Poker Strategy - Dumping the 2nd Best Hand
In blackjack, everyone grimaces at being dealt a 16. It's the worst possible hand and odds are you are going to lose your money. The holdem equivalent to a 16 is a 27, which is considered the worst possible hand. However, with a 27, odds are you will lose nothing (because you will fold preflop) or just your blind. In fact, I don't even mind being dealt 27 because I know what it's worth. I'm much more afraid of being dealt AA because that hand has the potential of costing me a lot of money. The paradox that a good hand is to be feared much more so than a bad one centers on the most important concept of poker: Relative Hand Value.
Everyone knows that to win at poker, you must maximize your wins and minimize your losses. Maximizing your wins is fairly easy. Slowplaying and trapping help accentuate these wins, but the reality is that any fool can win a decent amount when he has a good hand. What generally separates a winning poker player from a losing one is how the two players lose their hands. The winning poker player knows how to dump his second best hand while the loser will call it down and lose at the showdown.
To me, the psychological difference is generally that the losing player must satisfy his need to know what the other guy had. The desire to be a policeman and make sure his opponent isn't bluffing and to make sure he didn't lose what he could have won causes him to call when he shouldn't. The winning poker player has overcome this innate desire and forces him/herself to play well.
Now that I have brought your attention to what the second best hand is- how do you play them? It really depends on limit vs. no limit poker.
In limit, calling with the second best hand won't kill you quickly. You will notice your negative bank balance only in the long run b/c you will win sometimes in the short run. Generally, the best way to limit your second best hand losses is preflop play. Don't go in with hands without a decent kicker (i.e dump K8, A7) b/c those are often dominated hands. A dominated hand generally means when you're up against an opponent and you have similar hands but one will almost always beat the other. Examples would be AA vs. AQ or AK vs. A9. The hand that is dominated has 3 outs or less (AQ must catch two queens without an ace hitting or a straight to win). Thus, correct preflop play can limit second best hands because you call less with dominated hands due to kicker.
Flop play is a bit different. Suppose board is AK9 and you have KQ. You definitely have 2nd best hand potential- but how do you tell? Well, generally the best way is to bet or raise at flop and see what happens. If you encounter a lot of resistance, you're done for. Also, if there is a large multiway pot, go ahead and fold. Someone is bound to have the ace.
No Limit Poker
At no limit, it's a totally different ball game. At limit, you won't lose too much for one second best hand, but you can easily lose your whole stack at no limit. That's why, at no limit, it's best to play the nutlike hands more. In other words, pocket pairs go up in value b/c of their ability to hit a set and so do connecting cards b/c of their ability to hit straights. Ace-suited goes up in value too b/c of the nut flush but people are generally very aware of the flush potential and will shut you out at the flop when you hit a flush draw.
Since these hands go up in value- what goes down? AQ, AJ, KQ, KJ, etc. These hands are the ones that can get raped at no limit poker. These hands will win small pots with top pair, but will lose large ones when someone else hits a set or a straight.
The key to no limit poker is not dumping these second best hands preflop necessarily. It's sniffing out what other people have on the flop. Do not simply call bets with the second best hand, you must raise to see where you are. When someone bets at you, they are threatening your whole stack (if the bet is a signicant one). You must reciprocate by threatening theirs. If the board is K107 and you have KQ, you could be in a lot of trouble. Someone betting at you could have 10J or 1010. It's important to figure out their relative strength by raising them at the flop.
Now, many will respond "well couldn't they just bluff reraise me." Of course they could, but that will cost them a lot when you finally get the nut hand. Simply call the reraise and then zap them out of the rest of their stack on the turn/river.
Poker Strategy - Dynamic Hand Value
I have received a lot of questions regarding this topic, so I am going to dedicate an entire article to it. Most advanced players know that Sklansky hand rankings (or my hand rankings for that matter) are not set in stone but are rather general guidelines for ranking hands. This is because hand value fluctuates greatly depending on the number of people in the pot. Many people are not quite sure how to treat their starting hands when the game's dynamic fluctuates between loose/tight and thus affecting the number of people in the pot. The answer to this dilemma lies with what type of hand you hold, and how many players this type of hand is suitable against.
