After successful events in London and Malta, the MPN Poker Tour will move to the picture-postcard Estonian capital, Tallinn, 15-18 January 2015. Live poker is always thrilling, but being part of a poker festival in such a great setting makes the experience even more memorable.
We’re giving our players at 32Red Poker the opportunity to qualify for a €1,500 package which includes the €550 buy-in for the €40,000 Guaranteed Main Event, a €150 buy-in for a Side Event, four nights’ accommodation at the fantastic Radisson Blu Olümpia venue hotel and €400 expenses.
That should be more than enough motivation to begin your qualifying quest, which is as bankroll-friendly as it gets. There are satellites to suit all pockets, with buy-ins starting as low as 40c. Furthermore, the tournament formats are also varied, featuring SnG, Freezeout, Rebuy, Turbo and even Carnage tournaments. These, of course, each require different skill sets, and will make the qualifying experience an interesting and rewarding one whether or not you win your way to the €1,500 package (and the 15 January Welcome reception that also comes with it…).
Good luck, and hopefully you’ll be celebrating the New Year with a trip to Tallinn…
Click Here to find out more.
We just can’t help giving stuff away for free at 32Red Poker. This month, for example, during our Four Play promotion, which will run throughout October, we’ll be handing out free entry to two of our most popular tournaments, namely The Mosh Pit and Big Night In. And it’s not rocket science – simply play either of these tournaments four or more times this month and you’ll receive a free buy-in ticket to have another go in November (note that a free tickets will be awarded on November 3rd).
Poker tournaments come in various formats, and these two have a distinctive feel that has proven rather popular.
The Mosh Pit (€8,000 Guaranteed) is a daily rebuy tournament with a €22 buy-in and €20 rebuys. It is the nature of rebuy events that they can be fast and furious and, with a juicy prize fund on offer, the aptly named Mosh Pit is no exception. There are plenty opportunities to make the money (and earn your free entry) during the course of the month because this tournament is held every night at 7pm UK time. There are also satellites that provide discount qualification thanks to buy-ins as low as €2.20.
Meanwhile, our Big Night In (€7,000 Guaranteed) is exactly that. Starting at 8pm UK time – also nightly – this is a different set-up, being a deep-stacked freezeout with a total buy-in of €110. Again, satellites are available, from as little as €5.50, and the freezeout aspect lends itself to a quite different approach than the more bloodthirsty Mosh Pit.
As well as being able to earn free tickets just for playing four tournaments, you’ll also have the opportunity to take advantage of additional freebies this month, as we’ll be giving away over €10,000 in free tickets to both these tournaments! Satellites are always worth a go in order to sit down to play big money tournaments at bargain buy-in prices, but there’s even more incentive this month because, throughout October, we will be adding value to some of our Mosh Pit and Big Night In satellites in the shape of additional tickets! Indeed the total added value during the month will be over €10,000, so don’t forget to check out these value added satellites to make the most of the Four Play promotion.
Click here to find out more, and good luck at the tables!
How far do you think ahead? Indeed, do you bother considering how a hand could pan out from street to street or – more to the point – your potential influence on the direction it might take? Poker obviously has a luck element in the form of the ‘unknowns’ but, crucially, there’s far more to the game than waiting for each new card to appear and making adjustments and decisions based rather simplistically on how each new arrival relates to our holding.
We need to experience a level of control as a hand progresses (if we don’t we can be sure someone else will) and this clearly requires some serious aforethought. Moreover, with one of the chief characteristics of online poker being the limited thinking time that keeps the game fluid, it’s imperative we try to think ahead in order to facilitate the decision making process as the temperature inevitably hots up. Note that there is a distinction between thinking and planning – the former means taking into account what might lie ahead and what our actions could be, while the latter is perhaps too specific and elusive.
