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How to make hands profitable

I was having a discussion with a few people the other day about the merits of playing certain hands differently and one hand we discussed was playing A-Jo in early position in a full ring game. Most people were saying to raise with the hand and a few were saying to fold while some even advocated limping because the hand was marginal and out of position. Now all of these options are not ideal because of the fact that your situation isn’t ideal

This is akin to basic strategy in a game like blackjack where in many situations then you simply don’t have a good play. One such example is having 14 against a dealer face card of 10. Whatever you do your situation is a dire one.


There are some situations like that in poker. If we fold the A-J then we could be folding the best hand and while this is a safe option, it may not be the best option. Raising is also highly marginal at best although I do like raising more than folding in today’s modern full ring dynamics. I like limping but not as a limp-fold or limp fit or fold strategy.

That is always going to be weak poker and weak poker simply isn’t going to cut it anymore when it comes to making money. I often discuss strong poker strategy on my poker blog and this is something that you are going to need to devote some serious studying time to. I often look to limp-raise in certain select situations because it traps in the middle overzealous steal raisers.

It also gets away from many situations with the absolute minimum loss as well. If I limp and another player in early position raises then I have a clear fold and only lose one big blind.

My hand is dominated and I have found that out with only one big blind. Likewise if the action is raise-3/bet after me then I have a straight forward fold. I have found out that my hand is second best without having to raise. However and here is the key because when we limp then our play looks weak. It then gets folded to a late position player that raises to 4.5bb and the small blind and big blind both call. This is a perfect set up for a limp-raise because we are representing a big hand and our opponents’ ranges are sufficiently wide while our ace reduces the number of ace combinations in our opponents hands.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro at 888poker

Can you still turn pro?

As an online professional player then many people have asked me down the years how I do it. The answer is quite simple and it is simply to treat your online poker as if it were a business. For example no business would throw away or discard free money but yet this is what untold millions of online poker players the world over do every single day. Ignoring the sign up bonuses and rakeback that sites offer you is akin to setting fire to money. I know some online pro’s that make thousands of dollars a month in rakeback.

It is not hard to imagine two identical players and one makes $2000/month in rakeback playing full time while the other makes nothing. Clearly the first player would be ahead by $2000 even if they only broke even on the actual tables themselves. Also I am often astounded by how many online poker players do not play poker at the best times of the day. In European time zones for example then after 6pm is the best time to play up to and around 1am. This is because there are far greater numbers of serious players that are active during the day.

So simply taking advantage of free money and altering the hours that you play is something that literally anyone can do. Also it is far easier to make money multi-tabling lower levels like say at the $50 level in no limit Texas hold’em instead of playing a single table where the buy-in is $400. The first level will have loads of recreational players while the second level will not have any easy money and is probably going to be full of regulars, pro’s and semi-pro’s which isn’t conducive to making money. So the bottom line is that you can improve your earn rate by focusing on the smaller but all so important details.

Carl Sampson is also a poker pro at 888poker

The line of least resistance in poker

Beyond the flop in no limit Texas hold’em is where you need to be concentrating your efforts. You need to base you play on factors like fold equity, pot equity, isolating and picking up dead money to have any chance of beating decent levels of play. For example let us say that you have a hand like As-4s and it gets folded around to you in the cut-off. You make it 3.5bb to go with a 100bb stack and your opponent on the button calls you who also has a 100bb stack.

Both blinds fold and the flop comes 7c-5h-3h giving us a double belly buster straight draw and ace overcard. We bet 5.5bb and get called by an average player who is neither too tight nor too aggressive. The turn card is the 8d and now we have to decide what to do. Our flop c-bet was mandatory with our equity and single opponent and now we really want to be moving our opponent off the pot.

We need to make sure that our non-showdown statistics are positive on the whole and leaving dead money in the pot is not the best way to achieve that. When our opponent calls on the flop then the likelihood is that they have some sort of weak made hand. The two extremes of their range are total floats like with fresh air and slow playing monsters like with sets. The big hands are less likely and because of the nature of the opponent then they are likely not purely floating with nothing.

