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The

POKER
Guide To

Ultimate

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW TO

WIN MAJOR TOURNAMENTS AND MAKE BIG MONEY FROM CASH GAMES

IN ASSOCIATION WITH

Y A W E H T POKER T N A E M IT WAS D E Y A L P TO BE
rich 3D grap Immerse yourself in nts with revolutionary emote out oppone . Read bluffs and fake at lets you control your body language control technology thor anyone you want to be with Be yourself stomisation. infinite character cu

nsion... e im d t x e n e h t o t e Welcom hics.

e at PK Play it today for fre

R.com.

www.pkr.com
gamble responsibly. For more information and advice visit 18+ Please www.gambleaware.co.uk.

r e k o P to e id u G te a im lt U e Th

CONTENTS

86
GETTING STARTED

030 Online poker

008 History of holdem


How poker moved from simple origins to become a multi-million-dollar phenomenon

The real story of the rise of online poker and some common myths debunked

054 Sit&go quiz

Test your knowledge of sit&go strategy with this tricky quiz

014 How to play no-limit holdem


Master the game the whole worlds playing: no-limit Texas holdem

SIT&GOs 036 How to beat sit&gos

022 Pokers big winners


Introducing the seven poker players who have won more than $10 million from live tournament poker

Mastering the sit&go format can help you turn a tidy prot and its easier than you think 15 steps to take you from sit&go beginner to single-table titan Take control of the game once it reaches the heads-up stage courtesy of an unexploitable strategy

TOURNAMENTS 058 How to beat tournaments


Tips and strategy on how to take down multi-table tournaments

044 Sit&go strategy

064 JC Tran

The tournament legend on how to develop a consistent tournament game The British pro on what it takes to excel in live tournament poker

024 Table manners


The ve most common breaches of etiquette in the game

048 Leader of the stack 052 Sit&go tools

066 Julian Thew

068 Size is everything 072 Your move

028 Poker terminology


Talk the talk with a guide to common poker jargon

How to play short, medium and big stacks all the way to the nal table

A round-up of the best software to help you master the single-table online tournament

Creative moves to add to your multi-table tournament arsenal

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

120 58 36

126

106
074 Chris Moorman 076 Ruling rebuys
The online MTT masters top 10 tips for tournament success The strategy behind mastering rebuy tournaments How to take your shot at the big time via online satellites

14
102 How to get paid in full 106 Doyle Brunson 108 Moving on up 110 Phil Galfond
Extracting maximum value in no-limit holdem cash games

120 How to spot tells

Being able to pick up on your opponents body language can give you a huge edge at the poker table

Texas Dolly on how he fought his way to the top of the poker tree

126 How to deal like a pro

080 Beating satellites

A guide to moving up through the limits in cash games

A look at how to shufe up and deal in style, as shown by a professional dealer

CASH GAMES 086 How to beat cash games


A crash course in beating low-stakes cash games

130 Poker hand nicknames


Know your Big Slick from your Pocket Rockets

One of the best online cash players in the game reveals his secrets

112 Cash games quiz


LIVE POKER 116 House rules!

094 Pre-op dangers

Test your cash game prowess with this challenging quiz

116

The starting hands that can get you into hot water in no-limit cash games

098 Post-op decisions

A look at some post-op cash-game dilemmas and winning strategies

How to host the ultimate poker home game, from cards to chips to rules

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

H T I W GET PKR
PKR is more than just a poker room were a 3 million strong poker community where players just like you are the star of the show.
Play for glory on PKR TV Read Stacked, pokers hottest magazine Have your say in the Forum Plus a whole lot more See you there.

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gamble responsibly. For more information and advice visit 18+ Please www.gambleaware.co.uk.

The

POKER
Guide To
Editor Alun Bowden Art Editor Spike Additional Design Richard Davis Sub-editors AJ Holden, Scott Skinner Woods, Alex Martin, Paul Cheung Cheung, David Tuch Tuchman, Shaw, Contributors Dave Woods Co chma man, Phil Shaw Nick Wealthall, Tom Bailey, Aaron Hendrix, Shaun Dean, Nick Wright Photography Danny Bird, Timo Hebditch, Andrew Ridge, Hugh Threlfall Image retouching Jan Cihak, Linda Duong Publisher Russell Blackman Advertising Manager Matthew Balch Digital Production Manager Nicky Baker Bookazine Manager Dharmesh Mistry Production Director Robin Ryan Managing Director of Advertising Julian Lloyd-Evans Newstrade Director Martin Belson Chief Operating Ofcer Brett Reynolds Group Finance Director Ian Leggett Chief Executive James Tye Chairman Felix Dennis

Ultimate

The Magbook brand is a trademark of Dennis Publishing Ltd. 30 Cleveland St, London W1T 4JD. Company registered in England. All material Dennis Publishing Ltd, licensed by Felden 2009, and may not be reproduced in whole or part without the consent of the publishers. The Ultimate Guide to Poker ISBN 1-906372-68-3

To license this product, please contact Winnie Liesenfeld on +44 (0) 20 7907 6134 or email winnie_liesenfeld@dennis.co.uk While every care was taken during the production of this Magbook, the publishers cannot be held responsible for the accuracy of the information or any consequence arising from it. Dennis Publishing takes no responsibility for the companies advertising in this Magbook. The paper used within this Magbook is produced from sustainable bre, manufactured by mills with a valid chain of custody. Printed at BGP
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

LICENSING LIABILITY

H I S T O R Y

O F

f o y r o t s i The h
The legendary match came to a close when Dandolos uttered the immortal line: Mr Moss, I have to let you go

H O L D E M

HOLDEM
Find out how poker developed from its simple origins to a multi-million dollar phenomenon, and why the game of no-limit Texas holdem has become the worlds most popular card game
HE ONLY THING EVERYONE CAN agree upon in the history of poker is nobody knows where the game started. Some point to the French game of poque, some say the Persian game of As Nas, but wherever it began there is one place that made poker its spiritual home the USA. During the American Civil War in the 1850s the game of poker as we know it began to take shape as the game of ve-card stud sprung up. The game played with one card dealt face down and the remaining four cards dealt face-up. It led to much more betting action than other forms of poker so quickly caught on as the game of choice. It may seem unthinkable nowadays, but perhaps the most famous battle in the games history was played out in a time before no-limit holdem had really caught on. Two of pokers all-time greats clashed in a ve-month headsup battle that took in a variety of variants, concentrating initially on ve-card stud. Legend has it that Nick The Greek Dandolos hit Las Vegas with a desire to play some highstakes poker. Benny Binion agreed to provide the action for Dandolos in his Horseshoe casino and promptly contacted Johnny Moss, who was embroiled in a three-day-long cash game in Texas. Nevertheless, swayed by the promise of an epic high-stakes encounter, Moss booked himself a ight to Vegas. It proved to be a good decision.

From January to May in 1951, the pair locked horns every single day, breaking only briey for the triing matter of a few hours sleep. Reports of the exact amount of money that changed hands differ, but its thought that by the end of the confrontation Moss was anywhere from $2m to $4m up a large amount of money by todays standards, but an absolutely astronomical amount back in the 1950s. The legendary match came to a close when Dandolos 15 years Mosss senior and physically drained from the months of intense play uttered the immortal line: Mr Moss, I have to let you go. The contest between Moss and Dandolos raised the prole of poker hugely with Binion savvy enough to move the game from the depths of the casino to front and centre where it attracted huge crowds desperate to live the life of a high-roller vicariously, if only for an hour or two. And as poker became more popular, a new variant of the game was starting to come to the fore Texas holdem originated in the Lone Star State and grew in popularity during the 50s and 60s thanks to its complex nature. A group of local poker pros, known as road gamblers, including such legends as Amarillo Slim and Doyle Brunson took the game to their hearts. Their life was hugely different to the poker pros of the modern

AN EPIC BATTLE

HOLDEM HISTORY
The story of how holdem went from the streets of Texas to being the most popular card game in the world. We look at the players and events that changed the face of poker and turned it into a global business worth millions of dollars

The timeline of holdem

1950s

Holdem grows in popularity in its home state of Texas

1967

A group of Texas-based gamblers take no-limit holdem to Las Vegas

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

H I S T O R Y

age, travelling from town to town, nding games populated by men with guns who werent afraid to use them. It was a high-risk, high-action lifestyle and only the most cunning and careful of road gamblers survived to tell the tale. As Las Vegas started to become a popular tourist destination these road gamblers recognised a potentially safer and easier life and travelled west to introduce the game to Sin City. For a number of years the only casino in town to spread holdem was the Golden Nugget, but the game caught on and by the late 1960s more prominently-placed establishments were spreading the game too. The attraction of holdem for the local sharks was twofold. First, the fact that this was a new game meant that if they could master it quickly, theyd have a major edge on uneducated tourists. Second, the very nature of the game suited students of the game with four rounds of betting as opposed to the two employed in draw games, holdem allowed for more strategic play. Benny Binion was also at the forefront of another dening moment in pokers history when, along with his son Jack, he acquired the rights to a edgling gambling convention in 1970. The event provided games of all kinds and while poker didnt feature at the outset, by the time the Binions bought the rights, poker tournaments, including holdem, had been introduced. Following the acquisition, the annual convention was moved to the Horseshoe and the focus shifted entirely to poker, prompting a name change: the World Series of Poker was born. The rst WSOP was an invitational affair, with Benny Binion convincing a handful of well-respected players Johnny Moss, Doyle Brunson, Amarillo Slim, Puggy Pearson, Crandell Addington, Sailor Roberts and Carl Cannon to sit around a table and do battle over a series of cash games. At the end of the allotted time, the players voted to decide who would be crowned the inaugural world champion. They all voted for themselves so a second ballot was taken and this time Johnny Moss was crowned champion.

THE BIRTH OF THE WSOP

O F H O L D E M
Stu The Kid Ungar celebrates his rst of three World Series of Poker main event wins

Benny Binion kick-started the World Series, holding the rst one at his Horseshoe casino

POKERIMAGES.COM, LAS VEGAS SUN.COM

THE KID RISES

Moss also emerged victorious the following year when the WSOP main event moved to the now

1970

The rst World Series of Poker takes place with Johnny Moss the winner

1971

No-limit holdem is introduced to the WSOP with the rst main event

1978

Seminal poker guide Super/System is rst published

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

H O L D E M

Doyle Brunson was a road gambler who hit Vegas in search of action in the 1960s

traditional no-limit holdem freezeout format. Although it quickly established itself as the premier poker tournament, with a buy-in aimed squarely at attracting true high-rollers, the main event was slow to take off in terms of numbers. Mosss victory in 1971 saw him pitted against just ve other players and by the time he won it again in 1974 he overcame a eld of just 16. It wasnt until 1982 that the main event drew more than 100 participants, partly prompted by the introduction of the satellite tournaments that are now commonplace, which allowed players with more limited bankrolls to have a shot at the big time. Numbers were also buoyed by the publication of Doyle Brunsons seminal poker strategy book, Super/System. The strategy book was selfpublished and cost $100, but it was a huge success as it offered readers an insight into the kind of strategic thinking employed by world champions across a number of poker disciplines, including holdem. Such information had previously been unavailable to the general public, but now it was out there more and more players fancied their chances of taking on the big boys. As well as increased elds, the 1980s brought a whole new generation of poker superstars. The most notable of these was Stu The Kid Ungar who burst onto the scene in 1980, becoming the youngest ever main event champion (since superseded by Phil Hellmuth and Peter Eastgate) after a heads-up tussle with past master Doyle Brunson for the rst prize of $365,000. Ungar, a noted gin rummy player, would later claim that the 1980 WSOP was the rst time he had ever played no-limit holdem. He proved his win was no uke, though, when he repeated his main event success the following year. Ungars personal life, however, also grabbed the headlines for entirely different reasons. He was a drug and alcohol abuser for many years and everyone thought his poker career was over. However, 16 years after his 1981 victory and following a long battle with drug addiction, the previously down-and-out Ungar became known as The Comeback Kid. After scraping enough money together to enter the 1997 main event at the last minute, against all the odds Ungar went on to take it down, becoming only the

H I S T O R Y

O F

1980

Stu Ungar becomes the youngest ever main event champ

1981

Ungar wins the main event for the second consecutive year

1982

WSOP main event breaks the 100-entrant barrier

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

H I S T O R Y

The godfather of poker


Doyle Brunson is a true poker legend. With back-to-back WSOP main event wins and 10 bracelets he is one of the best players ever. An integral part of poker for over 50 years, Texas Dolly is still a force to be reckoned with
One of the greatest players ever to grace the game, Texas Dolly is the very denition of a living legend. Born in August 1933, Brunson has won 10 World Series of Poker bracelets to date (just one behind current record-holder Phil Hellmuth along with Johnny Chan) and is reported to be the rst player to have earned $1m in poker tournament prize money. As one of a group of Texas gamblers to introduce no-limit holdem to Las Vegas, Brunson paved the way for the poker boom that followed and has stayed the pace ever since. His back-to-back victories at the 1976 and 1977 WSOP main events puts him in an exclusive club of just three, with Stu Ungar and Johnny Chan the only others to have won the main event in consecutive years. Hes also one of only two players to have won WSOP bracelets for four consecutive years the other being Bill Boyd. A budding athlete in his youth, Brunsons dreams of becoming a professional basketball player were dashed when he broke his leg badly in a work-related accident. Following the incident, he focused on his education and wound up landing a job as a salesman. It wasnt to be, give up his job shortly after to chance his arm as a poker professional. He hooked up with the likes of Amarillo Slim and Sailor Roberts and played the Texas circuit with great success. Brunson and his group of peers began to take regular trips to Las Vegas and he eventually decided the action was too good to turn down, making the decision to move there permanently. The rest, as they say, is history. As well as his success at the tables, Brunsons notable for his hugely inuential poker strategy book, Super/System. Originally published in 1978, the book also included contributions by a host of other top professionals, including David Sklansky, Bobby Baldwin and Chip Reese. An updated version, Super/System 2, came out in 2004 featuring content from the likes of Daniel Negreanu and Johnny Chan. And as if thats not enough to conrm his legendary status, Brunson has the rare honour of having a starting hand named after him. While 10-2 might not seem like the greatest of hole pairings, theyve been lucky for Texas Dolly; his 1976 and 1977 main event victories were both clinched with that hand.

DOYLE BRUNSON

O F H O L D E M

Brunson wrote probably the best poker book ever Super/System

however the story goes that he was invited to a seven-card stud game on his rst day and took his opponents to the cleaners, prompting him to

second person besides Johnny Moss to win the WSOP main event three times.
POKERIMAGES.COM, BRYAN HARAWAY

Another player to make his mark during the 80s was Johnny Chan, who achieved the remarkable feat of winning back-to-back main events - and was only denied an unprecedented three-in-a-row by the emergence of one Phil Hellmuth. Chan navigated a 152-strong eld in 1987 to take the title after defeating Frank Henderson heads-up. The following year he and Erik Seidel were the nal two of 167 entrants, but Chan emerged victorious. In 1989, the 24-year-old Hellmuth dashed Chans dreams of an unlikely threepeat,

EUROPE TAKES NOTICE

beating his opponent heads-up to earn the rst of his record-breaking 11 bracelets all of which have been won in holdem events. The 80s also saw the game of no-limit holdem take off in Europe. Irish bookmakers Terry Rogers and Liam Flood are widely credited with introducing the game to European shores following regular trips to Vegas and the WSOP . Rogers also had an uncanny knack for picking out poker players for the future. Hes thought to have been the only bookmaker to have a strong hunch that Stu Ungar would take down the 1980 main event; the Irishman laid just 20-1 and placed money on Ungar to win with other bookmakers, who were typically offering 100-1.

1987

Johnny Chan begins his remarkable run of Main Event nal tables

1988

Chan takes down his second main event in a row

1989

Phil Hellmuth denies Chan to become the youngest main event winner

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

11

H O L D E M

Phil Hellmuth still holds the record for most amount of WSOP bracelet wins 11

For the rst time viewers at home could see how the pros played and it sparked a surge of interest in the game

The popularity of no-limit holdem grew as TV coverage of the WSOP was introduced in the 80s and 90s. But the game would probably have remained a minority interest if it werent for the introduction of hole-card cameras in a British TV show called Late Night Poker in the late 90s. For the rst time viewers at home could see how the pros played and it sparked a surge of interest in the game. While TV viewers had previously had to guess at whether a particular player had the nuts or was pulling an audacious bluff, they now had the information right in front of them. It allowed those watching to learn from professionals, giving them an opportunity to work out players thought processes when making certain situationdependant moves. The show was broadcast in the US on PBS and the concept was taken on board by the producers of the World Poker Tour TV show, which became a huge TV hit in the US. The WPT began in 2002, with its rst season offering a $25,000 buy-in

world championship nale and ten lead-up events with buy-ins ranging from $500 (with rebuys) to $10,000. A roaring success, the WPT is now in its eighth season, playing host to 15 side events as well as the established $25,000 WPT Championship event. Alongside all this was the rise of online poker, which began in 1999 to little general interest. By 2001, though, it was a booming business with thousands of players taking to the game of no-limit holdem and tournaments in particular. And the internet sites were quick to capitalise on the success of the WPT in the US, advertising on the show and seeing players ock online as a result. The game everyone wanted to play was the adrenaline fuelled no-limit holdem game. The true turning point for the game came in 2003, when the aptly named Chris Moneymaker, a previously unknown player, won a $39 satellite qualier for a $10,000 seat at the WSOP main event. He promptly went on to shock everyone by winning the big one for a $2.5m payday. The widely-televised story of an everyday guy turning the kind of cash most people carry around in their wallet, into millions of dollars, through a simple game of cards captured the imagination of millions of players. Online poker sites exploded with sign-ups, as the Moneymaker effect kicked in.

H I S T O R Y

O F

STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

MONEYMAKER EFFECT

Lightning struck twice in 2004 when another internet qualier, Greg Raymer, defeated David Williams to take down the main event for $5m. Raymer had also qualied online, having won his seat in a $160 satellite. Following this an unprecedented number of new players signed up online and tried their hand at not only making a little money as a hobby, but also chasing the dream realised by the likes of Moneymaker and Raymer. WSOP eld sizes both for the main event and side events ballooned further, with the peak being reached in 2006, when a staggering 8,773 entrants took part in the main event, contributing to a record-breaking $82.5m prize pool. Jamie Gold took down the biggest tournament in World Series history for an eye-watering $12m. Numbers actually fell in 2007, but the drop-off has largely been attributed to law changes in the

1997

Ungar becomes The Comeback Kid by winning a third main event

1999

Late Night Poker introduces the revolutionary hole-card cams

2002

The World Poker Tour begins its rst season

12

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

H I S T O R Y O F H O L D E M

US that prevented large amounts of players from gambling online. As a result, the number of internet qualiers for WSOP events dropped off dramatically, having a knock-on effect on the overall eld sizes. Nevertheless, online poker remains robust, with hundreds of thousands playing every day. The online game has served as a great learning tool for those rst taking up the game. With the option to take part in play money games, new players can learn the rules of the game before risking any of their own money. When they do feel condent enough to gamble with their cash, there are games across all levels to suit everyones needs. Micro-stakes cash games and tournaments are freely available and for the dedicated player, online poker has presented the opportunity to get on a par with established pros, in terms of hands played, in a fraction of the time.

No-limit holdem has taken the global poker community by storm. Wherever you go in the world you can nd a game of poker being played
But pokers success is not just conned to the online game, with live poker also in rude health. Around the world there are major poker tournaments taking place every week from South East Asia to Latin America. And pub poker leagues and home games continue to spring up to keep the game alive for the smaller stakes players. Wherever you go in the world now you can nd a game of poker being played. No-limit holdem has taken the global poker community by storm long may it continue.

The 2009 Main Event nal tablists pose for the money shot

A GLOBAL PHENOMENON

IMPDI FOR THE WSOP

2003

Chris Moneymaker wins the main event and the online boom begins

2004

Greg Raymer became the second online qualier to win the WSOP

2006

Jamie Gold scoops $12m as he wins the largest prize in WSOP history

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

13

T E X A S N O - L I M I T

H O L D E M

H O W

T O

P L A Y

t i m i l o n y a l p o t How

From the $10,000 World Championship to crazy $5 games in the pub, no-limit Texas holdem is the game the whole world is playing. If youre new to the game its time to saddle up and join the action

TEXAS HOLDEM

IMPDI FOR WSOP

The WSOP main event is pokers ultimate championship, awarding a $9.1m rst prize in 2008. The game? No-limit holdem, naturally

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

H O W T O P L A Y N O - L I M I T

O-LIMIT TEXAS HOLDEM IS FAR AND away the most popular form of poker played today, and with very good reason. Its an exciting, fast-paced and nely balanced game, with a perfect blend of simple game mechanics and highly nuanced strategies. It sucks in new players with its fast gameplay and monster bluffs and keeps the veterans hooked with its endlessly shifting dynamics. As the most popular form of poker, nolimit holdem (often abbreviated to NLH) also has the biggest prizes and tournaments, with millions of dollars to be won if youre good or lucky enough to beat the eld. The action comes in every possible shape and size, from beginners freerolls to the $10,000 main ousands of event of the World Series of Poker. And because there are thousands players duking it out online 24/7, youll never struggle to nd a game. If youre new to holdem the good news is that its a doddle to pick up. Wherever you are and whatever stakes youre playing the Once yo y format is always the same. Youre dealt two hole cards that only uve ma basics, stered t you are allowed to see, which you combine with ve community the he a play-m next step is to cards, which everyone can use, to make up a hand of ve cards. try oney ga me onli Load up ne. the soft The person who can make the strongest hand or make w a attache d CD an re in the s everyone else fold wins all the money in the pot. Sounds d pla poker o n PKR fo y 3D e simple? It is. Its making sure that youre the one left raking the r free chips in where things get interesting.

T E X A S H O L D E M

Do this

GETTING STARTED
THE BUTTON

Okay, before we get to the nitty gritty of how the game works, there are a few technical terms to get acquainted with. Dont worry it will all be second nature soon enough.

The action comes in every possible shape and size, from beginners freerolls to the $10,000 main event of the World Series of Poker

The button is a small disc or marker that indicates who is the dealer in the current hand. It often has dealer or D written on it and is necessary for two reasons. Firstly, because in poker the deal changes hands after every pot (well see why in a moment). And secondly, because the person who is the nominal dealer in a hand may not actually be the one handling the cards, either because you are playing in a casino with a professional dealer, or youre playing online where the dealing is automatic. Either way, you need some sort of marker to show who the effective dealer is in each hand. So why does the button keep moving round the table? Well, in poker the dealing of the cards and the order of action always runs clockwise from the dealer position. Because of the nature of poker betting, where everyone takes it in turn to act, being the dealer (and hence the last to act) confers a huge advantage. So to counter this the deal moves one seat to the left with every hand. In holdem, being the dealer is called being on the button.

THE BLINDS

Blinds are, simply speaking, forced bets that have to be paid at the beginning of every hand. In holdem there are two THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

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H O L D E M

N O - L I M I T

blinds: the small blind and the big blind. The small blind is located directly to the left of the dealer button and the big blind is to the left of the small blind. The big blind is usually twice the amount of the small blind. The blinds move round with the button, meaning that in one orbit of the table everyone has to pay both a small blind and big blind. Think of them like a table tax, and just like tax, youll often hear people moaning about them. But the fact is that without the blinds the game would never get off the ground. Without something to ght over right from the start, everyone could simply wait for good cards while the game meandered on inexorably. In a holdem tournament, where there has to be an eventual winner, the blinds rise at steady intervals to force the game towards a conclusion.

T E X A S

Playing the board


In holdem holde you can use one, both or neither of your hole cards to make your best hand. In the latter case, when the cards on the board represent your best possible ve-card hand, you are said to be playing the board. In the example shown, your best hand is two pair with an Ace kicker, meaning neither of your hole cards come into play.

HOLE CARDS

The hole cards are the two cards that everyone gets dealt face down at the start of a hand. No one gets to see your hole cards apart from you unless the hand goes to a showdown. The best starting hole card combination is two Aces of any suit (pocket Aces), whereas the worst is 7-2 unsuited.

T O H O W

P L A Y

Holdem is whats known as a community card game, which means that as well your two hole cards there are cards dealt face up in the middle of the table that everyone gets to use to make their best ve-card hand. In a complete hand of holdem there are ve community cards on the table, but well nd out more about this below. ker. Right, now we are ready to play some poker.

COMMUNITY CARDS

Lets look at how a hand of holdem unfolds, from the moment the dealer picks up the cards right through to the nal showdown.

PLAYING THE GAME


THE OPENING DEAL

At the beginning of each hand, every player n (from two players in a heads-up game up to ten in a full-handed game) is dealt two hole cards ove, clockwise from the dealer. As mentioned above, quired the rst player to the left of the dealer is required to pay the small blind, lets say $1, and the next player to the left has to pay the big blind which is twice as much, in this case $2. The level of the blinds depends on what game you decide to play. Remember, the nominated dealer moves one seat to the left after every hand, so you only get stung by the big blind once each round.

Dont ac holdem t out of turn! In the clockwis action proceed s e around th and its very bad e table fo rm fold or b to et before th action gets to y e ou

Dont do this

After the blinds have been paid and youve received your hole cards the rst round of betting takes place. The player to the left of the big blind has three options: fold, call or raise. Folding costs nothing so if you dont like the cards youve got you can ditch (or muck) them and wait for the next deal. If you want to stay in the hand you have to match the big blind, which in our example is $2, or if youre feeling condent you can raise. Raising is a sign of strength that says, my hole cards are strong and Im going to THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

FOLD, CALL OR RAISE

16

HUGH THRELFALL

H O W T O P L A Y N O - L I M I T T E X A S H O L D E M

HOLDEM ESSENTIALS
How a hand unfolds
The mechanics of a hand of holdem are simple two hole cards apiece and ve community cards, punctuated by four rounds of betting

Once the blinds have been posted the deal begins. Each player gets two cards face down, followed by a round of betting.

Assuming more than one player decides to carry on in the hand, the rst three community cards are dealt: the op.

After another betting round, a fourth community card the turn is dealt. Once again, there is a round of betting.

A fth and nal card is then dealt: the river. Theres more betting, and, if more than one player stays involved, a showdown.

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H O L D E M P L A Y N O - L I M I T T E X A S

take the pot right now unless anyones brave enough to call me. If you raised to $5 then anyone else wanting to play their hand would have to match your $5 bet. If no one calls, you take whatevers in the pot and the hand is over. When all the active players have bet the same amount, the rst round of betting is over. Three cards are then dealt face up in the centre (collectively referred to as the op). The rst active player to the left of the dealer then starts the next round of betting which proceeds in the same way as the last. When thats complete, assuming more than one player has decided to continue in the hand, a further community card (the turn, aka fourth street) is dealt. Theres more betting on the turn card and then, once again assuming the hand has not been won yet, theres one last chance to get your chips in after fth the fth and nal card (the river, aka fth street) is turned over. After the river is dealt and all betting is onents done and dusted its time for the moment ll an opp Dont ca ver just out of e ri of truth, the showdown, where the best bet on th u may be dying Yo ! y hand wins the pot. Refer to the boxout g it s o curi e blufn if theyr on page 21 if youre not sure about poker o n s to know t a ut th or not, b hand rankings. Just remember that in r making excuse fo all s any given hand there are always two ways d a ab c d at to win. Firstly, you can have the best hand showdown. Secondly, however, you can make everyone else fold by betting them off the pot. If you bet big and no one is brave enough to call on any of the four betting rounds youll walk away with the pot and dont even have to show your cards! In fact, this is how most hands in holdem are won, which is why they say play the man, not the cards.

FLOP , TURN, RIVER

SHOWDOWN

this Dont do

H O W

T O

Now that you know how the action works, lets look at some simple strategy concepts to help you start winning. While its important to remember that any two cards can win, when you rst start playing holdem your hole cards are vitally important, because theyre the only thing separating you from the rest of the table. If you look down and see a pair of Aces or Kings staring back at you then youre in good shape. On the other hand, you shouldnt be very happy to see the likes of 7;-2: or J:-3 sadly gazing your way. Choosing which hole cards to play is central to your holdem success and setting some startinghand requirements is a good way to kick off your career. Former world champ Phil Hellmuth often quotes his ten starting hands as being pairs of Aces, Kings, Queens, Jacks, tens, nines, eights and sevens, as well as A-K and A-Q. As a novice, you may want to play an even narrower selection than this, as pairs like sevens and eights can be tricky to play. As your experience increases, your range of playable hands can similarly expand.

BASIC STRATEGY

HAND SELECTION

Aces, appropriately known as bullets or pocket rockets, are the best hole cards you can have as they are the favourite to win against any other two cards in the deck. Once the op is dealt, those Aces may no longer be favourite, but in the majority of cases youll still be ahead. So how much should you bet when you get strong hands? In no-limit holdem, as the name suggests, there is no upper limit on the amount you can bet. On any of the four betting rounds (usually referred to as streets), you can bet up to and including all your available chips. Betting all your chips is known going all-in or simply shoving. However, this is the ultimate power move and should be reserved for very specic occasions. In most circumstances your bet sizes should be tailored to the size of the pot.

BETTING TIPS

Choosing which hole cards to play is central to your holdem success. Setting some hand requirements is a good way to kick off your career

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

H O W

EXTREME BASICS #2
Split pot
Sometimes, two or more players will have exactly the same hand at showdown, and the pot will be divided equally between them. In this example, the player with A-Q was winning on the turn with a Broadway (Ace-high) straight, but the A on the river means the player with Q-Q also makes Broadway. As such, its a split pot.

T O

How does betting work?


If youve never played a wagering game before the process might be unfamiliar to you. Its a good idea to watch a game to get the hang of it before you dive in check out some poker on TV or a website like PKR.tv and all will soon become clear. In the meantime, heres a quick guide to poker betting
Everyone in a game of poker has a certain number of chips to make bets with. In a cash game these represent actual money, while in a tournament they are simply a way of keeping score (the player who accumulates all the chips wins the tournament). In each hand, bets are placed in a central pool referred to as the pot. If you win a hand you win whatevers in the pot.

P L A Y N O - L I M I T T E X A S

H O L D E M

Betting takes place in rounds. When a bet has been made, each player must in turn either match that bet (call), increase the bet (raise) or resign from the hand (fold). A raise must usually be at least as much as the previous bet or raise, so if the current bet is $20 the minimum raise would be to $40. A betting round ends when all players have either called the last bet or folded.

EXTREME BASICS #1
What is poker?
A stupid question? Maybe, but the answer is not as simple as you might think
Poker is not strictly speaking a game in the same sense as blackjack or bridge. Rather, its a whole family of games, with scores of variations and mutations played in home games and private clubs around the world. So what are the features that dene a game as being poker? Lets take a look Poker is based around betting or wagering. Everyone holds cards with a certain value, and players may bet on the strength of their hand relative to their opponents. Hand rankings generally follow the same pattern, which you can nd on page 21. Some games reverse the order so that the worst hand wins, but almost every poker game retains this same basic hierarchy.

If all but one player folds on any given betting round, the remaining player collects the pot without having to show his hand. If more than one player remains in the hand after the nal betting round, there is a showdown in which hands are exposed and the winning hand takes the pot.

You use ve cards to make your hand. You might have more than ve to choose from in holdem, for instance, you have seven cards to choose from but in all but the most eccentric poker variants youll only use ve cards to make your best possible hand.

Before a hand starts, theres usually some sort of forced bet to get the action going. In other words, some or all of the players have to place a bet at the beginning of the rst betting round to create a pot to play for. In holdem the two players to the left of the dealer must place these bets, called the blinds. The action then proceeds to the left.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

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H O W

T O

P L A Y

N O - L I M I T

T E X A S

H O L D E M

Out-kicked!

Som Sometimes holdem can be a very cruel game. In this hand, Player 1 has been dealt a pair of sixes while Player 2 has a raggedy 9-3 offsuit. The pair is winning all the way until the river, when a second pair comes on the board, boa which reads A-7-2-A-7. As such, both players hav two pair Aces and sevens and the winner is have det determined by the kicker, or highest side card. In this cas Player 2 wins with a 9 kicker, beating the 6 case, kicker kic of Player 1, who is said to be out-kicked.

Dont feel you have to throw your weight around by pushing loads of chips into the middle. Theres no need to risk more than is necessary 20
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

On the rst (pre-op) betting round, a good g rule of thumb is to raise to three times the big blind if no one else has entered the pot. If the big blind is $2, a standard raise would see you putting $6 into the pot. And betting is what its all about because in poker aggression pays: you not only win the pots where you have a better hand but also the ones where other players are too scared to call you. Just dont feel you have to throw your weight around by pushing loads of chips into the middle. Theres no need to risk more than necessary if a smaller bet will do the job. On later streets, a pot-sized bet an amount equal to what has already been bet in total sends out a message of strength and will force your opponent to think hard about whether they should continue or fold their hand. However, always think carefully about what you want a bet to achieve. Do you want your opponent to fold, call or even go all-in? Ask yourself questions like: How much will this

opponent be willing to call here with a worse hand? (if youre condent youre ahead); and Can I make this player fold a better hand? (if youre condent youre behind). This is something you should do a lot of in no-limit holdem especially when you are still learning. If you peek at your cards only to see rags weak cards that are low, unsuited and have little possibility of improving you are usually best off tossing them away. Folding bad cards will bring prot by saving you from dribbling your chips away, leaving you with a bigger stack with which to attack other players when you get dealt a monster hand. Lets not forget one of the best and most enjoyable arts of poker blufng. There is a big place in poker for blufng, in no-limit holdem particularly, but try to pull a fast one on the

FOLDING

BLUFFING

H O W

wrong person at the wrong time and youre going to get burnt. Stone-cold bluffs when you have a bad hand with little chance of improving should be used only when you are condent you wont get called. Semi-bluffs where you have a drawing hand that is probably behind right now but could potentially be a winner if the right card comes are better, but still to be used with caution. In fact, youre best to eschew blufng altogether until youve got some experience under your belt. To start with, stick to betting strong hands such as the highest pair and two pair until youve studied how your opponents play. Take it slowly, get your basic ABC play sorted, and then you can think about being a bit more creative.

HOLDEM ESSENTIALS
Hand rankings
Before you start playing you have to know what hand beats what! Below is the complete poker hand hierarchy, starting with the highest
The best hand of all: a straight ush from ten through Ace. The suit doesnt matter, but your odds of getting one are in holdem are a whopping 30,939-to-1.

T O P L A Y

ROYAL FLUSH

N O - L I M I T

MOVING FORWARD

Here are some ideas to think about once youve got the basic rules in place.

A straight but with all the cards of the same suit. Once again, the suit doesnt matter (there is no suit hierarchy in holdem).

STRAIGHT FLUSH

T E X A S

Wed all love to get Aces and Kings every hand but probability is a tough mistress and shed rather deal you trash most of the time. There are going to be times when you go completely card-dead. Losing players curl up and die in this situation, refusing to play a hand until their luck turns around. Winning players realise that hands are won long before cards even get seen and try to make the most of every opportunity.

GAME OF PEOPLE NOT CARDS

FOUR OF A KIND

Also known as quads, this is four cards of the same rank. If the quads are dealt on the board, the highest kicker determines the winner.

H O L D E M

A combination of a pair and three of a kind. When comparing full houses its the three of a kind that counts rst, so 3-3-3-2-2 beats 2-2-2-A-A.

FULL HOUSE

POWER OF POSITION

As you gain more experience, youll realise that playing from late position or on the button makes the game so much easier. Thats not to say that you should raise like a madman when youre on the button, but if three players have limped to you and you have a reasonable hand, just raise a decent amount and see what happens. Chances are youll probably take it down there and then, but even if you get called, you have the benet of seeing what your opponent does rst on the op. No one is saying you need to be a maths genius to play poker, but the bottom line is that if you make the mathematically correct play every hand, you will be a winning player. Making such plays each and every time is beyond the realm of most mortals, but all you need to do is get a grounding in the basics. If you can understand and apply the concepts of outs and pot odds, youre well on your way. See our cash game section for more details Checking and calling certainly have their place in poker, but to be a winning player youre going to have to take the ght to the other players. Think about how you feel when a player bets and raises you constantly. Its uncomfortable and you want to avoid them, right? Make sure youre the one other players stay away from and if they tangle with you, ensure theyre not in for an easy ride. Learn to observe your opponents tendencies and try to exploit them, and youll be well on your way to being a winning player. Good luck!

FLUSH

Any ve non-sequential cards of the same suit. When comparing two competing ushes, its the highest card that counts.

