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You Simply Need to Get Educated

It may seem very trivial to many people but simply knowing the rules of the game is an area that many poker players don’t even bother with. The rules of poker differ somewhat and they certainly differ from game to game with huge differences in how various forms of poker are conducted at large poker sites . For example I have run across many players who struggle when moving across from say no limit holdem to Omaha based on the fact that in Omaha then you have to use two cards in your hand and three from the board.

The game rules in Omaha confuse many a novice player and this can be easily highlighted for example with the following hand. Let us say that in four card Omaha you get dealt the Kc-Jd-10h-8s and the final board is 9s-9d-8c-4h-8h. In holdem then you would have a full house of nines over eights because you can play one card from your hand. However in Omaha then the rules state that you must play two cards and so you only have one eight from your hand plus one other card! For you to be able to make a full house here then you need to have a four in your hand or a nine or possibly a pair of fours.

Another example could be if the final board is 9-9-4-4-9, taking your previous hand then you still do not have a full house. Remember that you must use only three cards from the middle and so the three nines must combine with two cards from your starting hand. Seeing as you do not hold a pair then you cannot have a full house. You would be amazed at just how many players I have seen commit huge errors in this area and even experienced players who should know better often misread their hand in Omaha. Just like in any form of poker then not knowing the rules of the game can really hurt you where it hurts the most and that is in your pocket.

The bottom line is that poker is a knowledge based game just like chess and you really need to build up your knowledge first and then the results should improve. This is the process that any winning online poker player follows. There is a saying that knowledge is power……that is true but under no circumstances should you attempt to short cut that knowledge.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson plays poker at 888poker and is an 888 poker ambassador

Play Better Online Poker

Finding a weakness in your opponent and then exploiting it is the very definition of poker.

When you come up against a player who calls when he or she does not have the requisite odds to do so, be it implied or pot odds, is defined as a weakness.

These players are called Calling Stations, and here is a little bit of advice on how to approach them during sessions on popular poker sites like 888.

Firstly, as the name implies these types of players are not going to be folding often, meaning they are not prime candidates for bluffing.

Make sure you have a solid hand range and only bet for value. When you are betting for value, they are the prime candidates to over bet with your strong hands.

Not only are you going to garner more chips, but the other players seated around the table will see that you are capable of over betting the pot, something that can be used to your advantage, later in the tournament.

Over betting the pot is a great technique against calling stations but you do need to keep an eye on their stack size.

The shorter the stack becomes, the more likely they are to fold, thus losing you value.

This is because tournament preservation will be priority in their minds. So, when dealing with the short-stacked calling station, bet sufficiently enough to leave them with around 25% of their stack.

Last but not least, always try and exploit these players in the early stages of an 888 tournament because they are not likely to be around long!

A monotone board is a board where each card contains the same suit, and they can be a little tricky to play. The board can mean flop, turn or river and it is a term used in relation to where you are in the hand.

Imagine you are the pre flop raiser in a 888poker event and you receive one caller. The flop is [Qs] [8s] [Ts], you bet and are raised. What thought process should you apply in this spot?

It is more likely that your opponent called with a suited hand than a non-suited hand, as it is optimal game theory (suited hands give you more post flop equity). So players are not raising that often with their one-spade hands. It’s true that your mind will often trick you into believing this is the case, but the maths just don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Your opponent is very likely to have great equity. Unless you are involved in some sort of levelling war, players generally steer clear of bluff raising on these types of boards.

Players often get their thinking skewed in these types of spots. They think that because there are more draws than flush hands that they should call the raise, but they are not taking equity into consideration.

Look at it a different way, from the perspective of the 888 poker blog, Imagine we have flopped ace-queen on the same type of board (with no spade) and we face a raise.

We need to be right a large percentage of the time in order to call, and we just aren’t going to find what we are looking for. Monotone boards are tricky, and always remember there is a hand waiting just around the corner. If you get raised, then fold, and wait for a better spot.

Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

How to play Better SNG’s

I played my first $5 SNG with the loose aggressive style, here’s a quick recap of my view on loose aggressive:

Loose Aggressive

I want to see a lot of hands, and I want to raise a lot of hands, especially with position. When I get in a pot I want to take control and bully my opponents. If I catch a substantial piece or a big draw then I am going to play it like its the nuts. I will not slowplay anything because that will make my big hands all the more obvious. Bet-bet-bet is the strategy and I am calling with overs, suited cards, and inside straight draws, and you will like it!

