It’s strange how some of the most logical, rational people are prone to superstition. Even during my days as a pro chess player it was not so unusual, in a vast hall full of people engrossed in arguably the most testing game around in terms of there being no luck element, to see superstitious types. Lucky shirts are common (despite causing certain sartorial challenges), as are pre-game rituals and even placing (and moving) the pieces in a very specific manner, and without exception. A Dutch International Master, for example – also a fan of loud shirts, funnily enough – deliberately positions knights facing backwards which, from the opponent’s point of view, can be quite disconcerting…
Poker players are no different. Anyone who plays ‘live’ for the first time might initially be surprised to see people around the table almost obsessively stacking and rearranging their chips in a particular fashion. Some like the sight of giant stacks, others multiple small stacks which, in turn, will be arranged according to a player’s taste – all ostensibly meaningless but, in reality, often providing the player with a confidence-boosting familiarity.
Lucky charms (usually as card protectors) abound, which might be more understandable when our fate can be cruelly determined by Lady Luck but, of course, has no influence on which cards will next appear. Some male players believe they’re ‘unlucky’ against women, others have one or more starting hands (not necessarily trash hands) that they simply never play. This last one perhaps best explains how we might succumb to superstitions, which are (in this context) essentially a subjective construct founded purely in hindsight, and emotionally driven. We might experience unusually good (or bad) results – or perform with a certain level of success – which we attribute to a change in circumstance and, subsequently, consciously endeavour to reproduce (or actively avoid). We see a pot ‘stolen’ from us two or three times after calling a pre-flop raise with this or that hand, and will be loathe to repeating the same play. Poor results against women, incidentally, might well be a genuine problem for lots of male players, but this is due to poor luck or – more likely – good old-fashioned chauvinism obscuring the decision-making process (or simply being an inferior player).
Of course results-led irrational thinking can also have its upside if it means scaring us away from poor strategy but, in the main, we are far better off having nothing to do with superstition and instead focusing on facts. Poker is, after all, a matter-of-fact game that continually delivers psychological blows, and if we were to succumb to the notion that all manner of circumstance and condition can contribute to our fate, then it would never end.
Ritual and habit, on the other hand, can be quite different if it means adhering to certain types of behaviour that are beneficial to our game, such as sleeping properly, good diet and the general aspects of health that aid concentration and help us maintain psychological stability. We’re going to have more luck in the long-term if we avoid alcohol before sitting down to play. Listening to ear-bursting thrash metal isn’t something we should associate with bad luck after noticeable losses – it’s a distraction we should associate with producing poor concentration.
Good luck at the tables!
32Red Poker Ambassador
It’s that festive time of year again, and at 32Red Poker we like to make sure you’ll remember December for being a great poker month. From Monday 1st December, right through to Thursday 1st January 2015, our 32 Days of Poker will feature a range of festive goodies. Check out what’s on offer by clicking on the corresponding bauble on our special seasonal tree…
There’s something for everyone, with different tournament formats from freezeouts to rebuys, free bonus chips just for logging in to 32Red Poker, micro buy-ins with mega prize funds, freerolls… it’s a veritable hamper full of poker treats.
Day 1, for example, on Monday 1st December at 7pm GMT, will be our €1,000 Welcome Freeroll, with free entry and a prize fund of €1,000! A freezeout, this tournament offers 2000 starting chips and 12-minute levels.
We’ve even made ‘competing’ easy for you as New Year approaches by having ‘Flip’ tournaments (everyone is all-in), where the only effort required is playing a few raked hands to qualify and then registering. Day 31, Wednesday 31st December, 10:30pm GMT is our €1,000 Flip Freeroll (100 Raked Hands)…
Our 32 Days of Poker culminates on Day 32, Thursday 1st January, 7pm GMT, with the HAPPY NEW YEAR! (€2015 Freeroll) when you can start 2015 with a bankroll-boosting bang.
Have a December of poker fun with 32Red Poker!
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.
