No Limit Holdem Tips
When playing No Limit Hold'em your decision making in every hand depends upon different factors. You do not want to play every situation the same way, but instead a more dynamic approach depending on the following factors will maximize your success for each online poker hand that you play.
Have a strategic game plan for the hand that takes into account the stack sizes of each of your opponents and your relative position to each of your opponents.
Knowing your opponents' tendencies will help you create your game plan for that hand. Opponents act differently, so realizing the range of hands your opponent plays and how they play them is vital information. Additionally, any tells you have on an opponent will substantially improve you decision making during the hand.
Understand that your course of action will vary depending on your opponent, but always keep in mind that your course of action should focus on busting your opponent. Your success rate in capturing his whole stack will increase if your early decision making involves a plan that keeps this concept in mind.
Do not sit back and wait to capitalize on your opponents mistakes, instead proactively manipulate your opponent into making bad decisions.
Control the size of the pot to adjust for the amount of risk you are willing to take with your hand. It may be more advantageous to keep the pot small with a marginal hand. Conversely, favor creating a larger pot with your strong hands.
Understanding Implied Odds is a crucial skill in No Limit Holdem. For a better understanding learn how Implied Odds effect your betting strategy.
Patience and mental toughness are attributes of winning poker players. The most successful poker players do not go on tilt even in the event everything is going wrong for them. Instead, winners focus on making positive expectation decisions. Timely folding and strategic betting are the cornerstone to long term No Limit Hold'em success.
Heads Up Holdem Strategy
Last week I analyzed my first three matches en route to my victory in the $20 heads-up matches on PokerStars.com. This week I'll look at matches four through six and give some more advice for playing NLHE heads up.
In match four, I had run a lot of bluffs and had been caught a few times red handed. I started off with an early lead but through those bluffs we were back to even pretty quickly. Then on this bad bluff, I ran my stack down to almost a two-to-one disadvantage.
Seat 1: sketchy1 (11520 in chips)
Seat 2: frankyj34 (12480 in chips)
frankyj34: posts small blind 80
sketchy1: posts big blind 160
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to sketchy1 [Qc 4d]
frankyj34: raises 160 to 320
sketchy1: calls 160
This was really my first mistake. Up until this point, I had never put many chips in the pot out of position with a terrible holding. Why I decided to do so now, when I had been called down with so many bluffs already is beyond me.
*** FLOP *** [8s Th 8d]
frankyj34: bets 320
sketchy1: calls 320
My goal was obvious here. I wanted to check-raise the turn to represent an eight. I should have realized I couldn't get away with this after the aggression I'd shown already with no hand no draw.
*** TURN *** [8s Th 8d] [Kd]
frankyj34: bets 480
sketchy1: raises 800 to 1280
frankyj34: calls 800
*** RIVER *** [8s Th 8d Kd] [7c]
sketchy1: bets 2240
frankyj34: calls 2240
*** SHOW DOWN ***
sketchy1: shows [Qc 4d] (a pair of Eights)
frankyj34: shows [Js Tc] (two pair, Tens and Eights)
frankyj34 collected 8320 from pot
The only redeeming thing here is that I will now get some action almost no matter what my hand is when I actually hit a flop. I was excited about that prospect, but upset I was short stacked already.
Seat 1: sketchy1 (8160 in chips)
Seat 2: frankyj34 (15840 in chips)
sketchy1: posts small blind 80
frankyj34: posts big blind 160
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to sketchy1 [8h 6d]
sketchy1: calls 80
*** FLOP *** [6c 8d Jd]
sketchy1: bets 320
sketchy1 collected 320 from pot
sketchy1: doesn't show hand
So much for that theory! I didn't like checking this hand though, because I had been so aggressive up till now, I should just keep up the aggression and hope he hit the flop. An interesting thought here is that I was actually guaranteed to either lose my stack or win a small pot. My opponent wasn't going to check top pair here, but he would check a big hand to me.
I made a few big hands, but instead of betting them, I kept checking them. In retrospect, I was actually to win this one, with how poorly I played.
One move I made in this match and others is the big re-raise pre-flop and a big bet on the flop when I completely missed it. One thing about heads-up play is whenever someone calls your re-raise, unless they're trapping with aces or another big pair, they almost never have a pair. Therefore, whenever the flop is completely ugly, you should lead out again no matter what your hand is. Your opponent probably missed it, unless they took a lot of heat with something like ace-rag.
