The forum

December 17, 2007

postsplit 

I’ve just been and read the blogs regarding the shake up to the league and I feel the need to justify some things and correct others, and to put my thoughts across.

First off, let me say how disappointed I was that my mate Blagger was ‘shown the door’. He is a good poker player and is always there for anyone who wants help or tips with their poker game. Most of all he is a friend who I enjoy talking to, no matter the subject. But this whole issue of who stays or goes has nothing to do with me, even though I’m an admin. But I will still keep up with him on skype. Just because he is no longer a member of the forum does not mean to say I will cut all contact with him – admin or not! As I said, he is a friend. This dispute is between the forum owners and Blagz himself. Both parties are, or should, be aware of this. It’s just turned out that I’m playing ‘piggy in the middle’, and believe me, it’s not nice. I’m staying well out of the situation!

The situation with freerolls is that the sites that are used for league games no longer wish to put the free money up for grabs, unless it is cash added to buy-in games. Even then the sites are looking for minimum numbers to be playing each game. Failure to meet their (the site’s) criteria would mean them withdrawing the sponsored ‘added money’. Gone are the days when you could contact virtually any site and get freerolls. Now its a virtual non-starter with most sites.

So where does all this fit into the new forum setup? Basically, there will be no more freerolls. Not so much through choice, but more through neccessity. People have to be aware of the challenges facing all poker forums when trying to get free money from the sites. It rarely happens – unless you have the numbers to play the buy-in games.

This leads me to my next point. The member cull. A strong way of putting it maybe, especially from an admin, but that’s what it is, in my opinion. I completely agree that the deadwood – those that sign up then never post or play any game, and never return to the forum – should be weeded out. Why sign up if you are not willing to participate in any way, shape or form?

What I don’t agree with is people being forced to play if they want to remain a member. Very heavy handed in my opinion. I know a lot of people are in agreeance to this rule, but as has been said in Svcmgr’s blog, not everyone can make the games at the times they are set at. I know the forum can’t set up games at times to suit everyone, but you just cannot go around kicking people out who cannot play due to other commitments that interfere with game starting times. That is unjust and unfair. If they cannot play any games in a month solely due to game times will they be booted? What if they can’t play games but do enjoy posting in the forum? Should they be penalised just because their commitments to daily life coincide with poker games? Maybe I’m reading too much into all of this and my fears may not be realised. I’ll just have to wait and see.

As for the new divisions, well what can I say. I don’t like the new set up. At the end of the day, it’s still the old league in a different package.  In 6 months to a years time I suspect the division tables will look virtally identical to how the present league looks. Having spoken to one of the forum owners though, I can see why they want to go down this route, so I’m going along with it, although I won’t be participating in it.

Finally, my response to a comment regarding my position as admin.

I have had grave concerns with being an admin of the forum lately. My biggest concern being that I was not involved in any decision making whatsoever in recent months, including the most recent of changes to the forum. As an admin, the least I would have expected was not neccessarily to be a chief decision maker, but just to be involved in an exchange of ideas before anything is put out before the general membership of the forum. Not just ideas, but also any concerns I have. I was very disappointed with some of the responses to a recent post I had made from other admins, when all I was looking to do was to give my reservations on a certain subject – without being dismissive – and give alternatives to the subject concerned. In short, I was acting the way I think an admin should. As for the replies….. well I think you already get my gist.

However, as I said earlier, I have had a chat with one of the forum owners, which turned out to be quite productive. I was happy with the responses to my concerns and at the end of the day I will remain an admin for the time being. This was the first forum I joined after starting to play online poker and I would be gutted if I had to leave. The other staff members know of my concerns, so nothing written here should concern them. As I said to them in my post (in the forum staff room), I have nothing to hide and that goes for all members of the forum. If anyone wants to contact me regarding any of what I’ve written, feel free! I can be contacted by either personal message in the forum or by email, also through the forum. Alternatively, I can normally be contacted on Skype at the weekends. Failing that, you could always post a comment here. I’ll be more than happy to answer any questions.

