October 11th, 2012 / 2 Comments » / by Grundy
I know free poker sounds like a good idea, but it’s not.
Let’s say you know how to play cards, but you want to improve your game before you put any of your hard earned cash to risk on online poker sites. It’s a great idea, in theory, but playing without spending will certainly make your game worse. The yahoos in play money rooms will see every bet and raise randomly with any cards if they haven’t already gone all-in preflop. Bluffing is impossible, so improving is impossible. Not everyone at the table may go in with the intensions of making a mockery of poker, but everyone will start eventually just to keep up…including, probably, you.
Let’s say you never heard of texas hold’em before and want to learn the rules. Playing for free can’t hurt then, right? Wrong! You want to learn how to play, ask a friend to teach you. With absolutely no incentive to win you are not learning poker, you are picking up bad habits. These will stick with you for a long time. Learning right first is learning right best.
Let’s say you are a hold’em expert and you want to pick up omaha. You know how free poker works and are confident you can avoid the insanity. That may well be, but I still wouldn’t risk play money games. Switching back and forth from from cash poker and free poker is very confusing. You might forget who you are playing with.
If you want to learn how to play poker: make the investment. It doesn’t take much. .05/.10 cent blinds is how I started out. I was with college students who had to make five bucks last the whole week, so they valued their coins. You just have to find the sweet spot to keep out most maniacs. If you prefer tournament play, I recommend $10 buy-ins with no rebuys for solid learning. $5 is okay, but you get plenty online that don’t take five dollars seriously.
September 5th, 2012 / 3 Comments » / by Grundy
There was a time when if you wanted to play a computer game, you had to run Microsoft. This was true for all the gaming acronyms, everything from RPGs, to FPSs. It was even true for something as simple as Minesweeper. Macintosh ran Oregon Trail. That was about the extent of its gaming library. Thankfully, Steve Jobs was one who would follow the money, and there is a lot of money in gaming.
Gaming on Macs has become just a full-featured experience as on a PC. This is relevant to us as poker players because in the most basic sense, we are gamers. We are the most invested gamers—high-stakes gamers. I am only willing to play on a system that I can count on. When screens freeze and connections break it costs me my pride, sanity, and good old-fashioned money. On-line, I can only bluff as well as the software allows. Apple raised its game, so now I raise on a Mac.
Searching “poker” in the Mac App Store returns 55 results. Some apps are graphically rich card playing simulations, some are learning tools, some are odds calculators, and some are unique concepts I don’t quite know how to classify—and the App Store is just the tip of the iceberg. Apple’s public persona shies away from apps that are seen by some as vices, so gambling games are out. Luckily, there are plenty of big name sites that offer Mac software for real money play. I recommend taking them out for a trial run with “play money” before committing to a deposit, but I have yet to have trouble on my Mac.
Macs are no longer the minority machines in the gaming world. Even Apple’s touch interface, iOS, is seeing more innovation than the average PC today. Speaking of iOS, poker a growing scene on the iPad and iPhone. Getting into the Apple ecosystem by playing on a Mac seems like a no brainer. Oh, “and one more thing” the ability to share your screen to an Apple TV via AirPlay lets you play cards on television. You’ll feel like Daniel Negreanu. Only on the couch. Probably without pants.
August 31st, 2012 / 1 Comment » / by Grundy
Women have this foreign ability to chat with their girlfriends (usually over the phone) and stay updated on weekly happenings. I can’t relate. Guys need to have a reason to be brought together. This is why I think playing a weekly poker game with friends is the best social outlet in the world. For men, it becomes the needed reason. For women, it provides a chance to interact with their brutish counterparts in a very real and open way. It is a fine balance of camaraderie and competition. Unfortunately, it isn’t great for improving your game.
The problem is that playing with the same friends becomes a rut. You know how to best play them, but forget how to best play in general. You stop improvising…you stop thinking. Bets and folds become reflex.
Breaking up the amigos is not a favorable option, but you can breath new life into the game by inviting an outsider. Have some players invite a friend outside the collective fellowship to play. Fresh blood is exciting and adds to your network of potential new friends. Oh, and fresh blood means fresh money. You were probably getting tired of passing around the same c-note anyhow.
