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Looking through the looking glass into world class poker

An analogy with poker and the true secret behind what can only be deemed world class play can be seen in the movie “The Matrix” with Keanu Reeves (remember Game Theory). In that movie, there was a scene if you were not aware where Reeves character “Neo” is waiting inside a room to see a lady called “The Oracle” that will tell him all that he wants to know about his future.

In that waiting room, Neo observes a boy with very special powers bending a spoon with what appears to be mind power. When he tries to replicate what the boy has done, he fails and then asks the boy how he did it. The boy reveals to Neo in some cryptic Zen like quote that it is not the spoon that is bending at all but their thoughts because “there is no spoon”.


Playing world class poker is a bit like this and the overwhelming number of players simply go through life never ever reaching the real goal of discovering what poker is actually about. They think that it is about mathematics and making big hands but they are wrong. There is surprising little maths in poker and making big hands is purely a bonus. It does not take skill to recognise a big hand and then have the patience to wait for it or to wait until you can cheaply flop the nuts and hope to trap someone.

This can be learnt in an incredibly short time frame by anyone and is how most people play and actually what they aspire to many of them. I mean, I could teach my young daughter to play like that in a day. If you can skilfully recognise situations that will be advantageous then you do not need cards it is as simple as that. The players that wait for the better hands are too transparent in their play, they may as well play with their cards turned up. Sure, they get to bust someone once in a while who has not been paying attention but those events do not come around all that often.

There should be a phrase that is etched into your memory and it is this,


It is pointless waiting for aces and kings and then misplaying them and losing your entire stack because you could not lay the hand down on the flop after someone had called your pre-flop raise and out flopped you. Yet this is what millions of players do, wait for the hands that they cannot even play properly when they arrive.

Just to get one thing clear here, I do not go around betting and raising like a lunatic and calling raises all over the place trying to get cute. Doing anything too often is counter productive, I try and create a balance where I am stealing constantly whenever I a in a hand but I am not playing every hand. Other players are not stupid, they will know that you will not have flopped a hand every time. Also because players at the lower levels are weaker on average then bluffing and pressure betting can be less effective sometimes for several reasons.

The main two being that they have less money on the table and are likely to go all in and the second one is because they do not have the skill to recognise when they are beat and will call with marginal hands where a good player would lay it down. But once you get your head around the idea of Flow theory then you do not have to wait for a hand to play. Certain things will align themselves and you will start to recognise a situation that can be exploited.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online at www.888poker.com

Using Pot Control When Multi-Tabling

These days I think that there are three main ways to make money playing cash games. The first is to play deep stack and to only single table and to exploit the players who multi-table. Any strong poker player should increase their bb/100 doing this but will also decrease their $/hr figure while increasing their variance.

It is more than possible to make up for your opponents being solid if you can feel their game out much better. There are several downsides though to playing in this way and one is that if your opponents balance their ranges reasonably well even though multi-tabling then your edge may not be as great as you may think in some cases.

One other method that many players use on big sites is to play a minimum stack. Many sites these days have increased their minimum stack buy ins and it is really only a matter of time before the rest of the sites follow suit otherwise they are going to end up being swamped by minimum stack regs. The third way is to play deep stack and play as many tables as you can.

However to do this requires that you play a lot of pot control in pots. Unfortunately this tactic is massively exploitable in the right circumstances but the fact is that many players will fail to exploit it. If you are going to play pot control when multi-tabling then I think you at least need to take notes on which players may be trying to exploit you.

It would be difficult for any player to adjust rapidly in such a situation and you would never expect an opponent who was playing twelve tables to have adjusted against a single opponent as rapidly as that.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online poker at www.888poker.com

Learning to play Hi-Low Split Games

O/8 like it’s cousin Omaha high is basically a drawing game and if you are drawing then you had better make damn sure that you are drawing to something that is worth drawing to. The fact of the matter is that an A-2 by itself is simply not worth the effort most of the time. Even if you hit it then you are only getting half of the pot at best. But someone else could easily be holding the same low and especially in a multi-way pot. Then you can make your hand only to lose it again if an ace or a deuce arrives.

Many a time in full ring games and especially in a limit format then O/8 can actually get very boring because an awful lot of folding can sometimes be involved and the game is nowhere near as complex as hold’em but yet the split pot nature of the game seems to confuse an awful lot of players.

