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]]>This is the third of three columns that I have audaciously titled “Poker Made Simple.” In truth, I think that this series demonstrates that poker is simple on the surface and, underneath the still waters, very complex. The basic question is always simple: “Should I raise, call, bet, or fold?” The questions you might consider to answer this simple question are very numerous and difficult.

In the first installment in this series I explained a simple truth about poker: math defines the most profitable play you can make in a given situation if you know all the variables. In the second part I showed that the only variables that really matter are: what’s he got and what will he do with it? You know your cards and you know the board cards. The only things you don’t know are your opponents’ cards and how they will play them. Any question you may ask yourself (e.g. Is my opponent drunk?) is simply an angle of attack on what you really want to know: what’s he got and what will he do with it? Good poker players are able to accurately put their opponent on a hand, understand how the opponent will play, and understand the math of the situation in which they find themselves.

Let’s look at a couple of examples that will illustrate how much math matters. Note that I have somewhat simplified the following examples – in part to make it easier to understand the point and in part because a thorough mathematical exam is beyond the scope of this article (not to mention my abilities).

**Check, Bet, Call, Raise, or Fold?**

The game is $10-20 limit hold’em. You and one lone opponent remain. The pot is $95. You have 5c-4c and the board is Kc-Qc-8h-7h.. Your opponent has been betting into you the whole way. You have played with him frequently and you know with some certainty that when this opponent bets he has at least top pair which he will not fold unless the board gets really dicey. In other words, you have defined the variables you are interested in: what’s he got (at least top pair) and what will he do with it (bet and call if you raise). You can rule out the possibility that he has a bigger flush draw – no hand that is a bigger flush draw would have been “at least top pair” on the flop. So, you know with near certainty that you have at least 10 outs and probably 12 outs. If your opponent already has three-of-a-kind then the 8§ or 7§ are no good to you because either card will make your opponent a full house or quads – you have ten outs (the remaining clubs or any six). If your opponent has A-K then you will have 12 outs (any club or any six). What is the correct play?

Let’s look at each option and the mathematical consequences. For simplicity we will assume the more modest assumption that you have ten outs:

Folding. Ignoring what you have lost so far on the hand, if you fold you will neither win money, nor lose money. Your total is $0.

Calling. Your opponent bets the turn. You must call $20 in order to have a chance at winning $115 (the original $95 in the pot plus his bet of $20). With 10 outs you will make your hand 22 percent of the time (10 out of the 46 cards). If you play 100 hands then 78 times you will lose (call $20 on the turn and then fold the river when you miss). Your total loss will be $1560. You will win the other 22 hands – for $135 per hand (the original $95 plus $20 from your opponent on the turn and $20 on the river – it could be $40 on the river, but we will again make the more modest assumption). Your net for the 22 hands you win be $2970. Finally your net profit over 100 hands will be $1410 or $14.10 per hand.

Raising. Your opponent bets the turn. This time instead of calling $20 you raise to $40. He will call (he rarely folds top pair). You still have ten outs and you still will make your hand 22 percent of the time. Once again, if you play 100 hands then 78 times you will lose. Your total loss will be $3120. You will win the other 22 hands – for $155 per hand (original $95 plus $40 on the turn and $20 on the river). You net for the 22 winning hands will be $3410. Finally your net profit will be plus $290 or $2.90 per hand.

Obviously, your best option is to call and then bet or raise on the river. On the turn, folding is break even, raising is slightly profitable, and calling is the most profitable. This example illustrates what I preach as the basic low-limit poker strategy: bet with the best, good draw to invest, fold all the rest. At low-limit poker you should generally bet or raise when you have reason to believe you have the best hand and call when you have a good draw.

*A More Interesting Example*

Is it that simple though? Is it enough to understand basic pot odds? Well, it depends. If you want to play profitably at low and mid-limit poker a rudimentary understanding of pot odds is all that is required. You can, however, go to a much higher level of understanding.

It is a no-limit hold’em tournament. The blinds are $50 and $100. You are the big-blind. It is folded all the way around to the small- blind who makes it $300 to go. You started the hand with $1000 (you have $900 left after posting your blind). You look at your cards and see 7-2 offsuit. Obvious fold right? Wait. Not so fast! Pause for a second. Give it some thought. What are the variables? What’s he got and what will he do with it? Suppose, for example that you have a good handle on this opponent (you have him in a box) and you are reasonably certain that he will raise in this situation with any ace, any pair, and any two cards that are both ten or better. Also, you are also reasonably certain that he will only call a re-raise to $1000 with *A-A, K-K, Q-Q, J-J, A-K*, or *A-Q.*

Suppose you re-raise all-in. When you do, he will fold 85 percent of the time. If you play 100 hands you will win 85 without seeing a flop for a total profit of $34,000 (his $300 plus your big-blind of $100 85 times). If he calls then you know he has the smaller range of hands listed above. Against this smaller range of hands 7-2 offsuit will win just 23% of the time. So, of the remaining 15 hands you will win about 3.5 of them (profit of $3,850) and lose 11.5 of them (loss of $10,350). Thus, in the situation described if you re-raise all-in you will net $27,500 or $275 per hand.