August 25th, 2012 / 2 Comments » / by Grundy
On question/answer site Quora, the question “What is the best way to overcome extended tilt?” was posed. Good question. Here are the answers: (mine’s at the bottom)
Kevin Ko says:
The short answer is you just need to develop the discipline to move on from the emotional residue of a previous hand. You can’t change past events, the best you can do is learn from them and move on. Most people still suffer from feeling tilty during the same session but it’s rare for this to carry on throughout a wider period of time. This may be the sign of weak emotional control.
A more thorough, long answer involves a deep understanding of what tilt really is, the dangers of tilt, and having the sensibility to understand how it affects your career if you’re a long-term playing professional.
Subtle Tilt – Being even mildly distracted from playing your absolute A game. These factors can be external or internal. E.g. You’re bored and want to start playing looser than your typical range, a player at your table starts talking trash and makes you want to “target” him in particular, or recent losses have made your upset and you don’t think clearly throughout your subsequent hands.
Monkey Tilt – Full-blown monkey tilt is that sort of tilt where you simply blow up and start open-shoving hands, playing without any modicum of thought or logic, and are just intent on burning money in a hopeless attempt at making some money back. In traditional media, this is depicted as the guy who keeps chasing losses and ends up losing his house.
In most cases, subtle tilt is the precursor to monkey tilt, although for the most emotionally undisciplined, entering monkey tilt phase can happen instantly. The key then is to limit subtle tilt, which in itself is still dangerous. What’s nice though is that if you limit your subtle tilting, you won’t tilt that much overall and throughout your sessions. Performing at your A-game at all times is a subject for a different time, but it involves extreme focus, emotional stability (and maintaining it), and the clear headed-ness to reason that tilting from a hand is both irrational because your tilt won’t change the result of the hand, and detrimental because all it means is that for the next x amount of hands, you will be in a phase of subtle tilt or monkey tilt.
The reason why subtle tilt is dangerous is because while the effects and detrimental results are negligible at first, they add up over the course of “the long run”. Due to subtle tilt, you played hands awkwardly, your bet sizing was less than optimal, you played “fun” hands, you tried to chase a quick win before the end of your session, you didn’t quit in time, etc. you end up losing quite a bit in these marginal losses, but consider that most online professionals play hundreds of thousands to even millions of hands per year.
Without going into specific dollar amounts, in one of my nascent years as a professional player, I estimated my losses from subtle tilt, mostly due to not quitting early enough (as part of a stop-loss I used to mitigate tilt effects), to be about 20% of the amount I actually won that year. With poker being so hard already at higher levels, a 20% edge by simply making positive emotional and mental adjustments internally is an absolute gold mine.
Nelson Denoon weights in:
The root cause of any sort of tilting at the poker table is an inability to embrace the moment as it is, that is, regretting what may have happened a minute or more ago or worrying about what is going to happen an minute or more from now.
To overcome tilt, one must cultivate the ability to fully accept what is. To not do so is counterproductive since, no matter how much emotional discharge you apply to this moment, this moment still is.
So if you lose a huge pot that you really wanted to win and you lose it because some guy you dislike caught a one outer on the river, it will hurt. If you embrace the pain and the fact that he is raking in what you wish were your chips and that you are at that moment irreversibly (since the suchness of the moment is indisputable), then your tendency to latch on to regret or ride the wave of worry will subside. Moreover, even if it is understandable and logical, your self-hatred will not get the best of you.
Moreover, although this may be sinister, an effective way to induce tilt behavior in an opponent is to underscore, through words or gestures, that opponent’s past hands, thereby often triggering regret and worry about the future in him, that is, inducing tilt in your opponent.
Timon and Pumbaa said it best: hakuna matata.
I don’t think this is something you can ever fix completely, some people are just more prone to tilt than others. However, here are two quick tips.
1. Live and play in the present. Take the raw information of the past with you, but only if you can let the emotions of the past go. If a guy made a statistically bad move chasing to the river, count on him doing it again and you’ll profit off him more often then he will profit off you. Don’t dwell on each invidiual loss, think about the big picture.
2. Don’t take things personal. A bad beat isn’t a personal attack.
3. Keep in mind that sometimes you are the one who gets lucky too. We tend to remember the times we are screwed over and forget the times we were touched by the poker gods.
4. After a long run of bad beats, EVERYONE goes on tilt to some degree. Just quit playing for a while in this case. Start fresh a day, week, or month later–whatever works for you.
Anyone else use Quora? This is how I roll. Comment below and I’ll check out your answers.
