Monday, September 19, 2016

How to Know When You Should Fold an Overpair

how to know when you should fold your overpair
One of the hardest things for new and experienced players alike to do in poker is to fold an overpair. After all, you wait so long to finally get dealt your aces or kings. Nobody likes to fold them.

But of course sometimes this is the right thing to do. I am sure that you can remember many times where you stuck around only to see your opponent flip over trips or two pair.

It probably seemed fairly obvious after the fact didn't it? But for some reason you just couldn't find the fold button.

In this article I am going to discuss the top 3 situations where it is correct to fold an overpair in poker and how to discipline yourself to make the right decision.


When Your Double Barrel Gets Raised


The first (and in some ways the easiest spot) where you should consider folding your overpair is on the turn when your double barrel gets raised.

A double barrel is when you raise preflop, bet the flop and then bet the turn as well.

One of the key things to remember about most players at the lower stakes is that they are passive. If you use a HUD such as Pokertracker the AF (total aggression factor) will tell you this.

Many players at the micros will have an AF of 1 or 2 which means that they are basically only making strong aggressive plays when they have a big hand.

When somebody raises your double barrel this is a very strong aggressive play.

The reason why is because it says that "I want to play for stacks." When somebody raises your double barrel they will typically have about half of their stack already in the middle. Therefore, it is pretty unlikely that they are going to fold their hand.

Passive players just do not put this amount of their stack in the middle especially as the aggressor without a very strong hand.

There might be a few maniacs and loose aggressive regs who are capable of raising the turn as a bluff or with a balanced range at the micros. But these players are extremely rare and it will be very obvious from their HUD stats.

Against the overwhelming majority of players at the lower stakes (at least 95% of them), the correct play is to fold your overpair when your double barrel gets raised.

If you continue, you will get shown a set, trips or two pair a huge amount of the time.


Folding an Overpair in a Multi-Way Pot


Another situation where you need to consider folding your overpair is in multi-way pots. And at the lower stakes these are going to happen a lot.

You can try using over-raises in some exceptionally crazy games but the bottom line is that sometimes you are going to be in a big family pot with your aces no matter what.

It is important to understand that in a situation like this there is a significant chance that one of them will hit something strong after the flop.

You may have had the best or the second best hand in poker before the flop but after the flop your hand is still only just one pair.

Your opponents are going to be in their with all sorts of small pairs, middle pairs, suited connectors and suited aces. Therefore, the boards that you really want to be careful of the most are highly coordinated and wet with low or middle cards.

For example:

  • 2♥4♥5♣
  • 6♦7♠8♠


On boards like this there are tons of flopped straights, two-pairs, pair + draw and sets that could already have you crushed or be a statistical favourite against you.

You should still go ahead and make your CBet on these boards because you don't want to just give them a free card to hit their flush, straight or some silly two-pair.

However, if somebody starts giving you big action by raising, then you should really consider backing down.

It is important to keep the action in the hand in mind as well.

Often a big clue that people miss is who somebody raises. Are they only raising you or are their several other people left to act as well?

Ask yourself how likely it is that a passive player will raise the entire table with a weak hand in a situation like this. I think you already know the answer.


No Reads and No History


The last set of clues that I look for when considering if I should fold my overpair are the history that I have with this person and any reads that I may have gathered in the past.

If you encounter a player at the micros who is sophisticated enough to be able to bluff-raise or semi-bluff raise your double barrel for instance, they are much more likely to do it when there is significant history.

When they don't know anything about you, then they have no way of knowing whether you will fold or not. But if they have a history of tight play versus you for example, then maybe they will think that they can get away with it.

This is why if you read this blog a lot I actually suggest that you do the exact opposite. That is, make some crazy bluffs when there is no history at all because they will be less likely to suspect it.

I think this should be a vital component of any Zoom poker strategy in particular due to the limited information in that format.

The other thing that I am looking for is any history of making wild plays against anybody, not just me.

While I don't really bother taking notes much when playing at the micros online because there are simply too many players, if I have some downtime and I see a reg show up with a crazy hand I will sometimes make a note.

Also, if you are playing live or on just a handful of tables online then you should always be making at least a mental note of what the other players are doing anyways.

So to sum up, if there is very little history and I have never seen my opponent make any crazy out of character plays in the past, then I will be more willing to give them credit and possibly fold my overpair.


How Do You Discipline Yourself to Make the Right Fold?


So now for the million dollar question. Even knowing all of the above, how do you hit the fold button in the heat of the moment with your aces, kings, queens etc?

Well I am sorry to be anti-climactic but there is no magic pill or math formula in order to make yourself do this. Much like keeping yourself off of tilt, the real key is experience and some good old fashioned self control.

By experience I mean getting shown the trips, two pair or straight enough times that you are finally sick of it. If you want actual proof then you can simply run a bunch of filters in Pokertracker like I discuss in this post and go see the raw brutal evidence yourself.

You can even pull up your graph for when you decide to continue on in the hand after your double barrel gets raised. I gotta warn you though, it won't be pretty!

The second way that you will learn to find the fold button is by learning to take your time in important spots like this and recognize the scenario in front of you.

The nit just raised your double barrel! You know that he hit his set.

You can either pay him off like every other mediocre player out there or you can exercise some self control and logical decision making to make the right choice here.

