Steering Away From ABC Play

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These days your opponents will all be aware of how to play “conventional” poker. Everybody understands position, hand values or what they perceive hand values to be. They understand differing ranges from position, basic bluffing techniques, how board textures affect bluffing, equity and all of the other conventional pieces of poker knowledge. So then you may think that with everybody being able to talk a good game that they would be able to play a good game as well. However this isn’t always the case because if too many players are adopting the same style then the edge is minimal.

I play a lot of full ring games and it is often very difficult to extract money in the conventional way. In full ring then most solid players will be folding a high percentage of their range. So full ring games mean that you often end up withdrawing with the primary goal being one of patience. So to get ahead in full ring games means starting off with the objective of not losing money! The true mastery of full ring games stems from being at one with patient play.

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To make money from your opponents involves two key areas working in unison. The first is to have an edge and the second is to have a good money management system in place. When this happens then your chances of making money will go through the roof. To get an edge over your opponents then you need to not only be a good poker player but to also know what your opponents know. If you try and play too much like your average competition then the chances to get and then maintain an edge will be very difficult. So herein lays the problem in how to make money playing online poker or to succeed in any form of gambling for that matter.

Whether you are trading, sports betting or playing poker……you absolutely need to be playing in a way that the masses don’t. So just what do the masses know and how much work do they put in? Well I believe that the vast majority of poker players do not approach poker in the right way (I know because I didn’t once upon a time) and they also only have a finite level of time to dedicate to learning the game.

In terms of the actual theoretical side of the game then I would say that the best theorists are also struggling to make money and so this begs the question of how useful is poker theory? I know many players that understand the game extremely deeply who have struggled to beat or can no longer beat middle limits. The problem with moving up in stake levels is that the player pools shrink dramatically. However the players that operate at these new levels are players that are probably taking the game a lot more seriously. Sometimes you need to “reverse engineer” poker theory to get an edge over “accomplished” players.

Remember that an “edge” in poker is derived from several factors. The first is your skill advantage but skill can be got from several different things. The second is your position and the third is your card strength. However all of these are floating variables. A “skill” advantage is often difficult to estimate and a card advantage is often the same.

Your opponents also are aware of position and so having position isn’t as powerful as it used to be some years ago. For example position is very important in poker and I for one am not going to argue otherwise. However it is often overused and not fully understood by the vast majority of players that try to execute that particular advantage.

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

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Give 888 a go for low stakes play

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One of the biggest problems for players moving up in levels is that the next level up is often double the previous level in terms of the amount of the buy-in. This means that when you play at the next level up that the difference in player skill and sophistication could be doubled. Although this isn’t always the case…. it very often is. For example there is no level in between NL50 and NL100 and none in between NL100 and NL200. However at the lower levels on 888 there are NL20 levels and NL30 levels.

This is highly significant because in terms of how these two levels will play then they will more or less have the same players in them. This will not be the case or always the case at say NL25 and NL50 where the players at NL50 will be much better on average than the players at NL25. Also at NL50 then you will also be getting players from NL100 dropping in as well because there may not be enough action at their given level. As a player that multi-tables then it is imperative that you play at two different levels at the very least.

The more tables that you play at then the more important it is to play at various levels! For example if you want to play at eight tables then there will not always be eight tables available at your chosen level of say NL25. However you may not want to drop down to NL10 because this stake level may be too small for you to be able to take it seriously. You may also find NL50 too tough for you and your earn rate may start to drop sharply once you double the buy-in.

However when you have levels like NL20 and NL30 that are so close together like that then you will not only be able to find the eight tables that you desire but you will also be able to play both levels almost the same way. One of the problems that confuse new players as they begin to move up in levels or at least attempt to move up is that the higher levels require a different game plan and method of operation. You will not be able to play and beat say NL200 in the same way that you can play and beat NL20.