Finally I retook the chip lead when I made a big play at a pot with K8. I raised my opponent on the button who just limped, bet the QT8 flop, and checked the 6 on the turn. On the river I made trips and lead for a big bet, and they called--with 33! I had apparently set them up with enough bluffs that they thought 33 was good and called a big river bet.
Finally I ended this match, and moved on to the next round.
Seat 1: sketchy1 (16240 in chips)
Seat 2: frankyj34 (7760 in chips)
frankyj34: posts small blind 200
sketchy1: posts big blind 400
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to sketchy1 [Kh 5s]
frankyj34: raises 400 to 800
sketchy1: calls 400
*** FLOP *** [2c Ks 5h]
frankyj34: bets 800
sketchy1: raises 1200 to 2000
frankyj34: raises 2000 to 4000
sketchy1: raises 9600 to 13600
frankyj34: calls 2960 and is all-in
*** TURN *** [2c Ks 5h] [Qs]
*** RIVER *** [2c Ks 5h Qs] [8h]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
sketchy1: shows [Kh 5s] (two pair, Kings and Fives)
frankyj34: shows [Kc Js] (a pair of Kings)
sketchy1 collected 15520 from pot
My next match wasn't much to talk about. How they made it as far as they did was a mystery to me. I took a quick chip lead with top pair against just ace high, then won another pot when I called a river bet with TT on a T 8 9 Q x board. They showed Q9, and I took a big chip lead.
The final hand was quite humorous to say the least. We had traded big pots back and forth in the early part of this match when this hand came up.
Seat 1: sketchy1 (27620 in chips)
Seat 2: MrNiphty (20380 in chips)
MrNiphty: posts small blind 160
sketchy1: posts big blind 320
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to sketchy1 [3s 5s]
MrNiphty: calls 160
sketchy1: raises 960 to 1280
I really knew their tendencies pretty quick and felt this was a weak hand. I normally do this with no hand, so that if I am re-raised I can dump it.
MrNiphty: raises 4800 to 6080
sketchy1: raises 21540 to 27620 and is all-in
Right here, I knew that they were full of it. I honestly thought they were weaker than ace high even.
MrNiphty: calls 14300 and is all-in
*** FLOP *** [Th 6h Kc]
*** TURN *** [Th 6h Kc] [7h]
*** RIVER *** [Th 6h Kc 7h] [4d]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
sketchy1: shows [3s 5s] (a straight, Three to Seven)
MrNiphty: shows [Ad 7d] (a pair of Sevens)
sketchy1 collected 40760 from pot
Analyzing the hand and the match, there was no reason for them to think A7 was good. The pot odds were just too weak to call with such hand. I applaud them for having the courage to do so, but in retrospect, they should have just folded and saved their 14,000 chips. Most of the time, I do actually have a hand here, since I mix it up enough with my big blind steals that they were just as likely to be dominated as they were to be just a slight favorite over the 35!
My next match was even weirder! My opponent was all-in happy even right off the bat! I raised with A9, and they pushed for 34,000 more over my 2,000 bet! I knew this would probably be a quick match as a result. I was right...
Seat 1: sketchy1 (58880 in chips)
Seat 2: Slick Pappy (37120 in chips)
sketchy1: posts small blind 320
Slick Pappy: posts big blind 640
*** HOLE CARDS ***
Dealt to sketchy1 [Kh 7h]
sketchy1: calls 320
Slick Pappy: raises 1920 to 2560
sketchy1: calls 1920
*** FLOP *** [2s 5h 7s]
Slick Pappy: bets 34560 and is all-in
sketchy1: calls 34560
*** TURN *** [2s 5h 7s] [2d]
*** RIVER *** [2s 5h 7s 2d] [Qs]
*** SHOW DOWN ***
Slick Pappy: shows [9c As] (a pair of Deuces)
sketchy1: shows [Kh 7h] (two pair, Sevens and Deuces)
sketchy1 collected 74240 from pot
When they had moved all-in on me numerous times, I knew that they were probably doing it with nothing. When I called the raise with K7 and checked the flop, I fully expected them to just push. When they did, I called as quick as possible and dodged his six outs. Remember, heads up, against a guy who pushes a lot, top pair is practically the nuts. I am not talking about someone who plays smart and pushes in key spots, I am talking about someone who is clearly moving all-in because they don't know how to make a small bet to try and pick up a small pot. Their only gear is pushing.