In games at the lower end of the spectrum then tight is right as it is in most low stakes games irrespective of the form and drawing to non nut hands especially on the low side can prove fatal to your bankroll. But creativity and aggression will be rewarded in higher limit games and especially in pot limit play. But as I said earlier, you can play a very dull and unimaginative game in low stakes O/8 and actually do quite well.

As well as playing professionally online I also coach poker and what I have found over the past year to eighteen months is an increasing number of players coming to me wanting to learn about O/8. Of course you cannot approach any kind of coaching with a “one glove fits all” attitude and what I tell them is highly dependent on what type of experience they have and what levels they currently play at and how much they actually understand poker.

These are key elements, it is no good showing a player how to beat low limit ring games at O/8 if they have been playing $25-$50 No Limit. They just would not be interested in playing at that level and this would certainly mean them losing money even though they could be technically the best player in the game at all round poker. If you are a very good poker player and actually have a very firm grasp of what poker is and the underlying concepts of it then you will quickly find your feet at any form of poker.

But when players do not understand the game then they have nothing left to fall back on other than learning what constitutes a good hand from a bad one and playing very tightly and grinding it out. But many players cannot even manage that in the low stakes O/8 games where multi-way pots are common and players are coming in with all sorts of junk. An example, someone limps into a multi-way pot because it is cheap with A-4-J-8 rainbow…..what in god’s name is that?

You are drawing at a third nut low even if you make it and some kind of straight….crazy! Somebody out there is likely to beat you not only for low but for high as well. You need to go both ways and try to scoop but you need to exercise a great deal of caution in exactly how you go about it.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online at www.888poker.com 

How To Keep Winning

It’s impossible to win or lose constantly. Sooner or later, any player (even the most experienced one) loses. However, those players who are concentrated on the game itself rather than on the idea of winning are always successful. In this article, we will tell you how to keep winning at online casinos.

We recommend you following these rules:

  1. Make a bet amounting to 10% from your bank. Slot machines at online casinos are software programs that are designed to make the player make as large bets as possible. In such a way, they perform a psychological influence on a person. Gaming software lets the player know that it’s quite possible to win. Most professional players base their gambling strategy on this fact, i.e. they make small bets, and a slot machine returns to them around 60% of their bet.
  2. Miss a bet deliberately. You can use it when playing roulette. Professional players recommend to miss bets, e.g. to bet in every two or three rounds. Combine this tip with the first one – and your chances to succeed will increase.
  3. 10% bet. By following this tip you will keep wining for a rather long time. There is a drawback, however: if you lose three times in a row, it will be pretty hard for you to get back your initial bank. Apply this tip with extreme caution.
  4. Try to withdraw your winnings as soon as possible. In order not to lose your winning, withdraw them from the system right after you received them. Your goal is to win, not to lose.

Don’t rush to spend all your money. If you have a significant amount of money on your account, try not to spend all of it at once. This is done in order for casino administration to consider you a loyal customer. This will also allow you to save your money and nerves.

Assessing what your image is

When you play at lower levels then your opponents are doing everything at a lower level……including watching you. At higher levels of play then your opponents are watching you very closely. This is why it is easier to get away with playing so many tables at lower levels because your opponents are not scrutinising your play as closely. Playing ABC on eight tables is easier to do and get away with than it is at say NL400. So your opponents are playing at a much lower level and so everything else impacts on that.

At higher levels then all of your opponents will be watching you very closely. Some will be using tracking software like PokerTracker while others will be watching you more closely. While tracking software watches your long term game and highlights it far better than any human, it really takes a human player to spot short term fluctuations in another player’s game. For example if a playing is temporarily tilting then you need to know this immediately as the effect of that will be absorbed in large sample sizes.

Also large sample sizes can be very misleading and even data can be very misleading in terms of how much short term fluctuation there is. There are a very large number of short term events that make up long term results and this is something that needs to be done manually. You start to build an image when you sit down at a poker table simply by the way that you play your hands. Let us say that you have been raising pre-flop and betting and raising a lot recently. In this game then your image will depend on the level of players that you are going up against.

Unless you have been raising and re-raising like a maniac then lower level opponents will not notice a slight increase in your action from the norm. However this will get spotted at higher levels and your opponents will adjust. Better players will adjust quickly and not let grass grow under their feet. So if you have say a loose-aggressive image and a certain player starts to play back at you then the table dynamic has changed. This is why playing so many tables at higher levels is very difficult because it is harder to spot the shift in table dynamic when you do this.