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These games at the higher level will be much more aggressive and players will balance their ranges and read their opponents range more easily. They will be using tracking software against you and really keeping a very close eye on your game. This also makes it difficult to make money at the higher levels and it takes a really accomplished poker player to be able to do that. However as I have been saying in previous blogs, playing no limit hold’em at the lower stakes levels and multi-tabling those levels represents a viable alternative.

Being on a site like 888 makes that possible more than most other sites and networks! You do not need to be a great poker player to be able to play at the NL20 and NL30 levels and do well. You simply need to play good solid poker and play ABC and also be on the lookout for what are called “orphan pots”. These are pots that your opponent or opponents have shown no interest in. For example say that it is limped by two opponents and the small blind completes the action.

The pot is four-way and you have the 8c-2d in the big blind and get a free look at the flop. The cards fall and are Jd-7s-3c and the small blind checks and so do you. To your surprise the other two limpers also check and the turn card is the 4h. The small blind checks again and now you have to ask yourself if someone would check top pair here?

The short answer to that question is no because they would fear the overcards. For players to check that flop then they are either sandbagging with a monster or checking with nothing and the overwhelming probability is that they have nothing. The player most likely to be sandbagging would be the small blind hoping that there was action behind them.

However that can be dispelled because of the fact that the small blind has checked again which they wouldn’t do with a strong hand. So a bet here of say 2.5bb would take this pot down a good percentage of the time and certainly more than one time in three. If one of your opponents calls you then you still have the opportunity to fire another barrel on the river. This is one of those occasions where you can bluff with very little pot equity but your fold equity is substantial here.

Carl Sampson is a poker pro who also plays online poker at www.888poker.com

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The Evolving Poker Player

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There have been periods of my poker career where I was a full time pro. There were also periods where I was a part-time player and periods where I didn’t play poker at all. The times when I wasn’t playing poker at all tended to be when I thought that there was something wrong with my game. So I elevated learning more than playing and this is important if you want to correct any flaw or flaws that you have as quickly as possible.

My own fundamental weakness was that I was not a trained poker player or one that was coached until recently. The worst way to learn poker is to do it in an isolated way without personalised outside professional help. Many players that were previously making money that are no longer making money will argue that the games have become tougher. If they are referring to the average opponent being quite knowledgeable now then they are correct. However there is always value at the lower levels simply because the average player doesn’t have all that much time to dedicate to learning the game.

The time that the average player has available is used primarily to play although there has been a far greater learning period than a few years ago and players these days have access to far superior coaching material. If you think that the poker games are tougher then you need to examine your own game. In the overwhelming majority of cases then previously successful players tend to be sound poker players and many of them have good ABC games. However once you move into an environment where there isn’t really much to choose between your style and everyone else’s then the profit potential dies.

A common buzz word in poker at the moment is “standard”. A line is “standard” or a particular tactic is “standard”. In my opinion then “standard” is just another name for something that is well known and widely used. Standard in this context means a well-trodden path. So just how effective can lines be if they are “standard”? Well that all depends on how high you play but the very best poker players in the world analyse their games differently to the rest. Understanding the game dynamic is the first step but adjusting to play non-standard lines that work is the next.

At the higher levels of play then you need to be at the very forefront of the changes in game dynamics otherwise you are either playing the same as everyone else or being exploited by the very elite players that deviated from conventional play first. Let us have a look at standard plays. It is folded around to you on the button with the Qs-Js. If you raise here then the raise is standard for the situation and especially if you raise to around 3bb-3.5bb. If your opponent calls from the big blind and the flop comes 10c-8d-4h and they check then your c-bet is standard.

You have the overcard outs plus the inside straight draw for a decent level of pot equity. Only having one opponent and a relatively dry board means that the c-bet is “standard”! If your opponent check-raises you then if you shove all in then you have deviated very widely from standard play. All this is beside the point though because the topic of today’s post was in how effective “standard” lines are. This is a major factor in my opinion for why previously successful players stop making money. They play at levels where their opponents adjust to “current theory” constantly and their own adjustments either only match up to that or fall short.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro who plays at www.888poker.com

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Finding out who you really are?

