Tuesday, November 29, 2016

How Much Should You Study Versus Play Poker?

how much should you study vs play poker?
A question that I get asked a lot these days is how much should you study versus play poker. I think the answer to this question really revolves around where you are right now in your development as a poker player.

For total beginners my answer to this question is going to be very different than for somebody who has been playing awhile, has had success and moved up several stakes.

So in this article I am going to answer the age old question of how much should you study versus play poker. And I will discuss it from the perspective of total beginners, novices and advanced players.

Absolute Beginners Should Study A lot

If you are completely new to the game of poker, then you should probably spend upwards of 80% of your initial time (i.e., the first few weeks or month) studying the game.

Assuming that you know nothing at all, I would suggest that you first learn the rules of the game. This can be easily found with a simple Google search ["rules of texas holdem"].

Next, make sure that you memorize the top 10 hand rankings in poker - what beats what.

Here they are listed from worst to best:
  • High card
  • One Pair
  • Two Pair
  • Three of a Kind
  • Straight
  • Flush
  • Full House
  • Four of a Kind
  • Straight Flush
  • Royal Flush

After that I would suggest creating an account at any popular poker site and playing play money for your first couple weeks. Start at the lowest limit. Here is my complete guide on how to beat play money.

If you don't know which poker site to pick and you don't live in America, then just choose Pokerstars. It is the largest poker site in the world and has the best software.

If you are from the States head over to Pokerscout.com and play at any of the sites that have a green check mark beside them (USA friendly).

So to sum up.

Learn the game first with play money, risking nothing. Commit the hand rankings to memory, study the basic strategy tips for play money in my free guide linked above. And most importantly of all, just have fun.

Poker Novices Should Still Study Quite a Bit But Be More Focused

But what if you are past the whole does a flush beat a straight phase and you have even got started with real money play either online or live?

Well I think that at this stage of your development it is still important to spend quite a bit of time studying the game. Probably around 50% as a rough estimate.

Basically what you want to be doing at this stage is building a solid tight and aggressive strategy, learning the basics of game selection and working on your mental game.

I will be a little bit biased here but I have already written a free 50 page ebook which walks you through all of that. So I think that this is undoubtedly the best place to start. You can download your free copy here.

At this stage I think it would also be a good idea to start looking into a few basic strategy books and maybe a video training site subscription. These are some of the best ways to improve your game in the early going.

I would also suggest checking out a HUD and the associated poker database program that comes with it at this point. These programs provide an invaluable way to do what I call "self study."

This is basically the ability to analyze your play in depth and that of your opponents as well. This becomes increasingly more important as you move up. To learn more about what a HUD is and how to get one set up check out this article of mine. 

There are plenty of good free basic strategy videos on Youtube as well. Splitsuit and the Poker Bank put out excellent stuff if you play cash games. Gripsed is good if you play SNGs or tournaments.

I actually have 30 or 40 free strategy videos on Youtube myself. Just search BlackRain79. And yes, I know I need to put out more! One of my New Year's resolutions will be to stop neglecting my Youtube channel so much.

Twitch streams and strategy forums are two other free resources that can be helpful in the early stages. A lot of top players stream live these days, especially tourney pros. And forums can be a good way to get feedback on your hands.

A Word of Caution!

It is important not to overload yourself though.

Don't go order 12 different books, watch 6 training videos every day, make 10k posts on a forum and neglect your play. I see this all too often, total information overload and not putting into practice what you have learned.

Pick a few trusted resources and then work on applying that information at the tables. This is the most important step that most people miss.

Becoming a winning poker player is a lot like learning a new language. You can read books and watch videos about it all day but until you actually speak the language with other native speakers on a regular basis, your progress will be slow at best.

Studying is fine. But at least 50% of your time should be spent applying that knowledge at the tables and learning through direct experience.

Advanced Poker Players Should Study Less Often and Cutting Edge Stuff Only

How about advanced players who have been around for awhile, had lots of success and moved up several limits? Well at this stage I think that playing the game should probably comprise about 80% of your poker time and therefore studying 20% or less.

It is important to keep abreast of the latest strategies and continue your development as a poker player, but there is a certain point where the application of all your knowledge is key.

This is especially the case if you are a winning player. Remember, you don't get paid to study the game, talk about the game or watch videos about the game. You get paid by grinding it out at the poker tables and stacking fish again and again.

There are some advanced resources that I would suggest studying at this point although once again, keep it in moderation. These would be advanced books such as my second one, Modern Small Stakes.

There are many other good new titles that have been released lately as well if you lean more towards a math GTO approach to the game.

A subscription at a premium training site like RunItOnce would probably be a good idea as well at this point. For a cheaper but still solid all around training site with excellent coaches I would also recommend Deucescracked.com

Hiring a coach is something that you might also want to look into at this point as well. There is nothing that can take your game to the next level faster than a good coach. Make sure they have a solid track record of success themselves and plenty of solid feedback from students.

