No Limit Poker: When a Value Bet is a Loser

February 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

‘Value’ is often used in poker and, being such a sensible sounding word, tends to be incorrectly assigned to situations where ‘caution’ might be a more prudent subject matter. A very common example of this is when players, believing they have the best hand against a lone opponent, attempt to extract the maximum from a hand in which they have been making the running by raising the river for value.

Of course such a strategy may well add a few extra chips to the coffers but, alas, doing this kind of thing can be a recipe for disaster. Apart from laying ourselves open to a massive bet (bluff) that forces us to make an awkward decision, there is also a good chance that we are falling into a trap. And herein lies the crucial difference between value and a good old common sense slice of caution – a distinction that we come to appreciate with experience.

Here’s a typical example of this kind of scenario. We are dealt Ad Qd on the button and our standard raise is called by the big blind and a mid-position limper. The flop comes Ac 8d 5s, giving us top pair with an attractive looking kicker, a backdoor flush draw and, of course, we have the advantage of position. It’s checked around to us and we make a pot-sized bet which is called only by the big blind.

The turn throws up the 3d, which is both pretty innocuous and not exactly unwelcome as we now have a nut flush draw to add to our collection. The BB checks once again and, perhaps buoyed by the turn, we make another pot-sized bet which, again, is called. It’s by no means clear what our opponent is holding (maybe a flush draw), which is more troubling than we might assume because poker is all about information, and it can be more convenient to know we’re up against a strong hand than a complete unknown.

The river is the 5c and, breaking the rhythm of the pattern of play thus far, the BB bets around a quarter of the pot. If it was a – now unfulfilled – flush draw, this could be an attempted steal against our possible, albeit unlikely bluff. Alternatively, we might have been up against a poorly played pair of tens or even 8 9. Not only is this the kind of thinking we should adopt, but the process should have started earlier (in fact we should get used to it from the very beginning of a hand). It prevents us from, in a situation like this, now raising with our absolutely beatable top pair and being called by a holding like 8 5, thus wasting money. The possible hands we’ve just considered wouldn’t be calling a raise, and there’s a chance we could even finding ourselves calling a crafty re-raise here. Note that by raising we are also walking into hands such as AK. Moreover, even if we held AK ourselves a raise would still be foolhardy.

Essentially, a would-be value bet can end up being a losing bet, so beware, and listen out for those internal alarm bells that come with experience (and are heralded by a paired board!)

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador

The Transparency of the Minimum Raise…

February 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

No Limit Hold’em is so-called for a reason – unlike Limit poker, where our betting choices are defined by the limit put on how much we can add to the pot at each betting juncture, NL affords us literally unlimited flexibility.

However, when presented with such an abundance of choice we are also given the opportunity to make mistakes, and the minimum raise is one such fundamental part of the NL game that in some respects – for the vast majority of players – is best avoided altogether.

Let’s see why… Read more

Short-handed No Limit Poker Tips

January 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Years ago, when first introduced to online poker, we would start off on the No Limit path by sitting down at full-ring games, where the conventional, solid ABC approach tends to be a good foundation on which to build a repertoire of strategies. It’s a good idea to do the same today, not least because it teaches us to have patience and appreciate the (relative) value of starting hands.

However, short-handed poker is so popular now that we tend to try out the murkier waters of 6-player tables earlier in our careers, and it’s important to appreciate the implications of there being fewer players at the table. Read more

Blaze Poker – A Few Thoughts (Part 1)

September 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Like many people who first saw the ads for the new (video-) game feature at 32Red Poker that is the amusing Blazing Cannon, I fancied a go at earning a chance of winning €100 for simply firing a burning chip out of a cute little cannon and knocking down a bunch of cards (of course it’s pure, 100% luck but if we win a cash prize it seems otherwise).

The whole point of Blaze Poker is that we can avail ourselves of the incredibly convenient Quick Fold facility to immediately leave the table as soon as we fold, to be magically transported to a brand new table and find ourselves with two shiny new hole cards. No need to wait for the original hand to be played out because we’re no longer there any more, and we continue to be fast-tracked to a new table – and a freshly dealt hand – each time we fold.

The obvious advantage is time, and thus the attraction is being able to dispense quickly with the poor hands and experience stronger ones more often (time-wise), and of course get more out of 32Red’s 30% Rakeback deal in doing so.

Not having played Blaze Poker for a while, and busy enjoying the dinky features that accompany the actual poker table (a fuse that burns away with each raked hand won until it reaches a cannon and ignites to send us to the game itself), it took me a while to realise that I wasn’t giving the format, and how it differs from standard No Limit, the slightest consideration.

With this in mind – and ‘inspired’ by my showing the game insufficient respect and being duly punished – here (and in Part 2) are some recent thoughts about Blaze Poker.

Time

A bit obvious, this one. We save quite a lot of time being able to start a new hand only seconds after clicking on the Quick Fold button compared with however long it usually takes for a hand to finish. In the modern day game of rakeback and volume of hands and so on, this can make a difference even to a casual player in the long-run.

