Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Bluffing the River Like a Pro at the Micros

Bluffing the River Like a Pro at the Micros
One of the best ways to increase your winrate at the micros is to become better at playing the river. The reason why is pretty simple. Bet sizes (and pot sizes) are higher on average on this street than on any other. Therefore, you stand to gain the most by mastering this street.

Most people at the lower stakes are reasonably good at value betting the river. Maybe they miss a little bit of thin river value here and there but this is not a critical error at these limits.

However, an area where most people still play well below optimal at these stakes is bluffing the river. More often than not they simply just don't do it enough. Or when they do, they pick the wrong spots.

So this article will be all about how to bluff the river like a pro at the micros. The biggest keys are doing it against the right opponents and on the right boards.

Let's get started!


Always Be Playing the Player


As usual at the micros (or any stakes for that matter) the biggest key to most technical situations is understanding who your opponent is. I have talked about my 6 different types of regs at the micros before. And I have 3 more for fish as well.

However, this system is nowhere near perfect because every player has their own style of play and specific quirks. One TAG might play the exact same river situation differently than another TAG for instance.

This is why you have to dig deeper especially into the less commonly used HUD stats for a specific situation like this. However, the river is a bit unique because it can take an absolute mountain of data in order to get statistically solid information on someone.

This is why I am a big fan of the WTSD% (went to showdown) stat. It is a very simple measure of how often somebody goes to showdown. You don't need to have thousands of hands on somebody for it to be effective either. Typically 100 hands is good enough.


Targeting Specific WTSD% Numbers


When I am looking at whether or not to bluff the river the first thing that I want to know is how likely is it to work against my specific opponent. I obviously do not want to target the calling stations who can't fold bottom pair to save their life.

So I use a very rough categorization such as the following:
  • WTSD% = 28 or more -- Do not bluff
  • WTSD% = 23-27 -- Bluff with caution. Depends on the board and situation
  • WTSD% = 22 or less -- Bluff them all day
Keep in mind that issues such as frequency (i.e., have I already bluffed them 3 times in the last 10 minutes?) can come into play as well. And of course the board and river card are massively important as I will discuss in a bit.

But overall, I am looking to avoid bluffing the players who are going to showdown in the high 20s or more, proceeding with caution against mid 20s players and bluffing a lot versus low 20s and below opponents.


Board Texture and the River Card


Another key component to bluffing the river is the composition of the flop, turn, and most importantly, the river card itself. Something that I talk about a lot in both of my books is perceived ranges.

In very general terms the perceived range of the preflop raiser is big broadway type hands and big pairs. And the perceived range of the preflop caller is more geared towards speculative hands such as suited connectors, suited aces and mid and small pairs.

So if you are the preflop raiser it is often not a good idea to be running a huge bluff on a board like this: 47962

On the flip side, if you are the preflop caller, you probably don't want to run a big bluff on a board that looks like this: AK88Q

Perceived ranges are not always accurate though (this is why they are called perceived). But there is some truth to them more often than not. And this is especially the case at the micros where your opponents will be the least creative.


Bluffing is All About Telling a Good Story


Not only should you try to stick to bluffing mostly on boards which hit your perceived range but you should also clearly be representing several strong made hands that you could easily have as well.

This is the crucial part of bluffing, especially on the river, that so many people often miss. A good bluff is essentially a well orchestrated lie. Imagine yourself in the interrogation room.

Does your story make sense given how you have played the hand up to this point? When your opponent looks at the board after you make your bluff can they think of multiple threatening hands which you could have?

If you can answer yes to both of these questions AND you are targeting the right kind of opponent (as outlined above), then there is a reasonably good chance that your bluff will be successful.

Let's run through a couple of examples to hopefully illustrate all of this better.


Example #1 (6max)


Villain = Nit, 18/15/2, 4% 3Bet with a WSTD% of 21 

Hero raises preflop from MP with A9 and villain calls on the button

The flop comes,

K43

Hero bets,
Villain calls

The turn comes,

5

Hero checks,
Villain checks

The river comes,

Q

Hero???

Let's go through this hand each step of the way. We make a standard preflop raise with a decent suited ace in MP. We get called by a passive looking nit who has position on us.

His 3Bet is low for 6max at 4% so his hand feels a lot like some sort of small or mid pair here. He might have some sort of stronger ace that he doesn't want to 3Bet with from time to time. He might also have a suited connector or broadway type hand on occasion.

We catch a great flop for our perceived range and make a super standard CBet. When he flats on this board his hand looks even more like TT, 99, 88, 77 or 66 now. There are very few draws and it is fairly unlikely that he hit the king.

The 5 on the turn isn't really going to scare him if indeed he has one of those middle pair hands that we listed above. Therefore, we choose not to double barrel here. It definitely wouldn't be terrible though. It just depends on the player and any history.

When the river lands with a Q we pretty much have a mandatory bluff against this player. We can now represent several strong hands here such as AQ, KQ or even AK or KJ which decided to pot control the turn. We would play these hands exactly the same way.