I am going to divide the types of hands into three categories: Large pairs (JJ or higher), Big cards (two cards of JQKA), and small pairs/suited connectors (I know they are totally different but I am going to treat them the same here, you'll see why). Most of this is written assuming the game is in a longhand/limit context.
These are 'premium' hands that people hope to receive. They have a lot of value in of themselves and are not board-dependent to win. People generally raise preflop with these hands for value, but often a major reason to raise preflop is just to knock people out. For example, consider KK. Unless an ace hits the board, KK will probably be the best hand at the flop. However, if the board is Q102 and someone has QJ and someone else has AK, they will be tempted to draw to see another card. If you make this more complicated and make the Q2 suited, someone with two cards of that same suit will be drawing as well. All of the sudden, you face a situation where there are about 16 outs (depending what the suited cards are) against you. Now, while you still have the highest chance out of anyone to win the pot, it is more likely that someone else will win the pot isntead of you!
This is a common situation with large pairs, where they are the best hand at the flop but there is enough runners out there that one of them is bound to beat you at the river. Thus, the way to alleviate this situation is to knock these people out of the flop by making raises aimed at limiting the size of the pot. Reraise people after they raised you to make it expensive to see the pot and raise at the flop to knock people out. For example, in the above situation, if you were in early position and there were 5 people at the flop, you should consider check at the flop in the hopes to check-raise to knock the people between you and the original better out. That way, people with 5 outs or less won't be in the pot against you and you have to worry less about longshot draws beating you. Another tip that applies to a loose game is to perhaps not raise too much preflop. For example, if you are in late position now and someone raised and 4 people cold called the raise, do not reraise because all you are doing is beefing up the pot and giving people an incentive to chase even more. Thus, aim your raises to limit the size of the pot and increase your chances of winning.
Big cards like AK/AQ/KQ are great for shorthanded games, but often a curse in longhanded games. While big cards can at least be an overpair and win money from someone whose hand won't likely improve (such as top pair/top kicker), these hands are the ones that make top pair/top kicker. Thus, when you hit the board with these hands, unless you are outkicking your opponent or your opponent is an idiot, he or she will generally be on a draw against you. Thus, you generally want to go ahead and take the pot down at the flop, or at least make it very expensive for your opponent to see the turn.
Small/Medium pairs and Suited Connectors
These hands change drastically in value depending on the situation. Assuming a non heads up situation (where small pairs do well simply do the chance of your opponent not hitting anything), these are hands you want to play in a multiway pot. You generally won't hit much with these hands, or you will hit a very nice hand like a three of a kind, flush, or straight. The overreaching goal with these hands is to have pot odds in your favor. (Note: Axs plays a lot like a suited connector.)
If you have a suited connector, you are hoping there are enough callers and dead money in the pot to justify drawing to the straight or flush. Pot odds is why these hands will show a profit with four or more people in the pot, but will generally be poor against two or three opponents. In a multiway pot with a suited connector, you may have a flush or straight draw (that will win if you hit) but only must put in 1/10 of the pot to see the next card, which is very good odds.
If you have a small pair, you are hoping for the 13% chance of hitting a set on the flop. So if 7 people are in the pot, you have the exact pot odds for a set. However, for small pairs, not only are the pot odds good for a set, the implied odds once you hit your set are great. If you hit your set, chances are good that someone will have a second best hand that has a slim to none chance of being you (for example if you have 33, and flop is KJ3, there's a good chance someone will pay you off with a K or maybe even a J). So small pairs really begin showing their profit potential with around 5 or more people in the pot.
A common response to the small pair strategy is "How should I evaluate the set potential of large pairs." After all, I talk about how the implied odds once you hit a set are generally great. Unfortunately, this does not apply to large pairs. If you hit a set with a large pair, there's a good chance it will be top set (meaning there's no cards on the board that are higher than that), so you won't get much action from anything besides draws. After all, if you have AA and the flop is (AJ5), there's only so much action you can get from a hand like KJ.
Poker Strategy - Changing Pace
Note: This is only for short handed games (6 or fewer people) and to be used mainly against other good players
One thing that most people, including myself at times, do wrong is play consistently. In other words, though you may play your AQ different preflop sometimes and when you hit a A or Q, you may bet a different amount (in No-Limit) or choose to jam the pot at a different time (in limit). However, most decent players will be able to identify you as a certain type of player: tight-aggressive, very-tight aggressive, etc.