Next week I will write about the final two matches. Check back then!
note by gank: Jon Eaton is a very talented poker player who has had a lot of recent success both in real life and online in No Limit Holdem.
Playing Fast in No Limit Holdem
This week I want to touch on a mistake that many novice players and even many intermediate make in poker. Most players who read books and play some poker know how to play big hands. Most players also know how to set traps with the nuts. One concept I don't see very often when playing NL cash games is fast-playing.
I hear complaints all the time from friends or from email about how they are getting beat every time they get aces or kings or when they hit a set. The truth is, many times these players are trying to be too tricky. When I play NL cash games, I rarely slow-play a big hand. The conditions have to be nearly perfect for me to do so. Most players who don't utilize fast-playing are not necessarily bad players; they're simply inexperienced. They don't know when they should be fast-playing in contrast to when they should be slow-playing because they do not have enough experience in reading the board.
To make things clear, when I refer to fast-playing, I'm referring only to situations where you have flopped a big hand. AK on a K high flop is not considered a big hand. Not to say it might develop into a big hand, but mainly, I want to focus on flopped sets and flushes. These hands are where I've seen players throw value down the drain by not extracting what they could have.
In order to illustrate my point more clearly, I'll give an example of a hand my friend sent me, his thinking throughout the hand, and how I think he botched it by not fast-playing. He was playing $400 NL 6-max on Party and raised to $12 (3x BB) in CO with 96h. We will ignore whether or not he should have playing this hand to begin with because that is another question altogether. Personally, I do not have a problem with playing this hand as long as it comes with a raise, but I know some players may disagree. Furthermore, we will assume that all players at the table have $400 because I do not remember the effective stack sizes.
SB and BB end up calling and take a flop of Q T 3, all hearts. My friend has flopped a flush, which happens 1% of the time. SB and BB check and my friend fires a $22 bet. My friend wants to try and extract value out of his hand so he under-bets the pot ($36) to try and get a call somewhere. SB folds and BB comes along. The turn is a 6s. BB checks, my friend bets $30 into the $80 pot and BB check-raises to $60. My friend decides to just call the $30 raise to see if a safe card comes on the river. He does not want a four flush to appear and lose. The river comes another blank. BB bets $100 into the $200 pot and my friend pushes all-in and gets called. BB shows 87h for a slightly lower flush and my friend drags an $812 pot.
What do you guys think of this hand so far' Some of you might read it and think it's not a big deal, if both my friend and BB flop a flush, the money is going in anyway. It doesn't really matter how my friend plays it, right' Wrong. I'll give my insight on this hand and why I think he messed up on every street besides pre-flop by not fast-playing his flush.
On the flop, my friend fires a $22 bet into a $36 pot. This is a great example of throwing value down the drain. Without knowing what the BB has, my friend could have bet $30-$36 into the pot on the flop and gotten a call. Odds are he has the best hand, but at the same time his hand is very vulnerable. If SB or BB has AQ with Ah, two pair, a set, or a lower flush, my friend has missed value by betting so small when he could have bet much stronger and still be called. If SB or BB hold nothing, they will fold for a $22 bet on the flop anyway so he might as well bet stronger to try and get more money.
