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Betting, Checking, Folding, Calling and Jamming

By | Beginner, Theory | One Comment

This article discusses the different actions we can take at a poker table and their impact on the rest of the hand.

Value betting

A value bet is a bet you make with the best hand intending to be called by a second-best hand. You make value bets when you're ahead. When you have a hand like on a board, you'll be betting for value, because you expect that a player with a ten will call. When you have a strong hand like this, you want to be sure to value bet all three streets in order to extract maximum value from a hand that is second-best. Typically a value bet is sized between two-thirds and three-fourths of the pot, though you can bet more. The question to always ask with value bets is whether or not they will call with a second best hand. If your opponent folds any hand that you beat, you're not actually making a value bet.

Blocking Bets

A blocking bet is a bet you make on the river with what might be the best hand intended to prevent bluffs from worse hands but may be called by third-best or fourth-best hands. You make blocking bets when you want to see a showdown cheaply. While value bets are more effective when you're in position, blocking bets are more effective when you're out of position.

Way ahead, way behind

Way ahead, way behind situations occur when you are either way ahead OR way behind, but you're not sure which yet. A good example of a WA/WB hand is the following: on a board. If your opponent has a range of hands, in some cases, he'll have an ace, and in other cases, he won't. If he does have an ace, we need a king to win, which gives us just two outs, or about an 8% chance to win the hand. If he doesn't have an ace, we're likely significantly ahead, probably 92% to win the hand. To learn how to deal with WA/WB strategy, watch our video on Playing Kings when an Ace Flops.

Identifying Opponents’ Weaknesses

By | Beginner, Leaks | One Comment

Poker Hacking is the idea that other players at the table can be tested for weaknesses much in the same way that you'd test a computer, by trying lots of different things and seeing how they react. It's a novel idea that requires you to carefully understand how players react to strange plays which will help you form an intuitive understanding of their playing style.

Going All In In Poker

By | Beginner | One Comment

In this article we're going to talk about getting it all in. Knowing when to get all in is crucial to having a solid winrate. Because the amount of money that trades hands when you get all in is significant, you should understand the right time to call an all-in or to go all in.

When to call an all-in, when to go all in with a short stack

Playing top pair for all your chips

How To Play Different Stack Sizes

By | Beginner | One Comment

Your stack size is defined as the amount of chips you have relative to the big blind. What we use in poker, though, is something called your 'effective' stack size, because you can't actually win all of the chips that are on the table. All you can win is the total sum of your chips (if someone has you covered) or the sum of their chips (if you cover them).

Effective stack sizes

Any discussion of stack sizes is going to be made within the confines of what's called effective stack sizes. Consider the following situation:

In this hand, we have 74.5 BB (that's 74.5 times the big blind). Our opponents, though, have less. The opponent with the most chips has just 72 BB. The other players have 66 BB and 52.5 BB respectively. My effective stack size at this table is 72 BB, unless that opponent is folded, in which case my effective stack size is even smaller.

Anytime you're sitting in a poker game, whether you're playing for pennies or hundreds of dollars, you're going to think in terms of stack sizes. Poker is dictated by the size of the stack, relative to the big blind, not the actual dollar value of the chips.

Deep stack vs short stack

We typically divide up stack sizes into rough category estimates:

  • Under 20BB: Microstacks
  • 20-50BB: Short stacks
  • 50BB-125BB: Medium stacks
  • 125BB-250BB: Deep stacks
  • Over 250BB: Very deep stacks

Because the stack size determines how much money you can make or lose, it's also going to tell you which hands you want to play to make the maximum amount or lose the minimum amount. If you're playing in a game with a small stack size, like 50BB, you're going to play hands that tend to play well in pots that go all in on the flop or the turn. With 50BB, you're going to raise preflop, bet the flop and turn, and you're going to be pretty much all-in by this point. There's not a lot of check-raising or rebluffing or all of these advanced poker techniques because you're playing so short. You can still bluff in short-stack games (and it's often more effective), but you don't have the whole range of motion of your poker arsenal that you would in very deep stack games. In a medium stack game your options open up. You have the option to checkraise and bet the turn and river and get a sizable pot going. When you're playing deep stack, all of your poker options are at your disposal. You can overbet, you can checkraise, you can checkraise as a bluff, you can fourbet and fivebet. This is what it takes to play a very big pot.