This player does not like to go to showdown very often (WTSD% of 21). He will fold his TT, 99, 88, 77 or 66 a lot here. Easy bluff.


Example # 2 (Full Ring)


Villain = TAG, 15/12/3, 6% 3Bet with a WTSD% of 24

Villain raises preflop from MP and Hero flats on the button with 89

The flop comes,

K83

Villain bets,
Hero calls

The turn comes,

4

Villain bets,
Hero calls

The river comes,

A

Villain checks,
Hero???

So we flat preflop in position with a suited connector versus a decent looking TAG. Our plan is to try and flop something big or use our position to take the pot away.

We catch middle pair with a backdoor flush draw on the flop. We know that villain here is going to CBet pretty much his entire range on this board. Raising doesn't make much sense. But we are always calling.

The turn comes with a harmless 4 and we pick up a flush draw as well. So it is an easy flat again versus an aggressive TAG who could be barreling wide.

On the river villain checks on the ace. There are a few things here. The first thing is that we don't actually need to bluff. This is one of those clear cases of WA/WB (way ahead, way behind).

The large majority of the time here he has:

  • A king, a high pair or he backed into the ace. 
  • A complete airball double barrel that he decided to give up on. 

He will make the call very often with the former and insta-fold the latter. We are basically never getting called by worse so we should just always take the free showdown.

Just for the sake of argument though, even if we had nothing here (and therefore there was a point to bluffing), I would probably still decide against it. This is because of what we talked about before. The K and the A don't really hit our perceived range. It doesn't make sense for us to have these cards very often.

This player goes to showdown a reasonable amount of the time at 24% and appears to be a reasonably competent TAG as well. Therefore he is probably smart enough to sniff out an ill conceived bluff attempt like this even with something like QQ or JJ.


Final Thoughts


Making good bluffs on the river (and avoiding the bad ones) can make a big difference to your winrate at the micros. And it really isn't brain surgery either. The biggest key is simply understanding why you are making a bluff, or why you are deciding not to.

First things first, make sure you are making bluffs more often against the players who will actually fold. WTSD% is a great indication of this. Most fish will be the types who you want to avoid bluffing. The tight regs will often be the ones who you do want to bluff.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, be aware of what the community cards are and who they likely help in the hand. Also, if you do decide to make a bluff make sure that you can think of several value hands that you would play the exact same way as we saw in the first example above.

If you follow these simple guidelines, then you should be bluffing the river like a pro at the micros in no time. Let me know your thoughts on bluffing the river in the comments below. Do you have any tips that you would like to share?

If you found this article helpful then please do me a favor and share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter below!

Poker bad beats and how to deal with them.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Preparing Yourself For Success at the Micros in 2016

Succeeding in online poker in 2016
Since we are already almost a month into 2016 I hope that many of you are achieving your new year's goals at the poker tables. But if you are not then this article is going to be a quick guide to help you get refocused for success.

I have talked about having a winning mentality before but preparing yourself for success goes beyond simply believing in your abilities. You need to have the right strategy, goals and approach to the game as well.


A Winning Strategy for Micro Stakes Poker in 2016


First things first you should realize that there is no one correct way to beat the micros or any level of poker for that matter. Many different styles can win from a nitty approach to a tight and aggressive game to a loose and aggressive strategy.

A winning approach at the micros in 2016 is still surprisingly simple though. The basics revolve around:
  • Playing in Position
  • Playing with the Initiative
  • Value Betting


Playing in Position

Playing in position is vital to your success in this game. When you get to act last in the hand you wear the pants so to speak. You possess the massive advantage of seeing what your opponent does before you act on every street.

This allows you to dictate what size of pot you want to play, get thin value, make a bluff or simply get out of the way and look for a better spot. You can look in your Pokertracker or Hold'em Manager database and filter for hands played in position to see just how much higher your winrate is.


Playing with the Initiative

Having the initiative in the hand is also key. Despite all the talk of balancing your ranges and playing GTO correct in recent years the simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of your opponents at the stakes that I am talking about in this article are not paying any attention to this.

It is well known that in Crushing the Microstakes I advise a very heavy 3Bet or fold strategy. The reason why is because it simply works. Your average NL5 reg is simply not paying attention to how often you flat from the blinds for instance.

And once again, you can simply look in your poker tracking program and see for yourself just how much higher your winrate is when you have the betting lead in the hand.

I am not saying that you should never flat. There are definitely spots to do so especially when in position. But do not get wrapped up in the over-thinking trap that is fashionable these days. You do not need to re-invent the wheel in order to have success against really bad opponents.


Value Betting

Lastly, yes it is still all about value betting at the micros. These are the stakes where many of your opponents will have a hard time finding the fold button. And it is not just fish, it is sometimes the regs too. This is especially the case if you have been cultivating a wild image from time to time as I suggest.

