Getting a grip on reality

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Some years ago I played in middle stakes games and higher in an attempt to be a “player”. It is only now looking back that I realise that this was a huge mistake. If it were possible to beat these levels easily then more players would be playing at and beating mid-stakes poker at say . The player pools are so tiny and the skill levels are so high that your margins are wafer thin and in fact are so thin that it then becomes very difficult to even know that you have an edge at all because of the shockingly high variance.

So if you want to be a pro or even semi-pro then you need to get real and to keep it real. Forget pie in the sky ideas and get down to basics and the type of strategies that will beat lower stakes games and beat them well. At the end of the day then you need to be clever in how you approach online poker these days. Gone are the days when huge volumes of fish could be found simply throwing their money away.

Sitting tight and nut peddling may get you a few dollars per hour but you can earn as much working in some dead end job that pays you a minimum wage. If you want to earn more than minimum wage then you need to learn how to beat the modern online game at levels that offer you opponents that are solid but considerably below a top class level.

Laying the ground work

I will be basically laying the ground work inside this month’s article for what will be to come in the coming months. No limit hold’em is a tough nut to crack for many players because in deep stack situations then you only have to make one tiny error and hours of hard work can be wiped out within the blink of an eye. In my opinion the vast majority of players who can play good decent solid poker and who are struggling with their results or who are stagnating are doing so for one simple reason…….this is because they are endeavouring to use a style that is too widely replicated by too many of their opponents.

To find an edge in any form of gambling involves utilising strategies that the rest of the population don’t use. If a strategy or a way of playing is popular then your opponents are not only playing in the same way but they are also aware of what your strategy is.

Thinking on different levels

In terms of game strategy then we need to be able to operate on several different levels. Let us start with the most basic of novices. This is someone who doesn’t really know ABC or how to play solid poker and who may even be quite experienced but has still not advanced their game to a winning level. We can call this a level 1 player. A level 2 player is where many online regs are at this time and is someone who has worked very hard on their game to take them to a level where they can exploit lesser players.

They have a decent grasp of ABC play and play a good tight and solid aggressive style. This level 2 player is the next step of the poker evolutionary ladder. However this is where many players stay for a number of reasons. This could be to do with a lack of time to seek out the extra coaching that is required to successfully move their game to the next level or it could be because they think that they already “know the game” and don’t need to bother anymore. At a basic level then a level 1 player can really only make money over the long term from level 0 players or in other words……very weak opponents on 888poker

Finding your level

So what I am really saying here is that if you know or suspect that you know a good solid ABC style and nothing else then you may beat up on the micro and low stakes levels for decent earn rates but you will never progress any higher than that and maintain good earn rates over big sample sizes. Your game needs something extra and it is that “extra” that we will discuss in the coming months. Unfortunately (and this is the hard part) making money at online poker is more than just replicating what you read in a magazine or see on some coaching video.

There is a tremendous amount of hands on experience needed both by you and your poker coach if you want to reach the Holy Grail of playing professional level poker. Do not get me wrong, I play full time but I seek out weaker opponents than most other pro’s and I multi-table against them. This is the safest way to succeed without too many obstacles and even though you will never get recognition from the poker fraternity playing levels like NL25 through NL100, what your friends and family and other poker players will recognise is your extra spending money that you have every month as well as being your own boss and not having to answer to anyone and your “living the dream” type live style.  

My coaching style

My students often ask me what my style of coaching is. Many people want “sweat sessions” but I think that is a poor way to learn. Some others want “videos” as they try to advance their game by the use of visual imagery. This is a better way but it often lacks the interaction from the student and any coaching method in my opinion needs interaction.

My method involves a co-operation between student and coach in examining hand histories. This is where each hand can be broken down on an individual basis without time being a factor or with anything being missed. I expect a lot of work from my students because there are no short cuts in poker. If you want a second income or even a full time alternative to your current job then you are going to have to get tough with your education.