With enough experience it will become like second nature. You won't "have to see it." Because you "already know it." Just make the fold and move on.


Final Thoughts


Hopefully this article helped you to understand a few of the scenarios where it correct to fold your overpair.

It never really gets easy. Nobody likes folding an overpair. But once you learn to recognize the common spots you will hopefully learn to start finding the fold button a little bit more often.

And if nothing else, the experience of getting shown the nuts again and again should help you learn how to exercise more self control eventually and make the right fold.

I just want to quickly end by letting it be clear that there is no way that you are going to make the right fold every time. Nobody plays perfect poker. It is important not to beat yourself up about making the wrong decision sometimes.

Sometimes you are just going to get stacked and that is ok. The purpose of this article was to help you move the chains just a little bit and start making some of the more obvious folds such as against the nit who raises you on the turn.

Let me know in the comments below what the main situations are where you have a problem folding an overpair. Do you have any advice on how to get away from overpairs?


*New Here?* If you are new here and enjoyed this article, then make sure to check out my "Start Here" Page for all of my best micro stakes strategy articles.

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when to fold an overpair

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

12 Daily Habits That Will Double Your Poker Profits in 30 Days or Less

daily habits to increase poker winnings
What really separates the top poker players from everybody else? Well, much like anything else in life it is the little decisions and habits that they make on a daily basis.

There are certain things that top level poker players do each day that the vast glut of breakeven and losing poker players either do not know about or are not willing to do.

In this article I am going to discuss 12 of them.


1. Play a Minimum Number of Hands Each Day


As I have mentioned before on this blog several times, one of the biggest keys to becoming a winning poker player is consistency of play.

If there is one thing in common that nearly all of the top poker players have it is that they have played more hands than anybody else.

I got good at this game primarily by playing millions and millions of hands and learning from my own mistakes. This is partly because I came up in an era before training videos, strategy forums, coaching, books etc.

However, if I was to start all over again today I would still largely do it the same. That is, I would focus on playing as much as possible.

This is why the first and most important daily habit that winning poker players develop is playing a minimum number of hands each day.

This number could be as low as 100 hands. The key here is that you get in there each day and be consistent with it. This allows you to constantly be thinking about the game and therefore improving.

If getting great results in poker is something that you truly want, then you need to put it higher up on your list of priorities. Even if it is only 20 minutes a day. Put in those hands.


2. Review Your Top 5 Hands From the Previous Day


I often do a quick session review of the previous day before I start my current poker session.

Why?

Because this allows me to recall the difficult spots that I was in on the day before, learn from them, and make better decisions in today's session.

It has been well documented that we learn through repeated exposure and experience. In fact many researchers in the field of psychology call this the "spacing effect."

You don't learn a new language for instance by memorizing a bunch of words on one occasion. No, you get good at a new language by studying those words on a regular basis and then using them in real world situations.

This type of interval learning and application aids greatly in memory retention and overall understanding.

And we see the same thing in poker. The most effective way to get better at this game is by consistently reviewing the spots that are giving you the most trouble and then applying the improvements at the tables.

This is why I suggest that you open up a poker database program like Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager for 5-10 minutes before you start your session.

Sort yesterday's hands by the top 5 biggest pots that you were involved in. Some of these might be coolers (e.g. KK vs AA, set over set). Don't worry about stuff like that.

Look at the spots where you got stacked with an over pair or lost a big pot with top pair for instance. Ask yourself if you could have made a fold versus that particular player given the board, the action in the hand and their tendencies.

It shouldn't take longer than a few minutes to do a quick review of the 5 most important hands from yesterday. See what you did wrong (or right) and be on the lookout for those same spots in today's session.


3. Post Your Hands on a Strategy Forum


I would also recommend taking one or two of these hands each day and posting them on a poker strategy forum in order to get some feedback from others.

There are a few important ways to make sure that you get as many quality replies as possible.

  • Don't post coolers (yes, everybody goes broke KK vs AA, set over set etc., don't post silly hands like this)
  • Make sure that you include relevant information about your opponents such as their basic HUD stats (or your general observations about them if you play live or do not use a HUD)
  • Briefly include any relevant history between you and your opponents 
  • Don't post an essay of your thoughts at each stage of the hand (nobody wants to read this)

Finish the post by asking one or two succinct and to the point questions like "can I find a fold here on the turn?" or "do you value bet this river?"

Lastly, DO NOT post the results of the hand as this can massively bias the replies that you will get. You can post the results a few days later in a comment if you want after the hand has been thoroughly discussed.

Now of course not all poker forums are created the same. Some are well known for their negativity and immaturity. I would just avoid these ones outright.

There are many smaller forums out there though that have a good community of positive minded people who want to improve. Make sure that you comment on some other hands every once in awhile as well.


4. Form a Strategy Discussion Group


Honestly though most high level poker strategy discussion has gone underground for many years now. There are just too many people and too many flame wars on most of the big forums.

And since most people lose at this game in the long run, you are getting the opinions of losing poker players most of the time as well.

So one of the best things that you can do for your development as a poker player is to find a couple of other winning, driven people who are at around the same skill level as you.

After that form a Skype group or a private Facebook group in order to discuss hands and general strategy on a regular basis.

How do you find a couple of other smart, driven, winning poker players without an ego you might be asking yourself? Well to be honest it isn't always easy.

