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Made Hand Makes a Mess; or, Going Crazy With a Pocket Pair

Made Hand Makes a Mess; or, Going Crazy With a Pocket Pair


Poker is a game of patience. From time to time we’ve all been in a spot where the deck is running cold and the only thing keeping us focused is the prospect of picking up some semblance of a starting hand. When that happens and we look down at two suitable cards in a solid table position, it can feel like unwrapping a Christmas gift that you’ve waited all morning to get your hands on.

When a patient player picks up a solid starting hand, the first thing on his or her mind is to capitalize on this situation. That being said, sometimes getting too excited by solid preflop holdings can lead to dire circumstances down the road. Let’s take, for example, a hand played on Day 2 during the European Poker Tour Barcelona Main Event from the beginning of this season.

The hand involved EPT8 Prague Main Event champion @Martin Finger and came during Level 12 where the blinds were 800/1,600 with a 200 ante.

Action folded to a player in the cutoff who had 219,000 to begin the hand, and he opened with a raise. Finger was on the button with about 183,000, and the German responded with a reraise to 13,000. The blinds let go of their cards and the player in the cutoff came back over the top for 39,000 total. Finger called.

The two took a flop of K♣5♦2♣ and the player in the cutoff kept up his aggression with a bet of 40,000. Finger stayed the course and called, then the Q♥ fell on the turn. At that point Finger’s opponent jammed for about 140,000 total and Finger called all in for his last 104,300.

Finger: K♦6♦
Opponent: 10♣10♦

The board finished with the 9♠ allowing Finger to double and take a commanding chip lead at that point in the day.

First and foremost, the turn call with merely top pair and a weak kicker was world-class and showcases exactly why Finger is one of the top professionals on the live tournament circuit today. But despite the fact that Finger’s opponent was playing against top-notch talent, that wasn’t the only reason why he lost a majority of his rather large stack in this hand.

At the core of it, Finger’s opponent got attached to a good starting hand. During the preflop stage of the hand, the player in the cutoff opened with a standard raise. Finger three-bet from the button and when action came back around the cutoff made his first mistake.

Rather than flat calling the three-bet before the flop and opting to play a smaller pot with more information, the cutoff comes over the top with a four-bet. While Finger’s opponent may truly have believed he had the better holding and be correct with that assessment a majority of the time (including in this specific instance), the hand was far from over. The four-bet here and willingness to play a large pot with one pair shows the start of behavior that ultimately cripples the cutoff’s stack.

One of the more dangerous aspects to four-betting this hand is the fact that the player was out of position against a world-class opponent. The cutoff is, in essence, bloating the pot and hoping that his hand holds against Finger after the community cards run out. Unfortunately, being out of position means that he will have to act before Finger on every street.

On the flop, the cutoff has little choice but to continue his aggressive streak and lead out. Unfortunately, the pot had become so large before the flop, that ensured his continuation bet had to be a large one. If Finger whiffed the flop and opted to let his hand go at that point, the big c-bet wouldn’t have been an issue. But with an overcard to the tens present, the cutoff would basically be forced to turn his hand into a bluff on subsequent streets if the bet were called.

Finger called the flop with top pair and the aforementioned scenario was exactly what played out. The queen on the turn brought another scare card to the tens, meaning that it was even more likely for his hand to be beat by a higher pair. But with so much money in the pot from his aggression on earlier streets, the cutoff saw the only to move that had potential to win was to shove all in and hope Finger released his cards. The cutoff was correct in assuming that Finger’s hand wasn’t the strongest, but the German’s experience and knowledge at the table allowed him to see through this shove and make the correct call.

One final note that should be mentioned relates to how aggressively this hand was played vis-à-vis the players’ stack sizes. The cutoff started with approximately 219,000 or roughly 136 big blinds. Finger’s stack, on the other hand, was around 114 big blinds. The two players were remarkably deep-stacked, meaning that playing big pots or overplaying starting hands could lead to incredibly unfortunate situations.

The cutoff failed to realize that while playing this deep, it’s rarely ever a good idea to get one’s entire stack all in with one pair. More often than not, the cutoff’s opponent will recognize how deep the stacks are and if he doesn’t back down early will very likely have a superior holding.

In deep-stacked tournament poker, it’s important not to be in too great a hurry to get all of those chips in the middle. Having a lot of chips allows you to play with more caution both before and after the flop, gaining information with smaller bets as you proceed from street to street. In order to achieve maximum information, pot control must be exercised, but that fails to happen when a player becomes married to what looks like a solid starting hand.