There are also time-related tells to keep an eye out for. A quick call, for example, tends to suggest someone is either on a draw or perhaps has a made but ‘weak’ hand.

Table Image

It has been said that in rush poker there is no such thing as table image because every player gets a new set of opponents every hand. This is true, but not necessarily to such an extent that we can’t cultivate some kind of image, as we tend to come across the same players over time as we constantly flit around the tables. Moreover, the nature of Blaze poker affords us a unique way in which to generate multiple table images. There will be a few very observant players but, typically, only our opponents in a hand will be taking any notice of what’s happening. Remember, too, that in a heads-up scenario, for instance, others will have folded and be long gone. Therefore, since we can bump into a specific player in one hand, then again some time later, it’s worth bearing in mind that whatever information they garner will be used when next we meet. Of course this works the other way round, too, although generally whatever we pick up could come in handy.

More in Part 2.

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador

No Limit: Playing an Underpair

April 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

Calling a pre-flop raise with a medium pair against a single opponent is clearly a decent play and tends not to be too difficult to handle when the flop comes because the combination of the board and the opposition’s action (or lack of it) gives us quite a bit of useful information.

Facing a bet from the raiser on a flop containing an ace or king isn’t good news, but at least we can give up the chase with a clear conscience (we could be up against a random pre-flop raise and subsequent continuation bet but – particularly at the lower levels – it wouldn’t exactly be a shock to be up against top pair).

But what happens, for example, when we have called with 99, there’s a queen-high flop such as Q 7 2 and our opponent opens with a bet? This is indeed something of a poker conundrum. Of course there are numerous factors to take into account that will be specific to the situation, but this is one of the many scenarios that we can contemplate in advance to make life so much easier.

It is possible we are dominated by aces, kings, AQ, KQ and even QJ, which is why previous history can be important. But if we are dominated by a pair of jacks or tens, a hefty enough raise should be enough for us to steal the pot. We will also take the spoils if our opponent has thrown in a c-bet with AK (again, more than a fair share of similarly aggressive plays will help us come to this conclusion).

Either way, with a flop that doesn’t quite tell us as much as we would like in terms of where we stand, a call here might very well not be the most practical of our options.

Good luck,

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador

Multi-Table Tournament Tips: Early Level Mishaps

March 27, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

Inexperienced tournament players who try too hard to be solid and patient and concentrate on premium hands can be at their most vulnerable during the early stages when, ironically, they have the most chips in front of them. And to add to their confusion, one of the most dangerous hands to be dealt when everyone is sitting so deep is AA. Read more

No Limit: The Probe Bet

March 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. On the (virtual) poker baize, it would be ideal to be able to see everything but, of course, this isn’t possible and information is limited. While much of the game is based on experienced guesswork (indeed second-guessing opponents is a useful skill) we should anyway be trying to garner as much information as we can, and we should be prepared to pay for it, too.

A (dual-purpose) way of doing this is with a so-called probe bet – typically up to a third of the pot or, feasibly in some circumstances, half the pot  (betting too little isn’t going to trouble anyone and therefore won’t induce a ‘serious’ response). An added bonus in getting used to making probe bets (within reason, obviously, like lots of things in poker) is that these can also become indistinguishable from stealing the pot and, ideally, in some circumstances such a bet can simultaneously play each role.

Some players find it difficult to make a ‘sacrifice’ and hope instead to find out useful info for free. Apart from this being too optimistic an approach, by holding back we deny ourselves the possibility of assuming the initiative, and generally we risk creating a table image that is too passive and susceptible to being exploited.

Furthermore, taking into account the fact that the pots we win as a result of probe bets should heavily outweigh the investment, and it should become easier to incorporate this tactic into our overall strategy.

Remember that betting only the minimum, for example, isn’t enough to do the job and can lead to confusion (and invite bets that put us on the back foot). A half-pot bet, on the other hand, tends to achieve more because we’re going to put the opposition under enough pressure to either commit them into making a meaningful declaration of intent, or to give up the fight (perhaps with a stronger hand than ours). Importantly, the former response might provide sufficient information to save us money, as even this way of doing things is cheaper than cumulative smaller bets that lead to our losing the showdown.

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador

Celebrate the Cheltenham Poker Festival with 32Red…

March 8, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Whip your game into shape (get it?)

Those of you who follow sports will already know that, as well as sponsoring the entertaining Swansea in the English Premier League, 32Red is also involved in horse racing. With this in mind the Cheltenham Poker Festival at 32Red promises to be a bumper few days, with something on offer for all our poker fans. Note that this includes your being able to use your existing account details to find great value wagers on the races themselves through www.32redbet.com.