But I think that one of the best ways is to simply contact a few of the biggest winners in your own games. You should already know who these people are if you have played at your current stake for a little while.

As much as I don't like making friends with the people that I play against, exchanging some insights on the game could be mutually beneficial to both of you.

Note that I am absolutely not advocating "soft playing" in any way at the tables here. And that is why ideally it is better to find people who play at a different stake than you in the first place. Preferably higher.

How do you contact them? I think Twitter is probably one of the best ways. A lot of poker players have a Twitter account these days (here is mine).

You can also google their screen name and there is a good chance that they might have another social media account or even a profile on a forum.

Tiltbook seems to be gaining a bit in popularity. This is basically Facebook for poker players. You might be able to network with some other good players on there as well (my profile on there).


5. Review Relevant Training Videos


Now I know that not everybody has a limitless amount of time to devote to playing poker and studying the game especially if you have a full time job, a wife or kids.

So please note that with some of these suggestions like this one it is not mandatory that you do this every single day. If you have a busy schedule then maybe you just find some time on the weekends for instance.

Training videos are still one of the very best ways to improve your poker game in my opinion because you essentially get to look over the shoulder of a good winning player.

Now the biggest mistake that most people make here is focusing on videos that have very little application to the games that they actually play in.

I have a huge Phil Galfond man-crush as much as the next guy and I think his insights on the game are brilliant. However, I don't spend much time watching his NL5000 videos.

Why?

Because I don't play NL5000!

I play at the stakes that most people reading this blog play at, the micros (NL2-NL50). So it is very important that you watch videos that are based on the stakes that you actually play at.

The strategies that work at NL5000 have literally no application at all in a typical NL10 game. In fact, you will probably only be hurting your progress.

Secondly, watching a training video is not like watching a movie. They are not made for your entertainment. They are made for instructional purposes.

So in order to get the most out of training videos I would recommend giving them your full attention, perhaps taking notes and asking the coach followup questions on stuff that you don't understand.

I have made something like 100 videos (all aimed at the micros) in the past for the training site DragTheBar.com. However, I have been inactive on this site for quite some time now and don't have any immediate plans to make more videos there.

So these days I actually would suggest checking out Deucescracked.com. They are a much bigger training site and have tons of completely up to date high quality content for the micros being released every day.


6. Read Relevant Poker Books


Everybody learns in different ways and some people prefer a book format where a lot more information can be covered in much greater detail.

There are tons of great new titles out there covering every aspect of the game on both the technical and the mental side. On the technical side you also have both exploitative books (like the ones that I write) and GTO math based books.

Once again it is important to choose poker books that actually relate to the games that you are playing in. A book that is geared towards tournaments, high stakes cash or live poker for instance is not going to be very helpful if you play NL10 6max.

Lastly, similar to training videos, make sure that you are an active reader. Take notes. Poker books are not fiction. They are not there to entertain you.

The sole purpose of poker books is to improve your poker game. So they should be treated almost like a college textbook. You will get out of them what you put in.


7. The Mind and Body Connection


What you do away from the tables in your day to day life is often just as important for your results as your technical knowledge of the game.

Poker can be a stressful game at time. And unless you sit on top of a mountain meditating all day, then there are probably some other stressors in your life as well.

The best stress reliever that I have ever found by far is regular physical exercise. If these three words make your inner soul cringe just hear me out for a few more seconds here.

Regular physical exercise doesn't mean that you need to put in an hour on the treadmill every day, swing kettlebells and run backwards up hills.

You could get regular physical exercise by simply playing some fun sports like badminton, tennis, basketball or soccer with friends or attending a hiking meetup.

Heck, if you travel a lot like I do, then you can get a lot of physical exercise just by wandering around new cities and sightseeing.

You could also lift weights if this is something that you are into. Take up rock climbing or kite surfing. Maybe yoga is your thing. Who knows!

The main point here is just to get active. This also helps get your mind completely away from the game for awhile as well which is very important especially when you are struggling with a downswing.

A lot of poker players that I have met though live extremely sedentary lives where basically all they do is sit around all day behind a computer or at the casino.

This is not going to be good for your mental state at the tables, ability to handle tilt and downswings or just for your overall happiness levels in general.


8. Try Something New at the Poker Tables


Another way to push through at the tables, get better and ultimately increase your win rate is to start trying out new strategies on a regular basis.

I will typically do this against the regs who I have a lot of history with. Just start taking some bizarre lines against them and see how they react.

For instance (and just for one session) I will often pick one or two regs and:

  • Decide to 4Bet them every time they 3Bet me
  • Decide to float them every time they CBet me
  • Take some weird check/raise or check/call line as the preflop raiser more often
  • Take some weird donk bet line more often as the preflop caller


Basically I will just try out a bunch of new lines against some of the regs in order to see what their reaction will be. This is one of the best ways to find their weaknesses and to find new ways to exploit them in the future.

This is also a great way to potentially put them on tilt which can be absolutely massive for your win rate.

And lastly, if nothing else it is good to just always keep the better regs guessing about how you play the game and what kind of hand you might show up with this time.


9. Scout the Tables Before You Sit Down to Play


I talk about table selection all the time on this blog because it is the #1 key to your success in today's games. You can take fancy lines against the regs all day but you will never beat them for a huge win rate because they simply don't make the massive mistakes that the fish do.