A way to help your earnings is to simply switch up your play sometimes. This way, when they're expecting that you're gonna bluff, you bluff rarely so they'll call you more. Likewise, if your bets are for value, you start to bluff at the pot a lot. People generally won't catch on if you do this discreetly, and it can add more mystery to your play.
This strategy is obviously more effective at No-Limit because it is much easier to bluff at NL. However, it can be used at limit as well. Generally, the game must be 5 or fewer people (preferably 4 people total.) With stakes large enough, you can effectively bluff at flop/turn if you played it tight at first, and you will receive more callers for big bets if you bluffed earlier.
For those of you who are mathematically inclined, I'll use some game theory to prove my assertions. Suppose you are playing a soccer match and you have a penalty kick. You predict that if you kick left, you will have an 80% chance of scoring if the goalie does not expect left, and you have a 60% of scoring if you kick to the right and the goalie does not expect right. However, if the goalie blocks left and you kick left, you only have a 45% chance of scoring, and if the goalie blocks to the right, you will only score 35% of the time. Here's a matrix to quickly summarize:
Shoot Left: 45 80
Shoot Right: 60 35
As you can see, even though shooting left may be what you are best at, it is in your interest to shoot right from time to time b/c if the goalie always knows you will shoot left, you will score less than if you shot to the right sometimes.
Now, instead of percent chance of scoring, think of the numbers as hourly profit. Left means playing your standard tight-aggressive game and the right means playing a more loose game. Bad players may not 'block' at all or will always block the wrong way, so you can keep on playing your standard tight-aggressive game and earn 80 an hour. However, against good players, they'll quickly realize what you are doing and defend against it. Your profit drops down to 45 an hour.
Now, suppose you play tight-aggressive (left) 70% of the time and looser (right) 30% of the time. If they continue to just play against you as if you were a tight-aggressive all the time, you will earn 49.5 an hour (.7 * 45 + .3 * 60).
Now, if your opponents caught on to what you were doing and played you as a tight-aggressive 80% of the time and a looser player 20% of the time, your profit would actually increase as long as they don't know exactly when you were playing which way. Your profit would be (.7)(.3) * 45 + (.3)(.7) * 80 + (.8)(.3) * 60 + (.2)(.3) * 35 =52.9
So, in order to defend against changing pace, you need to know when they are changing pace. Obviously, if they treated you as a tight-aggressive 70% of the time and all the time they treated you as a tight aggressive you were one, your profit would drop. However, as shown before, predicting a change of pace when there is none will actually help the person who is changing pace, so people generally will treat you as the same even when you switch your style!
Thus, I recommend you change your pace some, but randomize it so they can't catch on and correctly predict when you vary your style.
Poker Strategy - Mind Games
Note: This article only applies to No-Limit Holdem.
No-Limit holdem ring games require more psychological and bluffing skills than any other popularly played poker game. However, you should only use these tools based on the type of opponent you're playing.
If you are playing a lower stakes No-Limit game (with a buy-in of $100 or under), I wouldn't suggest using psychological tools much. An occasional flop bluff against few opponents may be profitable, but these opponents will frequently pay off their whole stack on hands as low as second pair. In these games, you should just wait, make a good hand, and then ream your opponents with pot-sized bets.
Once you play in a higher stakes game ($200 buy-in or more), mind games will play a larger factor, especially if people's stacks are deep (more than 100X the big blind). However, the first thing you need to do is categorize each of your opponents you are facing:
1. Fish. These guys are just playing their hand, not yours. If you bet big and they have a bad hand, they will fold. If you bet big and they have top pair, they will call provided you do not do something scary like put them all in. They will not bluff much at you.
2. Weak-tight. These guys also just play their hand, but will call less than the fish. They are not willing to lose all of their chips on top pair unless they think you are a maniac. Bluff these guys out of a good number of pots (but not much so that they will attempt to trap you later on).
3. The Sheriff. These guys are similar to fish but understand the game enough to where they know when the only thing they can beat is a bluff. However, they often think you are bluffing and will call you down.
4. Tight-aggressive. These are your tactically sound players. However, their No-Limit ability differs largely based on how well they read their opponents. In general, they are much more eager to bet at the pot than call. Against these players, changing pace is necessary. You should occasionally trap these players with strong hands and occasionally go over the top at them. By continually changing pace, you may be able to bully them into becoming too 'weak-tight' or by becoming a sheriff. Notice which direction they are going into and then take advantage of that strategy.
