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Training

Welcome to the Training Section

Goal Plan Success Preparation

Preparation

If you have chosen a poker room where If you want to play, have a look at the tournament lobby or the cash games lobby. Always remember how much time you need for the tournaments to create a schedule for an upcoming session. If you are e.g. only have 1-3 hours, you probably should not play a long tournament. Instead, play a cash game or Sit’n’Go’s with max. 180 players or wait until you have more free time. Long multi-table tournaments can take between 5-6 hours, up to 10-12 in some of the larger guaranteed events or deepstack tournaments with a normal structure. At some other annual or special events even longer.

In this way, you can create a better schedule to avoid avoidable mistakes. Most often, random tournaments are played with different structure of levels. You should try to select each session with similar blind structures as you build your schedule.

Play at cash games at all tables the same limit when playing multi-tabling.

For tournaments choose either standard turbos, hyperturbos, deep stacks, or just regular tournaments. Do not try to mix different structures in the same session. However, there are always exceptions. If you’re already a crusher and an established online poker grinder, you can of course mix more if you can afford to withstand the variance.

You should also use spreadsheets or apps to track your results to keep track of your game. Google offers free documents and Excel sheets, so anyone with a Google Account can use them to stay organized.

In our Shop you can find free downloads to use.

Preparing to play live poker

The Drive

Most of us have a commute to and from the casino and many of us misuse this time.

What do you do?

  • Use the cell phone?
  • Use your MP3 or listen to XM radio?
  • Bring along a passenger and talk about last nights TV show or poker game?

Instead of beeing distracted...

  • Your mind needs to be on the task at hand.
  • Why are you going to the casino or home game?
  • What do you want to achieve?
  • It can’t be to participate and lose; it must be to win, so why aren’t you preparing yourself to WIN!

Eliminate the distractions

  • Turn off the radio
  • Leave the cell phone off
  • Travel alone
  • Begin to focus on playing that day

What should you focus on ?

  • I start by identifying the game I am going to play today
  • No Limit, Limit, Omaha, Stud, whatever.
  • If I’m playing a tournament, cash game, satellite; I need to have a strategy.

What has been my experience at this casino or home game ?

  • Have I won before?
  • What is the level of the competition?
  • Is the environment favorable to me ?

What tactics have you used before that seemed to work well ?

  • Was I more aggressive?
  • Was I more passive?
  • Did I establish a table image that allowed me to be trickier?
  • Was I beaten and exploited by my opponents playing a certain way?

What is my frame of mind (while driving) ?

  • Turn around and go back home if sick, tired, or upset over anything.
  • Playing under duress (worrying, upset over a bill, a fight with a spouse) is a recipe for disaster.
  • Being upbeat, thinking positive, ready for action is the only way to enter a casino.

What mental exercises can you do?

You can first think super positive:

  • I’m going to play my best poker today.
  • I’m going to win X amount and enjoy the competition.
  • I’m going to maintain my emotions, even through tough times or bad beats.
  • I’m not going to allow anyone to put me on TILT.
  • I’m going to remain in the zone, thinking I can outplay anyone, knowing I can’t win every hand I enter.

What actions (or preparations) should I employ at the tables?

When I get my seat, what am I looking for at the tables?

  • Do I know any of my opponents?
  • Do I have a prior read on any of them?
  • Where is my seat located, how do I need to protect my cards?
  • Who is seated to the right of me and to the right of them, and I must watch how they play more closely?
  • Who is to the left of me and left of that person, they are targets (blinds) that I need information on to amass chips.
  • Who stacks their chips neatly, colors all aligned?
  • Who has chips scattered everywhere and in no stacks generally?
  • Who is playing tight, who is loose, and who seems solid when they do play a hand?

Remember, others are watching you!

What is your image right now?

  • Are you appearing tight?
  • Have you been aggressive?
  • Are you stealing blinds?
  • Have you bluffed in proper position?

“Tells” to watch for at the table:

  • Who pounds chips on the felt when they announce a bet?
  • Who smoothly moves their chips into the pot?
  • Who looks away while calling a raise?
  • Who stops talking, whistling or moving when they are in a hand?
  • Who over bets pots?
  • Who makes min raises?
  • Who talks out loud when they are stumped facing a raise?
  • Who flashes cards ?
  • Who does not have their emotions in check, easily pushed into a fury?
  • When do opponents give away their strength?

Picking your fight with the right person…

After I have played quite awhile (although the table can change), I should know…

  • who is weak, who is strong
  • who I can bluff, who is not bluff-able (the calling station)
  • who must I have stronger hands against, with excellent position, and hopefully a chip lead over?
  • who constantly picks off the blinds?
  • who raises in late position (LP) when first in, no matter what?
  • who will defend in the blinds?qwho is a walk-over?
  • who is someone to respect when they do play a hand?
  • who will bluff with middle pair, a draw, or a busted hand?

"The drive home"

  • Learn from your mistakes!
  • Think about how you might have played the hand different.
  • Could you have won more with that premium hand?
  • Could you have lost less, got away from the hand earlier?
  • Was there a way out earlier, without losing chips?
  • Were there times a bluff was incorrect?
  • Should you have semi-bluffed a few extra times?
  • Did you play to many “hunches” with favorite cards?
  • How often did you lay down a potential winner?
  • Did you remember to value bet the river when the action dictated it?
  • What did others think of my plan
  • Did I catch myself giving a “tell?”
  • Did I play my best game; was I sharp, changing speeds, making proper moves at the right time?
  • Did I live up to my “own” expectations today?
  • If I failed, where did I make my biggest mistake, or were there lots of avoidable mistakes today?

Take time to congratulate yourself on the drive home

When you win, remember the feeling… it feels good, it’s worth repeating…

No one likes to lose, but when we do, we must learn from it as well. When we learn, our game will improve.

MindsettingMindsetting

1.) Have you ever thrown your mouse against the wall because you just dropped out of the Bubble after 3 hours?

2.) Did you take a break for days because of the 10.Bad Beat in a row?

3.) Do you feel like players from Russia or Brazil prefer to win at Keyhands?

4.) Do you think online poker is rigged?

 

If you have answered all questions with “no”, then read on directly at Lesson 3…


If you have answered at least one question with “yes”, then you should read on…


1.) Have you ever thrown your mouse against the wall because you just dropped out of the Bubble after 3 hours?

Sure, you are sometimes angry or annoyed in or because of such situations (spots), but in general you should always look at the game without emotion. Emotionally, things that are not going so well, both in “normal” life and in poker, remain in our memory. That’s why we are trying to avoid such spots (such as bad investments or dangerous situations where something has happened to us before).

However, this affects our game in the following similar spots as follows in the example:

Hero :  Ac Qc (clubs suited)    Flop: 9c Th Qh

Villain Range: (app. 27,6%) :

Lesson 2 Range

Ax, K9o+, QTo+, JTo+, TT+ (all pockets), and all Broadway suited cards, and Wheel suited cards (A2s-A5s), some suited combos

 

The opponent pushes all-in directly on the flop and we are far ahead with about 75% and should almost always call here. Of course that depends on the stacks, ICM, Stats + History or Notes on our opponents, but purely mathematically we win this spot to 75%, come what may.

