Decision making – the key to good poker

Gambling man
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I have been playing various forms of poker lately: Texas Hold ‘Em, Omaha, Omaha High/Low, Seven Card Stud, Seven Card Stud High Low, 2-7 Triple Draw and RAZZ. All of these games are somewhat similar even though the rules for each game might contain some differences; they all require decision making.

There is a famous quote that says “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game” and that applies to poker games as well. The most basic decision you make during a game is whether to play the hand you are dealt to begin with. After you get your starting cards, your decisions should be based on what position you are at in relation to the dealer button, what your opponents are like, and what your hand strength is relative to all these other factors.

Once you decide to play a hand, you also have betting decisions to make such as calling, raising, re-raising, or even going all in. In some of these games, you are given more cards and more decisions to make based on what you hold and what you think your opponent holds. Did your hand improve? Did your opponent’s hand improve? Did your opponent think that your hand  improved?

As you can see, it starts to get very complex. And you can add to that the math decisions to consider;  the pot odds, the odds of making your hand if you are drawing, the implied odds if you make your hand at the turn or the river or on fifth, sixth or seven street.

In the book Caro’s Fundamental Secrets of Winning Poker by Mike Caro, he says in a blackboard style post, “The key to winning: In order to overcome the odds against you at gambling, your decision must really matter” and “in the long run. In poker you don’t get paid to win pots – you get paid to make the right decisions”.

The human condition being what it is, we sometimes replace sound decision making for emotional decision making and that is where we can go astray. When we forget to take the time to think over our decision, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

How do you make your poker decisions? Do you ever take the extra time to consider your actions before making them? Do you react emotionally to the players around you? Have you ever over thought a decision?

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Recap of the CPL for last night and other random poker thoughts

Card game, 1895
Image via Wikipedia

I finished fourth last night at the Cowboy Poker League Tourney. Ordinarily, that is not too bad a finish, but last night there were only four players in the tourney.We were playing Seven Card Stud Poker High/Low. Originally, the games were supposed to be just Seven Card Stud, played High only, but there was a mix up at FullTiltPoker and the game turned out to be Seven Card Stud High/Low. That did not change my results. I was only involved in 31 hands before finishing the tourney. Congratulations to the top two prize winners. The tourney summary was as follows:

1: Belsepub
2: ffcowboy76
3: BrooklynBeast
4: StevieTrips

When asked how I had finished so poorly as I had previously finished first place three times and third place once, I could not really figure out what had happened. Did I play too many hands with bad cards, did I play too few hands with good cards that did not hold up. I really was not sure. I think it was a combination of playing poorly when I had good cards and not folding when I had bad cards.

In a tourney, you play until you either win all of the chips or loose all of your chips. It is just that simple, baring of course illness or family emergencies. At a cash game, I can decide if I am playing poorly or am just not feeling well and I can stop playing. This is providing that I recognize the signs in time. Of course one of the signs is seeing my chip stack going down. That is usually a good indicator that I might not be playing well. You at least have to ask yourself if you are playing your best poker. If yes, you continue to play until you are either tired or you are no longer playing good poker.

Playing good poker means making the right decisions even if you don’t get the results you expect. Playing bad poker is chasing draws without proper pot odds or enough outs to make staying in a hand profitable. The trick however to this is to be self aware and that is not always easy. Human nature being what it is, there is always the tendency to continue to play if you are losing in order to get even or gain back chips you have lost. Mike Caro, the “Mad Genius of Poker”, says that “you are always even” no matter what your chip stack is at any moment. He also stated that “chips not lost are as good as chips won”.  It takes awhile to get one’s head wrapped around those concepts, but once you do, you can see how they apply to your game.

How can you tell when you are playing bad poker? What do you do about it?  How do you decide when to stop during a session (cash games only)?

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Tonight at the Cowboy Poker League – Pot Limit Stud High

Painting "Herd Quitters"
Image via Wikipedia

Tonight’s  Pot Limit Seven Card Stud High tourney is being hosted by the Cowboy’s Poker League played on FullTiltPoker at 9:00 pm EDT. You have plenty of time to visit the blog and join up. Scott (twitter name is ffcowboy76) and Jeremy (twitter name is IBGPN) are the hosts and contact persons. Tweet or follow them on their exploits as well as follow their league twitter name – @CowboyPoker.

