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Posted by Bigbet on Sunday, August 11, 2013

From full ring to six-max

poker girlSix-max poker is still poker at its core, but the reality is that playing shorthanded poker requires players who are used to full ring games to make some adjustments. For those transitioning to six-max, here are a few key differences you’ll experience.

Prepare to play more

If you’re used to playing full ring when you play hold’em, six max is going to be a bit of a shift for you. Even when you’re under the gun, you only have five players to act after you instead of 8 or 9, meaning the blinds will come around faster, the players per pot will be smaller, and the action will generally be looser than it would be at a full ring game.

In six max, especially rush poker six max and tournament six max, the luxury of waiting for hands to play is diminished by quicker orbits around the table. An M of 10 in a full ring tournament will last you 90 hands. At six max, you lose 30 hands of play with the same M. So, if you’re a standard tight player, be prepared to open your game up if you plan on surviving at a six max table.

Lowered opening requirements

As a rule, your opening requirements should mirror those at a full ring table if everyone in the first three seats had folded to you. However, because the inherent nature of six max is a looser, more aggressive version of this, you need to open your requirements a bit beyond what you would if the previous conditions were true.

You get to be the button every sixth hand, utilize it as much as possible. I’m looking to play top 50-70%, depending on the blinds, when I have the button. This is one of the biggest differences you’ll find in six max; button abuse is rampant in the tournament style six max tables. Aggression from the button will be your biggest weapon to raking in chips in these tournaments, and will be critical in cash games as well.

More preflop decisions

Three and four betting is rampant in six max, as opponents who are playing lower requirements will also be reraising with weaker hands. If you’re not adjusting, playing too snug can really pose a threat to your Texas Holdem bankroll. Jacks become a four and five bet hand, eights may be a four bet hand, AQ may become a five bet hand as well, depending on the player. Be prepared to see your opens respected much less than they would in a full ring game, even from the same positions.

For example, opening from the cutoff in a full ring game after every one has folded is usually given a little bit of respect, and players generally play straightforwardly against it. In six max, that same player may decide to three bet you with 89s on the button because he thinks you’re opening super light.

This also means you should consider carefully your preflop decisions with more vulnerable hands to flops, like 88 and AJo. These hands may warrant a three bet a higher percentage of the time in six max than the would full ring from the same positions, so keep that in mind when the cutoff opens for the 5th time in six orbits from that position. Be aware of the increased volatility of six max and be prepared to adjust to these big decisions preflop that you may not be used to.

Posted by Bigbet on Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Poker fish

One day I won a lot of money when I was a  beginner. Bad players can sometimes win because of the variance-driven nature of short term results, bad players also generally exhibit higher variance than good players do in almost any kind of poker. Even though all of my opponents were probably shaking their heads wondering how that guy won all that money, in retrospect it makes a lot of sense. Due to higher variance, it’s reasonable that bad players would tend to have larger single winning sessions when they do actually win than good players would typically have.

However, don’t take this the wrong way. Higher variance is not somehow saving the bad players. It’s exactly the opposite. Bad players will also have many, many more and more gigantic losing sessions than big winning sessions, in the long run. So, besides getting a handle on why such a bad player/big win session might have happened, is there anything else we can learn about poker from that experience? Here are some things I have learned from thinking about it.

We were all bad players once. At that time, I sure was a bad player. Realizing that we were all beginners at one time can provide us with a calming sense of humility. More importantly, it may give us a sense of genuine empathy to those around us who may be new at what they’re doing. Don’t berate the fish

Whether or not you are awestruck by the humility or empathy mentioned above, it’s simply not good poker strategy to berate your weaker opponents. I came out of that session feeling great and thinking I was a great poker player. Can you imagine how much money I would have avoided losing to my opponents in future sessions if they had clued me in to my poor play by digging into me with their anger, frustration, and bad beat whining? Kudos to my opponents, at the time, for playing the meta-game of poker well and keeping me uninformed of my weak play.

Of course, the more important point is that you should offer your fellow human beings the same amount of respect and courtesy that you would appreciate in return, poker game or no poker game. You may not be as good as you think. While my arrogance that too much, I’ll admit that on that particular night, I felt that I had played well. I would say that I even took this idea to the next level and considered myself to be a good poker player.

In reality, at that time, I was probably better at making sushi than playing cards. Just in case you are unaware of my culinary resumé, I would guess that I probably didn’t really know exactly what sushi was at that time. But improvement can be achieved. So, you may not be as good as you think you are, but there is room for improvement. I am a firm believer that anyone, with desire and effort, can improve his or her poker game. I know my own poker game has improved dramatically since that big session and it is still improving today. Don’t forget: even if you’re already good, you can get better.

Don’t place too much emphasis on short term results. Poker is a game where the skill element is nearly hidden in the short term. Anyone can win in a particular session, any two cards can win a particular hand, and any outrageous long shot draw can get there. These are all short term concepts. These are the kinds of things that can make poker great or frustrating, depending on your overall poker attitude.

Many players, including the early version of me, tend to get hooked on a few short term results when trying to assess their poker skill levels. Poker skill only reveals itself in the long run.

Posted by Bigbet on Saturday, August 14, 2010

Poker strategy per stake

Low limits poker

As 4 or more players routinely limp to see a cheap flop, avoid bluffing at these limits for the most part. Raise with your strong hands, otherwise you are asking for trouble. The crucial skills at these levels are a good grasp of the stats related to poker as well as the know-how of when to call and when to fold.

