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Knowing when to change gears

We can start this article off with an example. A solid player is in the under the gun seat with a stack of 112bb and they limp for $1 in an online no limit Texas hold’em full ring $0.50-$1.00 game. It then gets folded around to you in the cut-off seat and you hold the Qc-Qd. Now against a simple limper you have a very high probability that your pocket queens are the best hand.

You too have a stack of more than 100bb and you have $132. So you make it $5 to go and the button folds. The small blind who has a stack of 143bb three bets to $20 and the big blind folds. If this were the only action at the table then you can certainly call the re-raise. You have position and your opponent could easily believe that your pre-flop raise was simply targeting a weak limper. So in this scenario then you can call the re-raise and reassess what to do when you see the flop.

However the limper now four bets to $60 and the action is now on you. In this no limit hold’em hand then you are only in for $5 at this moment in time but this latest action is indicative of your hand not being the best hand. So you have three individual situations that are present in this one hand and all of which required a different action. It was limped by one player around to you and so the best action was to raise. But against a re-raise then your best play was to probably call and use your position to help you. However when you see the limp re-raise then it is difficult to see how pocket queens can be the best hand! This is where a fold is in order.

Imagine for a minute that you are driving a car; you need to use all of the gears at the right time to drive the car optimally. Here you raised with the almost likely best hand. You were then prepared to call the re-raise with what you then believed would have been the possible best hand and you then folded with what you then believed was the worst hand. This is where some weaker players need to improve their games because they get “married” to what they believe are big hands all too easily in online poker.

You can see in this one example that a good player is prepared to raise, call and fold all on the same round of play. Likewise if say it gets folded around to the button who raises and the small blind re-raises. You have Jc-Jd in the big blind and believe that the button was stealing and raising with a wide range. You also believe that the small blind knew this and was three betting with a wider than normal range also.

So your pocket jacks were possibly the best hand. You four bet but then the original raiser over bets the pot by five bet shoving. In this instance then you have been unfortunate to catch your opponent at the very top of their range and if you both have substantial funds left on the table then a fold is probably the best play in this instance.



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

Don’t become an idle poker studier

I have been playing less online poker of late but this is something that I am going to correct this year by hopefully playing more poker at my favourite poker site which is 888. Regular followers of my blogs and my ramblings will know that I have been spending more and more time last year trading on the betting exchanges. This can be very difficult especially in the week where there is less mug money available. There is a far greater percentage of professional money on the exchanges in midweek and that constitutes a problem for any trader looking to try and make money.

However the more that I studied poker then the more that I was drawn to other areas like psychology and electronic trading so that it would help me play better poker! This then developed into an interest in game theory as well. So to really evolve as an online poker player means having in depth knowledge of other areas and it is important for any online poker player not to get bogged down by using strategies that are no longer working or to be stuck on sites and networks with very little liquidity and therefore action.

In my mind then players struggle to make money in online poker in several key areas. Firstly they are too eager to move up to higher levels and this isn’t always the Holy Grail that they think it is. Secondly many players in my opinion simply stay on the same site for far too long. This in my mind has a detrimental effect on a players earn rate. I think that there is a delicate balance between the value of your tracker data and player notes and the fact that other players are using the same data against you.

In my opinion then it becomes very important to be able to change sites or at least have the chance to do so and be able to move to sites with good player numbers. This serves two distinct functions, firstly it freshens up your operation by basically making redundant all of the notes that your opponents have on you. There is another way and that is to play on the site under another account name but that is neither ethical nor allowed by the sites rules and regulations. The second one is that it also allows you to take advantage of the sign up bonuses of other promising sites as well.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro that plays poker at 888poker

Playing the inner game

Now that we are getting towards the end of my philosophy of poker and no limit hold’em especially, I feel that it is time to introduce you to what I call “Flow Theory”. This is a super advanced way of playing in certain no limit hold’em games but it is also a highly dangerous way if you do not have the proper skills after the flop when you play at poker sites.

What I am about to teach you is certainly not contradictory to what has gone before. It is a way of playing no limit hold’em against other good players. It is a way of playing the game that would get you an edge irrespective of who the opposition was.

What does not always come across properly is the real nitty gritty of how I REALLY think. When I sit down in any poker game, I do not have any set way of playing. Set ways of doing anything means that your style is inflexible and static and is certainly not conducive to playing expert top level poker. So when I sit down in a game, I am instantly looking at what everyone else is doing and trying to get a feel for what everyone is up to. The vast majority of the other players will sit down with a set strategy and a set way of how they play certain hands and certain situations.

