Author Archives: timmy

My Poker Education Tips

Playing more poker isn’t the only way to win more money at the tables. Education is just as important as every second you spend playing hands. Education will help you to make all the right decisions in nearly every situation. Just as you dedicate a certain amount of time a day to playing; you should be spending an equal amount of time bettering yourself at the game by all sorts of education. There are articles, videos, and forums that you can view to become better. All of these will help build your knowledge of poker, which will in turn make you money.

Poker Forums (Hand Histories):

When you are actually playing poker you are learning, but there is a lot of down time because you are folding a lot of hands. When you read forum posts, they are strictly the interesting hands that you would have questions about if you yourself came across them on the tables. Not only do you get to review the hand and see what yourself and others think about the situation, but you also have no risk of your own money involved! The best thing about education is that for the most part it doesn’t cost you anything. Posting your own hand histories is very important as well. This makes it possible for other people to see the approach you took in the hand and your reasoning, letting them give you feedback about what you did well and what you did poorly.

Poker Videos:

Another great form of education is watching pro videos. Watching a professional play can help show you the right plays to make and more importantly WHY. When you watch a video, you should be taking notes. This helps you to look for key things that you are doing wrong when you yourself play. If you are unsure about situations to re-raise then you can watch a few videos and look for that specifically. Having the ability to do this is extremely useful especially with monitoring your own play. If you see that you aren’t stealing the blinds enough then you can watch for how often a professional does it to help you get on track with your steal attempts. Taking notes will help the learning process a lot because it forces you to answer the question “Why am I taking this action in this situation?” which will ultimately help you to better understand the game as a whole.

Poker Strategy Articles:

Strategy articles are also a good source of information intake. You can find strategy articles on almost any element of the game. By reading strategy articles you can look at a certain aspect of the game and have it broken down for you. Taking notes on strategy articles is also a good idea. Again, understanding why you do certain things will help you in situations like it. If you read an article about loosening up on the button, you might not read about the exact situation that you will be in, but you will read about a situation much like it. Taking notes to help understand “why” will help you relate the situations with one another, increasing your ability to make the right play.

Education is the heart of bettering your skill level of poker. The more you know the better you are. The better you are the more money you make which is the ultimate goal. Reading articles, posting and responding on poker forums, and watching videos will all build your foundation of skill at poker. Taking notes will force you to understand the game more and ultimately win more money.

A Lesson in Damage Control

It came to light recently that a player was awarded a pot with the worst hand, over at Cake Poker. The revelation was revealed on the 2+2 forums – where a player with a king high flush beat an ace high flush. While it was amusing that the first few posters on that thread didn’t even spot the winning hand, online poker software should spot it. We take it for granted that a poker site will award the pot to the best hand. These kinds of mistakes aren’t meant to happen, but as anyone with a computer will know – they do some strange things sometimes.

Software has bugs, and this was clearly a bug in their system. Such a mistake is obviously not great PR for an online poker room (“don’t play there; they don’t know what beats what!” etc). But depending on how you handle the situation, you can either turn it into a huge issue or limit the damage. Cake Poker should be applauded in the way they dealt with this situation. The poker room manager at Cake Poker, Lee Jones, quickly responded to say that it was indeed a genuine mistake, and a short time later came up with a detailed explanation – which is entirely plausible and while I’m no programmer, I’ve no reason to doubt them.

Compare this to Ultimate Bet, where a similar situation occurred. This involved none other than Phil Hellmuth, who won with the worst hand. How did they respond? Well, the opposite to Cake Poker. Of course that’s no surprise to anyone who knows anything about Ultimate Bet – a site with zero integrity and one that should be avoided at all costs (Google ‘Super User’ for more on them).

So, credit where credit is due. Well done Lee Jones. Well done Cake Poker!

Rush Poker – Good or Bad?

In my previous post I was critical of one particular online room (network) for their announcement of “updates” – which put them just a few light years behind other online poker rooms, rather than many light years. But today I’ll be talking about an online poker room, Full Tilt Poker, who are the opposite, and who have just demonstrated once again how innovative and ahead of the game they are. That’s right, I’m talking about Rush Poker.

Rush Poker has been billed as “the world’s fastest poker game” – and it has certainly caused a lot of buzz in the online poker world. I won’t give a long description of the game, because you probably know about it already. But if not – in this new online poker format you join a large player pool and get moved to a brand new table to face different opponents from within this pool, each and every hand that you play. When you fold your hand, you get moved to another table and get to play a new hand. There’s even a ‘quick fold’ button for the truly impatient. It’s like multi-tabling, but all from one table. Andy Bloch (Full Tilt Pro) summed it up nicely when he said, “It’s the difference between watching TV and watching TiVo. You get to skip the commercials.”