Quite simply, you can't expect passive players who like to call a lot to build the pot for you. These are the guys with a Total AF (aggression factor) of 1 or 2 who you still see everywhere at these stakes.

There will be some aggressive regs as well (Total AF of 3 or 4). It is fine to lay traps against them and try to use their aggression against them. Against most players though you need to be betting your good hands and doing it often.


Goal Setting Prepares You For Success


It is very important that you set poker goals this year so that you know what you are playing for. There is a popular email in my free newsletter series which talks about going from NL2 to NL100 in a single calendar year.

The way to do this is by setting clear guidelines for when to move up and also for when to move down. Perhaps that threshold is 40 buyins move up and 30 buyins move down for you. Whatever it is, it is important that you lay it out clearly right now.

This is why I have talked before about the importance of having a blog. Many years ago when I started this website it was not to write articles like this one. You can go back through the history of this blog and see that it was all about goal setting and keeping myself accountable.

And by this I mean hand goals, not monetary goals. Life is going to get in the way in some months this year but it is important that you maintain a relatively consistent playing schedule. If moving up and succeeding in online poker is truly important to you then it can't be the 12th priority in your life.

Set clear monthly hand goals or even rakeback targets. Perhaps this is 20k, 50k or 100k hands for you. Just make sure that you set clear targets in order to hold yourself accountable. Because as I always say, the biggest winners are almost always the ones that you find at the tables playing, not the guys yapping on forums or Twitter.

When I first went pro in this game many years ago I played for hours every single night for a year before quitting my job. I made online poker the number #1 priority in my life and I got the results that I wanted.


Poker Is Not a Sprint, It is a Marathon


One of the biggest reasons why people lack consistency at the poker tables is because they get frustrated by poor results and quit. I think it is important to always remember that this is a long term endeavor where the only thing that matters are your results after months or even the entire year.

You can predict the future.

There will be many times this year where things will go bad. On a few occasions things will go horribly bad and you will lose buyin after buyin for days or even weeks and be unable to win a single hand.

All of this is part of the natural cycle of the game though. Everybody goes through it, not just you. If you choose to throw in the towel every time this happens, then you will seriously stunt your ability to put in the kind of big volume at the tables which is so crucial for your success.

This is not to say that you should never quit for the day or that you should battle through every downswing. On the contrary, it is a very good idea to recognize the signs of tilt and be able to walk away when things are not going your way.

However, the most difficult thing to deal with in this game is the fact that your results will never come fast. Even if you get lucky and go on a big heater this is not reality. At some point it will balance out.

We are not trained to think this way in our instant gratification modern society. But there is no way to force anything in poker. It can sometimes take hundreds of thousands of hands for things to sort themselves out.

Perhaps the single greatest skill in this game is realizing that your results in a single session or even a series of sessions (win or lose) are completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things.


Final Thoughts


Despite the fears every year that the games are now impossibly hard at the micros and you need a PHD in mathematics in order to breakeven the recipe for success is still surprisingly simple.

A relatively tight and aggressive positionally aware strategy with an emphasis on value betting frequently versus the right opponents is still absolutely the way to beat the micro stakes cash games.
You don't need to practice balancing your ranges versus some mindless 18 tabling nit at NL5. Just keep things simple and profit the most.

Secondly, you really need to take goal setting seriously in order to have success in this game. And by this I don't mean monetary goals. I mean the goals that we actually have control over such as how many hands we play or what rakeback targets we hit.

You can create a free blog with Blogger, Tumblr or Wordpress in minutes. It takes no in depth computer know-how at all. Create an action plan detailing where you are now and where you are going to be by the years end. Post regular updates about your progress.

Lastly, predict the future this year. Poker will go bad and sometimes for long stretches. Don't fear this, embrace it as part of the natural cycle of the game. And also, don't allow it to deter you from putting in the effort at the tables which is necessary to achieve your goals.

There are no overnight success stories in poker. Bad stuff is going to happen. Those who achieve big results accept this and keep striving forward.

I hope this article helped prepare you for success at the tables this year in some small way. Let me know in the comments below what your goals are in poker this year and how you plan to achieve them.

If you found this article helpful then please do me a favor and share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter below!

Poker bad beats and how to deal with them.

Monday, January 11, 2016

How to Deal With Bad Beats in Poker

Dealing with bad beats in poker
Controlling your emotions at the poker tables is the number one key to your success. Sure, you can always get a little bit better technically by improving your understanding of the game and learning how to play optimally versus specific player types.

However, the big leaps and bounds in your winrate will be found by improving your mental game. You know, that aspect of poker that even in 2016 almost everybody still ignores. You can find countless books, videos or forum posts that will tell you how to play AK better out of position.

But there is scant little information anywhere about how to react to getting 2 outed for a stack a few times in a row. Or chasing a big fish around only to get destroyed when all his flush draws and miracle gutshots hit.

Reacting correctly to situations like these though are where bankrolls and made and lost. They are where poker careers fail or succeed.