 

Poker is a numbers game

It often happens that we have lost again in similar spots. However, if you analyze these spots more deeply, you often find that it is similar, but not exactly the same situation. Maybe the opponent has raised preflop in the last tournaments (which may give him a different range), the stack was different, the position was different; it was a micro-buy-in tournament, at 3 o’clock in the night, where the opponent did not care, etc., etc. There are a dozen different reasons why this spot is different than the actual one in which one thinks: “Look, lost again with the better hand “. Everyone knows!

And a few days later, when you have to make a decision “again” in such a spot, you prefer to fold, not that you “conquer” such a BadBeat again. But this is wrong !

Therefore, do not get upset, mark the hand, analyze later, concentrate further, otherwise:

Gnaw at you, you’re in Rage mode and suddenly you’re just playing bad poker, making the wrong decision, which will ultimately cost you more money (+ the cost of a new mouse)


2.) Did you take a break for days because of the 10.Bad Beat in a row?

The same applies here, “Poker is a numbers game” (Variance)

A hot topic. But is it really unlikely that we get a BadBeat 10x in a row?

  • No it is not. That also happens, something is called variance;) The best example is roulette!
    • How often does it happen that 15x or more times the same color comes after each other? Not often, but it does happen!

Also, I was often in situations where I thought, “Unreal, not agaaain, busted so stupid again.” But if I look at the spots with the help of HoldemManager or PokerTracker ,analyzed, I realized that there were differences. That shifts the numbers a bit.

Again in comparison in CashGame:

You play 1,000,000 hands (for MultiTableGrinder easy to grind in a year), was given his opponents in only about 10% of all hands (ie 100,000) a BadBeat (and in another 5% you do not even see it because the opponent on the river folds), but what stays in the head are the 2,000 hands that have been lost “unreal” (the opponent had only 5% on the flop and hits RunnerRunner)

But you can train these negative memories to “forget” them, or make them seem relative, by comparing the spots exactly and then realizing, okay, it was probably only variance. The “poker break” brings nothing, because it is only a break, it can go on after that or go well at once, that too is variance, but is forgotten all too quickly.

That’s why it’s very important, No Bad Beat Stories !


 3.) Don’t you think that players from Russia or Brazil prefer to win the keyhands?

refer to 2.) + the answer is already in the question itself, it just seems like that 😉


4.) Do you think online poker is rigged?

That too seems only one way. Just compare how many hands you play live versus online poker…

Live about 30 hands/h x 6h = 180 hands

Online about 6 tables/90 hands/h. FullRing x 6h (no Zoom) = 6 x 90 x 6 = 3240 !!

How many “real” BadBeats do you get on average in a live session = 0-2

How many “real” BadBeats do you get on average in an online session = say 150 (which is already very high) ^ = about 5%

So if you get a BadBeat at 5%, that’s not rigged, once again it is just variance!

Most of the time you can see the% numbers displayed in the poker rooms, and if you are preflop with AA against the complete range with about 80% ahead, you also collect 20% so-called BadBeats.

Conclusion:  Be cool, take it easy, analyze and grind on, without emotions

CANMotivation

For many it’s just enough motivation to compete with other players around the world, but there are days when you do not feel like it after a few hours, even though there is even a deeprun during the session. How do you deal with it ? What motivates you in such situations?

It motivates me to let Twitch run during my session, so others watch my play and I stay more focused.

It’s most motivating for me to ship a tournament live on Twitch !!!


Also, when I’m in the flow, it often helps me to hear music while I’m in the flow. I’ve heard of a few players who have created a poker playlist for each stage during a tournament.

For example:

  • Early Stage – soothing music (so you do not play too many hands and focus on your opponents, make notes etc)
  • Mid Stage – motivational music (still focused, but riskier, more action-packed, more risk-averse)
  • Bubble Play – “Aggro”-Music (since it is here to attack the enemy’s small stacks, to eliminate or collect dead money)
  • ITM-Phase – motivational music again to reassuring, because now many small stacks will push a lot more hands
  • Final Table – again more aggressive music, as it is here as in an arena

As you can see in my streams, I often did Motivational Music in the background, but sometimes also the music I like the most, OldSchool HipHop from the 2000’s with Eminem, Dr.Dre, SnoopDogg etc.

When you enter “poker music” or “poker playlist” on YouTube, you often get a mix of different styles that not everybody likes.

So it’s best to create your own playlist for the first 2-3 hours, then more agressive for the 10-20 minute bubble play, and then a playlist for the final table.


Small quiz:

Question1: In which song does my “status” appear: “Try to be the King, but the Ace is back”?

Question2: In which song happens: “This is 10% luck, 20% skill, 15% concentrated power of will, 5% pleasure, 50% pain …”?

Question 3: Who raps from the one shot, the one opportunity of his life?

Who sends the correct answers, gets the link to my playlist 😉

quiz@chipshippers.de


$$$$$$$$$$$$$ Then, of course, the money … It’s often enough motivation to just look at the payouts / payjumps! $$$$$$$$$$$$$ 


Sometimes it also happens online that you can sit around a table with the poker celebrities and compete with you. And if you also bust a so-called poker ace from the table, of course, it motivates even more. And if you want to improve, you have to work on your game, exploiting every opportunity that brings you an edge, especially online.


And not to forget, for fun of the game!


Conclusion:

Twitch, Music, Money, the competition, fun of the game

Everyone has their own thing, which motivates, the list can of course be extended … For suggestions, just send an e-mail to

info@chipshippers.de

Raise-o-MeterRaise-o-Meter

Throughout each tournament, you come to the stage where you sit at the same table for an extended period of time, sometimes playing CardDead for 10 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes or sometimes even 1 hour. Considering that the other players at the table are not stupid either, and analyzing their opponents with the help of stats or notes, or simply by attentively following the action at the table, one can build an image.

Everyone knows the game “StreetFighter”, right ?!

One good player gave me a hint one day: “Imagine you have a raise-o-meter under you; every time you fold, your Raise-o-Meter increases, and when it’s at the max, you just raise AnyTwo” (*pay attention first-in and position!)

So you can briefly summarize why and how an image works

*works best if you are first-in (that is, if the positions after BigBlind fold all the way to you, so you’re the first one to do an action) and the later your own position, the better

X-Factor

X-Factor

X-Factor

Throughout each tournament, you come to the stage where you sit at the same table for an extended period of time, sometimes playing CardDead for 10 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes or sometimes even 1 hour. Considering that the other players at the table are not stupid either, and analyzing their opponents with the help of stats or notes, or simply by attentively following the action a

t the table, one can build an image.

Everyone knows the game “StreetFighter”, right ?!

One good player gave me a hint one day: “Imagine you have a raise-o-meter under you; every time you fold, your Raise-o-Meter increases, and when it’s at the max, you just raise AnyTwo” (*pay attention first-in and position!)

So you can briefly summarize why and how an image works

*works best if you are first-in (that is, if the positions after BigBlind fold all the way to you, so you’re the first one to do an action) and the later your own position, the better

PLO

NL vs PLO

What are the differences between NL and PLO ?

So the most serious difference is that you get 2 cards at NL,

in PLO you get 4 cards. 

In addition, PotLimit Omaha is a very floplasty game. This means that you can often see the flop with very little bet and the further betting rounds depend very much on the flop. Since you get 4 cards at the PLO, your starting hand value usually decides already on the flop. But even if you flop the nuts, you can still be overtaken on the turn or at the latest by the river.