August 17th, 2012 / 1 Comment » / by Grundy
I came across this article about how we should think about all things in terms of odds, not just gambling. The premise is that very few things in life are certain, so we should consider our probability in being correct rather than assuming absolute knowledge or ignorance. The writer make a great case why we should think of these probabiliies as odds rather than the traditional percentages.
Here is a great refresher on odds from the article:
Let’s have a quick refresher on what “odds” are. We all know what a probability is (or at least, we’re familiar with the term!). Odds can be seen as ratios of probabilities. Just as we use P(A) for the “probability of A,” we may talk about O(A), the “odds of A” (where A is some apparently sensible proposition).
In terms of probabilities, O(A) = P(A)/P(~A). So for example, if there is a 66% probability of rain tomorrow, then O(rain) = 0.66/(1-0.66), or more easily 66:33, which finally reduces to 2:1 (usually read “two to one in favour”). The “:” is basically just a division sign, so O(rain) can be stated as “2 to 1” or as simply “2.” Although odds can be expressed as ratios of probabilities, they are best understood on their own terms altogether. In this case, “odds of 2 to 1 in favour of rain tomorrow” means something like “days like this are followed by twice as many rainy days as non-rainy days, to the best of my knowledge.”
Odds are even more familiar from the racetrack, where a bookie might give “10 to 1 on Longshot, to win.” What this means is that if the bookie is selling stakes for $5 each, then a single $5 stake will get you (10+1)*$5 = $55 if you win (i.e., a gain of $50 plus your $5 stake back), while a loss will simply lose you your $5 stake. (Of course, in order to make money, the bookie must think that the realodds on Longshot are even longer than 10 to 1.)
Obviously, this all applies to cards, but also life in general. Check out Rationally Speaking
June 5th, 2012 / 5 Comments » / by Grundy
I’d wager most you readers know how to deal a hand of Texas Hold’em, but apparently not everyone knows that there is a reason behind why we deal like we do. In this case, the purpose of the burn card. Beginners may think it is just out of tradition that a card is burned (or discarded) before the reveal of community cards. Perhaps they just never thought about it. Chances are you know better, but if not, allow me to educate.
After the hole cards are dealt and the players are contemplating the strength of their hands, the deck is typically out there for all to see. In the event of a marked deck, the back of the card gives away as much information as the front. Poker players, being the suspicious lot that they are, invented the burn card to take the card in question out of play. After the flop, the same deck visibility applies, so before the turn there is a burn card and likewise for the river.
How do I know other players don’t get this? The example here is a peeve of mine that has made itself apparent on too many occasions. The player on the button deals out the hands as normal then immediately burns the following card and sets the deck down. Pre-burning is completely useless and missing the point. An even better example is the amateur who burns and sets aside all the community cards in advance, usually proud of his more efficient approach to dealing.
This tidbit is another illustration of when knowing the “whys” of life are more important than knowing the “hows.” It is sometimes in the best interest of a good player to keep a bad player in the dark, but please, if you see someone making these kinds of mistakes it is in the best interest of everyone to say something. Knowing is half the battle.
June 1st, 2012 / 4 Comments » / by Grundy
The sucker bet. (n.) A small bet made with a strong hand to increase the pot size. Usually made knowing that other players intend to fold to a large bet, but are willing to stay in for the cheap.
Most players know this definition and may fold over cards and low pairs to avoid falling victim. This over compensation allows for the cheapest bluff in poker. I bet small every once and a while and the most common response goes something like this: “Now, that’s a sucker bet! I’m not falling for that.” And fold. They don’t always state their thought process, but often they do. I suppose to show their “superior” read and justify their fold to a weak bet.
This tip works best against tight players, both passive and aggressive, and when you have established yourself as a tight player. I recommend it when you are heads-up and post-flop, best as a continuation bet. I tend to throw out my small bets when I have absolutely nothing.
Try it, you may be surprised at the results. It doesn’t work all the time, but you are only losing a little more than you would have with a fold. The beauty of the sucker-sucker bet is that it doesn’t have to have a high success rate to still be worth it.
May 29th, 2012 / 6 Comments » / by Grundy
All the poker books point out the value of choosing a profitable (or “hot”) table. I totally agree, but it will get your night off to a slow start. It takes some time to play spectator in order to see the skill and aggression levels of your potential opponents. That’s what’s nice about on-line table selection, I have some tips to speed up the process.