Five sequential cards not all in the same suit. A Queenhigh straight beats a Jack-high straight, and so on. Ace can be used either high or low when making a straight.

STRAIGHT

POT ODDS

THREE OF A KIND

Also called trips or a set, this is when you have three cards of equal rank.

TWO PAIR

Two pairs of cards of equal rank, for example, two Jacks and two Nines, as shown here.

UNDER PRESSURE

PAIR

Any two cards of the same rank, in this case two Aces. If two players hold the same pair, the highest kicker is used to determine the winner.

HIGH CARD

If no one has any of the combinations above, the winner comes down to the highest single card, from Ace down to two. In this example, you have Jack-high.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

21

POKERS $10 MILLION CLUB


The seven players in poker history who have won more than $10 million from tournaments (and thats not counting their cash game millions!)
Pokers most likeable and friendly character is also one of its most prolic tournament winners, with a huge number of WPT and WSOP titles to his name. Negreanu began playing cash games in his home of Toronto, but moved to Las Vegas and found the tournament circuit where he made his name with victories in the early days of the World Poker Tour. He has played in the biggest high-stakes cash games for many years, but now focuses more on the live tournament circuit where he continues to take on and beat the best in the world.

P O K E R S

B I G

W I N N E R S

DANIEL NEGREANU

With multiple WPT titles, WSOP bracelets and millions of dollars of cash game winnings to his name, Phil Ivey is arguably the greatest poker player in the world. There isnt a form of poker Ivey hasnt mastered and dominated, and he invokes fear and respect throughout the poker world. Ivey is a master of adapting to any situation and has the uncanny ability to get inside his opponents head and gure out a way to beat him. His natural home is at the high-stakes cash game tables either in his home in Las Vegas or online. But hes won more in tournaments than anyone else alive and with 2009s amazing WSOP success there are few worlds left for him to conquer. A true poker legend.

PHIL IVEY

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

Probably the greatest no-limit holdem tournament player alive, Phil Hellmuth is the holder of a record 11 WSOP bracelets and over $10 million in tournament winnings. He was the youngest ever winner of the WSOP main event back in 1989 aged just 24. Since then he has become renowned as much for his attitude at the table as his poker. Hellmuth is famed for ranting and berating opponents when he loses a big pot, famously telling one guy he couldnt even spell p-o-k-e-r. Hellmuth divides opinion among poker fans, with many doubting his talents extend beyond beating bad players, and his style is determinedly passive. But his record has few equals and on his day he is a fabulous reader of players, capable of amazing calls and laydowns.

PHIL HELLMUTH, JR

The Australian pro burst onto the scene when he won the 2005 WSOP main event, scooping $7.5 million for his troubles. Since then he has proved he was no one-hit wonder with a victory in the WPT North American Poker Classic adding a further $2.2 million to his bank balance. He has been much quieter of late, failing to add another WSOP bracelet to his main event win and only managing an eleventh place nish in the European Poker Tour events he plays regularly. He has become one of the most iconic players in poker, however, and is a household name in his native Australia.

JOE HACHEM

P O K E R S B I G W I N N E R S

MELODIE DEWITT, STEPHANIE DIANI, IMPDI FOR WSOP , TOM MILES, NEIL STODDART

The winner of the single biggest prize in poker history is a TV producer from California named Jamie Gold. The talkative and slightly irritating Gold dominated the 2006 WSOP main event, still the richest tournament in history, to take down the $12 million rst prize. Since then hes not really done a great deal in the world of poker apart from playing a few televised cash games and some charity events. He was a hugely controversial world champion, as many viewed him as a poor player who got lucky. But his performance in the 2006 WSOP remains one of the most impressive in history.

JAMIE GOLD

The Prince of Poker is one of the most enigmatic players in the game, with a list of accomplishments equal to anyone. He is also responsible for the legendary line You call and its all over baby, which he famously said on the nal hand of his 1998 WSOP main event win. The fast-talking man from Vietnam has a past littered with gambling addiction and alcohol-fuelled lows, but hes now a reformed family man and still a ferocious tournament talent. His big successes continue to be at the WSOP where he won the prestigious $50,000 buy-in H.O.R.S.E. event in 2008. Hes also the winner of a WPT title with victory in the World Poker Open in 2006.

SCOTTY NGUYEN

Allen Cunningham could be the poster boy for getting it quietly. Hes one of the most unassuming men in poker, but you just cant stop him winning. Hes won ve WSOP bracelets in his career along with a host of other titles. Hes also achieved the incredible feat of winning a WSOP bracelet three years in a row (2005, 2006, 2007). Cunningham is one of the most thoughtful poker pros around and his peers rate him as one of the greatest talents in the game. He shuns the limelight, however, preferring to let his poker do the talking.

ALLEN CUNNINGHAM

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

23

TABLE MANNERS
Poker is a strange world lled with its own quirky rules, regulations and codes of conduct every player should adhere to. Here we reveal ve of pokers most common breaches of etiquette

P O K E R

E T I Q U E T T E

1 SLOW-ROLLING WHAT IS IT? Nothing gets poker players more vexed


than a slow-roll. It is without doubt one of the most irritating things in the game. But what exactly is a slow-roll? Its the action of deliberately taking a long time to show the winning hand, usually while pretending you are beaten. In the right context they can be very funny, such as announcing two pair with four of a kind in a home game with mates. But, in the wrong context, they can lead to a punch in the mouth. There is something about a slow-roll that makes a poker players blood boil. Its the equivalent of playground bullying, rubbing your opponents nose in their defeat. You just beat them in a hand and took their chips do you really need to make a song and dance about it? Just show your cards and act like a man. IN ACTION At the 2005 WSOP main event, female poker pro Jennifer Harman was the victim of a classic slow-roll when Corey Zeidman made a straight ush to beat her full house. When she puts him all-in he pretends to weigh up the decision and says he can do some sightseeing if he loses before showing the unbeatable hand and asking for applause. Harman should have clapped him round the head. WATCH IT http://tinyurl.com/dnenxs

2 OVER-CELEBRATING WHAT IS IT? In poker there is a lot of luck involved. Even with a hand
like pocket Aces you are still going to lose one time out of ve to pocket twos when you are all-in pre-op. We all know this, but it doesnt make it any less cruel when that miracle two arrives on the op. Or it doesnt mean we dont want to smash the table up when that guy hits two perfect cards to outdraw our full house. Its like fate decided it hated us. You feel like the world is against you. Like nothing can ever go right. And so the last thing you need is some goon who played badly and got lucky jumping up and down and whooping like a brain-damaged monkey. If its you that sucked out then sit down, dont say a word and quietly stack your chips. IN ACTION Mike Matusow gets caught out when he ops top pair against an unlikely two pair of his opponent at the 2009 WSOP main event. They both get it all-in on the turn and Mike hits a lucky river to take the pot. He then jumps up from his seat and starts celebrating while his opponent sits stoney-faced knowing hes out of the tournament. To be fair to Mike its not the worst bad beat in the world and he does say sorry afterwards, but its still out of order. WATCH IT http://tinyurl.com/m6yxxq

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

MID-HAND 3 TALKING WHAT IS IT? Okay, lets clarify that a


bit. We dont mean you cant talk about the weather or something that happened earlier, but if youre not involved in the current hand you should keep quiet about things going on in it until its nished. If you say what you had, youre giving information that could sway someones decision. And if you mention something like, Oh he looks weak there, he didnt like that Ace, you are massively out of line. Poker is a game of limited information, so even if you think you have some you should keep your ego in check and wait until the end of the hand. Nobody cares what you think if youre not involved in the hand, and you are likely to severely annoy the people still playing if you chime in with unwanted comments. In short, be discreet. IN ACTION Once again its Mike Matusow involved, but this time hes the injured party. At the 2005 WSOP main event Shawn Sheikhan slams his st against the table after the op has been dealt, clearly indicating he had a hand that would have opped well. In other words making it less likely Mike Matusow did. Matusow understandably explodes and the two players get into a huge row. WATCH IT www.tinyurl.com/mymzsz

AND RUN 4 HIT WHAT IS IT? This is something


that only happens in cash games in particular online and is one of the more subtle breaches of poker etiquette. To hit and run is to win all of an opponents money and then immediately leave. You see this a lot more when playing online than in live games where its not as easy to slide away from the table without causing a row. Some players see nothing wrong with this tactic, and feel they have no duty to allow the other player the opportunity to win his money back. However, most in the poker world view players that dont want to continue to play on after winning a big pot as bad winners and bad for the game. OUR TIP If you win a big pot in a live cash game then dont immediately leave or make moves to leave. Stay and play a few more orbits of the blinds. You dont have to play many hands, but give the illusion you are still active in the game. And, who knows, if you tighten up your starting hand selection and only play if you hit a big hand, it could even end up with you nishing even more up.

P O K E R E T I Q U E T T E

5 TRASH-TALKING WHAT IS IT? If you beat a player


then celebrating is one thing, but rubbing his nose in it is another. Nobody likes to see a sore loser, but a sore winner is even worse. Many players have made a career out of acting up at the tables and giving players rubdowns when they win, none more so than Tony G. The loudmouth Aussie has crossed so far over the line in poker tournaments he cant even see it any more. He gets away with it because there is no penalty in poker for being a jerk. But you shouldnt learn from Tony G about how to conduct yourself at the poker table. Sure, its sometimes funny to watch, but try it at the local casino and you may nd your laughter quickly stops when the whole table turns against you. IN ACTION The classic Tony G rubdown came against Ralph Perry in a televised tournament. The two have some previous history so when Tony G knocks him out he launches into a tirade telling Perry his career is nished and telling him to get out. Perry sits, dumbfounded for a while, before eventually getting up to leave with Tony G still hollering abuse at him as he exits stage left. WATCH IT www.tinyurl.com/3vkaop

Many players have made a career out of acting up at the tables and giving players rubdowns none more so than Tony G

KEY POINT
When you are not involved in a hand you should keep quiet until the hand is over. Dont talk about what cards you folded or your opinion of your opponents play. It is bad form and likely to annoy your opponents.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

25

All images taken from actual in-game screenshots.

Club PKR - The most rewarding club in poker


Club PKR is a different kind of loyalty programme. For starters our always up, never down policy means you never lose points or VIP status just because you want to take a break. Once you reach a level its yours - for life. Our levels are also easier to achieve, meaning youll find yourself in Silver, Gold and even Platinum status far sooner than you would in other poker rooms. And thats great news because there is a world of fantastic rewards just waiting for you as you move up the loyalty ladder including free PKR merchandise, big money freerolls every month, VIP access to PKR events and a whole lot more.

Please gamble responsibly. For more information and advice visit www.gambleaware.co.uk Licensed by the UK Gambling Commission

P O K E R

POKER TERMINOLOGY
Poker has a rich and constantly growing language. Here are some of the most common terms you will need to know when learning the game
ALL-IN The name given to betting all your chips on any given hand in no-limit holdem. ANTE An additional forced bet which comes into play later in a tournament. It must be paid by every player every hand and it is usually between one-sixth to one-quarter of the small blind. BAD BEAT To be a favourite in a hand but lose to an opponent who is statistically an underdog when the money goes in. BANKROLL The total amount of poker money you have available to you at any one time. Online this would be all the money in your poker account, and should be kept separate from your real money. BLINDS Compulsory bets that ensure there are some chips to win every hand. In tournaments they force the action as they rise progressively, and in cash games they promote action. The player to the immediate left of the dealer posts the small blind, and the player to their left posts the big blind (usually double the small blind). The blinds also move around the table clockwise on each new hand so that every player takes their turn to pay them. The size of the blinds are dictated by the table stakes or the stage of a tournament. BLUFF To bet and raise when you are likely to have the worst hand in a bid to get an opponent to fold. BOARD The community cards in holdem are collectively known as the board. BUBBLE In a tournament this is the last person to be knocked out before the money positions. This person is often called the bubble boy or is said to have bubbled. BUTTON This is the physical marker on the table that indicates which player is the designated dealer and therefore which two players (the two to the left) are in the blinds. The button moves one seat to the left each hand, and is often said to be the strongest position because the dealer is the last person to act and therefore has most information. BUY-IN The cost of the game that you want to enter. It varies from micro stakes to high stakes. In a tournament it will be a at fee that everyone pays and which goes towards the total prize pool, while in a cash game it depends on the table stakes. If the game is $1/$2 no-limit holdem the typical buy-in would be a maximum of $200. CALL The action a player makes when they match a bet from another player. CHECK The option to check arises if you do not want to bet and there is no bet to match. However, if someone has bet you cannot check you have to fold, call or raise. for example A-J-8-4-2. If they are all connected you can make a very rare and incredibly strong straight ush. FOLD The action of throwing away your cards and taking no further part in the hand, forfeiting any claim to win the pot. FOURTH STREET The fourth community card in holdem, often known as the turn. FULL HOUSE A ve-card hand in which you have a combination of three of a kind and another pair, for example, K-K-K-J-J. HEADS-UP When only two players are in contention for the pot, theyre said to be heads-up. Its also used as a term for a form of poker where two players play a one-on-one match either as a tournament or cash game. HOLE CARDS The two face-down cards each player is dealt at the start of every hand. KICKER The term for the card used to break ties between similar hands. So if a hand goes to showdown and two players have the same pair, the player with the bigger kicker or side card wins the hand. LAG Abbreviation for a loose-aggressive player, who bets with a wide range of hands. MAIN POT The principal pot of chips that all players are trying to win. If one or more players go all-in, a side pot is created for other players in the hand who are not all-in and are still betting. MUCK As a noun, this refers to the pile of folded and discarded cards. As a verb, it means the act of folding. MULTI-TABLE TOURNAMENT A type of tournament where the eld size dictates that more than one table is needed. As the tournament progresses players get knocked out and the tables reduce, until eventually there is just the nal table.

T E R M I N O L O G Y

If one or more players goes all-in, a side pot is created for other players in the hand who are still betting
COMMUNITY CARDS The face-up cards in the middle of the table shared by all players. CONTINUATION BET A bet made after the op by the player who took the lead in betting before the op. The term is often known as a c-bet. DRAWING DEAD If there are cards to come but your hand cannot improve on that of your opponent(s) you are drawing dead. FIFTH STREET The fth community card in holdem, often called the river. FLOP This is the set of three face-up community cards that are dealt after the rst round of betting. FLUSH A strong hand at showdown consisting of ve cards of the same suit,

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

If the community cards create a lot of potential for straights and ushes the board is said to have a wet texture

P O K E R T E R M I N O L O G Y

SHOWDOWN This takes place after the nal bet where all players show their hands or muck, and the best hand takes the pot. SIDE POT The pot created when a player goes all-in and there are other players in the hand who still have chips and are betting to create a separate side pot only they can win. SINGLE-TABLE TOURNAMENT This term describes a tournament where only one table is used, with typically six or ten players competing. Often referred to as a sit&go. STRAIGHT A fairly strong ve-card hand in rank order where suit doesnt matter for example, 8;-9:-10-J-Q. SUIT There are four suits in a 52-card deck hearts, clubs, diamonds and spades. They are used to make ushes, and in holdem no suit has a bigger strength than another. TAG Abbreviation for a tight-aggressive player one who plays a small range of premium hands strongly. TEXTURE A term for the make-up of the board. If the community cards create a lot of potential for straights and ushes the board is said to have a wet texture. If it is generally unsuited and has few connecting cards it is said to have a dry texture. THREE-BET Another term for a re-raise. Pre-op the big blind is the rst bet, a raise the second bet and re-raise a three-bet. TILT When a player gets frustrated and angry because of something that happens at the poker table, and starts playing badly. TRIPS Another name for three of a kind. TURN A common name given to the fourth community card in holdem. VALUE BET A bet made when you think you have the best hand and are trying to extract more chips or money from your opponent. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

NO-LIMIT A betting structure in which each bet is only limited by the number of chips a player has in their stack. OUTS These are cards that can come to potentially give someone a winning hand. For example, nine cards or outs when a player ops four cards to a ush. PLAYING THE BOARD When a player uses all the community cards in holdem as their best hand. POCKET PAIR A pair in the hole (dealt as hole cards), such as 2-2 or A-A. POT The total chips that are available to win in any given hand created by players betting and calling, and any blinds and antes in play.

POT-LIMIT A betting format where each player may bet up to the current amount of chips in the pot after the cost of calling. RAISE The act of betting more than that which was wagered by a prior bettor. It has to be at least double that of the initial bet. RE-RAISE The name given to a third bet when there has been a bet and a raise. RIVER The fth and nal community card in holdem. Also known as fth street. ROYAL FLUSH This is the best straight ush, for example 10;-J;-Q;-K;-A;. It is the strongest possible hand ranking. SET Three of a kind using two hole cards and one of the community cards.

29

H I S T O R Y

ONLINE POKERstory

O N L I N E

P O K E R

l a e r e h T
THE GOLD RUSH

O F

e online game, th t u o b a w o n ploded u need to k rnet poker ex te Everything yo in t u o b a s e myth and some of th
Karl) and some secretive highstakes poker players (believed to include a former WSOP main event winner). UB started to gain some ground, but the market was still dominated by Paradise. By the end of 2000 it had introduced no-limit holdem cash games and the online poker world as we know it started to be dened. But developments in the real world were about to turn everything upside down... Prior to 2001, tournament poker just wasnt all that interesting to your average online punter. Paradise Pokers 50,000 players were mostly grinding it out at the limit holdem tables, and while a few other sites were running sit&gos and occasional freezeout tournaments, online poker was a cash game world. But some newcomers on the scene had other ideas. PartyPoker in particular saw the marketing value of online tournaments. What better way to launch yourself onto the scene than by running a huge series of tournaments culminating in a

In 2002 the World Poker Tour made its TV debut, creating huge interest in tournament poker

OU PROBABLY HAVE trainers that are older than the online poker industry. It took its rst tentative steps in January 1998, when Planet Poker became the rst real-money online poker room. The idea was to try to replicate the land-based casino experience online and to be honest, nobody really cared that much. The only game available was $3/$6 limit, and just a handful of players could be found sitting in at any one time. It wasnt until late 1999 when the rst real giant of the online poker world was born. Over in Costa Rica, a group of Canadian college friends, who to this day remain nameless, started up Paradise Poker. The site offered Omaha and seven-card stud as well as Texas holdem. The graphics were slick and ran a lot faster than the sluggish Planet Poker, and the site quickly proved a hit. At the end of 2000 the next of the big names made its debut. UltimateBet was set up jointly by software rm ieLogic (founded by tech geeks Greg Pierson and Jon

$1m main event on a cruise ship? Sound familiar? It sure as hell wasnt back in 2001 when PartyPoker came up with the PartyPoker.com Million. Just a few months later another poker site made its presence known. PokerStars.com launched in October 2001 with the intention of becoming the home of online tournament play. Its rst big promotion was a $50,000 guaranteed tournament with a $215 buy-in. However, there was a third component that took online poker to a new level. In 2002 the World Poker Tour made its TV debut on the Travel Channel in the US. It not only created huge interest in tournament poker, but also gave poker sites a platform on which to advertise. As a result, those sites offering big-money tournaments started to see a huge uplift in player numbers, which is when the poker boom really started. There was one clear winner in the early skirmishes. PartyPoker went from nowhere to become the largest online poker room in just two years. Paradise Poker meanwhile, which

THE BIG BANG

ONLINE POKER TIMELINE


The rise and rise of the online game
Planet Poker becomes the rst proper online poker site and signs up a few early fans

1998

Paradise Poker becomes the rst online success attracting thousands of new players

2001

The World Poker Tour launches, changing poker history for good

2002

30

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

By 2009 poker had become a truly global game played by hundreds of thousands of players across the world

H I S T O R Y

Key info for newcomers


HOW DO I GET MONEY ON AND OFF A POKER SITE?
RNG to assign numbers to each card and then using either the highest or lowest number as the rst card and so on. The RNGs use incredibly sophisticated technology to ensure they cant be cracked and are regularly audited by external testing agencies.

ONLINE POKER FAQ


Its surprisingly easy. Your best bet is to use a debit card such as Maestro or Visa debit, as you can simply put in your details and deposit and withdraw onto the same card. You can also use a credit card, though this is not as convenient as you are usually not able to withdraw to the same card. You can also use online e-wallets such as PayPal to deposit and withdraw on many sites.

O F O N L I N E

WHAT STAKES ARE THERE ONLINE?

P O K E R

still wasnt offering multi-table tournaments, saw its market position drop like a stone. In stark contrast, PokerStars was growing fast, thanks to a business model based heavily on tournaments. It was at this point, with the American sites showing incredible growth, that Europe sat up and took notice. Ladbrokes launched its online poker site in 2002. It didnt accept US players, and concentrated on growing the business in the UK and Scandinavian markets. Over in the US though, where more than 80% of the online poker market was, PartyPoker was comprehensively winning the war. And when amateur player Chris Moneymaker won the WSOP main event there was a huge rush to sign up to play online in the US. By 2004 PartyPoker was making over $1m prot a day. A DAY! This wasnt lost on the rest of the online gaming world. Suddenly every man and his dog was launching a poker room. By the end of 2004, the online poker world as we know it had taken shape. The tournament sites and the cash game sites had stolen the best bits from each other

and there was a real sense of uniformity in the poker world. From here on the poker industry boomed, spreading out from the USA to Europe and beyond. Major tournaments in Europe helped grow the scene, fuelled as they were by online satellites. And while growth in America stagnated, the European poker sector continues to grow at a huge rate today. By 2009 poker had become a truly global game played by hundreds of thousands of players across the world every day.

If you stick to the major sites such as PKR your money is very safe as it is kept in ring-fenced accounts, which the sites themselves do not have access to. If in doubt ask the site via email if they use ring-fenced accounts.

HOW SAFE IS MY MONEY?

You can play for free in freeroll tournaments or play-money games, or play very lowstakes $1 tournaments or $0.01/$0.02 cash games. You can play as high as $1,000 tournaments or $500/$1,000 cash games if you have the bankroll. Any game you want you can nd online.

HOW ARE THE CARDS DEALT?

STATE OF THE ART

And the software didnt stand still either. Almost every game you can imagine is now available around the clock, with slick and easy-to-use interfaces. Poker sites such as PKR have even embraced cutting edge graphics technology, taking poker to a whole new level with stunning 3D visuals. The quality of the online poker experience now is truly spectacular, in many ways equalling the casino experience envisaged in the early days. And weve only been going for a decade. Heres to the next ten years of online poker!

Online sites use random number generators (RNGs) to simulate the shufe of the cards. This is done by using the

Other people like yourself from around the world. The USA, UK, France and Germany provide a large number of players but you can nd players from all over the world taking part. The sites simply take a small percentage of each pot as a commission or rake in the same way as a live casino.

WHO AM I PLAYING AGAINST?

Dont believe the hype


EVERYONE IS COLLUDING AGAINST ME

ONLINE POKER MYTHS


the results are audited for fairness by outside testing agencies. The myth comes from the fact so many hands are dealt online so you see a months worth of bad beats and amazing hands every day.

WRONG Collusion (where two or more players team up to gain advantage), is not only rare, but the sites spend a great deal of time and money looking for it. They have sophisticated software that detects collusion and they investigate any complaints or reports from players.

THE SITES LET YOU WIN AT FIRST BUT THEN MAKE YOU LOSE

PartyPoker becomes the worlds largest poker site and offers $1m guaranteed tourney

2004

PKR takes online poker to a whole new level with the launch of graphically rich 3D poker

THE SOFTWARE IS RIGGED!

2007

WRONG Poker software uses random number generators and

WRONG The sites dont make more money when you lose, they simply take a rake or a percentage of the pot whoever wins or loses. Its not in their interests for any one player to win more than another.

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31

A D V E R T O R I A L

POKER COMES OF AGE


W
32
The next chapter in online pokers evolution is the development of fast, realistic and compelling 3D poker. Step forward PKR.com
poker. As you can see from the in-game screenshots, it looks absolutely stunning, and utterly different from any online poker site youve ever seen. When you rst log in, youre able to design and create a virtual character or avatar to represent you at the poker table. Theres a huge range of options to play with, ensuring that every character in the game is unique. PKR can even render an in-game image that looks exactly like you by mapping your face onto an avatar. You can also express yourself at the table by activating a variety of emotes animations that act out your feelings and HEN POKER FIRST MADE the leap from casino to computer screen, its fair to say something was lost in translation. For all its convenience, the online game couldnt match the excitement, drama and atmosphere of the live game. But PKR.com is the next stage in online pokers evolution, and the closest you can get to the real world on the internet. Conceived and created by some of the leading lights in the videogames industry, PKR is the slickest and most graphically impressive poker site ever seen, with rich 3D environments and a clever game system that mimics the interactive qualities of live THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

BE WHO YOU WANT TO BE

expressions, whether its to say nice hand or shake your head in disgust. But dont be confused into thinking this comes at the expense of the gameplay. At PKR you still get a fast, slick game, multi-table options and a huge range of tournaments and cash games. Its a site for seriously good poker, just with a lot more fun. The graphical wonders also add a new element to the game including the art of picking up tells and faking out opponents. You can use body language, attitude and even the clothes on your back to control the action and win pots! Find out how to bring a whole new dimension to your game on PKR...

A D V E R T O R I A L

WATCH THE ACTION

TOP TIPS
Create a character thats as unique as you are. Start by selecting a gender, skin tone and body shape, then get to work creating your perfect poker personality. You can even choose from a massive catalogue of clothing items to create your look. There are 10 lush environments to play in, ranging from your typical home game to Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and even an Egyptian casino. Immerse yourself in PKRs poker world. The camera can be tricky to get to grips with, especially if you havent played a lot of 3D games before, so spend a bit of time trying it out until you nd a view that suits you. If youre having trouble getting the right angle, the orbit camera is the most versatile, allowing panning, tilting and zooming. If any player is getting on your nerves with constant chicken noises and taunts (PKR calls it emote spamming), theres an option to block emotes altogether.

A fresh look at online poker


With PKR you can choose from a variety of different views to watch the action. And with 10 lush environments to play in PKR is poker like youve never seen it before...

DYNAMIC Be the star of your own poker TV show with a director automatically delivering all the best angles and following all the action

FIRST PERSON See the action from your characters point of view. Look around and even make eye contact with your opponents!

At PKR you still get a slick game, multitable options and a huge range of tournaments and cash games

ORBIT Take in the action from almost any angle you choose. Use your mouse to swivel and zoom for the perfect view

OVERVIEW Get on top of the game with a birds eye view that takes in all the action and every player at the table

POINTS OF THE COMPASS Quickly get the view you need by choosing one of four xed cameras that cover the table

MULTI-TABLE Overview mode allows you to play up to four games at once and increase your prots!

Find the game thats right for you


PKR offers tournaments, ring games, sit&gos and much more
MULTI-TABLE TOURNAMENTS PKRs MTTs rule! Go into the lobby and youll nd big guaranteed prize pools to play for every day, satellite qualiers for online and land-based events, a huge range of innovative tournament types, and your chance to be broadcast all over Europe and the UK on PKR.TV. CASH GAMES PKRs technology is perfect for ring games where getting to know your opponents is critical. There are a huge range for you to choose from at limits to suit every bankroll. The limits start from very small stakes. Players can play cash games with stakes as low as $0.01/$0.02 and up to $25/$50 no-limit. SIT&GOS Perfect the art of the sit&go at PKR where two, six and 10-seaters ll up quickly and offer huge variety. Play with a standard clock or go turbo for even more action. And with innovative Double Thrus, Winner-TakesAll, Phase and Terminator tourneys, theres always a new way to sharpen your game.

PLAY YOUR GAME AT PKR

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

33

D I A P GET Y A L P TO
Claim up to $250 free!
Play PKR for real money and well match your first deposit dollar for dollar with one of the most generous bonuses in poker. Grab 100% on deposits starting at just $10 - all the way up to $250! Just use bonus code PKRBONUS when you deposit.

www.pkr.com
gamble responsibly. For more information and advice visit 18+ Please www.gambleaware.co.uk.

SIT&GOs

The ultimate guide to

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

35

t a e b o t How SIT&GOs
Sit&gos are a great format in which to build your skills and condence, and can also yield a very handsome prot. Here we look at how to master the games by moving through the gears and how to swiftly move up the levels
HE MOST POPULAR NEW FORMAT to emerge from internet poker is the sit&go, or single-table tournament. Games typically run with ten players, with rst place taking 50% of the prizepool, second place 30% and third place 20%. These are the most common games you will nd in home games, pubs and online. In short, sit&gos are a game everyone should be able to play and beat. They are the easiest form of poker to master and probably the most protable way to make money in poker for the average punter they run constantly and can be played to a formula as many as 12 tables at a time. The best sit&go players at any given level can expect to average a 20% return on investment so for every $10 game they would make $12, for a prot of $2. If you start off playing $5 games, then good players should average around $1 per game. You can then move up a level providing you have at least 20 times the buy-in. So when you get to $200 you can try the $10 games. Remember that the goal is to play at the level that is most protable to you at any given time, so if you step up and do well stick with it, and if you take a beating then drop down and recover. If all goes to plan and you consistently acclimatise to and dominate each new level there is no reason why you shouldnt move up a level every 100 games or so, meaning that from the $5 to $100 level could be done in less that 500 games. Of course, in reality, the path is likely to be more circuitous and contain a few pitfalls and dead ends along the way, but the more you learn and apply yourself the quicker you will progress. Beyond this level there is still plenty of distance to cover, with buy-ins from $200 up to $2,000 currently available. Remember though that if you get this far you will start to encounter many excellent and sophisticated opponents, so beware! Should you be able to outsmart them you will certainly nd a pot of gold yours for the taking playing just at the $200 level with four games on one high-resolution screen a

S I T & G O

S T R A T E G Y

SIT&GOs

HOW TO WIN
Become a sit&go master by learning how to effectively move through the gears

The early phase dictates a tight hand selection and favours good post-op players. Your goal is to gain some chips when you get a good hand.

The middle phase dictates a transition from post-op play to a pre-op push/fold strategy. Most players are unaware that this approach is correct and will allow you to collect the blinds. Your goal is to put yourself in a position to win the sit&go.

In the late phase of play, both pre-op and post-op play can dominate, depending on the blinds and the sizes of the three remaining stacks. Go for the win, and dont be cautious.

good player can rake in around $200-$300 an hour. Happy days! But lets not get ahead of ourselves. First we need to learn to beat the low-stakes games, which are full of bad players not playing correct strategy. Unlike most forms of poker, sit&gos are almost a solved game and you need to stick to a xed game plan to do well. The key to winning is using a formula based on dividing the game into three stages early, middle and late. It helps to view these three elements as trafc lights red, amber and green. In the red stage you should play with extreme caution as you are in the danger zone. With amber you should start to move slowly through the gears and play a bit more freely and at green you should put your foot down and hit top gear. Confused? You wont be.

Playing at the $200 level with four games on one high-resolution screen, a good player can make $200-$300 an hour. Happy days!

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

S I T & G O S T R A T E G Y

TYPES OF SIT&GO
The sit&go format has taken the online world by storm in recent years. This strategy guide focuses on nine and ten-handed games, but there are many other game types out there, including these classic options

These are fast-paced games with the blinds rising much quicker than a standard game. These are the best games if you want to restrict your game to a push/fold strategy as there is not much middle-game play.

TURBOS

In these six-max games only the top two places are paid. They are usually much more aggressive games where you have to play more hands to survive, and as such they are better suited to the more experienced player.

SIX-HANDED

These are one-on-one games where you really need to be an experienced player to do well. You play every hand and the skills involved are quite different. Stay away from these if you are a beginner.

HEADS-UP

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

37

S I T & G O

S T R A T E G Y

crucial, task is to play safely and conservatively to avoid getting knocked out early. No all-in calls with pocket Jacks here. The key to successful sit&go play is pacing yourself start slowly and steadily and go through the gears. The other advantage to this style is that it presents a table image of a tight player, so that when you do start playing with more aggression your opponents are unlikely to call you with anything but a monster hand. The opening levels of a sit&go are often where the games are won or lost. The key is to not waste valuable chips chasing draws. The early phase of a sit&go exists in every structure, no matter if its played live or online, and is dened by how many chips you have in relation to the blinds. It ends when the blinds are worth around 1/15th of your starting stack. Generally speaking, super-tight hand selection is the best strategy at the beginning of the early phase. If you squander your chips in the early phase on speculative hands like when chasing

GAME PLAY 1 EARLY In the red-light stage of a sit&go your rst,

STARTING HAND GUIDE


EARLY STAGES
PLAY 2-2 to J-J, A-K and A-Q RE-RAISE Q-Q, K-K, A-A FOLD All other hands

draws you will often put yourself at a signicant disadvantage. The blinds continually increase, which means the middle phase of play could arrive quicker for you.

KEY POINT
In the early phase of a sit&go a tight strategy is best, as conserving your chips for the later stages is paramount. Limit your hand selection to big pairs, A-K and A-Q, and above all, play position

While the middle phase still allows for skilled play, there is more opportunity to use this to your advantage in the early phase. In a cash game you can simply reload if things go poorly, but in a sit&go you must conserve your chips and thereby conserve your equity. Most players do not understand this, and the early phase is dominated by poor play particularly of the calling station, draw-chasing variety. Obviously, if you have a good hand, you can exploit this by value-betting.

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

S I T & G O

WALKTHROUGH

Playing the early levels


The early stages of a sit&go are all about survival. You dont need to take big risks when there are still ten players left

S T R A T E G Y

You get dealt A-10 on the button at the 10/20 level. While this hand is marginal in early position, in late position you should raise and c-bet most ops, as you will likely have the best hand.

The best strategy at this stage is to limit your hand selection to either monsters or hands that can op easily-played monsters, which is why your hand range should be restricted to pocket pairs, A-Q and A-K. Big pairs, such as Q-Q and above ought to be played aggressively. Lower pairs and the big Aces should be played more cautiously. Ideally, you should only play your lesser hands in late position, though limping or calling a moderate raise in middle position is okay. As the blinds rise and you move towards the middle stage of the sit&go you should continue to play a tight strategy, just a little less tight than the initial super-tight strategy.

TERMINOLOGY
EQUITY Your equity is your expected value from a pot or tournament. Say you have a 40% chance to win a pot worth $100, your equity is $40 (0.4 times 100). The term is somewhat perfunctory as you will usually win $100 or $0 but it gives you an idea of how much you can expect to win. SHORT STACK A player with less than ten big blinds

You get dealt Q:-J; on the button at the 25/50 blind level and there has been a mid-position raise to 100. While this hand looks pretty it is only going to get you into trouble post-op so you should wait for a better spot.

KEY POINT
You can raise with smaller pairs like 5-5 when in position but dont play a big pot with this sort of hand unless you op a monster. Also, continuation bets do not need to be pot-sized. At this stage in the game its all about limiting your risk You pick up A;-J; in mid-position at the 10/20 level. Theres a raise to 80 and a call before it reaches you. You should fold, as unless you hit a ush or your Jack you wont know where you are in the hand.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

39

S T R A T E G Y S I T & G O

big hands cant be used throughout. By the time you get to the middle phase of a sit&go, you are going to have to get more imaginative. The middle phase ends when the bubble bursts and only three players remain. Those three players will each then be guaranteed a portion of the prizepool, and play shifts to the late phase. The best middle phase strategy should gradually transition into more aggressive play. Conventional tournament wisdom states that you should play in two stages. First survive to the payout, then play for rst. There is no money for fourth place, hence nishing out of the money represents a waste of your time. Even if you crawl into third place, you make something, and something is better than nothing. As you approach the bubble of a sit&go, you may be tempted to creep into the money and take what you can, but it may be more protable to go for broke. You may be partial to conventional wisdom, but the aggressive path is more protable.