Lastly, as I mentioned above self study should play a huge role in your study time at this point. Using either Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager, you should be regularly reviewing your sessions and doing database analysis.

This means running filters to check for the profitability of certain plays, finding and fixing your leaks and studying your opponents in depth.

Final Thoughts

To answer the age old how much should you study versus play question is, it depends. It depends on what stage you are at in your poker development.

If you are a total beginner, then you should be studying the game a large amount of the time, learning the rules, some basic strategy and mashing buttons at the play money tables.

Once you have gotten your feet wet a bit though with real money small stakes poker, you should start to learn some proper TAG strategy, game selection and mental game control. There are countless free and paid resources out there to help you with that.

Lastly, when you become the poker end boss and you are crushing souls and moving up quickly, studying should take up less and less of your time. You should of course stay on top of the latest cutting edge strategies.

But as I talk about all the time on this blog, in both of my books and everything that I put out, increasingly you need to be the one creating those cutting edge strategies in order to truly become an elite player at the higher stakes.

You do this primarily through experience and self study. However, a few select advanced books, premium videos or a coach can help with that too.

Let me know how much you study versus play poker below. What mix has benefited you the most?

play poker or study poker

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

5 Unconventional Tips to Create Big Poker Profits

Create big poker profits with these 5 unconventional tips
Winning at poker these days is not always as simple as just playing a tight and aggressive style and avoiding tilt. Sure, these two things along with good game selection will go along way towards your success. And frankly at the very lowest stakes (NL2 and NL5 online, $1/$2 live) this is definitely still all that you need.

However, once you start climbing up the stakes, you will notice that the regulars get quite a bit better. They aren't all just mass tabling zombie nits anymore like at the lower stakes. They have learned to think about hands on a bit deeper level and they are even actively considering how to exploit you in some cases!

So the strategies required to beat the games as you move up start to change as well. You can't just use the same cookie cutter strategy that everybody else is using and expect to turn a big profit. In this article I am going to provide you with 5 unconventional ways to start thinking about the game in an elite way and ultimately crush even good players.

1. Forget Hands and Start Thinking About Ranges

One of the biggest keys to moving forward as a poker player is getting rid of the idea that your opponent has AK or JT or 99. They don't have any of these hands. 

Instead they have what is called a range of hands. 

In any given situation a decent thinking opponent that you will encounter at higher stakes will show up with hands that could be classified as such:

  • The nuts (straight, full house etc.)
  • Strong hands (top pair top kicker, top pair good kicker)
  • Medium strength hands (middle pair, bottom pair + draw)
  • Weak made hands (3rd, 4th or 5th pair)
  • Draw (flush draw, straight draw, gutshot straight draw)
  • Air (everything from ace high with two overs to 3 high no pair, no draw)

It is your job as a savvy hand reader to then understand the situation and the board, your opponent's actions and use that information to construct their entire range. That is, the frequency that they show up with each of these types of hands.

For example:

Because my opponent raised the flop here and based on x and y HUD stats with our past history taken into account, I expect him to show up with:

  • The nuts 10% of the time
  • Strong hands 10% of the time
  • Medium strength hands 10% of the time
  • Weak made hands 10% of the time
  • Draws 30% of the time
  • Air 30% of the time

You don't have to create exact numbers like this in every case and obviously they will only ever be rough guesses anyways. However, hopefully you get the idea here.

We are interested in their entire range of hands. What particular hand they actually have this time is not important at all. They will show up with various parts of their range according to chance.

So from here based off of the strength of our own hand, we can then take the most profitable line. And this is really just an exercise in logic.

So for instance, in this situation our opponent's range is pretty weak most of the time (he only has a strong hand or the nuts 20% of the time). So re-raising would be a pretty poor option if we happen to have a strong hand or the nuts ourselves.

This is because he will just fold most of the time. Therefore, we should just flat and let him continue to keep bluffing with the 80% of his range that we are ahead of.

However, if we have a weak hand or nothing at all then 3Bet bluffing is a decent option here. We could also just fold as well if we think that this is the type of opponent who gets really sticky with his draws and weaker hands. 

2. When They Zig, You Zag

Getting back to a point I touched on earlier is the idea that if you play the version of "good poker" that everybody else thinks they play, you will likely only become a mediocre winner at best.

The best players out there today are the ones who are actively creating the cutting edge strategies which crush today's games. There is this silly belief out there that the games are so hard and unbeatable for any kind of a big winrate anymore. 

But there are countless examples every single year of people who shoot up the stakes like a rocket and prove this myth wrong all of the time. 

The reason why is because they are not zombie robot nits trying to copy some "TAG system" that they read about on some forum, in a book or saw in a training video. 