Well, they liked it alright, I busted in 9th place! I got my stack up to $3000 and quickly back down to $0, haha, here’s how it all went down:

I raised 5x the big blind with 33 under-the-gun on my first hand, one caller. I continuation bet it 3/4 the pot and he folded.

Check from the big blind with J4o and flopped low two pair. I overbet the pot on every turn of the cards, getting one caller. He mucks top pair, kings and I’m up to $3000, the height of my reign.

Next hand played I raised from the small blind with 10-4 suited. The flop was 10-J-K and I bet the pot, bet the pot, bet the pot. Passive caller beat me out of $1800 chips… what gives?

I raised with A10 of diamonds and flopped the nut flush draw. I bet the pot. Turned a straight draw as well and I overbet the pot. Hit my straight, went all in but opponent folded.

The other players have begun talking about how I always raise and how aggressive I am, guess my cover is blown.

I raised with Q9 offsuit and had three callers, they had lost all respect for my bets by this time. The flop came Q 9 A and I bet the pot, one caller. He bet into me on the turn and I went all in. He called and showed AQ, I was down to $700 chips.

Finally from the big blind I had 35 suited in diamonds. A middle position player moves all in with one callers, I reraised all in on top and was called by A2 and 10-10. Unfortunately I didn’t improve and was knocked out in 9th!

Tight Passive

Playing tight passive was very difficult for me, I guess I just care too much. It was really hard for me not reraise a lot of pots and pressure my opponents, but I reminded myself that it was only $5 and hopefully would have some interesting results. Well, I did fare better than in my loose aggressive game by coming in 7th. A few key hands included:

First hand I limped with K10s and flopped top pair (10 7 8 flop). I check called the button twice and he ended up mucking K8 and I won the $240 pot.

The next hand I played I limped with A5o (A 4 7 flop). I check-checked the flop, bet 40 on the turn, and check-checked the river. The one caller mucked K2 (pair of 2s on the turn).

In my big blind I checked with 10-9 offsuit (J 8 4 flop) and I check-called $100 on the flop and turn, check-checked the river when I missed my straight, and my opponent won with 33.

I was back to around $1500 when this hand came up… I limped under-the-gun with AK offsuit when the person directly to my left raised to 300. The button proceded to reraise all-in. I called-all-in and the initial raiser also called. The hands were JJ (button), AJ(initial raiser) and AK (myself). Board was Q 6 7 10 3 and I busted in 7th place!

So far neither of my playing styles have had any real advantages, and I think it would be excedingly hard to consistently make money with either, especially if I can’t even come close the first time. A few stats to sum things up.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is a poker ambassador and poker player at 888poker

The Art of Poker Analysis

The great Doyle Brunson once remarked how the most important thing in poker is to know where you stand in the hand. So just what are the ramifications of this and how can we possibly use this to our advantage? Firstly let us look at a few examples to show you what I mean. It is folded around to the cut-off who makes it 3bb to go and you call on the button with the 10d-8d. Both blinds fold and we go to the flop heads up with 140bb effective stacks.

The flop comes Jd-4h-3s and our opponent c/bets for 5bb into the 7bb pot. Now before we continue we know that we are almost certainly behind in this situation. It is tough for our opponent to have less than ten high. However we have several things in our favour. Firstly the pot is heads up which means that we have less obstacles to get through in order to win the pot and this applies to any online poker variation.

Secondly we have some backdoor outs to the flush and straight but also outs to a pair of tens or eights which could also give us the best hand. If they have say A-Q and we pair with a ten or an eight on the turn then we overtake them…..a lot of players fail to take these outs on board simply because we cannot make top pair. Another key factor is that we have position and that is crucial in any hand of poker. However the biggest factor by far is the fact that our opponent is not a favourite to have either a strong pre-flop hand given their position or have connected with this flop.

So despite the fact that we know we don’t have much by way of actual hand strength when looked at in a conventional way, when we assess all of the other factors and take everything into account…..we actually have a far stronger position than first appears. If you only ever view this hand as “weak” because you only have ten high then you are never going to maximise your earn rate or take your game to the next level. Let us look at another example to show you what I mean which will highlight a very important point.