The turn is where my friend really tried to commit suicide with his hand. Given BB's call on the flop, my friend should have bet way more than $30. If BB is on an ace high or king high four card flush draw, my friend has to make them pay. A $30 bet into an $80 pot is pricing almost any draw to come along. But this is not the biggest mistake my friend made. When BB check-raised to $60, my friend should not have just called to see if the river was a safe card. Why'
My friend has flopped a nine high flush draw with no redraw. He's either way ahead or way behind on the turn. However, there is also a possibility he may be outdrawn on the river by a four card flush. By just calling, he is sacrificing ALL value on his hand. Let's go into two possible scenarios. First, assuming my friend is ahead and BB has no hearts higher than nine in his hand, my friend cannot lose this hand. If a fourth heart were to come on the river, my friend will lose all action from BB, who will fold his top pair, two pair, set, or lower flush because he is easily beat by any high heart. Now, let's consider a second scenario where my friend is ahead with a flush right now, but BB holds a high heart in his hand. If my friend just calls the turn raise and the river comes a fourth heart, my friend loses the hand. BB will either lead with a bet on the river or it will go check-check. Either way, the pot goes to BB. Now if the river does not come a heart, BB missed his flush draw and will check-fold to any bet and my friend will win a much smaller pot than he could have. All in all, if a fourth heart were to come on the river, my friend would only receive action from a hand that beats him whereas on the turn, my friend will recieve action from a bigger range of hands, a lot of which he has beat.
I think the single biggest mistake my friend made on this hand was just calling the turn raise. This is the perfect time to fast-play your hand when you get played back at. To make things a little more clear, here's how I would have played the hand beginning from the flop. When checked to, I fire $30-$36, BB calls. A blank falls on the turn, BB checks, I bet $80-$100, BB check-raises to $160-$200. Now, rather than calling, I push. BB will call my push here most of the time because it's only another $160-$200 more into a $400+ pot. If BB has a higher heart and he's on the draw, I make him pay the most I can and I win more if he misses. If BB has a lower flush, two pair, or a set, I get my money in with the best hand and hope for the board not to pair on the river.
The importance behind fast-playing is to get action when you can and when you are likely ahead. Naturally, this concept does not only apply to flopped flushes; it applies to sets as well two pairs. There are countless times where I've seen players lose on the river because they got too tricky, too greedy, or too timid with their seemingly invincible hand. There are times where you simply must be aggressive, protect your hand, and make your opponents pay. When a board is draw heavy, the best way to play a big hand is to fast-play it.
note by gank: Brett Chen is a very talented no limit holdem player, he dominates online sit and gos and is a consistent winner in no limit holdem cash games.
You already know, if you are fairly good at poker, when to call with a draw. And you have a good idea of what hands to re-raise with pre-flop. And no doubt you have executed, or at least witnessed someone trap/limp under the gun with pocket aces. I have a few twists on these scenarios to share.
If you have a draw, and the bettor makes a large bet, the size of the pot or more, then most of the time the price is too high to call that bet to try and hit a flush draw. You want to see the turn and river cards as cheaply as possible to see if you hit your draw. Most people check that flush draw and hope the bettor makes a small bet, such that the price is right to draw to that flush.
What I do, sometimes anyway, is lead out with a small bet, like 50 into a pot of 250. Sometimes they will fold, of course. Fine. Sometimes, they aren't sure what I have and they call. I get my cheap turn card. Often times they feel they have the best hand and they raise. I am not sure why, but often they will raise the minimum, say from my bet of 50 to 100 total. Perhaps that's just because they're not sure how much to raise or because they are not sure their hand is best, or maybe its just laziness because the minimum raise is what is up on the screen unless they increase it. Either way, I have accomplished my goal of seeing more cards cheaply to see if I hit my draw.
The next tip is about re-raising pre-flop. Many people have tried a late position steal over a bunch of limpers. This is a different wrinkle on that. If you are a fairly decent player, you have an idea of which hands you play preflop and how you play them when there is a raise in front of you. Most people, most of the time, I assume, will fold to a raise with AJ, but might call with TT or JJ or 99. With AA or KK, you'd likely re-raise. AJ might open the betting if first into the pot, or even A10 or KT suited. So let us suppose someone opens a pot and two people call behind him. You have that AJ I mentioned on the button or the small blind. I occasionally re-raise big with that AJ. Why' You are up against an opening hand, which might be very strong, but is often AT or worse or KT suited or some middle pair. The callers behind him likely are not super strong, or else they would have reraised him. This play shouldn't be done too often, and will work best when you have not been playing too many hands so they think you are in fact strong, and also when you're in the blinds, because there aren't people behind you yet to act who might have a monster.
