June 2009 - Poker Root

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Viewer Beware - Howard Lederer

June 30, 2009 1
Many of the people crowding the tournament circuit these days developed their interest in serious poker from watching broadcasts of the World Poker Tour and the World Series of Poker*. With hole cards shown as the hands are played out, viewers get to see how the best players in the world ply their craft. They can then apply the lessons they've learned in their own play.

In the last couple of years, I've noticed that some of the less experienced players who have entered $10,000 buy-in tournaments don't fully appreciate what they've seen on TV. Many are apt to misapply the techniques they've witnessed. As a result, these players find themselves on the rail early, wondering why a move that worked so well for Phil Ivey or Chris Ferguson had such disastrous results for them.

To avoid falling into this trap yourself, take note of two key pieces of information the next time you sit down to watch the WPT or WSOP*: The number of players at the table and the stack sizes relative to the blinds.

World Poker Tour final-table broadcasts start when six players remain. Through the vast majority of tournaments, however, tables are nine or 10-handed. When 10 people are at the table, you always need to be concerned that someone holds a big pocket pair or Ace-King. As a result, most good players tend to be cautious at full tables. They won't get themselves in a lot of trouble with speculative hands like a middle pocket pair or Ace-10. At a short-handed table, however, the chances of running into a big hand are greatly diminished. When play is three- or four-handed, a pro will likely play a hand like pocket 9s very aggressively.

Usually, in the late stages of tournaments, the blinds are extremely high when compared to the size of the stacks. For example, in the recent WPT event from the Gold Strike in Tunica, when four players remained, the average stack had about 1.4 Million in chips. This may sound like a lot but, at that time, the blinds were 30,000 and 60,000 with a 10,000 ante. The short stacks, who had less than 1 Million each, couldn't afford to be patient. If they failed to play for a mere 20 hands, their stacks would be cut in half.

As blinds increase, good players get more aggressive, making frequent pre-flop raises while attempting to steal the blinds and antes. They know that if they sit and wait for top-quality hands, the blinds and antes will decimate their stacks. At these stages of tournaments, you'll see a lot of attempted steals with second-rate hands. Other good players, fully aware that their opponents may be raising with very little, might re-raise or fight back from the blinds with similarly modest holdings.

Short tables and high blinds create settings that necessitate near constant aggression and continual action. So, for example, when you see a pro re-raise all-in from the blinds with pocket 7s, it's likely he's properly considered the situation and has made the best available play. He's thought about the short table and high blinds, determined that he probably has the best hand and, most importantly, that his opponent likely can't call the re-raise. The same player would treat the same hand very differently at an earlier stage of the tournament.

The final factor to consider when watching televised poker is that the shows are highly edited. At this year's WSOP*, it sometimes took 15 hours and hundreds of hands to determine a winner. On ESPN, they usually include about 20 hands in an hour-long broadcast. So, you can be sure that much of the context if missing from these telecasts. A call or re-raise that seemed odd on TV may have made perfect sense in the course of the event. For instance, if an aggressive player raised eight consecutive times on the button, the big blind may have decided that he had to fight back with rags, just to let his opponent know that he was willing to take a stand. It's not a play that person would normally make, and it may look strange on TV but, in context, the re-raise with 8-high made perfect sense.

I suggest that you TiVo the next poker event you plan to watch. Keep track of the number of players and the size of the blinds. By paying attention to the details, the big picture will likely become clearer.

Bonuses:
- Free $100 Bankroll at Full Tilt Poker
- 27% Rakeback at Full Tilt Poker
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Monday, June 1, 2009

Playing NL50 Headsup - Pokerstar's Challenge (97.4% complete)

June 01, 2009 1
Well, I am almost complete my Pokerstar's challenge. 2924 of 3000 FPP points finished. So far I am up $851 plus $150 when I unlock the pending bonus. It's been a rollacoaster ride lately and I haven't been able to find my groove in the $25 NL 6-max games. I just swtiched to Holdem Manager poker software because my trial ran out for PokerTracker. Here is my graph for the last 3 days:


Note, right at the end I switched to $.25/$.50 headsup and I was killing it! I basically won 6 stacks for $110 total in like 30 minutes. Basically, I just looked for players who bought in short for like $10-$30. I was aggressive, I was making moves at the right time and I got lucky too. Here is one hand from one of the headsup matches, I got a straight flush:) He had 5,9 off suit. Notice, he never raised once preflop so it was an easy match.