So in this article I am going to address the topic of how to react to bad beats in poker. And more specifically, how to deal with multiple bad beats in a row.


What is a Bad Beat?


Let's start off first by asking ourselves what a bad beat really is. A bad beat by definition is simply losing a hand of poker when you were the statistical favorite. And really what is meant here is losing as the statistical favorite when big amounts of money go in the middle.

A lot of people confuse bad play with bad beats. They are far from the same thing. For instance, calling off big bets on the turn and river when a major draw came in and your overpair is obviously no good anymore is in fact just bad play.

In this article I will be talking about situations where the large majority of the money went in when you were the statistical favorite in the hand (i.e., you had more equity in the pot than your opponent). This is what a bad beat is.


Bad Beats are a Mathematical Certainty in Poker


I think the first thing that we need to understand about bad beats is that they are a deeply rooted and fundamental part of the game. Somebody almost always has equity in the pot. Often they have a lot of it in fact.



As we can see in the example above, even if all the money went in on the flop, our opponent here, who currently has just 6 high versus our aces, still has 37% equity in the pot. He will win the pot more than 1 in 3 times.

It doesn't take a math genius to then realize that losing 3 of these in a row would not be something unheard of. In fact in the fast paced world of online poker where we are playing thousands or even millions of hands this will be a common occurrence.

Now don't get me wrong. Winning 3 of these in a row is a lot more common. Or winning 2 out of 3. The point here is that we should not be shocked when we lose a few times in a row even with a hand like AA since our opponent often has big amounts of equity even with a simple flush draw and a backdoor straight draw like in the example above.


How Should You React to a Single Bad Beat?


So with this understanding in place we can begin to think about bad beats in poker more from a detached, logical and mathematical perspective. We can think of them in terms of numbers instead of some mortal affront to our very being.

Even if the fish hit a 10% gutshot the facts are that 10% will come through on rare occasions. Instead of reacting with anger you should train your mind to think in terms of these numbers instead. That 10% (or 20% or 30%) is simply going to come through from time to time.

This is what you signed up for when you chose to play this game. Poker is very much gambling in the short term and there is no guarantee that you will win the pot just because you got the money in good.

I prefer to view bad beats as a tax that I have to pay for my long term winnings. I know that they are a mathematical certainty and I also know that they are why I can profitably play this game.

The reason why is because if the fish (bad players) lost every time they got the money in with poor equity, then they would go broke at lightning speed and eventually just give up.

The fact that they can get lucky on occasion though allows them to get some small wins from time to time which keeps them depositing. If poker were a game of 100% skill in the short term like chess then the bad players would quickly lose interest and go find something else to blow their money on.


How Should You React to Multiple Bad Beats?


I think that most of us can process a single bad beat though at least on some level and brush it off. The problems start (i.e., tilt) for most of us when the bad beats start piling up in quick succession.

We have all been there. Aces have lost 5 times in one session. We have lost every flip, every 60/40, we have been 5 outed, 2 outed and on and on. This is the stuff that can drive people nuts. This is too much tax to pay.

The "tax system" in poker is simply not fair sometimes. Sometimes you will be required to pay much more than your fair share. But as I said before, in a game where we knowingly sign up for short term gambling what is "fair?"

And this hits to the very crux of the problem. When we lose a bunch of pots in a row as the statistical favorite we view this as being unfair. We take this personally. We think that somebody is screwing us over or out to get us.

But once again, from a detached, logical point of view this seems silly. I have played over 8 million hands of online poker. I have seen some of the craziest sh stuff on earth. But I wouldn't still be playing this game if anything was truly amiss in the long run. I can simply check my Pokertracker 4 database to verify this.

There is a reason that nobody takes the "online poker is rigged" idiots seriously. It is because they have no statistically significant evidence to support their conspiracy theories. Those of us who have actually played massive amounts of hands online (millions) can clearly see that they are wrong. But the illusion of the short term can be overwhelming for some people.

So it all goes back to what we talked about before. Bad beats are a mathematical certainty in this game, and although rare, it only follows that they will sometimes happen in very quick succession.


Take a Step Back


Given enough bad beats in a row anyone will go on tilt. Beyond all of this effort to think from a detached, logical and mathematical perspective there is a deep yearning in all of us to win. Nobody likes to lose. Even the fish.

And a bad beat is almost like a double slap in the face because you worked so hard to get your opponent to make a big mistake against you and then he gets rewarded with your money for his bad play.

This is literally unheard of in any other profession, sport or anything. And when it happens multiple times in a row it can drive anybody crazy.

So this is why I think it is important to take a step back when something like this happens. Many online poker sites have the option now to simply sit out on all of your tables at once. If you feel your blood pressure rising then just hit that button and get up and take a walk somewhere.

It is really important to escape from the heat of the moment and try to process what just occurred on some sort of rational level. Even if you cannot process it, the biggest key is preventing yourself from making the big mistake of playing while on tilt.