Players at Full Tilt have flocked to Rush Poker. I’ve read many different views about Rush Poker, and I believe a lot of players are basing their initial impressions on whether they’ve won or lost at Rush Poker. For those who’ve started off winning at Rush Poker, they usually love it. For those who’ve bit hit by bad variance, they probably hate it. I’m sure there’s also a ton of players who loved it at first when they got lucky, then played a couple of losing sessions – and are left undecided. Poker players can be very results orientated, can’t they!

Well, I’ve played it a fair bit this past week, and have enjoyed both winning and losing sessions – ahead overall though, thankfully. I like a lot of things about Rush Poker, and some things I’m not so keen on. Let’s start with the positives. I really love the fact that you don’t have to worry about table image. In a regular game if you steal from the button a lot, players will notice after a while. That doesn’t happen on Rush Poker because you’re constantly switching tables and finding new players each hand. So you can steal everytime, without having to worry that you might be tagged as a persistent thief.

In Rush Poker you don’t have to wait for a hand to finish. Obviously this is just super convenient, but it also means you stop being so results orientated. Sometimes it’s nice to see how a hand played out among your opponents, but being less results orientated is a good thing – and helps keep the tilt-ometer from ticking too much. And anyway, you’ve folded so who cares if you would have won that pot, right? Let’s play the next hand!

Okay, so that’s just a couple of the positives (there are more). Now let me say what I don’t like about Rush Poker. Firstly I don’t like the fact that it promotes ratholing, because you can leave and buy-in again right away for the minimum. This is perfect for a short stack strategy, and I hate short stackers. But the good news is Full Tilt have increased the minimum buy-in from 20BBs to 35BBs.

One of the greatest thing about Rush Poker is the fact nobody can data mine you. But this is also one of the worst things too. I have no clue about my opponents, other than where they are from, their username and their stack size. Reads are an important part of online poker, and in Rush Poker it’s very hard to get reads. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t import hand histories of players I’ve never played with before (because that’s cheating!), but I do use a HUD compiled of my own personal history. Not knowing the fish from the regular, is a big drawback. However, the fact they have nothing on me either gives it some balance.

Problem the worst thing about Rush Poker is that it encourages the fish to tighten up, and wait for big hands. Of course some bad players just can’t help themselves, but in general – they can now wait for a good hand and at a rate of 300 hands per hour, they don’t have to wait too long. 

So, there’s both good and bad points about Rush Poker. I appreciate that I’ve not shared any Rush Poker strategies in this post, but that’s because I’m not yet convinced on the optimum strategy for success. Hopefully in my next post I will have come to some reasonable conclusions, and I’ll share my thoughts. But for now I’ll just say that if you’ve not yet tried out Rush Poker, then I recommend you give it a go. It could well be the future of online poker! 

Poker Heaven or Poker Hell?

I play on quite a few different online poker sites. I’m lucky because I don’t live in the USA, so I have a wider choice of rooms to play at. Although I tend to spend most of my time with my American cousins playing at Full Tilt and Poker Stars, I do occasionally play at a few other sites. The problem is, apart from maybe Party Poker and the iPoker sites, the software at some of these poker rooms is so out of date. It’s amazing how bad some online poker sites are, when you think how much money they make. The prime culprit here is the Boss Media poker network. I’ve given them a bit of a bashing in the past (fully justified), but here’s part of an email they sent me this week: 

We are proud to announce that on January 14th, we will be introducing new features that will make your gaming experience even better!

Which made me think: Oh great. It’s about time they updated their software, which is incredibly annoying. Now I can play with all the fish who frequent Poker Heaven without tilting from the crappy software. Great. What changes have been made, I wonder.

         • Multitasking whilst playing poker has just got easier as you can now choose to have your table pop up when it is your turn to act. To enable this function, go to the ‘Settings’ tab in the lobby. 

Hmmm, not exactly cutting edge stuff. Helpful, but this should have been done light years ago.

         • Our new ‘Join Waiting List’ button means you will never be disappointed again if the table you wish to play at is full.

Right, okay. How long have the other online poker rooms had waiting lists? Forgive me if I’m not getting excited by this email.

         • To make you feel even more comfortable at the tables, you will also be able to choose your preferred seat by selecting the ‘Sit Here’ button.

Whoppido! And that’s the extent of their software update. It’s now 2010 for crying out loud. These changes are way overdue, but they’re still so far behind it’s untrue.

Maybe I’m being harsh, I don’t know. But when you play on Full Tilt and Poker Stars, you just get a little spoilt with there excellent software. Rant over.

Why Do Losers Say Online Poker Is Rigged?