This last tip is a way to play pocket aces to maximize your profit from them. They do not come to you very often in any one tournament, so it is important to make something when you do get them. Sometimes, the most unexpected play is the one you can profit from the most. If you find you are on one of those tables where someone on the button or in the blinds tends to steal-raise when there are a few limpers, you can try the pocket aces limp under the gun. Your hope is that back side raiser will stab at a steal again and you can re-raise him. That is an easy one, many of us have tried or at least seen. Now let us suppose you have those pocket aces and someone has limped in front of you. Try limping right in behind them if there is a raise-happy guy in late position. No one will expect you to limp in behind someone with aces and they will not believe you are that strong when you re-raise them back. It is a risk that no one will raise and you'll be in a pot with four other limpers, just like the under the gun aces limp, but it can work quite well when there is a lot of late position raising over limpers. This play kills when there is that late raise because they don't believe you are strong. If no one raises, you are vulnerable, and you must be very careful with dangerous looking flops, but sometimes this can be a big hand for you post flop also. Many weak players can't let go of top pair. Suppose the flop is T73, and they have AT. They assume someone with an over-pair certainly would have raised preflop, so they are quite sure their tens with an ace kicker is good, and they assume you have KT, QT, or JT. Your deceptive play leads them to pay you off in the end.
note by gank: Jeff Henry is an extremely talented online poker pro.
Hey everyone. These last two weeks have been extremely busy! I've had to take care of a few personal matters as well as move out from my apartment into a newer one. Due to these time constraints, I was unable to complete many SNGs; I only got through maybe 40 of them. Therefore, there's really no point in writing an update on my SNG challenge. Instead, this week I will focus on a very important NL cash game strategy: the importance of position.
Many of you who have played enough limit hold 'em know the importance of position. It allows you to act last, gives you opportunities to buy cards on more expensive streets, as well as evaluate how strong your opponent's holdings are. In NL, these factors are even more important because you have the ability to use your entire stack in your favor. Here's an example of a hand out of position. Let's say you have AJo or pocket eights pre-flop in early position and limp (or raise if you're more aggressive). Suppose two opponents call behind you, the button and BB. Now the flop comes Q 7 5 rainbow and BB leads into you. How do you act' With either hand, unless you have a specific read on BB, I'd opt to fold. On this kind of board, usually BB will be leading with at least a pair of queens here. Of course, it's possible that he has a straight draw with 86, but certainly, you don't know for sure where you're at and what BB is holding. Also, at the same time it's hard to raise in this spot because you still have button to act behind you. If he has AQ, he may choose to cold call your raise, putting you in an even tougher spot on the turn.
Now switch all the positions so you have two opponents, except this time you're on the button. One opponent limps from early position (EP) and one limps from middle position (MP). Now, pre-flop, you already have two options with AJo or 88. You can limp or throw in a decent sized raise. I would favor the latter because of two things. First, neither of your opponents have shown strength pre-flop and a 5x BB raise could very well buy the pot pre-flop. Second, in the case that you get called by EP or MP, you have position on them pre-flop. Now lets say one opponent called and the flop comes Q 7 5 rainbow. Usually on these kinds of flops, your opponent either hit or missed. Now your opponent checks, you fire out a 2/3 continuation bet and win the pot. In the event that he calls, you can almost certainly put him on a queen or a set (as it is unlikely your opponent will call a 5x BB pre-flop raise with 86s). The importance of position is it allows you to act based on your opponents.
I have won many pots post-flop with a simple continuation bet because I raised in position pre-flop. As a matter of fact, sometimes it does not even matter what two cards you hold, as long as you can make a decent read on your opponent and his tendencies. Notice during this post, most of what I write depends on whether you have a read on your opponent or not. Of course, if your opponent is a crazy horse, you can put in the possibility of him leading with a larger range of hands as well as call you pre-flop with a larger range of hands. At the same time, if your opponent is very tight, I would almost always fire a continuation bet on the flop. This is because most tight opponents will auto-fold when they miss. If they call or raise you, you can simply check-fold the rest of the way. With the luxury of position, you may act accordingly with your reads.
