Category Archives: Poker Strategies & Tips

Mindset of a High Limit Player

Being a low stakes poker player ever since I started with the game, one thing that I’ve never been able to comprehend is the mindset of a high limit player.  That’s because I myself am not a high limit poker player and probably never will be.  And just for the sake of this post, I define high limit as $10/$20 No-Limit Texas Hold’em play and $30/$60 Limit Hold’em play because both are out of my league.

I’ve always wondered how in the world some players can make that jump from $1/$2 and $3/$6 games up to the previously mentioned games and beyond. One obvious thing about these players and their mindset has to be that they are somewhat loose with money.  After all, if someone is afraid to hit up a fast food joint because of the cost, then they probably don’t have the right frame of mind.

But getting more in-depth, there are a few things that I’ve noticed after watching some of these high stakes people play the game.  For one thing, I have seen that these people tend to be far more aggressive than the average player would be.  Anyone who is too conservative seems to either lose their bankroll or luckily jump back down a level or two before than happens.

Another thing that seems to be consistent with these players is that they also know how to pull back the aggressive play when the time is right.  In fact, most high limit players seem to really know how to suck people into pots when they have a huge hand and want to disguise it.

The last element of a high limit player I’ve noticed is that they really have to have some pretty strong nerves and be able to overcome a bad day.  Because, while they’ll often have days where they win thousands of dollars, they will also find themselves down a few thousand some days too.  It’s almost the philosophy that some NBA shooters have where if they miss a shot the next one is going in.

Anyways, recognizing these qualities in high stakes players really makes me question if I’ll ever play at that level.  And the answer for people like me, and others, is probably a resounding “No”!

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Over Confidence in Online Texas Hold’em

Online Texas hold’em is a great game for poker players of all kinds. Due to the variety of online poker software available on the Internet, you can usually find one at a level that is appropriate for you. At some point, you may find yourself playing above the level of your opposition. This is great and can be profitable. However, you must be careful to guard against overconfidence when you play online poker, as this can turn out to be extremely costly.

When Online Texas Hold’em Players May Become Overconfident

The most common time an online Texas hold’em player may become overconfident is when he is on a lucky streak, either within a particular session or over a series of sessions. When you are getting lucky, especially if you have been playing well, you may feel that you can do no wrong, that your play is strong enough to defeat all opposition. This can be quite a dangerous attitude, you should always strive to improve your game.

Dangers of Overconfidence in Online Texas Hold’em

The problem with this kind of attitude is that the luck will eventually catch up with you, and if your overconfidence is causing you to play recklessly, you may lose all you have gained as a result. You may be playing too many hands or bluffing too often, and savvy opponents will quickly take advantage of this.

Avoiding Overconfidence in Online Texas Hold’em

Try to play your same game whether you are up or down. After each hand do a quick self-analysis to see if you are making the right plays. If you find yourself making a few reckless plays in a row, it may be time to take a break from the game.

Poker Burnout

One theme I’ve noticed among poker blogs is that if you read enough of them, you’ll come across people who are taking extended breaks from the game or are getting out of it entirely.  And a lot of these people are the same ones who, three or four months ago, couldn’t stop playing and talking about poker. 

The reasons for why they are taking huge breaks or leaving the game behind always varies.  Some people have suffered too many bad beats or lost a significant amount of money while others are trying to spend more time focusing on their jobs or education. 

And just today, I came across an article where a person named PokerPeaker was explaining their theory that players should try and treat poker like distance running.  In other words, if a distance runner ran every single day at break neck pace then they’re going to get burnt out.  Likewise, he summarized from his own experiences that those who play poker everyday, all day, are going to get burnt out too.

Going further he believes that, like running, one can peak while playing poker during certain times of the week too.  His losses always came on Mondays and Tuesdays while his winnings took place over the rest of the week making his peak Wednesday through Sunday and his resting periods on Mondays and Tuesdays.

I think that this is certainly a very interesting perspective on the game of poker and one that probably reigns true for just about anybody.  After all, someone who plays poker hardcore for five months straight and takes no breaks is going to go a little insane with the game after a while.  And just like the bloggers who are shutting it down recently, I think the same thing may have happened to them.

Being a former collegiate distance runner myself, I am starting to subscribe to PokerPeaker’s theory that treating poker like distance running may be the best way to go in terms of enjoying the game over the long haul.

A Look at Gus Hansen's New Book "Every Hand Revealed"

There’s no question that Gus Hansen is seen as one of the biggest stars in the poker world today.  The Dane is adored by the media, seen as a sex symbol by many women, and has the credentials and playing ability to back up his fame.  However, maybe even more intriguing than all of this is Hansen’s actual style of play.

