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!

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

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