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Full circle

November 19, 2007

postsplit

Svcmgr has been busy on his blog this month and it has been such a relief to see some new material. He was, and still is having the same problem as most of the skype crew, me included – A total disinterest in playing poker.

Every poker player will go through this and it can be caused by several things. From personal reasons outwith poker to being sick of being sucked out by monkey players to just being ‘pokered out’. Or in lamens terms, playing too much.

Everyone will have their own reasons, and they can comment on it for themselves. But before commenting, see if you connect with what I’m going to tell you. Reading Dave’s blog really made me think about my game and what is wrong with it. The thing is, there was nothing in the blogs that struck a chord, as such. Just reading them made me think.

So here goes…. why I have lost interest in poker, in nice little bullet points! 

  1. I’m sick of losing out to monkeys who suckout in the most horendous ways possible
  2. In recent times I’ve played way too much poker leading to poker overload
  3. I’m on a losing run (again) at most of the sites I play at

Do these reasons seem familiar to you? They most likely will. They are probably the top 3 in your list why you have trodden down the path of poker obscurity.

You are probably wondering why I have basically repeated what I said in the opening paragraphs. Well the answer is simple…. they are not reasons. They are EXCUSES! At the end of the day, we are looking for excuses because we are not winning.

All along, I think we have been looking for excuses to why we have lost interest in poker instead of analysing the real reasons. Yes, we get constantly sucked out by monkeys. Yes, we may be on a losing run. Yes we may be playing too many games. But when do we draw the line and realise that we ourselves are the problem.

We all know that skill will overcome luck in the long run. Taking myself as the example, this is not happenening and hasn’t been happening for months. Only in the very odd game do I do well. I have played a helluva lot of poker this year but have not played well for the majority of it.

At the weekends, when on with the skype crew, we chat, we drink, we smoke and generally have a laugh, with the odd game of poker thrown in for good measure. But I’ve noticed that none of us has really made any inroads to consistantly cashing in the games we play – and it never used to be like that. A few months ago we were all cashing in sit and gos on a nightly basis. Very rarely would we come away from the tables without being at least even. More often than not we would all be in profit. So where does the problem lie?

For me personally, I’ve came full circle. You may remember the posts I wrote way back in March and April describing the exact same apathy that has gripped me now. You can click on the archives for a reminder. Basically, I need to re-evaluate why I’m playing poker. I need to re-focus on a goal and most importantly, I have to go back to basics!

I’ve came full circle from when I first posted about losing interest in poker way back in March and April. I’ve gone from a disinterested player to winning player with a goal, to playing avarage, but still making profit to the cocky player winning very little and losing confidence in my own game. And now I’m back to being the disinterested player again.

I said in those early posts that you have to evaluate your play on a constant basis. If you go on a losing streak, examine why it’s happening. Is it just variance or are you not focusing enough? Are you not trying hard enough? Have you lost focus of your goal? Have you become ignorant or arogant enough to think you are a much better player than most and should be winning, or at least cashing in any game you play?

As far as I’m concerned, it’s time for me to go ‘Back to Basics’ again. I know it will be tedious. I know what I’m going to see when I read through the archives of all the blogs. I know what the problems are, and I think I know most of the answers. But I still have to do it. There will always be something in these archives that I will have forgotton, no matter how many times I go back to them. My brain needs a refresher course in the basics of playing poker – the parts you need to look at before a card is dealt. Playing the cards will take care of themselves after that.

I have done the one thing I warned others about – I’ve became a little overconfident, or even arogant in my own ability, and I didn’t even realise it until I read Daves blog. I’ve probably known it all along, but it just needed that extra ‘push’ to make me realise it was definately going on and I need to do something about it.

So, in closing this rather long post, ask yourself – if you are in the same position as me – what are the real reasons you have lost interest in poker. Then look at them again. You may just find that your reasons are in fact excuses. Maybe you have came Full Circle too, and if so I hope this post has helped you to realise that. But in any case it does no harm to go Back to Basics to re-affirm your poker values and start to act on them again.