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Read an interesting article this week by Daniel Negreanu about different types of players. The ones that stay at certain levels and earn an easy $2000 a week and the ones of a similar skill level who are always busting out because they are forever trying to move up.

He says that the latter player will eventually do it and end up earning many times more than his mate who is happy to stay at the same level year after year. He calls them “Larry” and “Johnny”.

Well I dont know if Dan is trying to promote some fish into trying their luck in his nose bleed games or what but there were loads of flaws in his article. The first flaw is one of probability, firstly the chances of earning $100,000 to $200,000 a year in poker are far greater than earning $2,000,000.

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The poker world is littered by “big shots” who wanted to be even bigger shots and kept moving up. I could fill an entire book about what goes off in some of these high limit games both live and online and many are best kept away from.

But even with all things being equal, what do you think your chances are of winning a WSOP bracelet or a WPT or earning $1,000,000 a year every year……somewhere between slim and none and slim just rode out of town.

YEAH BUT SOME OF EM DO IT….I can hear you cry….what you mean like win the lottery for instance because your chances are about the same. I am technically good enough to play these games and have been for some time but being technically good enough is not enough.

I knew that I could succeed in poker if I did not have silly goals. Because one thing is certain my friends, the poker world out there aint quite what it appears to be to the outsider. But even if you are technically good enough and mentally good enough, you have to be of a certain disposition anyway to play for stakes as high as that.

Because take it from me, many of the players who play for high stakes are not strong players and they are playing too high for their skills and Dan knows this. Much of it is to do with ego, idleness and craving.

Ego because people think they have made it when they sit in these games and everyone will respect them.

Idleness because many cannot be bothered to work their way up and learn their trade.

Craving because some of them just get off on risking big chunks of money.

You can jump straight into these game both live or online if you have the money and there are plenty of rich people out there. As for me then quite simply……my name must be Larry.

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

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Only myself to blame

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OK so I have only got myself to blame, yeah yeah I already know that. I have had this laptop since last August and I did not get an instruction manual with it so I never learned out how to figure how to adjust the sensitivity on the mouse. The slightest press and I have clicked and I mean SLIGHTTTT.

Well after my main computer went out of action I was left with nothing more than my trusty laptop to play online poker with. So here’s the story, I get dealt 99 and was going to raise when I accidentally fold the hand. OK, no big deal but the flop comes AA9 and there is betting and raising going off on the flop and I am just sitting there watching it.

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Anyway to cut a long story short, an A-4 wins it on a board of A-A-9-J-2 and the way that the betting went on the flop, I also assumed that the other player also had an ace as well. I have since sorted it but this error cost me a $400 pot. Luckily for me and the only piece of good news was that I was only playing small stakes so it could have been a lot worse. But four hundred bucks all because I never bothered to ask someone how to do it or take the time to figure it out is a expensive lesson to pay….I still deserved it though!

So the moral of this story is…..get to know your software and have backup at all times for everything. These days I have my internet hard wired in and I simply do not trust wireless routers at this time. I have had far too many disconnections at vital times for my liking. Even when I have been in the same room as the router.

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

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Listen to the experts

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Let us begin by looking at a pre-flop hand example where it is folded to you in no limit Texas hold’em on the button. You have a very weak hand and it is the 9c-3d. In online poker then under normal circumstances this hand should be folded. It has very poor equity potential and you will get into many unfavourable situations post flop. However the real problems that you will encounter playing such a hand tend to arrive after you have connected with the board slightly or you try to aggressively push a bluff through.

Don’t be afraid to let the hand go

In online poker then you will find many such situations where your greatest profit potential comes before the flop. This is usually with hands that have very poor post flop equity potential. A hand like 10-9s can make the nut straight and a flush which although is not the nuts, can be very effective at beating lower value hands.

Hands like suited connectors and big pairs have very good post flop potential and this is where they extract most of their value from. However with very weak equity holdings like 9-3o which in all fairness shouldn’t be played at all in online poker then their value (if they have any) comes pre-flop. If you happen to encounter blinds that are so tight that they fold something like 80% of their hands before the flop then raising with 100% of your range is profitable as long as you give up if called or raised.

