Thoughts about having AK as a hand

Big SlickThroughout the last three years, I have seen many different players having AK as their starting hand and have been amazed at how some people value and play them. Otherwise known as “big slick”, AK are perhaps the two most misplayed cards that anyone can get. In some of the lower buy-in Texas Holdem tourneys, some players will go all-in if they have AK, suited or unsuited, it does not matter.

Even players that don’t go all-in may continue to bet, to call, and not ever give up on the hope that just having AK will be enough to win the hand regardless of what is happening around them, what cards came up on the flop, or how many people have called them. I have seen AK beaten by a pair of pocket twos and heard them complain about the bad beat they got.

For what its worth, AK is a good starting hand pre-flop, not as good as pocket Aces or Kings, but worthy of some value. In all the reading I have done, AK is a good hand that also has good folding equity. What is meant by folding equity is that a good sized bet might cause others to fold, allowing you to win a hand uncontested. Of course, this works better at No Limit and Pot Limit Holdem as opposed to Limit Holdem where you can only raise or bet in fixed increments.

In ring or cash games, a recommended bet size of either 3 to 5 times the big blind in No Limit and a pot size bet in Pot Limit will usually be enough of a bet to take down or win the pot.

If you are called by one or more opponents, you need to consider what they might be holding to warrant a call from them. If called, you need to get a good flop for AK to survive. A flop containing either or both of your cards would be helpful but you also need to consider what your opponents might have as well.

They could hold pocket Aces or Kings, either of which will spell doom for your AK hand. There is always the chance that your opponent had a pocket pair of Queens or lower and the flop may have made them a set or trips (three of a kind). On a coordinated flop such as 7-8-9, you might be up against someone who always plays their J-10 suited or unsuited and have just hit their straight. Even though a flop of A-K-Q would give you top two pair, the J-10 opponent would have hit their straight again. You would only have four chances left to catch the remaining two Aces or two Kings to fill out with a full house.

Even a flop of two or three uncoordinated cards but all of the same suit could be a problem for you if neither of your two cards contained that suit. If your opponent had only one card of that suit, there are enough chances left that they could make the flush either at the turn or on the river. Of course you still might have the best hand so how you play it might depend or your stack size versus your opponents.

If the flop did not hit your hand but contained low uncoordinated cards, a continuation bet equal to the pot size might be enough to get your opponents to fold holdings of all but AA or KK. In a limit game, it sometimes is not even possible to drive out a player holding a pair of twos.

In either a cash game or tourney, I always have to consider folding my AK if I am faced with a re-raise, which would indicate a strong hand help by my opponent. I would also have to consider if I was being bluffed. But with AK, I still don’t have a made hand, just a good draw and faced with a re-raise I would have to have good pot odds before I would consider calling. I would lean to folding before committing more of my chips to the pot.

What are your thoughts about AK? Does it matter if they are suited or unsuited? Do you win well with AK? Have you overcommitted with them?

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Lessons learned, Lessons to Apply

Palace - Gambling Keno Poker
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Ever since I decided that this was the year to try my hand at becoming a professional poker player and playing up to 20 hours a week either online or at a casino or poker room, I knew that the journey was not going to be easy.  I currently own over 29 different types of poker books. Some are specific about playing cash games or tournaments; some are about playing Limit Holdem; some are about playing No Limit Hodem. Some are about poker math and poker theory. I have read many of these books twice  and will probably read them again as the need arises. Even now, I have added to my shopping list 13 more poker titles that I need in order to complete my junior and senior years of poker playing before I graduate this year.

Whenever I am having a tough time at the tables or have had a significant loss, I turn inward to myself and to my poker reference books for answers.

Last Saturday night I had one of those tough times. I went to the local Seabrook Poker Room, located inside of the Seabrook Greyhound Racetrack in Seabrook NH. I played $2/4 limit poker from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and had a losing evening, for a total loss of $106.00. My original buy-in was $60, and I reloaded for another $60 when I was down to $12 in chips.

So far, losing deeply had not been a problem here. I have been here a total of five times to far, and up until this evening, I had won a total of $128. Most of those prior evenings, I would have large chip fluctuations before ending up on the plus side. The reason for these large fluctuations is due to the type of players at the table.