We just can’t help giving stuff away for free at 32Red Poker. This month, for example, during our Four Play promotion, which will run throughout October, we’ll be handing out free entry to two of our most popular tournaments, namely The Mosh Pit and Big Night In. And it’s not rocket science – simply play either of these tournaments four or more times this month and you’ll receive a free buy-in ticket to have another go in November (note that a free tickets will be awarded on November 3rd).
Poker tournaments come in various formats, and these two have a distinctive feel that has proven rather popular.
The Mosh Pit (€8,000 Guaranteed) is a daily rebuy tournament with a €22 buy-in and €20 rebuys. It is the nature of rebuy events that they can be fast and furious and, with a juicy prize fund on offer, the aptly named Mosh Pit is no exception. There are plenty opportunities to make the money (and earn your free entry) during the course of the month because this tournament is held every night at 7pm UK time. There are also satellites that provide discount qualification thanks to buy-ins as low as €2.20.
Meanwhile, our Big Night In (€7,000 Guaranteed) is exactly that. Starting at 8pm UK time – also nightly – this is a different set-up, being a deep-stacked freezeout with a total buy-in of €110. Again, satellites are available, from as little as €5.50, and the freezeout aspect lends itself to a quite different approach than the more bloodthirsty Mosh Pit.
As well as being able to earn free tickets just for playing four tournaments, you’ll also have the opportunity to take advantage of additional freebies this month, as we’ll be giving away over €10,000 in free tickets to both these tournaments! Satellites are always worth a go in order to sit down to play big money tournaments at bargain buy-in prices, but there’s even more incentive this month because, throughout October, we will be adding value to some of our Mosh Pit and Big Night In satellites in the shape of additional tickets! Indeed the total added value during the month will be over €10,000, so don’t forget to check out these value added satellites to make the most of the Four Play promotion.
Click here to find out more, and good luck at the tables!
How far do you think ahead? Indeed, do you bother considering how a hand could pan out from street to street or – more to the point – your potential influence on the direction it might take? Poker obviously has a luck element in the form of the ‘unknowns’ but, crucially, there’s far more to the game than waiting for each new card to appear and making adjustments and decisions based rather simplistically on how each new arrival relates to our holding.
We need to experience a level of control as a hand progresses (if we don’t we can be sure someone else will) and this clearly requires some serious aforethought. Moreover, with one of the chief characteristics of online poker being the limited thinking time that keeps the game fluid, it’s imperative we try to think ahead in order to facilitate the decision making process as the temperature inevitably hots up. Note that there is a distinction between thinking and planning – the former means taking into account what might lie ahead and what our actions could be, while the latter is perhaps too specific and elusive.
Some hands are easier to weigh up – and their futures easier to anticipate – than others. Hitting a set, for example, affords us some flexibility but brings with it a rather simple choice of strategy. The common scenario of being dealt AK, on the other hand, is well worth investing time in before we even sit down at the virtual table. If we are in c, for instance, and throw in a raise, then we already know that we will bet a number of flops, regardless of whether we hit. Of course the better our position the wider our range, so we also need to think about the trickier and potentially very profitable hands with which we can win big pots by bypassing the opposition’s radar, a perfect example being calling late with suited connectors. The obvious train of thought revolves around how best to engineer a situation, when we hit big, to get the most out of the pot. But what do we do when our holding has no relation whatsoever with the flop? The ‘automatic’ response for most players is to put the brakes on, and herein lies the problem with not thinking sufficiently about the game because, in this particular scenario, part of our deliberate thinking should include our readiness to react to it being checked round to us by putting in a steal bet when we fail to hit. Adhering too closely to ABC-type poker by effectively limiting our options in advance due to a lack of proper consideration, rather than actively anticipating how we might most positively act as a hand evolves, is a considerable, cumulative error.
The more we grow used to thinking ahead, the better we can approach pre-flop decisions, with our range and pre-flop criteria eventually becoming a natural part of our post-flop thinking and overall strategy. Some holdings clearly have more post-flop mileage than others, and we learn to incorporate certain hands – and certain types of hands – into lines of thought that can subsequently be adjusted, as well as associate this or that hand with situations that can to some extent be confidently anticipated.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
32Red Poker Ambassador
I once read that Sebastian Coe, one of the greatest ever distance runners, had the advantage of having legs of equal length (you may be surprised to know that most of us are not so lucky) and, in turn, the additional bonus of symmetry that is required to transform ‘normal’ running into a smooth, economical glide. If this is indeed true, as it will be for some amongst elite athletes, then Coe was – quite literally – born to run.