A hand in action

We don’t always make the right plays at the right time in online poker but let us say that you briefly take leave of your senses and raise with 9-3o from the button because the blinds fold 80% of the time. Firstly if you make it 3.5bb to go and they fold eight times in every ten hands then your profit is 12bb. If they call or re-raise then you lose back 7bb but only under one condition. This is if you let the hand go post-flop. If you do that then you profit to the tune of 5bb over the space of ten hands.

So you are only getting involved if you have a strong reason to believe that your hand is good. Let us say that you make it 3.5bb to go and the big blind calls you. The flop comes 8d-6c-2s and the big blind checks. We don’t have much by way of pot equity with just the nine and a backdoor straight draw and our fold equity isn’t great either. We could easily check this back but we decide to fire a c-bet.

Tricky situations are the norm

In online poker then you will frequently encounter situations where the flop doesn’t hit you and your c-bet gets called and you don’t improve on the turn either. If the turn card is say the 6h and your opponent checks again then you have a problem either way. If you check then you are seeing the river with very little chance of bluffing and your showdown potential is very weak. However if you bet again then the turn card hasn’t really altered your fold equity and is probably straying into spewing territory now!

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

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Learning my lessons

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One of the biggest mistakes of my early career as a no limit hold’em player occurred when I didn’t give enough respect to the lower stakes player’s three betting ranges. I play very LAG around the blinds in full ring but the mistake that I made was in assuming that far too many players were playing like me. I would three bet with say 8h-7h when on the button against a cut-off raiser. There is nothing really wrong with that play and it fits my style. However I have position and the initiative against a likely stealer whose range cannot withstand a three bet.

Even if I get called then my position gives me a decent situation to be in. However let us look at a different situation where we are in the cut-off with a much stronger holding. We have the 8c-8d and make it 3.5bb to go. The button three bets us to 11bb. In situations like these in the past I would usually call but calling is a bad play against a solid reg. This is for the simple reason that their three betting ranges are tighter than what you think.

Four betting is also not a good play and the best play is to simply fold. Only if you are being continually three bet by a LAG or a TAG that is exploiting you can you consider not folding. Why we should consider folding is based on equity against the raisers range. Remember that when we are talking about equity then we are not just talking about hot and cold running simulation type equity like we get with a PokerStove simulation. Pot equity and fold equity combine to make a profitable combination. If we get three bet with 8-8 and call then there will be many terrible spots for us.

Even if our opponent is getting frisky with a hand like Q-10 then we are still coin flipping but with worse position. However our situation is worse than that because we don’t have the initiative. We will be forced to give up on many boards and if the flop comes Ad-9c-4s then how can we continue to a flop c-bet with two overcards? If the player is a LAG then the situation is different and while the nine doesn’t figure to have hit a three bettors range, the ace certainly has.

So with the pocket eights then we either end up folding incorrectly or paying off incorrectly. Even if we check-call the flop then our opponent can peel a card on the turn and see the river. They can hit a queen or a ten on the turn or river or even pick up a draw. In fact looking at hand distribution charts is very instructive here from a standpoint of equity. This is because over the long term then a hand like pocket eights doesn’t really fare that much better than a hand like 8d-6d but yet nobody would think twice about calling a three bet when out of position with the latter hand.

I was playing levels like NL100 and NL50 after having played for a while at $25-$50 no limit hold’em. This is not a good state of affairs to be in because the style of play required to play that much higher level is much different as is the level of sophistication required. Your opponents will be thinking on vastly different levels and will be picking your ranges to pieces if you let them. These days I prefer the far softer levels because I don’t have to work as hard to beat them.

However they do require a much lower thinking pattern and simple but solid ABC does the job. Even that got me into trouble for a while because my own interpretation of ABC some months ago was at a much more basic “each hand in a vacuum” level. These days my ABC is much more complicated and this helps me to beat these levels. However as a rule then I respect the range of a three bettor unless my image has been really LAG.