Therefore, the preflop range is much lower for NL than for PLO.


Another difference:

In NL Texas Hold’em you CAN use both hole cards, but DON’T HAVE TO.

It depends on the Board: 

At NL you build together with your hole cards the best possible hand of 5 cards << Your Hole Cards

In this case, the heart ace is enough with the 4 heart cards to make a nut flush.

  In PLO, on the other hand, the heart Ace alone is not enough for you, as you have to use 2 of your hole cards in the PLO, and you can only take 3 cards from the board. In this case with 3A58 and the flop shown above, the best possible hand is a street of 2,3,4,5,6.


Another difference is that with NoLimit, as the name implies, you can bet all-in, without limit, at any time. With PLO, however, you can bet in each betting round in the amount of the pot.


The best starting hand at NL TexasHold’em = AA

The best starting hand at PL Omaha = AAKK (double suited)


Another difference is the number of players at the table. Usually the PLO has 6 players at the table (6 x 4 hole cards + 5 board cards = 29 cards). In the NL, however, there are usually 9 players at the table, both live and online. (9 x 2 hole cards + 5 board cards = 23 cards)

MTT (Multi-Table-Tournaments)

In my opinion, MTTs are the best thing about poker. It is a competition…

Everybody starts with the same amount of chips and hand by hand you measure yourself against the other players. And sometimes you even sit at a table with a poker pro and are surprised to find that the pro also loses unlucky hands like you do. That happens…

In an MTT there are different phases:

The Early Stage
This is similar to a cash game round; the goal should be to accumulate as many chips as possible.
The middle phase
In the middle phase, you often have between 15 and 50 big blinds, sometimes even less. It ends when you approach the bubble.
The Late Phase
Here it is similar to a Sit’n’Go; significant price jumps and ICM game is becoming increasingly important

Early phase:

In relation to your stack in the early phase you have a relatively large stack (usually 50-100 BB). Therefore you can play like in a cash game to build up your stack. You can also build an image at the beginning, depending on how you want it to look. At the beginning, play many hands and aggressively to build up a Loose Aggressive (also called “Spewy”) image. But don’t forget to flip the switch again. Just the other way around, it’s no mistake to play very tight at the beginning and wait for very good hands. You can read the basics about the image here again (Lesson 4 Raise-o-meter)

 

Middle phase:

Many players find it difficult to successfully master the middle phase of a tournament. This is where the wheat separates from the chaff! For many beginners it is important to get into the money first (ITM – “in the money”). They try to fold ITM by playing much too passively instead of risking being eliminated shortly before. You should always try to play “for victory”! At this stage, Loose Aggressive allows you to steal rows and rows of blinds. So you should expand your own HandRange and play aggressively, bluff on the turn or river to get big pots, because, as mentioned above, recreational players fold way too often just before ITM goes.

 

Late phase:

After the bubble has burst, the late phase of a tournament begins. Right after the bubble many short stacks will start to push with the first good hands. You can take advantage of that by calling a bit looser again, if you could build up a good stack before. If you don’t get good hands yourself, you can also wait and see how the field thins itself out in a very short time.

When the final table is slowly reached, there are fewer shortys at the table, but more average stacks and 1-2 big stacks. In this phase you should really only play very good hands, so tight is right ! Image becomes more and more important, because the opponents now also take every single opponent under the magnifying glass. The good spots will come automatically, it is unnecessary to raise with marginal hands and to “gamble” around big pots. Shortly before the FinalTable you should change your playing style again. Everybody wants to go to the Final Table and it’s like BubblePlay again. The less experienced players fold far too much again. Now you can play more aggressively to expand your stack.

The Final Table: This is about the big money!

Everyone is now relieved to sit FINALLY at the final table. Although the price jump from 10th place to 9th place doesn’t make much difference, the range is generally looser again, especially the shortys at the table.

The places 8-6 are a bit more lucrative, but the top 3 are the payouts we want to end up with. So we have to play tight again and wait for good spots (if we have a good stack). I had a lot of final table’s where the game for 3rd place lasted longer than the following heads-up. There is a lot of stealing, bluffing and often the shorty doubles again. It’s often a back and forth. Three of you can’t wait for the premium hands. When you’ve finally made it to the heads-up, you can negotiate a deal at some poker rooms (even multiplayer if the room allows it), or sometimes the other player will also enter into an informal chop deal via the chat (chop deal = the first two split the first two places’ win money fairly).

 

This also applies to MTTs:

The lower the buy-ins, the more players will participate in an MTT.

The higher the number of players, the higher the variance.

YouTube Training Video (Hand Ranges)

Watch it here and feel free to follow my YouTube Channel!

Sit-n-Go StrategySNG

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charts for the early phase of a tournament

Early Stage Tips:

In a 3-bet behind you play only AA, KK, QQ and AK and push all-in directly. All other cards you folded.

ATTENTION: Min-3Bets behind you can sometimes be traps. In this case push only AA or KK over it, otherwise only call and reevaluate after the flop.

If someone raises more than 6 BB then you can only play AA, KK, QQ and AK and at least 3-bet about 20BB all the way to your all-in (if there is not much stack left anyway). All other cards you better fold.

Middle Stage Tips:

In a 3-bet behind you play only AA, KK, QQ and AK and push all-in directly. All other cards you fold.

Tips for Blindstealing:

The tighter the blinds (fold-to-steal value at HEM oder PT4), the looser your range can be

Tips for Steal-Re-Raise:

Notice how often the button or CutOff tried to attack the blinds (Attempt to Steal value at HEM oder PT4) and exploit :

The higher the value, the looser your Steal ReRaise range can be adjusted.

How do you play after the flop?

Agressor ?

If you were the agressor before the flop (you raised), you go on playing high with minimum a TopPair. If you don’t have, then you need at least 2Pair. Do not bluff and do not play draws!

 

 

 

 

No Draws

Many new players have a problem with folding something like a flush draw. Do not run into this trap! Especially in the early stages of a tournament, it’s a bad decision to invest too much chips on a draw (though you can do that with the CashGame, ).

When to bluff ?

If you were the aggressor before the flop, then you can certainly consider a bluff, a so-called C-Bet (continuation-bet or conti-bet). This works best if you only have one opponent. You give up the bluff, however, if resistance comes. If you have several opponents, you better not play C-Bet, because the probability with each opponent is extremely low that you can get them all to fold!

How do you play after the flop if you did NOT raise before the flop?

2 Pair !?

Now you need at least 2 pair after the flop to accelerate. The more players on the flop, the better the Made Hand ( made hand = street flop, triple, flush etc …) you need.

 

 

 

 

Still No Draws

As before, you should still not play Draws! In CashGame yes, in the tournament it is strong -EV (negative expectation). Your chips that you can win are worth less than the ones you may lose.

When to bluff ?

If you were NOT the aggressor before the flop, you should NOT be bluffing! If you only have one opponent, he checks in front of you, and the flop hardly gave anybody any good, you can try it in exceptional cases :
Players who have a high C-Bet value , but now check for a 9-up flop, you can sometimes bluff out directly on the flop. As a rule, we recommend a 45% potsize bet here. On a draw-heavy flop up to 65% .
Normally bluffs bring you into such marginal situations (spots) that you better fold pre. Especially on the lower limits , many players call too many hands, so your bluffs won’t work anymore.

Hand Analyzing

Game Plan ?