When you're playing shorter-stacked poker, you need to value hands like or because those hands have two high cards, and in shortstack poker, high cards are very valuable, because they tend to make top pair. In short stack poker, a top pair is usually good enough to play. If you have top two pair, you're almost always going to get your entire stack in on short stack poker.

When you move into middle stacked poker, the top pair actually becomes dangerous to hold. While big cards do still have value, other cards like , strong suited connectors, also have value, because they make a straight and a flush. That's why in middle-stack poker (where most people play cash games), we prefer hands like to hands like .

In deep stack poker, a hand like actually has some playable value, because it makes a very deceptive nut hand. If the flop comes , you've got the nut straight, and no one will put you on 4-6. In fact, you might win a big pot from A-4.

Thinking about your stack size helps you define what hands you should be playing. You can begin to expand your hand range when you're playing deep stack poker, but in short stack or medium stack poker, you don't have a deep enough stack to capitalize on the upside of playing these weak hands when they do make monsters.

Stack to pot ratio

Your stack to pot ratio is the size of the pot compared to your stack. If your effective stack is 100 BB and, on the flop, there are 20 chips in the pot, your SPR is 5. SPRs tend to run between 1 and 30. A SPR of 30 means we're very deep relative to the pot. An SPR of 1 means we've got exactly the same amount as the pot left in our stack. With an SPR of between 0 and 7, we love playing hands like top pair, because we're going to bet two streets and be all in. With an SPR between 7 and 14, we're deeper and will start to value hands like draws more than top pairs. With an SPR over 20, you're you can play a lot more hands before the flop. You need an SPR over 25 to consider playing a pocket pair in order to flop a set.

The SPR is not just a passive measure - it's something we can actively engineer through our raise sizing. If our effective stacks are 100 BB, and we want to build an SPR under 7 for a hand like , we need to raise so that, if anyone calls us, the pot will be at least 15 BB. Typically, we might raise 3 BB before the flop, but since one caller will only leave 6 or 7 BB in the pot, we should opt to raise more like 6BB here in order to get ourselves as close to that SPR number as possible. Even if it prices some players out of the pot preflop who would have called, they might have actually been correct to call if we gave them the correct pot odds before the flop. On the other hand, if I have 300BB deep, I want to keep the SPR as high as possible, somewhere near 30. To do that, I'd just want 10BB to be in the pot on the flop. If someone has already raised, I might opt to call. If no one has raised, I will min-raise or raise three-times the big blind in order to keep the pot at a managable size. This will allow me to put the maximum amount of chips in the pot once I do flop my hand.

A Pair of Balls Beats Anything

By | Beginner | One Comment

Bluffing is an essential part of poker, but it's one that a lot of people don't understand on a deep level. We categorize bluffs two ways: the first is a semibluff, the second a true bluff.

Semibluffs are bets that you make when you don't have the best hand but the next card could make you the best hand. A flush draw would be a good example of a semibluff. You don't have a hand yet, but you have a really good shot at catching the flush. A pure bluff is a bet you make when you have no chance of winning the hand and you expect that the other player will fold a certain percentage of the time, so you are making a bet in order to make them fold.

Remember, there are three ways to win poker hands. The first is to win the hand at showdown. The second is to get it all in before showdown and win the hand by showdown. And the third is to win the hand by stealing the pot. Bluffing accounts for the second two ways to win the pot, so it's essentially more important than having good hands. If you put in a strong semibluff and get it all in, not only can you win the pot by having your opponent fold on the spot, but you can also catch your hand and win by showdown.

Now let's break down each type of bluff in a little more detail. The semibluff gets its value from the combined equity of your opponents folding and you making the best hand. A bluff gets all of its equity from the percentage of times your opponent folds. This means that when you bet, whether a bluff or a semibluff, you have to be bluffing into an opponent that will fold often enough that will make your bet profitable.

If the pot is $100 and you bet $50, then I have to win that pot at least 33% of the time. I'm putting in $50 and the pot will be $150 when I take it back. If I'm winning this more than 33% of the time, I can bet there as a bluff. With a semibluff, the equity that you have for winning the pot with your draw is added to the percentage of time the opponent will fold. If I expect my opponent to fold 20% of the time but I also have a 20% chance to win the pot, then I can bet $50 into a $100 pot, even though the opponent is folding less than 33% of the time, because I have some equity with my draw. In fact, I only need my opponent to fold about 15% of the time to make this bet profitable, because 20% of the time I'll make my hand anyway and win. Because we are betting less than the size of the pot, we aren't risking so much to convince him to fold.

