Steve takes a bad beat by Doyle Brunson (actually it was by Doyle’s Room and not Doyle directly)

Doyle Brunson in 2006 World Series of Poker - ...
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Doyles Poker Room used to be a favorite site of mine back about three years ago until they stopped letting US players on their site. Last year I found out that they were accepting US players again.  I signed up again, deposited some money and starting playing.  I later found out that some players were blocked by the request of various states in the US.

Doyles Room blocked players by using the IP addresses of that player’s states. This has happened to a couple of my “buddies” at Doyles Poker Room.

Now Doyles Poker has upgraded their software as a result of joining the Cake Poker network. This site also accepts US players.

The transition did not go smoothly for me. I lost my $15.62 balance during the transfer and Dolyes Room was not very helpful in resolving the issue. It is the principal and not the the amount of money.

From January 30th until February 2nd, I sent them four emails requesting that they resolve the issue. They  answered me twice and both times with the same answer. “Log in and you will see your balance”.  Well, I have logged in at least 10 times since then and each time I see a zero balance. So much for service and dependability. I can take a hint.

Several years ago when Doyles Room blocked US players, they locked me out and took away my balance. I never got it back.
I don’t know why I thought things would be different this time. In spite of having Doyles backing, they have done it again.

What was I thinking?

Even Doyle Brunson said in a book about internet poker, that you should be very careful about the sites that you join. He further said that a player should make a modest deposit and then in a few days, request a modest withdrawal to see how the sites respond. This way, he said, you could protect your mini bankroll at that site.

Well, I bought and read the book a few years ago. A lot of good that did me. It did not cover what can happen when a site joins another poker network.

But from now on, when signing up on a new online site and before depositing any large amounts, I will take the time to make a test deposit of say $50 and a test withdrawal of $25.

In any case, my plan is to maintain no more than three sessions worth of money in any one site at any time. When I earn more than that amount, I will withdraw it to protect myself from these types of challenges. Also, whenever I learn that there is a major change such as what happened to Doyles Room, I have decided that I should request a nearly total withdrawal, leaving $1 just in case. This is a case of do as “Doyle says” and not what I did.

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Limit, Pot Limit, No Limit Betting in Texas Holdem

Picture of hole cards in a game of texas hold 'em
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Limit, Pot Limit and No Limit betting are quite different from each other. Each type of “betting limits” can dictate how you play your hands in Texas Holdem.

For all of the following examples, I will use a small blind amount of $1 and big blind amount of $2 and a table with 9 players.

Limit-Holdem, as the name implies, is a limited bet size. The way this works is that the small blind is required to bet $1 and the big blind $2.
Once the cards are dealt, the pre-flop betting amount is $2.00 or the size of the big blind. Pre-flop betting is usually limited to a maximum of four bets before the flop is dealt. This means that the total that one person might put in the pot is $8 (4 x $2) before the flop. After the flop, the betting amount is still $2 per bet with a limit of up to four bets for a total of up to $8 in bets per person staying in the hand. After the forth card, the turn card, the bet amount doubles to $4 with a limit of four bets maximum for a maximum total of $16 for this round of betting. After the fifth card, the river card, the betting amount is $4 with a limit of four bets for a maximum total of $16. Even with limits, you may have to put in the maximum pre-flop, flop, turn, and river. That can amount to quite a pot, totalling up to $48 dollars per person.

Pot-Limit means that any player can bet an amount up to the limit equal to the total of the pot. As this changes with each bet, it can easily become enough to require you to put in all your chips while you are just calling someone else’s raise. This game is quite tricky in that the betting can escalate quickly and is not to be played by the faint of heart.

No-Limit means just that. There is no limit to the amount that can be bet. The minimum bet is the amount of the big blind and the maximum amount is the total of the chips that you have. If the all in bet was made before you and you have less chips then the amount bet, you can still call with all of your chips. This level of play is also not for the faint of heart but if played well, can be quite profitable, or costly if badly played.

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Changing up your game.

Banknotes from all around the World donated by...
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The idea for this post was taken from a comment made to one of my previous posts, when I was asked to explain more about “changing up your game”.