So in all likelihood then this opponent has a mediocre hand. So the next question is will our turn barrel move them away from the hand? The answer is probably not and so we could check looking to check-raise but if we check then our opponent will probably check back for pot control. However if we do know that they are weak then we can start to ascertain just how much pressure our opponent can stand with a mediocre hand and increasing bets per street. If they have a lot of draws that they may bet if we check then check-raising now becomes a more viable play in this situation.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson plays poker at 888poker

3/Betting Strategy

It stands to reason that the more money that you put onto the table in a poker game that your edge is of greater importance. Let us say that you played against a certain opponent to who you conceded an edge of $2/100 hands. The only justification for playing such an opponent would be if you were making an even greater amount of money from other players. This is the reason for sitting at a table with technically better players. However if you played this opponent heads up then they would take everything that you had if you played them for long enough.

The more money that you placed into action with a negative edge then the more money you would lose……simple. However if we break that down into individual hands of poker then the same concept applies. A 3/bet pot is one where there has been a raise and a re-raise. The placement of the blinds is the first bet, the first raise is the second bet and the re-raise is the third bet or 3/bet. It is simply called “3/bet” for simplicity. You need to have a very solid strategy in 3/bet pots because you are risking a much greater percentage of your stack.

It will be much easier to play for stacks and get all in when there has been a raise and a re-raise than if there hasn’t been. As soon as the pot begins to escalate then the chances of any mistake becoming a larger one increase several fold. You need to develop a strategy for 3/bet pots and specifically what you should do in situations where you get 3/bet. There are essentially two types of situation in 3/bet pots where it is you that is being 3/bet. These are when you are 3/bet when out of position and when in position.

There is a golden rule of most top no limit players and that is to never call a 3/bet when out of position…….either 4/bet or fold. If the stacks are deep enough then you could call if you had position like if you raised from the button and were 3/bet by the big blind for example. The difference in these two examples is that one has position while the other doesn’t. If you don’t have position and you get 3/bet then calling is a big mistake.

Not only have you conceded the initiative but you have placed a substantial number of big blinds into the pot with the increased likelihood that you will not win. You could raise with the better hand like with A-Qs and be 3/bet by 10-9s but if the flop came K-8-6 then you are in a tough spot. Your opponent will likely have a somewhat tight range to 3/bet although some aggressive opponents may 3/bet you liberally. The bottom line is though that you are going to have to think long and hard about how you play in 3/bet pots because of the increased number of big blinds that are at risk in these types of situations.


Carl Sampson is a full time poker pro that plays online at 888poker

Looking at the long term

I have always felt that in life there is too much need for immediate results. This is fine to a certain extent but in many cases immediate good results are simply not possible and good results cannot be guaranteed or controlled. These days I think you are far better off playing poker part-time and semi-professionally rather than full time and professionally. There are many reasons for this but one of the main reasons is because the overall toughness of the games makes any edge that you have thinner.

So in my opinion, it is important these days to make the process of making money a long term one. I remember when I first started out years ago as an online poker player then I would be constantly checking my bankroll at the end of every pot that I played. This is absolutely crazy and these days I don’t even check my bankroll at the end of the session let alone at the end of the hand. I need to know one thing and one thing only with regards to my bankroll and this is if I have enough money to play enough games at the level that I want to play or not.

If I don’t have enough then I need to know. At full ring cash games then it would be very rare for me to encounter a negative buy in downswing of ten buy-ins and so at NL100 then $1000 in my account is more than enough for me. When your goals of making money are far off in online poker then many good things can happen. Firstly you simply do not need to over press when you play. This is a facet of the game that many players get wrong in my opinion.
I see many players all the time that cannot wait to play poker and strive too hard to try and make money.


This is basically trying to make money with one hand tied behind your back. There will be times when the poker gods will give you break even periods of say 10,000 hands. It is vital that you do not see this as failure because if you do then two things will happen. These are that you will either stop playing online poker full stop or you will change your style of play. In terms of making money then either of these are pretty disastrous.

The conclusion to all of this is that the harder you try and make money in online poker then the more difficult it can be to make any. This sounds immensely counter-intuitive but I believe that it happens to be true. These days I don’t play poker full time and part time serious poker is what I strive for. So my goal of making money is more of a yearly one than a weekly one. I know from previous experience that 15 hours of poker per week is only 750 hours per year and it is easy to go 100 hours without making money even playing multiple tables. The lesson is clear…..don’t be too eager to make money and money may just flow to you.



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

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

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