This is why I stress repeatedly in both of my books that my strategy advice is really only just a starting point to get you thinking about poker in the right way. It is up to you to actually learn how to fly. No book, coach, training video or forum guru can teach you that. 

Try weird stuff at the tables that everybody else thinks is crazy. 

Several years ago I pioneered the 10x raise at the lower stakes online with premium hands. Everybody laughed at me in the chat, on forums, everywhere. But once they realized just how well it was working they all started copying me. This is especially after I talked about it in my videos and books. 

Now everybody knows what it means and I basically never do it anymore when I play these limits unless I am against some total fish. 

When they zig, you zag. Don't listen the the masses of breakeven armchair experts out there. There is no such thing as a "standard play."

3. Raise Your Mental Game

It's been a little known secret for many years among the top players that the biggest differences these days are actually not in technical ability but in the mental game. 

This is why you can go on any online poker site these days and see for yourself that the high stakes games will only run when one of two conditions are present:

  • There is a big fish at the table
  • A regular is on tilt

Since fish are extremely rare these days at high stakes and almost all players are world class pros at this level, the games literally do not run unless one of them is on tilt. This should tell you everything you need to know about how important the mental game is.

You simply cannot afford to tilt in today's games. You can immediately skyrocket your winnings by removing yourself from the tables when you are not playing your best.

So this is why I think a stop loss strategy is a good idea for most poker players. If tilt is something that you have problems with to any degree, try creating a plan to remove yourself from the tables when you lose a certain amount of buyins. 

I have used a 5 buyin stop loss for years myself. But sometimes when I am in the grips of a particularly brutal downswing, and I know my patience is thinner, I will use a 3 buyin stop loss instead. 

The bottom line is that if you can prevent yourself from sabotaging your poker results like everybody else when things inevitably go bad at the poker tables, your results will improve rapidly. 

4. Lower Their Mental Game

Conversely, any time you can cause your opponents to tilt and play worse is of course going to be a great thing for you. 

If you watched this year's World Series of Poker Main Event then you will know that William Kassouf is still being talked about and probably will be for years. And the crazy part is that he didn't even make the final table!

table talk poker william kassouf
Photo credit: www.pokerlistings.com

The reason there is so much interest surrounding this guy is because he took table talk, or "speech play" as he calls it, to a whole new level, absolutely annoying the crap out of everyone and tilting the entire table. His constant stalling over very simple decisions also had everyone ready to grab him by the throat.

Will is a solid poker player in his own right though and his overall "annoy everyone" strategy was working brilliantly. They were almost giving away their chips to him at times. Indeed, it took a huge cold deck and then a massive cooler (running his KK into AA versus another big stack) to spell his ultimate demise. 

Now I am not going to sit here and defend everything that he did or discuss it in great detail. I think they have to make some sort of rule to prevent massive stalling like this for simple decisions. But the speech play is fair game in my opinion. 

The bottom line is William Kassouf showed us once again how important it is to use every single tool available to you at the poker tables to your advantage. Every tool that is within the rules of course.

I personally would never intentionally stall in my decisions and make the whole table wait unnecessarily. However, if there was a huge fish at the tables who I knew this would tilt the crap out of, I would certainly think about it. 

Constantly think outside the box in today's games. There is a chat box in online poker. I have advised against using it for years. But if you think that you can tilt someone with it, then go ahead. 

I have already written a popular article in the past about intentionally tilting the regs by 3Betting and bluffing the crap out of them. This is something that I regularly do and so should you.

Raise your mental game but at the same time always look for ways to lower theirs.

5. Turn Your Hand Into a Bluff

Something that good players have been doing more and more in recent years is taking a decent hand like middle pair or a weak hand like bottom pair and turning it into a bluff.


Because mindlessly calling down and hoping to win with a pair is not a very good strategy for success at the poker tables.

The other thing these days is that most regulars at the lower stakes still fear the turn and river raise in particular. This is because they have been told countless times that it is usually the nuts. 

And they are right, it usually is!

So again, we should start taking advantage of this by doing the exact opposite of what they expect. When they zig, you zag.

When all of the other low stakes regs only raise the river with the nuts and furthermore, they believe that everybody else is doing the same thing, we can take advantage of this by raising with plenty of other hands as well. 

For example:

We called preflop with 77, called a CBet on the flop, check/check turn, villain leads the river. Here is the board: 


Now his bet here of course absolutely reeks of a value bet.

We are going to be behind a lot if we call. We really only catch his bluffs with AK or AJ. There really aren't any hands that a decent player is going to bet for value here that we are ahead of with a pair of sevens.

So calling would be a pretty bad idea against most regs. However there is a better option than folding here which is to raise. 