This is what destroys bankrolls and dreams in this game. Many people do not even realize that they are doing it. But all those little bad calls and silly bluff attempts add up in a big way.


Winning at Poker Is Not Easy (It Never Was Meant to Be)


If winning at poker was easy, everybody would be doing it. Who doesn't want to ship stacks while sipping cocktails from a tropical beach in Thailand? The reality of professional poker, or even just winning poker in general, is much different than what most people think it is.

And one of the biggest reasons why many people fail to achieve success is not because they lack the technical knowledge. Most people these days have a reasonable understanding of how to play a simple TAG game.

The real reason why they cannot break through is because when several bad beats happen in a row a switch flips in their head and they go crazy. Usually it is just minor tilt in the form of some hopeless calls or a silly river bluff raise.

But as I mentioned before, all of this adds up in a big way. In an era when the games are tough you cannot afford to be making these kinds of mistakes. This is the difference between winners and losers in today's games.

Step away from the tables when multiple bad beats in a row happen and calm yourself down. Quit for the day if you need to. But do not allow tilt to ruin your results in this game. The games will always be there tomorrow.

And in time you will learn to deal with multiple bad beats in a row better. I do believe that inexperience is often a factor. When you play a lot of poker there is a certain point where you will become almost numb to it because you have seen it all before countless times.

When I see people complaining about their bad luck in this game often they are talking about sample sizes that are so insignificant that it is laughable. It is a lack of experience and a belief that results should come quick and easy in poker that is their downfall.

This isn't the way that poker works. This game isn't easy. It was never meant to be. And that is very much a good thing.


Final Thoughts


Dealing with bad beats in poker is hard and there are no easy answers. It is probably the most difficult part of this game in fact. You outwit your opponent and then get rewarded by shipping your stack to them. It is absurd, ridiculous and almost feels downright insulting.

But it is also a necessary component of the game. The bad players would quickly leave on mass if they couldn't get lucky on occasion. We all have to pay that tax.

But of course on occasion we will have to pay much more tax than normal. But what is normal in a game that is based on short term gambling? Words like normal, fair etc. are a myth in this game. Poker does not owe you anything. This game is a cruel hearted bitch that will rip your soul out at times.

The vast majority of people can't handle it.

This is actually a great opportunity for you to rise above everyone else and ultimately get better results though. You cannot allow your emotions to control your decisions at the poker tables. This is the difference between the small amount of big winners in this game and everybody else.

If you found this article helpful then please do me a favor and share it with your friends on Facebook or Twitter below!

Poker bad beats and how to deal with them.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How to Beat Online Poker in 2016

Beat online poker in 2016
As we approach another new year many people are hoping that 2016 will finally be the year where they find big success in online poker. However, the unfortunate reality is that most will not achieve their goals.

This is the way that it always is. This is also the way that it has to be. In a zero sum game like poker there will always be winners and losers. There will be some people who simply want it more and they will get the results.

But there is another factor at play here as well which is the rake. This is the small amount that each poker site takes out of the pot or tournament buyin. Even though it might seem fairly insignificant at first, when added together it is enough to turn many breakeven players, and even a few small winners, into losing poker players.

So this is why you will often hear people say that only 20%-30% of people actually show a profit in the long run in poker. And then of that only about 10% are really big winners. These are the ones who make a significant side income or even go pro.

And lastly, to top it all off many people believe that the games online are the toughest that they have ever been. I personally do not believe that they have gotten much worse in several years now but this certainly isn't 2005 anymore either.

With all of that said many people do still achieve big success at the micros these days. And at the very lowest stakes like I talk about all the time on this blog (NL2, NL5 and NL10) becoming a winning player should not be some big mystery. After all, you are playing against some of the worst players on earth.

So in this article I am going to break down a few main keys to beating online poker at the micros in 2016.


Long Term Mindset


There is a sizable portion of poker players who will probably never beat online poker because they are incapable of seeing this game for what it really is: a long term endeavor.

What do I mean by "long term?"

I mean months. I mean years in some cases. I mean 100's of thousands of hands. I mean millions of hands. Poker is not a get rich quick scheme. And because of the impact of variance (card distribution and short term luck) it can sometimes take a very long time to attain reliable results.

But I can tell though from many of the comments that I receive daily through email, on blog posts, on Youtube videos etc. that there is a large number of people out there who are only concerned with what happened in their very last session. This often amounts to a completely meaningless sample of a thousand hands at most.

They will often describe to me in perfect detail how their aces "got cracked" 3 times in a row. Or how their opponent hit a lucky river card against them 5 times in a row. As if any of this matters at all. And also as if these events are some sort of bizarre statistical anomaly that has only ever happened to them.

There is a point in poker where if you want to move forward and beat the game then you do need to accept on some level that sometimes things will not go your way for a very long time. And I am talking about much longer than a session or two here. I am talking about weeks or even months of losing.

I myself have gone through multiple stretches of 100k+ hands at the micros where I ran so far below EV (expected value) that it was absurd. I literally just lost every single day for weeks or months on end even though I have some of the best results in history in these games.