Certain players will try to bully by constantly raising, others will be limping in a lot with speculative hands and trying to flop the nuts and hoping to trap someone. Others will be playing by the book with what hands they call and raise with before the flop. Once I understand how they are playing and more importantly, WHAT THEY ARE TRYING TO DO IN THE GAME then I can plot my strategy around that.

So in essence the FLOW of the game dictates my strategy and NOT the cards. Because the cards have little impact on the way that I play then I will literally play ANYTHING even 7-2 in the right situation. Let me tell you a big secret about no limit hold’em and something that no one except the professionals really take on board fully. It does not really matter much what you play before the flop as long as YOUR POST FLOP PLAY IS VERY GOOD with the hand that you have.

When you play this way and play with literally anything then you play havoc with all of the book players and the tight solid players and all of the players who pride themselves on being able to lay a good hand down and the players who can recognise a good situation from a bad situation and players who are afraid and fearful….I could go on all night. If the players in the blinds were predictable and tight then I would attack with a 7-2. Even if they called then chances are that I would take it away from them on the flop thus winning more money. Look out for part two coming shortly.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is an online poker pro that plays poker at 888poker

Improving your SNG strategy

The single table tournaments or sit and go tournaments as they are better known are spreading like the proverbial wildfire in online card rooms and all over the net. Their rapid quick tempo means that the entire tournament is over in under an hour mostly. This super quick time frame appeals to many online poker players that do not have the time to commit several hours to playing the game and the much longer time frames that are required to play bigger tournaments.

Crushing Online Single Table Tournaments will be like putting you alongside a professional poker player as I decide on my next course of action and the correct strategy to use at every single stage of the tournament in our example tournaments played by me. What contributes to making these mini tournaments so popular is the avalanche of final table tournament action that is seen on television these days. When you sit down in a sit and go tournament then you are in effect already at that final table and the excitement and drama happens very quickly.

The criteria for the sit and go tournament that I will be explaining inside CRUSHING ONLINE SINGLE TABLE TOURNAMENTS will be a ten handed $200 + $15 tournament where the prize money is paid to the top three places. Just like in raked cash games, there is also a fee for playing in single table tournaments as well. This fee (sometimes referred to as the juice) is normally between 5% and 10% of the tournament buy in.

In the example above, the fee to play in the sit and go was $15 thus making the total expenditure $215. The ten lots of $15 that are paid by the participants goes to the card room for hosting the event and the players play for the remaining $2000 in prize money. In the example tournaments that I will be playing, the prize money is paid to the top three places as follows,

1st Place 50% 2nd Place 30% 3rd Place 20%

The blinds in the example tournaments will start at the 10-20 level and will increase every 10 hands until there is a winner. In our $200 + $15 example, this would mean the winner getting $1000, second place winning $600 and the third place finisher getting $400. These strategies will be effective in single table tournaments up to about the $200 level. Any higher than this and the players start to become a whole lot better and negate the effectiveness of the system somewhat simply because many more players are playing the same way.

I will quickly point out that even if you encounter other single table tournaments with slightly different criteria like different time limits, payment structure, number of players or buy in then this strategy will still be highly effective. So sit back and prepare to take a quantum leap forward in your knowledge in just how to beat SNG’s with CRUSHING ONLINE SINGLE TABLE TOURNAMENTS!

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is an online poker pro who plays at 888poker

Raising in No Limit Hold’em

Raising in deep stacked no limit cash games needs to be done with care when you are multi-tabling. For example let us look at a hand that could so easily be played online. You have just made a flush on the river and a tight solid opponent bets more than pot. The action went like this, it was folded around to them in the cut-off and they make it 3.5bb to go with a 150bb stack. You call with the 6d-5d on the button and the small blind also calls making the pot 11.5bb. The effective stack size is 150bb and the flop comes Qd-9d-4s.

The small blind checks and the original raiser bets 7bb and you call with the small blind also calling. The pot is now 32.5bb and the turn card is the Ah and the small blind checks and so does the opening raiser. You decide to use the ace and your equity as a sign to make a play at the pot and you make it 18bb to go and the small blind calls making the pot 68.5bb. The other player folds and we see the river card which is the 3d making your flush. The small blind now bets 70bb and you both have around 120bb left.

Pushing the rest of your stack in here would be a mistake even though you have a flush. It would be even more of a mistake if your opponent was a multi-tabling regular. Your opponent is clearly looking to play for stacks and there is no feasible straight possible given the action to date. In fact this river bet is so scary that I would even consider folding the flush in this situation. That statement may horrify many players but I would have to not know my opponent to make this call.

If they were a multi-tabling regular then I would probably fold here and only call if I didn’t know my opponent. Players that you don’t know and are more apt to make weak plays and stack off more lightly need to be called more often. In this situation then your opponent’s line looks like a made flush and so raising is certainly out of the question as there is no value in it. At the lower stake levels then you will have to keep some players honest but I also see many weaker players simply make sloppy calls like this with little thought to what their opponent could be holding.

