Building a Bankroll

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Building a bankroll is essential if you want to become a winning poker player. It goes without saying that you need to win more than you lose if you want to build your bankroll but there are other important steps to take, and winning alone is not enough.

Bankroll Management

The first and most important step to take is to set aside some money to be your starting poker bankroll. Use money that you can afford to lose and to live without. This way you will not have to take money out of your poker bankroll to pay bills and you will also be able to put your winnings back in to the bankroll allowing it to grow.

Set some guidelines on how you will be managing your bankroll. You don’t need to make up a whole lot of rules and in fact it is probably better if you only start out with a few. The most important rule to start out with is:

  • Do not buy in to a game with more than 5 % of your total bankroll balance. This rule is absolutely critical and without it you are destined to fail. This rule will protect you from something called ‘Variance’. Variance is the name for the extended good and bad periods that every poker player experiences until the true percentages have a chance to balance out. For example if you flip a coin there are only two possible outcomes, heads and tails. This would mean that half of the time it will come up heads and half of the time tails. If you try this out with 10 flips of the coin you may find that heads came up 7 times or 70 %. Over a longer period of time the results of the coin flip will even out to 50 %. If you buy in to a game using a bigger percentage of your current bankroll and run in to a negative variance you will risk losing your entire bankroll before the percentages have had a chance to even out.

Take Advantage of First Deposit Bonuses and VIP Rewards Programs

All online poker sites have a first deposit bonus where you get a certain amount of bonus money usually based upon your first deposit amount. These bonuses get converted in to cash based upon the poker points that you earn from playing cash games and tournaments. Once you have cleared your bonus or the remaining amount of the bonus has expired then you will want to continue playing at the site if there is some form of VIP rewards program or else move on to another site where you get another first deposit bonus again.

The reason that getting a first deposit bonus and a good VIP program is so important is because at the end of the month you will find that you have built your bankroll up even if you did not win any money during the month of play. Basically with the bonus and the VIP rewards you will be building your bankroll even if you only broke even during your month of play.

Poker Bankroll Tips | Online Poker Bankroll

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Poker Buy-in and Bankroll Tips

Before a new player decides what limits they’re going to play when they sit down at the poker table, they must first set aside money for their poker bankroll. This money should be used strictly for poker, and not for other everyday expenses. If one is constantly dipping into ones bankroll for common everyday expenses, then one day there may not be enough money to play in the juicy game that evening. A second rule regarding a poker bankroll is that it should only consist of money that would in a worst-case scenario be acceptable to lose. If one is gambling with ‘important’ money, like say ‘rent’ money, then they may find themselves playing scared and not making the proper decisions at the table.

For limit poker, there should generally be around 200 big bets in one’s bankroll. For example if a player decides that 5/10 is going to be their game for the next little while, they would want to have about $2000 set aside. For an individual session, one should normally start off with 20 big bets, with another 10 big bets in reserve (this is more relevant for live games where one is bringing a limited amount of money with them, as opposed to online where the entire bankroll is readily available).

For No Limit poker, there should be around 15 times the max buy-in in the bankroll for that particular game of choice. So if one is going to be playing mostly $100 max buy-in No Limit Hold’em games, they would want to have about $1500 in their bankroll. When a player sits down for a session of No Limit poker, there is a hard and fast rule regarding how much should buy in for. Always, always buy in for the maximum amount that is allowed. If one were to buy in for less, their stack would not be scary to other players and they’d find themselves being pushed around. As they say in the movie Rounders; ‘The size of your stack is almost as important as your cards in your hand’. Players may be leery of getting involved with someone the one that is able to put them all in, and not the other way around.

If one follows these rules regarding bankroll levels and buy-ins, they will find that they will usually be at an acceptable comfort level for the games and limits of their choice. There should also have enough money to take an occasional stab at a higher game if there is a particularly soft one to play in. One will also be protected from a string of bad luck which all poker players will have to go through at some point or another. If a player finds that their bankroll is dwindling away to about 50% of what they started with, then maybe it would be advisable to go down a limit or two and back up to a healthy amount. Remember, playing with a short bankroll is a sure way to go broke.

The great thing about the current poker boom is that there will be online poker games for players of all levels, whether one has $100 in their bankroll, or much more.

Avoiding Tilt while Playing Poker

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Avoiding Tilt

‘Tilt’ is another poker term that refers to a player who is now playing at a much lower level than he was previously, or is capable of. A player who is now on tilt usually just suffered an unusually bad beat, and is no longer treating his chips with the same cool calm-head that he was using before. A player on tilt will often be betting and raising with hands that don’t justify it, in a misguided effort to make up for whatever it was that set him on tilt. Going on tilt can happen to any player, anytime. It can be quite hard to stay level-headed after losing with the top set, against a drunken opponent who went perfect-perfect for a gutshot straight.