Some hands are easier to weigh up – and their futures easier to anticipate – than others. Hitting a set, for example, affords us some flexibility but brings with it a rather simple choice of strategy. The common scenario of being dealt AK, on the other hand, is well worth investing time in before we even sit down at the virtual table. If we are in c, for instance, and throw in a raise, then we already know that we will bet a number of flops, regardless of whether we hit. Of course the better our position the wider our range, so we also need to think about the trickier and potentially very profitable hands with which we can win big pots by bypassing the opposition’s radar, a perfect example being calling late with suited connectors. The obvious train of thought revolves around how best to engineer a situation, when we hit big, to get the most out of the pot. But what do we do when our holding has no relation whatsoever with the flop? The ‘automatic’ response for most players is to put the brakes on, and herein lies the problem with not thinking sufficiently about the game because, in this particular scenario, part of our deliberate thinking should include our readiness to react to it being checked round to us by putting in a steal bet when we fail to hit. Adhering too closely to ABC-type poker by effectively limiting our options in advance due to a lack of proper consideration, rather than actively anticipating how we might most positively act as a hand evolves, is a considerable, cumulative error.
The more we grow used to thinking ahead, the better we can approach pre-flop decisions, with our range and pre-flop criteria eventually becoming a natural part of our post-flop thinking and overall strategy. Some holdings clearly have more post-flop mileage than others, and we learn to incorporate certain hands – and certain types of hands – into lines of thought that can subsequently be adjusted, as well as associate this or that hand with situations that can to some extent be confidently anticipated.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador
I once read that Sebastian Coe, one of the greatest ever distance runners, had the advantage of having legs of equal length (you may be surprised to know that most of us are not so lucky) and, in turn, the additional bonus of symmetry that is required to transform ‘normal’ running into a smooth, economical glide. If this is indeed true, as it will be for some amongst elite athletes, then Coe was – quite literally – born to run.
Regardless of factors such as dedication and the four-letter word that is work, it certainly helps to be naturally disposed to poker. After all, with so much literature, strategy advice and number-crunching statistical software around nowadays we’ll more than welcome a potentially key edge that DNA affords us if it means we’re more likely to pick up an extra pot or two here and there.
Who, then, possesses the natural attributes that are, typically, most conducive to a successful poker quest? And is having the natural skills that enhance our game necessarily more significant than not being weighed down by equally natural bad habits and permanently undiscovered misconceptions? Not everyone at the table was destined for profit, so it follows that some players are simply more genetically wired up for the game than others.
Of course this subject is absolutely specific to the individual and, as such, necessitates a potentially brutal level of honest introspection, but it’s well worth the effort. In poker – as in life – understanding our strengths is imperative if we are to make the most of them, while appreciating and addressing our weaknesses and their implications is no less crucial. Just one ostensibly irrelevant personality trait could have a major influence on how we play.
I have been told recently, for example, that I am prone to passively going with the flow rather than making decisions. In my defence I should point out that this ‘analysis’ stems from my being a gentleman and subscribing to the theory that the lady should decide certain matters. Yet she swept aside my protestations that I am, in fact, the epitome of assertiveness and, given that her legs are – allegedly – exactly the same length, placing her alongside Lord Coe and thus appearing to lend her assessment added gravitas, I was forced to entertain the possibility. Can I be passive when I should be pro-active? Do I allow opponents to dictate the course of a hand instead of finding ways to assume the initiative? When I think I’m being clever and tricky by merely calling bets, am I really achieving no more than being a passive calling station?
Regardless of the answers, the point is I’m now asking the right questions – prompted by something as far removed from poker as the theoretical (in)significance of my companion’s leg measurements.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
In my days as a pro chess player I never got around to playing in what was then the Soviet Union, despite being invited countless times. This was partly a mercenary attitude on my part, yet one I regretted upon retiring.
I didn’t want to make the same mistake since switching to poker, and although I would have found myself in the poker Mecca eventually it’s nice, when finally being able to play in Las Vegas, to have won my place in one of 32Red Poker’s qualifying tournaments.
My tournament, Event 33, started on Sunday, and looked set to be a minefield – as are they all, of course, to some extent. Meanwhile, it was only after two hours waiting at the airport (in the longest queue I have ever seen!) that the luxurious and – for Vegas – refreshingly tasteful Palazzo finally beckoned. The suite was on the 43rd floor, with a great view of the vista that stretches for miles into the hills beyond.
The first schoolboy error, at 6pm Vegas time (2am UK time), was to sleep after a long day crossing the Atlantic… so now – after waking up at 3am local time – I found myself writing these words.