I would do this by trying the following: Try stealing the blinds once in a while with a bet increase when playing a limit game and a bet that is about 2 1/2 times the big blind bet in a no-limit game. If you get played back, meaning they re-raised you, you can always back off. If your hand is good enough, you can re-raise back.

Stealing the blinds works best when you are the cutoff player or on the button. The button refers to the position to the right of the small blind and the cutoff is the position to the right of the button.

Once in a while, lead off with a bet or a raise, even with a bad hand.  In fact, never play the same hand the same way. That’s another way to change up your game.  Another example of this would be raising and calling when holding pockets AA’s.  Usually with AA’s, you would raise pre-flop. Perhaps 1 out of 3 times you could just call.

You could be looser for say, three or four hands in a row, then tighten up, playing only premium hands. This might confuse your opponents and when you start betting with a good hand, they might not believe you and give you the action you want. The bottom line is to become a little unpredictable by changing up how you normally play.

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How much money do I need to play? – Bankroll management made simple (I hope)

Poker night - Who's gonna win?
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When deciding to play a game of poker, I always base my decision of what game levels to play based on my bankroll size. Your bankroll is the total amount of money that you have available to play poker.  It includes the money that you have set aside strictly for poker.   Bankroll refers to total monies not just what you plan to spend at one session.

I have read lots of differing views as to what your bankroll size should be. The whole idea of having a bankroll is to allow you to play your best but to allow for a streak of bad beats. Even the best of players can get stuck, not winning, for hours, days, weeks or even months.  During that time a sufficient bankroll will help them continue to play until they start winning again.

One thing that a new player turning pro should also consider is that after a few months of straight decline, they might just be a losing player.  Maybe they should consider just playing for fun or very low limits instead. They may just need to change the way they play.

There are so many suggestions by various people as to what the bankroll size should be that I picked the following one. I try to allow myself to have a bankroll worth 4,000 times the big blind.

That size of bankroll would allow me to sustain losses for up to:

20 sessions minimum playing No Limit games with a buy-in amount equal to 200 times the big blind.
40 sessions minimum playing No Limit games with a buy-in amount equal to 100 times the big blind.
100 sessions minimum playing Limit games with a buy-in amount equal to 40 times the big blind.
200 sessions minimum playing Limit games with a buy-in amount equal to 40 times the big blind.

The math is not perfect but the above formula allows the following games amounts to be played based on the following bankrolls. Using a spreadsheet will get you more accurate results.

$100 bankroll allows you to play reasonably in $ .01 / .02 games that have a big blind of .02
$1,000 bankroll allows you to play reasonably in $.10 / .25 games that have a big blind of .25
$5,000 bankroll allows you to play reasonably in $ .50 / $1.00 games that have a big blind of 1.00
$10,000 bankroll allows you to play reasonably in $1.00 / 2.00 games that have a big blind of 2.00

These are just my opinions and I am trying to be conservative as well.

You can always try to play above your level for a session or two, but it is a good idea to stay in your bankroll level or comfort zone even if that level is lower.

If you are on a losing streak, check your bankroll size and move down a level based on the remaining size. This will keep you going longer.

Only move up a level when your bankroll can sustain that level.

Best of luck and be careful out there.

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Playing Winning Poker

Poker Texas Hold'em : Shuffling Cards On The Board
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A recent post I read on another blog, “PokerBankRollBlog.Com” had an article that resonated with the type of playing I have been doing of late and it is based on the following thoughts by noted poker player, Phil Gordon, and an article that he wrote. The basics of the article are that the way you play and the results you get, can be based on how you play. Now, I know you are going to say “duh”, of course. But these levels are good to think about because they can help you be a better player at the table, both online and at face-to-face play at the casinos. The summarized excerpt from Phil Gordon’s article about how expert players think is as follows:

Expert players think four of more levels deep:
Level 1: “What hand do I have?”
Level 2: “What hand does my opponent have?”
Level 3: “What hand does my opponent think I have?”
Level 4: “What does my opponent think that I think they have?”