MIDDLE GAME 2 THE Unsurprisingly, the tactic of only playing

KEY POINT
The middle phase of a sit&go begins when the blinds are worth around 1/15th or more of your chipstack and ends when the bubble bursts. During this period, you should be changing gears if the blinds total 10% of your stack. So if the blinds are 50/100 and you have a 1,500 stack, its time to start widening your range of starting hands

The middle game is where the real poker starts being played. This is when a few players have been knocked out and the blinds have risen to the point where the average stack is around ten big blinds. At this stage you will typically see the short-stacks moving all-in with any hand they deem playable which is the best tactic if you are down to 10 big blinds or less while normal-sized raises from larger stacks will often be met by an all-in from someone else. The key to this stage is understanding your overall position in the game and where you stand in relation to the other players. Going out in a marginal situation unnecessarily is a disaster, especially if you are one of the big stacks and there are several small stacks. Likewise, if the game is four-handed with equal stacks and two players end up all-in on a coinip then in effect they are just giving money to the other players who gain simply by watching from the sidelines. What this means in practical terms is that you should play according to your relative stack size. You should attack the smaller stacks, as they are playing for survival. Use frequent raises, re-raises and all-ins as they will need a very big hand to call you. When you are a short-stack, however, you should look to do whatever is necessary to make the money,

TERMINOLOGY
THE BUBBLE The point in a tournament or sit&go where the next person out will not make any money but all remaining players will get paid. So if three players are paid out and four remain, you are said to be on the bubble, while to go out at this point is known as bubbling

KNOW YOUR PLACE

folding bad and marginal hands when you can afford to in the hope that someone else busts, getting your chips in rst unless you have a monster, moving all-in to steal the blinds when you are running out of chips and attacking the big blind of the next shortest stacks whenever possible to lower the decit. However, stick to the golden rule of cautious aggression. Dont be reckless. Bet hard only when the cards truly deserve it or if you have less than six to eight times the big blind. Remember, though your ultimate objective is to win the whole shooting match, your rst priority is to get a money nish. Take advantage of any opportunities that come your way, and do everything it takes to make the nal three. From there you can up the aggression and start gambling on marginal hands, with the safety net of at least doubling your money.

KEY POINT
Just because you think you may have a slightly better hand than your opponent doesnt mean you should always call. Chips are not actually equivalent to their money value, and you should avoid situations where you can be knocked out, allowing others to gain at your expense

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

S I T & G O

WALKTHROUGH

Shoving with anything


In the middle stage of a sit&go there are times when you should play with serious aggression regardless of your cards

S T R A T E G Y

You are on the bubble in a $10 sit&go where each of the four remaining players have 2,500 chips. The blinds are 200/400 and you are dealt 3-2 offsuit in the small blind.

MIDDLE STAGE GAME PLAN


SHORT-STACKED

How your stack affects your strategy


The rst two players fold. The big blind is a tight-solid player who views you as the same. You move all-in.

Your goal in the middle stage should be to adjust your game to the players in front of you. Your cards are not as important as your relative stack sizes
If you are short-stacked you should be looking to move in with any playable hand, such as pocket pairs, big Aces or two court cards (Queens, Kings, Jacks). Dont raise pre-op, simply move all-in. and re-raise medium-stacked players who are raising frequently. Avoid the big stacks as much as possible. They are the only players who can knock you out at this stage. Do not be the one calling. Be the one raising. Use your chipstack as a weapon.

Only raise all-in if there has been no raise before you if you have an average hand. Re-raise all-in if you have a big hand. Attack fellow short-stacks when they are on the big blind. They will be reluctant to call without a big hand. Avoid calling all-in moves from big-stacks unless you have a big pair or A-Q, A-K.

BIG-STACKED

Do not make too many hero calls with bad Aces and small pairs. You do not want to get into coinips and waste your chip lead. The big blind folds. This will undoubtedly surprise a few people, but the big blind will call with very few hands here as he understands the value of survival. Your cards are meaningless. You should always push here unless you suspect he is the type to call with substandard hands.

Make frequent raises to try to steal the blinds, but dont call too easily when players move all-in over the top of you. Bully the other players by making raises and re-raises, as they will need very good hands to call you with.

MEDIUM-STACKED

Attack other medium and short-stacked players. Raise with a wide range of hands

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41

S I T & G O

S T R A T E G Y

what? Well, here is where the gambling begins as there is only 10% difference between second and third but 30% between second and rst. You should be playing to accumulate chips and win. Turn everything we have told you so far on its head and be bold and aggressive. But remember to play the players in front of you. By now, after lasting this long, you should have a pretty good read on your opponents. So if you are playing a short-stacked maniac it may not be a great idea to call him all-in with your 6-3 offsuit when youre on the button. If you make it all the way to heads-up play then the game takes on another complexion. Obviously, you want to win at this point since victory holds the biggest payout. Your opponents also want to win and their play will loosen up, becoming more aggressive. For much of the time there will be no change in the character of play from the middle phase. If the big blind represents a tenth of your or your opponents stacks, the correct play will be to push or fold. What changes is that your opponents will be more willing to gamble, and as your goal is to

PLAY 3 ENDGAME So youve made it to the money now

TERMINOLOGY
COINFLIP A situation in poker where two players are all-in and both have roughly a 50/50 chance of winning the hand. This is most common when one player has a small pair such as pocket sixes and the other has overcards such as K-Q.

win you should be willing to take some chances when three-handed. If you are second in chips with stacks of 6,000, 4,000, 3,500 you should be willing to take a coinip with the third-placed player, as the 7.5k resulting stack gives you an immense advantage over the other player heads-up.

KEY POINT
When three-handed, try to put yourself in a position to move up the ladder rather than looking to simply hang on. The value of winning is worth so much more than just cashing even if the frequency of doing so is less

If you make it to heads-up play you will generally nd yourself in a push/fold game. In other words the only move you should make is all-in or fold. Your opponents are generally unaware that a dramatic change in tactics is needed. They are left puzzled as to why someone with a stack of 6,000 is pushing in just because the blinds are 300/600. Of course, their lack of understanding

HEADS-UP PLAY

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S I T & G O S T R A T E G Y

gives you yet another advantage: if you play aggressively, you will quickly whittle their stacks down to nothing, and then it will be almost too late for them. But what happens if the blinds are lower say 200/400 with a stack size of 6,000? A stack of 15 big blinds gives precious little room, though there is some. If the blinds are due to change in the next few minutes, we would recommend some deliberate play on your part unless you happen to have a premium hand, such as a pair of Queens. If this is the case, then by all means raise it up and try to win a big pot. Aggression is critical in heads-up play. Most hands miss most ops so you should be attacking and stealing pots the majority of the time. If you or your opponent creeps down towards the 10 big blind threshold, be prepared to shift gears to the push/fold game. If your opponent raises pre-op every hand, however, then you will need to make an adjustment. Obviously, it is highly unlikely your opponent has a hand every time. This is a perma-raise strategy designed to put immediate pressure on the other player, every hand. There are two options to counter this strategy. You can either look to trap or, be more aggressive.

If you are second in chips with stacks of 6,000, 4,000, 3,500 you should take a coinip with the third-placed player, as the 7.5k resulting stack gives you an immense advantage heads-up

KEY POINT
When you get to heads-up, your strategy if the blinds and stacks permit should include a lot of post-op aggression. If youre up against a player who raises pre-op every hand, you should always become more aggressive

The problem with a trapping approach is that you must actually catch a hand. You most likely will not catch one unless you have a lot of time before the blinds increase. The typical result of a trapping approach, then, is that your chipstack will dwindle, as will your chances of winning when the blinds increase and correct play switches to the pre-op push/fold strategy. Become more aggressive. Many players who use a perma-raise strategy at lower stakes will not follow it up with post-op aggression. Typically, they will c-bet the op and then give up if they have failed to make a hand. A simple check-raise on the op will win you several pots before your opponent considers switching strategies, and -at that point you should have a signicant chip lead and can win the vast majority of the time. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

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S I T & G O

o t s p e 15 st
S
INGLE-TABLE TOURNAMENTS (STTs) or sit&gos provide the perfect learning ground for players new to the game. They can be very cheap to enter and take you from the early stages of a tournament, past the bubble and into the

S T R A T E G Y

SIT&GO SUCCESS
Tailoring your poker game to the sit&go format can be a great low-risk way to build a bankroll. Follow these 15 tips for single-table tournament success
money spots all in 60 minutes or less. They can be a fun and protable way to get started in poker without risking a lot of money. By playing sit&gos you get to appreciate the shifting nature of hand values and the importance of chipstack sizes, position and aggression. These games are available at all times when you are playing online but they are also quickly becoming very popular in the live poker rooms. There is certainly money to be made if you can master this tricky game. Weve learnt the hard way, so you dont have to. Just follow our 15-step guide and sit&go glory wont be far away.

In the early stages when the blinds are small in comparison to the chipstacks, keep it tight. Theres nothing to be gained in stealing the tiny blinds with substandard hands. Youll also set yourself up with a solid table image which will put the fear of God into other players when you crank up the aggression in the later stages. Play big hands strongly and muck your muck.

KEEP IT TIGHT

STEP 1

BIG PAIRS, BIG BETS


Play big pairs (A-A, K-K, Q-Q) aggressively. If four players have limped in before youve acted with the blinds at 25/50, stick in a pot-size raise to about 400. Youll now either pick up all that dead money when everyone folds, get the hand down to heads-up where big pairs are most effective, or someone will make a mistake, re-raise and overplay their smaller pair or two big cards. If someone has Aces and you have Kings or Queens, well, thats just bad luck, but you should be looking to exploit opportunities to pick up these sorts of pots, or force others to make mistakes all the time.

STEP 2

STEP 3

SNEAK IN WITH DANGER HANDS


Try and see a lot of cheap multi-way pots early on with hands that have the potential to do damage. Suited connectors, small pairs and A-x suited can all decimate an opponents stack if you hit the op big. However, fold these types of hands to pre-op raises or if you dont make a major hand on the op.

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STEP 4

BE A SURVIVOR
If youre the short stack early on, youve still got time to hang around. Dont feel you have to get your chips in straight away with hands like Ace-rag bide your time. You can come back from just 200 chips if you pick your spots. Be patient for one or two rotations and wait and see how your opponents are playing. There is plenty of time to move through the gears. If you do get a big hand look for a spot to get your chips into the pot for a double-up. Above all, make it hard for other players to get their grubby mitts on your chips.

S T R A T E G Y

GET PAID OFF


Dont be afraid to move all-in after the op with big hands. Youll nd a lot of players think top pair/bad kicker is enough to call an all-in. If the op has come K-J-5 and youve managed to op two-pair in the big blind with J-5, dont slow-play it and wait for another King to arrive on the turn try and get your opponent to make a mistake. A check, followed by a bet from someone else, should see you re-raising heavily or moving all-in. At this point, theyll either fold and youll pick up a nice pot or, as is the case so often, players will call with K-x and will be about a 3-to-1 dog to hit one of their few outs and win the hand.

STEP 5

Youll see players getting into a op cheaply and thinking they can steal the pot with a bet of 50 into a pot of 400. Punish those aquatic creatures with a big raise (if you have a hand) or call with drawing hands
these require you to push any edge you have and hope your hand holds up. Overpairs, top pair/top kicker and even ush draws (when youre a big stack) become hands to move all-in with.

PUNISH WEAK BETTING


Forget the minimum betting crap. Youll see it time and time again online players getting into a op reasonably cheaply and thinking they can then steal the pot with a bet of 50 into a pot of 400. Punish those aquatic creatures with a big raise (if you have a hand) or call with drawing or marginal hands. Usually they fold or make bad calls and turn over middle pair or an underpair to the board at the end.

STEP 6

Continuation-betting is essential in sit&gos. Generally, a pre-op raise, followed by a bet will take down most pots. If someone plays back and re-raises, you can simply lay down your hand if youre weak. But essentially a bet of around a half to two-thirds of the pot after the op will be a protable play in the long run and allow you to accumulate chips when you dont have anything more than two cards in front of you.

KEEP FIRING

STEP 8

For the gamblers among you, turbo STTs are great fun, but you have to make moves very quickly. While normal sit&gos require patience,

SPEED UP

STEP 7

KEY POINT
Continuation-betting is an essential play in sit&gos. A bet of around half to two-thirds pot after the op is a protable play in the long run.

KNOW WHEN TO RUN FOR COVER


Its crucial that you know when to back down with marginal hands. Your hand requirements might be less than when playing long large-eld tournaments, but even so top pair/bad kicker in the face of a big re-raise usually means its time to take cover. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

STEP 9

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S T R A T E G Y

just because you drop into last place. Use it as an opportunity to become the danger man. As a short-stack you can use the force of the chips that you do have left to prise unopened pots away from your opponents with an all-in push. Youll either pick up lots of blinds or potentially double-up and head back towards the top of the eld.

S I T & G O

As a short-stack you can use the force of the chips that you do have left to prise unopened pots away from your opponents with an all-in push STEP 13

BURST THE BUBBLE


STEP 10

BE A BULLY
If youve accumulated a big stack you should put pressure on smaller stacks all the time. Pick the right times and right hands to raise with but as you approach the middle stages of an STT, the short-stacks will be looking to hang on or double through to make the money. Raise their blinds, move them all-in (with hands which you wont mind being called with), and generally terrorise them into making a mistake.

On the bubble its often correct to get aggressive as play often tightens up when people can smell the money. With a biggish stack try moving all-in a lot and youll nd you pick up blinds uncontested, or have a good chance to knock someone out. If youre a short-stack, wait for a big hand and chuck in your chips in the attempt to double-up, or move all-in on the button with any two cards if the pot is yet to be raised.

STEP 14

MONEY MANAGEMENT
Observe all the players chipstacks uctuate wildly as the blinds increase. Keep an eye open for the big stacks you dont want to mess with and make a note of the small-stacks you want to bully. Also, never believe youre dead and buried

STEP 11

GET AGGRESSIVE

When short-handed (three or four players) its time to get even more aggressive by raising from the button virtually every hand. With escalating blinds, theres no time to wait for premium hands. Your opponents may be hoping to coast into the money. This is where you can steal the blinds and pick up money from the short-stacks who will fold regularly. Dont be kamikaze about it but raises and re-raises in position followed by aggressive play after the op (when youve made a hand) are the keys to getting to the heads-up confrontation.

STEP 12

DONT FADE AWAY


If youre in danger in the latter stages (about seven or fewer big blinds left) you must be prepared to stick your chips in with lesser hands, which can still make something. Look to get your chips into an unopened pot with hands like K-8 suited, J-10, 6-7 suited and small pocket pairs. If you pick up the blinds, ne. If you get one caller, youre usually not worse than a 2-to-1 underdog. Dont get blinded down to a stage where you have no fold equity, and dont put yourself in the position where you wont get much back if you do double-up.

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FINISH HIM!
When its down to two, its time to raise, raise, raise. Dont let the big blind have free ops, realise that most of the time the other player doesnt have a hand, and you can bully with a big stack. If its your big blind being raised every hand then you need to push back. Try a big re-raise and more often than not youll pick up the pot and send a message out that you cant be bullied. Also consider that pot odds can often dictate that it might be correct to call an all-in when youre an underdog if theres a good chance to win the tournament. Remember to push every small edge, as top pair on the op will often be good enough to win the hand. Of course, picking the right spot to exploit your opponent and noticing betting patterns will come with experience, but until then getting your chips in when you think youre ahead is never bad advice. Good luck, and get winning.

STEP 15

S T R A T E G Y

WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH THESE HANDS PRE-FLOP?


2,150 chips Seat 5 As chip leader a bet of three times the big blind is reasonable, although beware of any raises with this decent, but easily beatable hand. 800 chips Seat 4 With the shortest chipstack and a junk holding out of position this is an easy fold. Wait to pick up a premium hand to get involved. 1,500 chips Seat 3 Its notoriously difficult to play small pairs out of position. Youre first to act and decide to call but will fold to any significant betting. 1,350 chips Seat 2 Theres been far too much action to be calling with this easily dominated hand. Ditch it and let the others scrap it out.

A SAMPLE HAND
Blinds 25/50

MID POSITION
5 4 8 3 9 2 1
10

1700 chips

Seat 6 The chip leader raised in the previous seat and you have rags. Even if the pot is unopened youre still out of position with rags. Fold. 1400 chips Seat 7 Your chip stack isnt that healthy, theres been action from the chip leader and your hand has very little going for it. Its a clear fold.

EARLY POS.
950 chips Seat 1 Usually if you can see a cheap flop in the small blind these suited connectors are worth a call. But theres been a lot of action. Muck them.

LATE POS.
2,100 chips Seat 10 A marginal hand at best and with an early position raise, followed by a late position re-raise this hand is likely to be dominated. Fold. 1,200 chips Seat 9 The chip leader has bet out in Seat 5 but you have a premium hand in position double or treble his bet to see how good his hand is.

1850 chips Seat 8 Later in the STT in an unopened pot you might think about raising with any two cards here, but early on these cards are instant muck.

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S T R A T E G Y

As the eld of a s it&go dro from fou ps r to thre e to two nature o , the f play an d the va of hands lue changes hugely, s you mus o t adjust your pla to each s y ituation

Do this

H E A D S - U P S I T & G O

Le ader
S
ETTLING DOWN FOR A BIT of online poker, you re up a ten-handed turbo sit&go and start off playing a tight, solid game. Gradually you accumulate chips with quality hands, and you make it to the bubble. With four players left, you make some tight folds against the chip leader, but manage to sustain your stack and take advantage of the other three players who fear nishing out of the money. After a long battle, the bubble bursts, and the blinds are high. The very next hand, the other two players clash, leaving you heads-up. Now you might think your work is done, but the next step is incredibly important, because youll either eke out a small two buy-in prot for nishing second, or get a huge four buy-in prot for winning. Thats a big difference! Do you know how to handle this situation to maximise your prot? THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

Getting over the nishing line rst in a sit&go can make a big difference to your overall prot. Here we look at how to exploit weak players when you get to heads-up

OF THE STACK
The heads-up stage of an SNG is a winnertake-all contest. Both players are guaranteed to win at least the second-place money, so its the difference between rst and second thats up for grabs. At this stage you should play each hand as though both you and your opponent have the shorter of your two stacks, as thats the most you can win or lose in one hand. So, if one player has 9,000 chips and the other has 4,500, both players should play as though they have 4,500. This is called the effective stack and the biggest concern at this point is how deep the effective stack is in terms of big blinds.

WINNER TAKES IT ALL

Understanding hand values is crucial in the heads-up stage. As you may already know, relative hand values go up as the number of players in a game goes down. Whereas a hand like A-2 offsuit is complete rags at the beginning of a sit&go, it becomes a reasonably big hand when youre heads-up. If you are used to playing at full-ring tables, some of the hands that are correct to push all-in with heads-up may come as a surprise. But its a fact that far too many players do not push enough hands or call often enough. After this lesson, youll be able to exploit those tendencies perfectly.

HAND VALUES

Hand values go up as the number of players in a game goes down. Whereas a hand like A-2 offsuit is complete rags at the beginning of a sit&go, it becomes a big hand heads-up

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The Nash Equilibrium was named after mathematician John Nash, who theorised that some games featured an unexploitable strategy. If however, one player deviates from the strategy, the player who sticks to the Nash Equilibrium strategy stands to benet. In poker, and in particular high-blind heads-up play, this theory can be applied to optimal push/fold strategy, where its possible to play unexploitably. In practice this means that if you are the small blind, you should push your hand if the number on the chart (see right) is greater than the number of big blinds in the effective stack. For example, if the blinds are 200/400 and the stacks are 9,500 and 4,000, effective stacks are 10BBs. Consulting the chart you may correctly push J-3s (10.6), but not 10-7o (9.0). When you are the BB/caller, you should call if the number of big blinds in the effective

THE NASH EQUILIBRIUM

HEADS-UP PUSH/FOLD NASH EQUILIBRIUM

SUITED

OFFSUIT

POCKET PAIRS

* 6-3s: 7.1-5.1, 2.3 **5-3s: 12.9-3.8, 2.4 ***4-3s: 10.0-4.9, 2.2

stack is less than that. For example, with the above stacks you could call with J-8s (10.6), but not J-9o (9.5). This calling chart only works if you believe your foe is pushing

according to Nash or wider. Of course, many players dont play perfectly, so you can adjust the Nash strategy to exploit this. Turn over for three examples of how to do just that. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

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S T R A T E G Y

Heads-up strategy CASE 1

NASH EQUILIBRIUM IN ACTION


When to push and call, and how to exploit players who dont know any better

H E A D S - U P

BLINDS 300/600 STACKS 1,800 (HERO) vs 11,700 (Effective stack is 3BBs) HERO CAN PUSH 76.8% of hands (2-2+, J-x+, 10-2s+, 10-3o+, 9-2s+, 9-5o+, 8-4s+, 8-6o+, 7-4s+, 7-6o, 6-4s+, 5-4s)

BLINDS 300/600, STACKS 3,000 (HERO) vs 10,500 (Effective stack is 5BBs) HERO CAN PUSH 71.3% of hands (2-2+, Q-x+, J-2s+, J-3o+, 10-2s+, 10-6o+, 9-4s+ 9-7o+, 8-4s+, 8-6o+, 7-4s+, 7-6o, 6-4s+, 5-3s+, 4-3s)

CASE 2

BLINDS 300/600, STACKS 5,400 (HERO) vs 8,100 (Effective stack is 9BBs) HERO CAN PUSH 59.9% of hands (2-2+, K-x+, Q-2s+, Q-6o+, J-3s+, J-8o+, 10-4s+, 10-7o+, 9-5s+, 9-7o+, 8-5s+, 8-7o, 7-4s+, 7-6o, 6-4s+, 5-3s+, 4-3s)

CASE 3

S I T & G O
VILLAIN CAN CALL WITH 92.8% of hands (2-2+, 9-x+, 8-2s+, 8-4o+, 7-2s+, 7-4o+, 6-2s+, 6-3o+, 5-2s+, 5-3o+, 4-2s+, 4-3o, 3-2s)

VILLAIN CAN CALL WITH 60.8% of hands (2-2+, Q-x+, J-2s+, J-5o+, 10-5s+, 10-7o+, 9-6s+, 9-8o, 8-6s+, 7-6s)

VILLAIN CAN CALL WITH 40.6% of hands (2-2+, A-x+, K-2s+, K-4o+, Q-6s+, Q-8o+, J-8s+, J-9o+, 10-8s+)

In this example, the hero has a tiny stack of just 1,800 against the villains 11,700, meaning the effective stacks are 3BBs. As such, most villains are likely to call all or almost all of the time. The Nash range assigned to the villain accurately reects this, so the pushing range given is very wide.

This time the hero has a stack of 5BBs. Most villains realise theyre committed to calling often in this situation, but many inexperienced villains play much tighter than they should. As such it becomes protable to push any two cards if the villain is calling only 48% of the time or less.

As the examples illustrate, its frequently correct to push all-in with complete junk when the blinds are high 50
THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

Unlike the rst two cases, the villain will call a lot less often here probably less than 40%. Also, most players wont push often enough, so a good player will tighten up his calling range to adjust. Inexperienced players, however, dont call as often as they should. In any event, unless you think the villain is calling as wide as the range given here, you may push more hands than the equilibrium range (60%). If the villain is calling with less than 30% of hands (which is more than likely), you may protably push any two cards.

A REMINDE R ROCK BLU


Deep-stack adjustments

ROCK, PAPER, SCISSORS


If youre heads-up with deeper stacks, its a whole different game

NTS SCIS SORS PAPER C OVERS R OCK SCISSOR S CUTS PA PER

S I T & G O H E A D S - U P

ROCK: The straight forward player


CHARACTERISTICS Never bluffs, raises with high-quality hands only and folds to raises without a good hand. A rock bets the op when he hits and check-folds when he misses and faces a bet. Wont trap and doesnt chase draws. BEST COUNTER-STRATEGY Be paper (over-aggressive). Never fold your small blind and raise often. In fact, raising with any hand works well, because the rock will play against your raise less than 20% of the time, meaning a raise with two blank cards would be protable. Even if your opponent calls, hes likely to give up on the op to a single continuation bet. Many rocks counter by becoming scissors after a while, and trapping you. An alternative is to raise your good hands, and limp your worst, with the intent to bet any op that is checked to you. This small-ball strategy works because he bets good hands and checks when he misses, giving you a perfect read. Small-ball poker allows for less variance, allowing you to win a greater percentage of games against the rock.

S T R A T E G Y

PAPER: The over-aggressive player


CHARACTERIST CHARACTERISTICS nearl every hand and bets most ops, Raises nearly hit or miss. Always semi-bluffs with any type of draw. BES COUNTER-STRATEGY BEST t Be scissors (play a trapping style). Fold your small blind/button with your worst hands, because limping is futile against an opponent who is going to raise you. Limp-call with Aces and Kings pre-op because your opponent will often raise. And limp with the intent to three-bet with your strong and vulnerable hands like 7-7 or A-K. Call his bets when you hit top pair on any board that is not draw-heavy. The aw in applying this strategy on its own is that you cant sit and wait for good hands, or youll be ground down. To balance this problem, ght paper with paper when you dont have the goods to trap. Try a check-raise bluff or re-steal. Heads-up is a game that favours aggression, so ght back!

SCISSORS: The habitual trapper


CHA CHARACTERISTICS Plays a straightforward heads-up game, li but limps with big hands pre-op, such as 9-9+ o or A-J+, planning to out-op and trap C you. Checks and calls a lot with middle-pair typ hands, in the hope that youll hang type yourself out to dry with a triple-barrel blu Rarely bets, preferring to play bluff. trap loose-passive style. a trappy BEST COUNTER-STRATEGY Be a rock. Tighten up pre-op, play a straightforward game and take all the free cards he gives you. Eventually youll outdraw your passive opponent and take him for a lot of chips. Aggression is appropriate, but dont re out twice without a premium hand! If he check-calls you must be wary! Hes usually setting a trap when he starts at-calling multiple streets, so dont fall for it!

As the examples opposite illustrate, its frequently correct to push all-in with complete junk and often any two cards when the blinds are high. Nevertheless, many players do not want to put their tournament life on the line with 2-3o, and may be hesitant to shove. For the doubters, heres the maths comparing a push and a fold in case three: If you fold you have 5,100 chips left. If you were to push 2-3o 100 times, when the villain is calling with a typical range (25% of all hands): 75 times the villain folds, you win the blinds, and your stack, after winning the blinds is 6,000. Total gain is 75 x 900, which is 67,500.

SHOVING WITH ANY TWO

Seven times the villain calls but you get lucky and win the hand! Your stack is 10,800 (+ 5,700). Your total gain is 7 x 5,700, which is 39,900. 18 times the villain calls and you lose (-5,100). Your total loss is 18 x 5,100, which is 91,800. Therefore, over 100 pushes you win 15,600 chips (156 chips per shove) by pushing 2-3o, instead of folding. If youre lost, your adjustments arent working, or you think your opponent has a skill edge, feel free to revert back to the Nash Equilibrium at any time. If you play this way, then, theoretically, the greatest player in the world can only tie with you at best!

For this article we used the following: The Nash Equilibrium chart www. holdemresources.net/hr/sngs/hune.html The case study calculations www.holdem resources.net/hr/sngs/icmcalculator.html

TOP TIP
So what if youre in the BB and the SB limps? This can be a tricky spot, as it could be a trap, or a so-so hand that wants to see a op. If you shove with Nash Equilibrium ranges youll be unexploitable, but an aggressive strategy may be correct against someone whos unlikely to be trapping. Limping big pairs is only a good tactic if your foe is aggressive and likely to push.

ADJUSTMENTS

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S I T & G O

SIT&GO TOOLS
A round-up of the best software to help you master the single-table tournament game

5 of the best

S O F T W A R E

S THE GROWTH OF ONLINE poker continues apace, so does the amount of high-tech tools and toys to help increase your win-rate. And the good news is that most of them are as cheap as chips! When it comes to helpful software, the format of poker best serviced is sit&gos, where maths and hand ranges are a big factor in winning (and losing). It could be argued that the majority of your prots in sit&gos will come from knowing how to play correctly on and around the bubble. That is, how to make and respond to unexploitable shoves in the late game when stack sizes dictate that you only have two moves to shove all-in or fold. Therefore, its no surprise that of the myriad sit&go software tools available most are designed to help you calculate correct pushing and folding ranges in a variety of spots. So connect with your inner geek and read on.

1 INDEPENDENT CHIP MODELLING


ICM forms the basis of correct sit&go strategy and is a method of calculating the real-money value of tournament chips at any stage of a sit&go based on payout structure, number of players left and individual chipstacks. It will help you understand what to do in specic situations where cEV (the number of tournament chips you can win or lose) is very different from the $EV (the amount of real money you can win or lose).

INDEPENDENT CHIP MODELLING (ICM)

Type in the chipstacks and payouts and play about with them to see how the chip and real-money values differ in crucial situations. Use when away from the tables to work out how your equity will change if you make a big call on the bubble or double-up early. www.chillin411.com (among others) ICM is a simple tool you can use away from the table to analyse common decisions until they become second nature. After that, sit&gos should be a cinch.

KEY FEATURES

VERDICT

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

S I T & G O

2 SIT&GO END GAME TOOLS


SIT&GO END GAME TOOLS (SNGEGT) SNGEGT is an
ICM-based program that can consider situations and tell you whether pushing or folding (or calling or folding) is more protable.

3 HEADS-UP TRAINER
exactly what it says on the tin it helps you improve your heads-up game at the end of an sit&go. It comes with the SNGEGT package.

HEADS-UP TRAINER (HUT) Heads-Up Trainer does

S O F T W A R E

SNGEGT takes calculations made by an ICM spreadsheet as well as considering hand ranges and pot odds, and enables you to analyse situations with little effort. Its particularly effective as a training tool, as even if youre not sure about hand ranges you can simply move the slider up and down to nd the point at which a certain play is breakeven, and decide based on that. SNGEGT is so effective that the controversial live play version has been banned by PokerStars.

KEY FEATURES

You can download a basic version for free, so theres no excuse not to get crunching hand ranges. www.sngegt.com

VERDICT

HUT simulates playing heads-up with high blinds against an opponent who is aware of optimal strategy, where your only options are to shove or fold. Combined with use of the jam-or-fold tables published by Bill Chen and Jerrod Ankenman in The Mathematics of Poker which give maximum push-or-call values for all hands this program helps you learn an aggressive endgame strategy that opponents cant exploit. HUT will see you decimating your opponents by moving all-in with a wide range, while they

KEY FEATURES

We love messing around with hand ranges in Sit&Go End Game Tools and its a great way of learning what factors you need to call or push in some common spots.

The program should see you decimating your opponents


lose chips waiting for good hands. The Heads-Up Trainer should be unexploitable, and once you learn the appropriate strategies, so should you! www.sngegt.com This heads-up training program is so addictive that if you use it at work youll have to uninstall as you wont get any work done.

SNGEGT is so powerful it has been banned by some sites

KEY POINT

VERDICT

4 SITNGO WIZARD
SITNGO WIZARD
SitNGo Wizard is a similar program to Sit&Go End Game Tools and has most of the same features, but enables you to make more dynamic ICMbased calculations. The interface is slightly more complex than SNGEGT and it has a few more options. SitNGo Wizard is able to calculate situations involving multiple all-ins, or what to do when there is a raise in front of you in fact, almost any situation where there are two or fewer all-ins in front of you. SNG Wiz includes a future play simulator, which helps you make decisions in spots where ICM might be unreliable, such as how to play correctly when under the gun with a short stack, or when the blinds are very high on the bubble.

5 SHARKSCOPE
SHARKSCOPE
SharkScope is a data-mining site that collects and collates information on sit&go tournaments to provide visitors and subscribers with detailed proles of their opponents.

KEY FEATURES

Helps with decisions in the spots where ICM is unreliable


You can download the software for free on the website, with unrestricted use for 30 days. Unlimited use of the SitNGo Wizard is $99. www.sngwiz.com An excellent resource that any serious sit&go player would benet from. And theres a free, unrestricted trial on the website, so give it a go.

KEY FEATURES

The site provides data on total games played, average buy-in, average ROI%, total prot/loss and so on. The service can be very useful when looking for softer tables or to size up opponents. SharkScope is also useful for checking out your own results. A package where you get 150 searches a day (plenty) costs $11.99 a month. You can break down results to your hearts content using lters such as number of entrants, days of the week and turbo or regular. Players should note that PokerStars has banned the use of

SharkScope while its client is open, so you will need to use a different site if you want to look in detail at opponents while playing. www.sharkscope.com SharkScope is an invaluable database of sit-and-go results, best used to nd out whether youre sitting at a table of sh or sharks before you start a game.

VERDICT

VERDICT

KEY POINT
Some sites are starting to block SharkScopefromusingtheirresults

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

53

S I T & G O

The

Q U I Z

1 EARLY GAMBLE?
Players 9 Blinds 10/20 Your stack 1,500 Your hand A-K

So you think youre a poker genius huh? Well, now its time to prove it. Test your knowledge on sit&gos to nd out how much you really know

SIT &GO QUIZ


2 TAKE A STAND
Fold YOU (BB) 1,150 60 Fold

BB Fold

UTG All-in 1,500 20

Fold Fold

SB Fold

10

180

Fold

YOU (BTN) 1,320

Fold

Fold

Youre playing a non-turbo $55 nine-man SNG with starting stacks of 1,500 chips. Its the very rst hand and the player under the gun raises to 60. The action folds to you on the button holding A-K and

ACTION

you raise to 180. Both blinds quickly fold and the under-the-gun player re-raises you all-in. What do you do?

DECISION
a) call b) fold

3 BUBBLE TROUBLE
Players 4 Blinds 200/400 Your stack 1,850 Your hand J:-10:

Players 8 Blinds 30/60 Your stack 1,210 Your hand K:-8:

BB 2,750

Fold 5,500 400

SB Fold

30 Fold 150 BUTTON 2,880

SB 2,800

200

Fold

Fold

YOU (BTN) 1,850

Youre in an $11 nine-man turbo sit&go and have been playing tight, blinding down to 1,210 chips from a starting stack of 1,500. One player has been eliminated. With blinds at 30/60 the action folds to the loose-aggressive big stack on the button, who

ACTION

makes a small raise to 150. The small blind folds and youre in the big blind with K:-8:. What do you do?

ACTION

DECISION

a) call b) fold c) raise to 450 d) raise all-in

Its the bubble of a $100 nine-handed turbo sit&go and the big-stack under the gun folds to you. You have J:-10:. The two players in the blinds have similar sized stacks of 3,000 and 3,150 before posting the blinds (200/400). You have 1,850 chips left,

which is just over four big blinds, and the blinds are set to go up in one minute. What do you do?

DECISION

a) call b) fold c) min-raise d) push all-in

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

Players 3 Blinds 100/200 Your stack 6,000 Your hand 6-2;

YOU (SB) 5,900 100

BB 600

What would be a solid opening range from early position in the rst level of a turbo nine-handed sit&go? a) All pairs, suited connectors and Broadway combinations b) Pairs A-A to 7-7 and all Broadway combinations c) A-Q+ suited, 10-10+ In the latter stages of a sit&go when your stack is getting shorter in relation to the blinds, how big should you generally make your opening raises? a) 2x big blind b) 2.5x big blind c) 3x big blind What would be considered a decent return on investment for someone who has played about 2,000 $20 turbo sit&gos? a) 8% b) 12% c) 16%

200

800

BUTTON 1,400

Youre on the bubble of a $33 six-max turbo sit&go. A tight player on the button raises to 800 from his stack of 2,200. This effectively puts the big blind all-in, as he has only 600 behind after posting his 200 blind. You have a huge stack

ACTION

of 5,900 chips after posting the small blind, but look down to nd absolute rags. What do you do?

DECISION

a) fold b) call c) raise all-in

5 HEADS-UP
Players 2 Blinds 300/600 Your stack 8,400 Your hand 10;-8;

BB 4,500

600

300

You hold Q-5; in the small blind early on in a sit&go and three players limp in. Youre getting odds of nearly 10-to-1 to call. Should you call too? a) Yes b) No Generally speaking, at what stage in a sit&go should you start moving all-in or folding, in terms of big blinds in your stack? a) 5 big blinds b) 10 big blinds c) 15 big blinds

SNG SHARK OR FISH?

YOU (SB) 8,100

0-3 SHARK FOOD Hit the books, watch some training videos and read all the sit&go strategy guides. You need serious help, but with dedication you can turn it around. 4-7 TIGER SHARK Youre aware of what makes a winning sit&go player but you still need to make the right moves at the right times to increase your prots. 8-10 GREAT WHITE SHARK Youre a sit&go master, terrorising opponents with expert strategies that make you some decent money. Keep it up and your bankroll will soar.

Youve just got to heads-up in a nine-man $20 turbo sit&go against a tight player. Youve already pushed all-in on his big blind once (which he folded) and he has also folded from the small blind on two occasions.