Let us say that we have the As-4s on a Kh-10c-5h board and our opponent has the 3c-3d. We don’t have the best hand but if we knew that our opponent held pocket threes then would that really matter…….no! Because if we knew this then any raise by us either on the flop or turn will win the pot assuming our opponent doesn’t catch a three. So we can ascertain here that if our opponent c/bets and we raise that there is a very high percentage probability that they will fold. This underlines the fact that if we know our opponent is very weak then it doesn’t really matter if we have the best hand or not because weak hands fold to pressure…..end of story.

When we know that we are weak and we have no equity to fall back on then this is usually the deciding factor in whether we fold or not! We cannot try to blast our opponents from the pot every single time that we play otherwise our range will be too polarised between strong hands and junk and the more observant opponents will catch onto that.



Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

STT Tactics in Poker

As we speak then STT’s or single table tournaments are played by millions of people in online poker every single day. The opportunity to play a fast action final table of a poker tournament is one that is alluring for many. To play STT’s for fun is cool and easy to do but playing them for profit is also fun as well. In fact if many more poker players simply treated poker as more of a recreational activity than a serious one then they may be more in tune with being able to accept the variance.

A standard STT event has around ten players in it and typically awards prize money to the remaining three players with 50% of the prize pool going to the winner, 30% to second and 20% to third. The blinds go up very rapidly but that is their appeal because it means that people can play poker who don’t have loads of time to spare. A typical STT is often over within 30-45 minutes and in fact players have the option to play in as many as they can handle.

Unlike large field poker tournaments, STT’s reward survival more than it usually does. You only have to survive longer than seven other players in order to get to the money. This makes tight play during the early stages a very good strategy. If your starting stack is say 1500 in chips and the blinds are 10-20 then you can coast through the early levels without much erosion to your stack.

The fact of the matter is that you are not going to be able to get to the final three seats simply by folding so get rid of that notion right here and now. Many novices have tried that tactic and it simply doesn’t work. So you are going to have to change gears and become more aggressive but in an intelligent way. When your stack shrinks to say less than 10bb then you are looking for situations to get all in pre-flop.

Do not under any circumstances look to steal blinds and then fold to an all-in. Raising to say 3bb with 8c-6c from the button and folding to a big blind that shoves all-in for 12bb when you only have 10bb as a starting stack is terrible play. That is simply tossing away 30% of your stack without even fighting for it.

The biggest difference between big winners in STT’s and mediocre winners is in the frequency of wins that they get. This all comes down to aggression levels and the best players become aggressive at just the right times but which times are they? The best time to become aggressive is when your opponents fear elimination and this is when they are only one or two places away from the money.

Nobody wants to have sat in an STT for say 30 minutes only to then bust out in fourth or fifth place. That represents a huge waste of time and not to mention the lost potential of the cash out. So the best STT players become aggressive and take extra risks to attain the extra chips necessary to take them beyond third place and into the winners’ enclosure.


Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

A Good Tournament Style?

There is no doubt that tournament poker is the most exciting form of poker in the world today. The chance to play for life changing sums of money creates a thrill like no other type of poker can even come close to.

This is especially the case in big events and televised events. Many players over the years have become stars and names within poker simply by taking down a big event. Are these players better than you…….sometimes but not always. So just how do you go about wading through a big tournament that has maybe several thousand players in it to get to the final table?

In any poker tournament then you have to be realistic, if there are say two thousand players then only one person will be the winner and only around nine players will make the final table. This person is highly unlikely to be you irrespective of how good you are and this applies to anybody. There is a large luck element attached to tournament poker which means that anybody has a chance and that is a good thing.

So when you have more skill, knowledge and experience then don’t think that this effect will be startling because it won’t. So you need to have “realism” as part of your plan before you start to play and that realism is that you are probably going to bust out short of the final table.

The players that perform the worst in tournaments tend to be the ones that simply do not change gears. There are two schools of thought here in what the correct tournament style is with one saying that it is tight-aggressive to start and then switching to loose-aggressive in the later stages with the other camp saying that is loose-aggressive throughout. However what is not a winning style is to start off being tight-aggressive and remain in that style throughout the tournament.

