Poker Personality: Are You Suited?

September 17, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

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)

32Red Poker Ambassador

AngusD’s Las Vegas Blog

September 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News

 

Part 1

Vegas, Baby!

In my days as a pro chess player I never got around to playing in what was then the Soviet Union, despite being invited countless times. This was partly a mercenary attitude on my part, yet one I regretted upon retiring.

I didn’t want to make the same mistake since switching to poker, and although I would have found myself in the poker Mecca eventually it’s nice, when finally being able to play in Las Vegas, to have won my place in one of 32Red Poker’s qualifying tournaments.

My tournament, Event 33, started on Sunday, and looked set to be a minefield – as are they all, of course, to some extent. Meanwhile, it was only after two hours waiting at the airport (in the longest queue I have ever seen!) that the luxurious and – for Vegas – refreshingly tasteful Palazzo finally beckoned. The suite was on the 43rd floor, with a great view of the vista that stretches for miles into the hills beyond.

The first schoolboy error, at 6pm Vegas time (2am UK time), was to sleep after a long day crossing the Atlantic… so now – after waking up at 3am local time – I found myself writing these words.

A sensible Plan B would have been to get used to the time shift in readiness for Sunday…

Part 2

Spent Friday 13th walking down the famous ‘Strip’… in and out of hotels (some were better than others, some rather disappointing) and shopping malls, and then back up again. The heat was relentless, and the accompanying breeze cruelly hot, so a key word in Vegas is, unsurprisingly, water!

One would expect to see a few strange sights in this city, and among today’s were a tiny boy breakdancing like Michael Jackson, a man in a Chewbacca suit standing around in the street posing for photos, comedian, film and TV star David Spade (Grown Ups, Rules of Engagement) coming out of the lift at the Palazzo… and American Football/Super Bowl legend Joe Montana at a book signing. I even managed to catch his eye when I was told – as I appeared rather craftily, I should point out, from behind shelves to take a photo – that I should stop and buy a signed photo instead (I say ‘catch’ his eye – the record-breaking star was kind enough to hide the ‘what a fool’ expression that my antics deserved).

Meanwhile, within minutes of seeing adverts for 12-inch long hotdogs at $1.99, everything from authentic guitars to clothes to scraps of paper of some (very) famous/significant people was on sale in a memorabilia shop for prices ranging from $1,000 to $180,000 (this for the signatures of those who signed the US Declaration of Independence in 1776). It’s funny how money fills all manner of voids in Vegas…

Part 3

Nothing much happened on Saturday as, having looked forward to watching England’s brand new football team make its effective debut in the World Cup, it was time to look for somewhere away from the drunken masses to watch the opener against Italy. This was  the Palazzo’s fantastic ‘Lagasse’s Stadium’ which was by the far the best such venue, with a pleasant, people friendly environment.

Unfortunately the result was the wrong one, but I remained optimistic – after Uruguay losing to Costa Rica – that qualification was a realistic opportunity (so much for that wishful thinking…).

The highlight, incidentally, was my photo after the match with some cheerful England supporters who were prepared to wear all-over so-called morphsuits – 100% nylon body suits (quote: ‘I’m dying in here!’) for the cause (see photo).

Part 4

I was equally upbeat regarding my giving Event 33 a good go as I collected my seat assignation at the Rio on Sunday. The playing areas are enormous, and the peacefulness an hour or so before the tournament began was in stark contrast to the noise once it got underway. I tend to sit with sunglasses on and earphones in, regardless of whether or not I’m listening to music. Even when that is the case, I’m always listening to everything that’s being said at the table as the information can be invaluable.

My table had more good players than I had expected, but the general level wasn’t too high. It’s difficult to assign it a definitive online equivalent, but it felt like a tournament with a buy-in only a fraction of the $1,000 people had forked out to enter. Of course this doesn’t necessarily translate to good news, but certain table characteristics were evident from the start. One such was universal limping, or global calling of a pre-flop raise, for example.

To cut a long story short – and thus bring you to the ultimately disappointing ending – here is a resume of my day that will nevertheless serve to encapsulate the tournament experience. I was dealt a total of two (yes – 2) pocket pairs – nines and fours. I was able to exploit most of the table’s approach to the tournament, which saw me progress from an initial stack of 3,000 to around 4,500. This was then cut down to just over 1,000 when I was dealt AQ and called a pre-flop raise from a player who was willing to take any Ace to the river. He’d already done so three times. Anyway, the flop came AQ3, I was hoping that his rag card for this hand was a 3, and I was partly right. Alas the bit I got wrong was that he was holding a pair of threes, and had struck gold on the flop, rendering my two pair an embarrassed bystander.