ACTION

Blinds are 300/600 and you have a stack of 8,400. You are dealt 10;-8; in the small blind. What do you do? a) move all-in b) call c) fold

10

DECISION

Answers (one point for each) 1 b) Fold. Although you have a premium hand you will often be up against a big pair and racing at best. It is terrible for your tournament equity and long-term prots to take these kinds of early gambles. 2 b) Fold. Your hand is probably ahead of the loose players range, but if you call youll be out of position and hell most likely take it down with a continuation bet. Raising all-in is too drastic and putting a third of your stack at risk with a smaller raise against a loose player is too risky. 3 d) Push all-in. You are getting very short-stacked and neither of the mid-size stacks can risk calling you for nearly all their chips with anything other than premium hands. Also, you cant wait for the blinds to hit you again, and even if called your hand has straight and ush potential. 4 c) Raise all-in. Although folding is ne, the mid stack has made a terrible mistake by raising for 800 as you can just move all-in and, providing the tiny stack in the small blind folds, he will almost certainly have to fold too. Even if you get called and lose, you will still be in a dominant position. 5 a) Move all-in. Your opponent has shown himself to be too tight and will fold too often in this spot. Meanwhile you can add another 600 chips to your stack. Quick-re round 6 c) You should play very tight at this stage, especially in early position. 7 b) This smaller raise will get the blinds to fold but without expending too many chips if someone pushes and you cant call. 8 a) 12% would be very good, and 16% exceptional over that sample size. 9 b) Despite the great pot odds, you will get into trouble with weak hands like this when you op top pair but are dominated by other hands. 10 b) This is exible, but shoving for 15 big blinds is a bit much, while with ve big blinds you may no longer have enough fold equity. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

4 BULLY TACTICS

QUICK-FIRE

S I T & G O

ROUND

55

Q U I Z

All images taken from actual in-game screenshots.

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TOURNAMENTS

The ultimate guide to

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

57

T O U R N A M E N T

No-limit holdem tournaments offer the glamour, excitement and money that attracts most players to poker. But in order to be a success at tournament poker you need discipline, stamina and, above all, the will to win
ANY PEOPLE GET INTO playing poker because they have watched it on television and it got them curious about the game. Most televised poker is tournament poker. The action is fast-paced and the capability of being able to risk it all in one hand makes for exciting television. If youre new to poker and are interested in learning how to play tournaments, it is important to understand the various nuances of tournament poker and the basic concepts that will come into play through the course of a tournament. A major reason that tournament poker is so popular is that there is the potential to win a large sum of money in relation to the amount of the buy-in. Take the World Series of Poker main event as an example. The buy in is $10,000 but if you make the nal table, youll be guaranteed more than 100 times that amount. Its like a lottery ticket that you have some control over. Tournament poker, however, is not for everyone. If you are going to be a successful tournament poker player you must have incredible discipline and patience. Tournaments, especially the larger ones, last countless hours and sometimes days. If youre looking to make a quick buck, try a cash game. Discipline is important because you have to stay alert and focused on what is going on at your table. This might be easy for an hour or two, but when youve been playing for 10 hours straight it can become difcult. In addition to discipline and patience, a good tournament player will need to be adept at game theory. This doesnt mean you need to have a doctorate in game theory in order to succeed, but you need to understand the different dynamics that will exist over the course of a tournament and how to adapt your game to best take advantage of these dynamics. Its also important to have the ability to be aggressive. While a patient and tight player can often make a good living in cash games, this isnt necessarily true in a tournament because of the increasing blinds and antes. You cant sit back and wait for premium hands and expect to win consistently in poker tournaments. You will need to be able to win pots using imagination, creativity, and well-timed aggression. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

TOURNAMENTS
Jamie Gold won the 2006 WSOP main event for $12m

t a e b o t w Ho

S T R A T E G Y M U L T I - T A B L E

CONTROLLED AGGRESSION

58

IMPDI FOR WSOP

M U L T I - T A B L E

You will need to be able to win pots using imagination, creativity and welltimed aggression

Find your perfect tournament


There are numerous types of tournaments that you can play. Here are the most common ones
FREEZEOUT This is the most common tourney. Every player starts with the same amount of chips and play continues until one player has them all. SATELLITE These tourneys are low-cost options to get into a bigger buy-in event. Unlike a freezeout they do not play to completion but rather until the number of seats into the bigger buy-in event has been reached. For example, 100 players put up $100 for a chance to win a seat into a $1,000 tournament. There are 10 seats available. Once there are only 10 players left the tournament is over. REBUY In these events, players can rebuy (purchase another stack) an unlimited amount of times if they fall below a certain amount of chips for a certain period of time usually an hour or rst few levels of the tournament. Typically in these tournaments, a player can also add-on at the break to get additional chips. SHOOTOUT These are tournaments consisting of a series of single-table satellites where the winner of each table moves on to the next round. The winner of the tournament is the winner of the nal table.
Heads-up tournaments are fast and furious affairs

TYPES OF TOURNAMENTS
HEADS-UP In these tournaments players face off in a series of heads-up matches (one against one) with the winners advancing until there is one player left standing. DEEP-STACK In these tournaments the stacks are relatively high in relation to the blinds or antes because the players start with more chips and the blind levels are often slower. TURBO In contrast to a normal-structured tourney these have either shorter rounds, lower starting chipstacks, or both.

T O U R N A M E N T S T R A T E G Y

Rebuys can be wild but also very protable

STARTING OUT
1

Basic tournament strategy


When you rst start out playing, there are a few things you should do until you understand the game better
PLAY TIGHT It is always better to play a somewhat solid, predictable game. When you are a beginner, you should be playing big hands only and in position. Dont get involved with a hand like K-10 in early position or 2-2 when the pot has been raised. USE POSITION Position is probably the biggest advantage you can have in poker. The more information you have available to you, the better the decisions you will make. When you play hands from the blinds or early position you are working at a disadvantage because, post-op, players will be acting after you and can react to the actions you take. However, when you have position, you are the one who can see what others do rst and thus have an advantage. BE CONSISTENT WITH YOUR BETTING When starting out in poker, its best that you make the same size bets whenever you are betting. The reason is it gives less information to your opponents and makes you harder to read. If you vary your bets, there is a chance a good, experienced player will be able to pick up on your patterns.

BET BIG While small-ball poker is the current popular style of play, until you get comfortable playing post-op you should be making your opponents pay a premium to play pots with you. Make your pre-op raises larger than your opponents typical raise. Make your op bets big enough to put your opponent to the test. Dont bet half the pot, instead bet around the size of the pot.

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59

S T R A T E G Y T O U R N A M E N T M U L T I - T A B L E

A poker tournament has three distinct stages early, medium, and late that require you to apply different tactics based upon a number of factors. These stages and how to play them are as follows

THE STAGES OF A TOURNAMENT

The early stages of a tournament is the time you should be speculating the most. This is the time to limp in and call raises with a wide range of marginal and speculative hands. The reason is simple: the cost relative to the percentage of your stack is small and the reward (implied value) is high. For example, calling a 3x raise with 7-6 suited early in a tournament will usually only cost you a small percentage of your stack. Later in a tournament, this same call would be a larger percentage. Players like Phil Hellmuth like to avoid the rst level or two of play, but this is a prime opportunity to accumulate chips as it is when the really bad players tend to give their chips away. Dont sit back and let other people get the chips from these bad players. Speculate and see some ops against these players. Make that 300 call with a marginal hand your goal isnt to win the initial bet your opponent made, its to win the rest of the chips he has in his stack. A great hand to play early on is small and medium pairs. The implied value for opping a set at this stage is high. A key concept at this stage is to play small pots. There is no reason to commit a large portion of your stack with a marginal hand. If you think you can win the pot, take a stab at it, but if you face a lot of pressure, its often better to err on the side of caution. Its only a small mistake to fold the best hand at this stage because if youre wrong and lose a big pot, its harder to recover.

EARLY STAGE

Phil Hellmuth is one of the best tournament players in the world and has won a record-breaking 11 WSOP bracelets

The middle stage is usually when the antes have started in a tournament. What you do during this stage depends on how you did in the early stage. There are typically three categories your middle stage play can fall under SHORT (your stack has less than 20 big blinds) If you are short-stacked you are going to have to look for one of two types of situations. One, a hand where you can double-up with a premium hand. Two, a hand where you can pick up a pot with little risk despite your hand, for example being on the button with two very tight players in the big blinds or moving all-in from late position when some weak or passive players have limped into the pot. MEDIUM (your stack has 20-40 times the big blind) At this level, it is important to use position. Its probably not a good idea to raise with pocket twos in early position or call raises with K-10. What you want to do is be aggressive THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

MIDDLE STAGE

TOP TIP
Early in a tournament try and speculate as much as possible. This is the time of the tournament when bad players are giving away their chips and you want to be the one trying to get them rather than letting someone else take them. By speculating we mean calling raises or limping in with hands like pocket pairs, suited connectors, suited Aces and Kings.

when you are rst to act and re-raise positional raises if you feel that the initial raiser is stealing. Dont play too tight, just make sure you pick the right spots to make your steals. BIG (your stack is more than 40 times the big blind) At this level its still a good idea to use position but now you can take a few more chances. Here it might be ne to raise with pocket twos in early position. You have the chips to cause fear in your opponents, so use them. You should be open-raising liberally with this stack size. This will pay off because not only will your opponents often fold giving you the easy blinds and antes, but eventually they will play back at you and you will win additional chips when you actually pick up a big hand or hit a op hard.

IMPDI FOR THE WSOP

Theres no reason to commit a big portion of your stack with a marginal hand. If you think you can win the pot, take a stab, but if you face a lot of pressure err on the side of caution

60

M U L T I - T A B L E

THE VALUE OF POSITION


1

Use position to grow your stack


Acting last can be a huge advantage in tournaments
You have pocket sixes on the button and call a standard 3x raise from a weak-tight player in mid position.

TOP TIP
Avoid playing big pots early. The only time you should play a big pot early in a tournament is when you feel like you have by far the best hand. Keep the pots small by making small bets and playing a bit more passively with your marginal holdings.

T O U R N A M E N T

The op comes 5-K-7 and your opponent checks. If youd been out of position, you wouldnt have wanted to c-bet that op and your opponent sed could have called or raised putting you to the test.

ve it If you ha k and wa t sit bac e k a T . s dont jus d ium han for prem order to ances in ck or h c e m o s ta s r u o y maintain le up. doub

this Dont do a short stack

S T R A T E G Y

You bet out. If your opponent has a hand like A-Q, A-10 or even 8-8, they will probably have to release their hand now that you have put them to the test.

TOP TIP
When the antes kick in, start opening up your game and attacking players who are merely thinking about survival. These players are the ones who fold their big blind every time or who muck their hand any time they face pressure. Identify these players early, stealing their blinds and re-raising them in position.

Like with the middle stage, what you do here will depend on your stack size.

LATE STAGE

SHORT (your stack is less than10 times the big blind) With this stack size, you cannot afford to sit back and wait. Many poker players advocate moving all-in with any Ace in an unopened pot. While there are times to do so (later position being one of them), generally you will want to BIG (your stack is more than 25 times the big move all-in with a hand that you know will not blind) With a big stack late in the tournament be dominated if called hands like suited and you should keep at attacking until your opponents o move b connected cards. You still want to start playing back at you. When they do all-in with hands like big Aces, K-Q this, adjust and pick your spots. For d exampl you are in the small blind suited and pairs, but dont be afraid example, to move all-in with a hand like 7-6 and a player that you know raises When yo u are a b suited. You dont have enough with a wide range in late position ig stack attack y our oppo chips to fold your way to victory opens for 2.5 times the big blind nents and pick yo so you have to take some chances from t the cut-off. This is a perfect your sta ur spots. Use ck size to bully in order to maintain your stack time t to use your stack and re-raise opponen ts and p ush all-in. H until you get an opportunity to He will be forced to fold all them off hands but the v double up legitimately. very best hands.

MEDIUM (your stack is 10-25 times the big blind) This is similar to the middle stage in that you want to use your position and try and avoid race situations with stacks that can bust or cripple you, while embracing races with stacks that are less than half your stack size. You should probably avoid raising if you are planning to fold to an all-in shove from a short-stacked player.

Do this

You want to use position and try and avoid race situations with stacks that can bust or cripple you, while embracing races with stacks that are less than half your stack size

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

61

S T R A T E G Y

THE BIGGEST MISTAKES PLAYERS MAKE IN TOURNAMENTS

TOP TIP
Dont let yourself get so short that a raise/shove from you has no meaning. Many players make the mistake of blinding/anteing down until they have 3-5 big blinds and then complain about how unlucky they are when their pocket Aces are cracked by 9-7 off when they shoved all-in for just four big blinds and the big stack called their measly little raise.

T O U R N A M E N T

If you play tournament poker, its inevitable that you will make mistakes. But its how you learn from these mistakes, and the adjustments that you make, that are the difference between being a winning and losing player. There are hundreds of mistakes that players make on a routine basis, but the following four are among the biggest culprits.

This would appear to be a mistake that only e beginners make but you would be ced surprised how many experienced players fall into this trap. How often do you nd yourself Observ looking at a hand like A-J opponen e how your ts p under the gun and think to situation lay in different s in orde yourself that this is the rst r to money w hen you h make good hand youve had in an ave th goods an d lose less e hour and you have to play it. You when yo u dont ot grab some chips and open the pot rong for a raise. Theres nothing wrong king... with this youre probably thinking... but youd be wrong. ion with a good When you are in early position obl but not great hand you will have the problem of reacting to your opponents. If someone re-raises, youve basically thrown away the chips youve raised with. Think about it your opponent knows you raised from early position and has to give you credit for a good hand. They have raised you knowing this, which means generally speaking they dont fear your reaction. They have a great hand and want to play it and youll have to muck your marginal hand gifting your opponent much needed chips.

IN EARLY POSITION 1 RAISING WITH MARGINAL HANDS

varying bet size based upon your position, the strength of your hand, and the tendencies of the players left to act. These players say that you should do so randomly so that you dont give away any information about the strength of your hand. The problem with this is that people have a natural tendency to fall into predictable patterns. You might think that you are raising three times the big blind 75% of the time when you have Jacks in early position, but the reality is that youre doing it 95% of the time. The most common mistake players make is betting an amount based upon their hand

AWAY INFORMATION 2 GIVING There are poker players who advocate

M U L T I - T A B L E

Do this

Learn from your foes

WATCH AND LEARN

What you pick up from your opponents play can inuence your strategy
Observe your opponents carefully. A key aspect of tournament poker is identifying players tendencies. When they raise from the button is this a play they make all the time or never? If its a common play, they are more than likely stealing and you can make a move on them. If its not something they do often, they probably have a big hand and you should fold. Do they only limp in with hands like small pairs and suited connectors but raise with bigger pairs and A-K? Raise their limps since you know their range and can make it difcult for them to call. Call their raises with speculative hands since you know that you can win a big pot if you hit. Being able to identify how players play certain hands can be the single most important thing you do in a tournament.

There is some seriously big money to be won at the top holdem tournaments

62

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

strength. These players might bet big g with their good hands to reduce the d size of the eld or perhaps bet less frustrate n getting io id it o s v o A p y wanting to get as much money in rl ing in ea t great, and rais o n the pot. There is no problem with t u b , d with goo u are re-raised this if you are consistent. The yo hands. If l be put in a problem occurs when you start to you wil ky spot. vary your betting. If you are the type very tric ea of player who bets less when you have strong hand but raises more when you want to steal the blinds, a player who is paying attention will notice and do one of two things. First, they will re-raise your big bets because they know you are weak. Second, they will call your small bets more often because they know there is implied value, due to you having a big hand.

this Dont do

M U L T I - T A B L E

This mistake consists of players who either bet too much or too little. The reason someone bets is to either get a player to fold, induce a raise, or call. When we make a bet, we have an intended result. The best bet is the one that accomplishes your objective at the lowest cost (if youre blufng) or highest value (if youre betting for value). Determining these precise amounts will depend on a number of factors. You need to know what your opponents tendencies are. Do they fold when someone bets? If so, you can make a small bet when blufng. Do they call when on draws and you have a hand like top pair? Then you can make a large bet. There will be times you want to bet an amount that gives your opponent the appearance that you are weak. This too will depend on who you are up against. You need to know how they have reacted to small and large-sized bets in the past. If they think a large bet is weak and you have a strong hand, you should make an oversized bet. Use observation to gure out the betting thresholds of your opponents. This is how you make money when you have the goods and lose less when you dont.

MAKING PROPER 3 NOT SIZED BETS

T O U R N A M E N T S T R A T E G Y

The best bet is the one that accomplishes your objective at the lowest cost (if blufng) or highest value (if betting for value)
How many players do you know that have read everything there is to know about poker and insist when they lose its because they were unlucky and their opponent was a luckbox? This mindset plagues many players. They believe they are perfect and the only thing stopping them from winning is bad luck. While it is true that luck does play a role in holdem, more often than not if a player is consistently losing the problems lie much deeper. If you are going to be a successful holdem player, you need to constantly analyse your play eve and scrutinise everything that you do, both good and bad bad. If you lost a big pot to a donkey, y you need to ask yourself if there was something that you could have hav done to prevent the Assess y o loss. Could Cou you have bet more whether ur own play, you a or prevented pre them from seeing or losing re winning h the op? Rather than placing scrutinis ands. By ing your play you spot blame on the donkey, look for lea where yo ks and areas reason reasons that you failed to win u can im prove the hand. If you can do this, you will probably probabl nd some holes in your game an and understand how to counteract your opponents oppon play. Eventually youll be complaining less and raking in more and more big pots.

EVERYONE 4 BLAMING BUT YOURSELF

Do this

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

63

M A S T E R S T H E L E A R N F R O M

LEARN FROM THE MASTERS

With a WPT title, two WSOP bracelets and close to $8 million in winnings, JC Tran is one of pokers powerhouses and a true tournament legend

JC TRAN

T O U R N A M E N T S :

HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN POKER? On my 21st birthday my brother took me to the local card room in Sacramento, California, as he was already playing poker regularly. He introduced me to holdem, broke down the basics for me, and from there I picked it up through putting in the hours. I started off at small-stakes limit holdem and grinded my way up. I certainly wasnt an overnight success for years I was playing small-stakes where Id make a few hundred a week. Limit poker tournaments helped build my bankroll and then I played no-limit, realised I had talent and began to focus more on those tournaments. I still play limit but more in cash games. But I denitely consider myself more of a tournament player than a cash game player. AS A TOURNAMENT PLAYER YOU PUT UP INCREDIBLY CONSISTENT RESULTS. WHY DO YOU THINK THIS IS? I believe my style is very effective. And I think Im fortunate with my image to get a combination of respect and fear from players. I can also adapt to all styles that my opponents have, which is key because the game changes all the time. Also, Im careful about my tournament selection. Previously I used to just play every tournament and burn myself out. Now I play less, but make sure Im more focused in the ones I enter. THE STANDARD OF POKER SEEMS TO BE RISING ALL THE TIME. DO YOU THINK EVEN THE BIG $10,000 BUY-IN TOURNEYS ARE GETTING A LOT TOUGHER? Yes, very much so especially in the last year or so. Theres not as much dead money in tournaments as there used to be. Most of the players in the $10k events are pros now even the $2k and $3k events are tough you recognise nearly everyone in the room. Even if you dont know them, its likely theyre good online players. YOU SEEM TO BE ONE OF THE PROS WHO LIKE TO GET IT QUIETLY. DO YOU CONSCIOUSLY LIKE TO KEEP A LOW PROFILE? Ive always been the type of player who comes in, plays my game and then leaves when Im done. Im not the type to yell across the room or jump up and down or get in confrontations with other players. I just act myself and I come to play poker. Thats what Im there for. WHATS YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT IN POKER? My World Poker Tour win [in March 2007] was a great feeling because Id come up short so many times. The same goes for winning my rst WSOP bracelet [in 2008] Id made nal tables before but not gone on to win one.

ASIAN PLAYERS ARE GENERALLY ASSUMED TO BE CRAZY, LOOSE AND ALWAYS LOOKING TO GAMBLE, YET YOU SEEM FAR REMOVED FROM THAT STEREOTYPE. DOES THAT HELP YOU AGAINST UNKNOWN PLAYERS WHO THINK YOURE LOOSER THAN YOU ACTUALLY ARE? Yeah, the majority of players and the public categorise me as an aggressive player, some even as a very aggressive player. The reality is that sometimes I do play aggressively or hyper-aggressively, but only when the table conditions are right. Im just as comfortable playing very solid. Every day it can change. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR BEST ASSET? Being able to adapt. I think the thing that makes me successful is that I can change gears. Sometimes if I spot that people think Im playing aggressively then Ill shut down and play a solid game. This really works because other players dont think Im capable of playing a solid game. You need to have a solid side if you want to do well. ASIA HAS TAKEN A WHILE TO WARM TO POKER BUT IT SEEMS LIKE ITS PICKING UP NOW, WITH THE ASIAN POKER TOUR AND NEW CARDROOMS SPRINGING UP. DO YOU THINK ITS GOING TO BE POKERS NEXT HOTSPOT? Asia is denitely the sleeping giant of the poker world. Asians are known to gamble all through their lives and have a natural touch when it comes to gambling. There are many low-key Asian poker players who are extremely talented. They are not as well-known due to the fact that they dont travel the world to play in major tournaments. Once poker is allowed on television in Asia, you will see them make a real presence. YOU TRAVEL WITH A GROUP OF FRIENDS ON THE CIRCUIT, INCLUDING FELLOW APT AMBASSADOR NAM LE AND WPT WINNER DAVID CHINO RHEEM IS THAT IMPORTANT TO YOU? Its always good to be around friends, and its not only important to have their support but to discuss poker. Its always good to get different people to express their thoughts on how theyd play in a certain situation getting a perspective other than your own can help you learn. Saying that, if Im railing someone deep in a really big tournament, I wont give advice. Theyve been with the players theyre playing with, sometimes for days, so theyre the best judge of the situation. Well just be there to support and make sure they dont go on tilt. We also try to avoid talking about poker over dinner. Often the rst person to bring up poker has to pay the bill!

TRAN FACTS

Name JC Tran Lives Sacramento, California Live tournament winnings $7,938,169 WSOP bracelets 2008 $1,500 no-limit holdem 2009 $2,500 pot-limit Omaha Highest main event nish 108th in 2009

Sometimes I do play hyperaggressively, but only when the table conditions are right. Im just as comfortable playing very solid. Every day it can change

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THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

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T O U R N A M E N T S :

L E A R N

F R O M

T H E

M A S T E R S

M A S T E R S F R O M L E A R N T H E

LEARN FROM THE MASTERS

With close to $2.5m in career tournament winnings, Julian Thew is in the top tier of British poker players. Hes made three EPT nal tables, including a win in Baden in 2007, where he took home over 670,000

JULIAN THEW

HOW DID YOU DISCOVER POKER? I had a sporting background, but hit 30 and packed it in. Afterwards I felt that there was a competitive element missing from my life. Then poker came on telly and I became fascinated with it. I started playing home games with friends and thats how I got the poker bug. I was playing once a week losing about 10 a week for six months. SO WHAT HAPPENED TO CHANGE THINGS FOR YOU? That Christmas I received a poker book, read it, and from then on I began to break even in the home games. The natural progression was to take it a step further and play in a local casino. A casino near where I lived in Dublin had two or three tournaments a week, and after entering the cardroom for the rst time I felt at home all I wanted to do with my free time was play poker. SO WOULD YOU RECOMMEND STRATEGY BOOKS TO BRING YOUR GAME ON? Ive read a lot of poker books I really immersed myself in them. I have probably got about 50 books at home now and Ive read them all. Its denitely a good way to bring your game on, but there are lots of other things you can do as well. SUCH AS? Well I believe in taking notes Im a great note-taker and Ive got folders full of them at home. I still take notes and keep records, and I always review my performances, as I think you can learn a lot from your mistakes. At the end of every year I like to do a full review not a nancial one but one which looks at the state of my game.When I was learning I was also very prepared to put the miles in. It was always important for me to go to different places and play against as many people as possible. That was a big part of my learning curve. In tournaments you can go a long time without any meaningful results but you can be

learning while losing. Learning from your mistakes is very important.


AND DID YOU LEARN OFF FRIENDS YOU MADE ON THE CIRCUIT? When poker started to become a nice top-up to my income, I began picking up bits and pieces from other players. Lucy Rokach and Peter Costa were both big inuences on me. I cant stress enough how incorporating facets from other peoples games was crucial to my improvement. WHEN DID YOU START TO THINK YOU COULD MAKE IT AS A TOURNAMENT PLAYER? Winning didnt come quickly, in fact I dont think I won for the rst six months I played in casinos. I slowly got better though, made a few nal tables, and won a few small comps. In 2004 I decided to cut back hours at work which meant I could play later hours during the week. Getting the right balance between work and poker was a big step forward for me. WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST TASTE OF SUCCESS? I was scoring fairly consistently in tournaments and then in October 2004 I played the 3,000 EPT event at the Vic. I was chip leader at the end of day one, chip leader with nine left and then nished ninth for 8,000 (Julians nickname is Yo-Yo). I was very disappointed. Then two weeks later at the EPT Dublin I nished seventh. A week later I got a call offering me sponsorship. I thought it was a wind-up! HOW DID SPONSORSHIP CHANGE THINGS FOR YOU? Once youre sponsored everything changes. You havent got the pressure of worrying about money or buy-ins. I can now pick and choose the events I enter and it denitely frees up the way you play. Saying that, even after getting sponsored I stayed in my job for another year and didnt go full-time until the end of 2006.

THEW FACTS

Name Julian Thew Nickname Yo-Yo Lives Nottingham, UK Live tournament winnings $2,444,109 Biggest win EPT Baden Classic, October 2007 1st, 670,800

Once youre sponsored everything changes. I can now pick and choose the events I enter and it denitely frees up the way you play

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L E A R N

THEWS TOP TEN TOURNAMENT TIPS


Follow in Julian Thews footsteps as he reveals his top ten winning tips
Contrary to popular opinion, you dont need to be good at all aspects of poker to win tournaments. For instance, Im terrible at laying a hand down. Youve just got to try and improve all aspects of your game all the time.

F R O M T H E M A S T E R S

Always trust your poker instincts, even if you risk looking stupid sometimes.

2 3

Dont be lazy. Theres usually a right or wrong move and 90% of the time the wrong option is the lazy one for instance, calling instead of raising, or checking instead of betting. Be aware of table image and how your opponents perceive you and use this to your benet.

Position is so important. You always hear it but its true its only very recently that this has really hit home for me. The sooner you understand position the quicker youll start winning.

Have patience. Poker is often a boring game, but you need to be able to put hands down until you nd yourself in a favourable spot.

Learn to spot exploitable situations and have the balls to pull the trigger when you do so, such as isolating weak players to get them into heads-up pots.

8 9

Dont get fazed by the opposition.

Try to develop mental toughness. Youve got to be really tough to deal with the swings in the game.
POKERIMAGES.COM

Remember, the cards you are dealt are just one element of the game. The best players dont rely on cards to win a tournament.

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T O U R N A M E N T

Poker might be a game of cards but the way you play any given hand in a tournament should largely be dictated by the size of your stack. We show you how to play short, medium and big stacks all the way to the nal table

EVERYTHING
important to appreciate that only blinds and antes dictate this, not the stacks of other players around you. Lose a big pot at the start of a tournament, see your stack go from 5,000 to 2,000 chips, and its easy to panic. But with low blinds of say 25/50, youre still playing 40 big blinds. That means you have plenty of time to wait for hands and situations to rebuild your stack. In fact, you shouldnt consider yourself short-stacked until youve got less than 10-12 big blinds left. A medium stack is anywhere between 12 and 25 big blinds. Anything above this and you can hold your head high youre ofcially a big-stack! money in the prize pool (sadly). So as your chipstack increases above average, each individual chip is worth less, enabling you to play a little looser. But as a short-stack, the opposite is true. Because your existence in the tournament gives you some equity (as you still have a chance to make money), the smaller your stack gets, the more each individual chip is worth. If you have a genuine short stack, playing it is easy as you only really have one option and that is to move all-in or fold. The only exception to this is if you have a massive hand pre-op and think you can induce action from other players by making a smaller bet, although this often looks suspicious. So when should you get your chips in? Most players wait too long, hoping to pick up a big hand before committing all their chips, but the problem with this is your stack can

s i e z i S

S T R A T E G Y M U L T I - T A B L E

W
TIMO HEBDITCH

HEN PLAYING A NO-LIMIT holdem tournament, your stack is your life. Lose it all and (rebuys notwithstanding) its game over. Use it wisely and youll see your stack grow to Himalayan proportions. Your ultimate aim, clearly, is to accumulate all the chips in play. However, only in a true dream scenario is your tournament going to be a smooth, steady process of accumulation. Most of the time your chipstack will uctuate wildly as your fortunes twist and turn, and all the while the blinds will be growing, diminishing the value of your chips and threatening to engulf you completely. As such, knowing how to play different stack sizes effectively is an absolutely crucial tournament skill. Before we look at how to play different stack sizes, however, we need to know what denes a small, medium and big stack. Its

If youre a short-stack your chips are more valuable than at any other time. Thats because if you win the tournament you end up with all the chips, but you dont get all the

SHORT STACKS

DONT FEAR THE REAPER

FIND YOUR GAME

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become so short that you lose all fold equity (i.e. your stack is so small you cant make other players fold). Even worse, if you become very short (ve big blinds or less) you can move all-in, win and double-up and still be short-stacked. The thing to remember is that youre never that far behind if you get called, as long as you have two live cards. Even if youve got 7-2 offsuit, and are called by A-K, you still have a 33% chance to win the hand. Pick up a hand like 9-10 in mid position in an unraised pot and you shouldnt think twice above shoving. You should also be aware that moving your chips into an unraised pot puts you in a far better situation than calling all-in. This is because you have a chance to pick up the pot uncontested, and to force hands that currently have you beaten to fold. Sometimes its right to call all-in when short-stacked, but only if you have a strong hand or your stack is so small that it has no fold equity anyway. Remember, if youre almost certain to be called, either because there are loose players with big stacks behind you, or loose players in the blinds, you lose nearly all your fold

Most players wait too long before committing all their chips. The problem with this is your stack can become so short that you lose all fold equity

M U L T I - T A B L E

equity, so you need to tighten up your hand standards. Conversely, if you have tight players behind you, particularly in the blinds, or the tournament is close to the money spots, you can move in with a far wider range of starting hands.

SHORT STACK

Double or bust
The challenges of playing a short stack alter according to what stage of a tournament youre at
EARLY STAGES It can be extremely disheartening to lose a lot of chips early on, but make sure you dont feel like youre a short-stack straight away. If you still have plenty of chips compared to the blinds, you can still manoeuvre and play good poker to rebuild. If you really are short, try to play an all-in pot with someone playing loose early on, who may give you that courtesy double-up you need. MIDDLE STAGES Playing the shortstack in the middle stages is all about being patient and nding the right spots. Remember, you cant wait too long dont get tempted to start hanging on for the money when you entered the tourney to win it. Find spots where the players in the blinds are playing tight and your all-in move has some chance of taking the pot down uncontested. LATE STAGES Being a short-stack near the end is tough. If youre in the money your tournament life has some value, which escalates as other players are knocked out. However, unless youre very close to the end of the tourney you should still be trying to grab chips. Look for spots where the blinds are playing too tight, or nd some high-card strength and hope a big-stack doubles you up.

T O U R N A M E N T

Having a medium stack in tournaments is uncomfortable because youll often be put in tough spots. You need to accumulate chips to make sure you dont slip into being short-stacked, and the faster the tournament structure the more pressure there is on you. This should make you more inclined to take on coinip situations (for example, playing for all your chips with hands like A-Q or 8-8 against an underpair or overcards respectively). In a slower tournament the opposite is true. You may be able to chip away (win some smaller pots to build up) but you can still get away from hands as you will have more time before the blind pressure becomes intolerable. However, the mistake you dont want to make is to get too comfortable. You should always be looking to accumulate chips by seeking out the right kind of opportunities. You should also be looking to exploit any other medium-stacks, especially if they are feeling too comfortable and playing too tight. Re-raising and re-stealing (raising after someone has made a late-position raise to steal the blinds) are very important weapons to have when youre playing a medium stack.

MEDIUM STACKS

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S T R A T E G Y

S T R A T E G Y

MEDIUM STACK
Building plans
Whatever stage youre at in a tournament make sure youve always got a plan for how youre going to grow your stack
EARLY STAGES Vary your play according to the tournament structure. If its a slow structure, try to steal your way to a big stack. If the structure is fast, look to get your chips in even when youre marginally ahead taking a 50/50 race if necessary, especially if youre getting better odds on the call. Build that stack for the big blinds to come. MIDDLE STAGES This is where its vital not to sit on your medium stack and limp your way to a minimum cash. Use it to make plays and take calculated risks to give yourself a shot at the big prizes. Dont get complacent or the blinds will turn your medium stack into a small one. LATE STAGES Balance aggression with avoiding unnecessary confrontations. Keep the pressure on your tight opponents who are looking to move up in the money with re-raises and re-steals. Try to avoid playing hands that youre not willing to commit your entire stack with.

Both moves can be used to put a lot of pressure on your opponents and maximise your ways to win, by either forcing your foes to fold or by having the winning hand if called. Re-raising pre-op is generally a better option than calling in no-limit holdem, and with a medium stack its almost always the better option. This is due to a combination of it being better to commit your chips as the aggressor, particularly in a situation where you may well end up committed later in the hand, but also because youre putting pressure on your opponents to fold. Other medium-stacks will often fold too much in tournaments, giving your re-raises great equity. Re-stealing is valuable for the same reasons, and if you pick the correct spot it greatly increases your equity in the tournament, as youre winning more chips than your fair share. With more and more players opening pots with marginal hands to steal the blinds its vital you have it in your armoury. For example, say youre in the big blind with blinds of 100/200 and you have 3,000 chips. An aggressive player with 4,000 chips raises to 600 from the button. You should be looking to move in here reasonably often. If hes a typical player hell be opening with a huge number of hands that cant call your all-in. If they fold you pick up 900 chips, increasing your stack by 30%. If youre called and double-through youre well on your way to becoming a big-stack again. Finally you need to watch out for shortstacks that might be willing to make a stand and tighten up your opening and stealing standards. This is where calling an all-in

could be protable with a wider range of hands as well. If the short-stack is moving in with a substandard hand this can be a great opportunity to get some chips in positive equity situations.

BIG STACKS

Having a big stack in a tournament is a great position to be in. Its the time when you can be a complete poker player, making moves and using your bets, and the threat of further bets, to put maximum pressure on your opponents. There are two different scenarios where you could be big-stacked. The rst is when everyone else is a big-stack (usually at the beginning of a tournament) and the second is when you are big-stacked in relation to the other players. At the start of a relatively deep-stacked event, say with 100 big blinds or more, every player is effectively a big-stack. In this situation there is more emphasis on post-op rather than pre-op play, and with both you and your opponents having deep stacks, your implied odds are increased. As such, you can sometimes take the worst of it pre-op in order to make more money when you hit your hand. This means hands like small pairs and suited connectors become more playable though you shouldnt get carried away with such hands, and should avoid playing complete junk. Remember that in order to make up for a pre-op disadvantage you have to get paid when you hit your hand, so dont forget to

M U L T I - T A B L E

T O U R N A M E N T

PLAY TO WIN

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M U L T I - T A B L E

bet when you actually do. As ever, dont forget to adjust your decisions according to your opponents play. If someone is playing more loosely because they have a big stack, you need to isolate that player and be willing to call them down with lesser hands though thats not to say with complete rags. Other players may play tighter because its a big event or because there are no blinds worth winning, and you can take advantage of this by putting greater pressure on them. The second scenario is when you have a big stack relative to the rest of your table or indeed the tournament, and this is perhaps the most enjoyable situation in poker. Conceptually, its important to recognise that the more chips you have relative to the eld, the less each individual chip is worth. If this concept doesnt sit naturally with you, consider that if you win the tournament you dont get paid the true value of your stack. For instance, Jamie Gold won the 2006 World Series of Poker, which had around 85 million chips in play. He ended up with all the chips but was only (!) paid

Being a big-stack is when you can be a complete poker player, making moves and using your bets to put maximum pressure on your opponents

$12 million. This means you can afford to be looser with your chips than if you were an average or small stack, but dont keep calling bets with substandard hands because you can. Its a good way to lose a big stack quickly. If you do want to use the leverage offered by a big chipstack, target the players who appear to be playing too tight and put pressure on them with bets and raises. Theyll be all too aware of the fact your big stack could knock them out of the tourney at any time. If players are folding to you pre-op because they dont want to get involved in a confrontation, this is a mistake you should exploit. If your raises are successfully stealing the blinds, do it as much as you can get away with. Against a pre-op bet, you should consider re-raising a lot and re-raising all-in if the blinds allow. Post-op, look to semi-bluff a lot and play big draws. Lets say youre in hand against a poor player with predictable starting hand selection with 6-7 suited. The op comes Q-4-5 and your opponent makes a standard continuation bet. More often than not you should make a large raise here and even push all-in as long as its not a massive overbet. If called, you may well need to make your straight to win, but the

BIG STACK

Test your opponents


Piling the pressure on your opponents is the key to playing and maintaining a big stack
EARLY STAGES Put pressure on where you can, but remember that the other players probably have a decent amount of chips compared to the blinds, so they wont fold as often as they will later in the tourney. MIDDLE STAGES Attack the other players as the blinds rise. Particularly target those trying to hang on in the tournament or to scrape into the money. LATE STAGES Stay on the front foot and put pressure on the weaker players/ smaller stacks, but avoid marginal situations with other big-stacks who can really hurt you.