I have had very good luck at the Pot Limit Tourneys at the Cowboy League and am looking forward to tonight’s game. Stud Limit High is basically a drawing game and if you start with good cards and catch the cards you need by street five you are basically going to play the hand all the way to seventh street. Otherwise it is best to bail out and save some chips for later.

How do you plan for a tourney? Do you play Pot Limit differently than Limit or No Limit? What is your strategy for the game of Seven Card Stud High?

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Cash Games at PS and FTP

Poker Table at the 2004 World Poker Tour 5 Dia...
Image via Wikipedia

Sunday, I started playing Limit Hold ‘Em at PokerStars and No Limit Hold ‘Em on FullTiltPoker. I have been wanting to do that for some time now.

I played at PokerStars on the $1/$2f tables for about two hours and was dealt 169 hands. I ended up in the plus with $31.94 or an hourly rate of $15.97. The cards were running my way. I saw some interesting opponents, ones  that would bet and raise against me and go right to the river with just an Ace and any other card, hoping to see me fold. It was nice to see them at my table. I hope to see them again.

I played about an hour on the No Limit Hold ‘Em table at FullTiltPoker. I had a higher variance at the that table and was able to walk away with only $2.25 more that I started. This gave me an hourly rate of $2.25. I was playing at the .25c/.50c tables at FullTiltPoker. There the players were just as interesting as the ones I saw at PokerStars. There were some opponets that went all in with any pocket pair, playing a sort of Poker Bingo. Over all I was satisfied with my level of playing even though I did not have the hourly results that I had expected.

My overall expectation for an hourly game rate was about $20.00 per hour. I will continue to play and record my results. I also plan to see if  playing at different times of day at the online sites makes a difference to my hourly rate.

Do you set an hourly rate goal for yourself? How do you track your results? Do you stop playing after winning  a certain amount? Do you stop playing after losing a certain amount?

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Season 2 of the Twitter Poker Tour closes with TPT:Stars Event #12

Poker Chip
Image by blueathena7 via Flickr

Season 2 of the Twitter Poker Tour closed with the TPT:Stars Event #12. The game we played was Texas Hold ‘Em No Limit Poker. The session started promptly at 9:00 pm with the scoreboard leader ship on the line for the top five challengers.  A snapshot of the leader board prior to this event  follows:


None of us wanted to exit early but the “bestlaid plans of mice and men often go awry” as they say. Altogether there were 33 entrants to the tourney and the final results are as follows:

PokerStars Tournament #153730959, No Limit Hold'em
Buy-In: $5.00/$0.50
33 players
Total Prize Pool: $165.00
Tournament started 2009/04/09 21:00:00 ET
Tournament finished 2009/04/09 23:26:03 ET
  1: Mac Zealot (Hanover)
  2: MustangFund (Grand Rapids)
  3: UGA-Dawg308 (Alpharetta)
  4: MNFulltilt (St Cloud)
  5: BklynBeast (Brooklyn)
  6: fleapid (Chatsworth)
  7: mcmac5150 (Mt Pleasant)
  8: PyroATX (nashville)
  9: taz31362 (hermitage  )
  10: edihpoker (Elk Grove)
  11: excalibur41 (Glasgow)
  12: mike4dice (Randolph)
  13: sotied (Hingham)
  14: poveyjeff (Bristol)
  15: CrestedMom (Hermitage)
  16: b3ls3pub (Valkeala)
  17: Mechanos5 (Boise)
  18: LaBangBang (Parker)
  19: thereelgator (Lighthouse Point)
  20: Steve_Treys (Fremont)
  21: magictrekker (madisonville)
  22: panndy623 (Austin)
  23: THCPower (Binbrook)
  24: geoffm33 (South Boston)
  25: qaz60 (Athens)
  26: Wuzzle69 (Caboolture QLD)
  27: ungarop (Medford)
  28: The420Gov (Greenwood)
  29: john.ebjr (Lansing)
  30: Shackedin05 (Redondo Beach)
  31: burntor4ng3 (Plano)
  32: rhoegg (Oklahoma City)
  33: StreetDipper (Broken Arrow)

My best hands of the 58 that were dealt to me consisted of pocket Queens, pocket sixes, and pocket nines. I won 30 chips with my Queens, I folded to a raise with the pocket sixes, and I went all in and lost with pocket nines going up against a pair of Kings. Overall I won 5 pots during the night and three of those with the worse hand by bluffing. Only three of the hands dealt to me contained an Ace but with a low card to go along with it.

