Thursday, February 28, 2008

Your first casino experience.

If I walked into a casino and started playing blackjack, my opponent is the casino. Like roulette and many other casino games, I am playing against the house. In theory bad luck could cause the casino to lose money on any given night. Although, I doubt this ever happens seeing that these games keep the odds in favor of the house.

From the casino's point of view, including poker rooms is an even safer bet. The players compete against each other rather then the house. The casino has no sake in whether Player X wins or loses. The casino wins either way. Some percentage of the pot or some fee for playing goes to the casino for hosting the game and providing the dealers. This is the rake. Internet poker rooms operate the same way. Their rakes are usually low, but then they have fewer expenses.

This is something you may know, but also something that is important to consider if you are thinking about making the jump from your home games to casino play—on-line or live. It is not good enough to break even. You break even, you lose.
In addition to that, you need to go in knowing that the minimum buy-ins and blinds will probably be higher then your home games. It may be higher than you are comfortable playing. I have known a few friends who came in with an amount in their head that they expected to risk on their first trip to a casino and lose twice that with in the first 15 minutes.

Your first trip to a casino can be a thrilling experience, but it is also intimidating. My advice to you is to look up buy-in costs before hand, build up a bankroll that you can afford to lose and is sufficient enough to be at least an average stack at the table. Walk in with nothing to prove and play solid poker.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hell's Cold Day Mobile

hells.jpgHell's Cold Day has gone mobile @

Save that link into your mobile device of choice and read your favorite poker blog on the go! And yes, it is iPhone optimized.

I had outs!

Just because you had outs, doesn't mean it was a good decision.

Another entry from the Sasseman Files.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Casino Cubicle!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you...the Casino Cubicle!
casino cubicle

My day job is at an office so I can appreciate this. Wired Magazine's on-line presence is running a piece on how to pimp out your cubicle. It's worth the read if you, like me, are stuck in a box.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The probability of face cards hitting

Another entry from the Sasseman Files, this time in the form of useful probabilities. Find out just how likely it is that your over-cards will hit.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Chicken is Dead

The following is a guest post from the blog Becoming Poker, check it out for a lot of great poker content as well as my latest post.--Grundy

Today one of our chickens died of rather unfortunate causes. What has that got to do with poker? Well like a cloudy day it will become clear once the downpour has passed. So allow the words of this article to trickle and flow, splatter and pitter-patter through your mind and you will find the answer to why a chicken’s death has so much to do with poker and beating micro stakes cash games.

As the title ensues, one of our chickens has died. This chicken was not just any old chicken. I personally gave her the name Ginger after the chicken in the movie Chicken Run. Why did I name her after a fictional movie character? Because Ginger was our only chicken who refused to stay within the confines of the chicken run. No matter how often or how hard we tried she would always find a way to escape from the chicken run and roam free around the garden and, on occasions, through the house. All of which is much like Ginger in the movie.

Unfortunately things did not end well for our Ginger, today we found her dead after sticking her head into a possum trap, trying to eat the apple, and had unwittingly set of the trap which broke her neck.

You are probably still wondering what this has to do with poker. As some of you may have guessed I am referring to setting traps or slowplaying. Why some work and why some do not.

When setting a trap in poker there are a few main conditions that need to occur.

1. You need a very strong hand.

2. Your opponent needs a strong hand also, but one that is dominated by yours.

3. Your opponent needs to be an aggressive player.

Without these key three conditions your trap will very rarely yield the maximum benefits and will most likely not be the most profitable play for the situation because of it.

NOTE: All examples and advice is assuming that your are playing a heads-up pot and I only delve into setting the trap post flop. Whilst pre-flop traps can be set I am directing this article at post flop trapping.

Condition 1 - A strong hand

The term “strong hand” is relative to the situation. On a 7c2s8h flop a set of 8’s has a great chance of taking down the pot on the river, in this situation you have a strong hand. Whereas on a 8hAh9h board there are multiple draws and made hands that will beat you and your hand is likely beat against a TAG (tight/aggressive) player showing large amounts of aggression.