During a session you have the possibility with PokerTracker4 for example, to mark a hand for later analysis.

With the hands to be marked you should pay attention:

Do not mark bad beats.
It just doesn’t work, the hand would have always gone off in such a way that you have a showdown, unavoidable outcome and you only get upset about it unnecessarily and the course of events is even more likely to be remembered
Weird played lines
If you find out afterwards that a certain hand or the betting frequencies (how on which Streets was betted) are not consistent, this is a good hand to discuss later with friends or your coach
Example: You (AKo) 3bet IP Pre vs. Villain, Flop = 37J Rainbow, then you check on the flop behind, even though you should have bet almost your entire range c-bet on such an uncoordinated flop, on the turn comes an 8, Villain checks and suddenly you bet your bluff with Potsize, even though it probably would have been better to get the free river card and then possibly bluff again on the river. The story just has to be right.
Bluff Catching Spots
You try to do a Hero Call to your opponent’s bluff and are confronted with the nuts. Mark this hand and analyze it again. Is it possible that your opponent’s bets were strong and you didn’t notice because of wrong reads (not very meaningful statistics)? These hands are also very good for taking notes and learning from your mistakes.
Hero Bluffs
With your own bluffs, especially on the turn or river, you often overlook the range your opponent is calling down. You’re too focused on what you’re trying to represent for a hand. These hands are also very useful for later analysis.
Hands that are abandoned too soon
That happens to me too often in cash game sessions, that I give up a hand on the river (mentally already on the turn) and am “glad” that both players check on the river. Error!t
Mark hands that both players check on the river, this is where you can speculate on how you could have played the hand differently to secure the pot.
For example, you have AcKc and it comes Qs8s5h on the flop and 3s on the turn. You made a 3bet pre-flop and consequently fired a C-bet on the flop. So you missed the flop and turn completely, but you showed strength until then. Your opponent calls everything up to here with 4s4h and now you’ve already finished in your mind, maybe even try a small bluff bet, Villain also does set mining, and on the river you’re blanketed with a 2d. Now you check, because you think he has called everything up to here, he is certainly strong, at least 2Pair or Set. If you had bet higher on the turn and bluffed a TripleBarrel on the river, you could have gotten a pot that was probably pretty high by then, since your opponent is likely to give you a much better hand.

Goal Plan Success PreparationBasics – A guide for those starting out, building a solid foundation, or trying to see what they missed starting from the beginning

Choosing NL over Limit Poker

The contrasts are many, beginning with the potential of losing your entire stake on one hand, or winning several times your stake under the best conditions. Unlike limit poker, the swings in no-limit poker can range widely (and wildly), from hand-to-hand and from session-to-session, and unlike limit poker, the art of bluffing (and stealing), will become a very useful and deadly tool you can call upon to win pots you would not normally be favored to win.

I have found that players who first start playing limit poker, and who build a solid/aggressive, winning poker foundation, learning the basics (patience, discipline, starting hands, position, pre-flop and post-flop play, and bankroll management), can make the transition to no-limit poker with more ease than players first starting out with no-limit poker. The biggest difference is most obvious; in limit poker, the betting structure is (fixed) and with no-limit, the betting structure is fluid (allowing the player to select an amount, any amount, to bet). Perfecting the art of proper bet selection alone can be more than enough to make you a consistent winner in this format. Mix in some added skills (dealing with position and bluffing) and you will take that bankroll to new levels in short order. Caution: You will need a bigger bankroll to start in no-limit than limit poker to compensate for the anticipated swings associated with no-limit poker games.

To play no-limit poker, you have to have a different mind set. It’s not about winning lots of small pots’: it’s about winning one or two good size pots per hour. Your ability to finesse your opponents, drawing them into situations where you can maximize your profits in a single hand, or for you to be able to apply the right amount of “pressure,” created by a correct sized bet, will enable you to increase your bankroll and enjoy this poker format. Mistakes made in no-limit poker are magnified greatly, and it is your responsibility to eliminate as many mistakes as you can from your game, and to capitalize on as many mistakes made by your opponents as you can.

Betting Sizes

The most typical mistake made by players in a no-limit game is the amount of wager they make into a pot. Generally speaking, the bet they make is too small, thus allowing other opponents to remain in the hand, and potentially out-draw, or bluff the original bettor off their hand. This passive player (making undersized bets) loses money when they bluff at pots as well; due to the perception gained by their opponents on how normally “thrifty” they are with their bets. By making proper sized wagers, opponents will not readily be able to take you lightly and your earnings will increase significantly.

It is always a good idea to vary your bets so your opposition cannot “tell” when you have a certain type hand. As a general practice, raising the pot approximately three to five times the size of the posted big blind amount would be considered a good size raise if holding hands like AA, KK, QQ, or AKs. Note: Some players’ think this is too small of a sliding scale and they use a higher range; five to seven times, as their multiplier. Use whatever scale or range that will work for you. There is no set rule to apply here. A common tendency for someone holding AKos or AQos to raise a bit more than the standard raise is often made for hand protection (in more micro limit games – under .25/.50), and at times can be a dead give-away. I would recommend you don’t vary your raises, even with premium cards, so that no one seated at the table can immediately put you on any specific hand. Sometimes you might raise a pot three times the size of the big blind while holding AA, but at other times you may elect to only raise it two and a half times, or four time with the same hand. Your “position” should dictate the amount.  Early position (EP), usually calls for a slightly bigger raise since there are so many players yet to act and you will be out of position on subsequent rounds.  There are so many variables involved in the process that will be covered in latter lessons. Keep in mind there are many players who will not hesitate to go all-in with a hand like AA, whether it is the first hand of a sit-n-go, first hand of multi-table event, or when sitting at ring game. Don’t be predictable, don’t be a player your opponents can categorize! BTW, those big pairs and big cards are often crushed in most cash games and tournaments, however, medium pairs that make sets on flops, and connecting suited cards can be devastating to those with big cards. More on that later, after you build a solid foundation of playing smartly.

Typically, players will make a wager ranging from about a third of the pot, to one equal to, or a bit larger than the size of the pot. Note: “Over betting the pot” could be a sign someone might want to get all-in or they are protecting a weak hand and want you out now; so take note of these type bets when contemplating continuing in the hand. When you see a bet that does not fit into these ranges, you should sense weakness or a possible trap. Knowing your opponents “tendencies” again will assist you in processing the information gained from just observing the “bet amount.” Bet sizes may indicate a player is searching for information, looking for table action, protecting their holdings, or may represent fear. You must learn to interpret what each bet could possibly mean, before you commit (the proper amount) to any pot. No limit poker is a game of traps, trickery, deception and outright thievery, so you must be on guard throughout each hand. I tend to respect the 2/3 to 3/4 bets into a pot, and I tend to discount/disrespect most c-bets of half pot bets, and full pot bets (but that’s my take from years of experience. Of course you might have a read on a particular player that tells you differently.

Some quick examples to aid you: With a flop of Qd 5h 9d (and you’re holding an overpair pair (KK), or a hand such as AQ), dictates you make a good size bet or pot sized bet. There are flush draws available for your opponents holding two diamonds, or straight draws for those holding KJ, KT, JT, J8, and T8. You want to discourage players with these holdings from continuing, without paying an unrealistic drawing bet. And with one pair you don’t want multiple callers on a wet (coordinated or scary board). But if they call your large bet and another card comes to help their draw, be prepared to consider curtailing or abandoning your efforts to win that pot. You must be able to lay down a good hand to be successful in no limit poker. Conversely, if the flop was lacking draw possibilities, something like an Ad 4h 8c, you might want to only bet between 65-75% of the pot.