T O U R N A M E N T S T R A T E G Y

BULLYING TACTICS

important point is that your opponent doesnt need to fold very often to make this sort of move correct. Its also important to be very aware of your image as a big-stack and how the other players are responding to you. Observe which ones are playing back at you and wait for a big hand to punish them they often wont give you credit for having a big hand, thinking youre just a loose player.

THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

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T O U R N A M E N T

In the cutthroat world of multi-table tournaments you cant rely on getting dealt Aces and Kings every other hand. Instead, youll need some tricky manoeuvres, nerves of steel and perfect timing to see you through to the money. Adding some of these techniques to your MTT arsenal should help you go deep time and time again

YOUR MOVE
likely to be respected, especially if youve got a tight table image. If you pick up a caller youll be playing the hand out of position, but youll also have a well disguised hand you can represent on the op. If you meet some resistance, in the form of a big raise, then you know youre usually up against a genuine hand, in which case you can fold.

S T R A T E G Y

You put in a healthy raise with a big suited Ace and pick up a caller. The op misses you but does give you the nut ush draw which you should be prepared to play fast. Being prepared to go all the way with monster draws is a technique a lot of successful and aggressive tournament players use to build a big stack, and its a good play as you have so many ways to win the hand. Your opponent could fold, but if he calls you could still hit your ush. If your overcards are live you are usually a favourite to win the hand, even if youre behind on the op.

PUSH YOUR DRAWS

The stop-and-go is a great move to make when youre in the blinds and starting to run low on chips and ideas. It involves you calling a late position raise hopefully targeting a serial raiser and moving all-in whatever the op brings. Youre not making the pre-op call on the odds the op will help you, but on the fact that your opponents two cards will only connect with the op a third of the time. If hes missed, its very hard for him to call even if he suspects that youre trying to pull a move.

STOP-AND-GO

Slow-playing a monster pre-op can be a protable move, but its risky and you need the right table conditions. Slow-playing generally wont work in the early stages of a tournament when the blinds are small enough for lots of people to call without creating a pot big enough for someone to try and steal. And the last thing you want with a hand like pocket Aces is a table full of limpers. Later on in the tournament though, when the blinds are high and youre on an aggressive table, try limping your Aces or Kings and hope for a raise or a shove. Be warned, if you pick up a few callers you need to be good enough to put the hand down if you meet strong resistance on the op.

SLOW-PLAYING

Everyone knows that a minimum raise from under the gun is often a sign of strength. Its not likely to be respected in the rst few levels when it costs so little to see a op, but in later levels, when the blinds are larger and most of the weak players have already been knocked out, a minimum raise from under the gun is more THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

RAGGY RAISE

For an effective re-steal, make sure you have a semi-decent hand, and when your stealer strikes, come over the top with an all-in shove

Often, when a player raises in early or mid position hell pick up a caller. This caller might induce others to come along for the ride, creating a chain effect which you can take advantage of in late position by making a healthy pot-sized raise. If you can get the original raiser to fold the chances are youll get everyone else to muck as well, as if their hands were strong its likely they would have re-raised themselves. The only disadvantage to this move is that its a bit of an oldie and people are wise

SQUEEZE!

TIMO HEBDITCH

Creative urge: moves like the value shove can add a new dimension to your game

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to it. Saying that, its still hard to combat without a genuine hand. If you have a monster yourself, you can play it fast, hope someone pegs it incorrectly as a squeeze play and calls you with a lighter holding.

The value shove is a relatively modern move that sees you making a massive overbet with a huge hand. Say youve got the nut ush

VALUE SHOVE!

on the river and you want to extract the maximum from your opponent. Youre pretty sure hes got a hand thats fairly strong and you know for certain hell call a small value bet. Thats the safe option. If you shove all-in, what percentage of the time do you think hes going to call? It might not be 100% or anywhere near, but it doesnt need to be for this to be a protable move. If he calls you one in ve times, and you make ten times as many chips, youve just made this move your

own. And youll be surprised how many people take this shove as a bluff and call you light.

T O U R N A M E N T

The game of no-limit holdem has changed immeasurably in the past few years, and nowhere is this more apparent than pre-op aggression. A few years ago a re-raise pre-op meant Aces, Kings, Queens or Ace-King. Now if you watch good players, re-raising before the op is commonplace, and to survive in the modern game youll need to master the skill. Its called threebetting because youre literally putting in the third bet after an initial raiser (the second bet) has raised the big blind (the rst bet). Look to make your re-raise around pot size, or if the stacks are shallower, you can move all-in. Three-betting gives you the initiative in the hand and puts the pressure on your opponent, but you need to mix your range up to keep your opponents guessing. You can three-bet for value (when you have the best hand), as a semi-bluff (a hand with potential) or as a complete bluff.

THREE-BETTING

S T R A T E G Y

This sounds technical but its dead easy. Limping in the early stages of a tournament is a decent enough strategy but some people cant stop limping, even when the blinds are high, with speculative cards. Punish them by making a hefty raise, or moving all-in if youre short-stacked and theyre going to nd it very difcult to call. Make sure the person youre making the move on is a high-blind limper (i.e. theyve limped and shown down speculative hands before, or youve pegged them as weak) and not a crafty player looking to trap with Aces.

ATTACKING HIGH-BLIND LIMPERS

If youve pegged someone as a serial blind stealer (i.e. theyre consistently raising in late position), its time to shut them down. For an effective re-steal, make sure you have a semi-decent hand, and when your stealer strikes, come over the top with an all-in shove. You should send a clear message that youre not afraid to defend your blinds, but make sure theyre worth defending before you pull the move. If your opponent raises to 60 on the button, you can probably let your 20 chips go! THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

RE-STEALING

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LEARN FROM THE MASTERS

Chris Moorman is one of the hottest online tournament players in the world. Now he shows you how its done
EARLY DOORS In the early stages of the tournament identify the weak players at your table and try to get involved with them in a few pots. These are the players youre going to make most of your chips from. Its best to avoid calling raises with easily dominated hands like A-J, K-Q and K-J. Small pairs and suited connectors are golden hands early on though, because its much easier to know where youre at in the hand. You can op massively and make a lot of chips from a weak player who cant fold a big pair. If you hit a set with a small pair, you know that 95% of the time you have the best hand. You can then go about building the pot the best way you can.

CHRIS MOORMAN
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QUICK ON THE DRAW Post-op play is still important in MTTs, even though its usually not as important as in deeper-stacked cash games. Try and evaluate ops and put your opponent on a range. From this you can start to think about how likely they are to have hit the op. This clearly helps aid you in deciding whether to continuation-bet or not. Also, take note of whether a player plays his draws fast or slow. This will enable you to represent when the draw gets there if they just called your op bet, because you already know they play their draws fast or vice versa.

MOORMAN FACTS

IT TIGHT 2 KEEP Before the antes kick in theres no need to go crazy playing too many hands. You can still play hands like 6-7 suited for deception, but you really need to be careful about playing speculative hands. This factor is mainly dependent on your stack size though. NO SET, NO BET Stack sizes are one of the most important aspects of MTTs. For example, a lot of people overvalue pocket pairs with a mid-stack. What people dont realise with small pairs is that in order to get paid they need to hit their set, still have the best hand and hope their opponent has a hand that they are willing to go to the felt with. Small pairs are a lot better early on in a tournament when pots are more likely to be multi-way, because when you do hit your set someone else is likely to have a strong, but weaker hand.

LOVE THY NEIGHBOUR The most important people at your table are those to your immediate right and left. Thats because every orbit youre probably going to have blind and late position battles. If you have a good read on these opponents, you can really start to pick up chips. For example, if youre on the left of someone who likes to open a lot in late position, but doesnt re-shove all-in unless they have a premium hand, then you can re-raise them without the goods in position and take down a healthy-sized pot a winning percentage of the time.

RAISE THE RAISER Bubble play isnt nearly as protable as it once was because a lot of people are approaching the bubble very aggressively. A great way to attack the bubble is to re-raise other people who are also raising a wide range of hands, or to at-call in position and mess with them post-op.

PILE ON THE PRESSURE A strong trait of most winning players is their ability to get inside their opponents heads and force them into making big mistakes. In order to do this you need to apply constant pressure. One way to do this is by winning lots of smaller pots from them without the goods. The real trick is to know when theyve had enough, then pick up a hand and get it to hold Thats something that cant be taught!

Name Chris Moorman Age 24 Lives Brighton Online winnings Over $1.5m Online screen name Moorman1

THE EARLY BIRD When deciding how loose or tight to play at a certain table you should try to play the opposite of your table tight on a loose table and loose on a tight table. However, other important factors, such as how much early position raises are being respected, should be considered. If you nd your early position raises are being respected by the table, you can raise knowing that mostly you will either take the blinds uncontested, or only have to face someone at-calling you with the possibility of taking it down on the op.

SWITCHING GEARS On a nal table, if theres one player whose stack is a lot shorter than the rest, then you can really apply pressure on your opponents. They will all be concerned with moving up a money spot and will wait for the short stack to bust rather than play back at you without the goods. Once the shortstack has been knocked out, players will be more willing to gamble. You should then switch gears and slow down because your image will be loose at that point. The best MTT players can switch gears constantly with no difculty at all.

PLAY TO WIN Try not to look at the payouts of a tournament as this can affect your decision-making. Always play to win and go with your gut instinct. If your opponents know you are capable of anything it makes you a much trickier opponent.

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A trait of most winning players is their ability to get inside their opponents heads and force them into making big mistakes

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Hate busting out of a tournament? Play a rebuy and you can resurrect yourself time and time again as long as youve got deep pockets

RULING REBUYS
completely different set of strategies, and to ensure you maximise the return for a reasonable outlay you need to go in with a plan and stick to it. There are several ways to approach rebuy tournaments, depending on your style and how much money you are willing to invest. At the conservative end, you can try to maximise your value by playing tight and taking advantage of players who are looking to gamble with their stacks early on. What this means though is that youre going to have to wait for big hands and sidestep a number of all-ins, getting lucky until you have enough chips to play standard poker. Thats because a lot of players will be calling you very light, and often with complete trash. These players are using another common rebuy strategy: gambling like crazy in an attempt to build up a big stack early on. Their plan is to ship it in whenever they see an edge or a decent chance to double up, rebuying up to dozens of times if their initial efforts fail. Alternatively, you can take the middle path, loosening up your range but not turning into a complete maniac. This approach often involves trying to see a lot of ops with hands that can improve to monsters. You might normally bin hands like 8-J in the opening stages of a regular tourney, but if youre on a passive table and there are lots of family pots with excellent implied odds for drawing, its worth getting involved. Always keep one eye on your stack though. Starting off with a smaller number of chips gives you far fewer options for calling along and hoping to hit. Whatever you plan, try to peg the ultra-aggressive players early on. This wont be hard. They will be moving all-in over any raise or group of limpers, and theyll have no shame gambling with the likes of 8-5. If youve got any such players at your table and theyre still to act, the value of limping or trying to get in a pot with a speculative hand is next to nil.

S T R A T E G Y

O YOU MIGHT REMEMBER WE mentioned earlier that the great thing about a tournament is that you know exactly how much money youre risking up front, and that no matter how badly you play, you cant lose more than your initial buy-in? Well thats true for freezeouts, but there is another tournament format that gives you the opportunity to gamble a bit more, and potentially win or lose more money. A rebuy tournament effectively gives you extra lives for more money. So, when you bust your initial chipstack or dip to a pre-agreed amount, say 50% of your stack you can buy back in for another stack. And another. And another. Some rebuys limit you to two or three stacks, but the most common format is where youre allowed unlimited rebuys for a set period (generally the aft which you get the rst hour) after option to ad add on another set amount of chips regardless of your s stack size, before the e tourna tournament moves into a e mistak th e k a Dont m uy like a standa standard freezeout mode. b re a g n of treati y during Here, as in a standard rney. Pla l be u to l a wil norm tourna tournament, once youre y period the rebu , so you must e out, y youre out for good. s o e super-lo m our ga Starti Starting stacks are adjust y generally smaller for rebuy tournamen anywhere tournaments a between 1,000 and 2,000 is the norm. This is because as chips are added to the fo , the t number of chips table in the form of reb rebuys, in the tournament will grow quickly, leading to a relatively deep-stacked tournament once the rebuy period is over. With an average player rebuying once and adding on once, the prizepool usually ends up around three times as big as a standard freezeout for the same initial buy-in. Thats all well and good, but rebuys come with a

TIGHT VS MANIAC

this Dont do

With an average player rebuying once and adding on once, the prizepool usually ends up around three times as big as a standard freezeout

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HUGH THRELFALL

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You also need to adjust your game in terms of blufng. Blufng in a rebuy period is generally futile, unless youre facing someone whos clearly playing tight and looking to eke out a stack. The trouble with playing a conservative game in rebuys is that its not a lot of fun. Youll need to get lucky early on and have your hands hold up. For that reason, most players who enter rebuys to play tight still keep enough money for one or two extra buy-ins and an add-on if required. This gives you a couple of chances in the tournament and although youll still need to pick and choose your spots, youll have more exibility to play. Of course, if youre just out for a good time, you can join the ranks of crazy gamblers and come armed with enough money to rebuy ve, six or more times! This might be a lot of fun, especially if the cards go your way, but wed advise against it unless youre a rebuy veteran. Thats because the maths dictate that if you rebuy a lot of times, youre going to need to nish deep into the tournament, and possibly on the nal table, just to break even. Most gambling players in a rebuy are looking to buy a big stack when the freezeout period starts, which they can use to bully their way to the nal table and hopefully victory. If you do decide to go the crazy gambling route, remember that you dont have to play this way through the entire rebuy period. The idea is to accumulate chips, so if you get a stack six or seven times your starting stack you can slow down, start playing tight and reap the rewards from people who still think youre playing like a maniac. Youve achieved your goal to get a big stack so theres no point throwing it away. Whichever route you take, remember to keep an eye on the clock, because as the rebuy period comes to an end almost every short stack will be looking to double up or lose their chips, thus enabling them to rebuy. People will be pushing

with almost anything, which means you can choose to either sit tight and preserve the stack youve accumulated, or pick off shoves in position with a much wider calling range. Once the rebuy period is over you can usually elect to add on. Every player can do this regardless of stack size; whether or not you should depends on how many chips youve got. It might be tempting to get another 2,000 chips for a minimal outlay, but if youve got a stack of 20,000 its pointless. We would advise you not to bother if the add-on represents less than a fth of your stack. Once the freezeout period has started, check your chipstack again. Your aim should be to start the freezeout period with at least three times the chips that you started with, which should give you an average stack to play with. If youre way under this target youre going to need to start pushing in while youve still got enough chips to knock people off their hands. If you make it with six times the chips then youre doing well and can now sit and wait for hands and make the odd well-timed bluff or steal (these will now be possible, but pick your moment and player). The great thing about rebuys is that once the freezeout period starts, youll nd a lot of players who forget to adjust their game. Despite having chips, they will still be operating on an ultraaggressive raise/push strategy, which is entirely unsuited to a freezeout. Try to make sure youre in position to take their chips they wont last long in the tournament. Once theyve gone, the rest of the tournament to the nal table is real poker. Dont be one of the players who cant adjust to the change in pace, but do take advantage of the situation if youve managed to build up a big stack. Above all take time to make decisions, play a solid game with measured aggression and bad beats aside you should make it to the nal stages.

FREEZEOUT

GOING CRAZY

M U L T I - T A B L E

TRIPLE TROUBLE
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THE SKINFLINT >

Common rebuy strategies


There are three distinct types of player in a rebuy tournament which one are you?
You want to play for a big prize but you dont want to put your hand in your pocket. You may be limiting your chances of building a stack for the freezeout period, but youre willing to be patient and pick your spots, hoping to capitalise on the maniacs. HOW YOU PLAY: You play big pairs and big Aces and you play them very aggressively, committing yourself pre-op if possible. PROBLEMS: Youll quickly be pegged as tight and people will be less willing to gamble with you. Plus youve only got a limited amount of time to pick up the premium cards you need to get your chips in. ADVISABLE IF: Youre on a really tight budget. You dont mind taking a few chances but you dont want to go crazy. Youll limit yourself to two or three rebuys, and unless you get put on tilt youll leave the tournament as soon as you hit your budget. HOW YOU PLAY: You love suited connectors, or indeed any hand with potential where you can see a op for ve big blinds or less. If you hit big on the op or get a big draw youre willing to get all your chips in and if you lose you can rebuy. PROBLEMS: Youre still playing a very predictable game and there are no guarantees youre going to build a big stack despite a willingness to rebuy. ADVISABLE IF: You want to play a sensible game and maximise your investment.

THE SOLID PLAYER >

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DID YOU KNOW?


If you youre a maniac, what starts as a cheap rebuy sta eve event can turn rather expensive. In the 2006 World Series of Poker, top pro Daniel Negreanu made a total of 48 rebuys reb in the $1,000 no-limit noevent. He was at attempting to buy himself a big stack to take into the freezeout part of the tournament to give him a good chance of winning a bracelet, but it backred and ended up costing him nearly $50,000. That meant he needed to nish eighth just to break even, but unfortunately he ended up busting outside of the money!

T O U R N A M E N T S T R A T E G Y

KEY POINT
Rebuys are fun tournaments but you need to set a budget in your mind before you start playing and stick to it, even if you get consistently unlucky. If you normally play $20 tournaments, you should consider dropping down to $10 or even $5 rebuys, to give yourself a chance to rebuy chips without playing above your means.

Youre willing to gamble with any half-decent hand and capitalise on any sign of weakness. If you get called and lose the hand youll just reach deep into your pockets and buy some more chips thats why its called a rebuy, right? HOW YOU PLAY: Pre-op youll play any pair, any Ace, any paint cards, and youre willing to get all your chips in if you hit even a tiny piece of the op. PROBLEMS: It could prove very expensive and you might end up needing to nal-table the tournament just to break even. ADVISABLE IF: You are playing for fun at a level you can afford or you hate money.

THE MANIAC >

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You dont need a big bankroll to play with the biggest pros for millions of dollars you just need to master the art of satellite tournaments

BEATING SATELLITES
SCENARIO 1 A short-stack has moved all-in for 9,000. Everyone else has folded. This is a perfect situation to play with A-K and you should call. SCENARIO 2 An early position player with a 60,000 stack has raised to 3,000. A middle position player has moved all-in for 30,000. In a conventional MTT, you can make a case for playing A-K here. However, in a satellite this is a situation you should probably avoid. While there is a chance you are ahead, the fact that the call is for more than half your stack as well as the fact that you still have the open-raiser to act behind you make this a clear fold. Remember that your aim, above all else, is to keep your chip stack around the average. If you manage this then youll coast through the bubble. If you

S T R A T E G Y

ATELLITES ARE TOURNAMENTS which reward a certain number of people with a seat in a bigger buy-in event, and its no exaggeration to say they have changed the face of poker forever. Think of them as a sort of pyramid scheme. At the bottom youve got the ultra-cheap buy-ins with thousands of people, all paying for a few hundred places one rung up the ladder. Further up youve got the more expensive buy-ins, with a much smaller eld and direct entry into the big money tourney. Eventually, youre left with one winner, who cops the lions share of everyones cash. Satellites give you the opportunity to be that winner, and all for a few dollars initial entry. Unlike standard tournaments, theres no sliding pay scale. Everyone who wins a satellite gets exactly the same prize, so if youre playing in a 500-man satellite tournament and 50 players win a seat, it doesnt matter whether you are chip leader or sitting on one chip when the 51st player goes out youre still a winner. Tactics in satellites are very different from a standard freezeout tournament, for the simple reason that youre not playing for rst place. There are winner-takes-all satellites, but most of the time there are a number of seats up for grabs and you should adjust your play accordingly.

Steal the blinds from the players you can steal from. Play your big pairs aggressively. Try to play a lot of small pots and only play big pots when you know you have the best of it

The most common satellites reward the top 10% of nishers, so if 100 people play, you have to nish in the top ten to win. The key here is to play your normal game. Dont go risking three-quarters of your stack with A-K. Steal the blinds from the players you can steal from. Play your big pairs aggressively. Race in situations where your opponents stack only represents a small percentage of yours. Try to play a lot of small pots and only play big pots when you know you have the best of it. Lets look at two example scenarios when holding A-K. In each case, there are 100 players left with the top 20 winning seats. You have an above average stack of 50,000 and the blinds are 500/1,000. You are in the big blind.

REGULAR SATELLITES

Making the most from your money


Dont just launch yourself into the rst satellite you see. Make sure you sort out the practicalities rst
If youve set your mind on qualifying for a big tournament, ask yourself how much money you are willing to spend to try to qualify, given that you might, just might, not succeed the rst time? If there are a few satellites between you and the end tournament, can you afford to buy yourself in one rung up to give yourself a better shot of qualifying? It goes without saying that you should always stick to a cut-off budget. Theres no point playing so many satellites that you could have bought yourself into the actual tournament youre trying to qualify for direct.

MONEY MATTERS

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manage to get hold of a big stack by picking up cards then you can tighten up and prey on the weaker players, especially when you get towards the bubble.

THE SHARKPOOL!
A lot of people play satellites as a means to an end, for a shot at a much bigger tournament. Others nd that their game is just well suited to the particular rigours of satellite play and nd satellites much more protable than regular MTTs. The straight payout of around 10% of the eld means that strong players have a much bigger edge and it reduces the variance that regular tournaments and their steep payout structures provide. For that reason, if you cash in a satellite a lot of online sites let you either play the next tournament up, or cash in your ticket for cash to add to your bankroll. The upside of this is that it offers you complete exibility, but it does mean that a lot of good players circulate in the satellite pool looking to prey on weaker players taking a shot upwards. This wont happen at the lower level where the prize payouts are relatively small, but

There are satellites with only one prize up for grabs, or a relatively small number compared to the eld. If you enter one of these youll need to play differently again. In both, but especially in winner-takes-all tournaments, its critical to build a big stack early on. Dont be scared to get into confrontations and if you do manage to build a stack you need to use it to bully the other players and keep your momentum going. The good news is that in the low buy-in satellites youre going to nd a bulk of very weak players who are just making up the numbers. These are the players to target and the ones who are hopefully going to build your stack up to a size that will let you play solid poker through to the bubble. The best tactic to adopt at the start of low buy-in satellites is to see as many cheap ops as possible. Weak players are unlikely to be able to drop top-pair hands and will enable you to double through if you manage to op two pair or better. Winning a satellite like this, where the numbers are against you, is a lot harder than a regular satellite. However, the rewards are much greater and as the buy-in is generally a lot lower you can afford to loosen up and gamble. Be prepared to get your money in with big draws, show people that youre not going to be pushed around and target weak players who are folding too much. After the rst hour a lot of the weaker players will have been knocked out and the blinds will be up to the level where seeing cheap ops isnt really an option. This is the time to evaluate your stack and push through to the bubble by playing solid poker. An hour of play should also be enough to mark out which players you want to tangle with and which are better left alone.

LOW BUY-IN AND WINNER-TAKES ALL

Satellites can be a tough training ground and you need to watch out for the sharks

M U L T I - T A B L E

T O U R N A M E N T

you can expect the elds to get signicantly tougher as you move up. Dont let this put you off taking a shot though. The experience you will gain from playing above your means and with better players is invaluable, and worth much more than the price of the tournament buy-in.

ON THE BUBBLE

The period approaching the bubble is an absolutely critical point of any satellite. Youre not just playing for a small cash if you break the bubble, but a shared rst prize. Thankfully, its extremely easy to make the right decisions and avoid serious mistakes. Remember that your goal is simple: outlast other players. Let the other players make the mistakes and dont put your life on the line needlessly. Heres a good example of something you should never consider doing. Its folded to

SATELLITE MAN

Meet the man who invented the satellite and made poker the peoples game
Satellites were invented back in the 1970s by a man called Eric Drache who was then tournament director of the World Series of Poker. He was looking for a way to increase numbers in the $10,000 buy-in main event, when only the very richest players could afford to enter, and hit on a novel concept. He got ten players to put up $1,000 each and got them to play winner-takes-all for entry into the tournament. From these humble beginnings the satellite has become the dream-maker, offering amateur players without a big bankroll the opportunity to play in the worlds biggest tournaments for an initial outlay of a few dollars. This hit home when Chris Moneymaker, an accountant, qualied for the 2003 WSOP main event for $40 online. He went on to defeat old-school player Sammy Farha in an infamous heads-up confrontation and won the $2.5 million rst prize. In 2003, the WSOP main event was contested by 839 players. Just three years later, thanks to Moneymaker and the satellite craze, 8,773 players rolled up to make the 2006 main event the biggest live tournament of all time. Jamie Gold eventually won the staggering rst prize of $12 million.

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IMPDI FOR WSOP

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the button who has 12 times the big blind. The tournament is three spots from ending and the button has more chips than eight of the remaining players. The blinds have about the same size stack as the button. The button looks down at A-9 and decides to try to pick up the dead money knowing they will fold nine times out of ten. He moves all-in, runs into pocket Kings and is eliminated. Unlike a tournament, chip accumulation during the bubble is not crucial survival is. While openshoving with A-9 on the button with 12 big blinds is often a no-brainer in a conventional tournament, its not an option here. You could even look at a more extreme example. Youre second in chips with 32 players left and 30 get paid. You get Aces in the big blind and the chip leader in the small blind openshoves on you. Yes youve got the best hand, but the correct move here is to fold. If you fold youll win a seat 99.95% of the time just by folding every hand. Call with Aces and youve probably got a 15-25% shot of going out. The key on the bubble is to look at your chip position and compare it to the other players. If you are in a comfortable chip position, there is no need to get involved with all but the best of hands and only against stacks that cant cripple you. If you have an average stack but are above the threshold needed to win the seat, again there is no reason to get involved, although its important to keep an eye on the bubble as the tournament moves on. With blinds very high at this point, and most hands getting decided pre-op with shoves and folds, the button will move around the table very quickly and you can nd yourself being whittled down from a position of relative comfort to being in danger. Whatever you do, dont let yourself get to the position of playing the short-stack if you can avoid it.

BE THE WORLD CHAMP!

Poker is a game where dreams can come true


Some say that satellites have made the World Series of Poker main event too popular. With a eld of up to 8,000 players, its by far the worlds biggest poker tournament, but its still also the tournament that every poker player wants to win, and it guarantees the winner a place in poker history as well as fame and fortune. Its also the tournament thats worth playing in just for the experience. Every poker player should harbour an ambition to play in the main event once, so set aside a small chunk of cash and a weekend to try to win yourself a seat to the 2010 WSOP. You never know, this year it might just be you that comes home with the gold bracelet and the millions of dollars in prize money.

T O U R N A M E N T

While open-shoving with A-9 on the button with 12 big blinds is often a no-brainer in a conventional tournament, its not an option here
Everyone will be gunning for you and if you let your chips run down too far youll nd that your small shoves will be called by two, three or four people, in the knowledge that collectively theyve got a very good chance of knocking you out. The bottom line is that if you are in danger of being eliminated, or moving to a position where you might be eliminated, you cant be afraid to play hands and getting your chips in rst is key. If you arent in danger, let other players panic and make the mistakes. Trust us, they will.

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X I F O T E TIM K A E L T A TH
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CASH GAMES

The ultimate guide to

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C A S H

G A M E

S T R A T E G Y

t a e b o t How CASH GAMES


Cash games are arguably the most lucrative, exciting and difcult form of poker. So follow this crash course in how to win big in ring games

KEY POINT
Cash games are about playing good hands from good positions and not trying to get too creative all the time. If you can be disciplined and not play too many hands you will beat most low-level games.

TOP TIP
If you have a small pair you can usually call a pre-op raise for anything less than 10% of your opponents stack with the hope of hitting a set on the op. If you dont make a set you should normally fold.

OKER IS A GAME OF DECEPTION and audacious bluffs. It requires the skilled practitioner to be unpredictable to outmanoeuvre opponents, set traps and sidestep haz hazards. But these bluffs can often go wrong, and in a tournament this can be frustrating as one mistake can mean you are out. Thankfully there the are also cash games where you can really let your creative nature loose. Cash games are arguably the hardest poker discipline to master because there is no hiding pla place. If you or your opponents go bust you can simply reload and start again. The only time you need to stop is when you run out of money, alt although its good common sense to stop a long tim before that. Unlike in a tournament, the time bli blinds remain at xed stakes throughout the gam meaning theres always a level playing game, e eld. As such it is frequently a game of waiting for other people to make mistakes.

Once you have a good grounding in them, full-ring (nine or ten-handed) no-limit cash games are considered to be one of the best ways of making a solid living from poker, not least because they are the most prevalent form of poker found in casinos. If youre an online player, it also makes a lot of sense to play full-ring games as you can play on multiple tables with relative ease and make your decisions based on the action rather than just what cards you have. The nature of cash games, with their xed blinds and the ability to reload, also makes them the form of poker where luck has the least effect on the long-term result. You can afford to take mathematically-sound risks because you are playing a long-term game. That is what cash games are one long game that only ends when you want it to. Its poker at its most pure. But before you can start dreaming about all the fancy plays youre going to make, its crucial that you know the fundamentals of cash game poker.

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CASH GAMES
Find your level
The stakes in a poker cash game are determined by the size of the blinds. All levels are catered for at online sites like PKR.com, from play-money and microstakes right up to nosebleed stakes

G A M E S T R A T E G Y

Playing nine- and ten-handed


Full-ring cash games are characterised by three main traits
They involve either nine or ten players as opposed to short-handed where its six or less. There is no schedule to the games they start as soon as there are enough players in the game. When the tables become full there is usually a waiting list for a seat.

FULL-RING CASH GAMES


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This is a low-stakes game where the blinds are $0.05 for the small blind and $0.10 for the big blind. The maximum, and most common buy-in is $10, but you can buy in for as little as $2. It is a great game for beginners to start off with online.

maximum can be 100 times the big blind. So, at a $0.25/$0.50 table, the minimum buy-in would be $10, while the max would be $50. You can leave whenever you want and you can buy more chips at any time. The only time you are out is when you run out of money, although its advisable to stick to a stop-loss limit of 3-4 buy-ins. If youve stacked off three times it may be a good idea to quit.

There is always a minimum and maximum buy-in amount. The minimum is usually around 20 times the big blind, while the

There are ve basic concepts that you must know and understand even before you sit down to play.

exciting topic to kick off with but you simply cant ignore it. Good bankroll management means two things. First, keeping your poker money aka your bankroll separate from your normal day-to-day money. And second, always playing within your limits at a level that can withstand the natural swings of the game. The bottom line is this: if youre playing at a higher limit than your bankroll can sustain you stand a good chance of going broke. Even if youre a good, winning player, bad luck will make you tilt, blow up and generally have a torrid time at the tables. As such, in no-limit holdem cash games you should never risk more than 5% of your bankroll at any one time. In

MANAGEMENT 1 BANKROLL Okay, this might not seem like a very

Full-ring (nine or ten-handed) no-limit cash games are considered to be one of the best ways of making a solid living from poker

The $0.25/$0.50 level is probably the lowest one where the vast majority of players will still be recreational, as opposed to playing poker for a living. You can buy in for anything from $10 to $50. It is also the lowest level cash game you will typically nd in a live casino or poker room.

Only put money in poker ba to your nkroll th at comfort ably affo you can rd to los if you go e bus above yo t. Playing ur limit is a seriously bad idea

Do this

The $1/$2 level is where poker starts to become serious. Here you can buy in for $200 at a time and its easy to see how you can quickly win or lose a lot of money. Be warned, online you will nd a lot of very skilled players playing at this level!

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other words make sure you have 20 buy-ins for the level youre playing at. This gure assumes a decent win rate (something like ve big blinds per 100 hands) and a normal standard deviation in the game. If your eyes just glazed over, dont panic. Just understand that minimising your buy-ins to this level will give you the optimal balance between staking enough to grow your bankroll and preventing yourself from going broke. These are relatively conservative guidelines but they will give you good protection against going bust. This system does not mean you will inexorably build your bankroll. If youre a winning player your edge should yield you a prot in the long-term, but there will always be ups and downs. Crucially, you must be prepared to drop down in limits if you encounter a sustained losing run. This of course takes discipline and requires you to leave your pride at the door, but many a poker player has gone bust because of ego. Downswings are a natural part of the game and some of the best in the world have had to drop down in limits for a time on their way to the top.

C A S H

G A M E

You must be prepared to drop down in limits if you encounter a sustained losing run. Of course this takes discipline

S T R A T E G Y

KEY POINT
The ability to drop down in limits is a vital one. If you have $2,000 and are playing $0.50/$1 no-limit but have a losing run that sees your bankroll fall to just over 10 buy-ins, you should seriously consider dropping down in limits. Your $1,000 will see you adequately rolled for $0.25/$0.50 no-limit.

cannot be overstated. Its hard to quantify the advantage that acting behind an opponent gives you, but to put some perspective on it poker legend Doyle Brunson says, If you give me the button every hand I can beat almost any game blind. Normally you should only enter the pot in early position with premium hands which is essentially big pairs and A-K. Mucking A-Q up front is usually right in a full-ring game. In a deep-stacked game which is relatively passive before the op, limping with smaller pocket pairs can also be protable. Get used to mucking a huge amount of hands in the rst three spots. As you move around the table you can open up your range far more. The later your position the greater your chance of being able to play the hand in position on future streets. Well come to this in more detail later on but for now lets look at why you should play only premium hands from early and middle position and avoid cold-calling when there are still many players to act after you. The earlier the position you enter the hand from, the more likely it is that you will be stuck out of position for the rest of the hand. That puts you at a huge disadvantage as youll be forced to make decisions before your opponents. The closer to the button you are in the hand the later you act on each street and the more information youll receive about your opponents hands.

2 POSITION The power of position in no-limit holdem

Avoid calling in the blinds with weak hands just because youve already committed some money. It may seem like a cheap way to see a op, but youll have to play the entire hand out of position and without committing more chips youll have little idea as to the strength of your opponents cards. Many fortunes have been lost this way.

p Dont lim e blinds calling th (i.e. at- terrible habit to g ) is a pre-op or foldin . Raising to in uch m get s y a y alw are nearl options better

this Dont do ! Limping in

off complex multi-street bluffs its about calling when you have the correct odds to do so, folding when you dont, and getting other players to call when they shouldnt. Its important to play a mathematically sound game, and for that you need to understand pot odds. In many marginal spots they are indispensable, such as when you are deciding whether or not to call with a drawing hand. If you do nothing else, learn how to work out rough pot odds and start using them. On the op, count the number of outs you think you have to make the winning hand and multiply that number by four. This will give you the rough percentage chance of hitting your hand on the turn or river. On the turn, do the same but multiply your outs by two to get the odds. So, for example, if you have 10:-J on an 8-9:-A; op you have four sevens and four Queens to make your straight or eight outs. So, multiplying 8 by 4 equals a 32% chance of winning. Some key numbers to keep in mind are nine outs for a ush draw, eight outs for an open-ended straight draw and four outs for a gutshot straight draw.

ODDS 3 POT Playing solid poker is not about pulling

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implied odds. Often in cash games the blinds are tiny compared to players stacks. This means you can play a lot of hands pre-op that stand to win a big pot if you hit. Youre investing a little now for the implied value of making a lot later. Specically this means that suited, connecting hands (such as 8;-7; or A:-10: ) and small pairs often have a lot of value in cash games. You are hoping to hit a straight or ush and get paid off by a player with a big pair. In an unraised pot you should be playing these hands although dont get too carried away when youre out of position. Its also possible to play these hands in a raised pot. Proceed with caution though to get the implied odds both you and your opponent(s) must have deep stacks (committing no more than 5% of your stack pre-op is a good rule of thumb) and its best if your foes are tight players.