Gus Hansen is a man who makes a lot of plays that other players would stay clear of.  For example, he’s the kind of guy who will raise like crazy, or even go all-in, when he holding Q-4.  Yet you know he’s always got a plan and calculates everything because of the way he constantly utilizes that recording devise he uses at the table.

That’s why I had to get a hold of his book “Every Hand Revealed” when it came out.  Part of it was that I’m always looking for a way to better my own game while the other part was that I was just interested in what he had to say about his playing style.

Well I definitely wasn’t disappointed after making it through the book as Hansen’s insights into the game are very entertaining and helpful to players looking to gain an edge.  For instance, Gus tells readers exactly how he varies his play from the beginning of a tournament to the end which should help those who aren’t exactly sure how to maneuver through the various stages.

He also takes readers on a journey through his assessment of the odds at the table and what he does in different situations he faced with.  His analytical style of play and ability to read opponents is something else that is revealed to readers which will only be an added bonus to players.  In all, Hansen’s book is definitely worth reading and I think it has already improved my play personally.

Is it Possible to be a Great Tournament and Cash Game Player?

One thing that always puzzles me about poker is how it seems that certain people in the game can dominate live cash games and/or online ring games but they can’t find their way off the first couple of tables in a big tournament.  The reverse can be true as well where great tournament players will get taken for all they’re worth in a good cash game.

The reason this puzzles me is because the Texas Hold’em rules don’t change just because there is a tournament or a cash game.  It’s still two hole cards to each player and a board of five cards.  But perhaps the only thing that truly changes is the way that successful players play in each situation.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the majority of of successful cash game players follow the tight/aggressive model that hauls in a decent amount of money.  Obviously some people are better at using the tight/aggressive style than others and thus they bring in more cash while they’re playing.

On the flip side, it often seems that aggressive players who are willing to go all-in at any given point (provided they have at least something in their hand) are the ones who double their stacks in tourneys and find themselves competing for spots at the final tables of a lot of tourneys they enter. 

These same players who compete in cash games will, in many cases, find their loose and reckless style to be detrimental to a bankroll.  At some tables, their loose play may scare super tight players away from pots but they’ll most likely be called with their all-in A-5 bets by someone at sometime.

Oftentimes in a tournament though, this all-in A-5 bet will turn out to be a winner because the tight players don’t want to risk their entire (or a large portion) of their stack by calling this bet.  And it is these tight players (who may excel at cash games) that are rarely ever found at the top of a tournament leaderboard.  They merely try to hang on and, in the process, never try to build their stack till it’s too late.

In my opinion, cash game players looking to play more tournaments and tourney players looking to get in on more cash games can learn something from one another.  It’s best to switch one’s style up when changing games.

Finding the Fish

Amazingly enough, there are quite a few people out there that will play a winning session of poker and not quite comprehend why they’ve done so well.  Some of it could be chalked up to the fact that they’ve improved their skills since the last time they played.  Some of it could be that they’ve just become a great player over night. 

But the most likely explanation though for someone who has good sessions here and there and doesn’t realize why is that they are finding fish to play with.  No matter how much one wants to harp on how great their skills are, a lot of players know that in the end the major money will come from the players who can’t play poker.  Not from amazing duels between two exceptional players.

Just knowing that profitable games come from playing with a lot of really bad players doesn’t help one out though if they don’t know how to find them.  The truth is that fish will be found at every poker room and at every table.  But it’s the quantity of fish that really makes the difference. 

One thing that I do when I go fishing is to examine the player’s money counts as soon as I get in the room.  For example, if I jump in a six-max Pot Limit game and see that three out of the five players that were there before I entered have way over the maximum amount of money you’re allowed to enter with, I know that they’ve been doing something right.  And that something has probably been taking money from bad players.

If this is the case, I usually try and get out of the room if there are plenty of these types in there and go find another room.  In addition to doing this, I also try and play at the peek hours when players who don’t play poker for a living are on.  I find that when it’s late at night or early in the day, the grinders will be playing  to make their living. 

It’s definitely good to avoid these types and stick to the easier players.


Becoming a Better Poker Player

There’s so much advice out there about how to become a better poker player that it’s overwhelming.  You could spend a lifetime sifting through all of it before ever touching a card if you chose to.  That’s why I think that it’s best to simplify things when possible. 

Me personally, I try to only focus on a few aspects of poker to make myself a better player.  The first one I try to do is to pick the games where I think the most fish will be playing in.  I mean so many people think they’re way better than they are and think they are too good to play at certain limits or with some players.  Most of the money I’ve won is because the players I’ve been playing with weren’t that great.