Before you start playing, most poker sites have a display of available tables. Each table often includes stats such as the number of seats available, how many seats are taken, the number of players on the waiting list, the stakes and the average pot size. Average pot size is very important and one stat that you can’t immediately gain by visiting a table in a casino.
You should, by now, know thyself. If you play your best game shorthanded, stay at the tables with a max. player limit–usually six. If you’re best heads-up, there are table for that too. On-line is great for options. Are you a tournament player who usually either goes out first or wins it all? Then you are probably aggressive enough to be suited for a “turbo” game where the blinds raise quickly. If you like to wait for the really good hands, stay as far from turbo as possible. Some sites even have games with extended blind levels, those may be more your speed.
Another factor for aggression is average pot size. For easy money, an aggressive player should steal the blinds of the table with the smallest pot sizes relative to their blinds. A tight player should sit at the table with the highest pot sizes so that when you do get your hand, you can win big. This strategy probably won’t be the most fun for either player type, but it will be the most profitable.
The time of day can also be a factor. I have found that European players are overall a different skill level as US players and through the magic of time zones they play when we sleep. I’m not saying which countries host the most skilled…but I have my theories.
Keep in mind, that just because the table stats say one thing, doesn’t mean that will hold true forever. Don’t base future play on that early information. A aggressive table can quickly turn tight in the event that the bully loses his chips and is replaced. I’m just saying…test the waters before you jump in.
May 12th, 2012 / 4 Comments » / by Grundy
I’ve always liked bid poker for the new strategy element it brings to the game. The game starts with an ante followed by the deal–five cards down to each player. Players review their hands and the dealer reveals one card in the center of the table. The player left of the dealer has the option of placing a bid on the card or passing. Action moves to left with each subsequent player either raising the bid or passing. Once all but one player has passed, that player pays his bid to the pot and takes the won card. He then discards to keep his card count at five. The same process continues until every player has had the first shot at an auctioned card. Finally we have the traditional poker hand of bet/raise/fold/showdown.
The pots can get large if players pay top dollar in the bidding process. The advantage is if you start off with trash, you can pass on the bidding, fold, and only lose your ante. I don’t generally recommend bluffing in this game since hands have the potential of being very strong come the showdown. It is important to pay attention to what your opponents are bidding on and know whether to get out of their way and stop them from making their hand.
There may be a time when you should outbid an opponent for a card you don’t need just to stop them from having a monster. For example, you have a strong full house–three aces and two tens, and your opponent has already bought a king and is bidding on another king. At this point you know the last king probably made him trips or a full house, which your hand trumps, but this new king would give him four-of-a-kind. This is when the game can get nasty since both you and your opponent are willing to spend a small fortune bidding on the card. There is a lot to think about, but in a different way then most poker variations, and that’s why I like bid poker.
May 4th, 2012 / No Comments » / by Grundy
There is one point in every tournament when every player should adjust their play. It is when the money is almost within grasp and the bubble boy (or girl) is about to be crowned. Most tighten up, some bet more freely, all have a number on their mind. The number of how many players are left.
On a micro-scale, we can deal with the easy numbers. My favorite games are single-table tournaments with the top three places paying out. (These are also known by the somewhat counter-intuitive name sit-n-goes. Once you “sit” you can’t “go” until the game is over.) The bubble here is fourth place. Out of the last ten games I’ve played I’ve been first, second, third or fourth–so the end-game strategy has been fresh on my mind. Be aware, this is on-line advice and my not apply in person.
Every time I reach the top four, everyone tightens up except for players with a significant chip lead. These players steal blinds with bets four or five times the big blind. I’ve found that when the blinds are high enough to significantly impact the smaller or mid stacks, that is overkill. The minimum raise is often enough to get the player to fold pre-flop. According to traditional advice, this is a weak play. I agree, it is weak, but if it works it works. I have been using this strategy over the last ten games and have been first or second most of them. In addition, when you do get a call, you are still seen as on the offensive for the hand. Most people will respect your post-flop bet assuming your table reputation is solid.
Disclaimer: The minimum raise has worked for me consistently, but only under specific circumstances. I’ve been min. raising (1) online, (2) with four or less players at the table, and (3) not in the big blind. I use the min. bet to steal the big blind, it is less likely to get anyone who has already called the big blind to fold. Also I’ve only tested this tactic with buy-ins between $10 and $30. Your mileage may very.