To Bet or Not to Bet: That Is the Question

To Bet or Not to Bet: That Is the Question


I would like to take as my text today a bit of wisdom from @TJ Cloutier, whose book on tournament no-limit hold’em was the first poker strategy book I ever read. It came, though, not from that book, but from what I believe was his only appearance on the NBC television show, Poker After Dark. This was from Season 2, a show first broadcast in September 2007.

It requires a bit of set-up:

In the last hand of the previous episode, the one-table tournament was down to four players. The blinds were 200/400, and Cloutier and @Doyle Brunson both folded. @Phil Hellmuth then raised to 1,000 from the small blind with Q♠3♦@Erik Seidel called the raise from the big blind holding K♦Q♦.

The flop was Q♥A♠3♠. Hellmuth bet 900. Seidel raised to 2,500. Hellmuth called. Both players then checked the 4♦ turn.

The A♦ river counterfeited Hellmuth’s flopped two pair (queens and treys), giving Seidel a better two pair — aces and queens with a king kicker. Hellmuth checked. Seidel bet 4,000, and Hellmuth called.

This set up a typical Hellmuthian rant about how perfectly he had played and how lucky Seidel had been to beat him. Among his complaints was this, to Seidel:

“You’re not even in the same league, Erik. Just be happy the deck saves you every pot we play. I keep slow playing it, and you’ve sucked out on me like five in a row that I’ve slow played, all just weird beats. And I could have won all five pots, but I want to let you...”

At this point, Cloutier interrupts: “I want to make a comment on that. I would think the solution to that would be not to slow play it.”

It was one of the few genuine laugh-out-loud moments I remember from that show. And, of course, it also contained a pearl of wisdom — one which was, I’m afraid, lost when it was cast before the swine that was too busy squealing.

On those rare occasions when you flop a big hand — let’s say two pair or better — what should you do? As with all poker strategy questions, the real answer is “It depends.” But we can do a little better than that.

First let me make clear that my context for discussing this problem is a no-limit game, either cash or a deep-stacked tournament, so that you have a lot of room to maneuver. I’m also assuming opponents who are not high-level thinkers and players, but typical, casual amateurs.

Let’s lay out the factors to consider. There are a lot of them.

As a general rule, slow playing makes more sense when out of position than when in position, because if your opponent will reliably bet, you might get money out of him in spots where a lead-out bet will cause him to fold.

On the other hand, though, you can flip that logic on its head. Most amateur players will only donk bet with a fairly narrow range of hands — most commonly when they flop top pair. They will tend to go for a check-raise or other form of slow play with their biggest hands and their bluffs. If we assume that our opponent knows this, then we cause him to misread our hand range by open-betting strong hands.

For example, if I have A♣10♦ on a flop of A♠10♥5♣, I very much want my opponent holding A♥K♠ to read my lead-out bet as a medium-strength hand such as {A-}{9-}, and therefore either call or raise.

Who has the lead?
It is much more natural to open the betting if you took the last aggressive action preflop. That factor, therefore, adds weight to betting rather than playing passively.

Table image
If you have been fairly consistently making continuation bets after being aggressive preflop, then it’s usually best to continue doing so when you flop big. You want opponents to think that you’re just following your standard playbook. A sudden change to passive play might set off their alarms, which is the last thing you want.

Opponents’ tendencies
If you are facing Dr. Aggresso, who will leap at any sign of weakness, then slow playing makes more sense. It’s the old “give him rope and let him hang himself” thing. Conversely, if you’re at a table full of passive players, put the money in and hope they’ll follow along with their much weaker holdings.

Pot size
It is a general truth that the bigger the pot, the greater your motivation to win it right away, rather than delay decisive action while it builds further. So if there was a lot of preflop action and there’s a lot of money already in the middle of the table, you should be less inclined to go for the slow play.

Number of opponents
I have no hard and fast rule, but more opponents in the hand tends to push me to go ahead and push big hands rather than slow play them, because the number of ways somebody could spike a better hand on the turn or river is increased.

Flop texture
The texture of the flop is also relevant. Draw-heavy boards are a clear indication to get the money in now, while you have the best hand, rather than after another card or two has been dealt, when you well may not.

Risk aversion
We all have different levels of comfort with taking greater risks for greater rewards. If you are playing very deep-stacked and with a healthy bankroll, and if you have the emotional stability to keep playing well after losing a huge pot on an unlucky river card, then that is a factor in favor of taking a chance on sandbagging an opponent.