So therefore, you should be tagging the recreational players and following them around at all times. They should indeed be your sole reason for even being at a certain table.

Often before I even start a session I will scan all of the tables in the lobby looking for fish who I already have tagged. I will then join those tables or join the wait list.

I will also search that player if the option is available and join any other tables that they are on even if it is at another limit.

I will also look at several of the short handed games (i.e. a 6max table that only has 3 people on it) and look for some signs of bad play like limping, undersized bets, bizarre stack size, not using auto reload etc.

Many fish love to gamble it up on short handed tables because they can just jump into the action right away.

The bottom line here is to do a little bit of pre scouting before you even sit down at the tables. You can improve your chances of playing with the bad players greatly by taking a few simple steps like this.


10. Filter for Trouble Spots in Pokertracker


Many people think that the only use of programs like Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager is to use the HUD and to see their graph.

This is totally crazy!

These highly sophisticated programs allow you to filter for literally any scenario you possibly want and see the results for yourself. You can't argue with raw data!

Don't know if it is profitable to 3Bet AQ from the blinds versus a raise? Run a filter for it in Pokertracker and find out for yourself.

I am assuming here that you have a decent database of hands built up already. But if you play on a regular basis then this should not be a problem.

I have already written a comprehensive database review article where I show you exactly how to run filters. I would recommend checking that out if you need additional pointers.


11. Study the Top Players in Your Games


Another thing that I always suggest is to study the top players in your game. Because after all, there is no better source of information on planet earth for beating the games that you currently play in than the actual players who are killing it right now.

How do you do this?

Well once again this is done most efficiently by using the exhaustive database and statistical analysis features in programs like Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager.

In Pokertracker you can go to the "My Reports" tab and run custom filters on specific player types, filter for winning players only etc.

I would recommend identifying about 4 or 5 top players in your current games and studying every aspect of their game on a regular basis.

Do they tend to take a different line than you in some key spots? Perhaps there is a reason for this.

And by studying these players I am not in any way advocating that you copy them. You need to always breathe your own style and personality into your game.

But clearly these players are probably doing a lot of things right already. Try to understand how they think about the game by the actions that they take at the tables.

Keep an especially close eye on the hands that they show up with at showdown (yes you can filter for this too).


12. Keep it Fun!


Lastly, poker should always be about having fun. This is why we all started playing the game in the first place right?

Getting to the poker tables each day should not be a chore for you. It should be something that you can't wait to do in fact!

If you are getting bored with your current grind, then try a different format for awhile. Just decide to go play tournaments for a week, go learn PLO (you know that crazy game where they use 4 cards), play live poker etc.

Mixing it up on a regular basis will not only make you a better poker player but it will also make sure that you are always looking forward to each session.

When the game is enjoyable and less of a grind, then you will also be more motivated to study harder and improve. There is win-win all around here.


Let me know in the comments below what daily actions you take to improve your poker results. Do you have any other tips?

Lastly, if you found this article helpful, then do me a favor and "Like" or "Tweet" it below. Thanks!

daily habits to become a winning poker player

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Are You a Winning Tournament Player But Lose in Cash Games?

winning tournament poker player but lose at cash games
A common sentiment that I hear these days from poker players is that they are a winning tournament player but lose in cash games. And this is nothing new either. The transition to cash games is difficult for most tournament players.

While it is the same game of poker being played nearly everything else is different. In cash games the stacks are typically much deeper, the blinds always stay the same and you can reload at any time.

This means that you never need to "make something happen" like you might need to in a tournament. This also means that there is far more postflop play involved.

So for all of these reasons a totally different strategy is required in order to beat cash games than for tournaments. In this article I am going to provide some tips for tournament players on making the transition to cash games easier.


Cash Games Are Harder Than Tournaments


As someone who is primarily a cash game player I don't say this to put down tournament players or to make myself sound cool.

The simple truth is that cash games are harder to beat than tournaments. And the reasons why are fairly simple.

First off tournaments tend to attract a lot more fish. A lot of the poker that gets shown on TV for instance is tournament poker and therefore all of their heroes are the famous tourney pros.

Tournaments also allow you to turn a small amount of money into a large amount very quickly, if you get really lucky of course. And any donk can get lucky. We have seen it so many times.

This is great for marketing and drawing in the weaker players with huge guarantees. Cash games can't compete.

Secondly, from a structural point of view, in cash games we use the later streets (turn and river) a lot more often than tournament players do because the average stacks are often much deeper.

These two streets in particular are much more complex than preflop and the flop and a skilled player is going to be able to push his edge all the more due to this.

In tournaments on the other hand you have a lot more shallow play especially by the middle to later stages. This means that a lot more hands simply turn into preflop all ins where there is not nearly as much skill involved and there is a much better chance of getting lucky.

Because the blinds do not increase in cash games though, there is never any need to get desperate and shove all your chips in the middle.

This means that the better players will simply take their time and surgically dismantle their weaker opposition. The bad regulars and the fish therefore have far less chance of getting lucky and winning in the long run.


So Just Play Tournaments Then Right?


So after reading all of this you might be thinking to yourself, why would I waste my time with cash games?

After all there are less fish, it is a harder game to learn and the players are typically quite a bit more skilled. Well there are several reasons why I still prefer cash games which I have discussed before.