Position is not only important with testing the waters on the flop, but also playing your draws. Let's say two opponents limped to you and you throw in a 3x raise with ATs. BB calls as does both limpers. Assume all three opponents have the same stack as you: 80x BB. The flop comes 9s 7s 4d. This isn't a superb flop, but it's not bad either as you have two over-cards with the nut flush draw. If everyone checks to you, you can check in position and take a free card. But to make things interesting, let's just say BB checks, your first opponent bets about half the pot, your second opponent folds and it's up to you. You can either raise or call here as folding certainly is the wrong play with implied odds. Now BB calls and the turn is gin as it comes 3s, giving you the pure nuts. This is a great card as your opponents will only be frightened if they put you on a flush draw. Otherwise, it is unlikely that it would've helped your hand. To your surprise, BB comes out betting 2/3 the pot! What the heck' Now there's three possibilities. BB could have a lower flush, 65 for the nut straight, or on a bluff trying to represent a strong hand. The opponent between you surprisingly calls and now it's up to you. Wow, this is a dream come true. With BB showing so much strength and your opponent calling in the middle, I believe the only correct play here would be the push. You have 70x BB's in the pot already and it's time to drop the hammer. Simple enough, right'
Not quite. Let's switch the positions up and put you in BB this time with ATs. The same two opponents limp, and button raises it 3x BB. You call as do both your opponents. The pot is now 12x BB. The same flop comes and you check. Your first opponent bets half the pot, second opponent folds, and button calls as do you. Now the pot has 30x BB. The turn is exactly the same, giving you the pure nuts. Now the question is, how do you play your hand' Out of position, how do you know where your opponents are at' Maybe your first opponent was betting with a hand like A9 and button was calling with over-cards. The point is, you have no idea where you're at! You don't know if your opponents will slow down now that the flush has come. If you check, planning to check-raise, there's no guarantee your opponents will bet. If you bet out, both your opponents could fold, seeing that you called with a flush draw. There is no "dead money" in the pot on the turn, like in the earlier example when you had position and BB led for 2/3 the pot.
When it comes down to it, it's tough to proceed with the nuts AND maximize value. Sure, you could bet and take it down, thinking oh well, at least I won something. But with position, you can maximize the value of your hand because you have more information on your opponent's holdings. If your opponents show strength, you can drop the hammer on them and throw in a nice raise. If your opponents show weakness, you can check in position and hope to get one of them to bite on the river.
The beauty of position is that it not only allows you to take down small pots with continuation bets, but it helps you maximize value when you have strong holdings. It gives you access to information that your opponents don't have because they have to act before you. The more information you get, the easier it is to maximize value on your hand as well as keep yourself from making costly mistakes. I hope this article was helpful and I hope that you will incorporate it into your NL game to make you a stronger player.
note by gank: Brett Chen is a sit and go monster online. He has been dominating sit and gos and done well in multi table tournaments for years.
Worst Hand in No Limit Texas Holdem Poker
The worst hand to get in No-Limit Hold 'Em isn't what you may have heard, which is 7-2 off-suit. The hand of death - trust me on this - is A-Q. I know what you're thinking, this guy is either burnt out from years of heavy drug use, or he caught some bad beats with AQ. Both may be true, but hear me out anyway. I've busted out several times in the last two tables of WPT events in the last year with this foul accursed hand. Surely A-T is worse, or A-8' Nope. And now I'll tell you why this isn't so crazy a thing to think after all.
With A-K, when an ace or king flops, you always have top pair with top kicker. With A-Q, you can flop top pair with a beatable kicker, or a beatable top pair with top kicker. You're A-Q is really only good against weaker aces in most situations. You need to hit something if you're up against a pair, and you're in deep trouble if you're up against kings or aces.
In most decent games, you will be facing weaker aces very infrequently. Weaker aces likely won't invest much. Conversely, if you're up against A-K, you're probably going to lose a lot unless you really know how to lay down a hand. If you lead out and someone calls or raises behind you, how do you know if you're up against A-K even if you flop your top pair'
Beyond A-K as an opponent, think about this too. The hands people will be holding when there is a lot of action are aces, kings, queens, and A-K, all of which crush A-Q. In short, there just aren't many hands people play much at all that A-Q is better than. It is most useful as a hand to take blinds down with, which isn't so fabulous.
Thus, A-Q can make you a little, or lose you a lot. With 7-2, or even A-8, you don't make anything, but you aren't given your walking papers either.
I toss A-Q often. It never seems to do well. Try passing on A-Q for a while and see for yourself.
note by gank: Jeff Henry is a successful multiple table tournament player who understands how to win in no limit holdem tournaments.