A sensible Plan B would have been to get used to the time shift in readiness for Sunday…
Spent Friday 13th walking down the famous ‘Strip’… in and out of hotels (some were better than others, some rather disappointing) and shopping malls, and then back up again. The heat was relentless, and the accompanying breeze cruelly hot, so a key word in Vegas is, unsurprisingly, water!
One would expect to see a few strange sights in this city, and among today’s were a tiny boy breakdancing like Michael Jackson, a man in a Chewbacca suit standing around in the street posing for photos, comedian, film and TV star David Spade (Grown Ups, Rules of Engagement) coming out of the lift at the Palazzo… and American Football/Super Bowl legend Joe Montana at a book signing. I even managed to catch his eye when I was told – as I appeared rather craftily, I should point out, from behind shelves to take a photo – that I should stop and buy a signed photo instead (I say ‘catch’ his eye – the record-breaking star was kind enough to hide the ‘what a fool’ expression that my antics deserved).
Meanwhile, within minutes of seeing adverts for 12-inch long hotdogs at $1.99, everything from authentic guitars to clothes to scraps of paper of some (very) famous/significant people was on sale in a memorabilia shop for prices ranging from $1,000 to $180,000 (this for the signatures of those who signed the US Declaration of Independence in 1776). It’s funny how money fills all manner of voids in Vegas…
Nothing much happened on Saturday as, having looked forward to watching England’s brand new football team make its effective debut in the World Cup, it was time to look for somewhere away from the drunken masses to watch the opener against Italy. This was the Palazzo’s fantastic ‘Lagasse’s Stadium’ which was by the far the best such venue, with a pleasant, people friendly environment.
Unfortunately the result was the wrong one, but I remained optimistic – after Uruguay losing to Costa Rica – that qualification was a realistic opportunity (so much for that wishful thinking…).
The highlight, incidentally, was my photo after the match with some cheerful England supporters who were prepared to wear all-over so-called morphsuits – 100% nylon body suits (quote: ‘I’m dying in here!’) for the cause (see photo).
I was equally upbeat regarding my giving Event 33 a good go as I collected my seat assignation at the Rio on Sunday. The playing areas are enormous, and the peacefulness an hour or so before the tournament began was in stark contrast to the noise once it got underway. I tend to sit with sunglasses on and earphones in, regardless of whether or not I’m listening to music. Even when that is the case, I’m always listening to everything that’s being said at the table as the information can be invaluable.
My table had more good players than I had expected, but the general level wasn’t too high. It’s difficult to assign it a definitive online equivalent, but it felt like a tournament with a buy-in only a fraction of the $1,000 people had forked out to enter. Of course this doesn’t necessarily translate to good news, but certain table characteristics were evident from the start. One such was universal limping, or global calling of a pre-flop raise, for example.
To cut a long story short – and thus bring you to the ultimately disappointing ending – here is a resume of my day that will nevertheless serve to encapsulate the tournament experience. I was dealt a total of two (yes – 2) pocket pairs – nines and fours. I was able to exploit most of the table’s approach to the tournament, which saw me progress from an initial stack of 3,000 to around 4,500. This was then cut down to just over 1,000 when I was dealt AQ and called a pre-flop raise from a player who was willing to take any Ace to the river. He’d already done so three times. Anyway, the flop came AQ3, I was hoping that his rag card for this hand was a 3, and I was partly right. Alas the bit I got wrong was that he was holding a pair of threes, and had struck gold on the flop, rendering my two pair an embarrassed bystander.
I managed to knuckle down and fold away for what seemed like eternity with my tiny stack (‘stack’ doesn’t accurately describe my sorry collection of chips), and was rewarded over a period of just 8 or 9 hands with a surge to just short of 5,000 – back in business with a stack that could balloon in this type of tournament.