Semibluffs

Let's take a look at a hand that showcases the value of the semibluff. I have on an board. That gives me a total of 12 outs, so I'm going to win the pot outright 48% of the time. I very rarely need my opponents to fold to make this a profitable bet. Nonetheless, because my equity is less than 50%, I do prefer to have them fold rather than to see a turn and a river card. In this case, I might bet something like 75% of the pot to encourage my opponents to fold but also to build the pot in case I do turn a straight or a flush.

As your equity decreases with a semibluff, for example, if I have a straight draw with just eight outs or two overcards with just six outs, the chance that the opponent folds needs to increase, or I have to be able to bet less without them folding less often. If I have two overcards for a 24% chance to win the pot, and I bet half pot, I need them to fold an additional 9% of the time for this to be profitable. Since our opponents always fold 10% of the time, this is a good bet. If I was to bet full pot, I would need them to fold 26% of the time, which is likely not the case, but might be profitable, depending on whether betting more induces the opponent to fold more hands. One read that can help you determine this is whether or not an opponent folds significantly more hands to full pot bets than half pot bets.

For the more advanced players out there, the way that we calculate the profitability of a bet is by taking our opponents' range and dividing it up into the percent of the range he calls with and the percent of the range he folds with. This approach utilizes combinatorics and is best performed away from the table due to the complicated calculations, but doing these calculations will help you intuit in the future what percent of his range he is folding.

The 10% Rule

Any time my opponents bet, I always assume that they're bluffing at least 10% of the time. Likewise, when I bluff, I assume my opponents will fold 10% of the time. Against aggressive opponents, I might bump this number to 15% or 20%. This is simply because you can't ever be certain what your opponents have. To say that you're 100% confident in what your opponents have is usually a mistake. The 10% rule provides a reasonable range to help you see the errors of that mentality and truly consider the equity value of your hand. If you've got a profitable bet if the opponent folds 10% of the time, you're going to want to make that bet. This rule definitely matters for semibluffs. If I've got a flush draw and a backdoor straight draw, I'm 41% to win the pot. If I bet the size of the pot, I need to win the pot 50% of the time. In this case, I'll always make that bet.

Poker myths about bluffing

Poker is not all about big bets and bluffs. There are a lot of TV programs out there that show all the big bluffs that happen at a poker table. I often only bluff once or twice an hour at a poker game, because the situation usually doesn't dictate the spot to be a good bluff. I very rarely make pure bluffs without good reads. A lot of players make bluffs a central part of their game and they end up going broke because eventually players will start calling you. The secret to make your bluffs profitable is to make semibluffs more often but to make your pure bluffs very, very rare. The only times when a pure bluff enters into my consideration is, say, on the river when I have no way to win the pot and I know this but I believe a scare card has come on the turn or river and I believe my opponent will fold a high percentage of his hands.

The continuation bet bluff

A special case of bluff is the continuation bet bluff. A continuation bet (or C-Bet) happens when you raise before the flop and then bet on the flop. If you flop a hand, then you're betting for value. But, if you miss the flop, then you're continuation bet bluffing. This is a special kind of bluff that I make very often. Because you've raised preflop, you are showing strength going into the hand. Once they've seen the flop, the opponent will often decide not to continue. Only about 35% of hands actually make a pair or better on the flop, which means about 65% of the time your opponent will fold to your flop bet. This allows you to make a generous profit (remember, with a half-pot bet, they only need to fold 35% of the time). Some players will often call flop bets to see a turn. These players can make your bluffs unprofitable.

What will really hurt your percentages in a continuation bet bluffing spot is having two players in the pot with you. When more than one person calls before the flop, there's a higher chance that someone caught a hand. If I'm betting half pot and need to win 33% of the time, but I've got two players who both fold 60% of the time, then my opponents both fold only ~35% of the time or so. That's pretty break-even. When you're betting into two or more players, a continuation bet can be unprofitable. I rarely C-Bet as a bluff into three or more players.