Firstly, the biggest reason why I don't play tournaments regularly is because I don't want to be chained to my computer for 8 hours if I make a deep run.

I value my time more than anything else in this world because this truly is the most valuable asset that we have. When playing tournaments I have no clue if I will be sitting down to play for 1 hour or 10.

This makes it difficult to plan my life, meet up with friends and do all of the other things that I want to do. In cash games, I simply get up and leave whenever I want to.

Also, as a further impediment, for somebody like me who lives in Asia all of the best tournaments start in the middle of the night. A lot of the best tournaments tend to be on one specific day as well, Sunday. With cash games there is action 7 days a week, at any time.

The other huge reason why I think that cash games are better is because there is much more consistent and expected profit and the potential earnings ceiling is higher as well.

Everybody knows about the outliers who have hit a few big scores in tournaments but the vast majority make next to nothing or lose for years on end.

Cash games on the other hand don't have anywhere near as much variance and so your results are fairly predictable on a month by month basis assuming you play a decent amount.

Also, if reaching the top of the food chain in poker is your goal then there is much more consistent action at high stakes in cash games and therefore your potential profit ceiling is a lot higher.

The last reason why I prefer cash games is that it will simply make you a better poker player. You rarely hear about the cash game player going over to tournaments and having problems but you often hear about the reverse.

Master cash games and you will likely be successful in any other format.

With all of that said, let me now discuss a few of the ways to make your transition from tournaments to cash games easier.


1. Start at Low Stakes


First off, perhaps you have been doing well in tournaments lately or even hit a really big score. Congrats! But it is important not to get too over confident about your abilities because of this.

We have all heard the stories countless times of the tourney player who wins the Sunday Million for instance and then decides to donate it all away in high stakes cash games.

If you are struggling in cash games, or are relatively new to the format, then it is a good idea to start at much lower stakes than you might think. Don't worry about being ridiculously over-rolled.

I would recommend starting at the micros. If you are an experienced poker player then you don't have to start at the very bottom. But I would recommend not starting any higher than 5c/10c, the $10 buyin game.

I know the money might seem very small but if you immediately step into a $1/$2 or $2/$4 game for instance you might be shocked at how difficult some of these games can be today online. It will likely be a very sharp skill level increase from what you are used to in your $10 or $20 tournaments.

Start at stakes much lower than this. If you have success right away then just move up. There is no big rush.


2. Take Your Time in Cash Games


My second piece of advice for tournament players switching over to cash games is to take a more relaxed approach to the game. Once again there is no big rush to make something happen.

There is no advantage to being the "big stack" in cash games. You can reload at any time. You can also leave and join another table at any time which is a another huge advantage that cash games have that I didn't even mention.

The thing about cash games is that they are much more of a waiting game than tournaments. It is all about finding the fish and then capitalizing in the right spots.

You never need to shove all of your chips in the middle because you are on a short stack or you want to apply pressure around the bubble. There of course is no bubble in cash games.

Cash games require a much more calculated, mathematical approach to the game where you wait for the right opportunities to come to you and you make your decisions purely on your expected value (EV).

By this I mean that your stack size has no bearing on whether you should make a call, bet or raise in a certain situation. You can always reload at any time in a cash game so your decisions should always be purely based on EV (i.e. will you turn an immediate profit by taking this specific action in this specific hand right now).


3. Increase Your Bet Sizes


Something else that a lot of tournament players struggle with when transitioning over to cash games is bet sizing. Bet sizing in cash games is different because the average stack size is typically much larger.

For instance, while it often makes sense in a tournament to min 3Bet preflop or CBet 30% of the pot, this is very rarely the right thing to do in a cash game.

In fact if you frequently undersize your bets like this in a cash game, then all you are doing is giving your opponent great mathematical odds to draw out on you.

Remember there is no threat of elimination in a cash game and the stacks are often way deeper. This means that the implied odds to call with a long-shot draw can be huge.

You have to increase the size of your bets in order to get more value with your good hands and not give your opponents the right odds to call.

So in cash games I would suggest always making your preflop 3Bet at least 3 times the original raise.

Postflop I would always make your CBets at least 50% of the pot.


4. Respect the Turn and the River


As a tournament player you won't have anywhere near as much experience in playing the turn and the river as most cash game players. This is because, due to stack sizes, hands rarely get to this point especially in the middle and later stages of a tournament.

It is really important to respect these two streets though in a cash game. I call them the "big money streets" and this is for a reason.

When you start making big bets (or calling them) on these two streets you are starting to put significant portions of your stack in the middle.

Therefore, you should have a strong belief that you are likely to win the hand either by showing down the best hand or by being able to move your opponent off of theirs with a bluff.

One of the easiest ways to destroy your winrate in cash games is to frequently put lots of money in the middle on the turn and the river and then either lose the hand at showdown or not get there in the first place.

Make sure that you respect the turn and the river in cash games and have a solid plan of action if you intend to play these two streets.


Final Thoughts


I hope that a few of the tips in this article will help some people who are winning tournament players but struggle in cash games. The transition to cash games doesn't need to be so difficult.

However, it is important to go into it with eyes wide open. Cash games are indeed more difficult overall than tournaments for a number of the reasons already listed above.

However, they are definitely worth the challenge because they will make you a better poker player in the end and therefore a better tournament player as well.