The Jury is out…..

November 16, 2007

 postsplit

I have questioned the integrity of poker sites in the past, but not for the reason I will talk about in a moment. My main problem with some sites was their software. I feel their Random Number Generators (RNG) are not good enough. (The RNG is in place to give the online cards a random shuffle). I have played many sites, but there are some that you can practically predict the cards – especially on the turn and river. When giving this some serious thought though, I came to the comclusion that it wasn’t any kind of ‘cheat’ in the software or the RNG, but was in fact just the way the software acted. And remember, we see way more hands on the virtual tables than at a live game, so you are bound to see more ‘bad beats’ or suckouts. For the sites I questioned, I realised that you just have to work with the software and exploit the weaknesses as best you can.

But, in the last few weeks, two sites have had their integrity questioned. Pokerstars has suspended a players account after he won one of their biggest tournaments – the WCOOP main event. The player in question – thought to be a British poker pro who has since been banned from pokerstars – played under several different accounts at the same time during this tournament, and more likely any tournament he participated in at pokerstars. Luckily, he was caught and lost his $1.2m for winning this tournament as Pokerstars have an indepth review of any players’ activities when they win such a large amount.

But what about all those others who paid their money and may have been put out by this guy or any of his aliases? Should they not be re-imbursed? I would certainly want my money back!

The 2nd site – Absolute Poker – is a site that I play at quite regularly. This scam is a lot more worrying than the pokerstars incident. An insider at Absolute made thousands of dollars at higher limit tables, but obviously underestimated his oponents. He played virtually every hand and won the majority of them. And why?? Because he could see ALL the other players hole cards! His opponents cottoned on that something was amiss and requested the hand histories for their game. Absolute, sent the histories and to the complainants amazement they included the hole cards for every player for every game, along with all the betting history.

After analysis and discussion in poker forums Absolute were contacted but they denied any wrong doing. Only when the games had been re-created using special software, and Absolute given the evidence, did they start to look into it. By this time the media had cottoned on to the problem, which is probably why Absolute decided to investigate.

It turned out that one of their own staff was the culprit, although he hadn’t withdrawn any of his illicit wnings. He may now face criminal charges for fraud. Absolute has since admitted cheating by one of their own staff members had taken place and all monies lost by the other players has since been reimbursed.

But the main questions coming from these two incidents is this….. Are online poker rooms safe? Can they guarentee integrity. Will our money be safe? Can we expect an immediate investigation if suspicion of cheating has been observed?

For Pokerstars part, they investigated only because it was standard paractice to do so when concerning such  a large amount of money. But what about when smaller amounts of money are involved? Would they conduct an investigation if someone complained to them? Or would they dismiss it like Absolute did?

When we are spending money at these sites we should be assured that any complaint we make should be taken seriously. Absolute, in particular sems to dismiss any notions of cheating without any investigation (if this incident is anything to go by).

I just hope that every poker site out there has taken note of these incidents and have stepped up their security. More importantly, I hope they act on concerns made by their customers instead of instantly dismissing them. It may save them from ‘shooting themselves in the foot’ in the future.


How the the blinds work

October 20, 2007

postsplit

I’ve mentioned ‘blinds’ in a few posts, and have had a few people asking me what they are. So here’s a quick explanation on blinds.

Blinds are a compulsary bet that must be made by the two players to the dealers left before a hand is dealt. These compulsary bets ensure there is always money in the pot to play for. The blinds increase after either a set amount of time or after a set amount of hands have been played. Increaseing the blinds makes the game move along – the higher they get, the more the low chipstacks have to take risks.

If the blinds are shown as 20/40 this would mean that the small blind would post 20 and the big blind would post 40. To call a hand the minimum bet has to match the size of the big blind. Any bet after the flop has to be at least the value of the big blind.

As the dealer button moves around to the left each hand so does the blinds. This makes sure that no-one has an advantage – everyone has to post the blinds at some point.

