Without cards – poker skills may not be enough

Poker
Image by Lewis Walsh via Flickr

Knowing how to raise, check-raise, value bet, continuation bet, all in raise may not be enough if you don’t catch cards to back up your play.

Last night I played “No Limit Hold ‘Em on the Twitter Poker Tour played on Full Tilt poker. I was a late registrant arriving at the table about three minutes after the tourney had started. Already one person had busted out having his Kings beaten by Aces in just the second hand dealt to him.

My first hand was AQ off-suit in the big blind.  There were three callers and I checked. The flop was 5 7 8, two spades and a heart. I checked, there was a small raise of 30 so three of us called. I am not sure why I did, having really missed the flop. The turn card was  9 of hearts, giving two spades and two hearts on the board with a straight draw as well. I folded to a pot size bet. There was one caller and two people saw the river which was a Jack of hearts. They both checked. One made a nine high straight while the other won with a flush, Jack high.

And so the evening went. My highest pocket pair were 10’s, folded pre-flop to a 6BB raise. I had AK three times, raised with two of them and limped in with one. All of the flops seen were small cards and I folded to large raises before the turn.  Most of the rest of my pocket pairs were folded pre-flop due to aggressive raising prior to my turn. My final play was an all-in bet with pocket fours when I was short-stacked, less than 10 times the big blind in chips. I was called by someone with QJ unsuited and he ended up with a straight on the river to bust me out in 22nd place after two plus hours of playing.

While I was not pleased with the results, I was satisfied with how I played. Skills aside, you do need some luck in the form of either good cards or great flops.

What do you do when you don’t catch premium cards? How does  that affect your game? Or do you try to force the action?

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Guest Post – using comments by Paul Ellis of Pablosplace.com

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On July 14, I wrote a post about “When to Move to the Next Level”. My twitter poker tour friend, Paul Ellis AKA @CoolWhipFlea of PablosPlace.com wrote a great comment. Here it is in its entirety.  Thank you Paul.

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……. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Remember when Patrick Sebastian challenged us to the 10 to 250 challenge? It was somewhat of a wake up call for me about bankroll management. With respect to online play, I’ve basically been unable to play at the levels necessary to exercise proper bankroll management techniques and play the games that I wanted to play. For example, a $50 initial deposit is too little to play the TPT which is a $5 buy in event. Risking 10% of your bankroll on a single buy in is just well above what you should be doing. So I created a separate Full Tilt account for the sole purpose of the challenge, and have stuck to the bankroll management techniques recommended by Chris Ferguson in his $0 to $10k challenge. It’s been a real grind, but I’ve been able to move up in levels twice, and have run my bankroll from $10 to just about $100. I’m still a long way away from the $250 goal, but I’ve been steadily increasing the bankroll, and only moving up in payscale when my bankroll tells me that I’ve been running positive enough to take the risk. But here’s the more important thing, when I went through a rut, I moved down a level. I feel that it was VERY important to realize that when I wasn’t winning at the higher level, instead of jepordizing my bankroll on players that had a likely higher bankroll (especially since they now had my money ;)), that I needed to eat a slice of humble pie, stand up, and move to another table with lower limits. I think that this is the mark of a good player. Being able to recognize limits that are acceptable to play within so that you’re comfortable if you do lose. This is a game of skill, but it also has an element of chance/luck. And sometimes, the cards just don’t fall your way. When you’re on the one of the down swings, you have to know what you’re comfortable losing, and not jeopardize your entire bankroll with the swing. Moving up for me is just a simple matter of mathematics. If you’ve got the cash, you can take a swing at the bigger stakes for a percentage of your bankroll that you’re comfortable losing. But when you don’t have it, stay disciplined, and within the ranges that you’re comfortable playing at.

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Online note taking – some sites give you more.

visual note-taking conference call notes
Image by Austin Kleon via Flickr

All of the online poker sites that I play allow note taking on specific players. That helps me as I play on different sites and I don’t always remember how my opponent played the last time we met.  Not so much for the #TPT players as we have played dozens of times over the last few months. Just a few notes can make all the difference between losing and winning a hand. The following is a list of sites I have played and their note taking capabilities.

Absolute Poker allows notes only, no color coding available.

Bodog Poker offers notes only, no color coding available.

Carbon Poker has a very detailed graphics bot that allows you to type notes and choose a picture tag to represent the player, including shark, fish, on tilt and others.

Doyles Room and PokerHost allow you to take notes and categorize the players from “Unknown” to “Hot player” with a color assigned to each designation.

FullTiltPoker allows notes and you choose a color code. There are no pre-assigned meanings to the colors so you get to decide what they mean.

PokerStars offers notes only, no color coding available.

