker.com

 

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