I was moved tables (in fact, to another, cavernous room) and was lucky enough to be able to wait out a few hands, which allowed me to see that this table was slightly different to the other in terms of playing style, in that it seemed particularly loose, and with bigger stacks. My first hand was in the Big Blind, where I found KcQc. There was a raise to 500, three callers(!) and me. The flop came TcJc2h, giving me a (Royal) straight flush draw, open-ended straight draw and two overcards. The original raiser checked, the next player bet half the 2500 pot and the other two folded. I went all-in, the pre-flop raiser folded and the post-flop aggressor, just having me covered, called for a pot of over 11,000 chips. He had AdJd, which is the kind of hand I’d put him on – something that made me feel like I was destined to win the hand. Destiny shouldn’t play a part, of course, as I was anyway a 67% favourite to win. However, not a single club, 9, A, Q or K materialised (and just to add salt to the wounds, both Turn and River were black cards). And that was that. It’s a fine line.
… Of course I couldn’t travel well over 8000 kilometres from the UK to Las Vegas and not experience some good old-fashioned casino cash game poker. It’s not unusual in the city of sin to see people routinely walking up and down the Strip carrying alcoholic drinks, and my logic was to find a game during the witching hours when the opposition was more likely to be considerably worse for wear. With this in mind I set off at around 5am and settled for the famed Flamingo’s Poker Room, where a couple of $1-2 NL games were in full flow. I took advantage of the $300 max buy-in option and sat down, the lone non-USA player at the table. However, I wasn’t able to take advantage of anyone’s state of inebriation because everyone was stone cold sober.
My very first hand put me straight into action thanks to a pair and a straight draw which I opted to bet up to and including the bluff on the river after missing the desired cards. Alas I was (eventually) called down by a middle-aged man (he had a pair of aces) who then immediately left, followed a few hands later by four others. Fortunately the second table had places open up and the new companions made up an almost stereotypical cross-section of American society. Had social commentators been in my chair for the three hours or so I played they would have garnered a wealth of material. As it was, I was able – ‘listening’ to music and ostensibly oblivious to, but in fact closely following, their constant chatter – to cut a path through the ultimately exploitable, global style and leave for a well earned breakfast with over $400 profit. And, to be honest, I felt a little unlucky not to be cashing in considerably more.
Despite being primarily an online player, I’d seriously consider going to Las Vegas to concentrate on playing cash (and maybe tournaments) in the casinos for a while.
Indeed, I’ll certainly be going back…
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the 32Red Poker tables)
Potentially pot-winning draws on the flop provide some of the most exciting, tense situations in No Limit poker. Decent looking odds and the prospect of a big payout should we hit against an opponent we will be ahead of when the chips hit the virtual felt tend to make flush and open-ended straight draws look particularly attractive. We will, after all, be getting 2:1 pot odds to hit our draw by the river simply by calling a pot-sized bet on the flop – poker made easy…
If only it were that simple! We are indeed on a flop-to-river 2:1 draw but that’s in an ideal, convenient world where the next two streets cost us nothing to see. In reality, matters are often quite different and, unfortunately, sufficiently confusing to elicit mistakes. Let’s say that one of the cards we need to hit doesn’t materialise on the Turn, and our adversary again bets the pot. Doesn’t calling allow us to maintain the same conditions we had on the flop thanks to our continued 2:1 pot odds? Alas, no. Our pot odds might have remained the same, but failing to hit from Flop to Turn means we now have one less bite of the cherry than when we undertook this typical poker challenge – in fact our draw odds are now 4:1, rendering the call impossible to make. Moreover, not only should we fold here when faced with a pot-sized bet, but our initial call on the flop should also have been avoided! This is the problem when we focus too much on pot odds while not fully appreciating the actual odds of hitting our draw. In this example the 2:1 odds to hit are redundant as soon as a comfortable ride to the river becomes unlikely. A sizeable bet on the Turn is going to throw an enormous spanner in the works, effectively forcing us to abandon what was probably a doomed mission.
Of course other factors should be considered when contemplating the initial flop bet, such as whether our opponent is bluffing or making a continuation bet, perhaps, do we have overcards to the flop that would put us in front should we hit a big(ger) pair, are we up against a player who tends not to maintain the aggression come the Turn?
We always need to weigh up an assortment of situational properties when making these awkward decisions but, generally, it pays not to get into the habit of misinterpreting true ost-flop draw odds. A crue truism in poker is how one mistake can quite naturally form the ill-judged foundation for a subsequent, increasingly significant error and, before we know it, instead of the hoped for successful resolution of a pot that was ostensibly affording us attractive prospects on the Flop, we find ourselves dressed up with nowhere to go, a little bewildered at how easily our chip stack has dwindled.