Surprised? Note that I have not considered the considerably more complicated option of simply calling his $300 bet pre-flop. You get into a big variety of situations if you start working out the possibilities post-flop. Nor have I considered the consequences of being knocked out of the tournament (which you will be 11.5 percent of the time that you try this play).

The point, however, is that once you are good at putting your opponents on hands and knowing what they will do with them, a thorough understanding of the math of the situation you find yourself in will show you the most profitable path. Even 7-2 offsuit is a profitable hand in the right situation. Believe me when I tell you that every single world class player has, at the very least, a strong intuitive feeling for the math of any given situation. He may not have thought of this specific situation, but he has thought of one quite similar and he has a great depth of understanding to draw upon in making the decision this time.

**Conclusion**

I do not pretend that this series will, by itself, make you into a great poker player. Indeed, only you can make you into a great poker player with sufficient study and practice. What this series of articles does do is show you one way of approaching your study. When I am asked a poker question I first pause to consider what I am being asked. Is it a math question or a psychology question? Is it about defining the variables (what’s he got and what will he do with it?) or is it about the most profitable course to take if you know the variables?

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]]>The uninitiated often hold one of two views about poker. They either think that “it’s all math” or that “it’s all bluffing.” The math school will often ask questions like: “Isn’t it hard to calculate the odds?” The bluffing school will often ask: “How do you keep a poker face? I always give away my hand.” Whereas neither school is correct, these two extremes are an excellent illustration of the dual nature of poker. The truth is that poker as a mix of math and psychology – a mix of science and art. In poker, math defines the most profitable play you can make in a given situation if you know all the variables. But poker is not exclusively a game of math because you do not know all the variables – you do not know, for instance, your opponents’ cards or whether the players to act behind you will call, raise, or fold. Thus, in poker, psychology is the skill of accurately guessing at the information you do not know for a fact.

Poker books and literature are, generally, an attempt at an approximate balance of math and psychology. The writers are often attempting to teach you a strategy that will make you into a profitable player. For instance, when a poker writer instructs you to play K-J offsuit in late position in a hold’em game if there is no raise, what he or she is saying is: “Based upon certain psychological assumptions that I am making because of my research and experience, I believe that K-Jo is a mathematically profitable hand when you can enter the pot in late position for a single bet.” In other words, a lot of poker literature makes a lot of assumptions about your opponents – specifically about their starting hands and style of play. At low-limits these assumptions are close enough to dead-on that there are many poker books which will teach you the basics quickly and accurately. The books are, however, approximations.

**How Does It Work In The Heat Of Combat?**

Let me give you an extreme example that will illustrate the interplay of math and psychology. It is the World Series of Poker Championship – the game, of course, is no-limit hold’em. You can bet all of your chips in a single wager if you like. You have played well for five days and been lucky when you needed to be. Now there are only two players left – you and your opponent Phil Hellmuth.

You each have the same number of chips. Phil offers to make a deal but you are feeling cocky and say: “No way. Put ’em in the air.” Phil is the button (the small-blind when heads up) and he shoves all-in. You look at your hole cards and discover A-T offsuit. Do you call? Do you want to play A-To for all your chips and the WSOP Championship on the line?

This is, of course, a hypothetical question. Speaking for myself, I can assure you that if I ever do wind up in a heads-up duel with Phil Hellmuth at the final table at the WSOP Championship I will not be able to say: “No way. Put ‘em in the air.” All I am likely to manage is: “Mommy, help me.” Nonetheless, this question serves to illustrate the relationship of math and psychology to poker. Is this a math question or a psychology question? If Phil has a random hand (he has shoved all-in without looking at his cards) then A-To is a 62.722 percent favorite to win. You call. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. It is not a pure math question because Phil does not have a random hand. He has looked at his cards. He has chosen to push all-in with the cards that he has (this assumes that there are some cards he will not push all-in with). You are not up against a random hand; you are up against a hand that Phil thinks is worth an all-in bet in this situation.