The definition of a strong hand is also relative to what type of opponent you are facing. If your opponent is TAG then TPTK (Top pair/Top kicker) is probably not going to cut it at showdown. The opposite is also true, where TPTK against a super lag donk is the best hand 75%+ of the time.

To define whether or not your hand is infect “strong” you must look at it in relation first to the board cards and secondly to the type of opponent you are up against.

Condition 2 – Your opponent needs a strong hand that you dominate

To some this may just seem that it is a luck of the draw thing. You do not get to decide what cards your opponent has so how can you tell whether he has a strong enough hand for you to trap him successfully.

This is where your hand reading skills, his actions in previous hands and the earlier streets in this hand come into play.

Effective stacks 100bb. Lets say that a TAG player who plays solid ABC poker and very rarely bets without a hand. You mad a standard 3xbb raise from late position and villain 3-bets you from the bb to 10bb. You call with your 8c8h. The flop comes down 8dAhKs. Villain leads out for a pot bet of 20bb.

At this point in the hand you must decide whether or not to slow play your hand or to fast play your hand. A major contributing factor will be whether villain has shown that he can let go oh his flopped TPTK type hands to big re-raises. For the sake of the example, we have seen villain fold AQ on an AJ3 board and show what he folded when he was face with a large re-raise after leading the flop.

Now with that information you should be able to recognize that calling to trap villain is better than raising because of his 3 betting pre-flop range(something like QQ+/AQs+).. By calling we allow villain to make another big bet on the turn with his TPTK or Top 2 pair type hand. The alternative of raising will mean that villain will fold all hands barring top 2 pair and a set. Seeing as though there are two possible sets that beat yours then you can deduct that if you raise then you will be in an effectively wa/wb situation where your raise is getting called by more hands that beat you than hands that you beat.

So by using information that you gained in the early rounds of a hand and in previous hands we can make better assumptions on villains range and on whether or not we are in a good situation to trap.

Condition 3 – Villain needs to be an aggressive player

By this I mean that you can’t trap a calling station or passive player because they simply don’t bet their hands so trapping would yield less profit than value betting your hand the whole way.

Example hand

Continuing from the example I used in the condition 2 section. The turn comes a blank and villain fires out another 2/3 pot size bet of 40bb into a 60.5bb pot. Here villain has just committed himself to a showdown and your trap has worked. Shove it in, villain only has 40bb of 100bb left and is committed to calling your all-in.

Alternatively, villain hesitates on the turn and fires out a small 20bb bet. Here is where you should take your trap to the river. Villain is slowing down and will most likely fold to a raise here so call and value bet the river if villain checks or shove if he bets.


If the 3 conditions I mentioned above arise then it is most likely an ideal trapping situation and you should give your opponent enough rope to hang himself with and unleash your raise on the river by which point villain is committed to calling your all-in the majority of the times.

Good Luck with your traps! You can follow mine at


Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Test Your Rep

It is always good to be aware of your reputation. You know those notes you write about the other players? Well they write them about you too. Ideally, you should mix up your play so not to be pigeon-holed into this or that type of player, but realistically, you are. You have a style and any solid player around you knows it. Use it to your advantage.

If your style is conservative, you command a higher level of respect with every bet. Therefore, you should occasionally bluff. I know it is not easy because it is probably against your nature, but luckily you don't have to make a habit of it. If you do, you will lose that respect. Just consider a strong bluff the next time you chase that flush to the river and it misses, that hand can still be yours.

