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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Etiquette at the table

I'm a pretty keen golfer so I know all about sport etiquette, there is an acceptable behavior in everything from the sports field to the dinner table. It is confusing that many fail to abide to the respectable etiquette. After noticing many things from both the World Series and this months poker games I have played I wanted to expand on some behaviors that need to be enforced.
Speaking at the table, yes poker is a card game and banter is acceptable but not talking over the game. Its ridiculously annoying when players that aren't involved in the hand have a gigantic conversation while another player is tanking. What is worse is when they are discussing the hand that is in progress. Everything that is said can disperse valuable information to all the players involved in the hand. Imagine one player says after the board comes down [J.Q.Q] - "s**t, I just folded a Q...
I don't know if this is an official thing but last night I told a player that he can't force someone on tilt. He was saying after he lost a hand that the player who beat him is weak and plays too many weak hands. Its is pretty probable that by aggravating a player, his more likely to 'target'.

Your only tool at the poker table is your style of play. Maybe its just my opinion but having players ask what did you fold after every hand is somewhat of an invasion of your style.
During the last poker night after I raised on the flop my opponent was about to fold and asked if I would show my cards.
So I told him "if you call me on the flop, I will show you on the turn"... By exposing your cards at anytime in the hand you are relaying unnecessary information to your opponents at the table.

Earphones, I have never tried listening to music while I play. I can understand when players want to get into their own worlds blocking out the world, narrowing it down to them, music and the cards they see. However, I don't respect players who pump the volume up to unbearable. Poker is a very involved game, continuous information and directions are required so it is required of you to listen to what's happening around you and most importantly at the table...
However, I have been considered experimenting with my ipod at the next poker table. I have questioned what to listen to, does the genre, volume or tempo have any influence on your style, behavior and mood.

In conclusion, treat the poker table and the people around it with "competitive respect", they are your opponents however the way you treat them is the way you will get treated. If you remain positive, technically correct in both style and mannerism you are more likely to have a successful and more importantly good time on the velvet.

Finally, shaking hands and commenting on your opponents play can benefit you without your opponent even knowing. There are subconscious effects on your opponent. Always remember to acknowledge a 'classy performance', because when your on the receiving end of the acknowledgment you can pocket it to confidence. Now your thinking, why would I want to boost the confidence of my opponent. Yes you are, but you will be taking more out of it than they do. You're subconsciously making a mental note of the hand how it was played and this gives additional information on your opponents hand. Another thing being friendly at the table will help with is the way in which people bet against you, earning the respect that the bets aren't going to be 'targeting'

Saturday, 30 July 2011

small buy in, big buy in.....

Wow! Is the only word to describe the way I played yesterday. My afternoon was spent playing at the University's regular small buy in table and my evening at a High-stake private game I happened to receive an invite to, through a friend.
The quality of players at the respective tables were uncomparable, university poker tables are filled with young aggressive players spending lunch money looking for entertainment. However I have utmost respect for these player as they have master great betting strategy and understanding of low-staked cashgame. The buy in was only R20 with the blinds 25/50 cents. It was difficult to adapt my betting style to the small blinds, I have noticed that each table has a "standardized raise" - basically an amount acknowledged by the table as a significant raise. Difficult to explain but at the campus table a bet of 6x BB was still not enough to limit the amount of callers.
High stakes table
- My game plan at the table was an tight style initially whilst I build a chip stack and then once I had an efficient amount of chips infront of me I would loosen up my range. In the back of my mind though POSITION played a vital role in the hands in got involved in. My biggest frustration at tables where the blinds are so low is the range of cards your opponent can have because its so cheap people are involved in the majority of pots. A combination of luck, good cards and great reads I managed to build a winning stack of R350. (A win that was acknowledged by the entire university poker playing community. I played for about 3hours raking up many hands and chips. The most significant hand I was involved in was with a player I deem to be the most calculated and capable player at the table, Cliffie. I start the action off with [10s.7d]Pre-flop bump to R6 (12x BB). I get raised by Cliffie to R12. I call. Flop comes [K 6 3]. I open the betting with R10, he thinks n raises it to R20. While his thinking I'm trying to put him on a hand. Which I can't! I decide to see how serious he was and raise R40, he reraises to R80. I snap push all in R200. He ponders for about 5minutes before tossing away QQ. This 3bet was award winning. I flipped over the 10 7 and got applause from even spectators.
In conclusion, during small-staked games keep your basic playing style. Don't necessarily adapt your game all the way down to 'cheap', attempt to bring it up a notch. Maintain your original playing style but don't be afraid to see more cheap pots. A very important component you may need to adapt is Continuation Betting! Bet preflop and raise on the flop 7/10 times it will win you the hand.