Now to make a determination of whether or not you should call you must take a guess at the possible hands Phil holds – the range of hands with which he will make this all-in bet with. What cards would Phil hold to make a huge all-in play with? There is the psychology part of poker. You think about a few things you know. First, Phil is one of the finest players in the world – he is not making some ridiculous amateur mistake by pushing all-in. Furthermore, he has played very few hands this aggressively over the last hour. And finally, you know that Phil wants to regain the WSOP more than anything. It seems very doubtful that he is risking all of his chips on a marginal hand. You conclude therefore that Phil has A-A or K-K. Against that range of hands, A-To will win just 16.2 percent of the time. You fold.

**The Best Players Do Both**

Admittedly, this example is extreme. The point, however, remains valid. To become a truly skilled poker fox you will have to be very good at both the math and the psychology of poker. You probably know opponents who are good at one or the other. There are players who can rattle off odds and statistics but rarely go home winners because they simply cannot turn their knowledge into a winning style Then, there are players who understand their opponents but insist on gambling with inferior cards and thus, they cannot win.

To become a great player you will have to go beyond the existing poker literature. You will have to understand psychology and math. You will have to know how your opponents are thinking and feeling at every moment. You must have a handle on the kinds of cards they are apt to play and how they will play them. Will this opponent tenaciously hold onto top pair no matter how much aggression you show? Will this opponent routinely fold second pair? In short, you will have to “put your opponents in a box.” The psychological tools you employ will define the parameters of that box. The best players – the world class players – are able to very accurately put their opponents into very small boxes.

Once you have a good handle on your opponents you will need to understand the math of poker well enough to know the best play to make. Should you raise, call, or fold? The answer will depend upon knowing all of the variables for the specific situation you find yourself in. Using psychology you have defined the variables. Math will tell you the right play to make.

In my next column I shall explain the steps that I go through to define the variables. It is not as difficult as it seems. Then, in the concluding column I shall show you how to sort out the math for the situation as you have defined it and make the best play.

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]]>The post Holdem online poker texas tournament Are Low Stake Tables Faster appeared first on Best Poker Players.

]]>$1000 plus pots were played in less than a minute and ranged as

long as 6 minutes – the same range for the small stake tables. Over

all, the average length of an online Poker game today is just over

one minute or 50-60 hands per hour.

In higher stakes games, one thing is quite clear. There are a higher

percentage of tighter and aggressive players at these tables than at

the small stake games. That means there are more sharks at the big

tables and a much better chance that you will be one of the fish.

The smart thing to do here is to say away from these kinds of

tables.

Given the fact that the return on investment is lower at the high

stake games, that the average level of play is much more

aggressive and that a much larger stake is required, there is very

little opportunity to be a consistent winner on tables with $50 and

up blinds.

“All of the recent research points to $5/$10 Limit tables

as ideal combination of risk and reward.”

**Insider Tip**

FACT! When the average loose gambler loses, he or she keeps on

playing in an attempt to recover the loss. This is irrational and

unplanned play and can be very expensive.

Insiders Secrets To Texas Hold’em Poker Online by Theo Cage 62

On the other hand, when most innate gamblers win, they forget all

about their losses and conclude incorrectly that they have finally

learned how to win – or that their luck has finally changed.

They express what is an irrational optimism at this point – a totally

unfounded and undeserved optimism that keeps them in the game

until they revert back to a losing streak.

Sharks exploit this irrational playing style in gamblers to generate

a continuous income.

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]]>It was suggested by a forum member that I post my articles here. I thought, good idea. Here is the second in a series of three that I am very proud of. I will post this series and, in future I will post all of my new articles here as soon as they are published in the forum that paid for first right of distribution.

Please discuss and criticize and say anything that comes to mind. I know a lot about poker, but for everything that I know, there is more that I do not know. Einstein said, “As the circle of light grows larger so does the circumference of darkness around it.”

Poker Made Simple: Part II – What’s He Got?

by Dave Scharf

This is the second of three columns that I have audaciously titled “Poker Made Simple.” In truth, I think that this series demonstrates that poker is simple on the surface and, underneath the still waters, very complex. The basic question is always simple: “Should I raise, call, bet, or fold?” The questions you might consider to answer this simple question are very numerous and difficult.

