FullTilt Poker Academy – The Power of Position Challenge

Example of position in texas holdem
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My current poker challenge at FTP Academy is to successfully complete the next five objectives.

#1.  Open-fold A-J, A-T, A-9, K-Q, K-J, or K-T 3 times in early position (UTG, UTG+1) in 8- or 9-handed NLHE cash games. (This will teach me the discipline of folding hands that are troublesome when opened in early position).

#2. Raise with A-Q, A-J, A-T, A-9, K-Q, K-J, or K-T 3 times in late position (button, cutoff) in 8- or 9-handed NLHE cash games. (This will teach me the advantage strong drawing hands have in late position).

#3. Win a pot with a continuation bet on the flop with no pair in an 8- or 9-handed NLHE cash game, after open-raising from late position (button or cutoff) pre-flop. (This will teach me yet another way to show strength due to position without having an actual hand).

#4. Successfully bluff on the turn with no pair after calling a bet in position on the flop. (This excercise will demonstrate the power of position verus the need for having a good hand).

#5. The Pro Play  –  Win 3 consecutive pots from the button. (This one is a trickier one to accomplish because you are not always going to have a hand on the button, so some of the time you will have to bluff your way through).

A lot of the above tasks will also require a strong table image. One that implies you only play strong hands. One that makes the rest of the table respect you. If for any reason you have lost your table image and your bluffs no longer work, just move on to another table with unknown players and start rebuilding your image again.

As it stands right now, I still have to complete 1/3 of step 2 and all of steps 4 and 5.

Do you play your hands based on position regardless of what cards you hold? Is your table image strong, passive or manic? Do your opponents give you respect for your raises?

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Update – Steve takes a bad beat by Doyle Brunson – Resolved by Doyles Room Security

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This saga is over. Thank you Doyles Room Security.

I was a member of Doyles Room and when the conversion to Cake Poker was over, I ended up losing my balance of $15.62. I had chatted online with security and emailed many times but to no avail. The silent part of listen happened but not the way I thought. Doyle Brunson said, in one of his blogs, that silent is spelled with the same letters as listen, and to listen properly, you should be silent.

It did take a while, but the security at Doyles Room assured me that my account still had the balance of $15.62. After many failed attempts, I uninstalled and reinstalled the software. I logged in as directed, requested a new password, and low and behold my account was just as I and left it. Thank you Doyles Room, security and Doyle as well.

It may have help that I also posted my problems at the Doyles Room Blog.

I finally sat down to play using my $15.62 bankroll and I noticed quite a few improvements in the interface. It was easier to use and configure. I especially liked their last hand display. It is very informative and the graphics are sharp as well as you can see in the picture below.


Just these changes alone have gotten me re-interested in spending some time at Doyles Room. I will report back on any other new findings I might encounter both good, bad, and ugly.

Do you have a favorite online site? What do you like most about it? What do you like least?  How about the variety of games available?

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Playing in a Pot Limit Omaha tourney at the Cowboy's Poker League

A cracker cowboy  artist: Frederick Remington.
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Last night I played in a Pot Limit Omaha (aka PLO) Poker tourney being hosted by the Cowboy’s Poker League and played on FulltiltPoker. This league is just starting up and needs members. But the ones they have currently are enthusiastic and dedicated. Based on their blog page, Scott (twitter name is ffcowboy76) and Jeremy (twitter name is IBGPN) are the host and contact persons. Tweet or follow them on their exploits as well as follow their league twitter name – @CowboyPoker.

I have read a few books about Omaha Pot Limit Poker and thought I knew a little bit about it. I have not played many tourneys but in the ones I did play in, I either did quite well or busted out real fast. Out of a possible ten tourneys, I placed in the top three in two tourneys and lost in the remaining eight. Based on these results, I think that knowing “a little bit” about PLO is accurate.  Some of the books I’ve read are: Farha on Omaha: Expert Strategy for Beating Cash Games and Tournaments and Omaha Poker by Bob Ciaffone. These books did not prepare me enough for last nights game.

Because the league is new, there were only 9 people entered in the tourney. That meant that at the start of the tourney, there were two tables; one with four players and one with five and this is where my skill level is currently lacking. Playing what is called a short-handed game is not one of my strong suits. For me, this is different than playing at the final table once you have built up your stack to a comfortable level. I am out of my comfort zone playing short-handed games and I will have to work on that if I want to survive in the world of  “professional poker”.  Only the top three finishers would win the prizes. Thank you “Cowboy’s Poker League” for adding $25 to the prize pool in addition to our buy-ins.

Overall, I was dealt 92 hands. I folded 56 hands pre-flop. I called 25 hands pre-flop. I checked 10 hands pre-flop when I was in the big blind. I raised one hand pre-flop and took down the pot. Overall, I won ten pots and lost three, including the final hand when I was in third place and went all in with a straight,  A-2-3-4-5, even when a pair (Jacks) was showing on the board. There was a four on the board and my opponent had pocket fours making a full house fours full of jacks, beating my straight.  There is a truism spoken about Omaha High and it is that if a pair is showing on the board, there is a high probability that someone has made a full house. That was the case last night. I ended up finishing third. Considering how passive I was, I will take that. It turns out after checking some blog articles about short-handed games, I should have been a little more aggressive. Raising once in 92 hands is just not too aggressive.