I was having a conversation with a player from my home game the other day. We were talking about online poker, and after saying how he struggles to win online, he said “I think Poker Stars is rigged”. He’s been playing poker long enough to know it’s unlikely that Poker Stars is rigged. I was too polite to suggest it might be that he sucks at poker (actually he’s not a bad player, but online poker is a different ball game).

The whole conversation reminded me of post match interviews with football team coaches. If they won, the interview is usually about how well they played, how they took their chances, and so on. If they lose, they blame external factors, usually the referee, the rotten luck, and so on.

I believe many poker players think they are better than they truly are. They win at their local casino, so why can’t they win online? It doesn’t make sense to them. Their local game might be soft, and while there are plenty of bad players playing online poker – there’s a huge number of skilled poker players, even in the micro stakes. So rather than blame it on ‘online poker is rigged’ and jump on that bandwagon, some introspection should take place. I’m sure if I were to observe their play or analyze some hand histories, it would become clear why they are an online loser.

Some players just don’t want to know the truth – that they might not be as good as poker as they think. I know someone who regularly tells me about his bad beats, how he’s on the worst run ever, how he can’t even win with Aces in the hole, and a million other complaints. Everytime I see him he’s got a bad beat story. I suggest he puts some tracking software on his computer so we can review some of his hands – but he refuses. “I don’t need tracking software to tell me how unlucky I am” he says.

The truth is, some players just bury their heads in the sand. Maybe the truth hurts too much.

New Year (Poker) Resolutions

It’s that time of year when millions of people decide to stop smoking, start an exercise regime, or change one of endless other things in their life. For the 90% of the population who decide to do something different for the new year, it usually lasts until the 2nd week of January. Yes that’s very negative from me, but it’s pretty accurate. Good luck to all of you who do decide to make changes and let’s hope you’re in the 10% group.

Of course this is a poker blog, so let’s talk poker. The key to success at poker is improving your game, plugging leaks (don’t say you have none!), and doing it all over again. While you should always be studying poker, reading the latest poker strategy books, articles, analyzing your stats, etc – now is a good a time as any to reflect on your game and start afresh for the 2010. Here’s a brief list of what I’m going to do come January 1st 2010:

* Spend more time reviewing my hands after each session. I usually play 90 minute cash game sessions, and I might have a quick look at some hands. From January 1st I’m going to play 75 minute sessions and spend 15 minutes or more reviewing some poker hands – ones I played well, and ones I played badly.

* Controlling Tilt. I try my best to avoid tilting, but I know I could do better. I’m going to play much closer attention to this part of my game, and if I feel myself tilting I’ll leave the tables immediately. I think this one will have a massive impact on my bottom line.

* Table Selection. I’m going to be more selective in which tables I play at, and stop being lazy by sitting in a poker game with no fish. I’m going to leave and rejoin tables regardless of how well or badly I’m doing, but based on the quality of the table. I should do this anyway, but I often fail.

* Play at more online poker sites. I keep meaning to play at more online poker rooms, but I always seem to end up on Full Tilt. I might (haven’t decided on this yet) avoid playing on Full Tilt completely in January. You could say I’m going on a Full Tilt detox. Though I think this one will only last till the 2nd week of January.

* Blog more. I’ve been a little lazy updating the blog lately, so I’ll try harder with this.

Well that’ll do for me. If you’re making any plans for 2010 then good luck with them – see you at the tables!

Playing Poker Live for the First Time

A couple of months ago I took my cousin to play in his first ever live game. He’s 21 years old and I promised him a few years ago that’s once he reached 21 I’d take him to a casino/cardroom to play poker. So, I took him to a local cardroom for a $50 tournament. And no, my cousin isn’t Joe Cada!

We met for beers and a bite to eat beforehand, and I offered him some advice. He asked “how many is it for a straight – four or five cards?” which had me slightly worried. I told him to play tight and observe the other players at the table, and to not play any hands other than premium cards until he was comfortable. I said the other players would be understanding since you’re a beginner.

As it happens we were sat next to each other. He’s a confident kid but was very nervous. I’ve never seen someones hand shake so much when placing a bet. The other players at the table were laughing. I was a bit worried I’d thrown him in too deep. He also folded instead of checking, and other beginner mistakes – and was playing far too many hands.

Anyway, we reached the first break, and he was fairly short stacked. I told him – “just wait for a big hands and then shove it in”. The first hand after the break there’s an UTG raise from the shortest stack at the table. It’s folded around to my cousin who thinks for a few moments, then folds. The button calls and flips over AA. My cousin told me (and the table) that he folded QQ. I couldn’t believe it, and neither could anyone else. I told him later; “never tell people what you had when you fold a major hand – they’ll run over you”. It was a great fold on the surface, but the truth is it had nothing to do with getting a read on Mr. AA – so it was really an insane fold after my advice of “wait for a premium hand and then shove it”. Not that it matters, but he’d have actually hit a set and got the much needed double up.