You need to be very careful when it comes to raising in a way that is going to commit your stack. Only the other day I saw a friend of mine get all in with 9c-9h on a Ks-Js-9d-8s board. As soon as he over shoved all in and was called then I knew he had the worst hand. If his opponent held a flush then he was drawing to ten outs and so was around 20% to make his hand on the river. If his opponent held a bigger set like with K-K or J-J (villain had raised from early position) then our hero was drawing to only one out.

This is actually weak poker play because the fundamental basis for the play was that our hero simply hit his hand on the flop and then blew a gasket. This belies one of the basic truths of poker in that hitting your hand isn’t necessarily enough. Poker hand strength is based not just on what you hold but what your opponent also holds. If you have 9c-9d on a Jh-9s-4c board then you are crushed if your opponent holds J-J.


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

The science of coolers

The word “cooler” is a term for a poker hand where as a rule one powerful hand has been beaten by another. Let us look at a hand like 5c-5d for example and we can see that this has definite reverse cooler potential. Now before I continue then I am not saying that you never play hands like pocket fives. However in big multi-way limped pots then you can often be on the wrong side of a big pot with hands like this. Firstly if the board pairs and makes you a boat then flushes and straights are going to pay you off less.

At the lower stakes levels then stacks will be smaller and so your opponents are more likely to stack off with non-nut hands. However as the stacks get super deep then the fives become more vulnerable to reverse cooler situations. For example in a multi-way pot then if the flop came 10c-7d-5s and there was substantial action then the fives could be in very serious trouble here. Strong opponents would be aware of the potential for flopped sets and so wouldn’t be giving too much action with straight draws.

Hands like 10-7s and 7-5s may have called pre-flop but two pair hands are not going to donate much money to your stack either and neither will a hand like a slowplayed J-J. If the action went bet-raise-three bet-shove-call and you were the caller then you are almost certainly facing a bigger set. When players face these situations then they cry “cooler” as if it justifies everything. However if you find that you are on the receiving end of these events too often then there may be something wrong with your hand selection or poker philosophy full stop.

At the end of the day then a hand like pocket fives normally has to make a set although this is not the case if you can be the aggressor with it. In isolation positions then hands like pocket fives can be played profitably without having to make a set and especially when you have position. Many players limp with sets in multi-way pots because of the “implied odds” and the fact that they can see a cheap flop. Sometimes it is that very “cheap flop” that can be their undoing. Players expect the world’s fair when they play hands like 5-5. They are expecting to flop a set that turns into a full house and then stack a weaker hand like a flush or a straight.

Most of the time the flushes will be weak flushes that will not stack off anyway and if there is a flush on board and a paired board then most players will fold straights. So your full house often doesn’t get paid off. All this of course assumes big multi-way pots. So your set of fives tends to only dominate hands like two pair and top pair and these are the hands that will not stack off lightly.

However when the big money goes in then the lower the set then the smaller the full house. What many players fail to take on board is that in PLO then a hand like K-Q-5-5 on a board of 10-7-5 rainbow would be marginal and nobody would overplay their set of fives in that situation. Omaha though is simply a version of hold’em but played with more cards. So the effect of non-nut hands is diluted but it doesn’t disappear in hold’em. When the stacks become very deep or the pot is multi-way then pocket fives do not have anywhere near the same value and are primarily looking to win a small to medium sized pot.



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

Don’t create your own losses

Some years ago I was experiencing “coolers” far more than what I do now. I used to blame these so called unfortunate incidents on the poker gods. The fact was though that it was me that was creating my own downfall so to speak. Like for example because I was a LAG in full ring then I would open raise from say middle position in my $50 and $100 ring games 888poker.

Raising from these positions with hands like 3c-3d often led to one of several events happening. These were that it would get folded around to the blinds who would also fold and I would win 1.5bb. The second most common scenario was to get called by a single player and they fold to a c-bet. This netted me around 5bb in profit. However sometimes in the multi-way pots where several players called then this was where I experienced difficulties.
The flop would come 10-6-3 rainbow and I would lead out and get raised and obviously I cannot fold. I eventually got all in for 100bb+ to then be shown a bigger set. However bottom sets only make money from two pair and one pair holdings but the players that have these hands do not stack off with them.

So I win small to medium-small pots with bluffs and sets and lose stacks when I am on the wrong side of a set over set cooler. In deep stacked play then the nuts and drawing to it is very important in no limit hold’em otherwise you will get to see more of the dreaded “cooler”.

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

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