A friend of mine here in Thailand who is one of the biggest pre-rakeback winners in the world at mid stakes SNGs just wrapped up Supernova Elite on Pokerstars by running 30k USD under EV and only posting 4 winning days in the entire month of December.

Can you imagine how many times in a row his aces got cracked during this stretch?


The bottom line is this:

Professional poker players focus only on one thing in poker, the long term. Amateurs get wrapped up in their results for particular sessions or in particular hands.

The beauty of poker is that the short term fluctuations are what make the game so profitable. Most people lose their mind and play terrible when things go poorly. Or if they catch a heater they think they are a poker god and make similar mistakes.

Nobody is perfect. As long as you are human then consistent losing will eventually affect you on some level. The biggest difference though between the top winners and everybody else is this:

We don't allow it to affect our play at the poker tables in any significant way. 

I get pissed off all the time when I run bad in poker. I am a really sore loser and I can't stand losing at anything. I have destroyed several mice (I only buy cheap ones). I scream sometimes. I curse. Once I got so pissed off I destroyed a cook book with a hockey stick (don't ask).

But did I make the correct fold for the 18th time in a row? Yes. Did I decide to run some retarded bluff against a bad player because I was tired of losing. No. You can be mad as hell but still make the right decision.

If I truly feel like I can't make the right decision then I will quit all of my tables at once, get away from the computer, and not play a single hand again that day.

In short, I will do whatever it takes to make sure that my emotions (no matter how intense they are) never have any significant impact on my actual play at the tables.


Alternative Strategy

If controlling your emotions in the moment is something that is difficult for you then there is another strategy that I often use these days.

I know that I will never understand the short term in poker and I also know that it is completely meaningless in the grand scheme of things. So why bother even caring? I will often just ignore my results at the tables for days or weeks.

If you are following a good bankroll management strategy then there is absolutely no reason why you need to check your bankroll so frequently. I, like many other professional poker players or semi-pros, follow a very conservative bankroll management strategy. I am always ridiculously over-rolled.

And frankly, if you just stop giving a crap about short term results then your play will probably improve dramatically as well. This is because you will finally be able to stop focusing on the day to day swings and direct all of your attention on what actually matters, playing your best in each individual hand.

Whatever approach you decide to take, if you ever want to succeed in a big way in poker then you simply have to find a way to stop obsessing over the short term illusions of this game.


Play Your "A-Game" at All Times


This leads to my 2nd key for beating online poker in 2016 which is playing your A-game at all times. This means that you are always playing to the best of your abilities with zero distractions and minimizing tilt.

I believe that it was Tommy Angelo who made this term famous in his Buddhist inspired "Eightfold Path to Poker Enlightenment." In this video series he talked about how most poker players drift into their B-game or C-game during their session if they get bored or things aren't going their way.

If things start going really badly then they will slip into their D, E or F-game and literally start giving away their money at the table. Angelo talked about the necessity of eliminating your D, E and F games completely.

I would take this a step further though and propose that as we enter 2016 you should make it your goal to eliminate your B and C-games as well. As everybody knows, the games are tougher these days and you simply cannot afford to be playing anything but your very best anymore.

This really starts with an entire lifestyle and mindset approach in my opinion. I recently discussed this in my popular "How to Kick Ass in Poker and Life" post. I also discussed this topic in detail near the end of my 2nd book.

Many of the top poker players these days (both live and online) are starting to see poker as much more than a game. They see it as a business. They view the game like a professional athlete would.

For any professional athlete these days (pick a sport: basketball, soccer, mma etc.) their game is a 24/7, 365 obsession. They are in the gym and eating right during the off season. They are taking extra shots after practice. They are visualizing success before the game or match.

Why should it be any different for poker players?

If you want to be the best then you should start thinking like the best and conducting your life like the best. Nobody is perfect and everybody falls off the rails from time to time. But the biggest winners are consistently putting the time in at the tables, studying away from them, and keeping their life in order as well (proper nutrition, regular exercise and good sleep).

Do what you need to do to play your A-game at all times. Be your best and accept nothing less. You owe that to yourself.


A Solid (But Simple) Strategy


Lastly, you need to have a good strategy in order to beat the micros online. This is the area that nearly everybody focuses all of their attention on these days. And they often go about it all wrong.

There is an absolute epidemic of overthinking poker strategy these days for extremely low stakes. You know the games where you are playing against the worst competition on earth for pots that are often the price of a cup of coffee (NL2, NL5 etc).

I play a basic positionally aware TAG (tight and aggressive) strategy in these games with a heavy emphasis on finding the fish and exploiting them. And as mentioned above I keep my tilt to an absolute minimum as well.

But so many people absolutely refuse to believe that this is all that it takes to beat these games. There has to be something more in their mind.

I get people emailing me all the time who are reading highly technical GTO poker strategy books and they can't beat NL2. They talk about advanced poker math theories that I have never even heard of.