Back to the poker, there will be €5,000 of specials up for grabs from 12-15 March thanks to no less than 10 events – all taking place in the evening so race enthusiasts can get their fix of both passions without any distractions. The first tournament (Cheltenham Freeroll) takes place at 8pm (all times GMT) on the 12th, is free to enter and comes with a €1,000 guaranteed prize fund! An hour later sees the start time of Event 2, a €300 guaranteed No Limit tournament with a buy-in of only €3 + €0.30…

To make sure that all tastes are catered for, 32Red’s festival will consist of a varied selection of events, with low buy-in PL Omaha H/L, NL 7-card Stud, NL Razz and PL Omaha guaranteed prize fund tournaments during the week, as well as a €250 guaranteed Depositor Freeroll (just a single deposit in March required!), a €250 guaranteed Raked Hands Freeroll (only 25 raked hands in March required) and the Gold Cup Freeroll at 8pm, 15 March – for which you need only 50 raked hands in March to enter for a swipe at the €500 guaranteed prize fund.

Topping off the festive four days is the Cheltenham Main Event (9pm, 15 March). This has a buy-in of €20 + €0.20 and a whopping €2,000 guaranteed on offer!

As well as these events there’s a £/$/€ 100 Cheltenham Bonus – any player who simply logs into 32Red Poker during the festival dates of 12-15 March will have 100 free chips instantly credited to their bonus account!

Click here for more details, and good luck at the tables…

Punishing Tight(er) Players (Part 1: General Bullying)

February 22, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

Overcoming those players weaker than ourselves should rarely be too complicated a strategy – usually (by definition) they will be responsible for their own downfall simply by putting their chips in the middle without proper justification. In this case our cards matter.

However, it is the more knowledgeable players who show some caution when it comes to committing their chips who we want to concentrate on because, if we put enough thought and effort in, we should be able not only to bully them but even to seriously punish them.

Bullying, importantly, forms the foundation of setting this type of player up for later (Part Two).

First we need to find our target by determining which player – preferably to our right – is suitably predictable. Ideally we’re looking for someone who focuses too much on both their cards and what they perceive others’ hands to be, as well as how they evaluate their prospects based on these restrictive parameters. They have a predictable range and, subsequently, aren’t difficult to second guess both pre-flop and once the cards arrive. Crucially, they don’t like to take risks and are not afraid to back down in the face of aggression. They invest however many chips they feel their hand (and the situation) justifies.

Armed with this information, we then single them out and plug away. When they limp, we raise all hands that can put up some kind of fight, which include any pocket pairs, suited connectors, any ace, picture cards and even 1-gaps. Being tight and too cautious, our victim tends to either fold (they believe us) or call pre-flop. In the event of a call, given that they will have missed most of the time, then on most flops they are going to check-fold. Note the significance of position.

Taking this strategy a step further – when our target opens with a raise we are going to re-raise but, critically, with an even more liberal range than above (it’s even possible to do this with any two cards). Remember that these players aren’t afraid to play per se, rather they consider themselves capable of being prudent. They’re not only raising pre-flop with massive pairs but are willing to have a go with other hands, too as long as they don’t have to risk too much. Consequently, knowing that most of the time they are going to miss the flop, they’re going to assume – especially because they are aware of their tight image – that we are re-raising them with the goods. Most of their pre-flop raising range (such as AT) can’t justify being out of position in the face of a re-raise, so we can expect enough folds to make this tactic a profitable one.

Furthermore, we are setting in place the foundations for a bigger payout… (see Part Two).

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32red Poker Ambassador

No Limit: Big pocket pairs are not so simple

November 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Our recent series on small pocket pairs came about because such hands are simultaneously potential big winners and awkward to cope with. Or at least we perceive them to be problematic compared with big pocket pairs.

Indeed we tend to dismiss being dealt aces or kings as too simple a situation to bother with away from the tables. But handling premium pairs can be very tricky indeed…

However attractive a hand it might initially seem, after an unfriendly flop we’re still going to be left with ‘just’ a pair… it could well still be the best hand, but of course we absolutely can’t be sure. Apart from being dominated by sets and behind against well disguised hands such as two pair and so on, we’re also vulnerable to drawing hands. Meanwhile, countless flops leave us in no-man’s land when inevitably faced with aggression, and the more opponents we’re up against, the more hazardous the predicament.

One way to try to rule out some of poker’s cruel banana skins is to get busy raising preflop, regardless of whether or not we have position. The aim is to whittle down the field to a single opponent, who we hope to dominate. With this in mind we should be prepared to reraise to achieve this goal. Note that this isn’t necessary if someone raises early and we expect to be heads-up with them.

Remember that we are not obliged to raise/reraise every time, especially when aggressive players are seated to our left or when playing at a particularly aggressive table. In such cases limping in when first to act can be the perfect scenario, and it isn’t unusual for there to be so much betting by the time the action comes back around to us that someone will be sufficiently committed to invest to the maximum.

Perhaps the most important factor to keep in mind is to be willing to face facts and back away from a hand by acknowledging that we’re no longer favourites to pick up the pot. The old adage that big pairs either win small or lose big might seem simplistic but is quite appropriate. Signs of genuine strength should be taken into account, particularly when our chances haven’t been improved by the flop. Our internal alarm bells should be ringing even louder when still under pressure on later streets with an unimproved hand. When out of position, if we get the feeling we’re still ahead then it’s fine to bet (as opposed to showing weakness with a check and being pushed off the hand). But with each street that both sees our hand fail to improve and our opponents still happy to fight it out, caution is the key word.

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador

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