No-Limit Texas Hold’em Basics

First we began talking about “betting sizes,” and I want to also turn our attention to tournament play at this juncture. As I mentioned in the first lesson, proper betting is the number one flaw in most players’ games today. As in NL games, players make betting mistakes in pot-limit and limit poker as well, but for this lesson, we will concentrate on no-limit tournament betting.

So what is the most common betting mistake made at the tables anyway? How about UNDER BETTING the pot. This is a definite sign of weakness and demonstrates a player’s inability to utilize “betting” a proper amount in hopes of setting up potential bluffs, steals, or to attain proper value in a hand. The central theme of no-limit poker is to “pressure” your opponents, putting the guesswork on them. Here’s an example: A pot containing $1,000 is checked to a late position player on the river, and he/she bets $100. What’s wrong with this message sent by the bettor? Why would anyone bet such a small amount? Do they assume this minimal bet is going to drive most of the players out of the pot, or is it going to invite someone who has checked with a strong, or semi-strong hand to make a play at the pot? I think the latter, putting the pressure back on the original bettor, and I must say that this “betting” mistake is made more often than any other mistake.

Let’s look at the same situation (this time just after the flop), for another examination of the correct way to bet the hand. What should a person in late position holding a decent hand (or trying to steal the pot) bet, when the pot is laying $1000? How about “betting 2/3’s of the pot.” This will in most cases be enough to end the draws and eliminate the weaker hands by those who have checked. You know the ones who are only willing to pay a minimal amount to see “another card” that might just make their hand after the flop. The bet pressures all remaining players to consider pot odds, which are very unfavorable to them at this stage facing this size bet. They will also be forced to consider the possibility that their hand may not be strong enough to beat you with or without help on the turn and/or river.

By betting 2/3 or more of the pot, other benefits to the bettor/raiser (aside from garnering information and eliminating to many drawing hands), is that it also sets up the possibility to steal in later rounds, take a free card, or win with another bet on a later round, and at the same time it’s adding value to the pot. What do you do when you find yourself with the nuts at the end, and again the hand is checked to you? Do you bet a minimal amount hoping that you will get a caller or a raise? Or do you again bet an amount that “may,” indicate you could possibly be stealing the pot and thereby induce a call or two from your opponents? I guess the question you need to ask yourself is; wouldn’t it be better to bet $600-$700 and get one caller, than to bet $100 and get multiple callers? Sometimes your bet might look fishy and get someone to challenge you with an ill-advised call. Yet there are times when you can get your (unskilled) opponent to attempt a steal from you? Wouldn’t you prefer they raise your bet and not just raise a $100 bet? Don’t waste your time on betting small amounts to elicit callers or raisers. If you want to make a bet of 2/3 to 3/4 the size of the very large pot, I find no fault in doing so to mix up your play and still extract value from the hand, but never bet the minimum amount into any pot if you expect to have a reasonable chance of winning without holding the top hand. Remember, betting the proper amount puts the pressure on your opponent; they must ask themselves; do you have something or are you bluffing?

Let’s now get back to “opening bets,” as they relate to what the initial round of betting creates. If there are a lot of limpers allowed into a pot, you can generalize and say that the winning hands will be “much stronger” than when the pot is played with fewer players. That is why your big pairs will more often hold up when you raise and eliminate most of the field, instead of being “caught” on the turn or river by a drawing hand that was mistakenly allowed to remain in the hand and see cards “cheaply.” Referring back to lesson 1, you are reminded to raise pre-flop with strong hands the proper amount (X times the posted big blind amount), to reduce the field and strengthen your position to win the pot. It is a mistake to limp in with premium cards and allow others with speculative cards to continue in the hand without paying a price to proceed. NOTE: Unless you are at a very aggressive table and you expect a raise, and you intend to reraise of call just that person (in order to trap them with an inferior hand).

Here’s one more example of how to bet a hand properly, and this time from out of a “blind position” at the table. Let assume you have 56os in the big blind and see the flop with four other callers, for nothing more than your tournament posted big blind amount of $50. There is $275 in the pot (small blind folded), and the flop comes 5T6 rainbow. What should you do in this situation? If you said check, you would be wrong (unless it’s an aggressive table and you expect a bet you then can check-raise (more below on this move); if you said bet the minimum, you would be wrong, and if you said bet about $100, you still would be wrong. If you don’t bet more than half the pot, you might set your self up for a horrific beat from someone with top pair already, or you might get drawn out on. You must protect your flopped “bottom” two pair and make it a bit expensive for anyone with a single top pair, or anyone foolish enough to chase a gut-shot straight, or three-flush to continue. Note: When I say protect your hand; this is not a DEFENSIVE measure, but rather an OFFENSIVE maneuver that you must incorporate into your game. Bet enough to take down the pot or eliminate most of the players in the hand. You really want the player with AJ to call or reraise here. You stand a greater chance of having your two-pair hold up and to take down your opponents the majority of time using this betting strategy. Allowing your opponents to bet a lesser amount allows them to continue in the hand and quite possibly win all the chips in a pot you built. You just cannot permit this to happen if you expect to become a winning NL player.

Advanced Player Move – When in the blinds and you see a flop very cheaply (no raises), and you know someone at the table will bet if you do indeed check, you can check-raise from the blinds with two pair, or even when you hit top pair, weak kicker. Your check raise from out a position is considered strong, and indicates huge strength and USUALLY makes others fold. Do not attempt this against a calling station with only top pair, they won’t go away.

Bluffing, Beating a Bully and Feeler Bets

Now I want to discuss the art of bluffing, how to deal with a bully at the tables and making feeler bets. I spoke about make the “correct” size bets into a pot and spotting those who are not betting properly, so now is the time to elaborate on how exploit the table with a bit of larceny (in the art form known as bluffing).

A “bluff” is a bet of some nature when you have little or no chance of winning the pot if someone calls. A “semi-bluff” is a bet, that if called, you don’t hold the best hand, but you have a hand that could improve and be the best hand. Bluffing is primarily attempted to win pots. Some additional benefits can be garnered by its use (advertising for future pots), but you should employ a bluff only when you think it will be successful. It is highly recommended you limit the amount of bluffs attempted, as the fewer attempted, the more effective the bluffs you try will be. If you are getting good cards and dominating the table, players will notice and may think you have been bluffing at some of those pots, so bluff less often when you are picking up more than your share of pots, and bluff a bit more when premium cards are sparse, and you have “table position.” If the field checks to you, I’d be inclined to take their word (they are weak), and fire out a decent sized bet to further convince them to surrender; right now. Most of your opponents won’t be holding strong enough hands to slip in a check-raise, so be prepared to fire enough money into the pot to discourage anyone on a draw from continuing. Note: If they are playing a long shot hand, and continue to draw against you, you can continue to punish them on the turn if the card hitting the board appears to provide little or no help to anyone remaining in the pot.