If you think about his range for value betting this river there are very few nut hands in it. Furthermore, we can represent a ton of different scary hands like flushes, weird straight draws that got there, a slow played set, two pair and so on. 

In fact, you could probably get most regs at the lower stakes to lay down their AQ here with a simple raise. 

The key takeaway here is this:

Look for situations on the later streets in particular where you are only really beating bluffs at showdown but you can represent a lot of scary hands by raising. 

Folding would be just fine here of course. That is the "standard play" after all. But in order to really win big in poker, you have to learn how to read ranges and boards a little bit deeper than this and find the hidden profit sources. 

Final Thoughts

Becoming a huge winner in poker is not easy no matter how you cut it even at the lower stakes these days. The players are often decent and the fish are sometimes hard to find. 

But the one surefire way to mediocrity is by listening to what everyone else says you should do. Nobody ever got ahead in this world by following that strategy.

No, instead they decided to try new things on their own, test bold new ideas and push forward in ways that might seem weird to others at the time. 

Hopefully a few of these unconventional tips will help you start thinking about the game a little bit deeper and ultimately make bigger profits at the poker tables. 

If you want to know how I created some of the biggest winrates in the history of online poker at the lower limits, make sure to check out my free poker ebook. 

Let me know in the comments below what kind of weird strategies you use to crush the small stakes poker games!

weird but successful poker strategies

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is Poker a Game of Skill or Luck?

Is poker a game of skill or luck?
Most of the general population, if polled, would probably tell you that poker is a game of luck. And you can't really blame them. After all poker is often played in a casino right alongside other games of chance like blackjack, craps and slot machines.

But most people who play poker seriously know different. They know that by consistently asserting a skill advantage over weaker players that they will win in the long run.

In this article I am going to discuss how much luck plays a role in poker in the short run. And I will also demonstrate why poker is undeniably a game of skill in the long run.

Poker is Played Against Other People, Not the House

The biggest reason why poker is a game of skill and not luck is because unlike every other casino game your main opponents are other people, not the house.

As everybody knows, the house always wins. There is a reason why the Las Vegas skyline is so impressive and depending on how much you are willing to wager, they will even comp your entire stay.

It is because they know that they will win in the end.

In fact Vegas casinos are well known for hiring some of the top math graduates in the country in order to be absolutely sure that the margins in their games do indeed turn a handsome profit for them in the long run.

You might be the one who gets lucky this time, but you can be rest assured that out of the 40 million tourists that the city attracts every year, more go home with gambling losses than winnings.

But in poker the house really only provides the means of playing the game. They don't directly profit from the outcome of poker hands.

Sure, they turn a profit by collecting a rake from tournament buyins and cash game pots. However, this is a fixed amount. The majority of the action is between it's patrons, the poker players themselves.

So since you are playing primarily against other people (often amateurs), your opponents will make plenty of mistakes and you can capitalize on them. This is why I constantly suggest that you play against the people who are making the most egregious technical errors, the recreational players.

Poker is a Game of Math and Odds

So how do you actually capitalize on the mistakes of the bad players and exercise your skill edge? Well, it really isn't that complicated at all.

Winning at poker is simply the consistent application of the following rule:

Get more money in the pot when you are at a statistical advantage and put less money in the pot when you are at a statistical disadvantage.

Bluffing is the other key aspect of the skill edge in poker. By being able to read your opponent and know when they are weak, you can get them to fold a better hand and therefore win more than your fair share of pots.

Poker is an easy game on paper

Now all of this probably sounds pretty easy in theory. However, the biggest problem that most poker players face though is dealing with losses when the math was in their favor.

For instance, let's say you entered a poker tournament and played patiently for several hours. You eventually got all of the money in the middle before the flop with AA versus somebody else's QQ.

As we can see, pocket aces are a big mathematical favorite to win the hand. They have roughly 81% equity in this situation. However, pocket queens are not exactly drawing dead here. In fact QQ will still win this hand roughly 18% of the time or almost 1 out of every 5 times.

So when the unthinkable happens (QQ wins the hand) this will cause some people to become frustrated and go on tilt and play emotional. When so called "bad beats" like this happen this also leads people to believe that poker is just a game of luck.

But from a logical, unemotional standpoint we know that the person holding the QQ is not going to win in the long run. Keep running this same scenario enough times and eventually they will go broke.

You can't fight math.

Poker is a Game of Skill in the Long Run

This is why we don't play poker for individual hands or even individual sessions. We play instead for tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of hands over the course of our playing career.

Because eventually all that math, statistics and odds are going to add up in our favor. This is of course assuming that you are the one who is getting the money in the middle with the mathematical edge most of the time!

The fact that the sucker with QQ gets to walk away the winner nearly 1 out of every 5 times is in fact one of the most beautiful things about this game. Now before you scream blasphemy, just hear me out for a second.

