Win a €1,500 Package to Tallinn, Estonia

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.

Poker: Do We Help Ourselves?

June 4, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

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 

Following Up a Continuation Bet (Part 1)

May 28, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

The so-called continuation bet is practically standard procedure nowadays. We raise pre-flop and continue the aggression on all manner of flops, regardless of whether we’ve hit. Much of the time, against a lone opponent, factors such as the flop itself or our table image might be enough to bring about a fold and give us the pot there and then.

But poker isn’t as easy as it once was inasmuch as players are now sufficiently well acquainted with the C-bet to not automatically surrender. The result is the rather awkward, frustrating situation we tend to find ourselves in when, after carrying out this popular play (and not connecting with the flop) our continuation bet is called and, when the Turn card arrives, with no direct link to our hole cards, it’s decision time.

We know that – in an ideal world – the consistent follow-up to the play thus far would be to bet in order to keep our foot firmly pressed down on the accelerator that we assumed control of at the beginning of the hand when we raised pre-flop. Unfortunately, executing this (‘firing a second barrel’) is easier said than done and, as usual, we have to take into consideration that there is a time and place for such a move. (Let’s assume, by the way, that the continuation bet made sense and thus formed the foundations to approach the hand logically in this particular context).

Before looking at scenarios in which firing a second barrel is the appropriate play, it’s worth considering those times when the prudent option is simply to face facts and not stubbornly throw into the pot money that we are unlikely to see returning home to our stack by the end of the hand. Of course this is a situational game and there are no set rules or watertight guidelines but, while we shouldn’t fall into the habit of putting ourselves off betting in fear of ghosts, it does no harm to get used to properly weighing up the pros and cons of this or that play.

Clearly, when we have no hand, with no potential, having no discernible battle-plan and betting for the sake of it because we’ve bet twice already, is careless, thoughtless poker.

Also unwise in this case is betting against an out-and-out calling station, which achieves nothing more than redistributing money. They simply won’t fold. They enjoy calling with a modest hand, and refusing to take the hint by betting from start to finish with nothing merely justifies their ‘strategy’ and walks right into their hands (reading the opposition, then, is a must – it’s imperative we concentrate on what’s going on, even when not involved in a hand!).

In Part 2 we’ll take a look at following up the Continuation Bet strategy by maintaining the pressure and firing the second barrel.

Good luck at the tables!

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

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

No Limit Bullies: Run? Or Rope-a-dope?

February 10, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Here’s a typical unpleasant poker experience – having eagerly anticipated sitting down to play a hopefully rewarding poker session (and with that familiar determination and confidence with which we tend to begin), perhaps after brushing up on our game, things soon don’t appear to be going as we had planned. 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

Expected Value in Poker

July 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Many poker strategy articles start with something along the lines of there being countless strategies, tricks and traps ‘but this particular subject is especially important’ etc. Well, there are indeed countless important aspects of the game… but understanding Expected Value (EV) is absolutely crucial if we have any intention of actually playing poker properly, because it is the subject about which decision making revolves.

Expected Value is the bedrock of poker thinking. As far as poker is concerned, it is – as its name suggests – the average amount (of chips/money) we expect to win/lose on our bet. Whether it’s a raise, bet, call, check or even a fold, any action brings with it an expected value. Clearly, depending on the outcome, these values will not only be both positive (win) and negative (lose), but there will also be varying degrees and extremes of expectation.

Note that it’s not merely a case of maximising our gains, but that we should also endeavour to be prudent in terms of minimising our losses, and thus have respect for the significance of EV each time we are faced with these important junctures of the decision making process.

Ideally, then, we would like to approach each situation with a view to making the play that has the greatest EV over time, +EV being how we describe a positive expectation play and -EV a negative expectation. Those who make +EV decisions make money in the long-term, and those prone to -EV decision making are long-term losers.

EV can be well explained in the context of the traditional coin flip game. Normally this 50-50 proposition (let’s say the stakes are $1 per flip) represents neither +EV or -EV as the heads/tails distribution over time is going to be evenly split.

But what if our opponent offered us $2 for Tails and we have to pay them $1 for Heads? Of course we’d be more than happy with this +EV situation because, over time, we’d come out on top.

But what is our expected value per coin flip? To calculate EV we simply multiply the results of the possible outcomes by their probability and add them together.

In this case:

Heads – we lose $1
Tails – we win $2

Each outcome is 50% likely and thus has a probability of 0.5

Therefore we have the following EV (Heads + Tails):

EV = (-$1 x 0.5) + ($2 x 0.5)
= (-0.5) + (1.0)
= $0.50

Thus for each coin flip we will win an average of $0.50 – note that the whole point of EV is that we are not concerned with a one-off outcome. We don’t care in this situation if Heads comes up a dozen times consecutively (remember we must have a bankroll big enough to survive such a bad run) because over time we will come out ahead. After 10 evenly shared outcomes, for example, we will lose $5 but win $10 for an overall profit of $5, which is $0.50 per flip.

Of course this is a rather simplistic illustration but, essentially, it is exactly what we are aiming for when playing poker – in other words, recognising and extracting maximum value for ourselves over time while trying to engineer situations in which our opponents are getting poor value.

