Poker & Chess

July 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Some of you will already know that as well as poker I used to play chess full-time, earning the title of International Master. Recently, after an absence from the international chess tournament circuit of 12 years(!), I made a comeback of sorts. Having lived in the Scottish countryside for the best part of a decade I was invited to play in the Scottish Open Championships in what turned out to be the strongest field ever assembled in Scotland!

Not surprisingly, being incredibly rusty I found the going rather difficult. Add to this that even for the young globetrotting chess professionals of today the amount of work to which they must constantly devote their time (much more than is the case in poker) is immense, and it’s fair to say I arrived at the board for the opening round woefully unprepared.

The chess-poker crossover is such that much can be learned from each game in terms of strategy, preparation and psychology that can be put to good use in the other discipline. This is a subject I have written about occasionally, usually from a chess perspective of how poker thinking can be incorporated in over-the-board match play. This was indeed the case during the exhausting nine days of hard-fought chess – for example with the Black pieces (a slight disadvantage, like playing against the serve in tennis) against a lower-ranked player it can be difficult to generate winning chances without considerable risk, so I deliberately spent more time than necessary before confidently playing an overly aggressive move in order to ‘convince’ my opponent he’d be better off responding conservatively (and thus letting me get away with something I wasn’t justified in trying) rather than daring to ‘refute’ my challenge with all-out tactics. I was bluffing, in other words. In fact, after monitoring a few tournaments recently I noticed that this kind of bluff element is far more common than it used to be.

There are also chess ideas that can be used in poker. Perhaps the most fundamental is putting time aside to prepare ourselves for all sorts of typical situations, analysing possible strategies and approaches (such as dealing with out of position raises when we opened the betting pre-flop and bet the flop after hitting, for example, or making a conscious effort to semi-bluff more) and generally building a ‘repertoire’ of specific plays and tactics that we can rely on as certain scenarios present themselves during a session or a tournament – rather than trying to work it all out as a hand unfolds.

We can also try to anticipate more how a hand will pan out. Chess players need to get used not only to analysing concrete variations constantly during a game but also evaluating potential situations well in advance, getting a feel of what their options might be, how the opposition might act and so on.

The same goes for poker, as too many players think no further than their current action and fail to have a plan for future streets, completely ignoring what their opponents might have in mind as the play increases in complexity. Taking this further, it’s important also to learn to anticipate others’ play in future hands so that we can steer the game down a path that suits us (a key chess strategy).

We often hear sports commentators point out that tennis, golf, cricket, boxing and so on can be like chess or poker, usually when something particularly ‘clever’ has happened. But poker and chess are genuinely very closely related and, if we have an appreciation of both, it can give us an edge.

Good luck at the tables!

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

Wise Guys Results (21st – 27th Nov)

November 28, 2011 by  
Filed under News

WISE GUYS, Exclusive to 32Red Poker

WISE GUYS, Exclusive to 32Red Poker

Win at the 32Red Poker cash tables and you may qualify for even more cash rewards with our Wise Guys weekly leaderboards. Yes, we reward our biggest winners at 32Red Poker and we reward them well, with over $1,000 in prizes every week!

Congratulations to last week’s prize winners…

32Red’s Wise Guys

Look out for 32Red's Wise Guys ... they're looking out for you!

Look out for 32Red's Wise Guys ... they're looking out for you!

32Red Poker rewards loyalty, and winners – so if you’re a winning player, don’t be shy and try out our Wise Guysweekly competition. Have fun at the tables and good luck this week!

Why We Lose at Poker (2)

November 25, 2011 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Here are more reasons why we lose at poker. As I always say, these are all rather obvious yet we seem to break our own rules and guidelines rather easily. Let’s try to make a new start by being as sensible as possible at the tables…

Position

Position, position, position. Position. This is certainly one of the aspects of the game we know about but with which we take terrible liberties.

Good position, clearly, means late position. As one of the last players to act after the flop we see how the opposition plays first and can use this vital information accordingly when it’s our turn; ideally we want to be the dealer/button so that we are last of all to act.

It follows that the better position we have the better reads we get and, in turn, the more flexibility in terms of starting hands. Being armed with the information afforded us by having position allows us to play more hands, with more aggression, than when in early position.

DO NOT carelessly play based only on the cards, with no consideration for position. Position is everything.

Too Loose, You Lose

Yet another poker sin we all knowingly commit. Premium starting hands are thus called for a reason – they are the ones we should limit ourselves to playing, rather than finding something magical in hands like K4 suited or T7. Getting into the habit of automatically limping in with poor hands and then having to let go when the poor pre-flop hand is still awful post-flop (or – worse – stubbornly refusing to give up) will cost a lot of money in the long-run.