On the other hand, if you know that you’re subject to being put on monkey tilt because of an unlucky outcome, that’s a good reason to favor fast play over slow.

In fact, that is exactly what Cloutier was telling Hellmuth, though he didn’t use that terminology.

So there you have at least eight factors to consider in deciding whether to slow play your flopped monsters. How these factors interact to prescribe a specific action in a given hand can vary widely.

Above all, do not revert to a default habit of slow playing when you flop big. That is one of the most common mistakes that amateur players make. It can lead to meltdowns of Hellmuthian proportions.



SuitedAce's Poker Trivia of the Week

In the history of the World Series of Poker, the youngest winner was Joe Cada at 21 while the oldest was Paul McKinney at 80.

#SuitedAce #PokerTrivia 

How to Beat Loose-Passive Poker Players

How to Beat Loose-Passive Poker Players


While good, aggressive opponents can be extremely difficult to play against, passive players sometimes can be equally as frustrating to lock horns with in both tournament poker and cash games. It often seems like these so-called “calling stations” are impossible to shake from a pot and that they suck out with a weird two pair all the time (they don’t, by the way), becoming a royal pain in the backside as a result.

In fact, loose-passive players should be welcomed to your game with open arms because they are as close as you will ever get to a goldmine or money printing press seated at your table. These fishy foes are easy to identify and once you have, you can take them on and take their money.

They’ll be found limping into more than their fair share of pots, calling any preflop raises that come after they’ve entered a pot. They then often will proceed to check-call all the way to the river or check-fold, only raising if they have an ultra-strong hand. Loose-passives are always on the lookout for a reason to call — bear that in mind for a little later on.

You’d think that these characteristics would make them the perfect opponents to play against, and you’d be right. But you’d also be surprised to see how many poker players struggle to beat them.

More often than not, the root of the frustration associated with playing against passive players is self-inflicted. By that I mean whoever is moaning about their bad luck or “how the fish always has it” often only has themselves to blame for handing over their stack or a large percentage of it.

The biggest culprits on this front are not listening to the betting or attempting to bluff a loose-passive off a pot. If one of these players has called a raise preflop, called a continuation bet on the flop, and then called a second barrel on the turn, there is no way on this planet that the player is folding on the river, regardless of how the board texture is — third pair is the mortal nuts for these guys!

So how do we beat these impossible-to-bluff types? One way is to use their own style of play against them.

Most of your money in poker will come from value betting. Good players don’t pay off as many value bets as weaker players, but loose-passives love calling value bets. It is this fact alone that makes them super profitable to play against.

If you have a strong hand, then make sure you’re extracting the maximum value from it. You can alter your bet sizes to assist you here because to a loose-passive a two-thirds-pot bet is just as easy to call as a half-pot bet. Bet the flop, bet the turn, and bet the river unless they’ve shown any indication of strength.

Another tip is to isolate these players preflop so that you can have them all to yourself. Should a loose-passive open-limp, stick in a raise to force any players yet to act out of the pot. This isolating of the player can be done with a wider range of hands than usual, because your implied odds are much greater than they would be against a strong, aggressive player.

You could even make your isolating raise larger than usual — or your blind-stealing raise if you have a loose-passive in the blinds — because the player is still likely to call and you’ll have positional advantage for the rest of the hand in a bloated pot. (And such a player is almost never going to get tricky postflop either — bonus!)

How you approach loose-passives on later streets comes down to any reads or notes that you may have. If they float the flop a lot — that is, call with nothing or a weak hand — then you can fire a continuation bet with a higher frequency with your good hands and check back weaker holdings.

When they call your flop bet and a turn bet, you need to start worrying about your own hand strength — because they won’t be! It is here that a lot of players go wrong and they continue stubbornly to bet into an opponent who has shown no inclination to fold.

Stop bluffing the loose-passives, respect any aggression they show, and value bet them out of the water, and you should do just fine.



Happy weekend everyone!

Research Finds Internet Gambling “Not Predictive of Gambling Problems”

Scientific study indicates online gambling may have lower rate of problem gambling.

Research Finds Internet Gambling “Not Predictive of Gambling Problems”

In a new paper, Dr. Sally Gainsbury explores the relationship between online gambling and the newly defined medical condition of “disordered gambling.” She concludes that “internet gambling does not cause gambling problems in, and of, itself,” debunking the arguments presented by the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling (CSIG), which presents online gambling as the “crack cocaine” of gambling.