Also, cash games provide a much more consistent flow of profit and a higher ceiling for success at the higher stakes. And with the ease and flexibility that they offer, they are much better suited to the semi-pro or professional online poker player.

Let me know in the comments below how you have made the transition from tournaments to cash games. Was it difficult for you at first? Do you have any pointers to make it easier?


*New Here?* If you want to learn much more about how I crush the micro stakes cash games then I would recommend checking out my Start Here page.

Also, make sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more top level strategy advice and my free ebook!

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Why You Need to Keep it Simple at the Micros in Order to Profit More

keep it simple at the micros
One of the biggest reasons why some people fail to achieve their goals in online poker these days is over thinking. Go to any poker strategy forum online and you will see an insane amount of over analysis regarding very simple situations.

Since the games have gotten a bit tighter in recent years (and win rates have declined as a result), many people think that you need to be some sort of super genius and study every advanced theory in order to win.

Nothing could actually be further from the truth.

A very simple approach is still by far the best way to achieve maximum success especially at the lowest stakes online. I am going to talk about exactly how to do that in this article.


Tight Does Not Necessarily = Good


I think all of this over thinking and over complicating starts from one simple false belief that a lot of people hold. That is, they think that because somebody plays tight, then they must be good or at least competent.

The reality is much different.

Learning to start folding some bad hands is definitely the first and most gigantic step that there is to becoming a better poker player. However, it does not in and of itself guarantee you success.

In fact playing tight does not necessarily make you a good player at all. There are many absolutely terrible nits at all levels of the micros! And by this I mean consistently losing poker players.

And this is really what we have at the micros today, especially at the lower limits (NL2, NL5 and NL10), a bunch of beginners who have learned to play tight.

I showed this conclusively in my latest video series. In 6 hours of live play at NL2 I encountered one halfway decent player in the entire time that I played. Yes, you read that right, one.

The entire video series was also recorded on Pokerstars (including Zoom games) which is generally regarded as one of the toughest online poker sites that you can play on. I also did very little table selecting and played at some of the absolute worst times to play.

The games were so easy that it was literally like taking candy from a baby. Though the sample size is admittedly totally insignificant, my results (something silly like 35bb/100), tell you enough.

The bottom line is that yes, the micros do play tighter these days. There is no question about that. And this does by default protect a lot of these players from making the huge mistakes that fish make.

But don't confuse this with good play.

The skill level at the lower end of the micros at least is still very poor overall. And this is not even to mention how easy it is to tilt the regs at these stakes and turn them into human ATM machines.


A Simple Strategy for Simple Opponents


So this is why my approach and strategy in these games really all revolves around a very simple exploitative strategy.

Versus the recreational players you should always apply a very basic strategy of isolating them frequently and then value betting the crap out of them.

This is because they think about poker entirely at what is often referred to as "level 1." More specifically this means that all they are concerned with is their own hand and whether they like it or not.

They are completely oblivious to everything else. This is why you have to be patient and keep you play incredibly simple in order to beat players like this.

But even against the regulars in these games, there is no wizardry required in order to destroy them. My strategy to beat them does not involve any complicated math, any 5th level thinking or crazy bluffs.

The key to beating the tight regulars in todays micros is actually very easy as well. You simply, find their weaknesses and then you exploit them.


How to Use an Exploitative Strategy Against the Regulars


So how do we actually put this into practice at the poker tables?

Well an exploitative strategy is very easy to understand. Basically it is all about them. It is all about playing the player. You find out where they make large mistakes and then you capitalize on them.

The key thing to realize about most players at the micros is that they are completely unbalanced in almost everything that they do. I am talking about the regulars here once again by the way. The fish of course always have no clue.

By the regs being unbalanced I mean that they will almost always be either way too passive or way too aggressive in any situation.

For instance, they will:
  • 3Bet way too much or not often enough
  • CBet way too much or not often enough
  • Bluff the river way too much or not often enough

When your opponents are so completely unbalanced like this all you have to do is recognize where their weaknesses are and then counter them in a logical manner.

Because no matter whether they are too passive or too aggressive they are always leaving themselves open in some way.


So For Example:

Here are a few scenarios and the logical counters.

1) If they only 3Bet you with the nuts (Preflop 3Bet% of 4 or less), well then steal their blinds all day and always fold when they finally fight back.

2) If on the other hand they 3Bet you too much (Preflop 3Bet% of 8 or more), then open with less hands especially in late position and 4Bet them lighter.

3) If they CBet the flop too much (Flop CBet of 80% or more), then float them more or raise depending on how they react.

4) If on the other hand they don't CBet enough (Flop Cbet of 50% or less), then take more stabs at the pot but give up more often if they fight back.

There is nothing complicated about any of this and there is no complex math or odds analysis required. These are simply logical counters to the mistakes that your opponents are making.


Use Your HUD Effectively:

Now of course this is all much easier to do if your HUD is optimized properly for the micros. You should have all of these stats readily available for each player at the table.

However, even if you play live (or online without a HUD), with a little bit of observation, you can tell what type of player you are up against and how they are unbalanced.

The bottom line is that an exploitative strategy is all about playing the player. Nearly all players at the micros are either too aggressive or too passive in most spots.

There is a logical counter to exploit this every single time. Recognize their mistakes, capitalize on them, and then everybody becomes a fish.


