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How to play better on the turn

Raising on the turn is the best place to raise from in most limit circumstances for several reasons:

1) It’s the big bet and will cost twice as much as a raise on the flop
2) Chasers are really losing pot odds on a 2-bet on the turn
3) It takes control of the hand for the last card, the river
4) It can take the hand down right there

I’m going to detail a hand I played last night in $1/$2 limit hold em last night on 888poker. I called a raise from the cutoff (1 from the button) with 6[spades]6[clubs] and the flop came down 10-8-4. The original bettor bet, I called, as did the big blind. The turn paired the board 4s and the original bettor bet again. My read on him was high cards, but the read really isn’t that important. I know that I’m going to call another bet on the river and see if my sixes are good (unless maybe an ace falls), so why not put that bet in now? There are a lot of reasons for putting that bet in now, and I lot correspond with what I said earlier.

1) If you’re re-raised you can lay the hand down and be all but certain you’re well behind.
2) If they call and you miss you can check-check the flop and see if you’re ahead with the same amount of money, but…
– They might fold right there on the turn and give you the hand
OR
– You could hit a miracle card, say a 6, on the river and get in another bet.

In my case when the original bettor bet I raised on the turn and he folded. I didn’t allow him to see another card where he could have hit a higher pair and taken the hand, and if he had called he was still drawing, and I could check it with no extra cost than what I would have paid for.

You don’t always have to think you have the best hand to raise on the turn. I like to make this play the same way when I have the nut flush draw, and especially if I also have a straight draw and think a pair might do it. I can either win the hand right there with the worst hand, improve to hit one of my outs and get another bet out of my opponent, or miss and have the opportunity to bluff or just let go of the hand.

The only time I really like to raise right on the flop is with top pair, and I like to raise there to get more people out of the hand behind me, but next time you start getting into the call-down mode with some hands, throw a raise in there at the turn and see what happens, the results might surprise you.

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

Playing higher stakes online poker

I was having a discussion the other day with a couple of relatively novice poker players on www.888poker.com who remarked in how low I seemed to play as an online poker pro. They were amazed that I played as low as the $50 and $100 buy-in levels and played full ring instead of the often cited six max. I do this for a reason and it is a reason that is unknown to a very large percentage of players that are inexperienced on the nuances of online poker. The fact of the matter is this……the average online poker game on a level by level basis is considerably tougher than its comparable live game equivalent.

Unfortunately this isn’t my personal opinion but a candid fact. It is also somewhat unlucky if you happen to be an online player but I am not complaining. The increased liquidity and action comes at a price in poker and better opponents are the price that you have to play for being able to play more tables and gain more volume. There is a massive compression of skill in online poker caused mainly by the players at the higher end becoming technically very good in all forms of the game.

So the best players at high stakes are the best in the world and how are you going to make money against the best? At the end of the day then you only make money in poker by your opponents making mistakes or because your strategy dominates theirs. If they don’t make mistakes and they don’t allow you to dominate them then there is no edge at the very least and you are either recycling money or losing money to these people. Then the best players in order to start making money again started dropping down to the middle limits and multi-tabling.

Then we lost the US market mainly in 2006 and with the arrival of the coaching sites then players in increasing numbers were achieving significant levels of sophistication within poker. So the middle limits of $2-$4 and above were full of technically proficient players of a very high calibre and who were probably comparable or better to most of the players at $25-$50 in Las Vegas cash games. In online poker these days then mug money and fish don’t last long at the middle limits and despite having considerable experience and knowledge behind me, I still don’t touch these levels.

Some time ago I decided to swallow my ego and drop down even further in levels and decided to replace higher stake levels with higher volume. Playing $3-$6 cash games with a $600 buy-in can and does lead to swings of $10,000 or more and I have known some players drop thirty buy-ins within this level. What made that even worse was that their earn rate wasn’t even that high because their overall edge in the game was so thin and the action was much less than lower stakes games.

You may see people like Tom Dwan and Phil Galfond playing high-stakes poker online but these are exceptional cases and not something that you can easily emulate. The sad fact is that nearly all of the players that try to make the journey from low stakes poker to high stakes poker don’t survive the trip. Remember that I am not just talking about playing high-stakes poker but actually staying at that level. There is a world of difference between being a high stakes poker player and playing high stakes poker. One is simply taking a shot at the level while the other is a regular at that level and that makes a world of difference.

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

How to improve your hand reading skill

If a guy raises from middle position in a cash game at say www.888poker.com know that he only raises with big cards then the mathematics of the situation dictate that he is far more likely to have a big unpaired hand than a premium pair. So AK,AQ,AJ,KQ are his most likely hands and not AA,KK,QQ. But when I play hands like this then I need to have certain things in my favour. Firstly, I need to have good position, this is crucial and having good position can make an awful lot of hands profitable, in fact any two cards can be profitable in no limit hold’em with good position. I would rather have 8-3 with position rather than have A-Q with bad position.

This statement would surprise an awful lot of novice and intermediate players, no alter that, it would surprise them all that a player would rather have 8-3 than A-Q in ANY situation. But “Flow” theory is really just another name given by me to what is in essence watching all of the other players like a hawk. But looking and reacting to the flow of the game is a very good description of what it is that you are trying to do.

For instance, there was a tight player in the blinds and I have been systematically chipping away at him for several hours without getting involved in a major confrontation with him. Suddenly after I have folded, he gets involved in a big pot with another player and suffers an outrageous outdraw on the turn and river in an all in situation. Suddenly he starts raising almost every hand, something has changed. The flow of the game has been affected by this one player and how they are now playing. I liken this in my own mind to the flow of a river that has been affected by some external source.

I always think that the flow of a game is like the flow of water and you must identify that flow as quickly as possible and be alert to any changes in the “weather” if you know what I mean. When you play this way then your play would look crazy at times to someone who could see your cards and were not aware of what you were doing. It is for this reason that many people get confused by seeing great players on televised tournaments make plays of a similar nature.

Unless you are privy to the real reason why they are doing it and you can’t because you cannot read their minds then you simply cannot comprehend some of the plays that they make. But once you can take this concept on board and know when to execute it then you will be close to reaching the final frontier in no limit texas hold’em.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is a poker pro at 888poker

Loving to Play Online Poker

For about half of my life I’ve played poker, with friends at their homes, at casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, New Orleans and Pennsylvania. But over the past few years I’ve come to enjoy the difference (and what a cool difference it is) between playing online poker and sitting live in a casino, with your opponents looking you in the eye.

I’ve gotta say, I have come to enjoy online poker more.

For one thing, the speed of the games is exciting. When I play live in Vegas, I’m lucky if I can see …oh, 25-30 hands an hour. Pretty slow, right?

Double that number playing online. I’ve played 50 to 60 hands in an hour. And just to sweeten the pot, you can play at multiple tables online. [Try doing that in person.]

So now you’re playing more than 100 games an hour.The thing about playing more is it gives you a chance to see your pot grow quickly.

At a fairly run and honest online casino the chance to win a lot more is right there.

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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

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