If you play well, you should win fewer pots than your competitors, but you will win bigger pots and therefore make profits overall. Whenever you think you are starting to tilt, you’ll often see your draws missing all the time while the opposite will seem true for your opponents’ hands. This is because your opponents will often be lucky calling stations. You should rarely bluff if ever, but you have to bet and raise strongly with your premium hands, increasing the money in the pot when you are ahead. It is important to be aggressive in such spots because you should not to provide free cards to calling stations and fish.

The medium limits

Almost all the players at these stakes can beat the lower stakes, except some who are only somehow skilled in the game, but have the funds to afford to play regularly, and to lose money at it.

These players play less valuable starting hands. Most pots are played two or three-handed in these games. Your opponents will be putting pressure on you a lot. Make bets to increase the pots when you are the favorite, especially against opponents who love to call or raise with decent strength hands only, but not with monsters. If you regularly beat the games at the low limits, the transition to the middle limits is going to consist in knowing your opponents and in choosing the most profitable tables.

High stakes limit

Such games almost always are tight and full of aggression. You will usually play opponents who are better than you are. Just avoid playing with them. Favor profitable tables where the play is softer due to the presence of one or two wealthy gamblers.

If you search well, you may get a seat at such a table. The average player plays nearly optimally, probably having spent a lot of time reading and studying the game. Bluff, semi-bluff, deception and marginal plays to control the pots are very important skills in these games. Aggressive poker game with strong premium cards is always the best way to play.

There may be some variations, but basically your opponents will be masters at the game of poker and it will be hard to find a profit. The players are very aggressive in fighting for the blinds, and use creative methods to deceive and put you on tilt. This is the rule rather than the exception. Bluffs all in, post flop 3-bets, stealing the blinds occur a lot. Normally, you should not play in these games unless you have great self-control and skills.

The variance in these games is large, and the average poker player can easily loose it all. So think twice before you venture into these shark-infested waters.

Posted by Bigbet on Sunday, December 27, 2009

Slow play is bad

Here are two more slowplays, both done by one of my opponents. In one case he wins, and in the other he loses.

The game is three handed. Unfortunatly, NoPainNoGain isn’t the fish I’d hoped he’d be. He’s a rather sophistocated player, which means it’s basically three pros fighting it out. But NoPainNoGain is clearly on the bottom of the totem here, so I’ll play. Part of what makes him so bad is his contravariant strategy: he bets when he is weak, and tries to slowplay when he should not. This makes it very easy to extract value with big hands, and to dodge his attempts to extract extra value.

Notice how I dodge the turn check-raise after pairing my Ace. This is a classic way behind or way ahead situation, especially against someone who slowplays. Of course, I pay off because I’ve induced a bluff, but I’ve only put int 1.5 big bets with the worst of it. In this hand he tries, ever so valiantly, to get some extra value from pocket aces by limping on the button. If he had played a bit quicker he might have only put in 3.5 or 4 big bets against my flopped straight, but instead he charges himself extra by waiting till the turn to pop me.

Slowplay kills. Despite this, there are times when I think a slowplay is what the doctor ordered. Here’s a hand where I had to bow out early, but two other players had the wonderful opportunity to run the deuling slowplays.

For the straight flush, it certainly seems like a clear opportunity for a slowplay. On the turn the straight flush has the hand locked up, and by smooth calling he can lure up to three other players in. Also, there are a lot of hand which might draw here. Certainly the big hearts wll draw, but so might the baby 5h shooting for the gutshot straight flush draw. A lot of players will not fold any straight flush draw. The river is kind of a bummer from a results oriented perspective. The chance to jam in this hand was on the turn against the made flush. With the board paired, the flush is just going to passivly call.

For the made flush, he is picking the exact wrong place to slowplay. He needs to charge the maximum in case another heart falls. Another heart may not beat him, but it could easily scare him into not betting/raising on the river. Since a lot of players will bluff a four flush board, or thin bet them with baby flushes, the non-nut flush needs to get their value when they can. Again, from a results oriented standpoint, he picked the perfect time not to slowplay.

Posted by Bigbet on Thursday, June 18, 2009

my poker dream

My first priority is building my poker bankroll. I would like to move up in limits, but I need to have a solid bankroll to do that because that is the deal that I made with my wide. There is no replenishing the bankroll if I go bust. My goal for September is to reach $6,000, roughly double what I have now. I have about $950 in bonuses to clear, the rest has to come from either new bonuses or my nascent poker skills.

My second priority is to be able to draw a stream of income within the next 18 months. We are considering adding to the family, and I would prefer to stay home to raise my children rather than putting them in daycare and going to get another job that I hate. If I could generate income from playing poker, perfect.

My third priority is to learn other games. I have no confidence in my NL holdem cash game. I basically suck. I think that I am much more comfortable in a tournament because I cannot lose any more that what I bought in for, and I have a shot at a relatively huge payout. In a cash game, that is not the case. I don’t have the stones. I also want to learn Omaha 8. I have dabbled, and have done relatively well by following simple strategies found both here and in Super System.

My Poker dream is to keep taking shots at the big money tournaments by trying to qualify through low buy-in and freeroll qualifier tourneys. Winning a big tourney is every poker players dream, and I am no exception.

I would like to become good enough at poker that I could make a living doing it. I have invested a few months and a several hundred (thousand?) dollars in my poker education. It would be nice to have it pay huge dividends.

Any bracelet at the WSOP, this is a long shot dream. I can’t seem to get AA to hold up to save my life this week. My daughter got sick playing with her cousin this weekend. I need to go to the store for formula and strained squash. And sauerkraut. She likes sauerkraut. Oh, the joys of fatherhood. And of poker.