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

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

What’s in a bet? (Part 1)

August 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

As with anything else that requires experience, we go through various stages of learning during our poker quest, and it starts as soon as we learn the basic fundamentals. Betting, of course, is what makes poker – without the opportunity to wager something of value the essence of the game doesn’t exist. But where so many of us fall short is in not putting enough thought into – nor appreciating the potential implications of – what this or that bet might mean, and how we can get the most out of our betting opportunities.

Poker being a game of information (or at least the search for it), we need not only to try to garner as much as we can from other players’ actions, but also be aware of how our own might be perceived by others. Playing literally face to face with the opposition in a casino (‘live’) environment requires a certain level of understanding of at least the physical, verbal and other discernible ‘tells’ that are a key part of the game but, online, the psychology of the information search is a different kettle of fish entirely.

Without the aforementioned sources of information at our disposal it’s necessary to seek out the potentially key elements of a hand, or – better still – an opponent’s overall strategy, by other, more pro-active means. One such is betting. New players quite naturally associate the size of a bet with the actual strength of their own hand, and tend to bet accordingly. With this in mind, when most likely not in possession of the strongest hand they might check, while another common play is to put in a modest bet, see it called in one or two places and then, at the next betting round, find themselves perhaps more in the dark. Similarly, when in position, they might be entertaining being in contention but, as soon as a sizeable bet appears, they give up the hunt. These situations all have one thing in common in that such (planless) passivity fails to help in finding valuable information. Moreover, apart from doing nothing to help with the decision making process, nor does it mess with that of the opposition (aggression, misinformation etc.).

In Part 2 we’ll take a look at the implications of betting in practice.

Good luck at the tables!

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

The Crafty Re-Steal, Part 1

May 29, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Every sport and game tends to have its little tricks that can give someone an edge over opponents who have yet to incorporate such moves into their repertoire. Poker, being a game of seemingly countless variables and, crucially, unknowns, is incredibly rich in that there are many, many tricks and strategies and tweaks of existing strategies and so on that afford the player who spends time away from the tables studying a significant advantage over the opposition.

One such is the re-steal. Quite self-explanatory, this strategy is interesting because it works by exploiting someone else’s aggression. Often this aggression comes in the form of – as far as the modern game is concerned – the late position pre-flop raise. This might well be a raise induced by that player’s excellent hand but, typically, it’s a standard attempt to either steal the blinds or, failing that convenient outcome, thinning down the field – perhaps scaring off superior (but not particularly strong) hands in the process as players out of position opt for the safer choice by keeping their powder dry.

Now, poker is difficult enough to get to grips with as it is, so it would be nice to steal some free chips every now and then. And not only is the re-steal extra satisfying because we pick up the original would-be thief’s bet as an addition to our ill-gotten gains, but we have done so by having someone else lay the foundations for our move.

Obviously there is a time and place to execute the re-steal and it isn’t a move we should try to execute at the drop of a hat without first taking into account certain factors. Also, different formats reward the re-steal more than others. Multi-table tournaments and the Sit & Go formats present us with excellent re-steal opportunities due to the increasing blinds and, consequently, the greater likelihood that a late position pre-flop raise is indeed a steal.

Even under normal conditions it is generally accepted that even with a wide range it is reasonable to throw in a pre-flop raise – preferably on the button – when nobody has shown an interest in taking a lead. The fact that we know this is all we need to convince the aggressor that by raising them we really don’t care what they have and are confident we are ahead. Of course we are bluffing, but it is this show of strength – against someone who has already indicated they could be strong – upon which the foundations of the re-steal is based. Moreover, by carrying out the re-steal in the blinds we accentuate our apparent strength because we’re showing that we’re prepared to get busy in the worst position for the rest of the hand.

Yet another attractive feature of the re-steal is that it can be successful against good players who routinely steal in late position. Unless they have a genuine hand they will keep their losses to a minimum and stand down, especially if our table image supports our move – i.e. we haven’t been betting and (re-)raising every orbit.

The psychology of the re-steal is simple and effective – we’re essentially offering our opponents the chance to prove they can make ‘sensible’ decisions by making the occasional laydown.

Good luck at the tables!

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

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

Decision Making – From Flop to Turn/River (Part 1)

December 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Part 1: Introduction and Weak/Marginal hands

First, we should keep in mind that we don’t suddenly wake up to find ourselves on the turn with a crucial decision to make, rather the hand – and our role and influence in it – begins as soon as the hole cards are dealt.

As was mentioned in a recent article, it makes much more sense to get used to planning ahead than merely taking each betting stage as a separate entity.

When the flop comes, some players don’t bother with this additional analysis because of the often unquantifiable nature of the game, but it is possible to anticipate certain scenarios and have a strategy in mind for when they arise. Given the enormous number of hands even casual players get through, we will indeed be presented with various situations over and over, and with experience it will anyway become more natural to make decisions based on what we feel could happen on the turn and river.

While we can’t definitively categorise hand strength we can consider in advance what and what not to do. For example, if on the flop we have neither a pair nor (decent) drawing potential, then it is fair to call this a weak hand in which we shouldn’t be prepared to invest further. Unless we can see the turn for free, it’s prudent to let it go. Furthermore, we should also remember that the strength of hole cards can drastically change with the flop, so it is important not to dismiss ostensibly weak hands without considering their potential.

As an interesting example, let’s look at the other extreme: how strong hole cards can easily leave us with a less than average hand on the flop. Typically, this happens when we are dealt something like Ah Qc, clearly a good hand, and the flop comes 6d 6s 9d, with a couple of other players still involved. Of course it is possible that we have the strongest hand, but having not paired up, and without any kind of draw, we could very well be behind already, while any aggression from the opposition should urge us to seriously consider keeping our powder dry.

If we did pair up one of our overcards we’d probably have top pair, but there are only six outs to achieve this and, as well as the cost of paying to see the turn, we need to consider similar questions when we get there and miss. And even if it is possible that flop aggression from the opposition is brinkmanship, the combination of not knowing and anyway still being behind come the turn means we might be better ending our involvement on the flop.

While the above hand might not be too difficult to handle (i.e. surrender), life gets a little more complicated when we have something – but perhaps not enough – with which to play. This could be a modest pair, top pair with a poor kicker or the dirtier end of a draw.

These are quite problematic, awkward hands because they are too good to automatically throw away when faced with a bet, but vulnerable enough to run into trouble. We tend to put more money into them but without improvement could well be behind. With such marginal hands we need to temper the initial ‘good’ news at hitting the flop, or the optimism in seeing the draw potential, with the hard truth that we might have to rely on good fortune to confidently fight for the pot.

Generally, we should approach marginal hands in a similar fashion to weak hands – trying to see the turn as cheaply as possible, and letting go of the hand when actions suggest we’re too far behind to justify staying in or paying too much for draws that could anyway land us in big trouble.

In Part 2 we will look at post-flop planning with decent stronger hands.

Good luck at the tables!

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

Playing small pocket pairs against different styles (Part 1)

October 8, 2012 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

Part 1: Introduction

What to do with the likes of 33 and other non-premium pocket pairs is one of poker’s many conundrums. The situational nature of the game might be what makes poker so fascinating, but the fact that different circumstances (even ostensibly irrelevant changes) can determine whether we fold, limp or take the initiative with a lowly pair certainly complicates our preparation.

General guides and tips help, but for those players who are getting better acquainted with how the styles and strategies of other players at the table help us shape our own approach, we are going to have a collection of articles aimed more specifically at how small (and medium) pocket pairs fare quite differently against so-called Loose Passive or Tight Aggressive players, for instance. Rather than decide at the table (with very restrictive thinking time) it pays – literally – to have a good idea when we would be better off simply throwing away a small pair and when is an appropriate time to get busy.

Note that we must remember preparation is imperative. It’s worth repeating this because, as poker mantras go, ‘Preparation! Preparation! Preparation!’ should be up there at the top of the list. It’s interesting that despite this being one of numerous similarities with chess – where players like to arrive at the board armed with a certain level of theoretical knowledge to help them through the ‘opening’ phase – the preparation process tends to be overlooked by many poker enthusiasts due to the assumption that there are too many ‘unknowns’ to anticipate.

But it is well worth the effort to consider, away from the table, how, for example, a hand might play out, what kind of possibilities might present themselves to us (and our opponents!), as well as giving some thought to the psychology.

In Part 2 we will take a look at how we might cope against specific playing styles.

Good luck at the tables!

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

Bluffs: To show, or not to show (Part 1)

July 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

Whenever we see chess crop up in a film the segment inevitably ends with someone announcing ‘checkmate’ to their victim’s obvious surprise. As for poker, the bluff element is often the writer’s rather unoriginal theme of choice, so we tend to be treated to a tense stand-off in which someone’s nerve ultimately fails them when they finally fold the strongest hand in the face of a bold all-in move. After putting on the line a small fortune, house, expensive car and maybe even his glamorous and devoted girlfriend (in order to authenticate the bluff to the maximum, of course) the hero enjoys the additional thrill of twisting the proverbial knife still further by flipping his cards over to reveal a total bluff. Untold wealth won – job done.

This theatrical approach to showing a bluff serves no purpose other than to subject the loser to utter humiliation, and the convention among most players is generally not to bother as it might work to our detriment (failure to illicit the desired response yet giving away information). Of course there’s more to revealing bluffs than scoring meaningless points and, while many people do indeed seem interested only in boosting their ego (while deflating someone else’s), the more canny players’ appreciation of the implications of this often overlooked aspect of the game have a considerable edge over their opponents.

Although this is one of those annoyingly ‘situational’ plays, the main aim of showing our bluffs is to represent a style or specific line of play that is in total contrast to what we actually do in order, for example, to ‘help’ our opponent avoid making the same ‘mistake’ in future (when it will be a genuine error because we won’t be bluffing).

As well as providing misleading information we can also show – especially to the more solid players – to frustrate and annoy people to the extent that they need to exact revenge after their embarrassment at having a pot stolen away from them, or after backing down in a succession of smaller pots. It can be just as effective to tease out someone’s emotional weakness as it is to convince them they’re going to outplay us.

In Part 2 we will look at other benefits of showing a bluff, as well as the times when it is more prudent to resist the urge.

Good luck at the tables!

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

Tournaments: Short-handed versus Full-table (Part 1)

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

Picture the old guard tournament warrior, treating chips with utmost care and waking up only when very favourable opportunities present themselves. No indulgent pre-flop calls out of position, no fancy stuff with the likes of 73o because it’s a ‘lucky’ hand (remember: there’s no such thing), no ego-fuelled pre-flop betting wars that mean going all-in with 44…

Patience, patience and an extra dollop of patience for good measure was the recipe for success in the good old days. Aggression was of course a key factor but it was selective, well-timed and served a purpose.

Times have changed, both online and off. Solid play is still going to bring some sort of success, but our definition of ‘aggression’ has shifted considerably to allow for a more flexible approach.

Catering for the modern, hyper-aggressive cut-and-thrust environment, the introduction of short-handed games – for both cash and tournaments – proved immensely popular. With both types of table format now available we can choose how many players we’re up against, yet many still fail to make the adjustment from full to short-handed.

The fundamental difference between short-handed and full-table tournaments is, obviously, the fact that the blinds travel round the table at more speed, forcing us to contribute to the pot a third of the time. We’re obliged to be part of the action more often and, consequently, we can’t afford for patience to be a top priority.

Probability being what it is, there’s simply no time to wait around for premium hands. We have to be prepared to lower our expectations and thus widen our range. We can’t be afraid to get involved as it’s necessary to join in the fight in the heart of the battlefield – tentatively keeping our distance means ultimately being left behind.

A good way to have more confidence when first trying to get used to the ‘busier’ short-handed tournaments and the fact that we often have to back up what seem to be good but not quite good enough hands is to remind ourselves that, with only five opponents to deal with, the odds of coming up against very strong hands are also considerably reduced compared with traditional full tables. With this in mind we shouldn’t be afraid to play holdings that we’d normally steer clear of.

Next time we’ll turn to the importance of reading other players.

Good luck at the tables!

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

Poker, like life, needs balance… Part 1

April 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

In my last article I mentioned that we should ‘change gear a little’ if it appears our play is becoming too predictable during a session. This got me thinking about flexibility in general, and how most players tend to slip into too much of a routine. Usually this compounds the problem, with bad habits doing consistent damage, the impact of cumulative, harmless looking weaknesses eventually proving just as significant as the risky, unjustifiable big gambles. But it is also often a result of some kind of success – having found a profitable approach there is a tendency to feel unsure about messing with a proven recipe; if it’s not broken we don’t want to fix it.

For example the desired super-solid yet aggressive style that revolves around investing chips and mental effort only in premium hands might well work but, over time, will also suffer from it’s efficacy as those whose play we have been exploiting will begin to think twice. The bluffer will at some point give up and instead look for another victim. The players who like to try their luck with small pairs and suited connectors will realise that they’re paying too much to see more cards, only to lose to our strong holdings. Such a successful yet predictable approach will scare away the kind of opposition from whom it is designed to profit and, ultimately, the well will dry up.

With this in mind, this particular style, for instance, needs tweaking to include a wider range in terms of both starting hands and what we do with them. Again, the flexibility afforded us by introducing additional hands to our armoury is going to be limited if we subsequently treat these new additions in too predictable a fashion.

While it is useful to set out our stall because we want to create a specific table image that we can then use to influence the opposition’s decision-making process, it is important, once this has been established, to do things differently in certain scenarios.

Now that we’re thinking along the lines of balancing out our play, Part 2 will feature how this might be applied in practice.

Good luck at the tables!

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

Next Page »