Give them a bone

You see if poker were like chess or tennis where you lose pretty much every time when you get outplayed, the recreational players would not keep coming back.

They would eventually realize that no amount of wishful thinking is going to allow them to win against somebody who is a lot more skilled than them. They will lose every single time.

If this were the case in poker then it would lead them to either quit the game entirely or improve their abilities. Neither of these scenarios are good for the poker economy.

But when you give the bad players a bone 18% of the time, this is just enough for them to keep blaming their losses on bad luck. This is also just enough to keep them coming back again and again and giving their money away.

As they often say, denial runs the entire industry.

If You Play Better Than Your Opponents, You Will Win in the End

But the crazy short term variance that can happen in poker sometimes can still mess with the mind of even the most highly skilled and experienced players.

Losing with the best hand is going to happen on a regular basis in this game. And if you play enough hands, it can happen several times in a row as well. This is just the same as if you flipped a coin 1000 times. It is going to come heads 5 times in a row eventually.

And if you "run bad" in poker for long enough it can totally mess with your confidence and make you question if you are a winning player at all even after years of success.

But the simple fact of the matter is this: 

If you play better than your opponents, you will win in the long run. This is just a simple mathematical fact.

You have to trust in the process or else there is no point in even playing this game. And sometimes the process will take a long, long time to sort itself out.

But that is why I said above that poker is not about individual hands or sessions. Poker is in fact the exact opposite of a get rich quick scheme.

Poker rewards those who consistently apply their skill advantage over long periods of time. This is why longevity is the real mark of success in this game in my opinion.

On a personal note, it is not all the money that I have made at the poker tables over the years that I am most proud of. It is not the two best selling books that I wrote or the dozens of successful students who I have coached either.

It is the fact that I have survived over 10 years now in this crazy game. I have seen so many people come and go during this time shooting up like a rocket for a short period and then burning out and fading away.

Final Thoughts

Nobody ever said poker was going to be easy. In fact it is one of the hardest games on earth to deal with at times and that is why so few are successful at it over the long run.

And this is the way that it has to be.

Somebody has to be losing in order for you to win after the house takes it's cut. And these are all of the people who end up in the red over the long run either because they got outplayed or because the game was too much for them to handle mentally.

But this doesn't change the simple mathematical fact that poker is a game of skill and not luck in the long run. The same top pros keep winning year in a year out for a reason.

The bottom line in poker is that if you keep consistently applying your statistical edge and skill advantage, you will profit in the end. Where you take it from there is entirely up to you.

If you want to know how I created some of the highest winrates in the history of online poker at the lower limits make sure you pick up your copy of my free ebook. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Is poker a game of skill or luck?

Is poker a game of luck or skill?

Monday, November 7, 2016

How Many Poker Tables Should You Play?

How many poker tables should you play at once?
One of the best aspects about online poker is the ability to multi-table. If you are a winning player, then by adding more tables you can multiply your earnings many times over.

But how many poker tables should you play at once? Is there a sweet spot or an optimal number of tables for playing your best and remaining focused while still finding time to table select?

Well after a decade of playing online poker and million and millions of hands later I have played every amount of tables between 1 and 30. So in this article I am going to answer the question of how many poker tables you should play.

Playing 1-4 Poker Tables at Once

This is the amount of tables that most people start out at. In fact some people (probably most actually) never play any more that this. And before I even get started in this article I want to assure you that this is absolutely fine. 

The most important aspect of multi-tabling online poker is that you feel comfortable. Your decisions should never feel rushed. Some people cannot stay focused on more than two tables or even one table. Again, there is nothing wrong with this.

What are the advantages of playing between 1 and 4 tables? Well from a win rate standpoint, they are numerous. Your win rate (big blinds per 100 hands in online poker) is always going to be higher the lower your table count is.

The reason why is because you will have the most amount of time to think about your decisions in key hands and you can also pay close attention to your opponents. As you increase the table count this becomes more and more difficult.

Another huge aspect of the online game these days is table selection. That is, playing on poker tables which have bad players on them. Once again, the lower your table count, the more time you will have to find the best tables, get position on the fish, chase them around and so on.

However, there are a few negatives to a low table count. Firstly, it will take much longer to grind a large amount of hands and reach the long run. This means that downswings will potentially last longer than somebody who is playing more tables. However, this is counterbalanced by the fact that your downswings will be less intense due to having a higher win rate.

Secondly, if you want to earn a lot of money through rakeback (essentially free money poker sites give you just for playing), then more tables is always better.

Bottom Line: Playing 1-4 poker tables will allow you to achieve the highest possible win rate based on your abilities. But it will take longer to reach the long run in poker and earn rakeback.

Playing 5-12 Poker Tables at Once

I am just going to say right off that this is the best range to be in and 95% of the time when I play online poker these days my table count is between 5 and 12.