Bluffing “represents” holding a specific strong hand, as is the case when a third card in a particular suit hits the board and you bet. You are indicating you have a made flush and only those individuals having a flush, a bigger flush, a giant-sized flush draw, or a full house (or house draw), will play back at you. Remember, the amount of money bet in your attempted bluff is relative to the size of the pot, the size of your stack, and the size of your opponents stack (more later in lesson 4, on the influence of stack size). If you bet too little, your opponent might not be deterred and still call. If you bet too much, your opponent might sense you are over betting a hand that lacks real value. Therefore, I suggest you bet an amount that is not considered wimpy, or one that appears to be unusually large. It is also difficult to bluff at times when your opponent can readily see that you have a limited amount of resources (chips), and they have plenty of ammunition in front of them. Additionally, if your opponent is a loose player, your efforts to bluff may not be as effective, so know your opposition, their style, tendencies, and most of all, how they perceive you. If they believe you are a solid or tight player, they will tend to respect your bluff attempts more readily. In the event you are playing way to many hands (who me), don’t expect your bluff attempts to go unnoticed or unchallenged.

Some additional bluffing reminders/tips:

  • Bet sizes are your “keys” to putting players on hands.
  • Raising with a straight draw, when a flush draw is present is not advised.
  • Draws that do not contain a “nut draw” should be played with “position,” and very carefully.
  • Bluffers usually have nothing (busted draw) and seldom bluff when they have a hand of uncertainty.

Bullies like shorthanded tables and they love to find opponents with shorter stacks than them. Although you might find it tempting to play a few more hands against them, it is wiser to sit and wait for hand you can extract a great deal of money from them. Keep in mind, any pot entered with a bully sitting at the table is likely to be raised, so be very selective and committed when you do play a hand. Be especially cognizant of the “other” players in the pot and don’t focus entirely on the bully. Players yet to act “behind” you have also noticed the bully and may too be playing stronger hands in hopes of trapping their prey (which might include you). So tend to call a bully most times, rather than raise (unless you have a hand that dictates you want to isolate him or her alone), and see what others (yet to act in the hand), are going to do. You should bluff back at the bully on occasion, giving them a taste of their own medicine, as you might suspect, they tend to have weak holdings and will back off.

A “teaser bet or probing type bet,” is made to entice others to give a player action, or can be a sign of a weak hand. Players who have made hands will put an “undersized” bet, crying for a call or a raise, to tempt opponents into committing more chips. While on occasion, an improper sized feeler bet may indicate the bettor is testing the waters to see if their hand is strong enough to take down the pot. NOTE: Advanced players will do this when they are strong; hoping you will act as if their bet indicates weakness! Be very observant when your opponent puts an “unusual” amount into a bet, and consider the size of the bet to the existing pot before you decide whether or not the player is enticing you to give them action, or is weak! Playing back at a weak player will net you the pot on most occasions, but only those times you “read” them correctly.

 

Size Does Matter (Chip Stacks)

To influence opponents at your table, the size of your chip stack will matter a great deal. In fact, how “deep” you or your opponents are, should/may dictate the size bet you will make and the anticipated action you may receive following your bet. In tournaments it is important for you to look and calculate the ratio of the blinds to the shorter stack in the hand, and yourself. There will be three distinct categories of stacks to identify: short, medium and big stacks. Let’s examine what constitutes each grouping and discuss some strategies that you can use when in each situation.

Short Stacked (a chip amount that is normally less than 10 times the big blind). An example would be: The big blind amount is 100 and you have 900 in chips remaining (so only 9 times). An unenviable position to be in, you must get your chips in first or with a decent hand. Do not wait until in the blinds to push, you make more money with blind (dead money) in the pot with your all-in.

Medium Stacked (a chip amount that normal falls between 20 and 50 times the big blind). An example would be: The big blind amount is 500 and you have 15,000 in chips remaining (so 30 times). When you have a chip stack between 10-20 big blinds, you must be prepared to get your chips in and not allow (if possible) to transition into the short stack mode. The reason is you become ineffective (your stack does not carry enough weight to influence others decisions in a positive way for you).

Big Stacked (a chip amount that is normally over 50 times the big blind). An example would be: The big blind amount is 1,000 and you have 70,000 in chips remaining (so 70 times).

Position associated with a small stack is usually inconsequential, as you will be betting your entire stack pre-flop, or on the flop (when you play a tournament hand at this particular juncture). You will stand the greatest chance of winning, and doubling up when you enter the pot first: holding a pair, or high face cards. Sometimes is will be just two suited cards, a connector, or even one face card, but you can’t allow yourself to blind out or have no chance to double up (out of the short stack mode). If you enter the pot with a small or medium pair, you should not expect to improve your hand. When holding cards that are not very strong, it is in your best interest to try to reduce the amount of opponents as much as you can. You would be very fortunate to create a “heads up” showdown situation. So you must commit all your chips in this spot. With big cards like AK or a big pair, like QQ, I like too occasionally limp and allow someone else to raise me or others, so I can triple up or better, my stack. I am willing to take that chance and if no one raises, and I lose because I did not raise, that’s on me, but I can live with that. Keep in mind, with the blinds eating away at your stack, you must pick a spot and go all out in hopes of improving both your hand and your chip count. You will notice players on short stacks will commit their entire stack with a good holding, and check raise with a big hand, getting more money into the pot. Note: If in late position to an unraised pot with lots of callers, you might want to see a flop if your holding plays well multi-way (a chance to double of triple up), but remember, if the calling bet is significant in relation to your remaining stack size, it might not be prudent and waiting for an opportunity to go all-in with a better holding may provide you a better opportunity to double through).

With a medium chip stack, the urgency to get involved and committed into a hand is greatly diminished. You are not faced with the prospects of making a stand, or quickly committing the remainder of your chips due to your ominous chip standing. Having some wiggle room allows you to raise, seeking an advantage, yet enables you to release a holding (you are not pot committed); to a significant re-raise, or hefty all-in move by a bigger stack, unless you have a read on that player and you believe you want to isolate them. You will notice players on medium stacks will also do a fair amount of probing bets and check raising, looking to go all-in if the opportunity presents it self to double up. Note: It is easier to bluff a medium stack than a small or big stack because those players “like” their standing (not in trouble), and will often fold unless they hold a very large hand. Therefore, if you make a move on a medium stack and they play back at you, expect them to hold a big/good hand, and you should better have a monster!

Position becomes essential factor on all betting rounds when afforded a big stack. With a big stack, position allows you to evaluate the bets by others (size relationship to the pot), calculate pot odds, choose who you want to play against (you might not play a hand, seeing a solid/aggressive player re-raise the pot, prior to your turn to bet), and you can bet to bluff, semi-bluff, set up to receive a free card, or even bait your opponent into giving you action with a teaser bet. No one wants to bet a significant amount of their money when the outcome is uncertain against a big stack bettor, and when the big stack is likely to fire again on the next betting round. Those opponents willing to risk their entire stack in against your raise are more often likely to have one pair beaten. What you don’t want to do is build monster pots with only top pair or even a non-nut flush. You should see big stacks asserting themselves in the early betting rounds, making it expensive for shorter stacks to play, yet risking only a small portion of their big stack to entice action. It is never in a big stacks interest to let others draw against them without paying a premium price to play. In cash games, watch how lose a player becomes when they have the biggest stack at the table, their game changes (their mindset changes) and they are engaging others more often.