I am a cash game player and always have been. I don’t play tournaments and never will because I don’t crave attention or fame. However I know through vast experience how to do well playing online poker in no limit cash games and this is something that I want to convey to others.

No need to be technical

I often get people asking me if they need to improve their maths skills or to use tracking software to do well in online poker. Well I would say that my maths ability is mediocre compared to an awful lot of players and I don’t use tracking software. Firstly tracking software is mis-used by a large percentage of the people that use them. There are large volumes of players that are either recycling money or losing money who use poker tracking software. While they are useful, the ability to be able to play more tables and encounter more weak opponents is even more vital in online poker.

So the bottom line is that you don’t need to be a maths wizard or some computer geek to do well playing online poker. However you do need the flexibility of thought to be able to look at deep stack no limit Texas hold’em in a slightly different way to how the masses are currently viewing it. Remember if your game is too similar to the games of people that either lose a little, break even or win a little then this is all that you will get from online poker in terms of your results. Just like in warfare…….the price of victory is never cheap! See you next month where we can start to break down what is important in no limit Texas hold’em.   

Contact Carl at for advanced poker coaching and staking deals up to $2000 per player. Simply state your experience and poker history and why you think you should be considered.

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Should you squeeze in NLHE?

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There are spots in no limit cash games even in full ring where you can profitably make money. The squeeze play has become popular of late and is based on the following dynamic. One player raises, another calls and a player in one of the blinds re-raises. The concept is a simple one in so much that the re-raise is geared towards two ranges that are wide. However for the squeeze play to be effective then it needs to be defined much better than this! At the end of the day then a squeeze is looking for fold equity most of the time.

Let us begin by looking at some examples as to when squeezing can be profitable and when it isn’t on cash games at say In this first example a player limps in the UTG seat and another player calls in the UTG+1 position. It then gets folded to a reg on the button who raises. We have the 10c-9c in the big blind. I may call here but the presence of the two early limpers would deter me from squeezing. There is a much greater chance that in a full ring game that they are limping with strong hands and do not want to identify their strong holding whilst being in early position.

Likewise if a minimum stack reg had limped followed by another player and the reg raised. I do not want to isolate myself against a big hand from the minimum stack player and so I would only three bet for value here. Another example where I wouldn’t squeeze is where it has been open raised by a fish and a strong reg calls in position. If the fish has say 70bb and is normally tight before the flop then I would ascertain that they had eventually found a hand that they liked.

I would be forced into too many situations where the fish either four bet with a powerful holding because their open raising range is narrow or calling with me being out of position. The reg may call as well getting better implied and expressed odds. This is a situation that I do not want. The regs calling range is wide but the fishes raising range isn’t. If I do not want to play a hand out of position then I will not squeeze. However, playing a hand out of position isn’t necessarily bad if the player that you are out of position to is a fish and will simply four bet the top end of their range and play fit or fold with the rest.

If we change the dynamic of the previous hand and make the opening raiser a reg and the caller a fish then the situation is dramatically different. Here both ranges are wide and the fish hasn’t committed to the pot anywhere near as much simply calling a raise as they did open raising. Before I squeeze then I want to have a good idea that I am facing wide ranges. This is because in order to capitalise on fold equity then I need my opponent to fold a large percentage of the hands that they originally raised with.

This will happen more with a sequence of raise (reg)- call (fish) than raise (fish)- call (reg). As I said then various other dynamics like position alter the ability to squeeze profitably as well. However let us say that a min stack player on 888poker with 17bb makes it 3.5bb to go and gets three callers. If you put their range at say 5% and you have the 10d-9d then there are 11bb in dead money in the pot if you squeeze and get called. There are 43bb in the pot and your investment is 17bb.

However your equity share against a 5% range is roughly 32% which roughly translated means one third of the pot. So you are –EV here and you need a bigger hand to squeeze with. This is why I said earlier that you can value bet sometimes as a squeeze. Change your hand to A-K and suddenly with 46% equity then you are +EV and in business. This highlights that squeezing lightly against a minimum stack reg who has raised from early position isn’t profitable.