TruePoker allows you to label the person and write notes as well.

Ultimate Bet allows just note taking, no color coding available.

I am currently spending a lot of time on Doyles Room and PokerHost whose sites are part of the Cake Poker Network.

While on these sites I use the player notes once I have determined the type of opponent I am playing. I can choose from the following labels and add my own notes. Each label is color coded.

Unknown – white – I use when I am not sure. I may want to include a note that the player likes suited connectors or some other drawing hand.

Tight – purple – have seen only a few of these types

Easy Money – green – I use this label for the limpers, and callers that have a hand or a draw. Maybe they cannot value bet and just call, hoping that their hand is good enough to win.

Fair – brown – just a grade above Easy Money – they might raise entering in a pot but don’t know what to do after the flop.

Good – yellow – raises or calls pre-flop, raises or calls after the flop. Usually knows how to value bet and sometimes check raises as well.

Very Good – pink – plays very few hands, usually plays well, knows how to raise and re-raise to get the most value out of a hand.

Hot Player – red – sneaky player who can flop the nuts but will check to the rest. Usually bets on forth and fifth street, when the bets are double and also uses the check raise.

Do you have a site that you like best? How do you rate their note taking options? Do you even take notes?  If yes, do these notes help?

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I had discussed this topic in a previous post, only I shared the why’s in more detail. See my previous post here.

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When to move to the next level

Party Gaming Revenue from Poker 2002-2006
Image via Wikipedia

Many of the books I have read have some advice  about when to move to the next level. While some of this advice varies, most of them say you should be winning at the level you are currently playing. While bankroll should be a consideration, many of these poker pros/authors say you can take the risk to move up – if you want to and can afford it.

Moving up to the next level does not mean you will make double what you were making at the current level as the players at the next level for the most part are better and tougher.

For myself, I will basically wait and see if I can run well in July and if I end the month in the black. I may try a shot at the next level and if I run badly, go back down a level until my play improves.

What determines the level you play at? Have you ever moved up a level and decided to go back to a more comfortable and profitable level of play?

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A lifetime of poker – and learning about it.

poker players
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I have been learning more about playing poker in the last few years than I have since I first learned to play five card draw over 40 years ago. Some of the things that I learned then from experience still ring true. My uncle Roland and Auntie Bea were fierce card players and did not brook much foolishness at the card table. Bluffing back then at a home card game was practically unheard of and heaven help you if you got caught at it.

Uncle Roland had always said if you don’t have a pair don’t get in. Even back then, hand selection prior to entering a pot, was the thing to remember. But back then we used to play micro stacks at our home games so gambling for .01/.02 did not seem like a lot.

I continued to play these home games with my parents and my aunt and uncle right up to about 1997. When I married my wife Diane in 1968, she joined us at these home games. As the years progressed, we moved up from the .01/.02 stacks right up to .10/.25. One thing we had started to do was to create a bankroll for each of us. We also kept an index card with our bankroll to record the amount we had left at the end of a session. In this way we could tell for sure that we had a winning or a loosing time playing.  We kept our winnings in a zip lock bag. Even recently we had occasion to use them in home games  long after our parents and aunt and uncle passed on to the great felt in the sky.

What was true then, still applies today. Hand selection is still very important. So is position in regards to the hand you decide to play or fold.

Have you learned from you lifetime of poker? Has your decision making improved over the years or months that you have been playing? Are you an impulsive player or a thoughtful one?

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Can't we all just get along?

apparently the "quiet zone" is not a...
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I play a lot of cash and sit and go’s and tourneys and I am seeing a trend that is starting to get quite annoying and downright disrespectful. That is the practice of criticizing the playing of other player’s. It is starting to affect other people not directly involved in the hands in question. Some of these people were regular players at games that I frequent.

Now I am not seeing some of these players at any of the games that I frequent. I am sure that I can attribute their unwillingness to play in a hostile atmosphere. And this is a shame as it spoils it for all of us who love the game of poker.

There is no need to call a person that stays in a hand for a two outer a donk or any other name for that matter. We need all types of players to fill up the table in order for the rest of us to play.  We don’t need to make somone feel uncomfortable in order to make our bad luck be their fault.

I am sorry to say that I may have been part of this problem because I did not say anything or do anything to stop it. It is one thing to have some friendly banter, it is another to belittle someone else. I vow from now on to try and change what is going on at the tables. Perhaps  I can do that using a gentle reminder that we have a game going or let us watch the banter. Let’s tone it down. Perhaps I will have to DM someone in order to voice my concerns. Whatever it takes.

What do you do to promote a friendly game? How do you  promote a postive attitude at the table? Or do you just stop playing there?