Another thing I strive to achieve is to keep my ego in check while playing.  If someone gives me a bad beat I know that if they continue to play like that they’re going to lose money in the long run anyways.  It’s not worth sitting there and whining about it through the chat box like you’re going to get the hand back by crying excessively. 

I definitely always try to get better at reading my opponents.  It just makes the game so much easier when you can create a profile of an opponent and then use that to your advantage later on when you’re going later into a hand with that player.

The last thing that I constantly try to keep in mind is my odds and probabilities.  Knowing my opponents and keeping a level head will definitely help but I know it’s impossible to be a long-term winner if I don’t know the percentages of how often I will win with pocket kings or my chances of making a flush with two suited cards in my hand.

The better and better I get at these three skills, the closer I am to becoming a way better player.

Bluffing on the River

When it comes to betting on the river, this might be the most intense part of poker there is.  After all, two or more players have put a significant amount of money into the pot (assuming limping hasn’t been taking place the whole time) and none of them want to fold or lose to another player this far in.

But as conventional Hold’em wisdom goes, you don’t want to blow any more chips than you have to even if that means folding on the river.  Holding third best pairs or having your draw hopes dashed are usually signs that it’s time to get out of a hand on the river. 

However, the possibility of getting a player to fold on the river still exists if done right.  Now it’s tough to do because a lot of players don’t want to throw away anything if they think that they even have a shot with what they’re holding.  That’s why you’ll need some help from the board to pull this off.

Here’s an example of a river bluff that I recently pulled off.  I was in a $3/$6 game and was holding Js-9s.  Three other players limped into the flop and it came up 5s-3h-8s.  Hoping for the flush I bet out and one of the players raised.  The other two players folded and I called. 

The turn came up 2d and I checked as did my opponent.  The river came up 8h and so, wanting to represent trips, I bet out since my opponent had checked on the turn showing that they probably didn’t have a made hand yet.  With the board as weak as it was and me betting out after the 8 was shown, my opponent decided to fold rather than call.  Thus, my river bet had stolen a pot that I had no business getting. 


Knowing when to take a Chance

Everyone knows that the ideal situation to push most of your chips into the pot would be having the nuts against an opponent who has only a second rate hand.  However, there are often times where this perfect scenario just isn’t possible and you are the one with a decent hand but not the best.  And, in tournament situations especially, sometimes you just have to take a chance when holding cards like A-Q, K-Q or middle pairs.

But when is the best possible time to make such a move?  In my opinion, it’s when you feel your stack is slipping and a move needs to be made before winding up short-stacked.  And the best way to do this is by trying to isolate someone who has a shorter stack than you.

To go about this, I try to look for a short-stacked person who is the first one to limp into a pot.  If other limpers follow, then it’s a great opportunity to jump into the pot with a raise hoping the original and short-stacked limper calls it. 

Now obviously, this type of move needs to be done when one is preferably in later position but it can also be pulled off from middle position.  There are some dangers to trying this from middle position such as one getting burned if someone behind them has a great pocket pair and raises the raise thus knocking out the original short-stacked player.

But one thing is for sure and this is that sitting by idly while your stack dwindles isn’t exactly a great option either.  And if the stack gets low enough, taking a chance won’t pay off nearly as much as it could’ve before.  In fact, you might be the one having to go all-in when the stack is too low.  And that always leaves a good chance of busting out.


Overcoming a Bad Stretch of Cards

If there’s anything that can ruin poker for me, it’s catching a ton of bad cards in a row.  It’s almost like the slump that people who play other games and sports experience but it is even worse.  You can’t control the cards that you’re dealt and worse yet, you might try to force things as the bad cards keep piling up.

I know that when I’m stuck in this bad stretch of cards, I start to play tight when I should be playing more aggressive or even revert to the opposite and play too aggressive when I should be reigning things in more. 

But in my opinion, the worst thing one can do if they truly like playing poker is lose their liking for the game.  I’ve known a few people who’ve soured on Hold’em after experiencing a bad run with what’s in their hand.  I’ve always tried to look at it as if everything will even out in the end and the good cards will eventually come.

There’s been times when I don’t want to wait though and this has always been a good opportunity to switch from playing Hold’em all the time to something else like Omaha.  I may not be that great at Omaha but it’s a nice break from the norm.  Sometimes I’ll switch the limits that I play in Hold’em as well to change things up a bit and hopefully get away from the bad cards.

Sometimes stepping down to a lower limit and playing with people who aren’t as serious about the game can be a big relief from getting bad cards.  The bottom line is though that I try to do anything to avoid just stopping my poker playing period.  If I just stop playing because of some bad cards, then I’m not having fun with poker.