Hand Selection

We just discussed “chip stack size,” and in this lesson we will put those chips into the pot by choosing the right cards to play, and by putting to use all that we have learned in the previous lessons on “correct betting sizes, bluffing, and teaser bets.” Position will play a key role in your decision making process when risking your entire bankroll, and to be most effective you must always be aware of your opponents style and tendencies.
Slow playing is not often recommended. With big hands pre-flop however, I find it acceptable under certain specific guidelines. If you are holding AA or KK, and are heads-up with an aggressive pre-flop raiser, have position on the player, and your chip count is favorable to you, by all means call the raise and let your opponent bet the flop before you raise enough to get most, or all of their remaining chips in the pot. In other words, trap them, don’t raise and chase them to the next hand. You need to capitalize on big hands (you don’t receive them that often). Should your opponent have an overwhelming chip advantage over you, be careful when over betting the pot, as it might signal a trap and result in an early fold. This tactic works best against “aggressive players” and should not be attempted against tight or timid players that will only give you action when they flop a hand that will dominate your holding. (More on playing AA and KK later in this lesson).
Always avoid being over-charged to see flops, but realize there are hands that you might normally dump in a “limit” game, that are now playable in “no limit.” Small pairs, suited connectors and ace x suited, are examples of hands that can net you a very big pot, but may cost you on average, a few more limping bets to see additional flops. Should you be raised a considerable amount, it’s very inexpensive to let your hand go (at this point), as you do not want to be consistently over-charged to play. Never pay a ton of chips to someone who is raising with a very short stack. I like to see that opponent have 10x the bet (left in his stack), before I go looking for a card to complete or significantly improve my hand.
Having said that, pairs, suited connectors and ace/x suited hands have considerable more value in no-limit than limit games, so you might ask me what cards might not carry the same weight in no-limit as they do in limit. Big cards like AK, AQ, AJ and KQ go down in value if not suited in no-limit (bigger bet poker), but still retain value to win smaller pots if played from position skillfully and against a small field. However, you can lose some huge pots playing these cards and relying on top pair and top kicker to take down massive pots. The tendency is to see a better hand than just one pair in these type pots. Playing hands such as deuces all the way through pocket sixes can be attempted in late position, with only callers in the pot and remember that low pairs connecting to sets can be beaten by a lot of other sets above your hand. Depending on cash or tournament, aggressive or passive table dynamics, I might mix it up with big cards like AK and AQ from any position, to disguise the strength of my hand. If it’s an aggressive full table, I might limp in early position (EP) with KK or AA, and then re-raise the raiser if others have entered the pot, or flat call them and let them continue betting into my bigger hand.
Having position (the last to act), is a major factor in no-limit hold’em and you can be assured that if you have a quality holding this will allow you to bet the flop more than 70% of the time, whether your hand improved or not. So when your big card hits, you will be betting and if the board comes with under-cards to your overcards, you still will be betting (representing a big over pair), to pressure your opponent(s) into submission. Remember, if more than 3 opponents, it is difficult, position or not, to get them all out with a continuation (c-bet) bet. Some players will just check and take the free card if the board is “dry.” *Dry – nothing hits the board that would seem to help players (example: you raise with AKs and the flop is Q72 rainbow – three suits). Even if they hit the queen, if an ace or king hits the turn after checked around, you should still be the leader. There are times opponents will call your raise with a pair and hit a set and check the hand to you, expecting a c-bet, so play cautiously with the hand, by keeping the pot small and manageable in case you are in trouble.
Recommendations for playing AA and KK:
I don’t think you are ever wrong to raise with AA or KK (3-4 times the big blind), however, in early position (as I said above and want to repeat), you might occasionally want to limp in the pot, hoping someone will raise behind you, so you can re-raise. While in middle position I might employ the same tactic, being first in, but I must be aware there are fewer players behind me yet to act, and the possibility of no one raising is more likely. Therefore, I prefer to make a small raise there, and allow those yet to act to think I might not have a big hand, and thus induce a re-raise. Should an early position player come in the pot before me, I’d raise them about three times the size of their raise. When you are in late position you should be raising the pot and if everyone limped, you would hope that someone trailed a hand (slow played their hand), so that they could re-raise anyone raising in late position. Should this occur, I would not hesitate to re-raise and even get all my money in the pot if the situation dictated that play, but you could just call and they most likely will get the green light after the flop or next card, and all the money will get in the pot. If I get around 50% of my money in the pot before the flop, there is no doubt that I’ll be looking to put the remainder of my chips in the pot, before the turn. Note: By the way, whenever you hit a big hand, and are first to act, I suggest you bet into the raiser. This may also make your opponent think you’re trying to steal their pot, or you are on some form of draw. Your aggression will usually result in a re-raise. It is at this point you can commit the remainder of your chips and due to the size of the pot, a wanted call will occur.
Recommendations for playing small to medium sized connecting cards:
You really do not want to put a lot of money into a pot before a flop with these type hands. In fact, the best thing about playing small to medium connectors is your ability to lay it down immediately if you miss on the flop. There is no need to stay involved in a hand once the flop proves to be worthless to your holding.

Trouble Hands, Shorthanded Play and Tips

Trouble hands are exactly what the name implies (hands that can cost you a ton of money), so you must often avoid playing them (especially out of position), but if you choose to play them, play them with extreme caution as you may jeopardize your entire stack. However, if you are playing shorthanded, these same trouble hands (especially suited or connected cards), may not be dangerous anymore, and can be played profitably.

Unsuited cards that fall into this category are: Ace/Queen, Ace/Jack, Ace/Ten, King/Queen, King/Jack, King/Ten, Queen/Jack, Queen/Ten, Jack/Ten, and the Ace/Nine combo (which has become quite popular to play recently, for what reason, I do not know).

The reason these sets of cards cause major concern and are categorized as “trouble hands,” is because they are often dominated by better starting hands, such as AA, KK, and the top connector, AK. So when playing an unsuited AQ, and you are raised from early position, the likelihood of losing a great deal of money (having an inferior hand to the raiser) is quite possible. Say a flop of A-9-2 appears, and your opponent has the AK (as advertised with a pre-flop raise from early position), you will lose a lot of money coming in second place with your AQ.   Hands like JT can be costly when you flop top pair or two pair, as others playing KQ have a playable hand that can quickly snatch the pot away from you with their draw. What is important to remember is to play trouble hands as cheaply as possible, don’t over commit.

When playing short-handed, you must play aggressively, as most hands nearly unplayable at a full table, now have new worth short-handed. Not all, but quite a few hands increase in value as the number of opponents you face decreases. This is especially true about those trouble hands discussed in the previous paragraph as they can now be played strongly. One major key to playing short-handed play is having position. You will find that your play will often be dictated by position, rather than the quality of cards you might hold. When you are last to act, your bet places enormous pressure on your opponents, as they are facing the dilemma of calling your bet as well as having to bet first on subsequent rounds. Note: You should not wait for hands with outs to bet having position, fire away and win most pots that have been checked to you (while in position). You must continue to demonstrate aggressive play and pick up these available pots. It is also essential for you to note that while playing shorthanded and one additional player leaves the table, adjust your play as hand values and the tempo will change dramatically.