Limiting yourself to playing a range along the lines of, for example, pocket pairs (how small should depend on the situation), AK, AQ, AJ/T suited, KQ in late position and suited connectors, while folding everything else pre-flop, should keep you sufficiently entertained as well as considerably reduce unnecessary cumulative losses.

Odds

Poker might be gambling, but at least we are able to make decisions armed with true numbers in the form of odds. This knowledge, and using it optimally, is imperative to success in poker. If you haven’t yet acquainted yourself with both card odds and pot odds (weighing up the odds of making a hand with the potential reward) you are not doing yourself justice and are undoubtedly wasting money! Fortunately, 32Red Poker is at hand – visit Pot Odds + Card Odds = Winners to improve your game.

Bluffing

While bluffing seems so exciting on television, this poker art has the nasty habit of backfiring. Note also that with the arrival of Anonymous tables we will see quite a bit more bluffing, so be careful not to get carried away. One good reason to think twice before bluffing at the lower levels is that your opponents probably won’t appreciate odds enough to know when they are ‘beaten’ and will therefore not back down. Folding isn’t fun, so they prefer to stay in with a chance of winning even with mediocre hands. Bluffing in good position is obviously better than in early position because there is much more information with which to make decisions.

Remember not to bluff too much as this will be exploited by observant players.

Money Management

Simply play within the limits of your bankroll if you want to avoid disaster. Never sit down with more than 5% of your bankroll, for instance (or be even more prudent if you prefer). Start at low levels or tournament buy-ins while building up experience, otherwise by the time you’re really beginning to appreciate more about various aspects of the game you won’t be able to put your knowledge into practice!

Patience and prudence.
Good luck!

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


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Making a stand against bluffers

November 24, 2011 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, Featured, News, Poker School

We are all prone, unfortunately, to providing others with ways of taking our money. Obviously we should be working hard to constantly evaluate our play and determine to keep leaks and mistakes to a minimum.

But some players are rude enough to steal our money through bluffing us out of a pot. Is this not our fault because we are being prudent in folding, or another weakness in our play in that we don’t do enough to combat steals?

The good news is that we are able to trap these players, and another weapon in our armoury is putting up enough of a fight to prevent them from messing with our game so that they pick on someone else or even move on for pastures new. It’s a nice feeling to catch out a bluffer and some players actively seek them out but, in the main, they are a nuisance, and we can concentrate our efforts in exploiting other kinds of players so fighting our corner is a good strategy.

It’s not too difficult to identify bluffers, who probably prefer to call themselves ‘loose aggressive’ players. They are the ones who can’t resist peppering the pot with bets they hope are big enough to scare everyone off. This can work out well for us sometimes, but can be more than an inconvenience, for example when we have a marginal holding or when their throwing money around interferes with how we were planning to approach a hand.

The problem most players have when wondering how to address bluffers is that taking a stand requires a certain leap of faith. But the longer we dither and fail to act the longer our own strategies are disrupted – indeed if we can’t properly respond we’re better off leaving and finding a table where we can operate, but this, of course, isn’t the right attitude.

One advantage of having a table image tight enough to attract bluffers is that when we do elect to hit back at them they are more likely to believe us. At some point we should allow them to bluff and, preferably with a hand that has some kind of positive relation to the board (numerous outs, for example), raise big enough to turn the tables and force them out of the pot. Note that there’s no point doing this for the prize of a small pot.

Once might be enough, but generally a bluffer will soon get the message and, fingers duly burnt, leave us alone. The point of their game is to steal pots, and when we have established that we are not to be messed with they won’t take the risk any more. This also enables us to better read them when, after backing off, they do get involved.

The desired result is that by demonstrating the steel to fight our corner we get to play the type of game we want while disrupting someone else in the process. Getting our own way and frustrating others is a key part of the game.

Good luck at the tables!

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


No Limit: Can we play a full ring table in short-handed mode?

November 23, 2011 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

The answer should really be no, but that isn’t to say we should discount the possibility altogether. In the ‘old’ days, when online poker more mirrored the traditional casino version, full tables were not only considered a good starting point for beginners – as is still the case – but also a more popular choice for experienced players than we see today.

As the game became more tactical and aggressive the 6-max tables saw a considerable gain in popularity, the modern style of getting involved more in the action being the appropriate way of addressing the more frequent blinds.