5. Hyper-aggressive. These guys like to bet and raise. It's almost impossible to tell if they are bluffing or have the nuts a lot of the time. These players can be dangerous, but you need to make an effort to trap them. While it is good to 'test' them by raising them, do not always do this with a hand because it will become a clear signal to them. Do not let these guys know what you have by raising. Play your hands differently and certainly trap them sometimes when you have a strong hand like a set.
6. Tilting players. Whatever set these guys off, these guys are on tilt. They're going to bet all of their chips in. Best strategy here is to just let them do the betting because they may fold if you do it and they have nothing.
In general, you should only play mind games with tight-aggressive and hyper-aggressive players. These other players act predictably, so there is no real reason to change them. However, you do not want to be bullied by hyper-aggressive players, and you do not want to live in fear if a tight-aggressive player bets because this is what these players want. You need to consistently change your image to these players. You want to make it difficult for them to think you are tight-aggressive or a hyper-aggressive. When changing your pace, you should also pay attention to several small, important things such as:
1. Where you bluff. If you always bluff at the flop, they will begin calling you on the flop in the hopes that you will reveal your strength on the turn. So often it is best to switch up where in the pot you bluff.
2. Your preflop play for certain types of hands. You shouldn't always gear your preflop play to what is just 'technically' sound. Even though you want to see the flop for the cheap with small pairs or suited connectors, you should sometimes raise just for deceptive purposes. This is especially a good idea with a medium pair in late position.
However, perhaps the most important mind game is how much you bet. You should not bet based on how much your hand is worth, but how much your opponent's hand is worth. Bad opponents will let you know what their hand is worth by betting its value. However, good players will bet how much they think you value your hand. To bluff someone out, you generally must bet more than how much they value their hand (if someone is smart though, they may realize this and call you if you have been bluffing a lot). However, to maximize the value of your made hands, you should bet how much your opponent will be willing to call given their hand. Examples of this in play:
1. If you have a high full house, you should especially bet hard because there is a good chance your opponent has a smaller full house
2. If you have a flush and the board is paired, you should bet ?-2/3 of pot because you want someone with trips to just call. Betting very hard in this situation will only lead you to be called by someone who has a full house.
3. Leading into your opponent. If your opponent is raising (and you don't think he is bluffing). A good strategy is to bet small, have your opponent raise, and then reraise him all in. This is especially strong if you hit a weird straight and you are certain your opponent has a set or two pair.
Poker Strategy - Tells
Tells are traditionally associated with people's physical twitches in which one gives away the strength of his or her hand. Tells exist both in the brick and mortar and the online world. Here is a list of certain common tells:
1. In limit, a quick call with two flush or straight cards out generally means a draw.
2. In limit, a quick raise on the flop generally means top pair.
3. A poor player who is thinking generally has a weaker holding and is debating a call.
4. Generally if someone thinks for awhile and then raises, it is not a bluff.
5. Someone who is frequently raising the pot preflop and then folds at the flop if someone bets at him is likely to be on tilt.
1. When a poor player puts a hand over his mouth, it generally means he has a strong hand. Generally he is concealing a smile.
2. Shaking hands means the player is nervous. However, this can mean he is bluffing or that he has a very strong hand.
3. A player reaching for a drink also is a sign of being nervous.
4. When a poor player 'stares you down,' generally it means he is bluffing.
5. When the flop comes and a player quickly looks at his chips, he is likely to have a strong hand.
Poker Strategy - Game Selection
Game selection is a critical skill at poker. While many new talented poker players strive to better their skills in order to win more, often the route to increased profits lays simply in choosing a better game to play.
When I refer to 'game selection,' I am not refering so much as the type of poker game, but rather the players in the poker game. You want to play in a poker game where you have an advantage over your opponents. No matter how good you are, if you play in a game filled with sharks, it is virtually impossible to make any money. The luck factor and the rake would make profits slim in the long run.
Now you know you need to find the game that is beatable, but how do you determine which game that is? There are several ways to quickly analyze your opponents to figure out if you should play in the game:
First, you may just know the opponents. If you play at your local casino or an online poker room for a while, you will get to know the players. Either by keeping notes or just through memory, you will know who is strong and weak and who you understand the best.
