Don’t Make a Habit of Cold-Calling

February 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

No Limit: Don’t Make a Habit of Cold-Calling

The purpose of what follows is to serve as a warning against the folly of cold-calling but, as is so often the case, it should be pointed out that there are, of course, times when calling a raise is a feasible play.

We’re dealing primarily with short-handed games here because it’s easy to keep drifting into passivity and losing out in the marginal, difficult situations that are best avoided, but cold-calling tends not to be a good idea in full table games, either (at least the ‘upside’ with more players involved is that we should be able to get better odds).

Once again the general ‘rule’ that, out of the three options available to us when facing a raise,

either re-raising or folding tend to be more appropriate responses than merely (cold-) calling. Folding is easy(!), while re-raising has the advantage of winning the occasional pot right there as well as putting us in the driving seat – and putting the opponent under pressure instead of ourselves.

Depending on what strength of hand we’re calling with, the problem with this rather passive strategy can be two-fold in that not only are we obligingly surrendering the initiative to the opposition, but there is a danger of doing so while dominated. And to compound the problem, too many players make this mistake pre-flop which, from a psychological viewpoint, can subsequently lead to feeling they should commit further to the cause if they connect with the flop, in turn leading to potentially serious trouble. It’s bad enough wasting money through careless, thoughtless cold calling and then having to surrender the pot having missed the flop, but could be disastrous with typically problematic hands like KTo and QJo, ‘hitting’ and being dominated through to the river.

Clearly, these bad scenarios are going to far outnumber those times when we hit and win. Keep this in mind when you next find yourself on the verge of automatically cold-calling!

Good luck at the tables!

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

Poker Conundrum: What do we do with a good hand on a scary board?

June 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

Here’s a typical scenario – we’re dealt Ac 9c in the cut-off, raise and are called only by the Button. The flop brings Ad 7c 7s and we’re first to play. This is a bit of a mixed bag – we’ve picked up another ace but there’s a pair showing and, if we bet and get action, serious thought should be given to how much we commit (if at all) as we could be either way in front or way behind.

If we’re facing holdings such as AK-AT or a 7 we’re facing a futile uphill battle to the river. To compound the problem, if we tend to play aggressively then doing so here is a mistake regardless of who is ahead/behind. For example, someone with JJ or A2 is going to keep their powder dry and wait for a less hazardous opportunity. Meanwhile, if we’re trailing behind a strong hand we’re digging ourselves into a deeper hole – from which there is little hope of escape – the more we bet.

It is also difficult to know where we stand – especially when out of position, as in the example above. It’s a classic poker Catch-22 problem and therefore one that’s worth thinking about.

With all this in mind, unlike many situations where betting is a multi-purpose weapon (gaining information, winning pots etc.), here we have a specific scenario in which it is more logical to take the foot off the gas and adopt a cagey, essentially passive approach. Rather than trying to fight our way through a potentially troublesome storm we should instead invite errors from our opponent. If they’re behind we’re presenting  them with an opportunity to build the pot for us. Note, too, that this tactic is particularly effective when we’re out of position as an opponent who is unappreciative of this awkward stand-off is likely to see our checking as a sign of weakness and bet accordingly. Furthermore, check/calling also serves to restrict our losses in the event that we are indeed behind.

Crucially, check/calling dangerous looking boards with a view to either inducing errors (and thus winning bigger pots than would be the case if we had scared off the opponent by betting) or saving when we lose (a key part of our long-term quest) is a much more desirable play than blind aggression.

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

Heads Up Sit & Go Strategy

December 2, 2011 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

While Sit & Go tournaments offer an exciting, one-table competitive experience that don’t take too much time (meaning we can play a number of them in one session), it’s possible to step up a gear or three for the even more thrilling ride of the heads up S&G.

These differ significantly from HU cash, remember, in that the blinds increase – and at quite a pace when we consider that hands just whiz by, and we’re involved in every single one of them. The trick, in an ideal world, is to bamboozle the opposition in every department. We need to be crafty, tricky, manipulative and pretty fearless (as opposed to reckless!).

With only the one opponent it follows that this format can be rather rewarding if we are fortunate enough to be up against opponents who don’t perform as well as we do and, with this in mind, the more we think about strategy and the more experience we rack up the more successful we’ll become. Variance can obviously be cruel in this particular game but that shouldn’t put anyone off making the effort if they feel more suited to this gladiatorial battle than its less cut-throat relations.