I am always very mindful of my image because I know that my image structures what my opponents will do against me. However in a vacuum then I will only play hands against a three bet in full ring that I am comfortable four betting with. This is obviously a very tiny part of my range but it also doesn’t mean that I will four bet with them either. I may open raise with K-K and then only call the three bet. This is something that I do a lot rather than fold out nearly all of my opponents three betting range by four betting. At the end of the day I do not want to be isolated in all in pots with A-A too frequently.

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

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Looking at various poker forms

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Any STT or SNG player will tell you that when the blinds get very high that you are far better shoving all in than calling all in. The fact of the matter is that if you want to call all in then you have to be substantially ahead of the raisers range and in fact unless you are desperately low in chips then your equity edge to call all in needs to be crushing. This is because when you shove all in as the first to speak then you present yourself with two chances to win. Your opponent cam fold and you can win the pot that way or your opponent can call and you can win at showdown.

If you are the caller then you have no fold equity and it is fold equity that helps to keep you alive in no limit Texas hold’em tournaments. Strangely enough then there are similarities between cash games and tournaments that are not always obvious. For example in higher stakes cash games then your opponents will be much more aggressive and the power to pounce and get the last word in is very powerful as it gets fold equity. Let us look at an example from say NL600 to show you what I mean.

It is folded around to the button that makes it $18 to go and the small blind calls and you call with the 10s-9s in the big blind. Each player has a $600 stack and both you and the button are very strong players with a lot of history with each other. The pot is now $54 and the flop comes 7s-4s-3c. The small blind checks and so do you but the button makes it $29 to go. The small blind folds and you consider check raising but feel that your opponent stands a great chance of barrelling the turn especially if an overcard peels off.

You also feel that your opponent may also suspect that you are aware of the width of their range and has the potential to shove all in thus forcing you to call or fold and you would be calling with little equity. So you call the $29 thus making the pot $112 and the turn is the Qh. This is a good card for you because it allows your opponent to use that as a scare card. You check and your opponent takes the bait and bets $70 and both of you had $553 left before the turn.

In this situation then where both players are trying to get the last word in then bet sizing is crucial. For example a min-raise to $140 would only make the pot $322 and leave you with $413 left and your opponent has $$483 left which is perfect for a shove. If they have pot equity like with something like K-J for example then this would be a very powerful play. To deny our opponent this line then we could over shove their turn barrel which considering the width of their range would pick up the $182 in the pot at least 80% of the time as long as you use this play sparingly.

When you get called then you should have at least 20% equity or more and so this makes the play very profitable. Had you been forced to call as an all-in then you lose a massive amount of fold equity. If you opponent has say A-Q and you shoved and your opponent tanked and then called then you would have around 20% equity which is actually pretty decent considering how often your opponent will call such a powerful move.

An all-in move in no limit Texas hold’em cash games in high stakes poker is an essential tool to have in your arsenal and one that you will need to utilise very often. If your opponent has very little equity or is simply on the tight side then these power plays can work an alarming percentage of the time. The key though is to be the one that gets all in first and stack sizes mean that your opponent has more than enough to fold.

Once again this is very similar to the situation that you would find in many situations in tournament poker and STT’s during the later stages of play. Against weaker opponents in low stakes cash games then these moves are disastrous for the simple reason being that your opponents will call more often and so your fold equity will be small. Also the overall nature of low stakes cash games is less aggressive and so you shouldn’t really be stacking off too much without very big hands. Low stakes cash games and especially in full ring are all about patience and that gets rewarded at these levels more than overly aggressive play.

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

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Project Poker Pro – Making a success of Online Poker

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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, Bluff Europe, Poker Pro Europe, Online Poker Pro 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 a 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 it highlights the advantage of working with a professional poker player 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 250k 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. 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 although it is both our interests and the interests of existing students to become a student as I don’t really want to swamp the market with this system.

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 putting some effort in.

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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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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