Second, determine how loose-passive the game is. A game that is loose is good. This means the flop percentage is high and people will call you down with hands that really only can beat bluffs. A game that is passive is also good. This can be determined by how much raising occurs. If people won't bet hard when they have very good hands, they will let you draw out on them and let you get away with only small losses on your losing hands. Fundamentally, the two work well together because the loose game let's you win big pots when you have your made hand and you are aggressive and the passive game let's you draw cheaply and have small losses on losing hands.
Finally, notice the number of fundamental mistakes people make. After reading this site, you will hopefully have a good idea about poker fundamentals: preflop hand selection, pot odds, etc. If you notice people calling with K4 offsuit and drawing to inside straights without pot odds, the game is good. People who often call with poor starting hands and draws without pot odds are doomed to lose.
Poker Strategy - Your Best Game
While this is hard at first, advanced players must figure out which game they play best and why. Different games and different betting structures require different skills. Since winning at poker means having a higher level of skill in certain areas, a true winner should know why he is winning in order to maximize his advantage over his opponents.
I cannot tell you which game you will be best at, but I've noticed some trends. Winning poker players have mastered the Four Key Skills of poker. Furthermore, they also have an advantage with the technical and/or people aspects of poker. The technical aspects refer to taking advantage of poker 'math,' such as mastering pot odds and playing tight. The people aspects refer to skills such as bluffing and varying your style of play. Here is what I believe certain games reward the most:
Longhand Limit Holdem
Limit holdem rewards technicial skills, especially patience and an understanding of hand value. Since many hands go to a showdown, reading one's opponent only helps so much because it is harder to bluff and pot odds will often make a river fold highly risky.
Shorthand Limit Holdem
Shorthand requires a mix of people and technical skills. People skills are important at analyzing a shorthanded game. You must understand your players and figure out which type of game to play. Often, a very aggressive form is best. However, in a loose game, you should revert to standard poker strategy. Thus, once you analyzed the game using people skills, technical skills will be rewarded because one type of 'technique' should be employed to beat the game.
No Limit Holdem
No limit holdem also requires both technical profiency and people skills. Technical skills will help you understand how much you should bet and how much you can tolerate to call. People skills will help you in a hand (by putting an opponent on his cards) and determine your general strategy. No limit holdem fundamentally comes down to how people utilize aggressive betting. If people are meek, steal a lot of pots but fold if stern resistance comes to your bluffing. If people are being very loose, be patient and trap them. You should often be able to wipe them out in one hand.
So...Which One for Me?
As you can see, poker is about technical and player proficiency. If you are very good at remaining patient, playing quality hands, and playing pot odds, stick to limit holdem. If you excel at poker because you know how to deal with opponents, you want to be in a shorthand or no limit game.
Poker Strategy - Playing Multiple Games
One of the many advantages to playing poker on the internet is the ability to play multiple games at once. Some sites, like Empire Poker, allow you to play up to three games at once. Other sites like Pacific Poker limit you to one game, but you can still play multiple games at once by playing at two different sites at once. The decision whether to play two games at once or not is not to be taken lightly because it can greatly affect your win-loss rate.
When playing two games at once, you will naturally not be able to pay as much attention to your every move and will probably play a little worse. If you average $25 an hour playing one table, you may be only able to average $18 at each table. However, since you are playing two tables, you would then average $36 an hour which is still higher than the original $25. Thus, the key factors when deciding whether or not to play two tables is establishing what you believe you make an hour playing one table, how much this will be decreased if you play two tables, and whether or not this new number X 2 (or perhaps even 3) is greater than the original amount you were making per hour.
Since playing two tables lowers your profit rate, you must have already established that you can beat the game consistently in order for it to be profitable to play two games at once. If you are breaking even at a limit and decide to play two games at once at that limit, you will probably begin to lose money since your profit rate will go from 0 to say -$5 an hour per table, which amounts to -$10 an hour.
If you are beating a game, you may or may not be able to still beat that game if you play two tables. For example, if you consistently are beating a low fixed limit game, you will probably still be able to beat this game if you play two of them at once. This is because you are probably beating this game not by paying close attention to your opponents, but rather through solid poker fundamentals like playing the right starting hands/pot odds/etc. However, if you are playing no-limit games, you may not do so well if you play two at once because no-limit games rely much more on reading your opponents and adjusting your play to the style of your opponents.