Good luck at the tables!
32Red Poker Ambassador
Human nature is a fascinating thing, and poker is full of it. Intuition, habit, how we perceive both ourselves and others, projection, interpretation, wishful thinking, caution and countless other thoughts/thought processes and emotions play their part (often collectively) at some point or other.
What makes the game so rich is that these factors can have such vastly different significance from one hand to the next, and it’s a constant battle – the more we become involved in a session – as we strive to zone in on the various aspects of table dynamics.
However, some potentially profitable situations are easier to recognise than others and, just as much as players try to be flexible, they can be predictable. One such scenario is the pot to which nobody wants to commit for one reason or another. Often this is simply because a player’s cards and the board don’t match up as per desired, at which point any interest in continuing (i.e. parting with any more chips) ends. Some people are almost transparently predictable in this regard, but it is such a common element of the game that this particular opportunity crops up time and time again in online poker, where it is not unusual for a table to get through 100 hands per hour.
Indeed it is the speed of the game (where the potential for volume can mean quantity is given as much priority as quality) that helps create these ‘abandoned’ pots as players keep their powder dry for the next, soon-to-come hand. This is where we come in. Not untypically, we might have missed the flop but be in the same boat as our opponent, or they might have a pair of 4s or 5s, for example, with a couple of overcards showing. It’s imperative to be in ‘thief’ mode at all times so that we don’t slip into the same automatic (negative) frame of mind, and are thus ready to round up whatever chips are going unclaimed. Unless the opposition has a specific reason to stay in the hunt for a modest pot, it’s time to act with a purposeful but not enormous bet which, most of the time, will suffice to scoop up those chips. Note that it is ‘natural’ for people to view these chips as heading elsewhere as soon as it becomes apparent that they have no realistic chance of taking down a pot based on the strength of their hand.
Good luck (stealing) at the tables!
Let us know your best steal – our favourite gets a free €4+1 Flush Royale ticket…
Today’s poker enthusiasts have at their disposal a vast array of tools, information, books and various other means through which to improve their game. It’s tougher than it used to be but we have no excuses as far as fine-tuning our performance is concerned, especially when learning tends to be a fun exercise.
However, there is an area which – for just about all of us – leaves plenty of room for improvement, and it has nothing to do with statistics, pot odds, betting patterns or bluffs: life. Of course the way we live from day to day has far more significance in the real world than it does in terms of poker but, nevertheless, it really isn’t too difficult to address a few issues that would ultimately benefit our performance at the poker table.
From a practical perspective it’s worth reminding ourselves of a few home truths which we tend to either fool ourselves into believing we appreciate or – if we’re being honest – blithely disregard. We might study theory and put great effort into playing, but that’s essentially only half the battle. We tend not to adhere to other, important unwritten rules, and this consequently means – to borrow a term from elsewhere – that we’re essentially playing with a crooked bat.
For example we should get rid of outside noise and similar distractions when sitting down to play. Music – with lyrics that demand our (subconscious) attention – is a popular poker accompaniment but, alas, isn’t likely to be conducive to optimal concentration. Playing in a quiet environment might seem ‘boring’ but will lead to a greater level of performance.
Sleep. This is almost a dirty word nowadays as we are surrounded with so many forms of entertainment that we can feel like we’re somehow missing out on something if we go to sleep. But – of course (because we all know…) – if we don’t get enough sleep, we simply can’t expect to concentrate very well. It should come as no surprise that research proves time and again that people can’t function at full capacity on insufficient sleep. Concentration levels on too little sleep are on a par with those who have consumed too much alcohol, and we wouldn’t dream of playing poker while intoxicated (I hope). The recommended amount of sleep is eight hours, and if we could manage that consistently the beneficial results would be evident.
Another ‘awkward’ subject is that of exercise. Healthy body, healthy mind. Just because we’re sitting down to play, it doesn’t mean we should underestimate the importance of exercise. Enough said. The same goes for diet.
