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.

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.

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.

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.

Small Ball vs Long Ball Poker

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Have you ever noticed the difference between small ball and long ball poker players? Did you ever wonder how a player took a draw for their entire stack on the first hand of the poker tournament? If so, then you have witnessed a player that plays the long ball high risk style of poker. This is the kind of player that takes maximum risk at all times in hopes of building a monster chip stack early. A small ball player is the exact opposite and will meticulously win pot after pot while building their stack of chips one pot at a time until reaching the final table. Both styles of play are viable. It all comes down to what style works best for your poker game.

Small Ball

As I indicated earlier small ball is a style of play that encourages measured risk and slowly building your chip stack by out playing your opponents after the flop. Poker players like Dan Negreanu and Phil Hellmuth both love this style of play and it clearly has served them well. There really is no down side to playing small ball poker. Actually the more skilled poker players prefer small ball poker because it allows them to out play their opponents after the flop. Small ball allows you to make moves like check calling when your opponent is weak and then raising on the turn or river to take the pot away. Deep stacks poker tournaments tend to lend themselves to small ball poker tournaments. The fact of the matter is that the more starting chips you have in relation to the blinds the more you will need to be able to play in space and that means playing small ball poker. Typically slow structured poker tournaments lend themselves to this style of play. That means that the blinds are going to go up every 30 minutes at the very least and you will have plenty of chips to start relative to the blinds. These kinds of poker tournaments allow you to play many hands and generally the more skilled players will make their way to the final table.

Long Ball

Long ball poker is a high risk style of play that tends to lend itself to fast structured poker tournaments where the levels are less than 20 minutes and the chip stacks are less than 100x’s the big blind to start with. In order to compete successfully in any poker tournament you must accumulate chips. However, the structure will dictate how fast or slow you must play the tournament and accumulate chips. For some poker players these are ideal circumstances as they tend to be impatient and unable to balance between long and small ball poker. You simply cannot play one style of play all the time. One thing about long ball poker player that I have noticed is that they are extremely volatile. If they can get their hands on a lot of chips they can make things miserable for the entire table by raising and re-raising pots and putting a lot of pressure on people. Conversely they are easily trapped because they tend to over value hands like Ace King in spots that are easier to navigate with a flat call or re-raise to find out where they are at. They will also chase flush draws and outside straight draws for their entire stack if the situation warrants it and this can happen at any point in the poker tournament.

It really does not matter what style of play you choose. Anyone can be successful with any style of play in poker and poker strategy is not confined to one particular way of playing the game. Ultimately you have to find the style of play that fits your personality best and execute it with strong fundamentals and you will be well on your way to being a successful tournament poker player.

Curtis Mayfield III

Short stacking in no-limit hold’em

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Playing a short stack is something that has become more and more in vogue in no-limit Texas Hold’em in recent years. The expert short stack player usually buys in for 20% of the table maximum and then looks to shove all in either pre-flop or on the flop with a good hand. It is a good strategy to adopt if you are an inexperienced player as there are many advantages to it. Firstly you are only buying in for 20% of the maximum which would be $20 in a NL100 game.

This means that your deep staked opponents would not have the ability to outplay you down the streets. So you are essentially totally offsetting their skill advantage over you. Usually skilled short stack players are not big winners in the game although the ease of the strategy means that you can play an awful lot of tables this way and you can never make a huge mistake. Also it does not take any skill to play a short stack as you are basically sitting and waiting for strong hands and simply pushing them for the maximum that you have in your stack.

Let us look at how this works in practice. You have A-Qs and it has been folded around to the button that opens for $3.50 in a NL100 game. The small blind folds and you have $17 after going through the blinds twice. There is $5 in the pot and you shove all in for your remaining $17. If you win the pot then your stack rises to $22 which is more than the $20 that you started with. This gives you some more time to go looking for that double up that you are searching for.

But here is where short stacking can really pay off because you are often facing deep stacks. The opener may have a huge stack of say $150 and so calling the extra $12 is not going to faze him. There is $22 in the pot and it only costs him $12 to call and they will often call with dominated hands like A-J and A-10 etc. So you often get loose calls when players look you up. But here is the real kicker because you could be sitting on a table full of professionals and world class players and they could never outplay you.

Many people are very critical of players who short stack and it is certainly true that they are indeed a hindrance. But they do provide a tremendous amount of liquidity to the game as players are short stacking for one simple reason, because they want to. So by making these players buy in for more money or driving them from the game then you run the risk of driving these players away from poker for good. If I have short stackers to my left then I will be careful with regards to how much I raise as if they come over the top with a raise then I know that they have a tiny range of hands. Likewise if a short stacker limps in, if they are a skilled short stack player then I will automatically suspect a limp re-raise here.

The Art of Squeezing in Poker

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There are many different types of play in poker and they have all sorts of exotic names. We have the steal-raise, pick up, donk betting, the float play, whipsaw and the list goes on. But there is one particular play that I would like to talk about in this article and it is the squeeze play. This particular tactic can be executed in cash games as well as tournaments and it is designed to focus on the situation and not on your actual hand.

