Wednesday, April 02, 2008


In following this line of thinkling as an amateur player, I have found that I get the best results by asking myself what I would do if a more experienced and/or professional player were watching and critiquing my every play in the background. I have found by balancing play on this and how I feel about a specific hand in any given situation.

It is a common thought that poker pro's play tightly and aggressively. And although they don’t play many hands, when they do play them, they play as if they had all the nuts. This is a nicely cooked-up saying and all, but it is for those who really don't know how to play and who just want to sound smart, like they've been there and done that. Case in point: It doesn't necessarily apply to no-limit games where a good, loose yet aggressive player can throw you off your game in a heartbeat. Therefore I ought to shed a triune light on what it really means to be a tight and aggressive poker player.

* Think Like A Pro: Do The Math
Generally speaking, you will have about a 1 in 8 chance of holding a set in your pocket pair while you will have roughly a 1 in 3 chance of attaining a flopped flush draw by the river.

Likewise know your "outs" that give a percentage shot at hitting. (Count the outs, multiply them by two, and add one to give you an idea the likelihood of hitting.)

However, knowing your "outs" to calculate hitting percentages are useless unless you match them with the pot odds; your percentage chances of hitting should be no less than the amount you have betted in proportion to the total pot at the river. (Simply divide the size of what you speculate will be the pot at the river flop by the amount you have put in.) Having come up with a 25% chance of hitting/winning by counting your outs, and the bet to you is 25, make sure that the pot at the river will be greater than 100 to call. If it isn't, cut your (potential and likely) losses and fold.

* Feel Like A Pro: Psychological Skills
The latter part of the saying "keep your friends close, hold your enemies closer" is true of any competition. A poker pro is always on the hunt to get a good feel on what his opponent is trying to do.

- What does my opponent have?
- What does my opponent think I have?
- What does my opponent think I think he has? And so on.

Contrary to what you may think, the mindset of poker pro's is not about obliterating their enemies into utter and complete destruction. Often, it is a battle to use your opponents simply to discover your own strengths and weaknesses on equal footing with keeping your ego in check. Developing an understanding that you must empathize with your opponents helps you to answer the previous questions and empowers you to manipulate those answers, putting you at a superior level of game play.

If you have KK and your opponent has AA, and you both know what each other have, why play the game of poker? You have other tools such as bluffing, slowplaying, or fastplaying. Use your acting skills to complement your math skills and tip your opponents off balance.

* Be a Pro: Discipline, Discipline, Discipline
Good poker players are consistent in their demand to seek advantages. A fish looks to get lucky, whereas a poker pro expects to win.

However, discipline is not to be confused with stubbornness. If a particular strategy is no longer working a poker pro will know how and when to change. A high level of alertness will clue him in as to whether he's on tilt or just being too cocky. If a mistake has been made, he will learn from it and move on.

Fundamentally, these three skills can be encapsulated into one word: awareness. Like in school you should be able to learn how to read by knowing your mathematical odds, write by manipulating your opponent's mindset, and finally to think for yourself when new or otherwise unknown situations arise. Once you grasp this triple-threat concept, success should be knocking at your doorstep.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Poker Instead of Surgery

Tuesday was to include a trip to the hospital for surgery, but due to a scheduling conflict I am safe from the knife for a few more weeks! :) Due to allergies and other surgical concerns, I am required to be the first case of a surgery day. In this case, I was rescheduled as another patient has more serious conditions than I do. I am fine with that as it came too fast. So we are off to Solvang later this week to play poker and a few days of needed vacation!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Running Bad or NOT Running at ALL!

In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart tried to define what may or may not be considered obscene under US law. In the end, he determined that no definition existed, but that when it comes to obscenity, “I know it when I see it.”

The same holds true when you’re talking about running badly at the poker table. You may not be able to identify what’s going wrong, but you know its happening. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no single definition or criteria for “running bad” because it means something different to everyone. For some players, it’s posting 10 or 12 losing sessions in a row. For others, it’s losing a dozen coin-flips during a single session. “Running badly” depends on the individual and on the metrics they’re using to judge their performance.

Whatever the definition is, the fact remains that everyone runs bad at one time or another. What separates successful players from those who go bust is how they handle themselves and their bankrolls when their cards go dead. For me, running bad doesn’t mean having a few losing nights or taking a few bad beats over the course of a session. That’s variance and it’s an inevitable part of the game. In my mind, running bad is something bigger that happens over the long term.

If you’re not sure whether you’re really running bad or not, start by stepping back and analyzing your results over a statistically significant timeframe. If you see a consistent pattern of losing sessions over a matter of weeks or months, then it’s likely that you’re having some real problems with your game. The key to getting back on track is figure out what’s actually going wrong.

For many players, running badly is a vicious circle; they suffer a few losing sessions and begin to tilt, which leads them to alter their playing styles in order to change things up. Soon, they do actually start playing badly, which leads to more losing sessions, and a continuation of their downward spiral. They lose because they’re running badly and they’re running badly because they’re losing.

If you look at your game and believe that you’re actually playing well but are just getting unlucky, then maybe you are. Aces get cracked by lower pairs. Sets get beaten by flushes, and hands get drowned on the river more often than you might think. My advice in these situations is to walk away from the game for a while. Take a break, regroup, and come back when you’re mentally refreshed and are ready to start playing again. Don’t, however, begin changing your game to compensate for bad luck. Focus on the fundamentals, look for good starting hands, and try to play the most solid poker you can. In time, your luck will change.

Whatever you do, however, don’t try to step up in levels in order to try and recoup your losses. I’ve seen many players go bust at times like these because they’re too focused on trying to rebuild their bankrolls by gambling rather than by playing smart poker and moving down to play at a lower level. Think about it; if you’ve been losing, chances are that you’re playing on a smaller bankroll than normal, which means that you’ll be risking a higher percentage of your remaining funds by playing at higher stakes. With a smaller cushion behind you and more of your bankroll at risk, it doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse and for you to lose everything you had left.

On the other hand, by moving down a level or two, you’ll be risking less in the short term while you try to rebuild your bankroll. Sure, the pots you win may not be as big as those you win at higher levels, but weighed against the odds of going broke, it’s a trade-off I’m willing to make. What’s more, by moving down, I may only have to play at a lower level for a month or two to recover my losses whereas if I go broke after moving up, it could take me a year or more until I’ve recovered. That’s a pretty persuasive argument if you really value your time.

While I can’t tell you whether you’re really running badly or not, I can tell you that your mental state does impact your game. If you’re feeling good, chances are you’ll play well and, if you’re not, chances are you won’t. Rough patches are part of the game and learning how to handle short-term adversity without losing your confidence or your bankroll will make you a better player in the long run.

On a side note:

From experience, I learned early on not to let a series or even a session of several bad beats get to me in a way where I outwardly express my anger or show any displeasure over the situations at hand. If you always take in stride, you will have better results in the long run.

As we have all heard several hundred times, It's Poker!

Happy New Year!

I am taking a few days off this week after XpressTech's most profitable holiday selling season ever! Next week I am at CES and I am looking forward to playing in any many events at the 2008 WSOP Rincon Circuit Event which runs January 26, 2008 through February 7, 2008 if my surgery on January 22, 2008 in Torrance doesn't get the best of me.