For squeezing to be profitable then you need dead money. The best way to get dead money is to find wide ranges. When a range is wide then the holder of that range will fold a large percentage of it to a three bet. If they will fold 75% of their original raising range then you can make money squeezing if you time it right. However even if you get called by a fish then this scenario is better than being called by a fish and a reg. So if the raise has come from late position then knowing who has raised and what type of player they are is helpful.

Contact Carl for poker coaching and a staking partnership up to $2000 at

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The World of The STT

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SNG’s (sit and go) or single table tournaments are one of the most popular forms of poker on the internet at this time at sites like 888poker. They offer lightning fast action and a thrill a minute poker ride until you either bust out or get into the cash seats. The tournament structure itself is simple and the name of the event simply highlights the fact that you literally can sit and go. The blinds go up rapidly and you are soon reaching the money seats before long. The key to doing well in this form of poker is to carefully balance survival strategies with chip accumulation.

Experienced SNG players tend to play very tightly during the early levels in the hope that many lesser players will get impatient and make careless moves and bust out. This is a powerful strategy because if you fold a large percentage of the hands that you hold during the early stages then you can easily make up the chips that you have lost with one simple blind steal during the later levels. This strategy is then followed by experienced players becoming far more aggressive during the middle stages and beyond.

So you are clearly looking to survive and not do anything special during the early levels. But then you must switch into chip accumulation mode because you cannot win any SNG tournament without amassing all of the chips in play. However this needs to be done with a fair degree of thought because you will at some stage be looking to shove your remaining stack in the middle. There are a few tips to help you in this situation and the main one is to make sure that it is you that makes the first move.

Basically this means that you should shove all in rather than call all in unless you have a very powerful hand. This simple but effective strategy allows you to have two chances to win the pot. Your shove can elicit a fold from your opponents or you could be called and then double up by winning the pot. But if you call all in then you can only win the pot by winning the hand at showdown. In SNG’s then your ideal goal is to win chips without having to make a hand and the more that you can do that then the more chance you have of getting into the cash prizes and actually winning the event.

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Play Tournament Poker at 888

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Poker tournaments are perhaps the most popular form of poker at this time with millions upon millions of people getting in on the action. We at 888poker have tournaments commencing all the time to suit all tastes and budgets. Each poker tournament will have a designated start time and once the tournament begins then players are slowly eliminated until we reach a final table. Blinds increase periodically which forces the action along until only one player remains with all of the chips! It may seem daunting at first to know that you have to win every single chip in play to win the event but somebody somewhere has to be that person.

Irrespective of your skill level then any player has a shot at winning a poker tournament and this is what makes them so appealing. If you play in the larger events then you have the opportunity to do something that you cannot possibly do in cash games and that is to win a potentially life changing sum of money or at the very least a highly significant sum of money. The way that poker tournaments are designed gives the lesser players almost an equal chance as the better players with luck playing just as much of a part as skill.

Many poker tournaments on 888poker also have what are called “satellite” events that feed players into them. These are tournaments with much smaller buy-ins that give players a chance to be able to win their entry into larger events with bigger buy ins that a player may not be able to afford or may be outside of their bankroll. So the satellites form a vital piece of the poker tournament jigsaw and many players have qualified for big online events and won them after having won their place in a qualifying satellite.

Joining a poker tournament couldn’t be easier and if you go onto the tournament lobby then you will see all of the tournaments within the calendar that are due to start immediately or in the near future. They will be broken down by time, tournament type and buy-in levels and prize pools. If you are feeling adventurous and want to play in more than one tournament at the same time then that is fine and many serious online tournament players do this. There is no better feeling in the world than starting a tournament with a large field and outlasting hundreds of players to make that coveted final table.

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Project Poker Pro : The Sniper

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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 bring as many players as possible 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. 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. 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.

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 back in 2000-2002 instead of buying countless books and going down numerous blind alleys. 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 130k word Sniper documents which will give you the entire blueprint for no limit hold’em cash games including my unique FERN system.