ODDS 4 IMPLIED Another important concept in cash play is

With those basic concepts in place its now time to look at some specics relating to play before and after the op. The strategic ideas here are very different from those used in tournaments. Concepts such as stealing the blinds, squeezing and protecting your tournament life, for example, have little or no relevance to cash play, while an ability to play every street is crucial.

PRE AND POST-FLOP PLAY

KEY POINT
The most effective raise pre-op is either 3x or 4x the big blind. So in a $0.25/$0.50 game you would make your bet between $1.50 and $2 if you had a playable hand and fold otherwise. When raising pre-op you should always bet the same amount no matter what cards you hold to disguise the strength of your hand.

to think the game is about blufng and spotting tells after all, thats what its about on TV , right? Wrong. TV highlights tend to focus on the monster pots and audacious bluffs, making it appear that players bluff a lot more than they do. Blufng should be just one weapon in your arsenal, and when you do bluff you should have a good reason for it. You need to gauge the situation carefully, weighing up factors such as your table image and whether or not your bets tell a believable story.

LESS, WIN MORE 5 BLUFF When you rst start playing poker its easy

Like every other part of a poker game, pre-op play in a cash game is a situational concept. The correct play will change according to your table, the players in the pot, stack sizes, your table image and so on. With that in mind, when we recommend playing a particular hand bear in mind that this is a standard play to give you a starting point in cash games. The most important thing is to grasp the factors that affect whether and how you enter a pot. If someone else has entered the pot before you with a raise you need to play far, far tighter. Theyre stating they have a good hand, so you need to have a serious hand to play. But to balance this slightly you do have position over the opening raiser. You may have read that in poker you should play the man and not the cards. Well, thats true up to a point, but it doesnt mean you should start ignoring the strength of your hole cards and get up in arms when some sh doesnt put you on

PRE-FLOP PLAY

TOP TIP
If there have already been several limpers (people calling the big blind) before you and you want to raise, add those bets to your pre-op bet size. So if there have been three limpers in a $0.10/$0.20 game, rather than bet $0.80 you might raise to $1.40.

HAND SELECTION

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S T R A T E G Y

STARTING HAND GUIDE


PLAY 10-10, J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A, A-K, A-Q FOLD All other hands RE-RAISE Q-Q, K-K, A-A, A-K and A-Q

EARLY POSITION

G A M E

the big hand youre trying to represent. Wouldnt it be better if you just showed down a big hand instead and still had opponents call down your big bets? You dont have to go as far as only playing Jacks or better, but if you stick to a solid range of starting hands including pairs, big Aces and the occasional suited connector, you will hit ops, out-kick other players bad Aces and take down some juicy pots. At the lower levels this is often all you need to post a regular prot. You should look to re-raise with big pairs most of the time. Bear in mind that theres a big difference between A-A/K-K and Q-Q. You should almost always re-raise with Aces and Kings, but Queens are a more marginal hand that you should mix up with calls and re-raises. With hands like A-K, A-Q suited, J-J, 10-10 and 9-9, you should usually just call, but an occasional re-raise is good to mix up your play. Its not simply a matter of what action theres been but also who has made that action. For example, if a better player than you with a bigger stack than you has entered the pot, that should make you much less inclined to play. Conversely, if a weak player who calls far too much has opened the action, you should loosen your starting hand requirements considerably. If youre going to raise pre-op be clear why youre doing it. Often youll be raising for value investing money when you think you have the best hand. But thats not the only reason to do it. Raising to steal the blinds has very little value in a cash game as the blinds are only a tiny fraction

of the stacks. In fact limping in late position or on the button (while not a good habit to get into) is a legitimate play if youre better than the blinds and want to play a hand with them in position. There are two schools of thought regarding how big your pre-op raises should be. One is to raise the same amount no matter what your hand is, to prevent giving away any information. The second is that you should vary your raise, making bigger raises when you want to build a big pot and keeping it small at other times. Wed recommend that until you have a good understanding of how the various situational factors affect your pre-op decisions you make a standard open-raise of three or four times the big blind, giving minimal information on your hand. The exceptions are when there are limpers in the pot already, in which case you should raise it up slightly more. If youre not sure how much to bet, a normal gure is anywhere between half-pot and full-pot.

BET SIZING

PLAYING PAIRS

C A S H

PLAY All early position hands plus A-J, K-Q, 9-9, 8-8 and 7-7. A-10, K-J, Q-J, J-10 and 9-10 (suited) FOLD All other hands RE-RAISE J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A, A-K and A-Q

MID POSITION

PLAY All mid position hands plus all pairs FOLD All other hands RE-RAISE 10-10, J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A, A-K, A-Q

CUTOFF SEAT

WHY RAISE?

PLAY All cutoff hands plus K-J, K-10, Q-10, K-9, Q-9, A-x suited and high suited connectors (8-7+) FOLD All other hands RE-RAISE 10-10, J-J, Q-Q, K-K, A-A, A-K, A-Q, 10-J, K-Q

BUTTON

Once the op is dealt you are playing real poker. This is where the game becomes a complex battle of assessing your opponents holdings. Most players at the lower limits make the mistake of only thinking of their own hand strength, but you should be playing close attention to the op and how it may have helped other players hands. A op which contains lots of connected cards or cards of the same suit may present dangers to your pocket Jacks. However, if you hold A-K on a A-8;-2 op you can bet out safe in the

POST-FLOP PLAY

KEY POINT
How much should you bet post-op? Well the best idea is to bet the same amount every time you get involved. If nobody has bet before you then you should bet two-thirds of the pot. So if you were playing $0.50/$1 and you got two callers pre-op, the pot on the op might be around $9. In this case you should bet around $6.

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knowledge you likely have the best hand. What you need to learn to recognise is relative hand strength. How strong is your hand in relation to what the best possible hand is on the op? From there you can decide if you are betting for value or to make other players fold. You should always have a clear plan in mind post-op as this is when the betting starts to get much more expensive.

TOP TIP
If you have a very good hand such as three of a kind and someone bets, you should re-raise to a number at least two and a half times their bet. So, if they bet $6 you should raise to $15. If they re-raise you back you should usually just go all-in.

WALKTHROUGH

Continuation betting
Theres no need to get fancy basic moves such as continuation betting and using position are simple and effective

G A M E

Continuation bets are among of the most important tools at your disposal when learning to play cash games. Continuation-betting is following up a pre-op raise with a bet on the op. This continuation of your pre-op aggression will often be enough to take down a pot if there is just one other player remaining, as the op will miss most hands. Aim to make less your bets around two-thirds of the pot regardless of whether your hand has improved or not. Aim to continuation-bet around 80% of the time, but be wary of overdoing it in multi-way pots. Always k Someone will have caught a piece of the op! are tryin now what you

A CONTINUING THEME

S T R A T E G Y

Do this

But what if your continuation bet is called, or even raised? At the lower limits, by calling and your bet your opponent is telling you their hand has improved, whether they have made a pair, ed two-pair or just a draw. This is where you need nts to pay attention to what hands your opponents ype have shown down previously. Are they the type to chase their draws? Or will they call with middling pairs? Every player is different and there are no hard and fast rules. Observation is key to being a winning cash game player.

PLAYING THE PLAYERS

g to ach ieve whe making n a bet or raise. Sa in your h y ead whe th a bluff o r a value er its bet and what yo u wan opponen t your t to do

You are in a $0.10/$0.20 cash game on PKR.com and you open the betting action with a raise to $0.80 with K-Q offsuit. Youre called by the big blind, making the pot $1.70.

You should always have a clear plan in mind post-op as this is when the betting starts to get much more expensive

The op comes A-2-3 with two diamonds. The big blind checks to you.

Here you should usually c-bet somewhere between $0.90-$1.40. Youre representing the Ace, and if they dont have it youll often win.

POST-FLOP ODDS CHART


TURN RIVER 9% 17% 19% 33% DRAW TYPE 17% 32% 35% 54% Gutshot straight draw (e.g. J:-10 on a op of Q-8;-7) Open-ended straight draw (e.g. J:-10 on a op of Q-9;-2) Flush draw (e.g. A:-10: on a op of K:-7:-2) Flush and open-ended straight draw (e.g. K:-Q: on a op of 10:-J-4:)

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C A S H

G A M E

S T R A T E G Y

You may have heard the saying (in Rounders if nowhere else), If you dont know who the sucker is at your table, its you. There is a lot of truth to this and you shouldnt just blindly sit in the rst game you nd and start throwing chips around. Your rst mission when you join a cash table is to assess the game youre putting your money at stake in. You need to know what type of table it is, how the individuals are playing and, critically, where your prot is coming from. You need to gather this information as quickly as possible. If youre waiting to sit down or for the big blind to come round, observe the game carefully, even if youve played with the players before. You cant afford to make assumptions, as they might be playing differently from normal depending on how their session is going.

ASSESSING THE TABLE

style was the way all good players sought to play, and the truth is, for many its still the optimal approach. This style involves playing quality hands with a slightly wider range in position. It also involves playing those hands aggressively, looking to have the lead in the hand pre-op by raising or re-raising, and keeping the lead after the op by making continuation bets. This style is often employed by players who multi-table and are possibly earning a living from the game. STRENGTHS It is generally tough to exploit a good tight-aggressive player. They continually put pressure on their opponents but play enough quality hands to make it hard to know when you can take them on. WEAKNESSES Sometimes TAG players become predictable and end up playing on autopilot. For example, they tend to continuation-bet too frequently and play poorly when check-raised. Poorer tight-aggressive players sometimes lose their aggression on later streets and fail to extract enough value on the turn and river. COUNTER-STRATEGY TAGs biggest weakness is that they can be predictable in terms of which hands they will play in which positions and you can look to exploit this.

(TAG) 1 TIGHT-AGGRESSIVE There was a time when a tight-aggressive

PLAYER TYPES Your rst mission is to assess the game youre putting your money in. You need to know what type of table it is and where your prot is coming from 92
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In order to get a handle on how to vary your play against different opponents were going to look at some player types. Remember, this is to help you make decisions against different players, but you should try not to think in generic groups, rather in terms of the individuals youre playing. Well assess playing types on two different scales: looseness and aggression. Its important to understand the difference between the two. Looseness is how many hands a player is willing to get involved with the fewer they play the tighter they are. Aggression is how often they tend to bet and raise rather than check and call. There is no necessary correlation between the two, and often it is how aggressively an opponent plays that is the more important factor.

of pots and play their hands very aggressively. This style has been extremely popular in poker over the last few years, but when youre up against a loose-aggressive player its crucial to

(LAG) 2 LOOSE-AGGRESSIVE This type of player will get involved in a lot

C A S H G A M E S T R A T E G Y

WEAKNESSES Tight-passives usually play in a predictable style and are probably the easiest opponents to put on a hand. For instance, if they raise under the gun theyre highly likely to have a premium hand. If they call a bet on the op and then make a big check-raise on the turn, they almost always have a strong made hand rather than being on a draw or bluff. COUNTER-STRATEGY You should be looking to bully this kind of weak opponent. They fold too much and will very rarely make big bluffs or get their stack in the pot with anything less than a premium hand. Make sure you give them every opportunity to make a big fold by representing the monster hand theyre already afraid of.

discern how competently your opponent is playing this style. The key to guring this out is how they play the big pots. Are they making reckless bluffs in big pots or trapping people when they have the goods? STRENGTHS Playing against a good looseaggressive player can be extremely tough. They will put huge pressure on you, sometimes betting all three streets with very little and then turning up with a big hand the time you decide to call. WEAKNESSES The LAG style is extremely difcult to execute well as it involves entering pots with poorer hands and making far more marginal decisions on later streets. COUNTER-STRATEGY Its vital to widen your calling range when playing against a LAG. They are playing and betting substandard hands, so if you want to fully exploit them its important to be prepared to call them with weaker hands than you would an average player.

ta Dont ge e players. Even ssiv n a p , k a e ck out o w y will su e th re h a g y u e tho , th sionally r as you occa nd butte a d a re b r e your y la gp a winnin

this Dont do nnoyed with

Its basically impossible to play winning poker if you play a lot of hands passively, but these guys try. They love to limp and at-call from all positions pre-op, then after the op they will check-fold or check-call, often calling along if they catch any part of the op. They are classic donkeys and in the long run you will make much of your prot from this type of player. Its important to adjust your game signicantly against calling stations. Time and again, even at the higher levels, its possible to witness good players trying to bluff loose-passive players. STRENGTHS If one of these players has a run of cards it can be very frustrating as theyre basically playing showdown poker, which means you need to have a hand to beat them. WEAKNESSES This is a losing style, which involves rarely taking the lead in hands and calling far too often with substandard hands. COUNTER STRATEGY Extracting maximum value from these opponents is absolutely vital to playing winning poker. They call too much, so make them pay for their mistakes. Have the discipline to wait for a hand, and then, when you have the goods, bet big and often.

4 LOOSE-PASSIVE (CALLING STATIONS)

HOW TO ASSESS THE GAME


Taking stock of your table
1
There are three main ways to assess the game youre in
The best piece of information is the cards revealed at showdown. Replay the hand in your head and see if it tells you anything about the players. Are they playing too many hands? Are they missing bets or calling too easily? Are they blufng and playing very trickily? A good way to assess how well youre reading players is to try to call their hands to yourself before theyre revealed. If you think someone has A-A and he shows 8-3 you may have a problem reading that player! You should also quickly get a avour for how many players are seeing the op and how much pre-op raising there is in the game i.e. how loose and aggressive your opponents are. Take a careful mental note of how much money the players have in front of them. Stack size is a fundamental consideration in most cash game decisions and you must know what you stand to win from (or lose to) each player.

premium hands, but when they get them dont play them aggressively enough. When they meet resistance in a hand they often either fold or become defensive, checking and calling instead of betting. This type of player may believe theyre playing tight-aggressive when actually theyre playing in a highly exploitable way. STRENGTHS These opponents are still playing good cards in the main and its going to be tough to get them to fold a big pair or top pair when theres nothing you can credibly represent.

(TIGHT/WEAK) 3 TIGHT-PASSIVE These types of players look to wait for

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With any marginal hand, its important not to get caught up in the call because they are suited syndrome

C A S H

G A M E

S T R A T E G Y

Some of the most costly mistakes in no-limit cash games are made pre-op. Here we look at some dangerous hands to watch out for and how to adjust to short-handed play

PRE-FLOP DANGERS
but lose you a big pot when youre behind. In other words, calling a raise with these hands is a losing proposition. Youre far better off holding a hand like 5:-6:, because its a lot easier to get away from on the op. With any marginal hand, its important not to get caught up in the call because they are suited syndrome. That extra 2-3% isnt worth the call. Youll also be in deep trouble if you have the King-high ush and someone has the Ace-high one.

ANDS LIKE A-J, K-10, J-10 AND small to medium pairs are often referred to as trouble hands. These are hands that are playable, but can land you in serious trouble if you get too attached to them. It is of course impossible to state in absolute terms how to play any given hand. Doyle Brunson has won two WSOP main event bracelets with 10-2, but that doesnt mean you should limp with it under the gun! Nevertheless, we will look at general strategies as to how to play certain starting hands that help you stay out of trouble.

KEY POINT
TIMO HEBDITCH, LINDA DUONG

With these hands you will never know where you stand on the op unless you hit an absolute monster. Flat-calling with these hands out of position is one of the biggest mistakes you can make. If you call a raise with A-10 or A-9 then hit an Ace-high op you can be in all sorts of trouble, as youre often going to nd yourself out-kicked and are generally only going to get action from a better hand. The same applies to hitting a King-high op with the King hands. This concept is known as reverse implied odds: where a hand stands to win you a small pot when youre ahead

K-J, K-10, A-10

The worst thing you can do is at-call out of position with these hands. Even if you hit part of your hand, you could easily have kicker problems. Play them with a raise in position, or not at all

The hand known as Jackass should carry a government health warning and it should only be played if you are the aggressor, or you hold position. If you raise with this hand and get re-raised, it is difcult to make the call as you cannot know where

A-J

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In cash g ames, alw ays stay aware o f factors in the situational e include re very hand. Thes e lative sta cks, you table im r age, who s on tilt and who s chasin g losses

Do this

C A S H

you stand in the hand. If you decide to call and hit the Ace, you could be drawing almost dead to an Ace with a higher kicker. Hitting the Jack is your best option, but you could still be behind to a higher pair (especially if your opponent raised pre-op). If your opponent just called pre-op your best hope is to hit a Jack-high op, as you are probably ahead in this scenario. Hitting the Ace may get you into trouble and if not, all you will win is the pre-op bet. Whatever move you make with A-J its a risky one, with little chance of reward, but a great chance of haemorrhaging chips. Basically, its the equivalent of a one-card hand, as the Jack is your only playable card.

example, 8-9-2), in case you miss on the turn, so you still have the opportunity to bluff the river. What you have to be wary of is the Jack-high op, which can give you a false sense of security, especially in a multi-way pot. So again, you can only play this type of hand if you are aware of its vulnerabilities and have the ability to lay it down.

G A M E

KEY POINT
By all means call a small raise with this hand pre-op, hoping to make a big hand or draw. However, be careful not to fall in love with your hand when the op comes Jack-high

S T R A T E G Y

KEY POINT
Ace-Jack is one of the toughest hands to play because it seems strong, but is so vulnerable to higher Aces. Essentially it is a one-card hand, as the Jack is the only card you are hoping to hit

J-10 can yield good results as long as you are able to sidestep the dangers it poses. Many players like to limp into pots with this type of hand, hoping to catch a made hand on the op or at least a big draw. The only problem with the drawing hand is being able to gauge the strength of your opponents hand. You should bet this hand on good ops (for

J-10 (AND OTHER SUITED CONNECTORS)

s A standard way to play pocket nines, tens and Jacks is to raise and then probably pass to a re-raise. In position, you should be looking to three-bet with these hands pre-op, although a lot of players prefer to at-call and play it from there. But you can get a lot of information from a three-bet that you dont get by calling. For example, if you just call with J-J and see a op of 6-7-10 and your opponent bets, what do you do? A re-raise from this position after the op could easily leave you committed to the hand, whereas a pre-op re-raise enables you to escape relatively cheaply if your opponent comes back over the top for most of your chips.

9-9, 10-10 AND J-J

KEY POINT
A positional re-raise pre-op with one of these hands can be better than a call because it gives you a lot more information about the true strength of your opponents hand

Playing small pairs (for our purposes, anything up to pocket eights) in no-limit holdem cash games can be tricky and cost you a lot of money, but there is a simple way to play them that keeps you out of danger. In fact, one of the most protable moves in deep-stacked cash games is set-mining with small pairs. This means calling a raise (although not a re-raise) with a small pair hoping to hit a set on the op. This is usually a well-disguised hand and you can often get a lot of value from players with overpairs. Be careful to only go set-mining if the raise amounts to 10% or less of the effective stacks, as you will only hit a set one in every eight times (and some of those times your hand wont be good). Also be careful not to fall in love with your set on a board where the ush has come.

SMALL PAIRS

KEY POINT
By all means call small raises with small pairs with the intention of hitting a set. However, if you miss and face a bet you must be prepared to let go

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ADJUSTING TO SIX-HANDED GAMES


The rst thing students of holdem usually learn after theyve grasped the basics is some kind of hand selection chart and positional requirements for entering a pot. While these should not be taken as gospel, they can provide a good foundation for pre-op play, as well as helping you to read your opponents likely holdings. When you make the move to six-handed (aka six-max) cash games, you need to reassess your ranges and adjust to the more aggressive game. Below weve outlined some typical hand ranges for six-max no-limit cash, as well as tweaks you can make depending on how your table is playing. This is the most vulnerable seat from which to enter a pot, as you are out of position and have far less pot control. As you move up through the cash levels, position becomes more and more important. As a result you should only really play your best hands when under the gun, plus the odd bluff to keep up appearances.

UNDER THE GUN (UTG)

While that range is denitely protable at most tables, you can open your starting range up a bit more at a tighter table, including all pairs and K-Q offsuit, plus a few more suited connectors. The reason is that your hands will be fairly easy to play post-op, as you are showing serious strength by raising UTG and have the initiative in the hand. If you are at a loose table on the other hand (which will include e-bets lling thre If you most $0.50/$1 and $1/$2 tables), Avoid ca s. d n a h l rgina dont you have to tighten up your range with ma -raised, re t e g d op a e and get rid of the more disguised k raise an ta mpted to of J-J or te e b hands like suited connectors. likes with the luff These wont op big enough often ur-bet b A-10. Fo o g it enough in multi-way pots to be or let protable. Stick to high card value, where you will make bigger pairs with better kickers, which should enable you to extract money. Lose the suited connectors and possibly even 7-7/8-8 and replace those hands with the likes of A-10 offsuit and K-Q offsuit.

ADJUSTING YOUR UTG RANGE

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this Dont do

SOLID UTG RANGE


7-7+ A-J suited+ K-Q suited+ 7-8 suited+

Mid-position is a little easier to play, but not by a lot. You still want to be playing the top end of your range here and not much more. You should re-raise more hands though. Most players UTG raising ranges are tight, and as such you should only be three-betting in mid-position with Q-Q+ and A-K. The problem with J-J and A-Q is that youre never sure whether you are ahead or crushed.

MIDDLE POSITION

The key to cash success


If you want to be a winning cash player, you must stop thinking in terms of specic hands and start thinking in ranges
The key to cash games is the ability to put your opponents on a range of possible hands, and, perhaps more difcult, to know what range theyre putting you on. Thinking in these terms can be a leap for novice players, but dont be daunted a bit of logic and some basic observational skills are all you need. For instance, if a player moves all-in in mid position and you call with A-K, its clear you will often have the best hand. However, this is less important than the underlying logic that states, I believe A-K is ahead of my opponents range for pushing all-in. That range might be A-J through A-K and 7-7 through A-A if he is a tight player or far wider if he is loose. What is important is that the average of your equity against all of these hands is positive. On the other hand, calling all-in with 2-2 against the above player would be suicide, as, while you would be a small favourite half the time, the other half you would be a 4-to-1 underdog. You should always be trying to put your foes on a range of hands rather than one specic hand and assessing how your hand plays against that.

HAND RANGES

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If your table is relatively lively you can re-raise Q-Q, J-J and even 10-10 for value. But versus a tight player you cant be sure if you are blufng or value-raising, which can be confusing on later streets. It is ne to at-call with these hands. In the cut-off you can really start to open up your range. The main point now is that you are often going to have position, and position is ninetenths of the law. Now we can start isolating bad players who limp and re-raising middle-position openers. A standard six-handed raising range in the cut-off looks something like this

PLAYING IN THE CUT-OFF

every one bluff raise will really keep the pressure on. Even in the cut-off you dont really want to be three-betting with junk Broadway hands like K-J and Q-10, but you can denitely add more suited connectors. Your value-betting range should now include 9-9+, A-J suited and K-Q suited, as you will have the initiative and position. This is the most protable seat at the table, so youll want to play a lot of hands here. All you are really after is to nick the blinds and isolate any weak players limping, so you dont need to think twice about raising something playable such as Q-8 suited or 3-5 suited on the button. Stealing the blinds is so important that you should be willing to raise almost every unopened button until the blinds adjust. And when they do, simply tone it down a little then hammer them again once they have cooled off.

G A M E

THE BUTTON

S T R A T E G Y

CUT-OFF RANGE
All your UTG/mid-position range All pairs 5-6 suited+ J-10 offsuit+ A-2 through A-5 suited The Ace-rag hands are really powerful in position as you can put immense pressure on players on some boards and always have good equity. You can add a few more hands to your cut-off range depending on the table, your image and how often you are being played back at from the blinds. Because being in position is so fantastic you can protably raise the following in most games, unless youve just sat down at a random table with no background on the other players.

Steal th eb in full-rin linds! Unlike ADJUSTING YOUR where ste g cash games, aling th BUTTON RANGE e relative blinds is ly u At tighter tables you can probably open short-ha nimportant, in nded ga with any two cards on the button. At mes you need to steal ju looser tables, this simply gets you into stay ao st to at a lot of spots where you feel compelled to

Do this

ADJUSTING YOUR CUT-OFF RANGE

re another barrel on the turn. If in doubt, tighten up. If you still get no respect, completely change your range and go back to playing solid ABC poker it is the logical adjustment.

ADDITIONAL HANDS
Suited one-gappers (i.e. hands such as 7:-9: and 8-10) High suited two-gappers (hands such as J-8+) A-x suited The ability to op a ush draw plus overcards is a huge advantage. You can put lots of pressure on players with a ush draw and will frequently hit some kind of combo draw as well. You should note, however, that adding a bunch of hands in the cut-off is only useful if you are at a good table. If you are getting played back at a lot by the button and blinds then dont raise them. Tighten up a bit at least until your image is repaired.

Generally this is where you should bluff-raise the most and where you can get the most out of line. As you will be last to act on every street you can be condent you are getting the best out of the situation a lot of the time.

RE-RAISING ON THE BUTTON

RE-RAISING IN THE CUT-OFF

To re-raise a mid-position raiser you usually need to maintain a high ratio of value-raises to bluff-raises. Something like four value raises to

At tighter tables you can probably open with any two cards on the button. At looser tables, this simply gets you into a lot of spots where you feel compelled to re again on the turn
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In every cash game you will be faced with many tricky decisions once the op has been dealt. We look at a some post-op dilemmas and winning strategies to make you a master of post-op play

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POST-FLOP DECISIONS

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Once the op has been dealt you can quickly assess how it has likely helped your opponents

O, WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY once those all-important rst three community cards hit the baize? One of the problems with modern poker is that most no-limit tournaments see a lot of hands decided pre-op. In cash games, however, you need to know how to play on every street and with deep stacks the idea of push/fold poker is completely alien. A golden rule to remember is to play big pots with big hands and small pots with marginal hands. This may seem like common sense, but many players get this wrong time after time. Inexperienced cash game players often make small bets when theyre strong because theyre terried of not getting paid. But then they do precisely the opposite with marginal hands, making big bets because they dont want to be outdrawn. Dont make these elementary mistakes. The texture of the op is pivotal to the strength of your hand and your ability to represent hands THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

you dont hold. Obviously if the op improves your hand thats great news. Sadly though, the majority of times it wont. You must be aware of how much a op has helped you. Top pair is a classic example of this. If you hold A-Q and the op comes A-9-2 rainbow youre usually in an extremely strong position. If, however, the op comes A-9-8 with two hearts and you dont hold any, your hand is much more vulnerable. Dont fall into the trap of over-betting your hand and ending up playing a big pot with a marginal hand. To price out most draws you only need to offer your opponents worse odds than 3.5-to-1 on the next card (unless all-ins are involved), and a bet of two-thirds of the pot will comfortably do this. You should also be able to quickly assess the chances of a op helping your opponents, too. For example, if you open the pot for a raise and its called behind you, your opponent(s) are far

Dont fall into the trap of over-betting your hand and playing a big pot with a marginal hand

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less likely to be helped by a op like 6-4-2 than they are by K-Q-J. It can be very protable to bet ops that are unlikely to have helped your opponents. For instance, with a op like Q-5-2 (with no ush draws) you should often bet if no one else has, regardless of your cards, because its very hard for an opponent to call without holding a Queen. If you bet these ops two-thirds of the time they only have to succeed half the time to show a prot, which in low-stakes cash games they will. Whats often forgotten is that the op has implications for your opponents, too. Lets say a reasonably tight opponent opens the pot from early position and its passed round to you in the big blind with 4-4. You decide to call, thinking you have a good idea of his possible hands and hitting a set would make the call worthwhile. The op comes 7-8-9 (with two clubs). You should strongly consider check-raising the op. You should realise the board doesnt help you but it probably petries your opponent if theyve raised with a big pair or two big cards. An alternative play, which may sometimes be more protable, is calling the op and then check-raising the turn.

your prospects of taking the pot down with a bet now are very slim.

KEY POINT
If you have raised pre-op you should generally make a bet on the op, but pay close attention to the op and the number of players in the hand before you do so

Post-op play

CASH GAMES
How to play with top pair on dangerous boards

G A M E S T R A T E G Y

KEY POINT
Reading the op is a very important skill. Make sure you take into account the likelihood of there being a hand out there that beats yours before you get carried away with betting

PLEASE CONTINUE

Continuation-betting is your friend in cash games. By continuation-betting (aka c-betting) we mean that after you have taken the lead by raising pre-op you should continue your action by betting the op. Normally this bet should be about two-thirds of the pot. A lot of the time your opponents hands will not have been helped by the op and they will fold to a bet. In cash games even up to mid stakes you should c-bet a very high percentage of the time. For instance in a $0.50/$1 game you open the pot for $3 with A-K offsuit. Youre called by the big blind, which makes the pot 6.50. The op comes 10-8-2 with two hearts. If the big blind checks to you, you should almost always bet $4-$5 youll nd you very often win the hand there and then. This policy of continuation betting applies unless youre against perceptive opponents who may check-raise you with nothing in this case you need to mix up the times when you bet and check. The number of players in the pot should also have a big effect on your actions after the op. Put simply, the more players involved in the pot the stronger your hand needs to be. For example, we looked at c-betting with A-K against one opponent. Lets say you raise with A-K offsuit in middle position, but get called by four opponents. The op comes 10-8-7 with two clubs; against one opponent you should usually bet, but in this situation you would be crazy to. The chances the op has missed all your opponents is very unlikely. Your hand has not improved and

Your position is, of course, vital on the op. As you play more deep-stacked cash games youll start to appreciate just how critical having position is. For example, lets say you limp in late position with A-4 suited. Five players take the op of A-9-6. If its checked to you, with a reasonable degree of condence you can bet that you currently hold the best hand. Contrast this with being in early position in the same situation when its hard to know if you have the only Ace and checking is probably the best play. One of the reasons you should look to enter more pots in late position is to pick up your fair share on the op with nothing make sure you dont miss these opportunities. When youve raised before the op and been called behind its often right to check a lot of your hands. If the player behind you bets out you have a lot of options. If you like your hand or think you can dissuade your opponent from liking their hand you can check-raise. You could also at-call with the plan to take the pot away on the turn or muck at minimal cost. Meeting resistance on the op in a low-stakes cash game is something you should take very seriously. Players at the lower levels rarely make sophisticated plays like calling on the op with nothing planning to win the pot on the turn. If youre meeting resistance, either from a call or a raise, it means they have something. Now this something may not necessarily be a made hand, but at the very least it will be a strong draw. One of the toughest decisions youll face regularly in a cash game is whether or not to re the second bullet (bet again) when your initial bet on the op is called. If you dont hold a strong hand and have had your post-op continuation bet called, you should often check the turn. For instance, if you hold A-K and havent paired your hand you should probably shut down after the op and try to play the hand as cheaply as possible. You should know that novice and intermediate players very rarely check-raise as a bluff. If youre check-raised on the op you should take it seriously and usually only continue with a strong hand or a draw that you will be paid off on if you hit. At lower-level cash games the pattern of calling a bet on the op and then check-raising the turn is how the majority of players play their strong hands. When you op a strong hand, such as two-pair or better, you should be calculating how to get money in the pot straight away and on later

POSITIONAL SENSE

Youre in a $0.10/$0.20 no-limit holdem cash game. You hold A-K; under the gun and raise to $0.80. Both the cut-off and button call. The pot is now $2.70.

The op comes A-9-10. You have opped top pair but the board is very dangerous so you need to bet out to nd out where you stand.

FIRE AT WILL

Both players fold, and you win a small pot. Its vital to bet these ops when out of position, as with so many draws out there you cant afford to give away free cards, and if you check-call you are playing in the dark. Top pair is rarely the winning hand by the river in cash games so make sure you dont try to get too clever with hands such as this on very draw-heavy ops. Bet out and see how your opponents react.

DANNY BIRD

CONTINUATION BET (OR C-BET) A bet made after the op by the player who took the lead in the pre-op betting

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Post-op play

CASH GAMES
A look at getting value with a big hand against a LAG

You are playing in a $0.10/$0.20 no-limit holdem cash game. You have 10;-10 on the button. The cut-off raises to $0.80. You call.

The pot is $1.90. The op comes 10:-5-4;. The cut-off bets $1.60. He is a loose-agressive player. You have opped a huge hand, but you should call to allow him to continue to bluff at the pot on the turn.

streets. A lot of your pre-op decisions are Remember, playing the players is everything predicated on the implied odds available from and the further through the hand you get the the big stacks. If you cant get paid off when you more important it becomes in your decisionmake strong hands this strategy is awed. making. You must always be aware of who is in As such, you need to be clear about the best the hand with you. strategy for getting paid off in the game youre playing. Very often in lower-stakes games this WHEN TO SLOW DOWN will be taking the lead in the betting. Players Lets say, you are playing in a $3/$6 six-handed tend to call too much in no-limit cash games game. On your right is a very aggressive player and you should be charging them for trying called Phil. Hes by far the worst player at the to outdraw you. table and he likes to gamble. Hes been raising More importantly youve got a big hand so any two cards and will call re-raises lightly. You u check pl you want to play a big pot. If you have been playing a patient style waiting n the op and bet a small amount on to bust him and eventually you pick up the turn trying to sucker him in K:-K on the button. ly Whe Phil raises to $18 you smile its extremely hard to get properly When ts be ke your you paid. Remember you want your to yourself and stick in a re-raise, a m e t v n Do you ha on to $45 as you dont want to opponents entire stack and but only ll when ly e rs e v too sma n o nd and c et too youre not going to get that by scare him off. He calls, and the op a big ha b nic and a p t putting in a massive overbet on is Q:-J-8. After Phil checks you n o ave d h u o y n he the river massage that pot and lead out for $80 into a $99 pot and much w l hands margina insta get his money in there and then. are instantly re-raised to $160. You ce of Slow-playing does have its place call, making the pot $419. ssive poin youre in trouble, and lets course. If you encounter an aggressive At this point opponent or one whos taking the lead because look at why. For a start, your re-raise pre-op was air to your set) he has a hand (lets say an overpair way too small. All yo you are doing there is giving then it may be correct to trap him. Apart from Phil the odds to call with any of his raising range, your desire to build the pot you should also thereby not dening his range at all. Then on the take into account the number of players and op you make quite a large bet. Youre right to be the texture of the op; theres a big difference worried about draws, because even though the between opping bottom set on a dangerous op isnt massively connected you dont want to 6-7-8 (suited) board than there is on a Q-7-2 give away free cards. But when you are checkraised its a tough decision. board. You would almost never want to slow-play on the rst board but youre much less likely to Would he really be check-raising a tight player be beaten or drawn out on with the second, here without a hand that beats top pair? You are where slow-playing becomes a viable option. way behind to Q-J, Q-8, J-8, J-J, Q-Q, A-A, 8-8 and

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this Dont do

The turn comes K and the cut-off bets out $3. Here you can raise to $7 as you want to start building a pot and you also dont want to allow your opponent to draw to a backdoor ush or straight. If he has a King its likely he will at least call and he may even re-raise you with many hands you crush so dont be afraid to raise for value.

TERMINOLOGY
CALLING STATION A derogatory term to describe a player who consistently calls bets and rarely (if ever) raises, regardless of the strength of his/her hand

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9-10, all of which are possibilities given Phils previous hands. As such, you should have reluctantly folded here as the only range you can assign to Phil where he would possibly check-raise with a worse hand would be A-Q, K-Q and if he was playing really loosely, 10-K, A-K and A-J. Anything else just seems unlikely. The turn is the 8: and Phil bets $200, leaving only $200 behind. You call. The turn isnt actually a bad card for you as it counterfeits J-Q and also might make Phil think twice. The fact that you called the op re-raise almost commits you to calling Phils turn bet. However, you should be far more inclined to shove all-in than just call on the turn as the call is committing you to the hand anyway. The river is the 10, making the nal board read Q:-J-8-8:-10. Phil is all-in for $200 and you reluctantly call, as you are pot-committed by this point. You can be pretty certain you are behind but the odds are simply too good. Phil shows J;-8; and wins a $1,200+ pot. This hand shows how its very easy to get caught up in a hand with an overpair and end up screaming at the screen when your K-K is beaten by J-8. Many players will go diving in headrst with overpairs and not even bother to stop and look at whats going on. ng What if your overpair is not as strong as K-K? What if you have 10-10 on a lowish, textured board in a multiway pot? Lets say you make a pre-op raise in the small blind and get two callers. The op comes

Its very easy to get caught up in a hand with an overpair and end up screaming at the screen when your K-K is beaten by J-8

SEMI-BLUFFING

Blufng in position
Raise in position and take advantage of your opponents weaknesses
Semi-blufng is often a strong play especially when in position. Semi-blufng is betting when you probably dont have the best hand at that point but may improve to a winning hand. And by doing it youre giving yourself two ways to win as you might take the pot right then and there or, if called, you might make your hand on the turn or river. You should look to do this much more from late position because if your opponents have shown weakness you have a better chance of taking the pot. In fact, you should often check your draws from early position on the op because if you bet an opponent can make a big raise and price you out of your draw.