Her paper, ‘Online Gambling Addiction: the Relationship Between Internet Gambling and Disordered Gambling,” was published in April by the Centre for Gambling Education & Research, Southern Cross University, Australia.

It consists of a thorough review of the research so far conducted on the subject, and suggests that as yet the relationship between live and online gambling is not well understood, and that further research is needed.


One of her key findings is that problem gambling appears to manifest itself primarily in live gambling, and that problem gamblers then become internet gamblers. Studies which fail to account for this can give a misleading impression of the role internet gambling plays in problem gambling.

“Evidence is emerging that Internet gambling is not only not predictive of gambling problems,” she reports, “but that when other variables are controlled for individuals who gamble, online may have lower rates of gambling problems.”

Dr. Gainsbury notes that even though the research shows that internet gambling does not appear to be a significant cause of disordered gambling, the “use of Internet gambling is more common among highly involved gamblers and for some Internet gamblers, this medium appears to significantly contribute to gambling problems.”


In addition to the conclusions which exonerate—at least to an extent—internet gambling from blame for problem gambling, there are other sections which warn operators that they should not be complacent. The research done to date has not been comprehensive, and as internet gambling prevalence increases, more problems may be identified.

There are several pieces of research which indicate that internet gambling may exacerbate problems, or have causal links to problem gambling in sub-groups within the market.

Dr. Gainsbury’s work is a very welcome contribution. She clearly takes a scientific rather than political approach to her research, a practice that not all gambling research follows. It might be a good idea for the online poker industry to provide the access to hand and game histories that she believes further research requires, and act on her recommendations for further developing in-house responsible gaming measures.



Five Tips to Make Your Poker Game Happier and More Profitable

Five Tips to Make Your Poker Game Happier and More Profitable

@Robert Woolley of “Poker Grump” blog provides a few miscellaneous tips to help make your time at the tables both more enjoyable and profitable.



It’s time for me to do a little spring cleaning. I keep a running list of ideas for future articles. Looking over it this week as I sat down to write, I noticed that a bunch of them would merit a paragraph or two, but not a whole article. So I’m decluttering my list by assembling several miscellaneous tips to make your poker-playing more courteous and more profitable.

1. My little deuce scoop
If you’re new to poker, one sure way to announce that fact to all in attendance is to refer to a card with a “2” on it as a “two.” No. In poker, it is always, always, always called a “deuce.”

The first ten or twenty times you say this, you’ll think it sounds strange — like an affectation. But if you hang around poker rooms long enough, it will start to feel natural. Then, in time, you’ll join the ranks of us for whom hearing that card called a “two” sounds as wrong and strange as the word “deuce” probably sounded to you at first.

Similarly, “trey” is used instead of “three,” though this isn’t done as universally as “deuce,” so failure to make this change isn’t as much of the mark of a newbie.

2. Keep a lid on it
By all means, have fun and help make sure the table at which you’re playing has a light, carefree, sociable atmosphere. This keeps the bad players in the game longer. Moreover, happy players bet and call more loosely, which is good for the better players.

However, while carrying on conversations, try to keep a lid on the volume of your voice. Shouting to be heard by somebody at the other end of the table is likely to grate on the ears of the person who is right next to you — especially if he is trying to focus on a critical decision. Keep an eye on the action, and stifle unnecessary chitchat, particularly of the loudest variety, when a big pot is brewing.

You would want others to pay you the courtesy of making it easier to concentrate when all your chips are on the line, so do the same for them.

3. Across enemy lines
On a related note, I like this tip on respecting other players from Tommy Angelo’s book, Elements of Poker:

“Imagine there are lines that extend from every live hand to the pot,” Angelo instructs. “Now imagine that a line extends from you to whomever you are talking to. If your talking line intersects any of the live hand lines, stop talking immediately. If the guy you were talking to looks at you weird, gesture politely to him that you are waiting for the hand to finish.”

4. Wait for your turn
In no-limit and pot-limit games, a player’s turn is not completed just by saying “raise.” The player also either has to declare an amount verbally, or put in chips sufficient for a raise. But sometimes you’ll see the next player instantly pitch his cards into the muck after hearing “raise.” This is against the rules, though frequently nothing is said about it.
The reason is that this gives the raiser more information than he is entitled to. For example, he may now know that he will have only one possible caller instead of two, and he can adjust his bet-sizing accordingly. The person to the left of the raiser should wait until the size of the raise has been made clear before acting, even if it is only to fold.
Of course, if that player is the only other one left in the hand, and he intends to fold to any size of raise, then this is not a concern. And if the game is limit, the issue also vanishes, because the size of the raise is predetermined by the structure.