‘Mastering’ post-flop play is absolutely essential as we need to exploit players’ passivity and be prepared to bluff much more than is called for in other games. Indeed approaching a HU S&G with too conservative a strategy just won’t do. We will get our fingers burnt but, in the long-run, the key to being a winning player will be determined by our ability to play the critical hands well with a view to at least gaining a decisive lead.

Loose-aggressive is the way to go, in terms of both style and attitude, but we also need to be able to adapt quickly to what’s coming from the other side of the table while simultaneously trying deny the opposition useful reads on our own play.

Against tight players the way to gain the initiative is to raise pre-flop and post-flop (not being afraid to get busy out of position), double/triple-barrel and generally apply constant pressure – at least for as long as we can get away with it. It’s not unusual to get our own way and emerge with the much bigger stack, which in turn affords us the opportunity to widen our range and thus increase the likelihood of hitting a well disguised monster.

Conversely, against loose players it’s necessary to tighten up, letting go of unpromising hands and being aggressive with decent aces, pairs and suited connectors, mixing in opening aggression post-flop with check-raises.

Position is at least as important here as other formats as being in position affords us a continual advantage in 50% of all hands. Remember that continuation bets need succeed only a third of the time to break even. We should raise a lot pre-flop in position to deny the opposition value limps and build juicy pots that we are perfectly placed (in position!) to steal on the turn or river.

There is obviously a great deal more to heads up Sit & Go play but the points here form the foundations on which an effective strategy is based.

Good luck at the tables!

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


More on Multi-Tabling

April 8, 2011 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

32Red's Poker School Blog

32Red's Poker School Blog

We’ve featured multi-tabling before, and while it isn’t for everyone, we all nevertheless try this hectic looking approach at some time. Unfortunately, there’s more to it than most players believe. Indeed the understandable attraction of making more money is about as far as the vast majority get when deciding to drastically change their game. But of course it doesn’t necessarily follow that eight-tabling will result in earning eight times as much money as sitting at only one table (in fact it’s a difficult enough task succeeding in following the action at all on so many tables without actually managing a profit; remember that opening just one additional table is multi-tabling).

While a winning player should definitely try to progress by increasing the number of tables, initially the focus should not be on profit but rather how you feel in different situations. It pays to make notes detailing how this or that aspect of your play is affected by the almost constant requirement to make multiple decisions. For example, when a big hand appears do you feel distracted by your ‘duties’ on the other tables? Do you feel guilty keeping others waiting by timing out here and there in order to give critical situations maximum attention? And with this in mind, are there any players on this ‘critical’ table who are also there at the others to notice this tell? Is it possible – as is the case when playing just the one table – to use the timing of your actions to represent certain types of play? Do you have enough time when trying to follow the action to observe other players?

Money is money, but concentrating on these and other important parts of the game is the key to determining to what extent, if any, multi-tabling is worth the effort, as appreciating the cumulative implications of each individual situation is imperative in the quest to find the most optimal playing conditions.

Good luck at the tables!

AngusD

Multi-Tabling at 32Red Poker (Part 1)

November 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

32Red's Poker School Blog

32Red's Poker School Blog

Many of us have seen clips on the internet of young guns playing a couple of dozen tables simultaneously, clicking away like Edward Scissorhands in what seems like a futile attempt to stem the tide of constant decision making. Of course such a feat is far from typical. Indeed when we think of multi-tabling, the number of tables that springs to mind is more like ten at the most, more often four and, just to be on the safe side, a nice, cosy low altitude two.

The point of multi-tabling, in case you hadn’t heard, is to facilitate multi-profit, to capitalise on your expertise and proven winning history (obviously) playing only one table by replicating said winnings over a few more. Simple. Easy money. You won’t even have to wait for it to grow on trees – just keep opening tables.

Alas, not surprisingly, it’s not quite as simple as that. First, it can be difficult enough having success on a single table, never mind two, three or four, while the dynamics and approach to the game change considerably as the task expands. The ability to read the opposition and analyse how hands (including those we’re not involved in) play out diminishes as the number of tables increases, thus shifting the emphasis of our concentration towards more ‘correct’ strategy (less information meaning less bluffing, for example). And speaking of concentration, if you hitherto liked to surf the web, watch television, chat away, read/write emails and so on during play, then it would be a good idea (in fact an imperative – you’ve been warned) to put a stop to these habits if you are to multi-table properly.

If this brief introduction to what might well be a challenging, fascinating and ultimately profitable world of multi-tabling is food for thought, then tune in next time for a few tips to help get you started. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, everyone should nevertheless give it a try.

Good luck at the tables!

AngusD