As I have not played poker full time yet, I realize that my initial attempts at playing are mostly at level 1 and occasionally at level 2. So what I get from all of this is that I need to work on moving up to the next level of thinking in order to improve my playing and my profitability.

This is easier said than done and it goes back to discipline and to practice. Currently my game of choice is Limit Holdem at low stakes, no higher than $5/$10. Right now, I am playing $2/$4 while trying to improve my game and the idea of levels of thinking is helpful.

Just playing at level one thinking can be costly. At that level of thinking, if I have pocket Aces, I bet and raise and re-raise without considering what my opponent might have. Pre-flop, pocket Aces are the winning or tying hand. After the flop, it could be anybody’s guess as to how good the pocket Aces are.

If you are not thinking about what your opponent has after the flop and how it compares to your hand, you might be fighting a loosing battle. And that is where level two thinking comes in. If you can figure out the possible type of hands your opponent has, you can decide to just call, raise, or even fold your hand.

Level three is a little trickier, and involves trying to figure out what your opponent thinks you have. The reason this is important is because he may basing your hand on how you have played prior hands. He may have noticed that once you have any kind of a hand you don’t give it up. He may have seen your hands at showdown time, when you played your AA or AK right to the end, to the river, without regards to what has flopped, turned, or rivered and have seen that you have lost those type of hands when the opponent has two pair, three of a kind, a straight or a flush. 

If you know how your opponent plays and you can play differently than he thinks you are playing, you can gain an advantage over him. That is a lot to think about. I will try to get stronger at level 2 and level 3 thinking and continue to learn and work at getting to level 4 while working at mastering the first three levels.

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Reflections of a busy day

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Yesterday was a busy day for me. I had gotten up early to write my blog post entitled “Discipline at the tables – Part 2”.  While typing it, I played some of the “Double or Nothing” games that I have come to enjoy.  I was contemplating a full day ahead. There are household chores such as unpacking boxes and totes from our move last September from Massachusetts to New Hampshire. I was dropping off my wife, Diane, at our daughter-in-law, so they could go to a movie, while I went to the Seabrook Poker Room for some more live face to fact playing experience. And to wrap up the day, was the “Tweeter Poker Tour” TPT:Tilt Event # 7. In between that, I also decided to remove some of the ice in our driveway that had built up while we were in Florida two weeks ago.

I was well rested when I typed the blog. I was doing fine with the household chores. The ice chipping and ice removing was a little taxing. But I was exciting about the upcoming live game and tourney at 9 pm.

While I was at the Poker Room, I took notes on the first 30 hands that I was involved in. I was directly to the left of the dealer and he did not say anything about it and I had not thought to ask. The dealers change every 20 minutes and when the third dealer arrived he stated that note taking is not allowed – house rules. Oh well.

I was trying to play tighter than my previous visit, getting involved in premium hands only, such as AA, KK, AK, etc. I had starting with $40 in chips and worked my way down to $6, so I bought another $20 of chips.

On the very next hand I got an As Jc unsuited, but I was in position, so I called the blind. The Flop came A K Q of clubs giving me top pair and the nut flush draw as well as a chance for a royal flush draw.  The betting was heaving and I was all in with my remaining $26 in chips. The turn card was a 6 of hearts and the river card was the 10 of clubs. I had made my Royal Flush and won the pot, which gave me back $63, putting me ahead for the evening.

I ended up playing one more hand and leaving with $61, or ahead $1. This was an improvement over the last time as I had left with a loss of $4.

Diane came back from the movies and we drove back from the Poker Room to our home. I would be able to make it in time for the #TPT event.

I thought I played tightly during the event. I did not read blogs or play side games as I wanted my full concentration on the tourney at hand. I ended up busting out in 17th place, far worse than the previous week. While watching the final table, I played an online small stakes cash game of No Limit. I played until I had lost my $5 buy-in and went to bed while there were still five players left at the TPT.

Revelation: From the time I had hit the Casino on, I was actually a bit tired and did not realize how that had affected my decisions. It was not until this morning that I had realized that I was playing tired, which for me is a recipe for disaster or at least poor play. I recalled some of the hands that I played at the Poker Room, the tourney, and the cash games and knew that I had made bad decisions. I was playing my “C” game.