Regardless of factors such as dedication and the four-letter word that is work, it certainly helps to be naturally disposed to poker. After all, with so much literature, strategy advice and number-crunching statistical software around nowadays we’ll more than welcome a potentially key edge that DNA affords us if it means we’re more likely to pick up an extra pot or two here and there.
Who, then, possesses the natural attributes that are, typically, most conducive to a successful poker quest? And is having the natural skills that enhance our game necessarily more significant than not being weighed down by equally natural bad habits and permanently undiscovered misconceptions? Not everyone at the table was destined for profit, so it follows that some players are simply more genetically wired up for the game than others.
Of course this subject is absolutely specific to the individual and, as such, necessitates a potentially brutal level of honest introspection, but it’s well worth the effort. In poker – as in life – understanding our strengths is imperative if we are to make the most of them, while appreciating and addressing our weaknesses and their implications is no less crucial. Just one ostensibly irrelevant personality trait could have a major influence on how we play.
I have been told recently, for example, that I am prone to passively going with the flow rather than making decisions. In my defence I should point out that this ‘analysis’ stems from my being a gentleman and subscribing to the theory that the lady should decide certain matters. Yet she swept aside my protestations that I am, in fact, the epitome of assertiveness and, given that her legs are – allegedly – exactly the same length, placing her alongside Lord Coe and thus appearing to lend her assessment added gravitas, I was forced to entertain the possibility. Can I be passive when I should be pro-active? Do I allow opponents to dictate the course of a hand instead of finding ways to assume the initiative? When I think I’m being clever and tricky by merely calling bets, am I really achieving no more than being a passive calling station?
Regardless of the answers, the point is I’m now asking the right questions – prompted by something as far removed from poker as the theoretical (in)significance of my companion’s leg measurements.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the tables)
Potentially pot-winning draws on the flop provide some of the most exciting, tense situations in No Limit poker. Decent looking odds and the prospect of a big payout should we hit against an opponent we will be ahead of when the chips hit the virtual felt tend to make flush and open-ended straight draws look particularly attractive. We will, after all, be getting 2:1 pot odds to hit our draw by the river simply by calling a pot-sized bet on the flop – poker made easy…
If only it were that simple! We are indeed on a flop-to-river 2:1 draw but that’s in an ideal, convenient world where the next two streets cost us nothing to see. In reality, matters are often quite different and, unfortunately, sufficiently confusing to elicit mistakes. Let’s say that one of the cards we need to hit doesn’t materialise on the Turn, and our adversary again bets the pot. Doesn’t calling allow us to maintain the same conditions we had on the flop thanks to our continued 2:1 pot odds? Alas, no. Our pot odds might have remained the same, but failing to hit from Flop to Turn means we now have one less bite of the cherry than when we undertook this typical poker challenge – in fact our draw odds are now 4:1, rendering the call impossible to make. Moreover, not only should we fold here when faced with a pot-sized bet, but our initial call on the flop should also have been avoided! This is the problem when we focus too much on pot odds while not fully appreciating the actual odds of hitting our draw. In this example the 2:1 odds to hit are redundant as soon as a comfortable ride to the river becomes unlikely. A sizeable bet on the Turn is going to throw an enormous spanner in the works, effectively forcing us to abandon what was probably a doomed mission.
Of course other factors should be considered when contemplating the initial flop bet, such as whether our opponent is bluffing or making a continuation bet, perhaps, do we have overcards to the flop that would put us in front should we hit a big(ger) pair, are we up against a player who tends not to maintain the aggression come the Turn?
We always need to weigh up an assortment of situational properties when making these awkward decisions but, generally, it pays not to get into the habit of misinterpreting true ost-flop draw odds. A crue truism in poker is how one mistake can quite naturally form the ill-judged foundation for a subsequent, increasingly significant error and, before we know it, instead of the hoped for successful resolution of a pot that was ostensibly affording us attractive prospects on the Flop, we find ourselves dressed up with nowhere to go, a little bewildered at how easily our chip stack has dwindled.