Mastering The Poker Mindset

By | Tilt | 2 Comments

My friend Danny always believed that he had some poker skill, but not what it takes to beat the highest stakes games. Now he plays high stakes poker. Danny pondered one day to me, "Why was I wrong? Why did I feel like I didn't have the potential to be the best?"

A lot of it had to do with misguided views on what it takes to be a good poker player. You have to take a "leap of faith" to be a world-class poker player.

To win money at poker, you have to have faith in the theory of poker we're teaching you. You have to believe that even if a player had aces the last two times you raised him, it doesn't make it a mistake to raise. Losing a hand doesn't mean you played it poorly.

Being successful in poker requires a lot of components to come together. It is hard to keep your faith in the theory of poker when you are just getting unlucky and it seems that, despite playing the hand correctly from the theoretical perspective, you lose time and time again.

This often leads to the "this is not working" line of thought, which in turn leads to playing a different, usually worse game. One should always have full confidence in their poker knowledge as it is the only real thing we can count on. Everything else is short term luck, variance or whatever else you want to call it.

Dedication is important for success in pretty much any line of professional work, and poker is no different. The only way to reach real success is by constantly working, on and off the tables, on improving your game, fixing your leaks and to never be satisfied and complacent with where you are at. Always strive to be the best you can be and your chances for success will grow exponentially.

Getting in the poker mindset

Getting your mind right when you play poker is incredibly important because it's a mind game. Anytime you're not playing with your mind right in poker, you're going to be playing bad poker. For some people, bad poker means they're completely donking off tons of chips by just going all in all the time. It can also mean tilting, donking, or spewing. For other players, it means you're simply not playing your A-Game.

Playing Your B-Game

The first question I want to put to you is: at what level is your B-Game? Your B-Game is defined relative to your A-Game and your C-Game. Your A-Game is when you're at the top of your game. You're turned on and not making mistakes. Your C-Game is when you know you're playing poorly and continue to play anyway. Your B-Game is somewhere in the middle of that: you don't realize you're playing poorly but you are.

A lot of people play their B-Game nearly 100% of the time. A lot of times, autopilot, or when you're playing but not focusing, is your B-Game. It's an issue for a lot of players to get to the A-Game and stay at the A-Game.

Playing differently because you're losing (or winning)

If you're like me, you spend a lot of time in your B-Game because you're running bad. Personally, I don't get so upset about running bad. I don't start tilting. But it does affect my play. I recently watched a really interesting video from a StarCraft professional who was talking about how to avoid the feelings of despair when you start losing. The point that he made was, "Ask yourself after the game, how this is going to make you feel a year from now."

This helps you externalize your feelings at the moment of loss to: "At the end of the day, this is just one game. There will be thousands more." This can help you get a perspective on just how insignificant your loss is. Some losses are worse than others, but you really shouldn't be playing in games that are so high stakes where the loss would impact you a year from now.

Of course this applies on the other end of the spectrum as well. A lot of players who start to win will start to be more aggressive. This is also a mistake.

There are a lot of ways to improve your winrate when you're playing your B-Game. The first is to stop playing. Anytime you're not playing your A-Game, you're developing bad habits. You're getting used to autopiloting in your B-Game. One of the recommendations I always make to people is, if you find yourself playing your B-Game, or especially your C-Game, quit playing. There's no reason to continue to play. They say "Practice makes perfect," but I disagree with that, because practice makes permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect. One of the keys to being good over time at poker is to consistently play perfectly so you develop those habits of playing good poker. Playing your B-game and allowing yourself to continue playing while tilted or upset or not focusing are things that develop into habits. Poker is a game that, especially these days and at higher stakes, demands your full attention if you want to feel good about your performance. There's absolutely nothing worse than playing in a game and knowing you're playing your B-Game and losing money because of it. You're going to feel like maybe if you'd done something different... and second guessing yourself.

How good is your B-Game?

You will, eventually, though, begin playing your B-Game. So how good is your B-Game? If you were to take your A-Game completely out of the picture, if you never played great poker, at what stakes would you still be better than your opponents? A player who is a professional, even on their B-Game, they're not making a lot of big mistakes. They're making exploitable mistakes by very experienced players, but there's no reason that a professional player on their B-Game couldn't drop down to the $5 tables and absolutely dominate. This is why the question of "how good is your B-Game" is important. The stake level where you'd crush on your B-Game is probably pretty close to the actual stakes you should be playing on your A-Game. It's important to know inside yourself that, even if you're not playing your best poker, you're still going to win. That's not an excuse to play your B-Game, but if you're good enough to win on your B-Game, you're going to absolutely crush on your A-Game. You're going to be able to continue to make money.