The reason why I prefer this table range is because it provides the best of all worlds. It is not enough tables that I feel rushed and I always feel like I have enough time to dig into my HUD stats if I need more info on a certain player.

Also, this table count still provides me enough time to search for the best tables, tag the fish and even chase them around.

On the other hand, the 5-12 range is enough tables that with regular grinding I can pump out anywhere between 50k and 100k hands a month. This is pretty decent volume and gets me to the long run relatively fast.

Lastly, this amount of tables allows me to earn a reasonable amount of rakeback especially at higher limits. It also allows me to clear bonuses quite easily especially if I am playing on poker site that offers them.

Now once again I just want to mention that playing this amount of tables is not for everybody. Also, you don't just start playing 10 tables at once over night. You build up to it over time.

Also there are software aids and certain table layouts that can help even further. You can go check out my complete guide to playing more online poker tables for more on all of that.

Bottom Line: Playing 5-12 tables is my personal sweet spot because it provides me enough time to make high quality decisions at the tables, table select and seat select yet not feel rushed or be forced into making misclicks. I also get to the long run relatively quickly and earn decent rakeback.

Playing 13-30 Poker Tables at Once

The final frontier of online poker mass multi-tabling insanity is 13 tables and above. The number is a bit arbitrary but this is the point where things start to get a little bit crazy.

I personally have still played the vast majority of my online poker hands (8 million at last count) while playing 24 tables at once.

Why 24? Because this was (and still is?) the maximum amount of tables that Pokerstars allows. And on other sites I have experimented with playing as many as 30 tables at once.

Now what are the benefits of playing a silly amount of tables like this? Well firstly, you get to the long run really quickly. I used to put in as many as 200k hands in a month on a regular basis during my hardcore grinding days.

When you are playing this amount of hands you can sometimes go through several prolonged downswings within a single month. But you get to your "true win rate" much, much faster.

200k hands is a solid sample size. While variance will still occur, the chances of your win rate being wildly off it's true mark over a stretch like this is very low.

So basically by playing this amount of tables you get to cut through all of the BS in this game so to speak real fast and find out where you really stand.

Also, this amount of tables is the preferred table range for all truly sick rakeback grinders out there. If you want to achieve the top rakeback rewards and bonuses on whatever site you play on, you can be assured that mass multi-tabling like this will get you there the fastest.

Now for the cons. And there are plenty of them in my opinion. This is why I personally abandoned playing this many tables several years ago now.

Firstly, you basically become a robot at the poker tables. Unless you have a super genius IQ and slam the energy drinks all day there is very little chance that you are actually going to be playing your best at all times. This will lead itself to a low win rate and very lengthy brutal downswings as well.

I can say firsthand that there is no way that I was always making the best decisions when I was 24 tabling. Many times I would just snap click something because I had no time left to think. And there were many, many straight up misclicks as well which can be highly tilt inducing.

This means that I missed out on tons of value. I played ok, don't get me wrong. But many times I missed the big opportunities to bluff a river or squeeze light for instance that I might have seen if only I had a few more seconds to think.

Also, I was often playing in terrible games and there was very little I could do about it. Sure, I had my HUD stats enabled on every single table. But when playing this amount of tables there just isn't enough time to be constantly checking the lobby for better games and cycling out the bad tables.

So at the end of the day I gave up a lot of expected value. It was no coincidence that when I started experimenting with a lower table count my win rates skyrocketed.

Bottom Line: Playing 13+ tables is not for the faint of heart. The action will come fast and furious. This is excellent if you want to achieve huge amounts of rakeback and become known as one of the sickest grinders around. It sucks though if you are interested in maintaining a solid win rate and avoiding brutal lengthy downswings.

What if You Play Zoom Poker?

Now I do want to point out that throughout this article I have been talking about regular poker tables. Many people these days play Zoom poker on Stars or a fast fold equivalent on another site.

According to my highly unscientific mathematical calculations Zoom poker tables deal hands about 3.5 times faster than a regular poker table.

I believe the Zoom poker table limit on Pokerstars is still 8. So therefore if you are a truly sick grinding machine that should have you playing roughly the equivalent of 28 regular tables at once (8 x 3.5 = 28).

This is why when I do play Zoom poker these days I tend to play 2 or 3 tables at once. This has me playing the equivalent of something like 7-11 regular tables at a time which is a similar amount to what I am already used to.

By the way, for more on fast fold poker you can go check out my popular Zoom poker strategy guide.

Final Thoughts

The amount of poker tables that you should play is really a personal thing in the end. I want to reiterate that the most important thing by far is your own personal abilities. Some people simply can't play more than a few tables.

And some people like me simply can't keep up with the 20+ tabling kids anymore. Maybe I am just getting too old though!