At a table of nine there might be one or two tight players and two loose players and then the remaining ones would be  extremely loose, playing almost every hand to the river regardless of their holdings or how dangerous the board may have looked. This type of table can provide a very profitable experience if you are a good tight aggressive player and play your premium hands to the end. Because of the looseness of the table you are going to take a bad beat from time to time.

In a prior evening, I had pocket Kings and this hand was the best hand right up to the river. My opponent had a pair of pocket sixes and caught a 6 at the river to bust my hand. He called everyone of my raises;  the board had over cards to his holding, yet he kept on calling in the hopes of making his two outer ( a two outer meaning there were only two cards left in the deck that could help his hand).  After he scooped up the pot, I just said nice hand and cleared my head to get ready for the next hand. By playing tight and aggressive I grew my original $100 to $228 over the prior four games despite the occasional bad beat.

This Saturday night however was slightly different. I was what is known as card dead. I was not catching anything that could take down the pot. Over the course of the evening I was dealt over 120 hands and only had about 10 hands that were barely playable.  I had pocket 10’s once, pocket 8’s once, and pocket 3’s once (which I folded “UTG”). The other playable cards that I did were A J, A 10, and I even played A 9 on the button. I did have a couple of small suited connectors such as 7 8’s, but even these holdings were limited.  I won a couple of small pots but basically I would get a hand and the flop hit me so badly I would have to fold to heavy betting. Because the table was extremely loose, I would have needed a better hand to get to the river and survive. Tonight I was not catching cards. Luck was not on my side. The table was so loose that I could not even try to bluff now and again.  Now I don’t really believe in luck, but in the randomness of the cards. It is said that the cards have no memory, but after having been dealt a 7 3, three times in a row, you have to start questioning that saying too. My original plan of action was to play for three hours and at 9:30pm, it was time for me to leave. I had lost a total of $106 that night, but was still up $22 overall over the last five sessions. Had I been playing poorly or was tired, then my course of action would have been to just get up and leave and not stay until 9:30 pm.

Since last Saturday night I have had time to think about what I could have or should have done. I have re-read a few chapters of some of my favorite books and decided that my playing was sound. The only thing I could have done differently was to change tables. This might not have helped what hands I received but it would have given me a chance to change my table image. At my current table, I was appearing to be a good natured loser who was getting chipped away at (the big and the small blinds every nine hands were eating away my chips, especially if I called to see a flop before having to fold).

By moving to a new table, I could have started out with  a fresh table image. I could play the players regardless of the cards I held because these players would have no prior knowledge of what had just happened to me. They would not know if I had a hand or not. Moving to a new table might have been one way I could have turned my “luck” around. Of course, I trust that my next outings are not similar to this one and that the cards truly have no memory and that I don’t see a pile of 7 3 or 7 2 cards in front of me most of the evening.

Be careful on the felts. You could get rug burned.

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Omaha High/Low Explained

Beispiel für eine Omaha Hold'em Hi-Lo Hand ein...
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Omaha Poker High/Low is like Texas Holdem except that each player gets four cards for his hand as his hole cards. In Texas Holdem the player gets only two hole cards.

Unlike Holdem, the player must use two cards from his hand with three cards from the five common cards to make his best high hand. The player can also use any two cards from his hand to make his best low hand. The two cards that the player users for either the high or the low do not have to be the same two cards.

As in Texas Holdem, hand selection and player position are important. The big difference in Omaha High/Low is that your major object should be to win both the high and low portions of the pot. This is known as scooping. Anything less might cause you to lose money in the long run. This is because it is possible to have each pot split up by as much as 2 or more players per pot. You can bet $100 and win back $25 as your share of the split pot.

Playing Omaha High/Low requires you to have very good drawing hands. Generally  you should never enter a pot with out an Ace in your hand. And that Ace should be accompanied by no higher that a 2 or a three in the same suit.

You need hands like:

AA23  AA34 A234 A345 AK23 AKQJ KKJ10.

There are a lot of other playable hands, but mostly the Ace should be suited with another card, giving you chance to have the best flush and the A with low cards, the best low.

This game takes a lot of patience and if you start chasing with hands like 2345 3456 you can get into a lot of trouble. But, I find this game fun and challenging and a change of pace from Texas Holdem Limit and No-Limit.

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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

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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.

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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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