You Should Play a Loose Aggressive Game to Beat the Regulars


Speaking more broadly now, you should also employ a loose and aggressive game to beat the regulars in today's micro stakes cash games.

Browse nearly any online poker room today and have a look at the table averages for VPIP at the lower limits. This basically means the average percentage of hands that the table as a whole is playing.

You are often going to see numbers like 10%-15% for full ring and 15%-20% for 6max.

What does this actually mean? It means that you basically have a bunch of people sitting around playing ridiculously tight and waiting for the nuts.

This also means that they are volunteering to give up in a huge amount of situations if faced with enough pressure. This is because we all know how hard it is to make the nuts in poker.

So for instance, you should start playing quite a few more hands from all positions. Versus the players who will fight back by 3Betting light I already talked about how to counter that above (tighten up a bit and 4Bet wider).

After the flop as well you should continue to use a loose and aggressive strategy against the regulars. This means that you should CBet and then double and sometimes even triple barrel more often.

You should also raise them more often and float with a wide variety of hands. Again, your HUD will tell you exactly where they are weak so that you can find the best line to take.

In my book, "Modern Small Stakes" there are over 100 detailed example hands on exactly how to apply big pressure versus every type of regular that you will encounter at these stakes.

In sum, playing a loose aggressive game against the tight regulars at the micros will absolutely destroy them. The big key is to make sure that you give them their due respect when they fight back in a big way.

I think this is the mistake that a lot of people make. Believe me, they aren’t bluffing you when they raise you on the turn. They have been sitting around waiting for the nuts for the last hour. When they bet big, they have it. Just laugh and fold. Easy game.


Final Thoughts


I hope this article helped prove useful to a couple of you struggling at the micros out there. I know it might sound counter intuitive but the way to beat these games couldn’t be more simple these days.

Even though the micros often play tight this does not mean that your opponents are necessarily good. In fact, most are not.

Most have large fundamental problems with their game and they are usually very unbalanced across a wide variety of situations (either way too aggressive or way too passive).

You don't need to know any complicated GTO in order to beat players like this, calculate exact odds or get involved in levelling wars.

The strategy here is very simple. Find out where they are leaving themselves open and then use the logical counter to exploit that.

If they give up a lot in a specific spot, then bet more often. If on the other hand they are clearly bluffing too much, then float them more and call down lighter.

Winning poker at the lower limits is really just like a puzzle that you need to solve. All of your opponents are making big mistakes. Simply put the pieces together by finding the logical counter and you will win big.

Let me know what you think in the comments below. What type of strategy do you use to crush the micros today?


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Monday, August 29, 2016

5 Psychological Insights I Use When Designing My Bet Sizes

psychology and bet sizing poker


Be honest, do you always bet the same amount in every situation in poker?

Or do you adjust your bet sizes according to stuff like the player you are up against, what you think he has, what you have, the community cards and the game flow?

If you said the latter, congrats, you are doing it right. If the former, then you need to read on in this article.

In No Limit Hold'em we can of course bet whatever amount we want in any situation. There is no "standard" bet sizing.

The best players are always getting creative with their bet sizes in order to achieve whatever end they want be it a call, a fold or even to induce a raise.

In this article I am going to discuss the top 5 psychological strategies that I use when designing my bet sizes in order to get my opponents to take the action that I want them to.


1. The Preflop "Want Action" 3Bet and the "Do Not Want Action" 3Bet


Preflop 3Bet sizing is the perfect place to start because I am always mixing up my bet sizing in this situation.

As I talk about in my first book, "Crushing the Microstakes", my default preflop 3Bet sizings at the micros online are:
  • 3 times the original raise when in position
  • 4 times the original raise when out of position

Why do I do this?

Because when I am going to be in position after the flop I absolutely don't mind getting action. In fact I am inviting them in a sense to come join me with a price of only 3 times their raise.

But when I will be out of position after the flop (i.e. I am in the blinds), then I know that I will be at a significant disadvantage on all streets and it will be much harder for me to win the hand.

This is why I choose to "raise my prices" if you will to 4x their raise. I want them to think a little bit harder about whether or not to call me.

Basically what I am doing here is using my bet sizing to try and manipulate the response that I get from my opponents.

When I am in an advantageous position and don't mind a call, then I will make it less. However, when the odds are stacked against me and I would prefer a fold, then I will charge them more to get involved with me.

This is also a useful strategy to use against short stacks in preflop situations. Again, this is No Limit Hold'em - there are no rules.

So I might make my 3Bet as little as 2.5 times their raise or even just double if I want action. And maybe I only need to make it 3x in order to discourage them from calling due to their stack size.

In a live deep stacked game with tons of loose players I might do just the opposite and make my 3Bets 5x, 6x or more if they seem to be calling me with any two cards.

The bottom line is always be thinking about what you want your opponent(s) to do when making your preflop 3Bet sizing. Adjust upwards or downwards depending on the player and the desired outcome.


2. The Overbet Fake Bluff Versus Recreational Players


As I also talk about in Crushing the Microstakes I am constantly using mental trickery versus the bad poker players in order to get them to do what I want.

In fact there is an entire section near the end of the book entitled "Fish Psychology."

In that section I talk about how recreational poker players interpret nearly everything backwards in poker. This is in fact a big reason why they lose so much.