**What are the Variables?**

In the first installment in this series I explained a simple truth about poker: math defines the most profitable play you can make in a given situation if you know all the variables. So, forgetting about math for a moment, what are the variables? What questions could you consider when deciding to answer the simple basic question: “Should I raise, call, bet, or fold?” Off the top of my head I came up with a short list of twenty, the answers to which might affect the outcome of a poker hand:

*– How many opponents am I facing?*

* – What are my cards?*

* – What is the best possible hand?*

* – How likely am I to have the best hand?*

* – Has the player in seat three been drinking?*

* – Have I been drinking?*

* – How long has the player in seat seven been playing?*

* – How long have I been playing?*

* – Is the player in seat six playing a higher limit than she is accustomed to?*

* – Who won the last pot?*

* – How many cups of coffee has the player in seat nine had?*

* – What does the tattoo on the forearm of the player in seat ten mean?*

* – What cards are on the flop?*

* – Does the player in seat four have more money in his wallet or is it all on the table?*

* – What does my opponent think I have?*

* – Are the players in seats one and two married to each other?*

* – Did the dealer flash a card?*

* – Does the player in seat four think “kings are running?”*

* – Is the player in seat five angry at the player in seat nine?*

* – How much will my hotel room cost me tonight?*

You might think that some of these questions could not possibly affect the outcome of a poker hand. Obviously, some are more important than others, but any one of them could be important. How much will my room cost me tonight? If I have my last $200 on the table and my room costs $150 then I better not lose more than another $50 before I quit. If that is the case then it may well affect what cards I choose to play. If I am scared of losing then I will probably play tighter than I otherwise would. Is the player in seat three drunk? Generally, when a player is drunk he plays looser than usual. Herein lays the clue as to why these questions could be important. How does anything – position, number of opponents, sobriety, anything – affect what cards your opponent will play and how he will play them. All of the questions that could affect the outcome of a hand of poker do so because they may alter the cards that you will play or that your opponents will play. Also, they may alter how you and your opponents will play them.

**What’s He Got and What Will He Do With It?**

Back to the original hypothesis for a moment: math defines the most profitable play you can make in a given situation if you know all the variables. Since you know what your cards are and you know what the board cards are, the only variables you are interested in are:

What are my opponent’s cards?

How will he play them?

What’s he got and what will he do with it? If you have multiple opponents then you are asking yourself what each of them has and how each of them will play?

Poker really is simple. What do I have, what does he have, and what will he do with it?

The basic way in which you put your opponent on a hand (what’s he got?) is to estimate the range of hands that he will start with and then narrow the range based on the betting as the hand progresses. I describe it as “putting your opponent in a box.” As the hand progresses you make the box smaller and smaller until you know within a very small range what your opponent is holding – you have him in a very small box. This skill takes a certain natural aptitude and a great deal of practice. You must learn to trust yourself. The easiest and cheapest way to practice is to predict what cards your opponents are holding after you have folded. You are sitting at the table anyway; make use of the time and practice figuring out “what’s he got?” Observe the hand, shrink the box, and check your results at the showdown.

Along with figuring out what your opponents have, you must figure out how they play. Some players, for instance, will always bet a flush draw while others will always check-and-call with a four-flush. Some players will never fold top pair in hold’em; others will routinely fold top pair if confronted with a lot of aggression. Some players will raise once with top pair; other players will three-bet or cap the betting with top pair. It is impossible to separate “what’s he got” from “what will he do with it.” It is you knowledge of his starting hand range, coupled with his betting pattern that allows you to “shrink the box.”The Difference Between World Class Players and the Rest of Us

Not long ago a local player asked me: “What do those guys know that we don’t know.” The “those guys” he was referring to are the players that he is regularly seeing on TV: Howard Lederer, Paul Phillips, Gus Hansen, Phil Ivey, TJ Cloutier, Chris Ferguson, Phil Hellmuth, Erik Seidel, Johnny Chan, etc. Once again, go back to the original hypothesis: math defines the most profitable play you can make in a given situation if you know all the variables. What “those guys” do better than your average middle-limit Vegas pro or low-limit local fish is accurately define the variables. What “those guys” do is accurately put their opponents into very small boxes and then apply the right tools (raise, call, bet, or fold) to crush the box in question.

Simple. To improve your results all you have to do is to improve your ability to answer this question: “What’s he got and what will he do with it?” Then having learned to accurately define the variables, you must improve your understanding of the situation in which you find yourself. I frequently overhear conversations in which little-skilled low-limit players criticize what appears to them as poor play on the part of the world-class World Poker Tour players. In almost every case, the criticism is wrong. It is mistaken because the little-skilled low-limit player in question does not understand the situation in which the world class player finds himself. What looks to him to be a bad play is, in fact, the correct tool being applied to a very small box.

In the third and final installment I will explain what I mean by “math defines the most profitable play.” In any event, if you are looking to improve your results you can work on the accuracy with which you define the variables.

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