Do any of you play Omaha Pot Limit tourneys?  Do any of you play in short-handed or heads-up play? What has been your success with short-handed games or tables?

Side note: Here is a link to a YouTube video entitled: Poker: The Experience which is making the rounds in online poker circles. I rated it F for Funny.

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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
Image by love not fear via Flickr

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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Quick thinking can be costly

The poker tables in the Trump Taj Mahal
Image via Wikipedia

Quick thinking can be costly especially when playing No-Limit Omaha High/Low Poker.

I was involved in a game with 9 other players. This was a fairly active group with players going all-in many times during the session. As long as you did not make a single mistake and thought things out, you would be okay.

Folding unless you had AAKK, AA22, AA23 was usually a good idea with this group. You also wanted to make sure that your AAKK or AA22 was double suited as well, meaning that the AAKK should be AK of one suit with the other AK another suit. While this might seem to be unreasonable, you get hands like this more often then you might imagine. Playing Omaha High/Low, these hands are  definitely worth waiting for because they can win you the entire pot. The actual number of good starting hands is much more than just the two examples but I will save that for another day.

When playing Omaha High/Low, your object should be to win both halves of the pot, the highest hand pot and the lowest hand pot. If your hand is not strong enough to win both, you should fold. It can get quite costly trying to win only the high end or the low end of the pot. The reason it can get costly just trying to win one side of the pot only is due to the fact that the pot can be split up between two or more individuals;  two or more could share the high hand and two or more the low hand.

The tricky part about Omaha High/Low is that you can misread your hand and cost yourself a lot of money. Since you have four hole cards and can only use two of the hold cards with three of the five common cards, it is easy to mistake what you have for a hand. You might quickly think that you have a full house and instead have three of a kind or worse, two pair. It gets even worse when you get three queens as part of your hole cards and a queen flops giving you only three of a kind while you might thinking – wow – four of a kind.

Typically in Omaha High/Low, the winning high hand is usually a full house or better. At the minimum a flush. Only occasionally will top pair win the high end of the pot.

So anyway, what this is boiling down to is that I had a hand that gave me a low straight and a low hand, with the possibility of the best high and best low hand. I was thinking scooping. And without thinking what my opponent had, I called my opponent’s all-in bet with just one click, in just one second.

And guess what, that quick thinking cost me $20.00 as I had the second best high hand and the second best low hand. The second best hands however don’t pay anything and that cost me my entire $20 stack that I had brought to the table with me. Lesson learned the hard way. Think before you click.

If I had taken the time allowed, which is 10 seconds, and then requested additional time, which is 60 seconds more, I could figured out that my hand was not the best possible high and best possible low. Then I would have made the appropriate decision and folded.

Moral to the story:  Take the time to think about what you have for a hand before committing any or all of your chips to any hand.

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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?
Image by Philofoto via Flickr

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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Poker Chips – Online versus Live

Harry Truman's poker chips
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During the last three years, I have played hundreds of online games of poker and less than seven (7) face to face casino games. I am not counting the thousands of home games I have played with parents, friends and relatives since I was old enough to play. Besides, almost all of the home games were played using cash; pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, etc.

The easiest mode of  betting, calling and raising is online play. Just click those buttons, move those sliders, type in those bet amounts and hit enter. Now, if you don’t pay attention, it is also to easy to call when you meant to fold, fold when you meant to raise, and raise when you meant to check. So maybe online has its own share of problems?

In my limited exposure in live play I have found that using real chips is pretty tricky. First there is the problem of learning how to handle the chips. Forget about shuffling them like the professionals do. Just handling the darn things without tipping over your stack. I have even seen people at the tables knock over other peoples stack of chips. Now, that is a sight.

Next you have to learn the value of chips based on color at some casino tables when playing in tourneys. So depending on your buy-in, you could have up to four different color of chips in front of you of varying value. Picking up and placing the wrong chip out there can be as dangerous as clicking the wrong button.

My very first tourney play was at an event called The Foxwoods Poker Classic at the Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut.  We were given $1,500 in chips using three denominations to start at the early stages of the “Act I” tourney. I fumbled with my chips, threw in large raises instead of calling by picking the wrong color chips. It was quite a learning experience, that first time using chips instead of a mouse. Despite all my mistakes, I got lucky in that event and won a seat to the next level, called “Act II”. I did not fair as well in Act II as luck was not with me. I had no idea what I was doing at that time, especially at live play.

It has taken me a few games to get better at handling my chips. I still have a ways to go. I am not going to try to shuffle chips as I don’t want to hurt my fellow players or the dealer.

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