However let us say that you have a hand like the 7-6s. You normally call a raise with this hand for two reasons. Obviously you call because of your position and the fact that you feel that you can outplay your opponent. You also call the raise for both pot equity and fold equity. The pot equity comes from the pots that you can win with this holding and it also has big pot potential as it can make the nut straight. However you can also bluff on a lot of boards as well and so you have good fold equity. But when you have been very aggressive then your fold equity decreases against stronger opponents.

They will not back down to your floating tactics or your flop raises on wet boards or other such plays. If you raise the flop on a board like 10c-9c-4d then they may just three bet you with A-J or even call your raise. When this starts to happen then you are either up against a very aggressive opponent that is looking to maximise fold equity or one that is reacting to your play. This is why you need to be very aware of your own image because your opponents will either contract or expand their ranges because of it at the higher levels of play.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online at www.888poker.com

Advice for better NLHE play

Let us say that it gets folded around to you in the cut-off seat and you have a playable hand like the 10c-9c in no limit Texas hold’em poker……just what sorts of mistakes can you make here? Well firstly you have a playable hand and so you really shouldn’t be folding that hand. Probably around 99% of all players would play this hand with most raising with it.

However this is looking at the picture incorrectly because we are only addressing one hand in a vacuum. If we took this one situation to an extreme then we could end up with a really obvious example like Ac-Ad. All players would raise with A-A and nearly all players would fold with hands like 7-2o. How many hands you play in between these two extremes is your total range for this situation. So two individual players may both raise with the 10-9s but that doesn’t tell the total range of both these players.

So with the first player who was raising with say 20% of their hands then the 10-9s would represent almost the bottom of their range. Whereas someone who was raising with say 40% of their hands then the suited connector would be in the middle of their range. This is a vitally important concept in no limit Texas hold’em and understanding our opponents range depth helps us to see how often we can make profitable plays against them in no limit Texas hold’em. As a rule then your average opponents either do something too much or too little and this reflects in their ranges.

It is your job as an online no limit Texas hold’em player to gain as much information on your opponents as possible. The person with the most information then becomes the better poker player……it is that simple. So what sort of mistakes could we make if it is folded to us in the cut-off? As a rule the two biggest mistakes are to not attack frequently enough or to raise too often…..in other words we are basing our mistakes on frequency levels which is an altogether more subtle type of mistake.

Let us say that an aggressive player raises with around 40% of their total range from the cut-off. This is not a good range and it does reflect an awful lot of hands. This is where we can exploit them in no limit Texas hold’em because if we three bet then most players would fold a large part of that range. This is a problem with raising too liberally because if your opponents choose to three bet you then you either have to fold to the three bet more frequently or play a hand with poor equity potential or four bet with the same poor equity potential.

Domination doesn’t always mean having say A-Q pinned underneath A-K in games like no limit Texas hold’em. We can face what is called a domination of equity. If a player is raising with say 40% of their total range and we three bet with 15% of ours then we have an equity edge over their range. If you or your opponents open raise too widely then you leave your observant opponents enough scope to open their three betting ranges accordingly.

This is bad enough but it then opens up the equally disturbing possibility that you will have to fold most of your range to a three bet. If your opponent 3/bets to say $21 after your $7 opening raise with $1-$2 blinds then they are risking $21 to win $10. This is roughly 67% of the pot and so if you fold to a three bet 67% of the time or more then your opponent is exploiting you. Even allowing for the times that you call then they will still have good post flop equity!

As always in no limit Texas hold’em then you are trying to balance your frequencies between doing something too often and not doing it often enough! The natural follow on of this is to have ranges that are too wide or too narrow for certain situations. At its very core then no limit Texas hold’em is an information based game and most of that information is based on frequencies.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player who plays online at www.888poker.com

Infographic: Fearless Predictions for the 2013 Main Event

A dream of every poker player, amateur and professional, is to win the WSOP Main Event, an historic poker tournament in Las Vegas.  I know it’s a dream of mine.  Below is an amusing infographic that not only tells about the history of this celebrated tournament, it also reveals some interesting and “fearless” predictions of what will happen in the 2013 Main Event. I bet you’ll be surprised by who and what you will see.

Via: Bovada

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