Let us look at an example from a Texas Hold em poker tournament to see a squeeze play in action. Player A raises to 600 with the blinds at 100-200! They have a stack of 24,000 in chips compared to your 22,000. You have been watching this player and they have been raising on a very high percentage of their hands so you know that they must be raising light, crucially they have also been backing down to aggression as well so you know that they are capable of folding a hand.

This player open raises from middle position and their raise gets called by the player in the cut-off seat who has a stack of 17,000. The action is now on you and you look down to see absolute junk with the Jc-8h on the button. Now this hand isn’t total junk of course as it does have some potential but against a raise and a call then folding is a solid play here.

But looking more closely at the situation reveals that you have another option open to you and that is to raise. Now before you think that I have taken leave of my senses here, a closer look at the situation will reveal a far different picture. We already know that the raiser is a loose aggressive player who is capable of folding so this now presents us with a rather interesting dynamic.

The original raiser has a stack of 23,400 remaining so they are not committed to the hand in any way shape of form. Also the caller has definitely implied weakness and also has a stack that will not commit him to the hand either as they have 16,400 remaining. A raise here basically takes advantage of the situation that has arisen.

We have a raiser who is likely not strong enough to call a re-raise and a caller who is almost certainly not strong enough. The remaining question mark is in what the blinds have. But amassing a big stack in tournament poker is all about playing the percentages and you cannot win tournaments without gambling. However if you can turn these gambles into calculated gambles then you can fare a lot better.

So you re-raise to 3000, both blinds fold and so do the original raiser and caller. You pick up a nice 1500 in chips and all because you spotted an opportunity to make a move. But look at another advantage to the play, your own stack before the hand started was 22,000 so even if you run into a big hand from the blinds or the original raiser then you still have a further 19,000 in chips in which to do battle with.

If your raise gets called then you can proceed accordingly as the chances that your opponent will have a real hand have now been magnified. But you now have the option to bet the flop or take a free card and see the turn.

This can allow you to win a big pot in several other ways as well as you will be connecting with a board that your opponent will not expect like with 10-9-7 or 8-8-2 for instance. So remember the “squeeze play” and add this to your arsenal of weapons for future use.

By: Carl “The Dean” Sampson

Limit Holdem versus No Limit Holdem

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It has been and probably will be one of the most discussed topics in the poker world for some time to come. Usually when we think about beginning poker players we tend to think about limit holdem. That doesn’t mean that limit requires any less skill, actually reading your opponents and having good feel for the game are even more important in limit, it just means that it requires a twist on how to execute those skills successfully along with a lot of playing experience. When I first began playing poker years ago I started out playing limit. The reasoning was simple. After reading all of the books I could get my hands on and playing on simulators I figured it was the safest way not to lose a whole lot of money off the top while being able to learn the game. I also noted that the buy-ins for no limit cash games were around $200 – $300 for the low stakes $2/$1 games. Clearly I was nowhere near ready to play in even the smallest no limit games at that time.

Limit gives you an opportunity to slow the game down due to the capped betting. It also allows you to learn how to play solid fundamental poker while not being under the pressure of losing your entire buy-in at the drop of a card. That in-and-of-itself provides many new poker players with a comfort level that is just not there for the novice Texas Holdem poker player. Limit in many ways can appear as if it is a drawing game and you will typically see many players in the pot whereas a No Limit game will usually see a pre-flop raise to push out players with mediocre hands. Also, limit is a game that always gives you odds to whatever draw you may have simply because there is so much money in the pot.

Strategically Limit Holdem is much more competitive at the higher stakes where skill level comes more into play. For instance: At a $2/$4 table with a full ring and 5 players in the pot there is almost no way that a player with the nut flush draw is going to fold when he is getting more than 5 to 1 on his draw. Now consider that a raise was made post flop. It would be a very poor choice not to put $4 dollars into the pot for a shot at $20 and possibly more by the River.

On the down side of the limit game is the fact that it is extremely difficult if not impossible to protect your premium hands. If you don’t flop or turn a set and someone is constantly raising with no flush or raise on the board in a 4 or 5 way pot it is probably time to muck that premium hand. This is where many players don’t seem to get it. You cannot hold on to bad hands all the way to the River in any form of poker and expect to make a profit over the long term. You have to be capable of folding as all good player do when they have confirmed they are beat.

As with time and a little talent you find that you will develop a feel for the game and instinctively you should know when you are beat. On the other hand you should also know when you are ahead and be capable of utilizing those same instincts to extract maximum value in the hands you are involved in.