I managed to knuckle down and fold away for what seemed like eternity with my tiny stack (‘stack’ doesn’t accurately describe my sorry collection of chips), and was rewarded over a period of just 8 or 9 hands with a surge to just short of 5,000 – back in business with a stack that could balloon in this type of tournament.

I was moved tables (in fact, to another, cavernous room) and was lucky enough to be able to wait out a few hands, which allowed me to see that this table was slightly different to the other in terms of playing style, in that it seemed particularly loose, and with bigger stacks. My first hand was in the Big Blind, where I found KcQc. There was a raise to 500, three callers(!) and me. The flop came TcJc2h, giving me a (Royal) straight flush draw, open-ended straight draw and two overcards. The original raiser checked, the next player bet half the 2500 pot and the other two folded. I went all-in, the pre-flop raiser folded and the post-flop aggressor, just having me covered, called for a pot of over 11,000 chips. He had AdJd, which is the kind of hand I’d put him on – something that made me feel like I was destined to win the hand. Destiny shouldn’t play a part, of course, as I was anyway a 67% favourite to win. However, not a single club, 9, A, Q or K materialised (and just to add salt to the wounds, both Turn and River were black cards). And that was that. It’s a fine line.

Part 5

… Of course I couldn’t travel well over 8000 kilometres from the UK to Las Vegas and not experience some good old-fashioned casino cash game poker. It’s not unusual in the city of sin to see people routinely walking up and down the Strip carrying alcoholic drinks, and my logic was to find a game during the witching hours when the opposition was more likely to be considerably worse for wear. With this in mind I set off at around 5am and settled for the famed Flamingo’s Poker Room, where a couple of $1-2 NL games were in full flow. I took advantage of the $300 max buy-in option and sat down, the lone non-USA player at the table. However, I wasn’t able to take advantage of anyone’s state of inebriation because everyone was stone cold sober.

My very first hand put me straight into action thanks to a pair and a straight draw which I opted to bet up to and including the bluff on the river after missing the desired cards. Alas I was (eventually) called down by a middle-aged man (he had a pair of aces) who then immediately left, followed a few hands later by four others. Fortunately the second table had places open up and the new companions made up an almost stereotypical cross-section of American society. Had social commentators been in my chair for the three hours or so I played they would have garnered a wealth of material. As it was, I was able – ‘listening’ to music and ostensibly oblivious to, but in fact closely following, their constant chatter – to cut a path through the ultimately exploitable, global style and leave for a well earned breakfast with over $400 profit. And, to be honest, I felt a little unlucky not to be cashing in considerably more.

Despite being primarily an online player, I’d seriously consider going to Las Vegas to concentrate on playing cash (and maybe tournaments) in the casinos for a while.

Indeed, I’ll certainly be going back…

 

Angus Dunnington (AngusD at the 32Red Poker tables)

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 Hold’em: Show No Mercy at Loose Tables!

April 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

We all have a favourite style of play, an approach that has proven more successful than others over time and is also best suited to our personality. However, flexibility is part of the game, and it’s imperative that we learn to both recognise the kind of players we’re up against and a table’s specific dynamic and so on and, subsequently, how to adapt in order to exploit others’ weaknesses.

One such example – especially in the modern game – presents itself when the table is populated exclusively by loose players. Many consider themselves loose-aggressive but, essentially, they tend simply to be much too loose because they get involved when they shouldn’t, constantly, and in so doing are losing players. Note that the psychological pitfall for these players is that when they win an enormous pot after filling a draw their mistaken logic supports the ill-fated notion that the ends justify the means when, in reality (in the long-run), the ends don’t come around sufficiently often to justify the accumulative investment in chasing big hands.

There’s a tendency when trying to profit from this common bad habit to revert to ultra-tight mode and get involved only when we find premium hands, but we don’t have to be so selective, and of course we must balance our game. But when we are in possession of a big hand we shouldn’t be afraid on a loose table to put in a big pre-flop raise – if the ‘standard’ is three big blinds, then doubling that with AA (and KK) won’t scare everyone off at this kind of table. We’re playing a bunch of loose players – they’re loose because they don’t worry about being tight and haven’t spent time contemplating ‘sensible’ bet sizes.