So-called tighter players prefer to stick to full ring games, which have the additional attraction of being cheaper due to the cost per hand thanks to the ‘longer’ orbit – this might seem insignificant but over many hands makes a big difference. ‘Fewer’ blinds also means that not needing a compensatory loose approach tends to produce less variance and this, in turn, allows us to feel a little more relaxed than might be the case at a 6-max table.

Because there are far more short-handed tables nowadays (as well as heads-up tables, where tight in its literal poker sense simply won’t work), and because short-handed poker is viewed as the more fashionable and exciting game, people tend to discount full ring as an option despite the fact that it might well suit them better. But even if we ultimately end up choosing 6-max there’s something to be said for trying out bigger tables in order to better appreciate such aspects of the game as hand selection and patience. Full ring play also places more emphasis on stronger hands and implied odds.

Furthermore, once we have spent some time on both kinds of table we can return to full ring and exploit the players who are clearly the archetypal tight, conservative, no-risk full ring regulars as well as those who demonstrate little or no experience and are just too loose. It is indeed possible to apply short-handed bullying tactics and (re)steals and so on at a full table, rather than feeling that by definition we must revert to a style of ABC poker that runs the risk of being one-paced.

Poker has evolved enough over the years to afford us some flexibility.

Good luck at the tables!

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


Wise Guys Results (14th – 20th Nov)

November 21, 2011 by  
Filed under News

WISE GUYS, Exclusive to 32Red Poker

WISE GUYS, Exclusive to 32Red Poker

Win at the 32Red Poker cash tables and you may qualify for even more cash rewards with our Wise Guys weekly leaderboards. Yes, we reward our biggest winners at 32Red Poker and we reward them well, with over $1,000 in prizes every week!

Congratulations to last week’s prize winners…

32Red’s Wise Guys

Can you beat a Wise Guy?

Can you beat a Wise Guy?

32Red Poker rewards loyalty, and winners – so if you’re a winning player, don’t be shy and try out our Wise Guysweekly competition. Have fun at the tables and good luck this week!


A common mistake on the river

November 18, 2011 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

One of the problems with poker is that, when we try to adhere to this or that guideline and introduce into our armoury more ways of playing, if we fail to read situations properly our action instead becomes a mistake rather than a money earner.

One such common error is throwing in a raise on the river because we convinced ourselves we were way ahead, or making unnecessary would-be ‘value’ bets, calling big bets/raises and generally being unable to acknowledge that we are beaten.

For example if we raised in position pre-flop with a hand like AsKs and get a lone caller we run the risk of overestimating our chances on a ragged board that features an ace. Let’s say the flop comes Ac 4s 9d, our opponent checks and we make a ¾ pot bet that is called. The turn brings the 2d, we are checked to again and we bet roughly ¾ pot, with another call. The 4c appears on the river but this time, instead of checking, the opponent bets around 1/7th of the pot. Given the way the hand has panned out thus far we figure that a possible holding could be an ace with a weaker kicker so we see this as an opportunity to extract some additional value, raising to triple the bet… After a slight pause we see a call followed by the chips heading away from us because all this time we have been up against 4d 6d. Thus the result of our attempting to earn a little extra did succeed in making a bigger pot, albeit one that we didn’t get to collect – we made our opponent some cash!

This is easily done, especially in view of how we assumed the initiative right from the beginning. A very similar mistake is when the hand follows the same path and we bet the river when checked to and call a raise with what turns out to be the worst hand.

It is an imperative to continually reassess during a hand so that we can make more realistic evaluations, ideally picking up warning signs along the way that help facilitate the decision making process. In this case our opponent check-calling considerable bets should serve as a wake-up call and alert us to the fact that we may well be holding second best despite our strong looking hand. When the board pairs, incidentally, the alarm bells should be at their loudest. At least then we can avoid falling into traps. It makes more sense to just call these bets and check out rather than expose ourselves to bad situations – remember that raising/betting with a pair on the river tends only to be called by a better hand.

Generally, a dangerous looking board and an opponent who wakes up (or checks after check-calling big bets) need treating with respect.

Good luck at the tables!

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


Satellite and Sit & Go Strategy Revisited

November 16, 2011 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Having seen some pretty drastic approaches in both sit & go and satellites recently I thought we should have a few reminders about how we might try to weave our way through the one-table jungle…

First, the desperate all-or-nothing factor inspires some players to go into do or die mode at the earliest opportunity, jumping into pots with big bets to pick up not very much in blinds, tempting fate at a full table of unknown hole cards in the process. This works every now and then but is certainly not the best way to skin this particular rabbit. Assuming such aggression earns a couple of hundred chips to add to an original stack of 2000, for instance, then what is this gain worth in practical terms when we take the potential risk into account? The answer is very little when a full table of players remains. There is simply no point getting too busy when the blinds are at their lowest. Note that it is perfectly acceptable to try the occasional value (speculative) mini-gamble early as the rewards can be considerable and the investment is so low that the hand is easy to get away from when nothing hits. This is quite different from over-betting with a view to netting meagre rewards (and in a way that involves being effectively pot-committed). Remember that we have to (typically) steal seven or eight lots of blinds at level one to earn the same amount as one steal at a higher level.