As it happens he lasted a little while longer and even outlasted me by a few hands, which he was very happy about. “Wait till I tell everyone in the family that I outlasted you” he said. I then proceeded to give him another poker lesson, mentioning the variables at play in tournaments and how anyone can outlast anyone on any given tournament. It’s the long run that counts. I’m not sure he understood, but he sure had fun – which is the main thing.

It wasn't meant to be for Ivey

If you haven’t heard, Phil Ivey finished 7th in the WSOP final. This was a huge disappointment to the vast majority of poker fans, including me. I wanted him to win it – yet it was always going to be a big ask. Firstly, he was short stacked. Does it matter if you’re Phil Ivey? Of course he has the skill to build up his stack, but we’re forgetting one more ingredient – luck.

Like many of you, I was following the coverage via various poker websites. It seems to me that this final was far more about luck than skill. The amount of suckouts was unreal. Whoever wins it this year (Moon or Cada at the time of typing) will have had huge slices of luck. Moon had it for days 1-8 and Cada for day 9. Who will get the rub of the green on day 10?

While I wanted Ivey to win, I’m now rooting for Moon, who is now the underdog. Yes he may be more lucky than good (he’s not terrible), but I like the guy – even though he knocked Ivey out. What I like most about him is his integrity. He said back in July that he wouldn’t accept a sponsorship deal from any online poker sites, and he stuck to his word. It’s quite refreshing to see, what with every other player at the table displaying logo’s of their “favorite” rooms.

Having said that, my head says Cada will win. Not because he’s probably got the better game, more chips, more energy, more desire, etc, etc – but because he’s sporting Poker Stars logos. That’s why he’ll probably win it. Poker Stars virtually own the WSOP, sending more players to the tournament that all other sites combined – and usually ending up with the winners. Maybe that’s where Ivey went wrong. Next year he should ditch Full Tilt and go with Poker Stars!

Poker is a Game of Skill

Yes, poker is a game of skill. Of course, it’s not a 100% skill game and involves a fair amount of luck. Poker players know that the long game is what counts, and the more skilled you are at poker, the more you’ll win in the long run. Anyone can win in the short term with a good slice of luck. You know that already though, right?

You might know this, but I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day who doesn’t know the first thing about poker. I explained that if they played in the tournament I was playing later that day, they could win it – even without knowing how to play poker. Of course they’d need to be extremely lucky, and it would be unlikely, but still possible. Compare that with 100% skill games, such as chess. I don’t play chess, and I could never beat the current chess world champion. It just wouldn’t happen. But my friend could beat Phil Ivey, if he got luck (my friend that is, not Ivey).

I think it was Phil Hellmuth who said “if there was no luck in poker, I’d win everytime”. When I play poker and lose to someone who I think is a poor player because of sheer bad luck, I often wish poker was a game with more skill and less about the luck. “Why can’t this game involve more skill” I say to myself, though not in the same way that Hellmuth would. That’s because if poker were a game of 100% skill then I’m certain I wouldn’t win everytime. There are better poker players out there, and I wouldn’t win everytime.  

The rare moments when I suck out and crack someones hand with a piece of cheese, I love the fact that poker involves luck. The fact that poker involves large elements of luck is what also attracts some really bad players – those who like to gamble. These poker players add huge value to the game, and if poker were a game of pure skill then I think I’d probably stop playing. After all, it’s what makes the game of poker so exciting.

Durrrr Challenge – Half Way Stage

Remember the Durrrr Challenge? Yes, the challenge that was hyped up and talked about endlessly on poker blogs, poker websites, forums and communities. Yes you may have forgotten about it too, I know I did. But guess what? They’ve reached the half way stage. At the time of writing they’ve completed 25,145 of the 50K hands. Heck, it’s only taken 8 months (note: I could be wrong as am unsure exact start date – it was so long ago). Oh and Durrrr has taken the lead, and is now $700k up.

I’ve heard Antonious say recently that they’d like to speed things up a bit, and will be playing more regularly. He cites time zones as a major reason for it taking so long, but I don’t buy that. How hard is it to arrange a time to play? The internet didn’t just allow us to play online poker – it’s also provided us with clever communication tools like MSN messenger and Skype.And of course, there’s always email!

I’m not too bothered now anyway. But I do wish they’d hurry up, as I want to see the Durrrr Challenge II – Dwan vs Ivey. At this rate it looks like we might have to wait until 2011 for that one.