The key is strong bets with strong hands. If we raise with AK pre-flop and bring along two players for a flop containing an Ace and two suited cards, then we should remain aggressive and throw in a bet at least the size of the pot. Of course we could be pushing out of the hand a couple of opponents with lesser hands but there are worse things than picking up a three-way pot. However, habitually loose players can be more influenced by the promise of a draw than the fact they’re being asked to overpay for the privilege of chasing it and, while it might initially seem strange to practically announce our hand with a big bet, this is a good tactic on loose tables. What often happens against two players in this kind of situation is that one player will drop out and we will be left in a growing pot, with a significant lead, against a sole opponent erroneously committed to an over-priced cause.

We’ll see our big hands overtaken occasionally but that’s a mathematical characteristic of poker – as is the cast iron certainty that, over time, correct plays reward us with profit. Sets and other powerhouses should be bet big, with no mercy, the price we insist on the opposition paying being at least the size of the pot – otherwise we’re indulging loose players and justifying their poor play. Results in poker are determined by dealing with this or that scenario better than the opposition.

We should keep in mind, too, when contemplating value, that when we have small pairs or suited connectors, for example, we don’t catch the chasing bug by paying too much to see the flop. Position is yet again a major factor when looking to exploit the potential of speculative hands as cheaply as possible.

Good luck at the tables!

 

 

 

 

Angus Dunnington, 32Red Poker Ambassador

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

The Transparency of the Minimum Raise…

February 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

No Limit Hold’em is so-called for a reason – unlike Limit poker, where our betting choices are defined by the limit put on how much we can add to the pot at each betting juncture, NL affords us literally unlimited flexibility.

However, when presented with such an abundance of choice we are also given the opportunity to make mistakes, and the minimum raise is one such fundamental part of the NL game that in some respects – for the vast majority of players – is best avoided altogether.

Let’s see why… Read more

New 32Red Poker Achievements

December 17, 2013 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Our Achievements system, which is designed to help players have fun while they learn and develop their game and, ultimately, receive virtual badges as a reward, is getting bigger and better.

There are three new Achievements to aim for, each with a nice twist. The first, entitled Royal Treatment, is described thusly: ‘One must have one’s butler deliver poker’s highest possible hand to earn this badge!’ Clearly the ‘Royal Bank’ task for this quest for the badge means making a royal flush (in any game), and it is understandably classed as ‘hard’ in terms of difficulty. The ‘Royal Flogging’ badge (have you spotted the theme?) involves losing at showdown to a royal flush and is also a toughie…

                     

But even more difficult, and thus a bigger feather for your proverbial poker cap, is the ‘Lady Fingers’ badge, for which you must lose with a full house against someone’s straight flush.

The beauty of the Achievements system is that there is something for everyone, with some of the tasks (and their various components) being easier than others. There’s no time limit within which badges must be won – you simply learn and earn at your own pace. Another advantage of Achievements is that the incentive for badges means exploring aspects of both the game itself and what 32Red Poker has to offer.

Note that Play Money poker fans can also take part in Achievements.

Good luck at the tables, and earn those badges!

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

32Red Poker Achievements

November 20, 2013 by  
Filed under Featured, News, Poker School

Achievement is a word we tend to use rather rarely these days – usually because we don’t achieve as much as we would like. But that’s going to change now thanks to 32Red Poker Achievements. This is a system aimed at helping players have fun, learn and develop their game as they play and, with each milestone reached, enjoy a sense of achievement during their poker quest.

Everything and anything about poker is covered in Achievements, a set of varied tasks (each broken down into points, or ‘Pips’) being carried out to earn badges. The more you learn and experience, the more badges you are awarded as your Achievements list broadens. These are also badges of honour in that you can display a badge at the poker table when you play.

There’s also an added bonus for poker fans whose significant others might view their passion for the game with less than average enthusiasm – now you can say that your time devoted to poker has goals and meaning, that your efforts will be rewarded with ‘official’ acknowledgement!

Master Achievements and earn badges

Master Achievements and earn badges

As far as learning and experience are concerned, Achievements offers up tasks that mean you’ll find out all sorts of new stuff, both about the game itself and the snazzy features and facilities at 32Red Poker that you might otherwise not have discovered or appreciated.

With tasks and their components ranging from easy to achieve to the more taxing requirements, there’s something for everyone and – to emphasise the ‘each at their own pace set-up’ of the system – you simply tick off points and receive badges here and there as you go along.

From trying out different poker variants to winning a pot with each of the 169 Hold’em starting hand combinations, there’s a smorgasbord of poker to get your hands on and notch up achievements.

The one-for-all, everyman badges system is also available to those Play Money enthusiasts who have not yet ventured into real money games.

Good luck at the tables, and earn those badges!

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