Of course there is nothing wrong with some kind of tempered aggression that might succeed in both picking up a few blinds and establishing a not-to-be-messed with table image that can be exploited later, and some experienced players manage (more than their fair share of the time) to gradually bully their way to first with apparent ease. But all the time this kind of player accumulates chips and works through the gears while making sure he doesn’t put too much of his stack in jeopardy.

It follows, then, that survival is a major consideration even in these circumstances, and the target should be to remain in the running so that, when the field has been narrowed down to, say, three or four, we are in with a shout and ready to step up a gear or three. By now it is likely that someone – for one reason or another – has become a runaway chip leader, but as long as we have enough chips with which to get involved, the all-important top place(s) will still be up for grabs.

Additionally, as the game progresses we should be able to get some kind of read about the remaining players – does anyone seem unable to adapt to the changing situation, for example; is the chip leader afraid to risk his position or is he more interested in seeing other players get eliminated? We should start to throw chips around at this stage as the blinds are too big to either ignore or to fail to defend, while we should also remember that the short(er) stacks are more likely to be taking chances to double up with virtually any two hole cards, so gunning for their chips with a decent holding is a fair option.

If we manage to get heads-up, then being second of two with 20% of the chips on the table is a far better prospect than being second of five with 25%. We’ve got to be (still) in it to win it, remember, and even from a 20%-80% chip distribution it takes only two all-in wins for a role-reversal.

Satellites can be the route to potentially big rewards or a means of saving money in buy-ins for bigger tournaments, so it is worth having a good think about them and approaching them sensibly, with a good mix of safety and increasing aggression – not forgetting putting ourselves in the opposition’s shoes as we approach the business end…

Good luck at the tables!

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


Backraising (but don’t overdo it!)

November 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Angus Dunnington, News, Poker School

Backraising is when we call a pre-flop raise with the intention of responding to another raise by re-raising. This particular play – very similar to the check-raise in that we deliberately hold our fire until our (re-)raise can bring with it more impact – is seen increasingly often nowadays, and we come across it more as we gain experience and spend more time at the tables with more seasoned, tricky players.

We can use different tools for different purposes, but typically the backraise is deployed as a weapon against players who like to 3-bet liberally and squeeze play practitioners. The reasoning is that these players will have wider than usual ranges within which they use these tactics, so if we hold something like JJ, for example, we can expect to be ahead of their range and would therefore like to exploit this advantage as much as we can. The mechanics of the hand will be as follows: we call a standard pre-flop raise in the cut-off with JJ in the knowledge that our neighbour on the button has been busy applying the pressure with 3-bets and squeezes. The button obliges, the initial raiser (out of position to two potential opponents) elects to stand aside and we throw more fuel on the fire with a sizeable reraise. The desired result will be either that we are heads-up with what will usually be the stronger hand, or the 3-bettor will also fold. Note that this latter scenario nets us a bigger prize for our efforts than had we simply reraised initially, which would give the button (and the raiser) reasons to fold. Furthermore, by backraising we present the button with the opportunity to incorrectly continue the raising war by shoving with a lesser pair.

Additionally, should nobody take the bait so that we end up seeing the flop heads-up against the initial raiser, then the positive for us here is being in position for the rest of the action with a reasonably well disguised good hand.

Obviously this specific play can’t be rolled out too much because we don’t want our opponents to pick up on our habit and severely punish us, and it’s something that also needs a decent ability to read table dynamics and players’ tendencies if we are to execute it effectively. But with some practice – a ‘free’ way to learn is by watching strong players, as this tactic will crop up sooner or later – we can use the backraise to get players out of their comfort zone, induce them to invest more in hands that are weaker than ours, enhance our table image (in that using this strategy a little is better than too much or not at all) and generally keep everyone on their toes.

Good luck at the tables!

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


$500 Freeroll, for facebook fans..

November 10, 2011 by  
Filed under Freerolls, News

$500 Freeroll

Join us on Sunday 13th November at 8pm (UK time) for a Club32 exclusive $500 Freeroll!

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