The best way to avoid going on tilt is to knowing all the different things that can set people off. One must be aware of the different things that can make them upset, and try to consciously not let them bother them. All great poker players are able to keep their emotions in check. While all luck balances out in the long run, it is important not to let the short term luck inherent in poker become an overwhelming problem.

On the topic of emotions, remember that in all walks of life, emotion clouds judgment. Whenever someone goes through a large emotional swing, whether good or bad, it can often be a good idea to take a step back from the table, and let what happened sink in. It’s common for players to overplay a hand soon after a large win, or loss. These players are letting their emotions interfere with their judgment, which is something you should never do.

Sometimes going on tilt won’t immediately happen due to one cataclysmic event. Often times it slowly creeps upon a player after a series of small bad beats. These situations are often more dangerous, because players can slowly over time go on tilt and not even realize what’s happening to them. Signs of this type of tilt will often be when one starts to play too many hands out of position, or people start calling in too many situations where it’s obvious they are beat.

The key way of beating tilt is to be aware of it. Keeping oneself off of tilt can save tons of money in the long run.

Poker Odds Calculators

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In order to understand odds calculators you must understand the game of Texas Hold’em Poker. By its very nature poker is a game of chance / luck and skill. This means that you can employ the best poker strategy in the world but an inferior poker player can still win the hand if luck is on their side. That doesn’t mean that skill doesn’t matter but it does mean that you cannot beat luck or variance. The fact of the matter is that you want to get your chips in the middle with the best hand and hope that your hand holds up. That is the best that any competent poker player can do.

Having established the fact we still need to know that over the long term luck cannot overtake a skilled poker player. So we can all take solace in that fact as we are all striving to be as skilled a poker player as possible. In order to play the game and optimize your opportunities to win you need to understand the math of the game. That means you are going to need to know the percentages of your hand winning or losing the pot. That means you will need to understand where your outs are and how many of them are available. You will need to know the potential of hitting those outs as well. Lastly, you will also need to understand what the implied odds are should you hit your out(s).

Poker Odds calculators are just as the title suggests. Odds calculators enable the player using them to determine just how strong or weak their hand is and what are the odds of that hand winning the pot. Most of these applications are pulling information from a back-end database and making it available to you through their template that fits neatly over your avatar. This allows the software to present that information to poker players in real-time and ultimately enables that player to make best decision based on the current circumstances at the time.

In the end the poker odds calculator acts as a bit of an advisor in that it tells you when you have the best opportunities to win when the odds are in your favor. However, we should not confuse favorite with always. Too many poker players think that just because they are a huge favorite that they should never lose a pot. That is not true and if you are looking for an “always” type of situation then poker may not be the game for you.

Many of these poker odds calculators are software applications and applets that can be found all over the Internet. You can also purchase some of the high end products if you believe they are a good fit for your scenario. Odds calculators can be used in both poker tournaments as well as cash games. One of the caveats from using poker odds calculators is that they are banned in many of the popular online poker rooms. Many of the rooms have published lists of products that they consider as giving an unfair advantage to poker players. The reasoning for this is because when you have players entire poker history at the touch of a button and your opponent has none on how you have fared over the years you clearly have an advantage.

Poker Odds Calculators do not guarantee that you are going to be a successful online poker player. What will determine how well you play online or otherwise is how much effort you put into learning the game. If you can devote yourself to understanding as much strategy as possible as well as looking at the game of poker from various perspectives you are well on your way to becoming a skilled player, poker odds calculator or not.
Curtis Mayfield III

Six handed limit hold’em tips

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Loose aggressive players can be difficult to combat in any form of poker and these types of players present some very difficult obstacles for novice and even intermediate players to combat. If you are using PokerTracker then you will find these players with very high VPIP’s and PFR percentages relative to the game and the number of players. Let us look at how a LAG may play a certain hand over a solid regular. It has been folded around to the solid regular who opens with K-J and he gets three bet by the LAG who has 10-9s.

The flop comes 5-5-2 and the original raiser tries to wrestle the initiative by donk betting the flop. But the LAG places maximum pressure on his opponent by raising in situations where most other players would fold. This is high variance play and does not suit many people but if there is one thing that true LAG’s are not afraid of and it is greater swings. But if you do encounter these types of players then they can present you with some very formidable problems.

