Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Secret Life of Pocket Pairs

Low pocket pairs can be difficult hands to play. On one hand, you want to bet them heavy to buy the blinds or to limit your opponents (hopefully to one) in order to get the best odds to win. However, if you do get that caller he probably has two over-cards leaving you with a coin-flip situation and somewhat pot-committed with your initial bet. So do you want to bet small or just call pre-flop? Well, not really. Then you would have more callers and each player who stays in the hand drops your odds to win with a quickness.

In good conscious, I will begin with a disclaimer that I don’t play pocket twos and pocket threes unless I am dealt them as big blind. These pocket pairs still work with the two below strategies, but for me they hold a high enough risk factor to not be worth my effort. And, yes, I’ve had some previous bad experiences. Inversely, pocket Jacks or better are hands that are premium enough that I play more aggressively then the two below strategies and will discuss them at a later time.

I have two winning plays with pockets pairs 10s and under. The first is only recommended in late position with no previous callers. I start by betting three times the big blind. It is likely this will buy the blinds with tight players, but if not I will probably only get one caller who I can assume doesn't have a super premium hand. So that rules out an over-pair and leaves either two over cards, or better yet, one over card. Keep in mind if the opponent raises my bet pre-flop I have to assume a super premium hand and will probably fold.

I watch closely after the flop because a good read on my opponent makes this strategy a lot easier. Do I think he hit the flop? If it is three low cards, especially if there is a pair on board, I feel more confident. I fire out a strong bet if I think he missed. The opponent will likely fold here. If you have a good read that he hit strong, you might as well check it because he will likely bet or raise regardless of your action. If you don't have a read, fire a bet if you can afford it. He may fold or at least give you information and a chance to see another card.

Strategy number two can be played from any position and starts with a call pre-flop. A weak play that I don’t usually recommend, I know. I use the concept of implied odds here. It is likely that you won't hit the flop, but if you do, you have trips. Trips is a very strong hand at after the flop and before the turn, allowing you to raise most bets without fear, or slow-play depending on the situation. You called pre-flop which means there are probably a few players in the hand, one of them probably caught top pair or even two pair. I can make a lot of money with this, but have to stay aware that I can be outdrawn on the turn or river. It is because of this I only consider slow-playing against one or two players; any more is far too risky.

In conclusion, trips=good, pocket twos=bad, mid-pocket pairs=depends how you play them. I should probably change my blog name to Grundy, Master of the Obvious. But seriously folks, pocket pairs are not for the passive players. You need to come in strong and read your opponent to profit, or cheaply wait for the relatively low chance to trip up. As with all of poker, it greatly depends on the situation.

Monday, July 14, 2008

iPhone App Review: Motion X Poker, Texas Hold'em

This past week Apple rolled out the iPhone 2.0 software allowing support for third-party applications. If you already knew this, keep reading. If not, you probably don't care about today's post.

From here on out, I'm assuming you either have or want an iPhone or iPod Touch. I've found a few gems in Apple's App Store already. Two on which are poker related: Motion X Poker and the new Texas Hold'em game. Both are time wasters and both are the best poker games available on any mobile platform.

First off, Motion X Poker. At first it resembles video draw poker, but as soon as you start playing you'll see how wrong you were. It's a dice game where the six sides of each die are ace, king, queen, jack, ten and nine. The goal is to beat the dealers "hand" after three rolls of the dice. Standard poker hand values apply except that straights trump full-houses. I learned that the hard way. (Note to self, read directions.)

The game uses the iPhone accelerometer—meaning you roll by shaking your hand as if you were actually casting real dice. It will either be a fun gimmick or an annoyance at first, but in time it feels very natural. You chose which dice to keep between rolls via the touchscreen. The game also has some added replay value by rewarding winning streaks and other "accomplishments" with new die, table designs and reward gems. The game is $4.99 and worth it.

I was skeptical of Apple's Texas Hold'em game at first. I have never been one to enjoy playing hold'em against a computer. However, the game has won me over in spades.