Furthermore, playing more than one game can be stressful. You will be constantly checking each game, making snap decisions every 15 seconds, etc. This may decrease the joy factor of the game, which may be more important to you than any extra money you could make by playing two games at once.
If you are considering playing two games at once, your choice will come down to how you answer the following questions:
1. Can you beat this game consistently already?
2. Are you beating this game because of poker fundamentals, rather than relying on reading your opponents?
3. Do you think you will make more money playing two games at once? If so, does this money justify any potential "fun" you may lose because you can't get as into the game?
If you answer yes to all of these questions, perhaps you should try playing two games at once! Otherwise, you should probably stick to just playing one.
Poker Strategy - Guide to Empire & Party Poker
This is a guide that will help you win at Empire Poker and Party Poker. The sites have the same live games and single-table tournaments. The games are hosted on the same network; so an Empire player sees the same games and people that a Party player would. Only the multi-table tournaments differ and those will not be included in this article. This article will focus on beating the live no limit games; there already is another article about beating the single-table tournaments in the strategy section.
Party and Empire host many, many limit and no limit/pot limit games. The limit games difficulty increase exponentially as the stakes rise. While there are still many fish even at the $15-30, there are many sharks that feed at that limit. If you are new, playing at the $.50-1 and $1-2 limit should not be too difficult.
However, when I play at Party and Empire, I almost always play the no limit games- the $100 buy-in. Again, the no limit games increase in difficulty as you move from the $25 to the $50 to the $100 buy-in but people tend to be mediocre at all levels.
I think the main reason the no limit games are softer is because they attract many people who are used to limit but want to give no limit a try. Party and Empire in fact 'shelter' these players buy putting a cap on the maximum buy-in. A $100 max with 1-2 blinds is pretty harsh, as most places would make the max $200 or more.
I will assume you have a basic understanding of no limit; if you do not, please read the NL articles on this site. There are quite a few and should give you a better comprehension of the game.
Now, with that being said, besides playing solid poker, beating the Party/Empire game requires two things: discipline and game awareness.
It is undeniable that the Party/Empire games lend people to tilting more than other games. The reason for this is probably the low maximum buy-in. People figure "hey, it's only $20 more, might as well go all in." Thus, it is very tempting to call when you shouldn't when you play Party/Empire games. So, when you play, make sure you have all of your faculties together because it is easy to let your emotions take control in this game.
There are three beatable Party/Empire games- the ones filled with loose-passives, the ones filled with tight-passives, and the maniac games. Generally, there are few tight-passives at the $25 or $50 so don't even bother with my tight-passive strategy there.
Against loose passives, the key is to play a solid tight, aggressive game. If you have a super premium hand preflop (like AA or KK), bet it hard and get that pot thick preflop. You want to have the pot to be very large and with most of your stack so you do not give your opponents good implied odds. Once you hit the flop, you must attempt to put your opponent on his hand. If he is on a draw, you want to bet it real hard to make him pay if for trying to catch. If he is on a made hand, you want to slowly increase your bets. Take him apart bit by bit. For example, if you hold AA and the flop is K83 and you put your opponent on KQ, make consistent half-3/4 pot bets to slowly zap him out of his money.
If you have a very good hand like AK or QQ, you want to limit the field preflop and see how the flop treats you. Generally putting in a decent raise preflop and then decide whether or not to punish draws or to slowly zap them out of money once the flop comes (provided the flop is to your liking).
If you hold a drawing hand like a suited connector or a low pair, you want to see the flop for very cheap. You can generally win a huge pot if you hit, but again, you don't want to pay much to see the flop. If you hold a set, you want to get in a raising war at the flop with someone who hit a pair. If you have a suited connector, you want to the pot/bets to remain small until you hit (in which case, put in a solid raise and get paid off).
Against tight passives, you can generally play a more loose-aggressive game. In addition to following the advice against loose aggressives, you can frequently take the pot down at the flop with flop bluffs. For example, if you raise preflop with AQ and it limits the field to three players, you can generally flop bluff successful if the flop is Kxx- they will assume you have a K and fold.
Basically, the reason you can beat the previous Party/Empire games are the players are not aggressive enough. They either fold or call too much. However, there are some very aggressive games at Party/Empire. Either the game is tough and you should avoid it, or the game is filled with maniacs.