Chalk up yesterday as a lesson learned.


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Discipline at the poker table

Harry Truman's poker chips
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My previous post about my limt play at the Seabrook Poker Room got me to thinking about this topic. While thinking about it, I decided to play some simple tourneys that a twitter poker buddy. Deanna “Panndyra” Goodson, told me about. It is a single table tourney called “Double or Nothing”.  The entry amount can be from $1 plus a fee and up. As the name impiles, you can double your money or lose it. The simplicity of the game is that it is a ten person table with increasing blinds and antes. And the best part is that 5 out of the ten players will be winners and the other five will be losers.

Here is where the discipline comes in.  If you play tight and careful, you should be able to double your money. If you are not patient or careful you will lose your money.

In order to win, you need to keep your ego in check. The first three games I tried, I did not keep my ego in check and I lost. The next two games, I played only the best cards AA, KK, AK and pushed them. If they pushed me back, I would fold. If I got a good flop and had the best possible hand I would push back and go all in. I won games three and four and I am currently in game six at this time. Of course, if I win the sixth, then I would be even. (Update: It is awful hard to be disciplined. I am going to have to work on this part of my game. During game six I caught a so so hand and then I called a small raise and had to fold after the flop. Prior to calling, I was in fourth place and after folding I was in sixth place. Not being patient – costly).

Whew. As it turned out, I was in sixth place and in the big blind with very few chips left. The small blind called, but then we both checked after the flop, after the turn, and after the river. I ended up winning that pot. The next hand dealt, three of the other players went all in (at least one of them should not have, they were not being patient either and so that allowed me to win game six).

In the “Double or Nothing” tourney, fifth place pays just as much as first place, so you should not let your ego cause you to try to be king of the hill, less you fall down the crevice.

And now that I am even, I am going to play at least seven more of these tourneys to see if I can double up ten times in a row. As it stands now, I have won three and lost three. I will report back to you on how I do in the next seven games.

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Security, User-names, Online Accounts, Checking and Savings Issues etc.

Bad security. Don't worry. No one can break in...
Image by mary hodder via Flickr

An incident that occurred to an online poker playing member of a poker users group got me to thinking about security issues. It seems that this player has an account on FullTiltPoker.Com and when he attempted to log in, he got a message saying that there were six previous attempts to log into his account. He wondered how such a thing could happen. Well, here are some of my thoughts as to how that may have happened.

This user group (I am also a member) has user profiles that also can allow a user to list their screen name from any of the poker sites that they subscribe to. This is done for two reasons: one is that the site gives their members freerolls and special tourneys to just members only; two – it makes it easier for other members to find a player at a certain site. On the surface, this is not a big deal.

EXCEPT … when someone has larceny as their motive, having access to the user-name makes it that much easier to try and hack into a users poker account. Some people use very simple passwords and some thieves use password crackers (software that tries to break their password). If the thief (hacker) is successful, they might try to withdraw the money or find some way to get it.  They might be able to get to the cashier tools and direct deposit it to their account.They could be in collusion with someone and go head to head and just lose to the other person.

Things you can do to increase your security or limit your losses

Better passwords – Try to use at least a twelve character passwords that contains at least one Uppercase letter and at least one number. If allowed, use a special character such as an exclamation mark, etc. If spaces are allowed in the password, you might even try to use a small phrase that is easy to remember such as “i hate fish”. Even something as simple as that is hard to crack because a phrase with spaces in it, unlike a password, has too many possibilities for a hacker or thief to consider. As a rule, never use birthdays, anniversaries, children’s names, pet names or easy to guess words like “password”. (You would be surprised about how many people use “password” as a password).

Maintain a special checking account – Never use your household checking account to either send or receive money to online sites. Even your PayPal account should be linked to a special account you maintain just for online activity. You should maintain as low a balance in that account as possible, transferring money to it from savings or other accounts only as needed. Most banks allow for online banking so you should be able to have your “online activity account”, your household account, and your savings account available and separated from each other.  In this way, you limit the amount that you can lose should your online poker account or paypal account become compromised.

