Thursday, January 27, 2011

$136 per Hour in Texas Hold'em

I played Texas Holdem at Winstar casino last night.  In 3 hours, I profited $136 per hour.  My starting chip stack was $200 and I ended at $609.  This was by far the best night I've ever had playing poker.  I had middle position, directly in front of the dealer, a spot I've come accustomed to from all of my nights at Friday Night Poker.  It took me about 20 minutes to semi-"figure" the other players at the table out and the better part of the next 2 hours getting them all in tune with me.

In tune with me?  My goal was to get my opponents to do things that I wanted them to do, but be glad to do it.  Eventually, I had the table checking in front and behind me when I wanted cheap flops and calling me when I wanted some action.  It was very surreal.  I had action junkies settling for smooth calls and strong players folding to my bluffs.  I slowed down the action with strategic smaller-sized bets giving me more flops to see.  Unlike past nights in the poker rooms, instead of avoiding big pots with strong players, I was creating and taking them down.

As every good player knows, it certainly helps to catch cards.  I got a very nice range of acceptable to strong starting hands, hung around cheap pots for winning (weak) river cards, and took full advantage of every situation with aggressive raises.  And aggression was a great equalizer.  Aggressive betting on the flop, turn, and river was the key to taking down big pots with absolute air.

All of this was possible because I made "friends" with nearly everyone at the table.  That's actually not so hard for me since I generally like people.  Anyways, it's better for people to feel OK to lose to you than to feel contempt, which will just make them play harder and take more chances against you.  I've never seen so many people who were so at ease with losing their money.  That's simply not a quality I will ever have.

I've learned a lot of new poker skills and philosophies lately and they paid off huge last night.  I tripled by money in 3 hours.  I just hope there's not a disclaimer somewhere that says, "results not typical".

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dangerous Play in Texas Holdem

There's a particular style of play in Texas Hold'em that's very dangerous and erratic.  It's dangerous to the rest of the table because it can cause opponents to suffer extreme losses.  It's dangerous to the player using the style because it can result in extreme losses.  It's erratic because it can also cause extreme swings from losses to wins.  This style is called "Loose-Aggressive".

It's loose because the player will play a very wide range of starting hands and it's aggressive because bets are large and raises are frequent.  Recently, I've had the opportunity to play against 2 or 3 new guys who could be categorized as loose-aggressive.  Actually, they're the text book definition.

This kind of player can thrive against tight-passive players because these people tend to play scared, waiting for the perfect hand to bust their opponent with.  They're thrown off by the loose-aggressor and find themselves checking to the player and folding to his large bets.  In fact, they fold until the blinds have eaten them alive and they're forced to make one final all-in bet that usually loses, and when it wins, simply puts them in a position to have to do it again.  This continues until they are quickly on the sidelines.

Everyone loves to beat the loose-aggressor, but many players don't have the guts to get it done.  Sometimes, you just have to play that A-9 aggressively to beat the aggressor with the A-6.  That hand doesn't seem so strong with a board showing K-J-10-8-3, but the loose aggressor is hoping that you will fold to his bluff.  So, what should you do?  Disappoint him.  How many hands in a row could he have made anyways?  1 out of 5?  Maybe.  That would mean that 4 out of 5 times, he's got air.  Push back.

"Aggression is the ultimate equalizer."  The loose-aggressor is not equalizing.  He's unbalancing the table with his aggression.  So, you have to equalize with your own aggression.  There's a good reason the tight-aggressive player is referred to as a "Stone-Cold Killer" in poker.  You play tight until you get good cards and you play aggressively when you get your cards.  Against the loose-aggressor, you just need to loosen up a little yourself and then let him have it with your perfectly timed aggression.  How about this?

Check . . . Bet . . . Raise

The check-raise is a killer to the loose-aggressor.  But be ready for his all-in re-raise.  He's a maniac.  What else is he going to do?  Beat him (at his own game) on this hand and if he's still in after that hand, he won't likely do it again (to you at least).

And sometimes you just have to stay out of this person's way and out-last the rest of the table.  Get him head's up and you're style can break him down because a much looser range of hands will win head's up. 

When you don't get good cards to check-raise with, then the key is to stay alive.  Be aggressive against the rest of the table.  Build your stack and get head's up.  Maybe the loose-aggressor will even step off into one against someone else along the way.  Then, you're in a great position to take it all down.

When you understand how to play against the loose-aggressor, that style of play is no longer dangerous to you.  Instead, it's dangerous to him and to all of those who don't know how to handle him.  Hang around, build a stack, and take it down.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Finally Broke the Losing Streak

If you keep up with my blogs, you know that I've been dealing with weeks of overall losing.  I lost about 80% of my games over the last 2+ months during a time when I have been digging deep into a lot of poker books and working on my overall style of play.  Last weekend, all of that losing finally came to an end.

On Friday night, we played just 2 games, but I got 2nd place in one of the games.  I know that isn't a win, but considering that I was beaten only by Rob in that game, I viewed it as a success.  My game was good.  The next morning, I played in a 90-player full tilt poker tournament and got 2nd place there as well.  That was fun because I was knocking out more players that the other 2 guys who were among the chip leaders throughout the tournament.  I even eventually knocked out 1 of those guys at the final table.  By the time it was down to heads up action, I was a 6 to 1 chip underdog and all I could really do was play super-aggressive and hope for the best.  It was a good tournament though.

Finally, last night I was online playing Omaha Hi, while watching the NCAA national championship game, and ended up with 10 times more chips than I started with.  Incidentally, I have more "play" chips now than ever before.  So, that's cool.

Clearly, I'm looking for any little bit of positive that I can find leading up to my Vegas trip.  I'll take what I can get.  Whether it's for money or for fun, winning is way better than losing.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

When to Take a Break (or Quit) in Poker

I'll play poker pretty much any time there's a game to be played.  Recently however, I've come across several situations that should have caused me to take a break or quit for the day.  Over the past week, I've played nearly 20 hours of poker.  If I would have stopped in a couple of situations, I would have made a lot more money.  So, this is a list of situations that should make you consider taking a break or quitting for the day.

1.  When you're too tired.
2.  When you're hungry.
3.  When you've had too much to drink.
4.  When you're angry.
5.  When you've taken a bad beat and you're on tilt.
6.  When you're sick.
7.  When you're losing too much and feeling desperate.
8.  When one or more other players at the table seem to "have your number".
9.  When you're only still playing to get even with another player.
10. When everyone at the table seems to be begging you to stay.