Good luck at the tables!
32Red Poker Ambassador
Human nature is a fascinating thing, and poker is full of it. Intuition, habit, how we perceive both ourselves and others, projection, interpretation, wishful thinking, caution and countless other thoughts/thought processes and emotions play their part (often collectively) at some point or other.
What makes the game so rich is that these factors can have such vastly different significance from one hand to the next, and it’s a constant battle – the more we become involved in a session – as we strive to zone in on the various aspects of table dynamics.
However, some potentially profitable situations are easier to recognise than others and, just as much as players try to be flexible, they can be predictable. One such scenario is the pot to which nobody wants to commit for one reason or another. Often this is simply because a player’s cards and the board don’t match up as per desired, at which point any interest in continuing (i.e. parting with any more chips) ends. Some people are almost transparently predictable in this regard, but it is such a common element of the game that this particular opportunity crops up time and time again in online poker, where it is not unusual for a table to get through 100 hands per hour.
Indeed it is the speed of the game (where the potential for volume can mean quantity is given as much priority as quality) that helps create these ‘abandoned’ pots as players keep their powder dry for the next, soon-to-come hand. This is where we come in. Not untypically, we might have missed the flop but be in the same boat as our opponent, or they might have a pair of 4s or 5s, for example, with a couple of overcards showing. It’s imperative to be in ‘thief’ mode at all times so that we don’t slip into the same automatic (negative) frame of mind, and are thus ready to round up whatever chips are going unclaimed. Unless the opposition has a specific reason to stay in the hunt for a modest pot, it’s time to act with a purposeful but not enormous bet which, most of the time, will suffice to scoop up those chips. Note that it is ‘natural’ for people to view these chips as heading elsewhere as soon as it becomes apparent that they have no realistic chance of taking down a pot based on the strength of their hand.
Good luck (stealing) at the tables!
Let us know your best steal – our favourite gets a free €4+1 Flush Royale ticket…
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
With poker being a game that revolves around information, it follows that we (all too often) find ourselves in awkward situations that mean we have some but, crucially, insufficient facts at our disposal. Of course some scenarios are more puzzling and frustrating than others, but a typical poker conundrum that we experience every session is when we hold a medium pocket pair against a lone opponent and the flop brings along an over-card.
Hands can pan out in various ways, but let’s say we have 9d 9c in late position and it’s folded around to us. We put in a raise and the only caller is the Big Blind, after which the Flop brings the rather irritating Kh 8s 7h… Just as we’re contemplating whether or not to make a continuation bet the BB peppers the virtual poker table with a bet of around two-thirds the size of the pot. This is somewhat inconvenient, to say the least!
There was a time when raising would be considered tantamount to a ‘standard’ means of garnering information in the hope of getting a clearer picture as to where we stand, but this automatic reaction can achieve no more than wasting chips. If the response were, for example, a simple call – or, worse: a raise! – the only additional details in this particular picture would tell us pretty clearly that the Big Blind is happier with his/her hand than we are with ours! Is it really worth paying for such clarity?
It’s far better, given that – for the sake of this article – we don’t intend giving up on the hand, to simply call the flop bet, particularly in view of the fact that we have the advantage of position. Depending on the Big Blind’s next play on the Turn we can decide on a course of our own. Another hefty bet should either set off an alarm bell loud enough for us to keep our powder dry and look to pastures new or, if various factors combine to justify it, we might attempt a bluff-raise. The BB slowing down and checking presents us with a couple of choices, one being wresting back the initiative with a bet (note that we shouldn’t be afraid to bet if the Turn throws up another overcard, for instance), which, remember, could be a value bet or, indeed, a bluff based on our pre-flop aggression and calling the Flop bet. While checking is another possibility, we shouldn’t scare ourselves into doing so through fear of running into a check-raise, which is simply part of the game and, in this circumstance, unlikely after the play thus far.
Good luck at the tables!
Angus Dunnington, 32Red Poker Ambassador