I thought I’d end this series with a list of things to do and not to do; some tips or recommendations that may win you a few extra pots, or save you from wasting chips when your chances of winning are marginal:

  • In shorthanded games, allowing your opponent to have a free card when you hold a good hand is a way to trap an aggressive player. This will entice your opponent to bet into you with a weaker hand, and now you have him/her trapped. This will discourage him/her from playing overly aggressively in the future if you are in the hand, and can lead to your control/domination of the table.
  • Never call a bet when you miss your hand completely, but if you suspect your opponent has missed their draw, and you have a little something, you might playback at them if you strongly feel they will not call your last bet.
  • With small to medium connecting cards, you do not want to put a whole lot of money in the pot before the flop. You want to make a straight by the turn and if you miss completely on the flop, they are easy to toss.
  • If you start out bluffing at a pot, don’t semi-bluff a second time without some type of an “out.” Example: You raise pre-flop and miss the flop completely. Most to the time you should still bet again if given the opportunity, especially if three handed or less. Should you be called or raised, go no further; it’s time to minimize the loss of chips.
  • Stick to your first impressions of what hand someone has and don’t be inclined to change your opinion; your first impressions are usually correct, but be open to putting them on other hands based on betting patterns as cards roll off the deck.
  • Be careful you don’t lose all your chips in an unraised pot. When many players are able to see a flop for a minimum bet, it sets up the possibility of some undetected quality hands (sets, huge flush draws). Hitting and then betting your top pair may be a prescription for an immediate setback.
  • You don’t want to get all your money in a pot drawing dead. Once a pair hits the board, and a full house is possible, be very careful with your made straight or flush hand.
  • If you turn a big hand, sometimes bet something into the original bettor/raiser. This will confuse him/her, and often times he/she will re-raise you. Then you can put him/her all-in, or if confused, he/she will fold. BYOB (Bring Your Own Bet). Often times if you check, they check back and lose bets.
  • Over-bet the pot when you hit a set and are up against an aggressive player who usually has overestimated the strength of their hand. His/her over pair is usually a huge underdog to your made hand and you will make more money that way. Passive opponents will not re-raise you, they fold or call (if they call, they need a card for a monster, or are already there, be careful).
  • When you flop a monster hand, and unlikely to be beaten, slow-play it, inviting your opponents an opportunity to bluff. If they don’t bluff, they may catch a bit of something on the turn or the river, and then you can lower the boom. Don’t be in a hurry here. Showing a bit of patience here can net you a monster pot with your monster hand.
  • While holding a big pair and the flop has at least a two-card draw possible, you should never check, and almost always bet out. You must protect your big pair and cost your opponents dearly to draw. Don’t be silly and bet half the pot, ¾ pot bet, or more is advisable when flush cards and or straight cards hit the board.
  • If you can see a flop cheaply and the turn with a small or medium pair, you will likely win a huge pot if you catch your set prior to the river.
  • Heed one of the oldest sayings around: If you are going to call a bet, you might as well bet. Try not to check/call.
  • You can usually play your possible inferior hand (with implied odds) and excellent position, if your call does not exceed “five” percent of your stack, up to “ten” percent if your hand has more outs. If you have to risk over ten percent, you should not be in the pot anymore.
  • You need to have a better hand to call a raise, than you would need to open yourself, consider the re-raise then.
  • No-limit is quite different than limit, and the good players will do more limping with mediocre hands in hopes of making a hand that will crush an opponent.
  • An unusually small bet can indicate a probing bet by a weak hand, or could mean a big hand looking for action. Figure out the difference; know your opponent and watching previous bets will provide you with enough information in most cases to make the right assessment.
  • A draw needs good position throughout the hand, and a set needs good position only on the flop, or at least won’t be affected by position as much as the drawing hand.
  • Your solid play (pre-flop), in raised pots, will prevent you from being trapped most of the time.
  • When a pot-sized bet is a great percentage of your remaining chips, it’s often better to commit the remainder of your stack right then.
  • An over-bet leaves no doubt from an early position as to what is implied, and to make a bet 50% over the pot size would not be uncommon, nor would a bet twice the pot size. Generally, players over betting the pot are protecting a single top pair, don’t want callers (players drawing), or could be they have top pair – weak kicker and are trying to take the pot down immediately.
  • Bluffing should be attempted in situations when you feel your opponent is weak.

Capitalizing on Mistakes/Miscues/Blunders

Beginners make multiple mistakes while learning to play no limit hold‘em, and you must be alert at the tables and pick up on these miscues, to then expertly exact a premium price for their blunders. For example, most novice NL players will continue to make the same mistakes over and over, or at least until they go broke repetitively, before making an adjustment, or entirely quitting the game. Your objective is to relieve them of their chips each and every time they cross this “mistake” line: when they make improper bets; when they play weak cards out of position; when they continue to draw without having the proper pot odds; when they get involved in hands with marginal cards where they should be avoiding confrontation; when they pay the wrong price to continue in the hand; when they do not know when to cut their losses and quit for the session; when they try to bluff when it is obvious they shouldn’t; when they allow many callers to limp in pots; when they bet a hand that obviously can be beaten; and when they fail to ever defend their blinds, thus allowing others to run over them, time and time again.

When you have players at your table that demonstrate a propensity for making critical errors and wrong decisions, how should you position yourself to make the most profit?

At the top of your list should be your ability to get into hands, “heads up” with this player, and garner the most chips possible without making the player feels intimidated, humiliated, or over-matched. Note: Don’t tap on the glass syndrome. You might scare away the fish. To isolate this player you must cleverly position yourself and skillfully bet enough to chase off other potential opponents (who incidentally, if savvy, should also be aware of the soft target), without causing your potential ATM from also deciding not to engage you. Don’t focus all of your attention on the easy money, as you will often forget to factor in what other’s (yet to act), may do to derail your very obvious plan of attack. Caution: While you are narrow your vision and look only to win against the weaker opponent, you may inadvertently allow another strong player to intercept your play and take down a pot that now includes a good portion of your stack. While maintaining your patience, discipline and awareness of the entire table, be certain to devote ample consideration to winning pots contested by the weaker opponents.

Players at the table (if poker smart), will not be criticizing the play of these type individuals and if you watch closely, whether live or online, they will shield or protect them if anyone makes a verbal abuse run at that them. They know full well that making fun or making a fool out of this person will eventually, if not immediately, send them away from the action or the table. In fact, you might notice players giving encouragement and occasional praise to these individuals in hopes of “shinning them on” (a term for leading them to believe one thing when the opposite is true). Those at the table want these individuals to win a hand occasionally (as long as it is not against them), so the chip flow continues and the player believes (although they lose most hands), they have a chance from time to time. This will also entice them to repeatedly re-load their chip stack when they bust out, instead of just departing for the day. Note: chips usually flow clockwise around at table, because of POSITION!

One thing you won’t see, or you should not see, is someone coaching or teaching a player at the table. This is frowned upon by your opponents and should be left for after the session. If you genuinely enjoyed their company, and want to provide them with some uplifting motivation and reasons to continue playing, pull them aside after they depart the table and consider offering (if they seem receptive to it), ways they could improve and/or get help for their game. When at the tables, you generally have no mercy and play to win, but afterwards, a number of us want to help a fellow struggling poker player in hopes they can improve and help the game grow stronger and richer.

On a final note, the days in which you play poker should be some of the most memorable days of your life. Don’t let losing a hand or a session deter you from having a great time, learn from your mistakes so you don’t repeat them, replay hands you won, or lost in your mind to see if you could have done things a bit different to change the outcome, and always play fair and play to WIN!

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