There are numerous types of LAG’s and a LAG could be highly skilled or someone who is a temporary LAG and simply blowing some money off. If someone who is playing $1-$2 limit with $50 and is looking to blow their money off then they may do so and take you with them. If you are multi-tabling then you really need to be careful with LAG’s because they have a tendency to affect your mental equilibrium and when that happens on several tables at once then you may have something of a problem.

At the end of the day then if you do not feel comfortable playing poker in a certain way then this is your subconscious mind telling you that you are either out of your depth or you do not have the experience level of several of your opponents. Far too many players stay in games when they are either being run over or outplayed. This could be because of variance or because you are simply out gunned by your opponent or opponents. The lesson here is clear in that you should never be afraid to leave a game if you do not feel comfortable.

Most players only have accounts at one site and many stay in bad games simply because there are no other games running. However if you have accounts at numerous sites or different networks then you have options to go and play in other games. If you feel uncomfortable in any game of poker then you have that feeling for a reason. If your game feels wrong then get out and do so quickly. Do not think that you should be fighting “fire with fire” or anything like that if doing so drags you away from the style of poker that you want to play.

Betting Basics for Fixed Limit Texas Holdem

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Fixed limit games are the more basic of the two betting structures, and they always follow the same strict betting procedure. The player can only bet in specific increments, no matter what the situation is. For example, in a $2/$4 Texas Hold’em game, one can only bet and raise in the specified increments. During the first two rounds of betting one must bet or raise $2. During the final two betting rounds the limit doubles, the player must bet $4.

Whether one is playing online, or in a casino, there will be a little white dealer ‘button’ being passed clockwise around the table. Whichever player has this button in front of him, will be the last player to act on every betting round. Acting last is a huge advantage in most poker games. It is especially valuable in Texas Hold’em. When a player gets to see what other players have done before they are required to act, it lets them make more knowledgeable decisions. Since the button is passed around clockwise, each player receives the privilege to act last once each round.

At the beginning of each hand, the two players to the left of the button are required to put forced bets into the pot known as the small and big blind. The player to the left of the button puts in half of a small bet, whereas the player two to the left on the button matches the small bet at whatever particular limit is being played. Limit games almost always follow the exact same blind structure, regardless of what the betting limits are. For example, and a $20/$40 game, the small blind will be $10, and the big blind will be $20. In no limit, the blinds are decided upon ahead of time, and usually are related to the maximum or minimum buy-in allowed at that table. These blinds ensure that there will be action in every pot, since there is always money out there, waiting to be taken.

Once the blinds are placed and the cards are dealt, the player starting to the left of the big blind has the opportunity to call, raise or fold. The action then continues to the next player to the left, and so on. Once it gets all the way around to the small blind, the small blind can complete the bet or fold (remember, they only put in half of a small bet before the cards were dealt). Folding would forfeit his small blind. The big blind then has one last chance to raise before the flop is dealt. Once the flop is dealt, betting continues clockwise as before, but this time the small blind is the first to act. The turn and river are treated in the same way as the flop. Once the hand ends, the dealer button is moved to the left and the small and big blinds are placed before the next round is dealt (this will all be done automatically for you online of course).

All these rules may seem complicated now, but remember, most poker games follow the exact same procedure from hand to hand, so once the basics are down, it all becomes second nature.

The Early Stages of Single Table Poker Tournaments

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Single table poker tournament or SNG’s as they have become more commonly known are fast becoming the most popular form of poker online. Much of the popularity of these poker tournaments stems from numerous factors. Firstly the entire event starts and finishes in a very short space of time, usually the entire tournament is over in around 45 minutes.

This means that they are not terribly restrictive when it comes to time for most players. One could easily play an SNG in one’s lunch hour or if they have a spare 30 to 45 minutes to kill. But yet it is surprising how few people at the lower stake levels actually play the game well enough to be able to make money. Although this situation is rapidly changing with the advancement of coaching sites and tutorial material on this subject.

There are numerous techniques and strategies for playing these events. But one of the things that you have to remember when playing single table poker tournaments is that they do tend to mimic cash games at the very beginning. By this I mean with regards to the blind to stack ratio. In cash games the usual number of big blinds tends to be between 50 and 100 with most of the stronger players buying in for the maximum.

So what this essentially means is that during the first level of play in an SNG then cash game strategy tends to prevail. By cash game strategy I mean a tight and not too aggressive approach rather than a loose aggressive one. Let us say for instance that your tournament had either nine or ten players. This is the same number as what you would face in a full ring game. So for the first level of an SNG then a full ring game strategy is a very good way to play.

But also there are contrary opinions to this and that the proper strategy in single table tournaments is now so well known that opening up and playing a more attacking style during the early levels is now being seen as a more viable strategy.