G A M E S T R A T E G Y

LOWER OVERPAIRS

Bet your conden overpairs with ce until faced w a call, a ith raise or a drawheavy b oard. Yo u can th re-evalu en ate whe re you are in th e hand

Do this

7:-5:-4 and you bet the full pot only to see both players calling. You are left in no mans land, not knowing what youre up against. There are very few good turn cards for you, as an Ace, King, Queen and Jack all give overcards and 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 all give straight or set possibilities not to mention the fact that any club could ll a ush. Im not saying youre not miles ahead of hands like 9-9 or A-7, but you must be very wary as this is a spot where its easy to lose a very big pot by being blind to the reality of the situation. In general, you should be making good money from overpairs. Dont slow-play them unless you have a good read because you will invariably get caught out and end up trapping yourself. Bet them with condence until you face a call or a raise by an opponent, or until a really draw-heavy board forces you to stand back and re-evaluate your hand. Finally, never fall into the trap of assuming your hand is the winner. After all, how many big cash game pots do you see being won by a single pair other than all-in pre-op hands? Not many Ill bet.

Not all drawing hands are equal


The value of draws hinges on whether youll get paid off if you hit
Drawing hands present a big challenge in no-limit holdem cash games. The worth of your draw is not just based on your cards but also on how often, and to what degree, you can get paid when you make your hand. For this reason against observant opponents straight draws often have more value than ush draws as theyre harder to spot and will be paid off more often. Dont make the mistake of calling with your draws thinking, Im not getting the right pot odds but Ill get his whole stack if I hit. Even poor players will often slow down when the ush card comes. Also, be aware that if you call a bet with a draw on the op and miss on the turn you may face a bigger bet on the turn. Youll need to build up your experience to know when you can call with incorrect pot odds because youll make more chips if you hit.

THE DANGER OF DRAWS

Be wary of boards with a lot of straight and ush possibilities

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Extracting Extr Ex trac tr acti ac ting ti ng m maximum axim ax imum im um valu va value lue lu e is t the he key key t to o be bein being ing in g a lo long long-term ng-t ng -ter -t erm er m winner winn wi nner nn er i in n no-l no no-limit -lim -l imit im it holdem hol old dem d em c cash ash as h game ga games. mes. me s. Here Her ere e we show sho how w you yo u ho how w to d do o it right the th e ri righ ght gh t way way

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t e g o t w Ho

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XTRACTING MAXIMUM XTRACT XTR ACTING ACT ING MA MAXIM XIMUM XIM UM VALUE VALUE earning means mea ns ear earnin ning nin g as as much much money money as possible from hands where you have a positive expectation. Whenever you win a hand and fail to get the maximum reward possible, you are theoretically losing money. Of course, this is not a precise science, so we have to judge how much money we can squeeze out of our opponent when we have the best hand without chasing him away or, conversely, letting him off too cheaply. A very basic example is opping top set on a 5-8-J rainbow op. We could bet the minimum on every street and would very often get three streets of value, but would rarely win a decent pot with a very strong hand unless our opponent raised. We could instead overbet each street, but most often we will see our opponent fold prematurely and only win a small pot. We need to nd the middle ground that will extract the maximum value in the long run. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

So, ho how w do do we we go go about abou abou bout t deci d deciding ecidin eci ding din g how how muc much h when? to bet an and d when w hen? hen ? The The following follow fol lowing low ing ar are e some some of the the things we need to consider HAND STRENGTH COMPARED TO OPPONENTS RANGE Hand-reading skills are the key to extracting maximum value. Only when we can condently assign a range of hands to our opponents can we use this information to our advantage and successfully win the maximum amount. By knowing which hands our opponents may have we can decide how much they are willing to pay, even if they are not condent of winning.

OPPONENTS HAND STRENGTH COMPARED TO OUR PERCEIVED RANGE We need to work out not only what our opponent has, but also what our opponent is guessing we have. We can then play on his expectations and exploit them. We need to think about what worse

Hand-reading skills are key. Only when we can condently assign a range of hands can we successfully win the maximum amount

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hands our opponent could have that he can call with, and how much he would be prepared to call based on the strength of his hand compared to his assumptions about ours. BOARD TEXTURE This often tells us whether to speed up or slow down when we think we have the best hand. Obviously the way we play top set on an uncoordinated board will be completely different from the way we play top pair on a draw-heavy board. The board texture needs to be taken into account alongside all our other information.

EXTRACTING VALUE IN PRACTICE

Once everything is considered we can make an informed decision as to how we can play the hand optimally and win the biggest pot possible versus weaker hands. Lets take a look at three example hands and then discuss some of the thought processes and decisions involved.

KEY POINT
Once youre condent youve got the best hand you need to form a plan to extract maximum value, taking into account all the factors listed here. Every situation is different, so dont get complacent

G A M E

SCENARIO 1

S T R A T E G Y

OPPONENTS PLAYING STYLE Every playing style has an optimum counter-style. When trying to extract value this may include betting big on every street with a top-pair hand against a bad calling station, or slowing down against a good TAG with a strong hand in order to set up a river bet or in order to induce a bluff. It may be even more specic than this, for example if someone is frequently three-betting then continuation-betting the pot but often folding to a four-bet. Against this player we may want to just at-call with our A-A and let our opponent bet the op for us.

You are playing in a six-handed $1/$2 no-limit holdem game. Everyone has a full stack. The player in the big blind has been fairly loose post-op, calling down with marginal hands fairly frequently. You have only shown down legitimate hands so far in the session. ith Q-10 PRE-FLOP You are in the cut-off with dard dar d and open-raise to $7 a fairly standard ind raise from late position. The big blind calls. We cant yet assume too much han about our opponents hand other than ited over-exc oing that he probably doesnt have junk. ont get g

EXTRACTING VALUE

this Dont do

POSITION Its obviously much easier to extract value when playing in position as we have the luxury of our opponent acting before us post-op. Extracting value is not easy though when out of position as we are often playing blind. We may prefer to keep the pot small with more marginal hands that we would be betting for maximum value when in position. In other words, we may want to be playing a stronger range of hands for value when out of position compared to when in position.

FLOP Q:-10;-8: (pot $15). The big blind checks, you bet $12 and he aws calls. The op contains a lot of draws so slow-playing here is a no-no. His check-call suggests he has caught dent den t and and something but is not overly condent th a marginal marg marg argina inal ina l may be trying to play a small pot with also o be be awar a ware war e made hand and/or draw. We should als aware that he might be trapping. TURN Q:-10;-8:-3: (pot $39). The big blind checks, you bet $32 and he calls. We know that any ush draw hit but we cant check here and give a free card as the board is now extremely draw-heavy. We arent pot-committing ourselves here and should be fairly condent that our top two-pair is ahead when our opponent only calls.

D oure u know y alm and when yo yc ta S pot. lls, to win a timing te ff o g in iv rn tu ll e avoid g w ight as or you m nd face up your ha

STACK SIZES Sometimes, against short-stackers, its easy to let them do your work for you. Theres just no need to think too much about maximum value as hands that progress past the op will often result in an all-in situation anyway. When playing deep though its much tougher to get opponents to commit a lot of chips to the pot with a worse marginal hand. They have much more to lose and this often creates unease in players and makes them play more conservatively.

SIZE OF POT Not only do we need to base our betting around the size of the current pot, but often we need a plan to get the pot size to where we want it. We may, for example, want to put enough money into the pot on the turn, which if called, will leave a three-quarter pot shove on the river.

OUR TABLE IMAGE Obviously, the looser our image the easier we will nd it to extract value with our winning hands. Conversely, if our image is super-tight, we will nd it much more difcult to get paid off. We need to be aware of our image and play in a way that takes advantage of it.

RIVER Q:-10;-8:-3:-J (pot $103). The big blind checks, you bet $50 and he calls. The big blind calls and shows K:-Q; and you win the $203 pot. Even though the river brought a lot of straights, our hand still plays well against his range. Can our villain really have a nine or A-K here? Would he check the river with a straight or a ush? Against this player in this specic spot we feel we still have a positive expectation so make a small value bet. Hands we lose to other than ushes and straights (which we have discounted) are Q-J and J-J. We do, however, beat missed straight draws and other paired hands including K-K and A-A. By betting small on the river we are asking our opponent to make a fairly cheap call with a hand that we judge to have some showdown value. By offering over 3-to-1 pot odds we can induce a call with a worse hand such as A-Q, K-Q, J-10, and one-pair hands with a club such as A:-10. OVERALL ANALYSIS There were a couple of occasions in the hand where it would have been easy to slow down and try to keep the pot small, when in fact, the safest option and the biggest reward came from betting THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

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S T R A T E G Y

all streets for value. We could have Checking back, however, gives our opponent a said, The board is now very scary and chance to hit something. It may also convince were happy to win this $100 pot without him that a made weak hand such as 3-3 is good. risking any more money although we think Whats more, he may try to bluff the turn. were ahead. This is a perfectly acceptable We should normally be betting the turn if its line against some opponents, but against checked to us again, hoping our opponent has someone who is happy to call down with picked up a little something. This is a basic poor hands we should be taking advantage play that doesnt require too much thought or and making him pay. planning but goes to show that bet-bet-bet is Some of the time we will lose the hand and not always the optimal line to take. other times we will be check-raised and forced value lue to fold. But by betting all streets for va make we are forcing our opponent to make oney one y BLUF BL UFFUF FBLUFF-CATCHING tough decisions and put more money One scenario scena sc ena where checking into the pot with what will be can make ma us money is when we most often, in our opinion, a s s e htl speci spe ci specically want our opponent to worse hand. If in the above hand ke thoug Dont ma river. Always e bluff blu ff because we think it unlikely he we thought our expectation th n r fo g in bets o tt e youre b would wou ld call a bet with a worse hand. was slightly negative, due to a know if . Dont as a bluff to a r o e This works w This best in spots where a slightly different read on the lu a v in d n a h ade missed draw is our opponents most missed player or just a different feel turn a m a t u o h bluff wit on likely holding ho likely and we are out of about the hand, we could instead s good rea positi pos ition. iti on. Lets look at an example. position. check behind on the river.

G A M E

C A S H

this Dont do

SCENAR SCENARIO 2

think nk we hav have e Making the most money when we thi the best hand doesnt necessarily mean we are betting every street expecting to be called by a worse hand. Sometimes slowing down may actually win us more money. Theres no point opping a monster then betting for value only to see our opponent insta-fold. We have to weigh up our opponents range against the texture of the board, our own hand and also against what our opponent thinks we may have. Then we can try to work out which line will bring maximum reward. For instance, lets say we raise from the button pre-op with 9-9 and get called by a bad passive player in the big blind. The op comes 5-5-9 and its checked to us. Our opponents range is big but doesnt include too many nines or ves, as ve of the eight cards are already accounted for. Betting here will only get value from some pocket pairs and everything else will be folded.

SLOWING IT DOWN

The big big blind has been playing lots PRE-FLOP The hands and seems seems to be a bit tilted. We both of hands have full stacks. In a $1/$2 six-max cash game we open-raise to $7 from the small blind with A-J and the big blind calls (pot $14). FLOP J:-10:-3. We lead out for $10 and the big blind calls (pot $34). TURN J:-10:-3-5. We lead again for $24 and the big blind calls (pot $82). RIVER J:-10:-3-5-7;. We check, the big blind bets $65, we call. The big blind shows A:-9: and we take down the $212 pot. We were fairly sure that our top pair, top kicker hand was ahead on this draw-heavy board, so we bet the op and turn for value. The river was fairly safe-looking and our opponents hand seems heavily weighted towards missed draws. We could bet here and hope to be called by worse but we hate it if he shoves, and weve gained nothing if our read is good and he folds. There are still times where value-betting the river is the correct play, but when we are sure our villain has a busted draw and will bluff, we should check.

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C A S H

Ideally, before we try to induce a bluff we want to have fullled certain criteria. We want an opponent with a history of blufng, who is fairly aggressive with made hands (such that hed tend to raise the op or turn with hands that beat us), while being fairly passive with drawing hands. We also want our opponent to have more missed-draw possibilities than made-hand possibilities. Lets look at some possible hands our opponent can hold in this spot.

POSSIBLE OPPONENT RANGES

WE BEAT 1 DRAWS All A:-x: as well as other ush draws, straight draws and combo draws. These hands make up most of our opponents range. There are more than 50 possible hand combinations! We feel our opponent has a missed draw more than 60% of the time in this scenario betting will get no value from him and may even induce a bluff-shove that would be very difcult for us to call. Checking gives him the option of blufng.

We must assess our opponents likely hand strength based on a range of criteria, including board texture, history and feel

SCENARIO 3

On occasion, we need to bet for value on all streets. In the previous example we decided our opponents most likely holding was a missed draw and we checked the river to induce a bluff. In the next similar hand, on a draw-heavy board, we can spot some subtle differences and change our play accordingly. PRE-FLOP Its a $1/$2 six-max cash game and effective stacks are $200. The big blind has been playing lots of hands and seems like he overvalues hands. We open-raise to $7 from the small blind with A:-Q and get a call from the big blind (pot $14). FLOP Q:-J:-3. We lead out for $10 and the big blind calls (pot $34). TURN Q:-J:-3-8. We lead again for $24 and the big bind calls (pot $82). RIVER Q:-J:-3-8-7;. DRAWS WE BEAT This time, our opponent has far fewer draws in his range. We have the A:, so many of his likely ush draws are gone. There are also fewer open-ended straight-draw possibilities on this op. That leaves us hands like K-10, K-9 suited, and some suited club connectors and K:-x: type hands that are drawing.

SPEEDING UP

G A M E S T R A T E G Y

HANDS THAT BEAT US We are only losing this hand a small percentage of the time. Two-pair hands arent very common in an unraised post-op pot, although hands like 10-7 and J-10 cannot be ect sets sets and discounted. We would normally expect ge and overpairs to have raised at some stage the non-clubbed 8-9 hands to have folded on the turn. If we check, we should be losing the least money Practise you against better hands as we are not skills! Ev r hand-reading giving our foe a chance to raise. involved en if youre not

POSSIBLE OPPONENT RANGES

Do this

hands an ranges w HANDS WE BEAT d ill impro 3 MADE ve your hand-rea T THAT MAY CALL A RIVER BET ding no end ite As well as K-J and Q-J, there are quite a few hands containing a ten that we asked ked beat that may call a small river bet if as foldi fo lding ldi ng after after to. Often, however, we will see tens folding board. rd. Thats That Th ats at s three streets of betting on a scary boa not to say, though, that value-betting the river is incorrect against some opponents if we have sufcient reads and information to tell us that we will likely be called by worse. This is not an exact science and involves a lot of educated guesswork, but the previous example shows its difcult for us to get value out of betting the river, and we may sometimes even get bluffed off the best hand. By contrast, checking may induce a bluff from our opponent with over 60% of his range as well as controlling the pot size with what is, after all, only top pair, top kicker. The downside to checking is the value missed when our opponent has a worse made hand and checks back, but this is more than compensated for by the times he bluffs or checks back a better hand.

in a h opponen and, guessing ts

HANDS THAT BEAT US These include 10-9, two-pair hands and sometimes overpairs or sets, although, as in the previous example, we would expect our opponent to take a different line with these.

MADE HANDS WE BEAT THAT MAY CALL A RIVER BET These are all one-pair hands (K-Q, Q-10, Q-9) a total of 24 possible combinations and we would expect to be called most of the time. A-J, K-J, J-10, J-9, 10-10, 9-9 equate to more than 50 combinations, but we would expect to be called less frequently, depending on our bet sizing. In this example, our opponents range is much more heavily weighted to a made hand rather than a draw. Here, it would be better to put in a value bet on the river and hope to be called by a worse hand. As such, we bet $52 into $82, get called by Q-10 and win the $186 pot.

OVERALL ANALYSIS As we are working with imperfect information, we must assess our opponents likely hand strength based on a range of criteria, including board texture, history, notes, table dynamics and feel. When looking for maximum value, handreading is an important skill that should be practised whenever possible. Only with good understanding of our opponents range can we decide just how much money he is willing to part with, and whether hes willing to bet or call. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

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LEARN FROM THE MASTERS

King of the old-school cash game grinders, Doyle Brunson explains how he fought off the bad guys of Vegas to nd himself at the top of the tree
OR DOYLE BRUNSON HIMSELF A WINNER of back-to-back main event crowns in 1976 and 1977 the glory of tournament success has always come secondary to money. In Brunsons world, the game is at its best at the cash game tables, where survival demands the instincts of a poker genius and the guts and brawn of a road gambler. Ive always played poker for a living, he says, his Texan drawl not quite as deep as you may expect. If you didnt win, you didnt eat. The guys who play in tournaments today are good. But stick them in the big cash games, and they wouldnt survive. Cash game players are better players. Its a totally different environment. After a promising basketball career was ended with a horric leg injury, Brunson discovered poker and found he could make more money from playing in one day than he could from a whole months salary. At rst, poker was simply a way of making money but he quickly developed a skill-set that dened his lifes path. It was obvious from an early age that I was better at poker than most, says Brunson. I could just see things and remember them. People ask me how I remember so many hands; I remember thousands of hands against thousands of players. Early on, I would remember how people would act, what they did in certain situations. Id think back, work on what was the best course of action and act accordingly. Its like a sixth sense something Ive always had. On the outside, Doyle Brunsons persona is a difcult one to gauge. He offers all the pleasantries youd expect from a gentleman of his stature. But theres also an edge to his character. For years, his gambling appetite took him into pokers most dangerous waters in a world far removed from todays Hollywood high-rollers. It was an education earned the hard way, playing in games run by organised crime groups across Americas south throughout the late 1950s and 60s. Poker was always about winning, but it was never a time for careless minds. I travelled to all the games across the south, says Brunson, his look becoming more piercing as if to add effect. It was a dangerous time. There was always trouble and there were always bad people around you. It was never a safe environment to be in. But that was how we earned our money. Its this fearless approach to gambling that has taken Brunson to where he sits today. The wide stetson sits on one of the toughest nuts in poker: a hard-nosed gambler from the old school, a man who realises the importance

DOYLE BRUNSON

C A S H

G A M E S :

of risk-taking, always willing to put his neck on the line and ready to rely on that gut feeling. I take risks when I have to, he says. I have the urge to gamble and Im convinced all the top cash game players are compulsive gamblers because we all have to do it. He admits getting married in 1962 helped to settle him down. But the earning potential of poker was too great an incentive to ignore. And, when he moved to Vegas in the 1970s, the dangers on the Strip would never temper his hunger for cash games where the action involved anyone from hotel owners to drug dealers. Vegas was a dishonest place when I rst arrived, he recalls. Pretty much everything that went on was illegal. But poker was probably the most honest part of gambling. And cash games back when I rst arrived were easier than they are now. Trust me, nothing gave me more satisfaction than taking money off a drug dealer. When the boys from the south brought Texas holdem out here, it was always going to take time for other players to acquire the skills needed. It was a good time, I can tell ya.

BRUNSON FACTS

EYE FOR A WINNER

MR TOUGH GUY

Despite his love of the cash game environment and his determination to be recognised as a master in that eld rst, Brunson remains proud of his tournament record. Ten WSOP bracelets are testament to his pre-eminence over many of the luckbox winners the Series has thrown up over the years. But he still clearly places most value on his double main event success some 30 years ago, as his victories came against the best players in the world. There were no weak players back then. Tournaments today have brought a new breed of player. Back when I won, everywhere you looked there were strong players. Today you can play the main event and not even come across a good player in days. With over 50 years of poker behind him, Big Papa is well-placed to assess the standards of poker today. Poker has certainly been good to Brunson, despite the dangers the game has brought to his life. He has treated poker as an earner of money rather than an earner of fame although one has complemented the other. And, his success is down to more than risk-taking. Brunson remains a student of the game with an unrivalled passion for it. Even at his age, the craving for action stems from a deep commitment to success. I believe my passion has played a part in making me who I am. I was always determined. I love the game. Hell, I plan on playing poker for another 20 years.

Name Doyle Brunson Lives Las Vegas Live tournament winnings $5,819,350 WSOP bracelets 10 Highest main event nish Back-to-back main event wins in 1976 and 1977

Back when I won, everywhere you looked there were strong players. Today, you can play the main event and not even come across a good player in days

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C A S H

G A M E S :

L E A R N

F R O M

T H E

M A S T E R S

MOVING ON UP
T
HE REAL CHALLENGE OF POKER is being a consistently winning player over a lifetime, and that means nurturing a bankroll and moving up through the cash limits. Sure, it takes time and effort. But as compensation youll know youre a complete poker player, youll have beaten every level, and youll have a stack of cash so you can buy your own massive cheque and write it to yourself. Many of todays high-stakes regulars worked their way up through the levels now its your turn to join them!

S T R A T E G Y G A M E

To make poker work for you over the long-term you need to ensure you are always learning and progressing playing at the correct level to your ability and growing your bankroll. To aid this progress we present a guide to moving up through the limits in cash games
particularly if you can move all-in without it being ridiculous. Very often youre facing players whose only thought is whether to call or not, and not about considering the size of the bet. A classic situation in these games is holding A-K, pairing your Ace and out-kicking your opponents A-x. In these spots its essential you get every cent. You will nd some maniacs at these limits who dont care because the money is small. Dont let this faze you quickly identify them and just call them down with a wider range than you would a normal opponent. Youll also be playing a lot of multi-way pots its not uncommon to nd tables at these stakes with 35% or more of players in a full ring game seeing the op. Compare this to a $1/$2 game where its rare for this number to go above 25%. The key is to not get involved in the limp-fest too often, although if you do, remember that hands like 8-7 suited go up in value while hands like A-J offsuit are danger hands that play very poorly in multi-way pots. Finally, the most important thing is to learn as much about playing no-limit cash as you can at this level. Start as you mean to go on, so buy tracking software, analyse your results, use learning materials to improve and play with focus. Youll be able to beat the games without doing all this, but its all about getting yourself ready for the higher games.

C A S H

LIMIT: $0.05/$0.10 BANKROLL GUIDELINE: 20 buy-ins $200 Welcome to no-foldem holdem. Youre on the nursery slopes and things are sticky and by things I mean the cards to the players hands. Here you make money by almost never blufng and betting your big hands strongly; the players here want to go to value town and youre the driver. Youll sometimes hear players say they hate playing against bad players, quoting the eternal line, If they dont know what theyre doing how can I know? know? This is absolute rubbish if you cant win here you wont win at the higher limits. At e up mov at this limit y youll see a barrel load of t n u do e th mistakes but the critical ones are re yo n. Ensur ing u s e Mak l too soo rly beat e that your opponents will play too e la h a lev are regu d have t many hands, hand they will overvalue n e a h t e you am ake those hands han and call too much. the g roll to m . bank step up They will also overvalue their draws and, again, call too much. Finally, they wont bet their hands well for value. In short, theyll t call too much when behind and not bet often enough when ahead.

MICRO-STAKES

this o d t Don

KEY POINT
Play solid poker Bet your big hands strongly Bluff very infrequently

IN ORDER TO BEAT THIS T LIMIT YOU NEED: To shut away your aggro self and play solid poker, blufng infrequently and playing your hands for value. Make sure you really squeeze loose players for every penny. For example, if opponents are calling a lot pre-op, consider making raises of ve or six times the big blind after all, whenever the call you with worse theyre they mak making a mistake. Extend the same logic to your post-op pla when you have a play strong hand consider ove overbetting the pot,

TERMINOLOGY
CHECK-CALL A check followed by a call of any bet by your opponent

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LIMIT: $0.25/$0.50 BANKROLL GUIDELINE: 25 BUY-INS $1,250 A couple of years ago, most of what youve just read about $0.05/$0.10 applied to this limit too, but things have changed in online poker. As wrong as it may seem, there are now people at $0.25/$0.50 actually trying hard to win! This limit has therefore become a transitional one still full of sh but also of players like you aspiring to get better. The good news is that its not difcult to spot whos who, and the even better news is that even the regular players at this limit have big weaknesses you can exploit. Lets focus on the players at this limit who are trying to play well. Typically, they have two key weaknesses. The rst is that they play very predictably. They have often learnt to play with starting hand charts and, when they raise under the gun you can put them on a very specic range of hands. Second, they often play weak-tight after the op. This means they go into check-call mode when worried about their hand and make far too many folds in spots where they should commit. In contrast to $0.05/$0.10 there will be fewer limped pots and far more raised pots, either heads-up or three-way. Look to isolate weaker players and play in position. Make sure you open up a bit and push your comfort zone further at each limit to really improve your game. Having got the basics at the lower limits enough to make you protable by the way you should really start focusing on your hand-reading skills. Put your opponents on a range, understand what theyll do with that range and adjust your play accordingly. This is the skill that will slowly develop for years as you move up the ranks.

LOW-STAKES

LIMIT: $1/$2 BANKROLL GUIDELINE: 30 buy-ins $6,000 Make no mistake, these days $1/$2 is a tough poker game to beat. These players dont make the big mistakes of lower limit players and arent afraid to commit their stack on a big call, semi-bluff or total bluff if the moment is right. The good news is there are still sh, and the better news is you can develop the game to beat regulars with hard work and application. You wont be able to avoid the regulars completely, but there are still bad regulars that you can exploit. These are players who have run good and dont belong at this limit or are good enough to beat the sh but still have big leaks. Observe players and try to spot the mistakes they make or patterns they repeat. Some multi-tablers fall into predictable habits for example, some will continuation-bet almost every op, making it very protable to check-raise bluff them a lot. The big difference, as you start moving into mid-stakes, is the level of aggression youll face, particularly from regulars. Youll sometimes need to ght re with re, increasing your aggression and sometimes use these players aggression against them by inducing bluffs and mistakes. At this limit you really need to start being a complete, exible player, dealing with situations as they come up rather than to a preset formula. For example, if you have 7:-5: in the cut-off with aggressive players on the button and in the small blind, it may be a fold. But with the same hand under the gun, a good table image and a sh in the big blind, you might want to raise it.

MID-STAKES

Youll sometimes need to ght re with re by increasing your own aggression and using opponents aggression against them by inducing bluffs and mistakes

C A S H G A M E S T R A T E G Y

DANNY BIRD

KEY POINT
Look to exploit those who play predictably Isolate the weaker players at the table Focus on improving hand-reading skills

KEY POINT
Game selection is key Games will be much more aggressive Be exible play the situations not the cards

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LEARN FROM THE MASTERS

One of the leaders of the new school of online pros, Phil Galfond explains his amazing rise to the top and how money hasnt changed him

PHIL GALFOND

Phil Galfond is a 24-year-old high-stakes online pro from Wisconsin. He regularly plays the best players in the world in cash games ranging from $50/$100 to $500/$1,000. He is very well known in the online world with his alias, OMGClayAiken, attracting legions of online railbirds. WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE POKER AND WHAT SKILLS HAVE ALLOWED YOU TO EXCEL AT IT? I was a college student studying philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, though I dropped out after ve semesters. Ive always excelled at maths and logic. I think those two areas are very important to being a good poker player. Psychology is the third that Id consider most important, which I also feel strong in. WHATS THE STORY BEHIND YOUR SCREEN NAME? OMGClayAiken was just a funny name I thought up. [Clay Aiken was the runner-up on season two of American Idol]. Most people like to have toughsounding screen names and I think thats stupid. HOW DID YOU GET TO THE TOP? I didnt play holdem until I was 19. I started with sit&gos on PartyPoker and played them for a while, grinding my way up from $10 to $100 tourneys in the rst year of my career. Then I moved up to the $200 ones and took shots at the new $1,000 sit&gos. After that I switched to $5/$10 no-limit cash games, which was probably a bit high, but I picked it up very quickly and never had to drop down in stakes. I grinded up to $10/$20, then took shots at $25/$50 and $50/$100 on other sites when the games were good and ran very badly. So, I dropped down to $5/$10 and grinded back. I rebuilt my roll and eventually tried the bigger games again. I havent really looked back since. WHAT BANKROLL APPROACH DID YOU TAKE TO MOVE UP SO FAST AND WOULD YOU RECOMMEND OTHERS TO FOLLOW IT? Ive taken some gambles with my roll, but have never been in danger of losing it all. I take shots in good games when I can afford to and I know that I can move back down if need be. Some people take a shot and then cant move back down if they lose. They end up losing everything. I think that most people should be conservative with their bankroll because a big loss can

be damaging psychologically and end up costing them a lot more money. Ive found that Im fairly mentally strong when it comes to dealing with losses.
WHAT DO YOU THINK SETS YOU APART AS A PLAYER? Frankly, I think Im smarter than most other players. I certainly dont study or work as hard as some of the other greats, although I do think about the game a lot. I think I handle different player types better than most people. I adjust well when my opponent likes to bluff, or when they are a bit of a calling station. Many good players just play a style and dont alter it enough for different opponents. Im also well-known for making big calls. I nd spots where players arent representing any real hand better than most people. Some players with bottom pair will fold to a big bet on the river without bothering to think about what their opponent might have. WHAT IS YOUR DAY TO DAY LIFE LIKE? I have a lot of great friends within poker, but most of my friends in Madison have no poker experience. I like it that way. I have no schedule at all. I often wake up at a completely different hour every day. When Im not playing poker I like to hang out with friends. CAN YOU GIVE US AN IDEA OF WHAT YOUVE MADE FROM POKER AND WHAT YOUVE DONE WITH IT? Id rather not be specic about my lifetime winnings. I do okay but Im not a baller. Ive never bought anything over $5,000 aside from my apartment. I dont own a car. I dont really see the point in showing off. THE HIGH-STAKES GAMES SEEM INSANELY AGGRESSIVE. IS THIS A REFLECTION OF THE POWER OF AGGRESSION IN NO-LIMIT HOLDEM? Aggression is a very powerful tool. Many people ght aggression with aggression. That isnt the only way to do it, but its probably the easiest. This results in the hyper-aggro games that you see. As far as strategy adjustments go, this means calling down with weak hands, pushing back and thinking on very high levels. WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF IN 10 YEARS TIME? I would like to think Ill be retired with a family and only playing poker casually. A lot depends on how successful I am in the near future and what non-poker opportunities show up.

GALFOND FACTS

Name Phil Galfond Nickname OMGClayAiken Jman Lives New York Live tournament winnings $939,384 Biggest live win $5,000 pot-limit Omaha in 2008 for $817,781

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GALFONDS TOP TIPS


The cash game genius has some tips for the top

F R O M

Aggression is important, but you dont need to be aggro to win. Nothing can replace pure intelligence and the ability to think on the y. Beginners should focus on handreading. Always try to gure out why your opponent is playing his hand the way he is. It mostly comes down to deductive logic with a hint of maths knowledge.

AGGRESSION ISNT EVERYTHING

T H E M A S T E R S

In tournaments, you will usually face weaker players. You dont have to be as tricky and you dont have to think on as high a level. The pot size on the op is usually so big in tournaments that the best line involves taking it down as soon as possible.

KEEP IT SIMPLE IN TOURNAMENTS

In cash games, its more important to balance your range, making your hands harder to read. Also, stacks are generally much deeper in cash games. That leaves more room for creativity and the ability to play more hands pre-op.

MIX IT UP IN CASH GAMES

The turn is probably the street that is the toughest to play. Pre-op and the river are easy, although the river is important and misplayed by many. Most people dont check-raise bluff enough on the turn. A lot of people bluff too often on the turn with no outs, or with a lot of outs, but not enough to call a raise.

BE CAREFUL ON THE TURN

TOM MILES

It comes down to putting players on a range of hands and knowing your opponent. Try to pay attention to what hands had a lot of outs and missed. Theyre likely to re three barrels. Also, if scare cards hit, like an Ace or King on the river when the op is 10-high, some players are very likely to try to represent them. However, there will be times when they hit those cards. You just have to decide how likely they are to bluff at the scare card and weigh that against how likely it was to hit their hand.

CATCH THE RIVER BLUFFS

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G A M E S

The

Q U I Z

1 CONTINUATION BETTING
Players 6 Blinds $0.05/$0.10 Your stack $10 Your hand Q-J:

Cash games are where the big money and best players are, but thanks to online poker you can start out playing for pennies. Get a headstart on your education by taking our cash game quiz!

CASH GAMES QUIZ


2 BARREL THE TURN?
Players 6 Blinds $0.05/$0.10 Your stack $10 Your hand Q-J:

SB FOLD

BB $9.70

FOLD

C A S H

Pot: $0.65

YOU (BTN) $9.70

FOLD

FOLD

Youre playing a 0.05/$0.10 six-max cash game and make an open-raise for three times the big blind on the button with Q-J:. The small blind folds and the big blind calls. You both have $10 stacks. The op

ACTION

is 10;-7;-5: and he checks. The pot is now $0.65 what do you do?

DECISION

a) check b) bet $0.30 c) bet $0.50 d) bet $1

3 RIVER DECISION
Players 6 Blinds $0.05/$0.10 Your stack $10 Your hand Q-J:

SB FOLD

BB $9.20

FOLD

SB FOLD

BB $8

FOLD

Pot: $1.65

Pot: $4.05

YOU (BTN) $9.20

FOLD

FOLD

YOU (BTN) $8

FOLD

FOLD

Lets assume that in question 1 you made a continuation bet and your opponent in the big blind called. The turn now brings the K and the pot size is $1.65. What do you do?

ACTION

DECISION

a) check b) bet $0.50 c) bet $1.20 d) bet $3

Lets assume that in Q2 you bet the turn and got called again by the big blind; the river now brings the J;, making the nal board 10;-7;-5:-K-J;. The pot stands at $4.05 and your opponent checks again. What do you do?

ACTION

DECISION

a) check b) bet $1 c) bet $3 d) bet all-in for about $8

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Players 9 Blinds $0.50/$1 Your stack $100 Your hand Q;-Q

YOU (UTG) $86 BB FOLD $10

FOLD $10 UTG+2 $86

A good open-raise size is usually a) 2-3 times the big blind b) 3-4 times the big blind c) 4-5 times the big blind d) 5-6 times the big blind

ROUND
6

SB FOLD

$35

Pot: $68.50

FOLD

BTN $61

FOLD FOLD

A good three-bet size is usually a) 2-3 times the initial raise b) 3-4 times the initial raise c) 4-5 times the initial raise d) 5-6 times the initial raise

Youre in a $0.50/$1 full-ring game. You raise to $4 under the gun with Q;-Q and get three callers; all four of you have $100 stacks. The op comes 4-7-8: and you bet $10 into the $13.50 pot. The

ACTION

rst player calls, the second folds, and then the third raises to $35. What now?

DECISION

a) fold b) call c) move all-in

A good four-bet size is usually

5 HEADS-UP PLAY
Players 2 Blinds $0.25/$0.50 Your stack $50 Your hand A:-J

a) 2-3 times the re-raise b) 3-4 times the re-raise c) 4-5 times the re-raise d) 5-6 times the re-raise A good opening range under the gun in six-max cash games is a) 10-10+, A-Q+ b) 6-6+, A-8+ suited, A-J+ offsuit c) A-2+ suited, A-10+ suited, 2-2+ and good suited connectors d) Any Ace or pair; most suited/ connected cards A good opening range on the button in six-max play is a) 10-10+, A-Q+ b) 6-6+, A-8+ suited, A-J+ offsuit c) A-2+ suited, A-10+ offsuit, 2-2+ and good suited connectors d) Any Ace or pair; most suited/ connected cards

BB $37 $8

Pot: $18

YOU (BTN) $45

10

SHARK OR FISH?

Early in a $0.25/$0.50 heads-up match against a decent aggressive player you raise to $1.50 on the button from your $50 stack. He re-raises to $5 and you defend with A:-J. The op comes J-6-2 rainbow and he bets $8. What do you do?

ACTION

a) call, planning to get it all-in on the turn b) call, planning to fold to further aggression c) raise to $16, planning to fold to a shove d) raise to $16, planning to call a shove e) move all-in

DECISION

0-3 SHARK FOOD Dont despair sign up to a training site and learn the basics from scratch. 4-7 TIGER SHARK Youre on the right track. With a little more effort you should be a big winner. 8-10 GREAT WHITE SHARK Youve built your bankroll dominating low stakes now its time to move up.