One of the mistakes I see a lot of newer players making is jumping into a game that's way above their skill level, like the $200 stakes, where the players are pretty good. If you've got a smart individual who's read some poker theory with the right understanding of basic poker concepts, they might hold their own in these stakes while on their A-Game, especially against a table of people playing their B-Games, but the issue comes when you start to move down to your own B-game. At least if you're playing your A-Game, you're picking up on when people are making moves to try to exploit you. When you start to play your B-Game, you start ignoring these things, and so players just continue to take your money. That's when the real big losses start to pile up.

Picking your stakes based on your B-game

Is your B-Game good enough to beat the $5 games, the $50 games? Be brutally honest with yourself. Look back at your past five hours playing poker and ask, "how many hours was I in my B-Game?" and give that knowledge, "What stakes should I be playing?"

That'll let you do two things. First, it'll help you understand where your skill level should place you, rather than your bankroll. Second, it'll allow you to say, "I played 80% of my time in my B-Game, and I really need to play more A-Game poker, so the next time I catch myself slipping into B-Game, I'll stop playing." That's how you build good habits at poker.

When you're at low stakes, you play with relatively bad players. At high stakes, you'll play with relatively good players. But how do you differentiate a bad player from a good player? The answer is simple: bad players make more, and more costly, mistakes. You can almost say that your stake level should be at that point where the average player around you makes bigger and more frequent mistakes than you do. If you're playing at that level, you're going to make money. A lot of players still have some frequent and egregious errors in their game. These players, when they try to move up in stakes, they're going to get kicked back down, because the average player at the new stake level doesn't make these mistakes. This can lead to a real seesaw effect on your bankroll where you make money at lower stakes and lose money at higher stakes and move back down. That's always a kick in the teeth when that happens. What you have to do is an objective analysis on your mistakes to understand the stake level you should be playing.

If you're playing the $10 games and you think you're good enough to play the $20 but you just can't beat the $10 games, it's easy to pass that off with ideas like, "people don't fold to anything" or "people don't play their hand seriously." It's when people make these mistakes that you have the opportunity to make money. What I offer to you is that you're not thinking with a professional mindset if you say "I'm better than everyone here." The professional looks and sees people better than them and says, "I could do that." On the flipside, though, they also say when they lose against bad players, "I suck and need to work on this." That puts you in the mindset of looking inward at your own mistakes and flaws rather than looking outwards at everyone else's. I can assure you if you're playing the $10 games and not winning money, you've got just as many mistakes as everyone there. You may not know what they are, and your next task is figuring out what they are.

Basic Poker Math

By | Beginner, Mathematics | 2 Comments

Poker is a game of skill buried deep within a game of luck. In this article we're going to cover expected value, equity, risk, odds, outs, and all of the other "luck" factors about a poker hand.

Expected Value

Expected value is the amount of money you stand to win or lose when you make a bet. It applies in any gambling situation. It's basic probability: if you're flipping a coin and you wager $5 to win $10, your EV is $5, which is a $0 gain. Your possible outcomes are {0, 10}. These are two options and the average of them is $5. If you wager $5 to win $20, your EV is $10, a gain of $5. Your possible outcomes are {0, 20}. Divided by two, equals ten. If you wager $5 to win $2, your EV is $1, a loss of $4. Your possible outcomes are {0, 2}, divided by 2, is $1.

Now let's talk in terms of dice. If you wager $5 on a six to win $30, your EV is $5 (a gain of $0). Your possible outcomes are {0,0,0,0,0,30}. The average of which is $5. If you wager $5 on a six to win $40, your EV is $6.66 (a gain of $1.66). Your possible outcomes are {0,0,0,0,0,40}. The average of which is $6.66. If you wager $5 on a six to win $6, your EV is $1 (a loss of $4). Your possible outcomes are {0,0,0,0,0,6}. The average of which is $1.

You want to make bets where your EV gain is GREATER THAN $0. If you make a bet with an EV of $0, you're gambling for no gain. If you make a bet where your EV is less than $0, you're gambling for a loss.

