Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reasons to bet

Being aggressive in poker is vital to becoming successful. Passive play may be rewarded from time to time but on the whole it will be the players who show aggression, by betting, who will be raking in the money at the end of the day.

The first and most obvious reason to bet is because you think you have the best hand. You find a pair of aces in the hole and make a bet as you want to win more money with what is certainly the best hand at the moment. But have you thought that by betting you not only do so for value but also for protection?

Say you hold a set of queens on a board reading 8KQ with two clubs. Your hand is currently only behind to a pair of kings but there are many turn cards that could see your opponent outdraw you. Clubs are the obvious danger for the flush draw but also any ace or nine could see someone with jack-ten fill their straight and potentially stack you. By betting here you are charging your opponent to draw and offering him incorrect odds to call you. This means you have more chance of winning the hand and forcing your opponent to fold.

Betting also gives you more ways to win a pot than simply calling. By calling the only way you can win the pot is for you to have the best hand. However, by betting you can get someone with a better hand then yours to fold, you can be called and still outdraw them to a better hand or be called and have the best hand anyway. It should be obvious by now that the merits of betting are far greater than those of playing passively.

One phrase I always try to remember is that betting when you shouldn't leads to you losing a bet, but not betting when you should can cost you the entire pot.

Even the best poker hands are worthless if they have been folded, so a little bit of aggression can pay dividends.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Slowplaying

In poker the term 'slowplaying' refers to playing a particular hand much more passively than you usually would in an attempt to deceive your opponent into thinking your hand is much weaker than it is.

Used sparingly it can be a very powerful tool that can increase your profits when you play poker, but if overused or used in the wrong circumstances it can be a high-risk and costly move to make.

The best time to slowplay is when you have a strong hand on a board that contains no or few draws and your opponent is someone who is aggressive and bets frequently. For example, in a cash game you decide to limp with a pair of black nines and an aggressive player makes his standard raise, which you call.

The flop comes down 4d 9h Ks. Now is a perfect time to slowplay. If you check with your set of nines, your aggressive opponent is almost certainly going to bet to represent the king even if it has not helped him. When he bets you can flat-call and hope to repeat the same action on a safe turn. Alternatively, you could check-raise him and win at least the extra bet he has just put into the pot, something he might not have done if you had lead out. If he is aggressive or reckless enough, he may even come over the top of your check-raise with top pair and commit his entire stack as a huge underdog, which is obviously a great situation for you to be in.

Whenever there are multiple players in the hand or the flop contains a big draw it is not advisable to slowplay your hand. Imagine you have a pair of black nines again but this time you and three others see a flop reading 9h Th 5c. While there is a high chance you have the best hand right now, there are a number of possible holdings your opponents could have that have the potential to outdraw you by the river.

It's possible your opponents could have hands such as eight-seven, queen-jack or a flush draw, so you should bet out to protect your hand rather than try and trap other players as you could give away a free card and allow someone the chance to outdraw you.

If you are in any doubt it is probably best not to slowplay your hand as it is much better to win a small pot then lose a large one.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Social Networking for Cardsharks

In the beginning, Al Gore invented the Internet. He said let there be social networking, and there was MySpace. And it was good. At least until Facebook came along, then MySpace was crap. There have been many iterations of social networks in the past decade, with Facebook the clear winner in the US. At this point the only way to compete is to spin off into something different, like Twitter, or find a niche. PokerNations found our niche.

As poker players, we were never left without a place to find each other on-line. Both MySpace and Facebook have poker communities that are searchable in their respective Groups functionality. As a Ning.com member I belong to various special interest networks created by members. Although limited, I found my share of poker buddies in his manner.

The search for a poker playing social network branched out to other dedicated web sites. Most added to the poker network category as a group blogging engine and little else.

Which brings me to the good news: Poker players now have a bone fide community in PokerNations.com. It has all the trimmings one would expect: user profiles, commenting, blogging, events, polls, forum...think MySpace. Don’t think Facebook because the design and functionality is not nearly as refined as Facebook. Yes, think MySpace, only without the glitter and animated gifs. (thanks God)

I’m not trying to discourage you from joining, just trying to manage your expectations. PokerNations is a very young web site and is bound to improve. They are off to a good start. They have relationships with the Poker Player’s Alliance, the Twitter Poker Tour and other online poker organizations. They have courted a few pros as members. They are integrated with Twitter and use keywords like apps and widgets to define them self. They even have a chip earning system to encourage activity on the site which can be used as entries for prizes including a (non-main event) WSOP Vegas trip.

Long story short, every on-line poker player should probably be a member of PokerNations just for the sake of community. They will no doubt host PokerNations endorsed tournaments and freerolls and rakeback and all the other poker playing/marketing tropes, some of which I may want in on and some of which I may block. When it comes down to it, poker players are online to play more than network, but when you're invited to the party, I say there is no reason to be antisocial.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Cheat Night!

For those of you who run a friendly home game with people you care about and trust whole-heartedly, throw a corrupting, money-hungry, greed -powered wrench in your goody-twoshoe system. Announce that tomorrow night is Cheat Night!

Cheat Night: (n.) Night in which it is understood by all that no lasting punishments will be issued for foul-play. The rules are as follows: Let all players know beforehand (preferably with 24-hour notice) that a Cheat Night will be held. Proceed with your poker game as normal. If a player catches another player cheating and calls him or her out, the offending player mucks his hand. Each player can call for a card count no more than twice each Cheat Night.

Sooo...is there a point to all this? Yes. The usual player wastes most of their suspicion on Internet card rooms and saves little for in person game play. Your friends likely shift their attention from their cards, to other player’s faces for a read, over to the TV and back again. This exercise gets people looking at the deck, other player’s cards and gets their suspicion running wild. Their healthy suspicion. Cheat Night is a wake up call. It is a call to arms to prepare you for the real world. It gets you thinking like a cheater.

The importance of the 24-hour notice is that it gives your frienemies time to bring their own cold decks, enter uneasy partnerships for collusion and whatever other preperations they see fit. It is important not to get found out because if you have to muck, you loose whatever investment you had in the pot. This also shows why it is important to play for real money. I suggest your usual stakes. The card count rule is important in case you suspect a player of hording cards from past hands. It is also important to limit the amount of times one can confirm a 52 card deck or it would happen every hand.

Poker would cease to be fun if every night became Cheat Night, but if you have an adventurous crowd it could become the most fun night of the year. I do recommend setting up at least two Cheat Nights. Players will get idea from other players and will be considerably better cheats the second night.

A couple tips: Don’t use your best cards as they may get marked. Don’t assume whoever doesn’t get called out for cheating opted out of cheating, it is likely that he or she is the best cheater. If you are dealt a statistically unlikely good hand and are re-raised, consider folding as you were probably the mark for a set deck.