That will work in a cash game where the blinds are static but it will not work in a tournament. The problem is that a tight-aggressive style will help you to outlast much of the field and this in itself feels like “success”. However when the blinds start to really escalate and the field shrinks then you are simply not increasing your stack fast enough and you are left with only having to get exceptionally lucky as your only way of surviving.

Risk is an essential part of tournament poker and whatever you do your stack is at risk. This is no different to say someone that tries to play it too cautiously by only ever placing their money in no risk deposit accounts in a bank that pay zero interest. Over time their money is simply eroded by inflation but in a poker tournament that inflation happens very rapidly until our hero is forced to go all in with insufficient chips just to survive.

So a good tournament style is one that combines surviving (because you cannot win a tournament if you are eliminated) with accumulating as many chips as possible. To accumulate as many chips as possible means running risks and with aggressive intelligent play! You cannot trust to luck as your only plan for accumulating chips as luck by itself is simply not enough even though it is an important aspect of tournament success.


Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

How important is pot control?

The best online no limit hold’em players will tell you that pot control is a weak concept. The idea that you can “control” something doesn’t really fit in with a game like poker that is largely based on short term chaos. This isn’t strictly true of course because there are many things that you can control in no limit hold’em and the main one is your own betting actions. It is you and you only that dictates whether or not you place any more money into the pot.

So “pot control” is possible but is it profitable? Well the answer to that question is “yes” and no” or as per usual in poker…….it depends! When a player looks to control the pot by checking or making smaller bets then this is a sign of a moderate hand that doesn’t want a big pot. We can broadly simplify our opponents hand range into three types and these are strong, mediocre and weak. While this is very simplistic, this shotgun method actually works quite well within the heat of battle just like many shotgun methods do in poker. Another famous shotgun method is the one regarding calculating pot odds of hitting your hand on the turn and river.

Once again it isn’t entirely accurate but it gets you close enough and that makes it good enough. The fact of the matter is that it is massively superior to have a shotgun method that gets you pretty close than it is to have no method at all and this is what a lot of players fail to consider. When a player starts out betting and then begins checking or betting smaller amounts then this is not the sign of a strong hand. The hand may have started out being strong but the arrival of further board cards may have weakened it.

An example could be when you raised with Jc-Jd and the flop came 10h-7c-5s. Your hand pre-flop was “strong” and it can still be considered that way on the flop. However let us say that an opponent calls you and an ace comes on the turn. Now your hand is merely mediocre and doesn’t want to see a huge pot. You bet again and get called and the river card is another ten. If you opponent started out with top pair then they have just made trips and your jacks are beaten.

This is where the player with the jacks may bet something small as a blocker to prevent them from having to call a large bet or fold the possible best hand. This is pot control because you are trying to control the final pot size on the river. However trying to control the pot and actually doing so are two different things. A weaker player would call you down with something like an ace or even a ten with a low kicker but wouldn’t bluff raise you. However a strong player may ultimately decide to make a move on you on the river because of the weakness of your betting line.

Quite often in games like no limit, concepts seem to contradict each other. You see countless articles and authors discuss how you should only create a big pot with a big hand which means that you should control the pot when you have something that could be the best hand but ultimately may not be. However these betting lines tell an opponent an awful lot about the average strength of your holding and that is vital data that an astute opponent can take advantage of.

The fact of the matter is that when you are playing against lower staked opponents and especially ones that really only stack off with big hands then pot control is more important. Against very sophisticated players then pot control is much less effective. In the previous example this is where if your opponent raises the river and you feel that they are good enough to suspect your pot control tactics then calling down with the jacks on a 10-7-5-A-10 board is warranted.

However that only applies in situations where your opponents are sophisticated and have the nerve to bluff raise the river. If you are playing lower stakes then you are almost certainly better off folding. In fact folding is probably the right play if you are multi-tabling and are struggling to get adequate reads on your opponents then once again folding is the correct play. If you want to reduce variance and your skill level or experience level is low then pot control is the way to go. All you need to remember is that against better players then this tactic may ultimately come up short. Pot control can be a vital tactic when used widely in no limit Texas hold’em.



Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and poker ambassador for 888poker

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