Play happy. There’s no point sitting down for a poker session if our minds are elsewhere. We should consider playing only when it’s fully justified, when it isn’t to the detriment of any other aspect of our life.
Poker, after all, is fun.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington, 32Red Poker Ambassador
With poker being a game that revolves around information, it follows that we (all too often) find ourselves in awkward situations that mean we have some but, crucially, insufficient facts at our disposal. Of course some scenarios are more puzzling and frustrating than others, but a typical poker conundrum that we experience every session is when we hold a medium pocket pair against a lone opponent and the flop brings along an over-card.
Hands can pan out in various ways, but let’s say we have 9d 9c in late position and it’s folded around to us. We put in a raise and the only caller is the Big Blind, after which the Flop brings the rather irritating Kh 8s 7h… Just as we’re contemplating whether or not to make a continuation bet the BB peppers the virtual poker table with a bet of around two-thirds the size of the pot. This is somewhat inconvenient, to say the least!
There was a time when raising would be considered tantamount to a ‘standard’ means of garnering information in the hope of getting a clearer picture as to where we stand, but this automatic reaction can achieve no more than wasting chips. If the response were, for example, a simple call – or, worse: a raise! – the only additional details in this particular picture would tell us pretty clearly that the Big Blind is happier with his/her hand than we are with ours! Is it really worth paying for such clarity?
It’s far better, given that – for the sake of this article – we don’t intend giving up on the hand, to simply call the flop bet, particularly in view of the fact that we have the advantage of position. Depending on the Big Blind’s next play on the Turn we can decide on a course of our own. Another hefty bet should either set off an alarm bell loud enough for us to keep our powder dry and look to pastures new or, if various factors combine to justify it, we might attempt a bluff-raise. The BB slowing down and checking presents us with a couple of choices, one being wresting back the initiative with a bet (note that we shouldn’t be afraid to bet if the Turn throws up another overcard, for instance), which, remember, could be a value bet or, indeed, a bluff based on our pre-flop aggression and calling the Flop bet. While checking is another possibility, we shouldn’t scare ourselves into doing so through fear of running into a check-raise, which is simply part of the game and, in this circumstance, unlikely after the play thus far.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington, 32Red Poker Ambassador
Having seen our continuation bet called on the flop, it can be problematic choosing the best path when the Turn card arrives. In Part 1 we touched on instances in which no further investment tends to be the appropriate play. This will save money when betting isn’t justified, but should be a decision based on the circumstances and the key factors specific to that hand, rather than the fear of losing. Too easily putting the brakes on after a continuation bet doesn’t take down the pot runs the risk of making us predictable and, consequently, vulnerable to a steal from those players who have picked up on such a weakness, as well as aggressive players.
Fortunately, instead of slamming on the brakes we will have opportunities to press down further on the accelerator pedal. And we don’t need to have hit to bet. Scare cards are thus named for a reason, and we need to learn to evaluate how the Turn might change the ‘strength’ of an opponent’s hand. A typical holding with which to apply the Continuation Bet strategy is AK, for example, which has the advantage of offering us the ‘luxury’ of equity on many boards in the shape of two overcards. It’s important to keep in mind that, when we’re not sitting with a hand like AK, the opposition is none the wiser. From their perspective our aggressive play is likely to represent either a made hand or a holding containing a couple of overcards. Consequently, on an unco-ordinated board such as Jd 7h 2c, we can pretty confidently bet when the Turn brings the Ks, for example. Overcards are good! Putting ourselves in our opponents shoes, after calling initially with, say, Jc Ts and hitting and subsequently calling our continuation bet, not only will the king be an unwelcome visitor, but the third consecutive bet that follows it gives the hand a new dynamic. It’s absolutely not unlikely that we could be on AK and, with another bet threatening to follow on the river, staying around – and paying heavily for the privilege – with JT no longer appears to be a decent prospect. Betting a scare card on the Turn in the shape of an overcard is always going to give us a chance of taking the pot, although in terms of our perceived range, the higher the better. Note that by adhering to this continuation bet/second barrel strategy means also betting when we do connect with the Turn – betting when we miss and checking when we hit is a leak we’d better avoid.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the 32Red Poker tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador