No Limit Tournaments: When Tight Isn’t Right

February 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Poker is such a rich game that, depending on the specific format we’re playing, a successful approach is by no means guaranteed to have the same results in an ostensibly similar scenario.This is true, for example, when considering the No Limit cash game and tournament scenarios. The conventionally accepted tight-aggressive strategy might be well suited to No Limit cash games (albeit not the only worthy approach) but, in today’s modern tournament environment – particularly online – we’re going to struggle to do better than make a minor cash if we adhere to this style too strictly.

Apart from the fact that strong holdings, by definition, come around all too rarely in this context, when we are ‘fortunate’ enough to be dealt a premium hand there is, of course, no guarantee that we are going to be rewarded with any significant action. For one reason, we have hitherto been inactive, which is already a good indication to the opposition that we’re holding something when we suddenly get involved, so they are likely to avoid commitment. And thus the cycle could well continue as the blinds inexorably rise and our stack diminishes. To compound the problem, there inevitably comes a point as the tournament progresses at which our waiting, safety-first policy seriously puts our tournament survival in jeopardy, let alone the prospects of finishing among the top prizes.

It’s simply not possible to realistically expect any level of success with a pure tight-aggressive approach. Indeed it is imperative to loosen up and experience the liberating experience for ‘too’ tight players that is broadening our starting hand range and indulging in the occasional bit of such delights as speculation and even slow-playing, for instance. This – enjoyable – strategy can begin as early as the opening stages, when the low(est) blind levels afford us considerable flexibility to mix up our game. Note that this also gives us the advantage of being able to engineer a deceptive table image.

As the blinds increase the pressure on just about everyone it makes sense to step up a gear. Instead of being overly cautious the key is to put yourself in other players’ shoes and appreciate that much of the opposition is going to be afraid, and rather than join them it’s much more important to exploit them. The phrase ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’ is particularly apt when it comes to NL Hold’em tournaments

Good luck at the tables!

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the 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

No Limit Hold’em: Slow-playing the Turn

February 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

While betting strong hands tends to be a worthy strategy we must, of course, take a different approach occasionally in order to avoid being too transparent and, in doing so, extract the most from a very strong holding.

One such tactic is slow-playing the turn to induce a bet or commitment from an opponent on the river. A typical example is when we are sitting on a powerful hand come the turn, in position, against a lone opponent. This is particularly effective when we have been the aggressor since the beginning of the hand. 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

Poker Psychology – Know Yourself

January 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Poker is no different to all sorts of other sports, games and activities that have in common a high level of personal effort and input. It’s not a team exercise. Lady Luck plays her role, of course, but that evens itself out over time and consequently renders luck’s contribution irrelevant.

Ultimately we’re left to our own devices and, this being the case, it’s imperative we understand ourselves as well as possible in order to get the most out of our abilities and skills and – equally important – address and reduce the detrimental impact of our weaknesses. Read more

Blaze Poker – A Few Thoughts (Part 2)

October 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Stereotypes

Players tend to treat Blaze Poker almost as an academic exercise, causing them to overdo their strategic adjustments in some way. This is based on the very reasonable assumption that most players – whether new to the format or happy with their approach – will adopt a more conservative methodology than in ‘normal’ games. Consequently, as in life, we yet again need to find a level of compromise. We should obviously take advantage of the facility to start a new hand immediately when we’ve been dealt garbage, but we don’t want to get into the habit of automatically folding anything but premium hands, or giving up too easily after the flop  – passive play the loose aggressive players will feed on. Nor do we want to obligingly call against the rocks. We should find a balance across the board, from a not-too-tight starting hand range to flexibility post-flop.

Concentrate!

Of course we should be fully concentrated anyway, regardless of what kind of game we’re playing. But we rarely practise what we preach, and Blaze Poker requires us to devote all our attention to the game. Compared to a normal cash game, when there’s often an opportunity to sit back and recharge the batteries a little during hands in which we have folded early (although we should then be observing what’s going on), in this format we’re constantly called upon to play. To think. It’s easy to slip into autopilot mode, insta-folding hand after hand and perhaps not being fully tuned in when the time comes to get involved.

It can also be draining when we play a series of consecutive pots, especially when sitting at two or more tables. Even one table can be difficult to handle.

But if the increased volume of hands played is one of the main attractions in terms of getting more out of 32Red’s 30% rakeback deal, we should at least put things in perspective when starting to tire or when we feel that the game is drifting away from us. As soon as this happens it’s time for a break – the tables will still be there when we are refreshed and ready to play at maximum capacity once again.