Playing NL50 Headsup - Pokerstar's Challenge (97.4% complete)
The thing I don`t like about Holdem Manger is that it does not record the first 30 hands before you sit at the table like PokerTracker does... Maybe I`ll try PokerOffice free trial too before I buy.

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Anyway, here are a couple hands, one a $77 pot!

PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, $0.25 BB (6 handed)

saw flop | saw showdown

Button ($3.40)
SB ($25.80)
BB ($25.25)
UTG ($15.20)
MP ($25)
Hero (CO) ($24.85)

Preflop: Hero is CO with 3club, 5club
UTG calls $0.25, 1 fold, Hero calls $0.25, Button calls $0.25, 1 fold, BB checks

Flop: ($1.10) 6Diamond, 4Heart, 7Spade (4 players)
BB checks, UTG bets $0.25, Hero calls $0.25, Button calls $0.25, 1 fold

Turn: ($1.85) 6club (3 players)
UTG checks, Hero bets $1.25, 1 fold, UTG raises to $5, Hero raises to $15.75, UTG calls $9.70 (All-In)

River: ($31.25) 6Spade (2 players, 1 all-in)

Total pot: $31.25 | Rake: $1.55
Main pot: $31.25 between UTG and Hero, won by UTG

Results:
UTG had Kclub, 6Heart (four of a kind, sixes).
Hero mucked 3club, 5club (straight, seven high).
Outcome: UTG won $29.70

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PokerStars No-Limit Hold'em, $0.25 BB (6 handed)

saw flop | saw showdown

UTG ($15)
MP ($32.65)
CO ($14.80)
Hero (Button) ($32)
SB ($25.45)
BB ($32.65)

Preflop: Hero is Button with ASpade, AHeart
UTG (poster) checks, MP bets $0.85, CO raises to $1.45, Hero raises to $4.25, 1 fold, BB calls $4, 2 folds, CO calls $2.80

Flop: ($13.95) 8Spade, 6Diamond, 6club (3 players)
BB checks, CO checks, Hero bets $4.50, BB calls $4.50, CO raises to $10.55 (All-In), Hero calls $6.05, BB calls $6.05

Turn: ($45.60) 9Heart (3 players, 1 all-in)
BB checks, Hero bets $16.75, BB raises to $17.85 (All-In), Hero calls $0.45 (All-In)

River: ($80) 3Heart (3 players, 3 all-in)

Total pot: $80 | Rake: $3
Main pot: $45.60 between CO, Hero and BB, won by Hero
Side pot 1: $34.40 between Hero and BB, won by Hero

Results:
Hero had ASpade, AHeart (two pair, Aces and sixes).
BB had QSpade, QHeart (two pair, Queens and sixes).
CO mucked QDiamond, 4Diamond (one pair, sixes).
Outcome: Hero won $77

Bonuses:
- Free $100 Bankroll at Pokerstars
- 100% Deposit Bonus at Pokerstars
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Pokerstars NL25 (Fast - 6 max) - Video

June 01, 2009 3
Here is my first video of cash game. It was right at the end of my session and I was about to leave the table but there was a player, "ccc53" and he was overbetting almost every pot. The funny thing was, he was winning every hand. He went from $20 to $65 in just a few hands. I wasn't sure if this guy was a total donk or if he was just getting lucky.



I started recording and I picked up a lot of hands! Unfortunately I couldn't stack "ccc53" and maybe I should have slow played the 2 sets I got against him. I skipped a bunch of hands because the video was getting long and I wanted to keep it under the Youtube maximum length of 10 min, 57 sec.