Answers (one point for each) 1 c) You need to c-bet the majority of the time to take pots down when you have nothing and build them when you do, and this is a good bet to show you are serious without risking too much. 2 c) The King gives you straight outs and your opponents hand now looks weak if he has a small or medium pair. A solid bet will often take the pot down with the worst hand, and if you do hit a straight on the river you may win an even bigger pot. 3 a) The river card has given you decent showdown value, but betting would be pointless as you will rarely get called by worse and your opponent may be trapping with a ush. Check it down and expect to win the pot a good percentage of the time. 4 a) Although you started with a good hand youve run into a nightmare op and a lot of action. Facing a call and a raise youre likely to be either even money against a draw or a long way behind a set, straight or two pair. 5 a) Youve hit one of the best ops for your hand but are unlikely to accomplish much by raising unless your opponent thinks youre likely to bluff. By calling your opponent may bluff on the turn or commit himself with a hand like Q-J that he might fold to a raise on the op. Quick-re round 6 b) This is large enough to start building a pot when you have a strong hand, but not so cheap the blinds will call you too often. 7 b) Again this is a good size to charge opponents to see a op and build a pot when you have a good hand, but without making it too cheap when you have a bluff or too expensive when you have a big hand. 8 a) With stacks of 100 big blinds you want to four-bet quite small to avoid committing yourself to an all-in, and 2.5 times the re-raise is ideal in most spots. 9 c) You have three players behind you so you dont want to play too many dominated hands, but all of these should show a prot unless the game is very tough. 10 d) Now you are guaranteed the best position you can play a very wide range, as you will make a hand or be able to outplay your opponents often enough. THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

4 FULL RING ACTION

QUICK-FIRE

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LIVE POKER

The ultimate guide to

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G A M E S H O M E

HOUSE
S
Running a home game isnt as easy as you think. We show you how to be the perfect host and avoid a rst-time op
O YOUVE PLAYED POKER ONLINE or watched it on TV and now youre thinking about running a game for you and your mates. Easy, you might think, but theres actually more to running a successful home game than a crate of beer, a pack of cards and a few chips. Not to worry, were here to act as your guide and mentor. Over the next few pages well take you through the mechanics of a successful home tournament and show you how to be the perfect home game host. Do it properly and youll win the respect of your friends and, more importantly, theyll come back the next time you invite them. Get it wrong and your social life is over.

RULES!

Theyre everywhere at the moment clothes shops, DIY stores, you name it. And you pretty much get what you pay for, so be careful about genuine casino bargains. You can get sampler packs from most retailers so you can try before you buy. It seems 11.5g clay-lled chips have become the standard, but one thing to watch out for which always separates cheap chips from the top-of-the-line ones the professionals use is how slippery they are. Towards the end of a tourney youre going to end up with big piles of chips. Those dramatic all-in pushes arent going to look so good when your stack spills all over the table. How many you need is going to depend on the size of your game but

CHIPS

a basic breakdown for a 10-player tournament is 150 red (worth 5) 150 green (worth 25) 100 black (worth 100) 100 purple/orange/other (worth 500 or 1,000) Dont worry about the colour conventions but we recommend you stick with these denominations. Theres little point having 1, 10 or 50 value chips. No tournament blind structure will use the 1 value chip and if you have a cash game you can make your denominations real money value; 100 = 1; 25 = 25p. Your 500-piece chipset will then have a monetary value of 645, which should be enough to cover your average cash game. Think of

poker chips like currency. The idea is to use the fewest denominations to make the required sum and for chip counts to be possible at a glance. The blind structure and chips here is based around a long ve-hour game adjust to suit the time you have.
Example blinds
SB 5 10 20 25 50 100 150 250 400 500 1000 *Colour up BB 10 20 40 50 100 200 300 500 800 1000 2000 Round length 30mins 30 mins 30 mins 30mins* 30 mins 30 mins 30 mins 30 mins 30 mins* 30 mins

First of all you need cards. Its a card game after all. The best cards are 100% plastic. Play a full game with ordinary paper or plasticcoated cards and theyll be bent up and marked. If standard cards is all you have get online and order some Copags or Kems. We particularly like the Kem Arrows, which you can get online for around 14.

CARDS

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Do this
H O M E

The right way

Poker has hundreds of variations. For your rst game stick to the most simple and popular form of the game no-limit Texas holdem. Holdem is divided into two different styles: tournaments and cash (ring) games. For your rst home game stick with sit&gos (tournaments). Tourneys, as you probably know, have become the most popular format of the game and the ones you usually see on TV. Theyre the best for home games because they give you clear winners, have a set time-frame and limit the amount of money anyone can lose in the one night. With a tourney everyone buys in for a set amount and the money is pooled together in a prize fund.

THE SET-UP

Its up to you how the prizes are distributed and this little detail will make a considerable difference to your game. With a table of eight to 10 players a prize distribution of 60%, 30%, 10% will give a balanced payout. First place should get the lions share; second should get a nice little payout and third should get their buy-in back, or similar. If youve got six players or less, you might want to consider only paying rst and second 70/30. Another option is to play winner takes all. This is ne if youre all experienced players with a good chance of winning, but stick to places if you have novices playing. Theyre likely to get disheartened by an early exit and not return.

Preferably youll have a soft surface at your disposal as it makes the cards easier to deal, pick up and look at not to mention the ability for experienced players to rife chips on a nice soft baize. A polished tabletop is no good, and while a dedicated poker table doesnt cost as much as you might think its not a practical solution for all. For a cheap alternative pick up a few metres of articial baize or felt from a fabric shop, stretch it tight over your table and nd a way of holding it in place. Cheap poker tabletops arent great but are useable if youre desperate. But if youve got cash to splash, you can nd numerous websites selling poker tables from 100-1000.

TABLE

Freezeouts are much simpler to run. Everyone pays a set amount and you all play for it. You know how much money is in the pot, the payouts and how many chips are on the table. Theyre a bit more challenging to play, as people tend to play tighter and big bets and bold bluffs tend to be respected. The tension builds and big pots are both rarer and more exciting. On the downside, once youre out, youre out! Rebuys allow players low on chips to pay again and reload their chips. If the buy-in was 10 for 1,000 chips then the rebuy will be another 10 for another 1,000 chips (available if down to less than 50% of starting stack). The rebuy chips are usually issued as a single 1,000 chip or two 500 chips, which are then changed up for smaller chips with the biggest stack. d is normally The rebuy period limited to the rst couple of ey or the hours of the tourney inds. After rst four or ve blinds. nds, the the rebuy period ends, game becomes a freezeout. ption of Everyone has the option adding on, which is a rebuy available to s everyone regardless of stack size. If youre down to 50% of your stack at the freezeout you are entitled to rebuy and add-on. This can take you from ck deaths door to back in the game. Also all dd-ons these rebuys and add-ons l will swell the prize pool handsomely. This is a good moment for everyone to take a short break, for you to colour up the small denomination chips, to count the prize pool and let everyone know what the payouts are going to be. After the end of the rebuy period it becomes a freezeout. One other option is the double chance. Here you get your starting chips for a single buy-in and have the option at any time in the rst two hours to add on. You can even start the game with your extra chips. This means that no-one need go out too early, there are plenty of chances for action and those who can only afford a single buy-in are not as disadvantaged as with a normal rebuy. The choice is yours.

FREEZEOUT OR REBUY?

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G A M E S

G A M E S

This is the entrance fee, which everyone pays and forms the prize pool. But obviously the amount everyone is willing and able to put in to a card game will vary. Newer players are unlikely to stump up 100 to sit down with veterans of the game! When you have some novice players, its best to make the buy-in (taking into account rebuys) about the same as a night out down the pub. No-one is going to mind spending that for a nights entertainment, and the total prize pool is going to be a tidy sum. For your rst freezeout, make the buy-in 10-50 depending on how ush you are and how many new players you have. A 20 freezeout with 10 players could give payouts of 110, 60 and 30. Itll be a serious game, but for the same sort of money youd spend on a night at the pub, a kebab and a cab home. For a rebuy you want to make the cost about half to a third of a freezeout. So if players are normally happy to play a 30 freezeout then a 10 rebuy is ne. If you play a 20 freezeout a 10 rebuy might work out a little more expensive if everyone takes into account a possible rebuy plus an add-on. A 10 double chance is a very affordable home game, which, between 10 players and ve or six add-ons, can still build a decent pot. For most tourneys you can start everyone off with 1,000 in chips 10 times 5, 10 times 25 and 7 times 100 will give everyone a satisfying little stack to ddle with. If youre playing a rebuy then give the players rebuying 2 x 500. They can change them up at the table. If everyones feeling a bit ush and wants to stick in twice as much then its ne to start off with double the normal chip amounts. This doesnt normally prolong the game too much perhaps an extra level of the blinds further than normal. A rule of thumb is that tourneys normally end when the big blind is equal to the buy-in.

BUY-IN

If you have a solid blind structure it will make for a well-paced and exciting game. Make the blinds too low and not frequent enough and the tourney will drag on for what seems an eternity. However, setting them too high will often result in the game being little more than a crapshoot with little opportunity for skill not to mention your poker night being over by 9:30pm. The levels the blinds are set at will dictate the length of your home game (along with rebuys and add-ons), but it should last anywhere between 90 minutes and ve hours, depending on your preference. One thing to think about is that if you host a freezeout which goes on for ve hours, some poor sod may end up twiddling their thumbs for three hours or so. Which could discourage them from turning up again. To keep things running on time get a stopwatch or cooking timer. Or, if you have a laptop, download one of the many free poker timers to run in the background. Once youve set your blinds, be strict with them. If the blind level goes up during a hand (after dealing has started) then enforce the new level for the next hand. If short stacks grumble that they are being blinded to death then tough! As the blinds rise the lowest value chips on the table (the ves) will become redundant. When this happens you need to remove them from the game by exchanging them for twenty ves. This will make things much tidier and will make all-in count-ups simpler. After you have run a game you might consider adjusting the blinds for the next game if the pace seemed too fast or slow, either by changing the length of rounds or by adding or removing rounds. However, there is no structure that is going to stop players grumbling about their bad beats or how unlucky they are!

BLINDS

H O M E

Having a drink at a home game is one of the great pleasures of life and we would never suggest cutting it out, but youd be advised to keep it within reason. Players will tend to play worse, go on tilt easier and get angry much quicker when drunk. They may well not hear declarations and will accidentally expose cards and misdeal. The most important rule is to never start a game when youre all pissed itll all end in tears. To avoid arguments every player needs to be clear on the rules, how much money youre playing for and the payout structure.

BOOZE

In almost every lm or TV drama which features a poker game youll hear something like, Ill see your 50 (pause, camera close up on anxious faces) and raise you 200. This is a string bet and would not be allowed in any casino or card room in the world. Raises must be announced rst: Raise, and then either the amount of the raise declared or the chips put into the pot in one motion. The rule is designed to prevent people making one declaration, waiting for a reaction, then altering their play. Best practice is to declare Raise, count out your chips and put them in the pot in one motion. Or you can say, Raise 200, and then add your chips in as you like until youve put the 200 in the pot.

STRING BETTING

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H O M E

The wrong way

Players must not disclose what cards they have until the showdown. This rule applies to players who have folded. The board shows K-K-K-A-6 and you raise all-in. Your opponent looks at his A-J and wonders if you have been slowplaying the King all this time. You stare each other down, then some muppet says, I knew I shouldnt have folded that King. Talking about hands youre not playing in is not only bad form but is distracting and annoying and will prejudice the chances of those playing. Likewise, showing your cards to anyone before the showdown, even if they are no longer in the hand, is poor form. Poker is about patience just wait two minutes until the end of the hand.

TABLE TALK

G A M E S

Enforce these basic poker rules. They minimise arguments and make the game ow smoothly.

HOUSE RULES

The big blind is the minimum amount you can bet. If the blinds are 25-50 then any bet after the op must be at least 50. Raises also have rules. Any raise must be the same size or greater than the previous raise or bet.

MINIMUM BETS AND RAISES

Ever played one of those games of Monopoly with your family where, by the end of the night, no-one is talking to each other? Well, if you dont manage it right, your poker night could end up just like that, too. Its a game where you are trying to stitch each other up for real money. Its not only important to get the mechanics of the game right, but vital to consider the human equation. So try not to get too serious or taunt others about their play or luck.

AVOIDING PITFALLS

Take a moment to consider who youre inviting to play. And the rst question to ask yourself is, can they afford it? If they cant afford to lose, they cant afford to play. You arent in it to take someones last 20 and the atmosphere can really sour if someone goes genuinely broke at the table. Likewi if you were thinking of Likewise, inviti that bloke from down inviting pu who once got barred for the pub puttin his st through the fruit putting machin perhaps you might want machine, to recons reconsider. fac its probably a good idea In fact, to stick to a group of people who all know each other so theres less potential for a blow-up when player e X takes everyones money.

PERSONALITY CLASHES

Novice players will act out of turn fairly frequently. Of course, its annoying for the rest of the table but youll have to be a bit sympathetic and explain the rules. Folding out of turn is binding. Players are not allowed to sh their cards out of the muck. Players who are either calling or raising out of turn, or both, clearly arent paying enough attention and after a few warnings the rule should be that they will be obliged to call any raise before them. Being so desperate to get your chips into the pot is usually an obvious sign that youre holding monster cards. Laugh at the culprit and watch everyone fold round the table. They wont make that mistake again!

ACTING OUT OF TURN

Dont go easy on friends, family and spouses. Its collusion and against the spirit of an honest poker game. If you get in a pot with them you should try and take their chips off them with the same determination as you would anyone else.

SOFT PLAYING

Most pots are won uncontested. You dont get to see the river, the turn, or sometimes even the op. Can we see what the turn and river would have been? I want to know if my J-4 suited would have caught a miracle full house. No we cant. Its called rabbit hunting. Its pointless and annoying and slows the game down. Good luck with your rst game above all enjoy yourself and dont worry if you lose.

RABBIT HUNTING

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P O K E R

T E L L S

TELL, IN POKER PARLANCE, is any behaviour that betrays something about your play or the strength of your hand. Its a common device in poker lms, where a tell usually takes the form of a chronic physical tic or a bizarre tendency to bleed from the eyeballs. In reality tells are a bit more subtle than this, but they do exist and they can reveal a great deal about a foes state of mind. Over the next six pages were going to lead you through the complex world of physical behaviour and explain how to spot tells that convey either high or low condence. Given that the human body is so complex you could literally write reams on the THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO POKER

Reading tells may not be as enigmatic a skill as the movies would have us believe, but we can glean a vast amount of information from a players face and body language. Deciphering these tells will give you a huge edge
physiological and psychological reasons for the way we act. However, for our purposes there are three main principles to keep in mind when it comes to physical tells. Firstly, all the tells were looking at are governed by the limbic system the part of the brain that governs involuntary behaviour. Although this doesnt mean that tells cant be faked, it does mean that a players initial reaction however quick or subtle is truthful because they have no control over it. The second principle is that reliable tell-reading can only take place if you have established baseline behaviour. In other words, what does that person normally do and how do they tend to deviate from this pattern? Lastly, remember that high condence doesnt necessarily mean a player has the nuts, or even a hand that beats you simply that they are happy with their holding. As a warning, note that each of the low condence tells may not mean too much individually. However, when they appear in clusters it is a good indication that someone is lying. Note, too, that the most honest part of the body, and the place youll get the most accurate information from, is the feet. This can pose a problem at the poker table as its not often easy to see your opponents feet. The least honest parts of the body include the mouth, eyes and face. So tread carefully and try to catch the tells as early as possible.

POKER TELLS

t o p s o t w o H

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TOM MILES

P O K E R

1 STEEPLING G

2 TILTED HEAD
Whenever were comfortable or interested in a particular situation, we tend to tilt our heads. Physiologically we are exposing the vulnerable carotid art artery, thereby conveying the idea that we are very comfortable. In courtship, the tilt of the head is a irtatious gesture exp expressing an interest in someone. Dont con confuse it with alternately tilting the head fro side to side la Gus Hansen. This is from mor an expression of uncertainty. more Research suggests that women indulge in more head-tilting at the table than men.

HIGH CONFIDENCE TELLS

One of the most accepted gestures indicating high condence and power is the steeple. Watch politicians like Hillary Clinton and they can steeple dozens of times during the course of a speech. In the gesture, the ngertips of each hand touch the corresponding digits of the other hand while pointing upwards. Although it seems like a fairly obvious physical manifestation, a poker player may only steeple momentarily, so you need a keen eye to see it. Dont confuse le upwards steepling with a steeple that is directed forward. This has a very different meaning and acts like a defensive barrier between the player doing it and whoever else is present. Watch tinyurl.com/tells1 for the perfect example of dam Levy and Phil il Hellmuth Hellmu Hel lmuth th at the 2008 2008 a steeple. The hand involves Adam WSOP main event. Levy has the nuts when Hellmuth bets on the river and as he decides what to do next, he does a split-second steeple before clasping his hands (possibly in an attempt to cover it up).

T E L L S

3 SMILING
A smile is one of our most natural and indicative forms of communication and if you catch someone smiling you can usually assume they are pretty happy with their hand/op. However, its crucial to be able to differentiate between a real and a fake smile. A genuine smile involves the orbicularis oculi muscle, which raises the cheeks and causes crows feet to appear around our eyes. Research suggests we do not contract this muscle when smiling as a deliberate gesture such a reaction is only triggered by genuine spontaneous emotions. Test your ability to spot a fake smile at tinyurl.com/tells2.

4 LEANING FORWARDS
It may seem like the most obvious gesture in the world, but when we have a positive ing interest in something we try to get closer by leaning in towards it. Some players try to disguise this gesture by pretending they are re-adjusting their sea seating position, but this usually only serves to highlight it. In this notorious us half-a-million dollar hand between Gus Hansen and Daniel iel Negreanu on High Neg Sta Stakes Poker (tinyurl. com com/tells3), watch Kid Pok lean forward when Poker thi use he thinks his full house goo on the turn. is good

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T E L L S

5 EYEBROW ARCHING

6 PUPIL DILATION
When our pupils dilate it is usually a response to a light change or because we are attracted to someone or something. Although spotting it is not the easiest task, if you do you can be sure that the player involved likes his cards. Pupil dilation is an involuntary response caused by the iris dilator muscle and impossible to control. Natural pupil size varies from person to person so keep in mind the persons base level.

HIGH CONFIDENCE TELLS

When were attracted to someone or happy to see the person in front of us, our reaction is to arch our eyebrows, even before weve spoken a word. Transposed to the poker table, this gesture is denitive proof that a player likes, for example, his hole cards or how the op has turned out (unless theres some serious irting going on at the table). The reason why this movement is so foolproof as a high condence tell is that it happens automatically. The downside is that because it lasts barely a fth of a second, trying to pick up on it is very difcult. According to studies, the eyebrow arch, or eyebrow ash, is the most instantly recognisable non-verbal greeting that humans use. Check out this hand from Poker After Dark (see tinyurl.com/tells4) and look out for the moment when Howard Lederer gives away the strength of his hand with a split-second eyebrow raise. Watch his eyebrows carefully after the K hits the river. Lederer also feigns disinterest (see tell number 8 below) by animatedly gt player about boxing. ng. talking to the other players

P O K E R

Y FEET 7H HAPPY
Although you will see most mo physical tells in the face, o body of a neck or player the most pla player, hones area is ho honest actual act actually the feet. Happy Ha Happy bouncing feet a fee are a reliable indica ind indicator of a player feeling pla excite exc excited about a situat sit d. situation or a hand. You do ee the fe feet et the themselves as the movement will dont even have to see transm tra ing shoulders, hands or torso. If the bouncing suddenly transmit to moving stops, it may be a freezing response, indicating that they are blufng. sto Some people have a disposition to happy feet, so make sure you establish their baseline behaviour rst.

8 FEIGNING DISINTEREST
One of the themes explored in Mike Caros seminal Caros Book of Poker Tells was that weak means strong and strong means weak. Tells expert Caro argues that feigned disinterest is an attempt to appear as non-threatening as possible when a player has a big hand. Annie Duke has previously commented that overacting, or Hollywooding, is one of the key traits of the inexperienced player. If the players head is turned away but the rest of his body seems to be involved in the hand, he is probably feigning disinterest

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P O K E R

9 THUMB DISPLAY

1 NECK MASSAGE

LOW CONFIDENCE TELLS

This indicator falls into the category of self-touching. Often if you see players put their nger to their mouth, scratch their neck or touch their face theyre doing this to ease anxiety as they need some self-comforting. At a poker table if you see these signs, which again will usually come in clusters, its not too much of a stretch to determine that your opponent is anxious about their holding and deciding whether to carry on in the hand or not. Even if they do decide to continue at this point, your opponent will likely fold to continued pressure. This tell is particularly strong if your opponent deliberates delibe del iberat rates for a long time over any given decision.

T E L L S

According to former FBI agent Joe Navarro, one of the most prevalent signs of high condence is the thumb display. Thumbs up denote that the player is condent about his hand. Navarro says the thumbs can go up and down during the course of a hand, reecting exactly how the player is feeling about his hand. Like many high condence tells, the thumbs may only go up for a second or two the action is involuntary. Psychologists who have studied handshakes recommend extending the hand with a thumb up to convey condence.

10 BETTER POSTURE
If a player is in a slouched position, looks at his hole cards, then suddenly sits up watch out! Hes probably not too unhappy with his holding. No doubt a reex borne of all those no-nonsense primary school teachers barking at us to sit up straight, assuming an upright posture is one of the most obvious ways of showing we are attentive and interested. However, given the is universality of this gesture and the ease with which it can be mimicked, its one mon of the most common to be used as a reverse tell. Watch this hand from the 2004 WSOP lls5) 5) (tinyurl.com/tells5) ke and note how Mike re Matusows posture changes after he moves all-in.

2 NOSE SCRATCHING
Blood rushes to the nose when people lie, and this extra blood may make the nose itchy. The result is that people who stretch the truth tend to either scratch their nose or touch it more often. Beware though this is one of nd the more well-known and e obvious low condence tells. Savvy opponents who start scratching their nose may be trying to reverse ak. If it is the only low condence the tell to appear weak. tell theyre giving off be very cautious. When a person is lying the nose may swell in size and also become redder.

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T E L L S

3 FREEZING

4 LIP-LICKING
Lying takes more effort than telling the truth and causes stress. Lip-licking and com compression is another sign of stress and lia liars usually tighten their lips or frequently lic lick their lips. As Joe Navarro states in Read Em and Reap, If, after glancing at her hole car cards, a player does a quick lip press, you can be sure that something is not good thus it is probably fair to assume the player has a wea weak hand. So if you catch a player doing a mom momentary lip press and they come in for a rai raise, three-bet them with impunity. Watch Sammy Farhas face at the 30-second mark in this High Stakes Pok clip: tinyurl.com/tells7. Poker

LOW CONFIDENCE TELLS

This is a natural human response to danger and ons something weve done for millions of years to ensure survival from ves. predators stronger than ourselves. At a poker table this freeze response usually happens when nt someone is blufng. An opponent who is blufng will attempt to stay as still as possible because they dont want to do anything that may bring attention to themselves. It is very important to note a players response immediately after they make their bet as the initial (limbic) response will be to freeze but after a few seconds the thinking part of the brain kicks in and informs them that they should act strong. In this case many players will freeze and then er, become more animated. However, e for instance, Gus Hansen and nd Annette Annett Ann ette e Obre O bresta bre stad sta d baseline behaviour is crucial here Obrestad are two pros who tend to freeze after every action they take. Check out this hand from the 2008 WSOP main event nal table (see clip at tinyurl.com/tells6). Notice how still Ivan Demidov is after moving all-in against Dennis Phillips, knowing he probably has the worst hand.

P O K E R

5 TALKING FEET
Ever noticed how you stand if you get talking to someone you dont really want to? Your feet point away, your heels elevate and you put more weight on your toes. This is a sprinting stance and means you are ready to make a sharp exit. At the table youll notice a similar phenomenon. If someone is blufng or not happy with their holding, they will nd it difcult to plant their feet and their toes may point away. Remember, the feet are considered the most honest part of the body.

6 FLIGHT
The classic example e of y ight is leaning away from the table. In life our reaction to something we dont like is wishing to escape or get away from it. one Think about when someone says something that cuts a bit close to the bone you recoil in disgust and lea away. At a poker lean tab when were facing table som something we dont like our reaction is the same. Hav you ever faced a Have tou decision and leant tough bac to contemplate? Or back clo closed your eyes while cli clicking the call or all-in but button online? Were try trying to put distance bet ourselve lves. between the decision and ourselves. In this clip Scotty Nguyen runs a big bluff on Humberto Brenes and has to get up from the table as Brenes contemplates his act action. Watch it at: tinyurl.com/tells8.

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7 COVERING THE MOUTH


Think back to when you were a kid and you did something naughty. Your natural reaction was to cover your mouth almost to prevent the lie escaping. The same is true at the poker table. Youll often see a player eetingly cover their mouth, although some players have taken to covering their ing mouths every hand, mindful of giving off information Phil Hellmuth and Brian Townsend are good examples. In this hand from the Million Dollar Cash Game, watch Brian Townsend from about the 1 minute 55 mark (tinyurl.com/tells9).

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8 HOLDING BREATH AND SWALLOWING


This is an extension of the freezing low condence tell. A foe who is lying will try to stay as anonymous as possible and as well as making themselves as le will often hold their breath. breat br eath. h. If you small as possible give someone a good stare-down this should become noticeable, as they cant hold their breath forever! Also its the opposite of a high condence tell, as often when holding a good hand a players heart rate will increase and theyll breathe more heavily. Animals in the wild also hold their breath to reduce their chances of being observed by a predator/their prey.

9 STARING NG DOWN YOUR OPPONENT


The human response to danger som sometimes manifests itself in the shape of aggression. A player will often aggre act aggressively as a deterrent to stop someon someone from taking an action they dislike. For instance, after making a move they m may stare you down to intimidate you and an deter you from entering the pot a classic strong means weak tell. Verbal aggres aggression is also a weapon used at the table. Look for a discrepancy between a play players expression and words, for instan instance frowning while saying Ive got th the best hand. In this hand from High Stakes Poker, Hellmuth bluffs Matusow off pocket Kings Kin while holding 7-2. Hellmuth, who for most of the hand, suddenly is silent sil talks on the river and asks Mike how tal much he has left: tinyurl.com/tells10. muc

10 BLINKING
We dont blink at random, says Dr Gifford-Jones, a Canadian medical practitioner. We blink at times that are psychologically important. You have listened to a question, you understand it, now you take time out for a blink. Blinks are punctuation marks. Their timing is whats going on in your head. When liars are searching for an answer to an awkward question, their thought processes speed up. In this situation, lying is frequently associated with blinking and our rate of blinking seems to correlate to the amount of mental stress we are under, so it stands to inking ink ing will will increase. inc Re reason that if someone is blufng their rate of blink blinking Remember though, cause theyve moved all-in with a good but not an opponent may be blinking excessively because great hand and dont want a call, not because theyre out-and-out blufng. According to studies, a humans normal rate of blinking is about 20 blinks per minute, but it can increase to four or ve times that gure when we feel under pressure.

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Ever wanted to impress your mates at a home game or earn money dealing at your local club? Read on

LIKE A PRO

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VERYONE KNOWS HOW PAINFUL it can be waiting and watching as the cack-handed beginner at your table takes ages to gather the cards together, before spilling the deck and exposing cards when its their turn to deal. But even the home game veteran or regular club-goer in self-dealt tourneys can get it horribly wrong too. Forget what you think you know about correct practice in the eld of shufing and dealing we enlisted the help of Nikki Letran, who has dealt at World Poker Tour nal tables and in high-stakes cash games, to explain the ne art of dealing. So grab a deck of cards well, several decks clear the doilies off the dining table, lay some felt and get ready to learn how to shufe, pitch, burn and turn until you are dealing like a pro. And when your mates turn up at your next home game, theyll look at you with a new-found respect. Shufe up and deal

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WASH AND GO

At the start of your game spread the deck out on the baize as shown on the left so players can verify all cards are there, then do the same face down. This is to check the deck is all the same colour and there are no marked cards. To spread hold the left side of the deck with your thumb, place your index nger on top and your other ngers on the right side. Put the deck on the baize and swiftly spread out in a semi-circle, releasing cards with your thumb as you go. Itll take a bit of practise and wont work on hard slippy surfaces.

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Scramble all the cards to perform the wash. Do this after every hand.

Collect all the cards in and show them face out to the players. Tap the deck on the table and run your ngers over the top to box it.

2-3

Hold the deck as shown in (3) and split the deck in half, by simply sliding two sections apart.

C
1

STRIP AND CUT

After shufing, you must then strip the deck. So by holding the cards in one hand, take small sections off the top with your other hand to lay on top of each other on the table. Then repeat the shufe. Now you need to cut the cards.With the boxed deck in front of you, simply cut the deck away from you and put the other half on top to nish off.

2-3

B
1

THE SHUFFLE
cards should interlace over the top of each other. It should take no more than a second or two for the process to be complete. Holding the cards in place, push the two halves of the deck together to box the cards. Repeat the whole process. In a swift, smooth motion let the cards lter over each thumb; the corners of the

Hold the two halves of the deck close together as shown above and lift the corners with both thumbs so the cards bend slightly in preparation for the shufe.

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THE DEAL

Hold the deck in your palm with your index nger wrapped around the bottom edge to protect the deck from falling. You should also hold it so that its tilting downwards towards the table so when the cards are pitched it will reduce the chance of exposing a card. Now with the hand youre holding the deck use your thumb to slide the top card off and grab the top corner with your other hand. Hold it with thumb and index nger as shown in the picture and instead of just tossing the card out use your middle nger, which is sitting just behind the card, to ick the card out. The moment your middle nger icks the card, release with your other two ngers and the cards should glide, rather than op, through the air onto the baize. This will take a lot of practise, so sit at a table with a baize or felt surface and make sure theres a rail of some description to stop the cards spilling all over the oor. Now grab a deck of quality plastic cards (Copags, Kems) and pitch, pitch, pitch. When youve mastered doing one or two at a time, build up a rhythm and get that middle nger icking the cards out in a low arc over and over again. Also, try pitching into a hat, to get used to dealing at the right trajectory and at the same spot.

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3 3

Once youre adept at the pitch, start dealing to several positions at the table and build up speed. The cards should land right in front of each players chips.

PUSH-OFF

As an alternative to pitching, one type of deal you will see in a lot of UK cardrooms, is the push-and-drag off the top of the deck. Hold the deck rmly and using two or three ngers of the other hand simply push down and drag a card from the top of the deck.

1 2

Slide the cards out to each player. This is easy on a small round table, where you can reach everyone, but if youre playing on a proper poker table where its hard to reach seats three and eight theres a chance the card will catch air and be exposed.

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1

FLOP IT

BECOME A DEALER

After shufing and dealing every player two cards, and pre-op betting is complete, its time to see the op. Holding the deck in one hand, burn one card to the left, then take three cards off the top one at a time and place face down on top of each other in a tidy fashion, so that only one card is visible.

Finally make cash from poker


The most common route into becoming a dealer is through casinos, of which there are now several big chains in the UK. Gala, Grosvenor and Stanley casinos from time to time offer jobs for trainee and experienced dealers
Mark Briggs has been involved in the gaming industry since 1996 and is now manager of Dial a Dealer (www.dialadealer.com). Briggs says, As a casino trainee, youll receive your education in-house for about six weeks, usually in Roulette, Blackjack and Stud poker. These disciplines will get you used to handling chips, getting to knowing the right techniques, and making sure the bets are correct. It takes about 10-12 months to feel really comfortable and condent at dealing at pace and as you gain more experience you can then progress to other games that the casino runs, like the cardroom Mark says that during training stages the pay is usually minimum wage, but increases when you qualify and as you gain experience. As a full-time trainee you might expect an annual salary of about 12,000, depending on the casino and area.

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Using your thumb gently ip the cards over and, with your other ngers, spread the cards out to the right so they stay in line and are evenly spaced out. Youll need to try doing this a few times to look like a pro and it requires a baize or felt surface to work properly, otherwise the cards will slide around.

GOING CLUBBING

Place the second burn card at a slight angle on top of the rst and expose the turn card to the right of the op. The dealer taps the table with one hand before the op, turn and river to indicate the pot is correct and that theyre about to expose a card. This is the players last chance to say the pot is wrong.

Finally, after betting is complete, burn and turn the river card in the same way. The board is now complete and once the last betting round is over the hand is nished. Now sweep the board up in a tidy way, mix with all the mucked cards and burn cards and start the wash process all over again.

So what happens if you dont want to work in a casino, and just want to deal poker in clubs? Roy Houghton, owner of London poker club Loose Cannon and one of the most experienced dealers in the UK, says, With the amount of poker tournaments being run at the moment, there always seems to be a shortage of dealers Id be interested in running a training school for people interested in learning how to deal, shufe and push cards around the table. Houghton admits, though, that there arent many full-time positions in private clubs, but offers this advice: If I was to go into it now Id learn how to deal but have another job, and then t it in on a casual basis. So on a part-time basis what could dealers expect to make for a shift? Houghton says, A tournament dealer could earn anywhere between 100-150 a night [a shift is typically 8pm-2am]. Cash game dealers in clubs can earn very good money. If you were doing it on a full-time basis [several nights a week, 8-12 hour shifts] you could earn maybe 500-800 a week. And thats before tips..

TRAINING

Before you commence work you will need to gain a licence from the Gambling Commission. This is usually awarded once you have completed on the job training. Training can last six-to-eight weeks and can be in-house at a casino or at a training facility. To check for UK vacancies you should contact the British Casino Association. Of course, you could teach yourself by reading our guide and then offer to deal in cash games at your local club. For more information on job and training opportunities check out www.dialadealer.com, www.loosecannonpoker. com and www.thefullhouse.co.uk. Other useful links: www.grosvenor-casinos.com, www.galacasinos.co.uk, www.stanleycasinos.co.uk.

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NICKNAMES
Poker is awash with names, phrases and strange terms. And poker starting hands in particular have been given a whole range of pseudonyms. If youre new to the game heres your chance to learn some of the parlance
7-2 6-6 5-5 4-4 4-5 3-9 3-8 3-3 2-2 A-A A-K A-Q A-8 Pocket Rockets; American Airlines; Bullets Big Slick Little Slick; Big Chick Dead Mans Hand (the hand held by Wild Bill Hickok when he was shot dead) A-3 Ashtray; Baskin Robbins (31 avours) K-K Cowboys; King Kong K-Qos Mixed Marriage K-Qs Marriage K-J Kojak K-9 Canine; Fido Q-Q Siegfried & Roy; Ladies Q-J Maverick Q-7 Computer Hand (from claims that this, on average, is the median of all holdem starting hands) Q-3 Gay Waiter, San Francisco Waiter (Queen with a tray) J-J Knaves; Hooks; Fishhooks; Jay Birds J-A Jackass; Ajax J-5 Motown; Jackson Five J-4 Flat Tyres (as in whats a Jack for?) 10-10 Dimes 10-5 Woolworths (because it was traditionally a chain of 5- and 10-cent stores); Five & Dime 10-4 Over And Out; Roger That; Convoy; Good Buddy 10-2 Doyle Brunson (because he became world champion twice with the hand) 9-8 Oldsmobile 9-9 Popeyes; Phil Hellmuth 9-5 Dolly Parton 9-2 Montana Banana (as in its more likely bananas will grow in chilly Montana than this hand will make money) 8-8 Snowmen; Two Fat Ladies; Doggie Balls 7-7 Sunset Strip; Mullets; Saturn; Hockey Sticks 7-8 RPM 7-6 Union Oil Beer Hand (if youre playing pokers worst hand, its time to head for the bar...) Route 66; Kicks Speed Limit; Presto Magnum Jesse James; Colt 45 Jack Benny (refers to a running gag about the late comics age) Raquel Welch (said to refer to the size of the One Million Years B.C. actresss most impressive assets) Crabs (looks like two crustaceans on their sides) Ducks; Pocket Swans

d n a h r e Pok

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The The

No-limit Texas holdem offers you the chance to win millions on the turn of a card, take down big-money tournaments, or just scoop bragging rights from your mates in a home game. And whatever you want from the game youll nd all the advice you need in The Ultimate Guide to Poker. With expert articles, tips and strategies from professional players, and step-by-step guides to beating cash games and tournaments, The Ultimate Guide to Poker will turn you into a poker shark! Spot tells: learn to read players like a book Beat cash games: expert strategies to help you win Win tournaments: take down the big prize pools Learn from the masters: top pros reveal their secrets

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