Blaze Poker - Frequently Asked Questions

Blaze Poker – Frequently Asked Questions

Blaze Poker as a Learning Tool

It can be difficult sometimes to both recognise and fully acknowledge our weaknesses, and Blaze Poker can be a good servicing tool in that it can throw an uncomfortable spotlight on to our play. Whatever leaks and holes we might have failed or been unwilling to identify before will be all the more conspicuous in this format, where the timescale we’re used to goes into overdrive. Moreover, if we’re doing badly when given the luxury of the instant fold, then we’re running out of excuses, and something is clearly fundamentally wrong with our game.

Aggression is good

Because there’s going to be lots of folding – both through the use of the ‘instant’ fold facility as well as after a little more thought – we shouldn’t be afraid to incorporate into our strategy open raising, regardless of position, with considerably more than just the premium hands. Small pairs (see Part 3) and suited connectors are fine, and when we don’t steal the blinds we’re assuming the initiative with tricky, potentially monster hands. Of course against a couple or more callers it’s subsequently a rather risky tactic to bluff a missed flop, but when heads-up a decent frequency of continuation bets is feasible.

Should we run into aggression ourselves, then it’s generally a play backed up by a strong hand (particularly a check-raise). That’s not to say we should automatically give up without a fight every time we come under pressure, and not properly take into account any relevant factors that might be available, but aggression in Blaze Poker is more likely to be ‘honest’ than is the case in standard cash games.

All-in Blues

Given that the majority of players can be expected to be more patient, as well as the fact that we’re playing considerably more hands than on normal tables, we should note that in all-in situations we’re going to find ourselves facing bigger hands more frequently. It’s less of a surprise in Blaze Poker for KK to lose to AA because those who usually might have been tempted to shove with KQ, for example (or simply gamble), will now be trashing those hands in eager anticipation of aces coming along.

Consequently, with this in mind, not only must we be prepared for such eventualities, but this should be factored into our bankroll considerations, too. Any swings are going to be happening over a shorter period of time.

In Part 3 we will consider the implications in Blaze Poker of certain starting hands.

Good luck at the Blaze Poker 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

Flush Royale Progressive Jackpot

April 19, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

Thanks to the success of the new Bad Beat Jackpot, with a lower ‘winning’ hand threshold, more frequent wins and a well distributed prize pool, another jackpot that promises to be great fun is the Flush Royale progressive jackpot. This revolves around a nightly multi-table rebuy tournament (with a buy-in of only €3+0.30) so that, as well as gunning for the jackpot as we hunt for a royal flush, everyone is also in the running for the prize money paid out to the top finishers. At least with two bites at quite different cherries we know that even if we’re nursing a short stack there’s still a chance to pocket – or earn a share of – the jackpot.

The quest for poker’s best, magical hand starts every night at 9pm UK time, and the aim of the game is to show down a Royal Flush, of any suit, using both hole cards. Manage this, and you win a share of the Flush Royale progressive jackpot.

Here’s how it works: 50% of the entry, rebuy and add-on fees goes towards the jackpot to keep it ticking along until it is hit, at which point the payout consists of 50% to the player making the Royal Flush, 25% split between the rest of the players at the table and the remaining 25% seeding the next jackpot.

Of course we need to remember that as well as keeping our fingers crossed that Lady Luck helps us find a royal flush (or at least that we’re sitting at the table where the jackpot is triggered), we’re also playing in a tournament, although we could do worse than invest some of our chips in any suited cards 10 or over.

Good luck at the Flush Royale tables!

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

Free card/semi-bluff raise

April 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

While raising (in late position, especially pre-flop) in order to scare the opposition into checking the next round doesn’t give us a free card, per se, it can confer on us more than one advantage. We ‘force’ out players by thinning out the field, determine which players might have strong enough hands to justify their paying to stay in contention and, of course, we pump up the pot.

Once the flop has arrived, it can be a good tactic to throw in a bet when we have four to a flush or an open-ended straight draw. We very likely don’t have the best hand at this point but aggression gives us the chance to win the pot without a fight, while we have two chances to fill our draw (as well as the opportunity – should we wish to take it, depending on the board and the opposition’s play – to fire another barrel). This semi-bluff aspect makes this strategy feasible even with lesser draws, or when we have a medium pair plus an overcard to the board after the flop (again, each situation should be judged on its individual merits).

Other scenarios, obviously, will dictate that we play quite differently. For example, if we have a strong but beatable hand (usually through a draw) we absolutely don’t want to be giving anyone free cards (unless we flop a monster, in which case we should step back in the hope that someone catches up a little and is strong enough to fight it out). When ahead we should bet high enough to force opponents to pay through the nose to stay in.

There will also be times when raising with a draw can backfire on us and perhaps should be avoided, typically when a straight draw is on a board with two suited cards so that hitting might have filled someone’s flush.

Generally we should be looking to make these plays with certain hands and in appropriate circumstances (it helps to think of position as an imperative) and incorporate semi-bluffs and free cards into our overall strategy.

Good luck at the tables!

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

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