Sorry, no commentary. My microphone doesn't work on Vista. I added a couple songs though. I have to pick up a new mircophone/webcam.

Bonuses:
- Free $100 Bankroll at Pokerstars
- 100% Deposit Bonus at Pokerstars
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When Passive Plays - Chris Ferguson

June 01, 2009 1
There's no question that aggressive poker is winning poker. If the world's top players have only one thing in common, it's that they take control of the hands they play with bets and raises. Usually, among the world's poker elite, calling is the least attractive option.

For this tip, however, I thought I'd talk about a couple of instances when playing passively - just checking and calling bets - may be the preferred option.

Top Pair, Favorable Board

Say I'm in the early stages of a tournament and I have an ample stack. I find Ace-Jack in middle position and raise to three times the big blind. A player in late position, who I know to be solid but fairly aggressive, calls my raise, and everyone else folds. The flop comes As-4d-8h. I've got top-pair, with a decent kicker.

First, I want to think about the hands my opponent might hold. It's likely he called my raise with an Ace or a pocket pair, maybe in the range of 66-99. He may have also called with two high cards like KQ, KJ or QJ.

In this situation, I'm likely very far ahead or hopelessly behind if my opponent hit a set or has a bigger Ace. If he's got an Ace with a worse kicker, he's drawing to only three outs. If he's got a pocket pair like 77, he has only two outs. With just two face cards, he's almost drawing dead. And on this board (As-4d-8h), I don't need to be especially worried about straight or flush draws. Because of this, I don't mind giving my opponent a free card.

If I bet my top pair and my opponent holds a pocket pair, he's likely to fold, and I'll have failed to get any additional value out of my hand. If I check, however, I give this player the chance to bluff or bet his lesser Ace, and I can then call.

Ideally, I want to get one decent-sized bet in over the course of this hand and by checking, I prevent my opponent from giving me more action than my hand can handle.

Say the turn is 3c. The situation hasn't changed much. I'm still either way ahead or very far behind. I can check again, and allow my opponent to bluff.

On most river cards, if we have checked the hand down, I will generally bet. If we've put one bet in, I'll probably check-call, and if we've put in two, I'll likely check and fold. Playing the hand in this manner provides three advantages. It allows me to get good value out of a strong hand, and it also keeps me from losing more than I need to against a hand that has mine beat without too much risk. Additionally, playing this way gives my opponent the opportunity to bluff, which is the only way to get any money out of him if he holds a hand like QJ.

Decent Hand, Scary Board

Here's another early tournament situation where my opponents and I have relatively deep stacks. Say I'm holding pocket 8s in middle position and a player has raised pre-flop from early position. I call the raise and a player in late position calls as well. The three of us see a flop of Jd-Jc-4s.

There's a decent chance that my 8s are good, but I want to proceed cautiously, as either of the other players in the hand could hold a Jack.

Say that all three of us check this flop. I really haven't learned too much, because someone could be slow playing trip Jacks.

The turn comes 6h. This doesn't look like it would have helped anyone's hand, but the pre-flop raiser bets from early position. This is a spot where I'd likely just call. There are a couple of advantages to just calling in this situation. First, it doesn't over-commit me to the pot. If the player in late position raises, I can muck having lost a minimum number of chips. Secondly, the call is going to look very scary to my opponents. They might be thinking that I'm the one slow playing trip Jacks. So, even if the early position player holds a higher pocket pair, he's likely to check on the river no matter what card hits. At that point, I can show down my 8s and see if they are in fact the best hand.

The problem with this play relative to the last one is that I am probably giving my opponent six outs to catch up and beat my hand if he has two over-cards, as opposed to two or three outs in the previous example.

I don't play passively often, but under the right circumstances, just calling bets can provide good value while minimizing risk.

For another perspective on passive play, be sure to read the lesson entitled In Defense of the Call by Gavin Smith.

Bonuses:
- Free $100 Bankroll at Full Tilt Poker
- 27% Rakeback at Full Tilt Poker
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