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 $2000 for the players that show the most maturity and the most talent. 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. 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? I also understand that many peoples’ lives simply do not allow for such things 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 $2000 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 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 “The Dean”

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Playing Higher Levels in Online Poker

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There are several key differences between live and online play but one of the key areas that many live players struggle with when they attempt to make money online at great poker sites like 888poker is that expert play in the online environment involves a far greater degree of information retrieval, analysis and usage. Your sophisticated opponents have the facility to take and attain and then use far more information against you that many of the strategies that you can get away with in a live game will get ruthlessly exploited playing against good players online.

A lot of people incorrectly assume that online poker is crooked because they haven’t or cannot succeed at it. How can it be possible to not be able to beat NL100 online when I can do well at $10-$20 live is an often quoted argument? The fact is that online play is far tougher than live play by several levels merely because multi-tabling forces tighter play and players can watch you far more closely and then get software to help them even more.

So the natural knock on effect of this is that you absolutely need to balance your ranges out far more online than you would in a live game. If you are playing against “Gustaf” from Stockholm and you are playing six tables and “Gustaf” is playing four of those tables and you are seeing 90 hands per hour per table then he is collating data on you to the tune of 360 hands per hour which is a formidable rate. It will not take him long to begin to build up a picture of how you play.

So if you are very aggressive and like to triple barrel then this strategy will get ruthlessly exploited against better players! Raising pre-flop and seeing a flop heads up will likely mean that your opponent has missed and many LAG’s try to exploit that. These bullying tactics may work against weak players but stronger players will realise that if your betting pattern goes raise-bet-bet-bet far too often then your range on the river is polarised massively between powerful hands and fresh air.

Powerful hands are not that easy to come by in hold’em and so if you are not value betting mediocre hands as well then your opponents can make some call downs that are far lighter than they normally would against other players.

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The Problem With Big Pairs

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No limit Texas Hold’em carries with it a very different dynamic to limit hold’em because pots grow geometrically when you play in cash games on sites like . This means that even the slightest bet or raise can and does have huge potential consequences for the final pot size or its likely size. In tournament play then hands like A-K are often considered powerful hands.

However there are two clear reasons for this and that is because A-K is only rarely dominated as having an A-K drastically reduces the number of A-A and K-K combinations that can be out against you. So when you get all in with A-K in a tournament then you tend to be up against hands like Q-Q and J-J rather than A-A and K-K.

Also in tournament poker then the number of big blinds that you have tends not to be that many as the rapidly escalating blinds and antes means that your stack rarely becomes very large. So your decisions with hands like A-K in tournament poker tend not to be all that difficult. However in cash games then the situation is very different where you may have 100bb or even more. This means that your stack is deep enough to be able to play through the streets.

When you are betting every single street with half pot to full pot bets with a hand like A-K on a board like A-10-9-7-Q and you are getting called all the way then your A-K is not a strong hand in this instance. If you get all in on the flop for say 15bb then you basically have not made a mistake in a tournament if you get called by a better hand. But if you bet say two thirds of the pot on the flop and turn and been called both times in a cash game then you had better watch out.

Pot escalation is a dangerous enemy in deep stack big bet poker and is a factor that cash game players have to deal with. This is why you see many cash game specialists check with hands like A-K on boards like A-Q-9-7 because the risk of checking and giving your opponent a free card to out draw you is not as dangerous as the pot escalating to silly levels while you are left holding a weak one pair hand. So keep this advice in mind the next time you are dealt a big pair in NLHE.

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The Complex Dynamic of Online Poker

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Whenever you play online poker then you are in fact entering into a highly complex moving dynamic. You can find someone with a great earn rate over say 1 million hands but if those million hands have been compiled over the space of only one year in online poker then that doesn’t alter the fact that only one year has passed.

All this means is that your earn rate has a very high confidence level for that particular year. But environments change and I started playing online poker seriously in 2001 and during that time have had to undergo numerous changes. The biggest one was totally switching poker codes in 2007 from limit to no limit.