Limit the amounts maintained on Poker sites – Depending on the type of games you play and your results, you should consider limiting the amount of money that any site holds for you. For example, if you like to play in tourneys that have a $5 buy-in and you play about 10 tourneys a week, keep about $50 maximum in your poker account.  If you are a winning player, make sure that you transfer your profits to your online checking account set up for just that purpose only and then transfer some of that to a savings or other checking account that does not get used by PayPal or the online sites. This will keep your exposure down to just what you have at that site.

By the way, if you think I am being paranoid, you are most certainly right. It turns out that identity theft is the hottest way for third world  gangsters and thieves to make a quick buck. And you thought that the stock market was the fastest way to see your money disappear, let alone bad poker playing decisions.  Please feel free to add your thoughts, ideas and concerns to this topic.

Photo Credit:  mary hodder

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On the button – player position and what it means

Example of position in texas holdem
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Your position relative to the other players is an import part of the Texas Holdem game to learn and understand.

For the following explanation, I am going to use a card table that has ten players to illustrate my point (plus the diagram that I found also has ten players). For the purpose of explanation, there are going to be two blinds or forced bets, one of which is a small blind and the other is a big blind. I believe the reason that these bets are referred to as blinds is because the players must make these bets without first seeing their hole cards thus the players are betting blind. Generally speaking, the amount of the small blind is usually half the amount of the large blind. For the purposes of explaining position and betting, I am going to use the amount of $1 for the small blind and $2 for the big blind.

In all online games and most casino games there is an official dealer that just shuffles and deals the cards to the players. The dealer himself does not get any cards. In Texas Holdem, each player gets a chance to be in the position of the dealer in that a button with the word “Dealer” is placed in front of him. Cards are dealt out in the following manner, clockwise, starting with the player to the left of the “dealer” or “button”. The first player to the left of the dealer button is usually the “small blind”; the player to the left of the small blind is the big blind. All of the players are dealt a card at a time starting with the small blind until each player has two cards. Once the two hole cards have been dealt, the player to the left of the big blind is first to act. This position is sometimes referred to as “under the gun” because that player must decide whether to call the opening bet of the big blind or raise or just fold his hand. The first three positions to the left of the dealer button are usually referred to as the “early positions”. The next three  left positions are referred to as the middle positions and the remaining three positions are called the late positions.

Part of the reason that position matters is that the betting order can help to determine who stays in a hand and who folds a hand. The type of betting will also play a factor in the betting action. In a “Limit” game, the amount of bets are in increments of the big blind and usually no more then four raises of that amount can be made during any particular round of betting. In a “Pot” limit game, the maximum bet amount is limited to the amount of the “Pot” that would result if everyone made a bet equal to the size of the big blind. As there can be up to four rounds of raises at each stage, the maximum amount or the pot can become real large real fast. Finally, “No” limit bets must be at least the amount of the big blind and can be as much as a player has in front of him. (He cannot just reach in his pockets and buy more chips during the play of a hand), hence the name, “No Limit”.

Generally speaking, the earlier the position that a player is in, the better that player’s hand should be to get involved in the betting and raising process. The later the position, the lower the starting requirements are for the late position player.

How each type of Holdem is played, how the betting is done, and what the results that can be is a topic for another time.

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Poker etiquette at the table

The poker tables in the Trump Taj Mahal
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Poker etiquette suggests that you don’t criticize someone for their poor play, especially if you are in a cash game. This advice applies to both online games as well as face to face games (I image that there is more risk being critical in person than online).

There are a couple of reasons for not being critical. One is that it will make you look like a jerk, and two you might actually influence the person you are criticizing to play better, or worse, leave the table. At a cash game, your goal is to maximize your profits, not chase them away. If you happen to get beat because a person stayed in the game with a hand that should have folded, your best response would be to smile slightly and say “nice hand” and try to forget about what has happened. You don’t want to go off tilt and start playing poorly yourself. It is not easy sometimes, but take time and cool down, then get back into your game.

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