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How to test out poker concepts

Poker
Image by cRckls via Flickr

I have been doing a lot of reading lately in an effort to improve my poker playing at the cash ring games online. One of the ways I found that I could test out these concepts was to play at the very low micro levels – .02/.04 and .05/.10.

While the playing is very loose at these levels, it did allow me to test out some plays involving defending the blinds and also stealing the blinds when in the position of the cutoff or the button.

I tired using these ideas last night but the results were not what I expected. In one case I was defending the small blind without having a  reasonable enough hand to do so. At least three times I defended the big blinds by capping off the pre-flop betting and calling down a small holding of bottom or middle pair. I checked called all the way to the river only to find that the “stealer” had AK all three times. This happened three times in a row when I was the big blind. The odds of that occurring? And all three times he hit either the Ace or King, or the flush, when they were suited to win the pot.

While I did not get the success from using these ideas that I had hoped for, I will incorporate them into my game play as they will work most of the time. It is also good to have knowledge of the player you are against before making those plays.

How do you test out new ideas? Do you test them in the cash games or play money games? What have been your results?

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Thoughts on finding an online pokersite to play.

When the online poker gods smile
Image by Ryan Harvey via Flickr

When I look online to find a poker site to play on, I have found at least eight that allow US players. These are the ones that I have signed up with over the last three years.

FulltiltPoker
PokerStars
DoylesRoom
UltimateBet
AbsolutePoker
CarbonPoker
PokerHost
TruePoker

Each of these sites offer some of the basic games but only a few offer the most variety of poker being played currently. Perhaps I should also say that while many sites offer a large variety, due to the low number of players on some sites, not all of the games are available at all hours of the day. The same is true when you are looking to play at a certain cash level both in the ring games, tourneys and sit and go’s. The largest sites, with the most players, offer the most tournament choices and also have some of the best guaranteed payouts.  The smaller sites might offer you the best chance to win some of those payouts because too few players have registered, giving you better odds to win.

During the course of a 24 hour day, some of these sites have players at the tables that are better than you and some that are not as good. Finding a table with players you can beat is always a goal when you wish to grow a bankroll. I am currently alternating between three sites on a regular basis to find the best game for me to play.

Each site offers different options, both on the player interface and on their general menu. Many of the sites offer up to a dozen different ways to accept deposits and at least three different ways to payout the money back to you.

When choosing a site, what do you look for? What options make a site attractive for you to play on? What sites do you win best on?

Notes: Just this morning I updated DoylesRoom and found that they are on the same server as PokerHost. If I chose DoylesRoom I had to log out of PokerHost. The active table and player counts were very similar and the interfaces ware also very similar. In fact, the players at a particular table had the same name on both sites. I guess there is consolidation going on in the poker world.

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Signs that tell you that your hand might not win

Functional About Card - the fold
Image by nathanialfreitas via Flickr

I play limit hold ’em cash games at various sites online and on occasion I get what I think is a good hand only to find it is not the best hand. Yesterday for example I was dealt a pair of pocket sixes in the big blind. There were three opponents that called and the flop was 6 Q 9, giving me three sixes and possibly the best hand. I bet, one folded and one opponent raised, I re-raised and we kept this up until there were four more small bets in the pot. At this point, I was beginning to think that perhaps my opponent had a pocket pair such as Aces or Kings. I did not believe that he had a pair of Queens as he would have raised me pre-flop.

The turn card was a nine giving me a full house, sixes full of nines. I could not believe my luck. Again a round of betting took place and did not stop until four large bets went into the pot. Now, I was getting a little concerned as the pot was growing larger and he was not folding. Did I misread his hand and he had pocket Queens to my pocket Sixes? Had I already lost? What kind of hand did he hold if not QQ? There was already too much in the pot for me to fold now. The river card was a nine turning my hand into a full house of nines over sizes, reducing its value. I checked, he raised, I called and my opponent turned over an Ace Queen, giving him a full house of nines over Queens beating my nines over sixes.

I had not misread his hand. I think he had misread mine and did not realize that he had the worse hand after the flop and after the turn. I am not sure why he continued to call with just top pair, Ace kicker after the flop and with two pair after the turn considering the amount of betting that took place. I suppose that there was too much in the pot for him not to see it to the river. I think that this is sometimes why limit hold ’em is also referred to as “no fold ’em hold ’em”. Some players will never fold, hoping that their hand is the best hand regardless of what the evidence might tell. Of course at the end, I ended up being that player that could not fold because I also hoped that my hand was the best one.At that point, there was too much in the pot to just fold.

Have you ever played a hand that you knew was good pre-flop, great after the flop, terrific after the turn but then faded away at the river? If you were playing “no limit” instead of limit could a pot size bet have won the pot at the flop or would you have lost your entire stack with someone who would not fold?

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