Inversely, if you play a lot of flops and everyone knows it, or if you have been called on a bluff on more than one occasion, try playing a big hand in a similar fashion to the bluff. Whereas a large bet from a tight player would ensure a fold, a large bet from you makes people think you are buying the pot. Let them. You stand to make more money per monster hand than any other style. So when you get the nuts, don't over-think it, make them pay!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Anatomy of a Freeroll

If you've read some of my previous posts, you know how I feel about play money games. With nothing at risk, you can't expect the table to take the game seriously. You should expect constant all-ins and devote chasers. Play money's more affluent cousin is the freeroll—a tournament granting free entry yet awards cash! I find the freeroll has a playing style all of its own.

Entrance into these games are usually tied new players, affiliation with some organization that has a mutually beneficial relationship with the poker room, or a reward program for regular members. The tournaments usually features hundreds of players competing for relatively small payout. But hey, you get what you pay for.

The desire to place is much higher than play money games, but the expectation of winning is low because of the huge field to outlast. Most players make an early gambit for chips with hopes of quadrupling up before the blinds raise or busting out before they commit too much of their time.
It is time that is at risk here, not money. That is why the level of play is a sliding scale for freerolls. Early in the tournament people perform like they are in a play money game and as it progresses they get more and more serious. If you are going to lose, you want to lose early. To reach the money you have to outlast at least 90% of the field and play for hours. By that time everyone is playing like they have money at risk, because they do, just not their own.

At a freeroll final table I find people play better than they would a regular cash tournament. These players are not the Phil Iveys of the world or they wouldn't waste their time on a freeroll. Their normal MO is probably too conservative to make a living at poker. During the freeroll endgame, they are focused on winning and as aggressive as a great player needs to be—because they don't fear losing. Nothing to risk, money and respect to gain. If these players could harness that feeling all the time they would be pros. An unyielding drive to win without the fear of loss is trait of a successful rounder.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

From the Sasseman Files

Poker journalist and friend David Sasseman has turned me on to a few useful statistics to post next to my online gambling machine (computer.) Allow me to share:

Those pocket rockets only have a one in three chance of holding up to a full table, so get those ugly mugs to fold pre-flop I say! Over all good, reference material, thanks David!

More to come.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


BaseballThe one game that came up at my dealer's choice games that I didn't enjoy was Baseball. I couldn't even tell you why I didn't like it. Maybe it was because I didn't like the idea of a game named after another game, or maybe I just never was successful at it. Whatever the reason, Baseball came up a lot, so someone must have liked it.

The game is played like Seven-Card Stud, dealing the first two cards down followed by one up to each player. There is a round of betting followed by another card dealt up to all. This continues until everyone has seven cards, the last being dealt face down. What makes Baseball Baseball is this: 3's and 9's are wild and anyone receiving a 4 face up gets an extra card.

The name and the significance of the special cards comes from three outs, four bases and nine innings; but I think that's a stretch. Whoever thought this game was clever was out at the 'ol ball game a little too long if you ask me.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Personal Poker Playlist

As I promised in my previous musical post, here is my current personal poker playlist.

To switch to a more aggressive playing style, I use the following high-energy songs:

  • Best of You - Foo Fighters

  • Stronger - Kanye West

  • Ladies and Gentlemen - Saliva

  • Lose Yourself - Eminem

  • Hey Man, NiceShot - Filter

  • Faint - Linkin Park

  • Knights of Cydonia - Muse

To bring it back to basics, I chill out with these:

  • Shadow of the Day - Linkin Park

  • Under the Bridge - Red Hot Chilli Peppers

  • Be Yourself - Audioslave

  • In the Air Tonight - Phil Collins

  • Level - The Raconteurs

  • Fields of Gold - Sting

I have some specialty songs that fit certain occasions as well. I like Say It Ain't So by Weezer and Karma Police by Radiohead after bad beats. Iron Man by Black Sabbath is my go to tune to keep me focused as a move to the final table. I tend to listen to Dare by Gorillaz when I want a caller to my raise. Finally, Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys is always good when I'm on a lucky streak.

My favorite tracks are subject to change, but right now these work just fine for me.