Anyways, the bottom line is that you need to find the right number of tables that allows you to have enough time to make high quality poker decisions and table select without feeling rushed.

You should never feel bored or find yourself sitting around waiting at the poker tables though either. If you do, then that is a sure sign that you should add more tables.

However, you should only ever add one more at a time. Don't try to be a 30 table hero over night because you saw some kid on Youtube doing it.

I hope this article helped some of you figure out the right amount of poker tables to play. Make sure you pick up my free ebook to learn that strategy that I used to create massive win rates at the micros even while playing a kazillion tables at once.

Let me know in the comments how many tables you play. Do you agree or disagree with my assessment of the best range of tables to play?

How Many Poker Tables Should You Play at Once?

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

7 Advanced Strategies You Can Use To Crush Bad Poker Players

Crush the bad poker players
Ah bad poker players, you gotta love them. These are the guys who play way too many hands, call you down with anything and ultimately just give away their money in the long run.

But many people do not know how to get the maximum value out of them when they finally get a good hand. They leave serious amounts of money on the table by trying to get fancy with slowplay, under betting the pot and so on. 

Since these players are often rare in today's games this is a seriously terrible blow to your winrate. The top winners know that you absolutely have to take full advantage of the situation when these players are at your table. 

In this article I am going to provide you with 7 actionable strategies that you can use right now to start crushing the bad poker players.

1. Get Involved

One of the biggest reasons why a lot of regulars in today's games do not get full value from the fish actually has nothing to do with any technical poker ability. 

It is because they simply do not play enough hands when the bad poker player is at the table!

It is fine to nit it up if you are grinding a ton of tables against the regs. I mean, I don't really suggest this strategy these days if having a big winrate is what you are after. But fine, I get it. Wait for the nuts, just grind. 

But once you find the big fish it is a serious mistake to keep folding so many hands. The only way that you are going to win a big pot is by getting involved with the bad players. 

If you need to wait until you have aces, kings or a set every time before you play a big pot with them guess what is going to happen? Another reg like me who is actively targeting the fish will have busted them long before you ever get a chance.

If a bad poker player is at your table, and especially if you have position on them, you should start opening up your game by playing a lot more hands and isolating them with a wide range. 

2. Adjust Your Bet Sizing Upwards

Another huge mistake that people make when playing against the recreational players these days is using cute little GTO style 50% of the pot bets. 

Again, this is a totally fine strategy if you are playing at a table full of regs. But if you have a fish at the table you are costing yourself a fortune by continuing to under bet the pot. 

As I talk about in my first book, I will bet at least 75% of the pot with a good hand versus the bad players and often I will just pot it. 

Now some people are actually afraid to do this with a good hand because they think they will "scare the fish away." This is a mistake in thinking because recreational players love to call if they have anything. 

If they like their hand they are going to call a 50% of the pot bet just as readily as 75% or 100%. But sometimes they simply won't have anything at all and they will fold. There is nothing that you can do about this. 

Don't make the mistake of thinking that you somehow scared them away. Two people have to have something in poker for big pots to happen. Just the way the game works.

3. Do Not Slowplay

Another way that regs routinely leave huge amounts of money on the table versus the bad players is by slowplaying their big hands. 

This is a serious mistake because once again they are not adjusting for how a recreational player thinks about the game. The fish is thinking about his hand only. If he likes his hand, he will call. That simple.

Therefore, you do not need to ever get tricky against players like this. In fact you are only costing yourself money by doing so because you missed a bet that they would have called. 

Versus a table full of regs, once again it is a totally different story. You should absolutely mix things up and balance your ranges in all situations in order to keep them guessing. But against a level #1 thinking recreational player slowplay is just suicide for your winrate.

Just bet every street against them. Make the totally, ridiculously, obvious play and profit more.

4.  Check/Raise or Check/Call the Aggro Fish

Most recreational players at the micros are passive as heck. They will show up with stats like this on your HUD:
  • 44/6/1 (VPIP/PFR/AF)

However, once in awhile you will encounter an aggro fish or a maniac with stats like this:
  • 44/34/4

Getting max value out of this type of player requires a totally different strategy. At the risk of totally contradicting what I just said, you can get a little tricky against a bad player like this sometimes.


Because unlike the standard fish, this type of recreational player loves to bluff at the pot if you show any sign of weakness. Therefore, instead of taking the ridiculously obvious bet, bet, shove line with your good hands like you should against most fish, often against the maniacs you should either check/raise or check/call.

The main reason why is that lines like this allow them to toss dead money in the pot with their bluffs. If you just constantly mash the pot button when you make a hand, you take this play away from them. 

Aggro fish are extremely rare at the micros. But they will show up sometimes especially on the weekends (often drunk) and it is pretty hard to miss them.