Counting Your Outs in Poker

Outs are defined as any card that might come that would give you the best hand, assuming you don't already have the best hand. You usually count outs when you have something like a draw or when you have a good-but-not-great hand and think you may need to improve to beat your opponent. If you think you have the best hand, you don't have to count your outs, you're just going to try to put as much money in as possible.

Hand example #1

Let's talk about the most basic "outs" situation, when you have a flush draw, like on a board of . In this hand, you have to assume you don't have the best hand. If your opponent goes all in, he probably has a pair. He could just have a draw, like the or , in which case you're ahead, but we're not going to consider those situations because we want to talk about counting outs.

First, count how many specific cards, out of 52, would make you the best hand. There are 13 spades in a deck (and of every suit), but on this board, we already see four of them: . That means that there are nine spades unaccounted for. You can assume that, any time a spade comes, you're going to have the best hand. Of course, if something like was to come and your opponent makes a full house, it might cost you the hand, but that's very rare, so it's considered an out. We're going to assume that nine cards would come to give you the best hand.

That is, of course, if you don't think your is an out. If the would give you the best hand, like if he just had top pair, then you'd also have the best hand, so you have some extra outs here. This would add three overcard outs to your hand if top pair would win you the hand. On this board, it's probably enough to win the pot.

With your spades plus the ace, you've got nine outs for the flush and three outs for top pair, but the overcard won't always be an out, so it's prudent to count maybe one and a half outs in this case. That would mean that 50% of the time, your ace is good. A fair assumption, especially since you have a weak kicker.

In this hand, you've got somewhere between 9 and 11 outs. In the next section of this article, we're going to discuss how to convert your outs to equity using the Rule of Four. Until then, I'll just tell you that you're 40% to win this hand. That's really good odds if there's any kind of overlay in the pot. You can tend to get all in if you don't have a really big stack here. You can also opt to raise all in and use your fold equity to add value to your hand.

Knowing how to count outs will keep you from overvaluing your hand but also ensure that you do get the proper value for the hand you do have.

Read 3 examples on counting outs.

Converting Outs to Equity in Poker

Your equity is defined as the percent of the time you're going to win the hand. If you've got a flush draw, you know your equity is about 35%, but how do you get that number? You can use software called PokerStove (watch the video).

Hand example #1

Let's say we have a flush draw. We have the on a board.

We know from the above section on counting outs that we have nine outs for the flush draw and probably three outs for the ace, but since those are partial outs, we'll count two outs for the ace. That gives us a total of 11 outs.

Here's where we learn the Rule of Four. Multiply your number of outs times four. This is the equity of your hand and the percent of the time that you will win if the hand was to get all-in right now.

The Rule of Four says that if we were to get all in right here, we would win the hand about 44% of the time, because we have 11 outs. In fact, when we do use PokerStove to calculate our chance to win, the actual chance is 45%.

Hand example #2

Let's say we have the on a board. We know if we catch a jack we're going to win, but let's say they have a hand like T9 for two pair. We're also going to have to survive a ten or a nine coming on the river. Four outs for the jack time the rule of four is about 16%, but we're actually going to be a little less than 16%.

Simply put, drawing for a gutshot against two pair gives us fairly poor equity. On the other hand, instead of having T9 had something like T4, we'd have a lot more equity, about 40%, because now our kings and queens are both outs.

The rule of four is all you need to calculate your equity at the table, and knowing your equity is good because it tells you what pot odds you need to call a bet.

Pot Odds and Implied Odds

Pot odds are the odds that the pot is laying you to call a bet.

Example: There are 300 chips in the pot, and your opponent bets 100 chips.
If you call, you’ll be putting in 20% of the pot (100 chips in a 500 chip pot).
You can call if your pot equity is greater than 20%. Remember, your pot equity is the percentage that we calculated in the last section.

Implied odds represent the money that will go in the pot after you catch your draw. Calculating your implied odds is a little more involved than calculating your pot odds, but it is one of the things that is crucial to understanding where you stand in the hand.

To calculate your implied odds:
Step 1: Multiply the size of the pot after calling times .6.
Step 2: Multiply this number by a number between .1 and .9 which is an educated opponent-dependent guess and represents his likelihood to bet the next street or call a bet on the next street. A higher number represents a greater likelihood of putting in a bet on the next street.