Keep in mind, if you buy a poker game branded for any console you'll be paying somewhere between $20 and $50. Most mobile phone games from the cell network go for $4.99 and are close to unplayable. After about a hour of game play, I can say that the iPhone's Texas Hold'em is the most fun hold'em game available for any system, mobile or otherwise.

First off, the graphics way surpass what I thought the platform was capable of. The player models are limited in their actions, but better looking than the poker games on the Xbox. I can even forgive the dealer's resemblance to an ex-NSync singer. No, not him, the other guy.

The game play is easy and intuitive. Tap the screen to check, drag your cards to the center of the table to fold. Turn the screen sideways to change your first-person perspective into an overview of the table (similar to on-line poker sites.) The table views allows for a more speedy game. No need to wait to fold and get on to the next hand. That speed is something missing from nearly all other poker games I've played.
The only thing this game is missing is the ability to play for money. The functionality for wireless multiplayer is there, but the legality isn't. You can still keep track of your imaginary bankroll and use it to play in higher stakes venues with, I'm guessing, smarter AI. There are good in-game statistics so you can track your progress. All-in-all, this is a superior training exercise than playing free poker on-line, but that isn't saying much.

I give Motion X Poker an A and Texas Hold'em an A+, and I promise Apple's not giving me any money to say this...althought they are welcome to. I will be reviewing other poker games that come my way, but the bar is set pretty high. If you have the cash to buy them, do so. If not, win some.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Confidence vs. Arrogance

All poker players sit at the poker table with the intention to win. Good poker players sit down with the expectation to win. Bad poker players sit without considering the possibility of losing

You always want to find the table in which you have the advantage. I watch tables play for a while before I sit down, and I sit down at the table when I'm fairly sure I am among the most skilled at attendance. This is good practice. If you are not doing this you might as when play craps.

The confident player's over zealous brother is the arrogant player. He tips off his feeling with constant bad beat stories. Although he plays the game well, he misses chances to profit while telling others how to play. His wins are pure skill and his loses are entirely dumb luck. This outlook translates into never learning or improving from mistakes, because he "never" makes them.

It is important to not cross the line into arrogance or you will spend every lucky night without friends and every unlucky night on tilt and severely in the hole...and, come to think of it, also without friends.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pick of July: Learn Poker From The Joes Podcast

This month I'm going with a podcast to which I have recently started listening. Restarted actually, I gave them a chance early on and lost interest, but I can give a full recommendation now to Learn Poker From The Joes.

For starters, a podcast is a show distributed over the internet. In this case it is audio, so you can think of it as a weekly radio program lasting  around an hour. Except it is better than radio in that it is commercial free.
Learn Poker From The Joes is a play on Full Tilt's podcast Learn Poker from the Pros. Full Tilt's show is also very good and also comes in a video format. However, it doesn't get "pick" status because the episodes are too short to hash out any real information.

The host "Joe," a guy called Judge, knows his stuff keeps his various guests on track, as all good hosts should. My favorite guest goes by KOOGE. There is no reason to listen to the episodes in order, so I suggest listening to a recent show featuring KOOGE first. For most, meaning iPod users, it is easiest to access the show on iTunes.

These guys are not pros, and yes, anyone can start a podcast, but the "Joes" go over more solid poker than the other popular poker podcasts (say that five times fast.) Many, like PokerRoad radio, spend the whole time complaining about bad beats at whatever tournament they are recording from.

Learn Poker From The Joes is a great podcast for beginning players and anyone who needs to re-examine their game. The "Joes" have brought up many aspects of the game I never considered or have forgot the importance. If you like this blog, give them a listen.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Lucky Number 45

To my happy shiny poker people,

I have moved and will not have a reliable internet connection until next weekend. Stop.

Regular posts will resume on the 12th of July. Stop.

Until then, link to me so I can get above the folks at the Betting for Value blog. Stop.

See the Top 100 Poker Blogs list for more information. Stop.