5. How to be a whiz kid
Would you believe that there is actual poker strategy involved in deciding when to take a restroom break? Well, there is.

During a tournament, if you can’t wait for breaks — or if the restroom lines will be too long to endure at the breaks — you will need to pick another time to go. You probably don’t want it to be in the hand or two after you have paid the blinds, because that’s when you are in strongest position. But you also probably don’t want it to be when you are in the blinds, because the dealer will take the chips from your stack, and you get no value for them. So do your business when the hands you’ll miss are those in middle to late position, but before the blinds come back around.

The best strategy for cash games is completely different. There, your best approach is to leave the table before the deal of the hand when you would be in the big blind. In other words, skip your blinds. When you return, you can wait until the big blind comes around again, thus missing exactly one round. But better still, you can instead pay both blinds at once as soon as you come back.

The advantage is that you’re putting in the same amount of money, but doing so from better position. That is a better investment. (Note: You can’t make up your missed blinds on the button. If you’re gone for exactly two hands, you will have to wait one more, then put in the blinds from the cutoff seat.)



SuitedAce's Poker Trivia of the Week

There are two ‘1 eyed’ Jacks in a deck of cards: J-Heart and J-Spade.

#SuitedAce #PokerTrivia 

Japan Gets Closer to Legalized Gambling as Casino Bill Hits Parliament

Japan Gets Closer to Legalized Gambling as Casino Bill Hits Parliament

Japan's journey to legalizing casino gambling entered a decisive phase after a bill to allow the opening of casino-based Integrated Resorts was submitted to the country's parliament on Tuesday.

Supported by a transversal coalition that includes representatives from Japan's Innovation Party, the Party for Future Generations, and the country's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, the bill is expected to be discussed and passed by August, when the current parliament will end.

If approved, the bill is supposed to lead to the creation of the world's third biggest gambling industry, with revenues that are expected to place Japan right behind Macau and the United States.

According to a study prepared by the Japanese government, the approval of the casino bill - which has also received the support of the country's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - could generate extra revenues of approximately $40 billion a year.

Japanese authorities also believe that the Integrated Resorts could play a key role in the growth of the tourism industry, which is expected to boom by 2020 when Japan will host the Olympic Games.

However, despite the enthusiasm of the pro-casino coalition the bill has encountered strong criticism from the members of the Buddhist-backed Komeito, a party that sits in the governing coalition with Abe's Liberal Democratic Party.

Concerns about the impact Integrated Resorts could have on Japan's municipalities and gambling addictions pushed the members of Komeito to deny their support to the bill, which many believe to be crucial for its approval.

Talking to Forbes, a regional gaming executive explained that the only way for Japan to legalize casino gambling is to obtain a widespread public consensus, which is impossible without a green light from Komeito.

The American Gaming Association Is Ready To Help Japan Pass The Bill

The impact of Japan's potential entryinto the casino gambling arena has already attracted the attention of the top global players in the industry.

Earlier this year, international gambling giant MGM Resorts International presented their plans for an Integrated Resort in Japan, with the group's president Bill Hornbuckle stating that the MGM group would be ready to invest in Osaka to create "a landmark destination attraction (…) uniquely Japanese, not a copy of an integrated resort from Las Vegas or Singapore."

Similar to Hornbuckle, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson expressed his interest to start a venture in Japan. Talking to the press, Adelson said that he is ready to spend "whatever it takes" to bring his Las Vegas Sands empire to Japan.

"Would I put in $10 billion? Yes," Adelson said during a media briefing during an investor seminar in Tokyo. "Would I rather do it at seven? Yes."

On April 21, the American Gaming Association (AGA) spoke about the possibility to introduce casino gambling to Japan and said they are ready to help support the country in the process of legalization.

"We can be helpful by providing information and experiences," said the AGA president and CEO Geoff Freeman.

Freeman believes that American casino operators "would all be well suited to be partners in Japan" due to the vast experience many companies have in creating successful integrated casino resorts throughout the world.

Talking to the press, Freeman added that US-based casino operators "can provide not only gaming experience, but also high-end experiences like nightlife and entertainment."