I don’t overly agree with this and especially in micro stakes and low stakes tournaments. I think even though the level of play is increasing slowly, it is still correct for novices not to become too aggressive too early in the tournament. So how should you play during the early stages?

Well if you remember that an SNG is basically a miniaturized version of a full-scale poker tournament then you will be better placed to understand an optimal way in which to play them.

But at the end of the day there are massive differences between full scale poker tournaments and single table tournaments. The main difference is of course with regards to the time factor. Strong tournament players who play large multi-table tournaments over numerous hours and even over several days often have playing styles that involve being aggressive from the beginning.

Their goal is to try to accumulate as much dead money as they possibly can before all of the novice players and weaker tournament players are eliminated. This method of play has tremendous validity but its function is dramatically reduced in single table tournaments because strong players do not have the same amount of time that that they do in full tournaments in which to outplay the weaker players.

Even today in what is a far more aggressive poker environment, the solid strategy of playing tight aggressive at the very beginning is still a strong way to play. This does not just apply to tournament poker but also to single table tournaments as well.

Preparing for the Poker Tournament

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In today’s Texas Holdem poker world, tournaments can be found in just about every country. You can play large tournaments or small buy-in tournaments just the same. The prize money has even increased as poker rooms chip in to raise the size of the prize pool to lure in new players. But how much do you really know about tournament poker? Are you really ready to play or just excited because it’s popular? Since Moneymaker won it all in 2003 the game has become wildly popular and it seems like everyone is playing some form of poker these days. Just because everyone is playing the game doesn’t mean they are all good players. That is where you can take advantage by being prepared to play the game.

Know the Structure

The first thing you need to do before you pull out a wad of your hard earned cash is know exactly what the structure is for the tournament you intend to play. This means everything to you because it will somewhat dictate your approach to the game and how much risk you need to take in order to be successful. Basically there are two types of tournaments. There are fast tournaments where the blinds increase rapidly and the time between levels is below thirty minutes and there are slow tournaments that are just the opposite. The blinds increase slowly and the levels are anywhere from 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Usually slower paced tournaments will attract a higher caliber of poker player and also cost more to buy into.

Be Honest about your Game

Being honest about how well you play the game of poker sounds relatively straight forward. But we all have seen the guy that talks the most being the first one to bust out of the tournament. You really need to ask yourself a few questions before you plunk down your buy in. Those questions should include:

  • What is the skill level of my competition?
  • Can I realistically compete in this format and structure?
  • Can I afford to buy into this tournament without hurting my bankroll?

If the answer to all three of those questions is yes then by all means pull up a seat and start building your stack. Too many players overestimate their ability to compete in tournaments. This is particularly true in slow structures where skill is much more of a factor. Many online players are used to playing fast paced sit n go’s and have been very successful. However, when you are sitting with $10,000 in chips and the blinds are $50/$50 with one hour levels you need to be capable of playing small pot poker. That is not the typical environment for most online players and some have difficulty playing in space.

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I cannot emphasize this point enough. In order to win a poker tournament, particularly a live tournament, you have got to be capable of profiling players and being very accurate in your assessment of their play. This may sound easy but you would be surprised at how many poker players do not put the time in studying their opponents the way they should. When you sit down at the table and are not involved in a hand there are plenty of things to do to keep the game entertaining and your mind occupied. Profiling is your primary activity. You need to be involved in every single hand from a mental aspect. Paying attention at show down, watching betting patters and listening to your opponents banter are just a few of these activities.

If you are going to buy into a tournament and really make it worth your while it only makes sense to be prepared when the times comes for the cards to hit the felt. You will be glad you did.

Stealing the blinds in No-Limit Hold’em Poker

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Most players these days are aware of stealing the blinds in no-limit Texas Holdem play. But yet I do feel that there is an awful lot of misunderstanding with regards this part of the game. I think that some of the reason for this is based on general misunderstanding with regards to the form of poker being played. In fact I have seen many articles written that simply referred to hold’em without any mention of whether the game that was being played was limit, pot-limit or no-limit.

Stealing the blinds in limit poker is a very important part of the game simply because the blinds represent a very large percentage of the amount of money being risked. Let us say that the game is $2-$4 limit holdem and the blinds are $1-$2. A pre-flop raise would be to $4 and this $4 wins $3 if immediately successful. That $3 represents 75% of the amount that is being wagered. But in no-limit play then the situation is somewhat different and also in pot-limit too.