The way to determine the difference is the size of the bets. If you see people making pot size bets and raises, then the game is probably filled with better players and you should stay way. However, if you see people betting $60 into a $10 pot, they're a bunch of idiots! Who will call such a large bet unless they have a super whopper? If you hold the nuts, you're going to want to build the pot and not just take it down when it's a puny size! Against these maniacs (more frequent at the $50 and $25 tables), simply wait until you hold a whopper and call them down, not a difficult strategy at all!
Poker Strategy - Guide to Empire & Party Poker, Part 2
Empire Poker and Party Poker (they share the same live games and single table tournaments) make up by far the largest online poker room. Like most online poker sites, limit holdem is also the most popular game there. While there are many people that play and it is hard to keep good track of individual players, Party and Empire's limit holdem games can be quite lucrative if you play them correctly. Recently, I have been playing a lot at Party/Empire's $15-30 limit holdem games, and I will give out a couple of helpful hints in this article. While these hints are from the vantage point of the highest limit offered there, they will probably be helpful for all limits.
First, there are a wide variety of players that play at Empire/Party. Most online sharks have an account there, but so do most online fish. Anyone exercising good game selection could make a ton just by choosing the right games. Unfortunately, Empire/Party make it tough to do this by their stats alone. They do not display the flop percentage, and basing your game choice from average pot is not always a wise idea. A high average pot could mean a lot of fish calling to the river, but it could also mean a game full of tight-aggressives. The average pot also could be highly inflated due to a recent hand or two, and a high average pot may induce a lot of sharks to join the game, killing the point of joining the game in the first place!
The best long term solution is to keep notes on as many possible players as you can. Like most poker rooms, Party and Empire poker allow you to keep individual notes on each player. These notes do not need to be long to help you- 'calling station' or 'shark' is sufficient.
Also, a good investment would be to buy a software program known as Poker Tracker (www.pokertracker.com). It allows you to review your play and keeps track of certain stats like win rates/% win at showdown, etc. You have Party/Empire email your hand histories and then load those into the program. It also shows the win rates and other statistics of your opponents, so this is another tool that will help you size up your competition.
Simply put, if you find a soft game, stay there. If you are in a tough game, leave! There are plenty of softer games on Party/Empire to be found!
Another tip that I think is often overlooked is that you should generally play the longhand games instead of the shorthand ones. The shorthand games tend to attract more sharks. Generally, fish like to play what they are used to playing in the casino- longhand. Also, if you learn to play shorthand well, it will come in handy in a longhand game. Longhand games often stay full, but they also often become short at times. If you learn to play short well in addition to having a good longhand game, you will have a huge advantage over your opponents who may only know how to play longhand. Anyone in the 6 max rooms is there to play shorthand, so chances are they are just as good as that as they are a longhand game. However, people in the full games often are very poor at shorthand games, but end up playing short for stretches while they wait for the game to fill back up.
Finally, a very important tip is also basic poker strategy - starting hand selection. You don't want to get caught playing dominated hands. If a good player raises in early position, fold your KQ,KJ,AT, etc. The fatal flaw of most Party and Empire players is they just play their own hand preflop. They think about the Sklansky charts and don't consider the relative strength of their hand versus their opponents'. It is generally better to be a little too tight rather than loose with those big cards at Party and Empire Poker.
Poker Strategy - Guide to Pacific Poker
This guide will help you beat the Pacific Poker low- and mid-limit games. Pacific Poker is notorious for loose, bad players. However, many people feel they still can not beat this site. I hope to clarify the reasons behind this and help people learn to be successful at these games.
If you log on to Pacific Poker, you will notice that the average flop percentage for low limit games is often over 60%, even 70% is common. This is insanely high. In a longhanded game, a group of professionals would probably not have a flop percentage higher than 20%. You must realize that this bad playing will make Pacific Poker profitable, but will also lead to high variance (so you must be patient when playing and handle the bad beats).
Because of the loose playing and frequent showdowns, hands that do well in multi-way pots go up in value (pocket pairs and suited connectors). Essentially, the main reason those hands go up in value is because once you see the flop, you will have the near nuts or will be drawing to them, so you can bet/call with confidence. Hand with big cards like AQ go down in value because even if you hit top pair, you have no idea if you have the best hand or the second best hand. Read Dynamic Hand Value for more information on how to play these types of hands.