Congratulations to the top five winners of tonight’s season ending event. And thanks to Bad Beat Clothing and to Grinder School Poker Training Website for providing prizes for season 2.



I am looking forward already to season three. This season they have a sponsor, DeucesCracked, offering weekly prizes of a one month’s subscription to their poker training site for the top winner. They will award the Season 3 Champion with a 6 month subscription!

How did you do last night? Was there anything you would have done differently? Are you also looking forward to Season 3?

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I ended up my RAZZ SCOOP tourney at 1,323th place out of 2,945 on PokerStars

The 2002 World Series of Poker in progress.
Image via Wikipedia

My finish last night at about half way in the pack was disappointing as compared to the previous two losses at the PokerStars SCOOP. I lost in better positions at those. Not sure if that was a positive thing? Hmm.

Although RAZZ is similar to Seven Card Stud Poker, I was not patient enough to take control of my chips. I would get involved in hands with good starting hands but would not notice that I did not have the best low.

This was an excercise in getting a few chips, giving up a lot of chips, getting a few chips back, holding on to them, and slowly giving them back. Still, it was exciting to be a participant in these three tourneys and I look forward to doing them again next  year.

In order to prepare for these events next spring, I will start March 2010 by reviewing my books on these games and will also get some practice by playing in some MTT SNG’s (Multiple Table Tournament Sit N Go’s). For me, the SCOOP offers me the excitement of going to some of the WSOP events without having to do the travel and the expense of food and lodging, plus they offer buy-ins that fit my current bankroll.

Have any of you played in the SCOOP events? How did you do? Would you do it again? How did you prepare for the event? Are any of you planning on going to the WSOP events?

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Finished 172nd place out of 704 places at Limit Stud High/Low on PokerStars

poker night
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I tried my luck last night at the SCOOP Limit Stud High/Low Poker Tourney being held at PokerStars. It was quite exciting. During the first three hours of play I would be in the top 10 then I would be in the 100-199 spots. Then I would jump up into the top 25 and back to the middle of the two hundreds.

This was more like a yoyo tourney for me. The highs and the lows. I have had some success at Limit Stud High/Low in past tourneys,  but tonight the cards were not running my way late in the tourney when the antes and blinds were increasing.

I started to play some marginal hands and I ended up with less than marginal results. All in all this was quite an exciting tourney. This time I was within 68 places of the bubble and being paid off for my excitement and exertion?

My last SCOOP tourney for this season will be tomorrow, Wednesday and I will try my hand at Razz. I will let you know how I do after. The SCOOP at PokerStars offers a variety of games at various buy-ins at various days and times.

What is your favorite event? How do you do against a large field of players? How do you prepare before the event?

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I Finished 400th at PokerStars Tournament #200904091, Limit Triple Draw 2-7 Lowball

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The Limit Triple Draw 2-7 Lowball tourney started at 2:30 pm EDT with 1801 players. Each player was given 5,000 in chips to start. This was my first ever 2-7 Lowball tourney and while I had high hopes, the fact is that I had only been playing this game for less than three months.

My preparation for this tourney included playing at the low stakes 2-7 Triple Draw games at PokerStars and reading “Chapter 11, Triple Draw”, written by Daniel Negreanu, @RealKidPoker, for the book, “Doyle Brunson’s Super System 2: A Course in Power Poker“, written by Doyle Brunson.