The brief excursions into PLO have been nothing more than that but I am not a great PLO player and so my short stacking system has been my mainstay. But it is easy to take your finger off the pulse when you are making money and I have done well so far this year from all sources which mainly means NL100, sports and PLO. But after taking some good advice lately then it has become painfully clear to me that my earn rate in NL100 is nowhere near what it could or should be.

I do not frequent 2+2 forums anymore and so my contacts in regards to me playing poker have shrunk somewhat so I have been cocooned when it comes to talking to people. But I am going through a transitional period again and hopefully I can get my earn rate up to $100/hour by early next year.

The advice that I have been given is top notch by a strong pro that is unknown in the industry. His earn rate at NL200 exceeds $120/hour and if I was making this sort of money rather than the puny $/hour that I am making at the moment then I would maybe have more incentive to play poker.

The Dean plays poker at where he is an ambassador and Poker Pro

Keep a look out for my SNIPER coaching and staking program starting soon. I have been placing the finishing touches onto this and will be giving out details shortly. Any experienced poker player that is interested in being personally coached and then staked can contact me in the first instance to tell me why they want to be considered and what their experience level is.

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The Sniper Coaching/Staking Program

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A few people have approached me recently to ask me about the importance of aggression in poker. Of course aggression is important and I am not going to say otherwise and I am a very aggressive player myself when I am involved in most pots.

But blind aggression is something else and can be a terrible weakness if implemented in the wrong circumstances. Any fool can be aggressive, I could teach that to a school kid in no time at all. But the skill is knowing when to be aggressive and how often.

I have lost count of all of the “hot shots” who have breezed into games that I have been in and thought that they could push everyone around all because they had seen someone do it on TV or they had read it in a book somewhere.

The trick is to get your ratios right, I get away with an awful lot both in NL100 because of the fact that my opponents believe me more because of how I play, underpinning all that is the fact that my ratio of aggression to non aggression is pretty good.

Been playing on NL100 this week and done quite well and also had a couple of good sessions at NL200 although one of the games was very tough and I should have left but I had a rush of cards that was something else.

I dont always play NL100 and sometimes drop down to NL50, the game needs to be very good, there are many strong players in those games that I will not tangle with because I have no discernable edge. I spend more time watching that game these days but I know when weak players are active so my time is not entirely wasted.

I will be discussing my SNIPER coaching program soon on Sharkpool as I will be going into poker coaching in a more serious way in 2014 as well as staking players that I coach. So it may be a good idea to keep an eye out for that to see if you want to come on board my coaching and staking program and get access to my SNIPER poker system.

Hope that you have a good weekend,

See you soon

The Dean is an online poker pro at

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The brain is a tool

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The brain sure is an extremely impressive organ. It controls everything we do and think about, and without it we would not be able to live. So if the brain does not feel good, neither do we. Because as earlier said, the brain is a huge part of us and we really need it to function to function at all. Some have done a microdialysis through life and know what it is all about, whilst others go on without ever even coming in contact with it. Either way, there are many things in life that we really enjoy doing, that would not even be half as fun and good if we were not able to think clearly. On various levels, but a simple thing as games are one good example! Let us talk a bit about it.

  • Poker is a very good example of a game where you really need to be focused and think a lot, otherwise you will never win. That is clearly something that a person like Carl “The Dean” Sampson knows a lot about; otherwise he would not be the legend that he is! A tru inspiration for everyone who wants to become real poker pros.
  • Playing chess is probably one of the most classical ways to keep your brain functional and alive, at least when it comes to games. It is truly a mind game, and if your head is not sharp, you do not have any chance in chess! It is always good to play chess, some even says it makes you a bit smarter!
  •  Playing charades might not be brain gymnastics at first, but think about it! You almost never think as much as you do when you are in a hurry to figure out what someone tries to impress. More charades to the people!

It is important to take care of yourself, in every way, not just for you precious brains sake. There are many things to do, for the brain and for the whole body, but you have to begin with yourself. What makes you feel good? Because that is always the right way to go!

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