Besides playing hands that do well in multi-way pots, you should realize the fundamental mistake Pacific players make. That error is playing with dominated hands. Many Pacific players will play A5 offsuit, which is dominatd by say, an AK. Even if you hit an A with A5 offsuit, you have little chance of winning; you must hit an Ace and a 5 or two 5's to have any chance at winning. Thus, when you play big cards, you will frequently be called by someone who you have outkicked; it's just a matter of if that person is lucky enough to hit his other card at some point on the flop.
Pacific Poker is a fun and potentially profitable place to play. You just must realize that there is a high level of variance involved in the game and which types of hands do better in their frequent multi-way pots. Because of the high variance, I suggest playing at a lower limit than you are used to playing. This should not be hard, as Pacific Poker has many games as low as $.25-.50. If you wish to read more about how to beat these crazy, loose low limit games, buy a copy of Lee Jones's Low Limit Holdem.
Poker Strategy - Probabilities
Here are some basic probability charts that you should know:
Probability of hitting a flush draw (both turn/river, needing one card to hit)- 35%
Probability of hitting an open-ended straight draw (i.e. 4 straight cards, need one on either end to hit on turn or river)- 31.5%
Probability of hitting a gutshot draw (inside straight draw) on turn or river- 16.5%
Probability of being dealt a pocket pair: 5.88%
Probability of being dealt suited cards: 23.5%
Probability ofl hitting a three of a kind or quads at the flop when you hold a pocket pair: 11.8%
Probability you will make a pair at the flop, holding two unpaired cards in the hole: 32.4%
Probability of being dealt AA: .45%
Probability of no one holding an ace, by number of players, assuming you do not have an ace, by number of total players. Note: this can be used for any card (because the chances of you being dealt an ace or a king is exactly the same).
Probability someone else does not have an ace, assuming you do have an ace, by total number of players:
Differences between Online and Offline
Now, a considerable part of poker players prefer playing poker online to live play. The most generally referred to benefits are:
- no commute
- no tipping
- the action is quicker and more hands can be played in an hour
- you can have different deposit bonuses
- you can play 24 hours a day
- a great variety of games to play
- no second-hand smoke
- you can play at several tables simultaneously
- you don't need to go anywhere.
Also, those playing Internet poker should mind the following features of it, which can affect your strategy and game-style:
Playing sessions are shorter. Players move in and out of the game much more often then they would do in a live play. Thus, you usually don't play with the same opponents for long.
Internet environment - it has been noted that people, when playing on the Internet, are usually more tricky and deceptive, than in a live play. That is because it is impossible to read your opponents faces - and very easy to hide yours. And to raise or bet you have just to clik!
Internet distractions - most commonly, people do not devote themselves to playing poker only. Usually, they can indulge in other things (e.g. net-surfing, reading e-mails, etc.) at the same time - or play at several tables at the same time. That's why Internet players are usually less attentive, and do not follow the course of the game as close as in a live poker game.
Bluffing on the Internet
There are some differences between online and live poker in regards to bluffing. As a general rule, players tend to bluff a little more often on the Internet than they do in a live game. The virtual environment of the Internet makes many players play a little more deceptively then they would do against a live opponent. The virtual environment also makes it easier to commit your chips since you only have to click your mouse. Compare this to a live game where you have to physically move your chips to the center of the table while your opponents are watching you. Therefore, you may need to keep your opponents honest a little more online than you would do in a live game.
On the other hand, your opponents are will tend to call your bluffs a little more often than they would in a live game since they also recognize that players tend to bluff quite often on the Internet. Calling is also easier online since they only have to click their mouse. Because of this, you will have to consider bluffing more carefully when online.
One more thing about bluffing: some of its value is that when you bluff often, your opponents will tend to call more often, too, which may prove useful when you have a strong hand. But online this "advertising" value of bluffing is decreased, comparing to a live play. First, people playing online, are usually paying less attention to the game, so they may not notice your bluffs. Besides, your opponents switch more often, so you won't have enough time to create an image of a person who bluffs often (or, on the contrary, never bluffs). Still, if the online poker game you are playing continue for a considerable time with the same players, you may get some benefit from this strategy.