Example: Consider a 600 chip pot versus a very aggressive opponent who bets 300 chips on the turn.
My pot odds dictate that my draw needs 25% equity to call.
My implied odds are worth 1200 * .6 * .7, or about 500 chips. Instead of risking 300 chips to win 1200, I am risking 300 chips to win 1700. Now, I only need 17.6% equity to call.

Several more of our hands are worth a call once we consider the implied odds! Let’s talk for a minute about the “opponent-dependent educated guess” number. I typically use the following calculations:

Tight Passive Player – 0.2
Loose Passive Player – 0.4
Aggressive Player – 0.6
Maniac – 0.8

Playing Positionally in Poker

By | Beginner, Theory, Videos | 2 Comments
Position is defined as the place you sit at on the table, relative to the button. Position progresses left around the table from the small blind to the big blind to early position, middle position, late position, and finally, the button. Playing positionally means adjusting your play based on your position at the table.

Understanding positional play is simple: early position is bad, late position is good. The later you are, the more options you have for playing your hand. For example, when you're on the button, you know that you're going to be in position throughout the entire hand, and this allows you to control the size of the pot. As a result, the closer you are to the button, the more hands you can play, the more you can raise, the more often you can raise, and the more options you have for reraising or calling before the flop. It lets you set the pace of the hand after the flop, too: will you play slow for a small pot or fast for a big pot?

When you're in a position like the small blind, the worst position on the table, you can't really dictate that. When someone else bets, you have to decide whether or not you want to play, and let them control the hand, or fold.

In the blinds, you're going to be in the worst position, but you already have some money invested. If you're allowed to check (from the BB) or simply call (from the SB) to complete the blinds, that's usually the right play. So you will play some hands from the blinds that you wouldn't play from any other position, simply because you have a little money invested.

On the button, you're going to be playing a lot of hands, especially hands with two high cards or hands that make straights or flushes. So while you'd be happy to play a hand like , a hand like is really not good enough to even call with.

The reason we would fold this hand is that, if we catch our king, anybody with a better king has us dominated with a better kicker. But you can play more hands on the button than in any other position. I tend to play about 40% of my hands from the button, whereas from early position, I only play about 10% of my hands. As my position moves around the table, I play more and more hands.

That's the basic strategy that every poker professional uses. No poker pro plays more hands from early position than they do from late position and makes money doing it. That's a losing strategy and you won't survive very long if you do that, because position is so important on the table.

If you fail to take your position into account, you're going to be playing hands you shouldn't. One of the first things I look at before deciding whether or not to play a hand is the position I'm in. That's going to dictate whether I'm going to raise or fold and how much I'm going to raise. For example, in early position in a cash game, you typically want to raise four to five times the blind. (This isn't the case in tournaments. More on that in our Tournament series.) Because you're going to be playing such a strong range of hands but have to deal with being out of position for the rest of the hand, you probably want to raise a little stronger from early position. From late position, though, I might raise two or three times the big blind. If I have a hand like , I might want to raise two times the big blind (a minraise) as a pot sweetener.

One important thing to note is that other players in the hand are considering these things too. Where a player is positioned when he raises can help you determine whether or not you're going to play a hand. If an under the gun player raises, and I've got something like , I'm most likely going to fold it. Raising under the gun, the player has indicated he has a very strong hand, and absent further reads, I have to take him at his word that he does. I'm most likely just going to fold and wait for a better hand to play.

A lot of players use a starting hand chart to help them get an idea what hands they should be playing from different positions. I don't want you to follow this chart for very long, just until you get used to the game, because it does change depending on a lot of different factors. Depending on the players at your table, you can play more or fewer hands than the starting hand chart dictates. Nonetheless, you will always play more hands in late position than in early position because it lets you control the pot.

Controlling the pot from late position

When I'm in late position, I can choose how many "bets" I want to put in the pot. I can bet the flop, turn, and river and force a player to call me each street to continue playing. I can bet the flop and then sneakily check the turn if I want to limit the size of the pot or induce a bluff on the river. Or I can bet the flop and the turn to show strength, and if I don't want to put in a river bet, I have the option of checking behind. That's really what it comes down to. The river bet is such a significant bet in a poker hand. It's the largest bet that's going to go in. The option to make or decline that bet is a huge advantage, and that is why we take care to notice our position when we're playing poker.