In Part 2 we will see EV in action.

Good luck at the tables!

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

The Crafty Re-Steal (Part 2)

June 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Given that the subject of the re-steal involves bluffing (we wouldn’t really be stealing if we had a better hand), getting acquainted with typical situations and features related to the re-steal is imperative. Another scenario that tends to be more difficult than we think it should is making the most from a pot when we’re strong, but at least then we have the advantage of ‘knowing’ that we will pick up chips. But with the re-steal being a bluff this certainly isn’t the case, and we obviously need our opponent to fold their hand in order for us to win the pot.

In Part 1 I mentioned that our table image is a factor as our action needs to be believable, but of course it pays to closely observe the opposition, too (remember we should anyway be doing this at all times, as a matter of course). Clearly, the best players from whom to re-steal are those who we believe are stealing in the first place. It takes one to know one, as they say. And, often, those who we will spot as thieves tend to be the better players who are indeed better because part of their overall, successful strategy is accumulating chips through helping themselves with well-timed but deceivingly ‘regular’ pre-flop raises.

Note that we need also to be able to make the distinction between this kind of player – whose prudence and practical superiority leads them to fold when we strike – and others who are prone to raise pre-flop. Wilder players may well react to our three-bet by putting us all-in, for example, and if we find ourselves in this position a couple of times (and folding, of course) it’s time for us to take a step back and perhaps pull something different out of our bag of tricks.

Meanwhile, as regular readers are well aware, poker is closely related to chess in that in both we need to get used to thinking ahead. There’s no point trying to re-steal if we’re lost for a plan when we’re called. Which brings us to both our cards and our position.

Rather than being in the unenviable position of fighting for the hand with a mediocre ace, for example, when we could well be dominated and simply not know where we stand, we’re better off with a small pair or 67s, for instance, which are both potential monsters and easier to handle.

As for position, we will usually be in the blinds representing considerable strength against a late position raise. But of course should we be on the button and the opportunity to re-steal arises, then it’s time to step up the pace, our move being more likely to work – especially against better players – thanks to our being in position.

Good luck re-stealing!

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

When not to bluff…

June 15, 2012 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Picture the scene – the hero (a rugged, strong and silent type) has just gone all-in on a scary looking board, having put his house, car, all his money and his faithful wife’s family jewels on the line. The only other player left in the pot, who has been loud and arrogant until now, suddenly looks uneasy. Colour seems to be draining from his face as he takes a long look at his cards and he curses his bad luck as he throws them down on the table and surrenders an enormous pot. Our hero finally smiles as he reveals a brilliant bluff, and we all live happily ever after.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, we feel that a hand is slipping away so try to bluff the river against a player we’ve thus far struggled with. We’re called and the session goes from bad to worse. Unfortunately the latter scenario is the more accurate description of the two, and this is because bluffing is a difficult part of the game to get to grips with. Moreover, to compound the problem, we seem to miss the best opportunities yet bluff when we shouldn’t.

In order to help minimise our mistakes, here are the times when we should avoid bluffing. It’s a safe bet to assume we’ve all been guilty of not heeding the following advice. Of course these are guidelines rather than inflexible, absolute rules.

Don’t bluff when we’ve recently been caught bluffing

Even if it’s possible that we could be as crafty as a Bond movie baddie and thus might get away with it, generally we’ll be caught out once again. After a failed bluff it tends to be a good idea to keep the bluffing powder dry for a while.

Don’t bluff into numerous players

Again we might pull it off, but it wouldn’t be surprising that a bluff into a multi-way pot won’t make its way through all the players – someone is likely to make a stand, and (remember) any made hand beats us.

Don’t bluff against weak players

This is just as foolhardy as trying to steal from several players, as it only takes one weak (and ‘fearless’) opponent for a bluff to fail. Some people simply won’t back down with any type of hand, and they even like the idea of rooting out bluffs and (worse) keeping players honest. Instead of bluffing against them, wait for a strong hand and let them call when they’re behind.

Don’t bluff immediately after coming off worse in a big pot or straight after a bad run of hands. There’s a very good reason for this: we could well be on tilt, in which case consciously keeping a check on how we react to reverses can help nip emotionally driven mistakes in the bud, and, importantly, even if we’re not tilting, if someone thinks we are we’ll anyway be called.

Don’t bluff when bluffing is the most plausible play

This isn’t as strange as it sounds – there will be situations where various factors combine to make a bluff the most reasonable means to pick up the pot and, against experienced players, attempting to do so will set their alarm bells ringing.

Don’t bluff on flops that may well have hit the opposition

A typically dangerous flop would be a co-ordinated one such as QT9, for example, while it is generally a risky strategy bluffing with an ace showing as many players are in the habit of sticking with an ace and subsequently not letting go when they connect with the flop/board.

Finally, try not to bluff when the pot is so big it will justify a call. In such circumstances players are more likely to call by convincing themselves they’re being bluffed, or even ‘mistakenly’ call in the hope of having the stronger hand.

Good luck at the tables!

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

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