About 2hours later, I arrived home from university on a high from the afternoon's outcomes. I get a call to invite me to a HIGH-STAKED private game. As a student its a privilledge to be seated with these business men at a high rollers table. Riding the highest of confidence I arrive at the well organised and professional looking tournament, while I was driving tho the venue I contemplated playing the same style I did earlier in the day. I Did and it worked! The players sitting at this big money table were pretty seasoned campaigners, people who have been playing long enough to have widened and practiced with a wide range of hands. The evening started off pretty quietly only got involved in one hand pocket 9s - hit a set on the flop and doubled up... Which allowed me to patiently wait over an hour before I got involved in another hand. At one stage I claimed to the table "I am card Dead!", but it was merely a matter of time before decent cards started landing in my hands. But before the card high started I needed to make a few brilliant plays if I say so myself. The most memorable the player behind me (extremely aggressive) raises preflop, I look down at 33 and re-raise so that his all in, he calls and flips over [10s9h], I had a strong feeling he had air... The board comes perfect and my 33 hold up!!
My chip stack at the end of the evening
As tight as it seemed I played, my style was majority tight but played many randomly selected loose hands. Loosest of all 67 hearts. You will scratch your head when I explain how this hand unfolds... So I get [6h7h] and check in the big blind with 3 callers. The flop comes [As.5h.2d] - now according to any strategy I have explained in the past, you should fold right? Wrong. There's a bet half of pot size, only I call. The next card [Qh] giving me a flush draw... BACKDOOR. My thoughts if the next shot this opponent fires at me is anything less than pot size I will call... However, unpredictably and very weak on his part, he checks behind me. The river brings a [9h].. I have the unexpected flush. Yip, I raked in serious chips after I stunned the entire table. Nobody saw that, was an out of character, loose but brave way to play the hand - sometimes you just have the good feeling and you should go with it. My opponent did have two pair so that kind of put him on TILT.

I learnt sufficient lessons from the evening besides the fact I cashed well. It was more the experiences I took from the table. Patience and confidence are the biggest keys to success in this business, if your feeling the cards and are 'in the zone' don't hesitate in making the most of it. Another tip I can offer from this poker day, if you have a good understanding of your own style it will make reading and deciphering your opponents routine easier.

Out of position is out of action!

Obtaining information is the most important part of poker, it is required in order to make a correct and calculated decision. Most tables seat 9 players, which is dissected into three parts: Early, middle and late position. These seats represent the order in which you ACT. Its important to realize that different strategy is required in each seat. Well, not a different range of cards but more a different style for each seat.
This post will give my opinionated approach on how to and what (not) to play in the respective seats.
- Let's start in early position: the blinds. The small and big blind are to the left of the dealer button, acting last preflop and first after. In this position you are already invested or half invested in the pot! Its recommended to open up your range of hole cards in this seat provided there are no raises or a call gets value for money. However, this doesn't mean be reckless just to protect your blind - the key is to use the pre-flop information delivered by your opponents at the table. The way in which the action unfolds will advise your bet. In these two seats players are betting infront of you so the pot could be of significant value and a bet will be advised because of the pot odds.
The next position is under the gun... I call this 'cautious'. Because its just a dangerous position unless your very sure about the strength of your cards as well as your ability to read the players at the table. My range of cards shrink tremendously in this seat. I would even fold A 6 in this seat, mainly because I don't know the strength or weakness of my hand compared to my opponents. Occasionally however, I will fire a raise from under the gun with cards just less the premium. But from this seat a continuation bet regardless of the flop might be required, not only to 'exclaim your strength' but also to find how your opponent feels about their cards.
Middle position requires a simple style, from this seat hands like 67 suited can be useful because there are only 2 maybe 3 players still to play - many a time has a raise from middle position managed to get players in late position to fold leaving me last to act.
Finally, the most preferable and informative position, late, on the button. This is a situational position in terms of the actions. You will always be last to bet, so take full advantage of any signs, signals or tells you can make on your opponents.
I struggled for weeks, pondering how to explain the value of the different positions at the poker table. But the main focus at the table would be to gather as much information before you can make a calculated decision of which hands to play and it allows you the information to make tells, and figure out what cards your opponents can have. In summary, from early position play tight as you are the first player to GIVE OFF information, stick to premium cards, don't forget to continuation bet when using the occasional looser hand. Middle position allows you to loosen up and incorporate some suited combinations. Late position will give you enough information to open up your aggression and range.
* I read a quote the other day "play tighter at loose tables, and looser at tight tables."

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Bounce back with quad eights...

Apologies for the long delay between posts, but I had nothing positive to say about poker before last night. I was crashing out early online and not even seeing top 3 of weekly poker nights. My moral was damaged, things were going so downhill at the velvet table that I considered taking a lengthy break. But my gf reassured me: "your putting too much pressure on yourself, relax and let your talent shine".
The situation was terrible. I would hit a set of Aces and get rivered with quad 2s. Or land a flush draw on the flop and watch the turn n river without completing the flush.
A tweet from Daniel Negreanu: *Message to all poker players who have been or are running bad. Everyone goes through it but it never lasts forever. Focus and stay tough.*... I then decided to take a week off of poker meaning no online, no live. Only contact I had with the beautiful game was watching live feeds of the WSOP online.( I declined two big invites, using the break to relieve pressure and clear the mind of any negative thoughts of bad beats.

Then at yesterdays poker night as Daniel predicted the bad run never lasted forever... One hand changed everything. Boosted my morale, confidence and bankroll lol. Roughly an hour in I'm dealt 8c8h (in middle position) and I rasie preflop. Narrowing the callers to two. The table bully and the chip leader. The flop comes 7c8s9c. The player in early position raises Pot size. I bump it 2x he, the late position (chipleader) calls. I get re-raised all in. Snap call... Pots up to about R500. They open Ac9d and Jh10c... The turn comes 8d. GIVES ME QUADS and instantaneously I rake in the gigantic pot. CONFIDENCE! The rest of evening I could sit back, see several pots only playing certainties. End of the night played heads up. And decided to call it a night.
My objective for the night was to play my regular strategic game even though I felt it hadn't been working. Another thing I focused on was to only play certain hands in certain positions. I will go into depth on position in my next post. OUT OF POSITION IS OUT OF ACTION.
I now understand, bad runs never last forever - just stay positive and positive things will happen that will jump start a GREAT RUN OF FORM...

Hope this serves as a guiding star to poker players grinding through a tough patch in their game!!!