No Limit Holdem is still the king of all forms of poker despite the current Omaha craze that is taking the world by storm. However, no limit also requires even more skill and intuition to play well and be profitable over the long run. Solid fundamental play is a given in a good no limit player. What seperates the no limit players is the moves that can be made and the betting. You can use your chips to your advantage to move players off of hands and out of pots. You cannot do that playing limit holdem. If you are in a poker tournament you always have the threat of the blinds and being busted out of the tournament hanging in the balance as you make your decisions from hand to hand. More than any other form of poker chips means power in no limit holdem. Other players try to avoid the big stacks when playing no limit tournaments. As far as the poker strategy goes you have access to an entire arsenal of moves just as the limit players do. The difference is that there is no limit on what you can put in the pot. You can put your opponent(s) to the test at any point in time in a hand before, during or after the flop.

I am not suggesting that either form of poker is better than the other. Yes, I do believe no limit is the king of poker due to its popularity but all forms are valid and require study, experience and a lot of practice. There are lessons to be learned in both limit and no limit. So don’t be scared to sit down at the poker table with a few friends and give it a shot. You might be surprised.

Curtis Mayfield III

Playing Pocket Pairs in Texas Holdem Poker

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Playing Pocket Pairs

After playing for years, the masters of Texas Hold’em, have perfected their skills at bluffing, strategy, slow-playing and reading other players. But the one thing it doesn’t take an expert to know is that the pocket cards in Hold’em hold all the power.

This is the time of the game where the most important decisions are made. Position, whether the game is loose or tight, the skill level of the other players, and the number of players who have already called and must be taken into account in deciding if one should play their hand or pass.

Because five of the seven cards dealt in Hold’em are community cards, the game is about the cards in the hole, not about chasing pairs. The reason? If one improves, their opponents usually will too. No matter how many years you’ve put in at the tables, if your opponents are consistently starting with better cards, they will often come out on top.

If you draw pocket pairs, where odds run 16-1, consider yourself lucky, and in good position to grab the pot. But it still takes knowing how to play them correctly, whether you’re sitting with a pair or deuces or a monster pair of aces.

High Pairs

High pairs consist of pocket Jacks or better. They should be played aggressively by raising preflop if no one has raised yet, or reraising if someone has. But remember that depending on how the community cards fall, a high pair hand can lose value quickly. If an overcard falls, tread carefully. If the flop has three of a suit or cards close enough in sequence, caution should also be exercised. Otherwise, bet it up if for nothing else than to gauge the strength of your opponents’ hands. But, always be cautious of playing a strong second best hand. As discussed, the big pair is a good hand, but it’s not a great hand.

Low Pairs
It is important to understand the value of small pocket pairs. These hands fall under the category of playing well with very few (heads-up) or several (6 or more) other players. When playing a small pair, the ultimate goal is to flop three-of-a-kind. Without a set on the flop, it is time to start thinking of an exit strategy. The idea is to think economy class when getting to the flop, make sure it is as cheaply as possible. The cost to see the flop with a small pair should be no more than a single blind bet. As with any hand, position makes a difference on how to play a low pair as well. Since they’re not strong raise material, early position hurts. Middle is OK in a loose game and, a raise from late position is good if no one else has entered the pot.

The most important advice when playing pocket pairs? “Never marry small pocket pairs.” This means one must be ready to fold if they do not make a set on the flop.

Texas Holdem preflop hand rankings

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Texas Hold’em Pre-Flop Ranking of Hands

Premium Hands
The very best of the best starting hands. It’s viable to raise or re-raise these hands in any position.
• AA
• KK
• AKs (the s refers to both cards of the hand being the same suit, which suit doesn’t matter for this discussion)
• QQ

• JJ

Good Hands
These hands are often worth a raise if you’re the first one to enter the pot. With some of them, it will often be right to just call or fold with them if someone raised in front of you.
• AK,
• AQs, AJs, ATs
• AQ, AJ
• KQs KJs, QJs, JTs
• TT, 99

• AT, KQ
• KTs, QTs

Solid Hands
These hands should generally be limped pre-flop, and should usually be folded to a raise
• 88, 77
• J9s, T9s
• 98s, 87s
• Ace with any other card of the same suit as your Ace

• KJ, QJ, JT

Decent Hands
These hands that are best played only in late position, usually only if there are several limpers in front of you.
• Low Pairs (66 or lower)
• Suited Connectors like 76s, 65s, 54s (don’t usually play anything lower like 32s)
• KT, QT
• K9s, J8s

Hands not mentioned are generally trash hands and should only be played in situations where you have a big advantage over your opponent. For example, when you’re trying to steal the blinds, or are up against a very weak player.

While narrowing your starting hand selection is important, doing so is just the tip of the iceberg. After choosing which hands to play, you next have to know how to play these hands, before the flop, on the flop, and further on into the hands. You have to decide whether the best play is to call, bet, raise, or fold at each stage of the hand. As you progress and learn how each of these options works best, your chance of winning the hand increases tremendously.

After you have strengthened your fundamentals through each stage of the hand, you should be looking for other ways to win hands. This could include things such as bluffing, reading your opponents, and using your table position to your advantage. Adding these tools to your arsenal will greatly improve your chances of winning hands and, eventually, the size of your bankroll.

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