And one of the biggest mistakes that they make is viewing big bet sizes as a bluff. In their mind they see a big bet as somebody who doesn't want action. Somebody who is trying to "bully" them out of the pot.

So what do I do?

Ya, I bet big against them with the nuts and let them call my "bluff."

This works especially well when you already have the fish all worked up because you have been isolating the crap out of them and taking down pots. If you read this blog a lot, then you will know that this is something that I am always suggesting that you do.

So when I finally make a good hand such as top pair good kicker (it doesn't actually have to be the nuts) I will often just pot it or even over-bet on all 3 streets postflop.

Once again this is only against the fish and usually only when I have them all rattled and annoyed with me already.

Often in a spot like this, if they have any piece of the board at all they will snap call me down for their entire stack.

In my recent NL2 Mastery Course video series I showed this numerous times. I stacked fish again and again by simply getting on their nerves, finally making a big hand and then betting like a lunatic with it.

I got called by all sorts of crazy hands just because they thought I was bluffing with my big bet sizes.

The bottom line is understand how your opponent interprets your bet sizing and then do the exact opposite.


3. The GTO Bet Sizing Strategy Versus Good Regulars


Now of course the problem with good players is that you usually can't get away with these kinds of wacky over-bets and inducing a raise which I will talk about in point #4 below.

They are too good for that and will see right through your little ruse.

So with good regulars (note: NOT bad regulars) I will often keep my bet sizing uniform throughout the hand. This is sometimes referred to as game theory optimal or GTO.

So for instance I will typically bet 60% of the pot on the flop no matter what I have and make it 70% of the pot on the turn and river once again whether I have the nuts, middle pair or a complete bluff.

Why do I do this?

I do this in order to keep them from ever knowing what I have according to my bet sizing.

When I am always betting the exact same amount no matter what I have (nuts, mediocre hand or air), then they can never know which one I will show up with this time.

Therefore, they can never devise a counter-strategy to exploit me. They will always be playing the guessing game.

Once again, I only do this against the good regulars at the micros and there aren't too many of them at the lower stakes anyways.

Against the bad regulars and definitely the fish, you should be adjusting your bet sizing in all situations in order to exploit their weaknesses to the fullest and make them dance to your tune.


4. The Undersized "Please Raise Me" Bet Sizing


Sometimes in poker when I have a good hand I want to try and induce them to raise me.

So versus the bad regulars in particular I will often use an under-betting strategy in order to try and make them do just this.

As I discussed above in point #2 it is important to understand your opponent and more specifically how they will interpret your bet sizings.

As mentioned, fish will typically view big bets as a bluff. Bad regulars though will often see them as strong. Or even if they are suspicious, they will at least have the discipline not to hero call you with something silly like the fish will.

On the other hand though, bad regs will also often view small bets as a sign of weakness. They will therefore sometimes raise either as a bluff or even thinking that it is for value.

So when I make a strong hand versus a bad regular I like to mix in some undersized postflop bet sizings such as 30% of the pot or 40% of the pot.

If nothing else I just want to get in their head and make them ask themselves what in the heck am I doing.

The bomb the pot strategy doesn't really work against the bad regulars like it does against the fish so it is important to devise other methods in order to get them to flip out and do something silly.

Try mixing in some small bets with really strong hands (and even bluffs on occasion too) just to get them thinking if nothing else. If they are spewy aggro bad regs try mixing in some check-raises as well.


5. The River "I Know What You Have" Bet Sizing


Something that I also talked about at length in my recent NL2 Mastery Course video series was making bet sizes on the river according to the strength of your opponents hand.

By the river we always have the most information on our opponent's likely range. If you are good at hand reading then you should be able to narrow it down to a few specific hands in particular.

The board also plays a key role. I am talking in particular about stuff like double paired boards:

J4466

or very scary coordinated boards such as:

34578

Often by our opponent's actions preflop, on the flop, on the turn and even on the river if they act first, it is very easy to tell what type of hand they have.

If they are acting meekly on the two boards above and clearly just want to get to a showdown then betting big is not going to accomplish a lot regardless of the player type.

On the first board they will often have a hand like a mid pair or even just ace high. On the second board they might have middle pair, top pair or a small overpair.

None of these hands can call a big bet so it would be a huge mistake to bomb the pot here (assuming that you are betting for value).

So this is why I will often go for the 30% of the pot "best price in town" bet sizing in a spot like this. They are dying to know what I have and for this price they often cannot say no.

This works especially well against the recreational players because we all know how much they love to call.

Conversely, if you are bluffing on one of these boards, then this is a good spot to indeed go for a big bet. Although I would definitely caution against doing this against fish for the exact same reason.


Final Thoughts


Bet sizing is a key component of No Limit Hold'em that many people do not use to it's maximum potential.

You should always be using your bet sizing as a weapon at the poker tables in order to get your opponents to take the actions that you want them to take.

The actual bet sizing that you should use depends a lot on the player type, the board, your hand, their likely hand and even the stack sizes.

Hopefully some of the tips in this article will at the very least get you thinking about some ways to use creative bet sizing in order to outwit your opponents and ultimately increase your winrate.

Let me know in the comments below the psychological bet sizing strategies that you use at the poker tables.


New Here? If you want to learn my complete strategy for crushing the micros then make sure to check out my Start Here page. Also, make sure to hop on my free newsletter below for tons more top strategy advice and my free ebook!

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