Or they study all the training videos of some high stakes crusher who plays 500 times higher stakes than they do and talks about strategies meant to beat world class opponents.

And yet they wonder why they can't beat NL2...

If you want real results at the micros in 2016 then you would be much better served to learn and apply a basic TAG strategy. Most people claim to know what this means but they actually don't in reality. In my free little guide "Massive Profit at the Micros" I tell you exactly what it is. You can download it right here.

I have also written countless articles for the website that you are reading right now which focus on simple strategies for beating the games that you actually play in at the micros. For a complete listing I would recommend checking out my "Start Here" page.


Final Thoughts


Beating online poker at the micros in 2016 is not some impossible code to crack. These are the stakes which are still chock-full of absolutely terrible players, fish and regs alike. Much like success in any other area of life though beating these games simply requires a little bit of expertise and then a whole lot of hard work.

But the game of poker demands more still yet. It requires that you sometimes wait weeks or even months to get real results. It also requires that you bring your A-game to the tables as often as possible. If you are in this game for the quick buck or you easily give up when adversity strikes then you might want to look into finding a different hobby.

Poker is hard. This game can be absolutely brutal at times. Achieving big time success requires a level of mental fortitude that most people simply are not capable of. Because after all, if it were so easy then everybody would be doing it. Your success or failure in this game really is entirely up to you.

Hopefully this article gave you a little bit of insight on how to approach this game like a winner. All the best at the tables in 2016!

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Beating online poker in 2016

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

How to Play More Online Poker Tables

Play more online poker tables
A question that I get asked a lot is "how the heck do you play so many poker tables at once and keep track of everything that is going on?" I don't think I have ever covered this topic in detail here on this blog so here goes.

As many people know I used to be a huge mass multi-tabler. The majority of the now 8 million+ hands of online poker that I have played were still done while 24 tabling on Pokerstars. Why 24? Because that was (and still is I believe) the maximum number of tables that they will allow you to play.

Now I don't say this to brag. And also, I certainly didn't start playing this many tables or learn how to do it overnight. In fact when I first started playing on Stars in particular many years ago the table limit was only 5.

But more importantly I actually do not suggest playing anywhere near this many tables anymore (24) because it makes it very difficult to table select properly and make high quality decisions, both of which are absolutely crucial to your winrate in today's games. In fact these days you will usually find me playing anywhere between 6 and 12 tables at a time.

So this article will be more aimed at the person who is currently playing 1 or 2 tables and wants to know how to play 4 or 6 or even 10.

With that said let's get started!


One Step at a Time


The first thing that I always say when somebody asks me about multi-tabling is to take it one step at a time. Right now you should play the amount of tables which allows you to table select well and make high quality poker decisions on a consistent basis. 

If that number is currently 1, then that is completely fine.

Furthermore, when you do decide to experiment with playing more tables you should only ever add one more at a time. Nobody goes from 1 table to 4, 6 or 10 overnight. It doesn't matter how many tables you are currently playing, only add one more.

The reason why I suggest this is to make the transition as easy as possible. Even though I am going to discuss many ways to help you multi-table in this article, the bottom line is that your brain needs to get used to the faster pace of action.

This is something which simply requires time. You probably learned how to ride a bike with training wheels on it first, learned how to drive a car slowly in a parking lot. All of the same principles apply here.


Automatic Decisions


The other key to multi-tabling that I always point out is that once most of your decisions become automatic, multi-tabling becomes infinitely easier. What do I mean by automatic? I mean getting to a point where you do not have to think about what to do in a certain situation. You already know what the best play is.

When people struggle with playing multiple tables at once one of the main reasons why is a lack of time. What this translates to is "I need more time to think about what to do with this hand."

Now of course playing 8 million hands of poker will fix this problem in a hurry. I have literally seen every situation possible at the micros dozens or hundreds of times over. I have also therefore learned what works and what doesn't in 95%+ of these spots.

This is why I can play a huge number of tables at the same time and still show a positive winrate. I don't have to think, I can just do. But of course not everybody has the time to play 8 million hands of poker.


Standardize Every Decision


This is why I highly suggest standardizing nearly every decision that you make especially on the earlier streets (preflop and the flop). You should know exactly what amount you will open raise, 3Bet, 4Bet, which hands to do it with, from what positions and so on.

Furthermore, you should know which types of flops that you will CBet, which ones you will raise, which ones you will float and which ones you will give up on. If you have to constantly think about all of this stuff it is going to take you forever to play a hand of poker and it will make multi-tabling very difficult.

This is why in both of my books I went as far as suggesting the exact hands that the reader should play in every single position, the exact range to 3Bet with, how much to bet etc. I don't know any other poker book that goes into this much detail. And of course because of this I have opened myself up to much more criticism because some people will not agree with what I suggest.

And they are right. The ranges that I suggest are of course not perfect in every situation, in every format and in every game. Winning poker is all about adapting to the game conditions. There are always going to be some adjustments that you need to make on the fly.