But be on the lookout for wild stats on your HUD like:
  • High VPIP (40+)
  • High PFR (30+)
  • High AF (3+)
  • High 3Bet (8+)

If you encounter a player like this and you have a good hand give them a little bit of rope to hang themselves sometimes by taking check/raise or check/call lines. And never ever try to bluff a player like this. 

5. Tilt Them Until They Are Your Personal ATM

One of my truly all-time favorite strategies to crush the fish is to tilt the crap out of them until they become my personal ATM machine. 

How do you do this?

Well first off, you really need to make sure that you get on their left. This makes isolating them and CBetting a ton much easier. 

But secondly, like I mentioned in point #1 above, you just have to get involved with them a lot more often.

You want the bad player to view you as a bully, as pushing them around. You simply can't do that if you are sitting around like a little mouse waiting for your aces.

So any time I see them limp I am in there raising it up with all sorts of ridiculous hands like:
  • Q7
  • J8
  • 75
  • K2

Preferably suited of course but often unsuited as well. But how can you play all these terrible hands you might ask? Maybe it is me who is actually the fish?

The reason why you can get away with this is because they are playing all sorts of crap as well. And secondly, since you have position on them, and a huge skill edge, you are actually a big favorite to win most hands anyways. 

But most importantly, I am trying to put them on tilt by relentlessly raising and betting them. And maybe occasionally getting lucky against them too. 

So even if I am giving up a little bit of equity right now with some questionable starting hand selection, this is likely to pay off for me big time down the line when I finally catch a big hand.

6. Shove Action Rivers

One of my all-time favorite tactics to stack the fish is to shove action rivers. I mentioned this several years ago in Crushing the Microstakes and I displayed it in action several times in my recent video series. 

There was one particular fish in those videos who I stacked again and again by getting him on tilt and then shoving every action river. This is why my winrate was something ridiculous like 34bb/100. 

But hang on, what do I actually mean here by an "action river"? I mean a board that looks something like this:




The river card on both of these boards completes an enormous amount of draws like straights and flushes.

Let me let you in on a little secret here. Bad poker players do not fold any straights or flushes. You can literally bet any amount on earth, they will re-mortgage their house to call you down. 

So this is why when I happen to have a monster on these boards such as a full house, the nut flush or the nut straight, I will always just over shove the river.

The pot might only have $5 in it. I am shoving $50, $100 or whatever I have in front of me into that pot. That is what I mean by "over shove."

This allows me to win an absolutely massive pot out of nowhere. This is a huge amount of big blinds that most regs miss out on by the way. This is one of the biggest reasons why my winrates are elite whereas most regs struggle to get by.

I make the recreational player pay the absolute maximum every single time in situations like this. Fish don't fold straights, flushes or even two pair sometimes. If you have the nuts or close to it, it's all-in on these rivers every time.

7. Chase the Fish Around

This last tactic to crush the bad players is frowned upon by some as "predatory" but I disagree. My goal in poker is always to win at the absolute highest winrate possible. So I am going to use whatever strategies possible, which are within the rules, to achieve that.

If I bust a fish and he leaves the table (or even if somebody else busts him), the first thing I am going to do is pull up the search feature that most sites have and find out what other table he joined. I will then immediately join that table. 

You see most fish live in a fairytale world of make believe where some tables are "lucky" for them and other tables are "unlucky." If they are doing poorly at a certain table, they will often go join another more lucky one. 

I personally don't live in this make believe world though. So I am happy to keep chasing them around and busting them all day on whatever table they want.

In today's tighter games table selection is more crucial to your winrate than ever. Not only should you always be playing with at least one fish at the table but after you bust them, you should actively go chase them around as well. 

Final Thoughts

Bad poker players bankroll the entire poker industry. You can't have a bunch of people (and the poker sites themselves) constantly taking money out, if a bunch of other people aren't putting money back in. 

This is where the bad poker players come in. They play the game for fun, make all sorts of ridiculously awful plays, get lucky on occasion but mostly just lose their money at a frantic pace. 

Because of this they regularly have to deposit more funds into their accounts and this is the money that the winning poker players and the poker sites make a profit from. 

So it makes no sense to sit in bad games full of regs. If you are having a hard time finding the fish at the poker room that you play on, then go play on one of the soft poker sites.

But just as important, once you get on the same table as them, you absolutely have to be getting the maximum value out of them. 

More specifically you need to play plenty of hands against the fish by isolating them in position, CBetting and hopefully tilting them. You should also be betting big and frequently anytime you make a good hand. 

And lastly, you should even chase the bad poker players around and keeping busting them up so long as they have more money in front of them. This is what all the top pros have long known because they know where the money comes from in this game. 

Let me know your thoughts below about how you crush the bad poker players. Do you have any tips for stacking them faster?

crush the poker fish