In this form of poker then making a double the big blind limit type raise would not get most players to fold and your bet could even get re-raised by many players. So most players when raising to steal the blinds tend to raise to either 3x the big blind or 3.5x the big blind which is a pot sized raise. So if the game were $1-$2 no-limit Texas Holdem then the stealer would be risking $6-$7 to win $3 which is only between 43-50% of the amount being wagered. This is vastly different to the 75% in limit hold’em.

Of course the obvious flip side to this is that your opponents need to risk more money to call or raise you but that is also offset by you risking more as well so it is a chicken and egg type situation. But the deciding factor is that as the most skilled player then you ideally want to be getting your opponents to put more money into action and raising achieves this objective.

Good no-limit players do not raise from position just to steal the blinds. They raise from position for a multitude of reasons of which stealing the blinds just happens to be one of them. Usually good players see it as being in their interests to escalate the stakes while being in position and they do this with great skill. Mediocre and poor players just “steal blinds” and then make blind continuation bets and try to blast the opponent away. This often works but it is very risky and also very expensive when it goes wrong.

It can also serve to tilt a player as well when they lose a big chunk of money through being overly aggressive. So simply raising from position to steal the blinds in no-limit Texas Holdem is not as appealing from an expressed odds sense and so other plays have merit if you have an edge over your opponents post flop. Limping is an often underrated play in no-limit but if you can out play your opponents post flop then it certainly has merit.

Satellite Poker Tournaments

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Satellite Poker Tournaments

Satellite poker tournaments have become increasingly more significant as the number of players have increased over the years. The reason for this is because many of the high priced poker tournaments now have online and live satellites in which to gain entry. Only a few years ago there were merely a couple of hundred players in the high stakes events. Now those numbers continue to grow due to the influx of online qualifiers via satellite.

Another reason why satellite poker tournaments are so popular is because they are inexpensive. Typically a satellite tournament will cost 10% of the buy-in for that particular poker tournament. This means that you are getting a tremendous bargain whether you are in a multi-table satellite or a single table satellite. Satellites also change your approach to the game as well. The idea of survival is even more apparent in these kinds of scenarios than most.

Lastly, satellite poker tournaments are a tremendous way to help you manage your bankroll. They also have the potential to have a huge impact on your bankroll should you go on to win the big tournament. Just ask Chris Moneymaker.

Now that we have explained the benefits to playing satellites I am going to go more in-depth in how you should approach them to maximize your edge.

Single Table Satellites

Single table satellites are just that, they are one table satellites with 9 or 10 players that usually pay 1 or 2 seats into the main event. This means that you are going to see some extremely aggressive play and you need to play these tournaments to win them. There is definitely an approach to playing and winning these kinds of satellites. The typical poker strategy you may use in a normal poker tournament does not apply here. Aggression is extremely important even to the point of taking a big flush draw with 7 players or less left to position yourself to finish in one of the top two spots. I do not encourage slow play in these tournaments for obvious reasons. You are not going to be the only one that is hungry for a shot at the big money.

Tighten up early and allow other players to bounce around and get knocked out unless you are picking up premium hands. The real satellite play doesn’t start until things get short-handed at 6 players. Then the more astute players get more aggressive and pick up the blinds and antes if there are any. This is extremely important at this stage because the structures are usually so fast it becomes an all-in fest because the levels are only 10 minutes or less. You also need to open up your hand selection when you are short handed as well. If you are not a very good short-handed poker player then I would stay away from single table satellites. Conversely, if you are comfortable playing a fast structure with 6 or less players then you will likely do well in single tables.

Multi-Table Satellites

Multi-table satellite poker tournaments are my favorite. Why? Because they usually pay out multiple seats into the main event and I can usually put myself in position to win one of those seats if the cards break even. Most of the larger online poker tournaments on various sites get the majority of their players by running these low cost high reward satellite poker tournaments.

The approach taken in these kinds of poker tournaments is a little different than in a single table format. First, you do not have to “win” the tournament and that takes a certain amount of pressure off. However, this does not mean that you can be lackadaisical in your approach. You still need to accumulate chips as the tournament progresses. Unless you have a monster stack with only 1 or 2 players left before winning your seat you are going to need to be smart.

My approach to these kinds of tournaments is a little different. Instead of laying back and waiting to open up as in single tables I prefer to play a lot of hands early in hopes of accumulating lots of chips. Once I do so and hit the break with a better than average stack I will usually slow down a bit unless my table is so passive that it would be detrimental to do so. I also try to stay away from players that can seriously hurt me unless I have the nuts. Again, the idea here is to get the seat and not necessarily to win the poker tournament.

Ultimately, you have to find the platform that fits your game best.

Curtis Mayfield III