However, the main reason why I chose to include these "playbooks" if you will in Crushing the Microstakes and Modern Small Stakes was to implore the reader to standardize all of their decisions on these streets.

When you get dealt KJs for instance in MP in a full ring cash game you should not have to think about what to do here. When a nit calls you from the blinds and checks to you on an 882 rainbow flop your decision here should be automatic as well.


How to Standardize Every Decision


Learning what the right play is in a standard situation like this is not that hard either. There are countless ways to improve your game and get the basics of a solid TAG strategy.

You can also use a poker tracking program as well to see for yourself what is profitable and what is not. Many people think that a program like Pokertracker is useful only for the HUD and checking your stats and graph at the end of your session.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The biggest strength of these programs is being able to use you database to your advantage by filtering for nearly any scenario on earth and finding out which line of action works the best. I talk about it a lot more in this article.

There are countless more ways to standardize your decisions such as breaking down player types and knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each. You can even break down flops into specific types such as:

  • Triple Broadway
  • Double Broadway
  • Single Broadway
  • Paired
  • Raggedy
  • Monotone
  • Bingo

and so on.

The main point here is to stop spending so much time thinking about the really basic decisions in this game. All of your decisions on the earlier streets in particular should literally be automatic in your head.

If you need to write out some charts and stick them on your monitor then go ahead and do that. Do whatever it takes so that you stop wasting so much valuable time on mundane decisions.


Software Aids 


The last thing I will talk about is technical aids. I already mentioned one above which is using a poker tracking program and HUD. 

There are thousands of players at the micros and this is why having access to information about the player type right beside their name at the tables is so valuable. This is even more the case once you start playing, 6, 12 or more tables. It becomes absolutely impossible to keep track of every single player at the tables.

Secondly, another huge key to multi-tabling is reducing the number of pointless clicks. What do I mean by pointless clicks? I mean stuff like:

  • Selecting your seat
  • Choosing your buyin amount
  • Posting the blinds
  • Having to configure each bet amount manually

These are all things which many poker sites themselves have options to automate these days. Or third party multi-tabling aids such as TableNinja or even old school AHK scripts can help you out with this even more.

Pointless clicks are an absolute killer for any multi-tabler. A serious grinder could literally waste hundreds or even thousands of clicks in just a single session by having to do all of these things manually.


Table Layout


Lastly, you should organize your tables in such a way as to make it as easy as possible for you to multi-table. There are three main ways to organize the tables on your screen: tiling, stacking and cascading.


Tiling

Tiling your tables across your monitor means that there will be minimal overlap and you will be able to easily follow all of the action. Here is an example of tiling:

Tiling online poker tables

This is the way that I actually prefer to play these days. Some people will choose to make use of multiple monitors in order to have even more tables in front of them.

The biggest downside to tiling however (especially if you use multiple monitors) is head and eye movement. Long sessions can be a strain on your eyes and neck as you are constantly looking around for the latest action.


Stacking

Stacking solves the main drawback of tiling. Here is an example of stacking your tables (forgive me for the Arnold wallpaper, I am a big fan):

Stacking online poker tables

There are still 4 tables in the above picture. The only difference is that they are all stacked on top of each other. The table requiring action will immediately pop to the top of the stack.

When I used to play 24 tables this is always how I played. All 24 in one stack. The biggest advantage here is that there is no head and eye movement required. Your head, your mouse and your eyes pretty much stay in the same spot on your screen the entire time.

The drawback of course though is that it makes it a lot more difficult to keep track of all of the action or watch specific players. With some of the software aids mentioned above though I developed ways to quickly move a table in and out of the stack with a single click.


Cascading

I have never really cascaded my tables but some people might find it useful. It is kind of somewhere in the middle between tiling and stacking. Here is what cascading your tables looks like:

Cascading online poker tables

You will have overlap but you can also quickly find any table in the group and bring it up if you want. Again, this style never really appealed to me but it might work for some.

If you play on Pokerstars simply click "Layouts" on the top right corner of any table to instantly tile, stack or cascade your tables.


Final Thoughts


Increasing the amount of online poker tables that you play needn't be some huge mystery. And it isn't reserved for 21 year old geniuses either. It simply requires that you take a few steps to be more efficient at the poker tables.

And efficiency really is the key word which literally sums up this entire article.

First off, start slow. Only ever add one table at a time and allow your mind to get used to a faster pace of action. And always start by playing an amount of tables which is comfortable for you right now.

Secondly, learn to standardize your decisions. If you have to constantly think about very basic decisions such as how much to bet, which hands to play etc. then multi-tabling is going to be very difficult for you.

Lastly, use software aids or poker site options to minimize useless clicks and create a table layout which allows you to play a higher number of tables with more ease.

I hope that this article was useful for some of you out there who are interested in increasing your table count (and therefore winning more). If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below.

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How to increase the number of poker tables that you play