Having played a few tourneys in other games such as Hold ‘Em, Omaha, 7 Card Stud, I had a general idea of what my approach should be. I should basically play only in hands that showed an extremely high chance of winning and try to avoid those hands that were not as good. That was easier said than done. The top 330 players got paid with the top finisher receiving over $5,600. My game summary is as follows:

You finished in 400th place (eliminated at hand #26802142931).
212 hands played:
– cards drawn 68 times (32%)
– won when drawing 20 times (29%)
Pots won at showdown – 21 out of 48 (44%)
Pots won without showdown – 16

But the summary did not tell the whole story. It was a roller coaster ride and while playing the tourney, I had twittered about my standings at different times during the game. These were some of my tweets. The times were approximated.

2:25pm @sebastianrocks What level? I am at the low level as I am just learning @rawstar turned me on to this.

3:00pm @realkidpoker – Your tips on 2-7 low ball are helping me stay alive in the 2-7 low entry SCOOP – thanks. And good luck to you as well.

4:25pm @RealKidPoker You’re still in the 2-7 and I am in 7th place thanks to your tips in Super System 2 on low ball. Thank you Daniel, Sir.

4:30pm I have gone from 7th to 151st place. Still enough time to make up ground – if I grind it out.

5:35pm @sebastianrocks Thanks. I seem to be chipping down. I am now 452 of the remaining 702. But there is still time.

5:40pm @sebastianrocks Thanks. I seem to be chipping up. I am now 172 of the remaining 483. There is still time. The bubble is 331. 330 get paid.

5:45pm @sebastianrocks Thanks. I feel like I am on a roller coaster. I busted in 400 place. Oh well. There is next year!.

Was I happy with my results? Not really. But as this was my first lowball tourney and I really had no idea of what to do in a lowball tourney for optimum playing, I did better than expected. After all, 1,401 other players had finished before I did. I have added 2-7 Triple Draw Lowball to my list of favorite games.

Have you ever played in a tourney event not knowing the game as well as you would like? How was your experience? Would you play that same game again? How do you go about learning new games?


As a side note, while I was playing the $22 buy-in Lowball tourney, Kid Poker was playing in the $2,100 buy-in Lowball tourney. He finished in 12th place, just three places shy of the bubble. To his credit, he battled from almost last place to finish in the top 12. There were 90 players entered at that level, with the top finisher winning $60,000. Maybe with practice, I will see him at the table next year. LOL.

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Two tourneys scheduled for this week – both different

The poker tables in the Trump Taj Mahal
Image via Wikipedia

My tourney goals for this week are to finish in the top positions in No Limit Hold ‘Em sponsored by the Twitter Poker Tour, TPT:Stars Event #12, Thursday, Apr 9, 2009 at 7:00pm and 2-7 Triple Draw being played this afternoon at 2:30 opm at PokerStars as part of their SCOOP 2009, Spring Championship of Online Poker, series of tourneys. Both games are as different as can be.

While most people know a bit about Texas No Limit Hold ‘Em as seen on television and in the movies, 2-7 Triple Draw is not that well known and is not played at many of the on line sites and poker rooms. PokerStars does offer that game online and is available as a tourney game as well.

2-7 Triple Draw, as the name implies is a draw poker type game. You are dealt 5 cards and the goal is to get the lowest hand possible while avoiding a straight or a flush. The best possible hand is 2, 3, 4, 5, 7 and is referred to as the “wheel”. After the cards are dealt, there is a round of betting and then you can discard the cards you don’t want and get dealt or draw replacement for those cards. This is called the first draw. After you get your replacement cards, there is another round of betting and then you can discard any unwanted cards or stay pat, not drawing any new cards. There are a total of three draws during this session and betting occurs after each draw.

In 2-7 Triple Draw, the betting structure is fixed at one betting unit when the hand is dealt and after the first draw, up to a maximum of four bets for each round. The betting unit is doubled for betting after second and third draw, again with a maximum of four double bets for each betting round. The best lowest hand wins the pot and the pot is split if there are tied hands.

The buy-in for the lower level Triple Draw event is $22 and currently there are 377 players registered for the event with the top prize currently set at $5,000 based on the number of players registered at this point. There are low price satellites currently running that give you a chance to buy in at a lower price to the event.

Do you play in tourneys or cash games? Which do you prefer? Do you have a favorite game that is not played much in casinos or on line or home games?

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