Antes

As the game progresses and the blinds increase, another compulsary bet is introduced. This is called the ante. Everyone still seated at the table has to post the ante for every hand played. The ante varies from site to site but is normally roughly 10% of the big blind. So if the blinds are 200/400 (400 being the big blind) the ante would usually be 50. Obviously as the blinds increase the antes will increase too.

The introduction of antes makes the initial pot a lot bigger, but also means that you are losing chips every hand you don’t play. It is basically to speed up the game.

And that’s all there is to the blinds, and antes.

Any comments, or you want to add anything, feel free…..


Continuation and information betting

October 6, 2007

postsplit

Continuation bets

First off, what is a continuation bet? This is when a player bets the minimum bet after the flop. If the blinds are 20/40 the player would bet 40 into the pot.

Players use this bet for several reasons.

  • they may have hit nothing on the flop and are puting out the single bet to see if anyone else has hit (information bet). They want to see if they can force people out of the pot. Normally a raise will cause the initial bettor to fold.
  • they HAVE hit the flop, and are trying to beef up the pot. In this case they will hope that others will call. If they have the nuts after the flop with no dangerous draws showing they will want as many people to stay as possible.
  • they have caught a drawing hand on the flop and are trying to beef it up in the hope they make their draw on the turn or river.

Continuation bets are more commonly seen in low stakes games by pretty novice players but can be used to great effect by good players also. So how do you deal with the continuation bet?

I normally find that when someone plays the continuation bet, there is normally 4 or 5 people in the hand. In my experience, most of the time they have hit the flop,  but usually it’s only middle or bottom pair they have hit. They want to see another card as cheaply as possible, so their idea is to bet out first to make the other players think they could be holding a decent hand. They know that the other players will be wary of the bet, even though it is the minimum. In low stakes games you will find that most of the players will only call this bet or fold.

The best way to deal with the bet is to test the water yourself. Raise up the pot. Don’t go gung-ho and go all-in though, just in case they do have a hand. I would suggest a half-pot raise. If, they come over the top of you then you have an easy fold. If they call, the chances are that they are chasing a draw. In this case you have to bet out again after the turn if no draws are apparent. I find that betting after the turn is enough to make them muck their cards if they only had a drawing hand. If they call, then I would be very wary. Unless you have a decent hand, I would play very cautiously.

I have to admit that I don’t use the continuation bet very often, unless its against players who I know will fold if they haven’t hit the flop. If I happen to hit the flop, then I raise it up between twice the BB and the size of the pot. You need to make people pay to see more cards. I’m always an advocate of many small pots being just as significant as one large pot, so I don’t care if everyone folds around to me. Letting people see more cards on the cheap can be a recipe for disaster, so for that reason alone I would not advocate using the continuation bet unless you have the absolute nuts after the flop.

Information bets

An information bet is exactly what it says on the tin – you are trying to gain information from the other players in the hand. It is slightly different from the continuation bet as normally you won’t put out a single bet. You can use it to bluff or as a semi-bluff.

This can be a very effective bet for taking down pots, especially in games $5 and up. As we know, at these levels you will see slightly less of the pure novice/bingo players/chasers etc. The higher the buy in, the better calibre of player you will meet. You will start to see slightly more cautious players, who tend not to chase just as much. These are the players you are aiming for.

Information bets are akin to the stock market – sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate! Now I’m not saying you should bet out with wild abandon, but by picking your spots carefully – especially once you know how the other players are playing – can bring huge dividends.

So, when and how do you use these information bets? You are involved in a pot with a few other players and you are in late position. The flop is 7h 5c 2s, and it checks around to you. You are holding jc 9c. Do you also check to see the turn card? Hell no! Bet into the pot! But, as I said earlier, don’t go mad.  I only bet out ½ to ¾ of the pot or 2 – 3 x the big blind, whichever is smaller. You don’t want to get commited to the pot. If you are called, I would be thinking overcards. If you are raised then I think you are beat, so an easy fold. But you will find most will muck their cards if they haven’t hit.

Whatever happens, you gain the information you want.

Another occasion you can use the info bet is by betting your drawing hands. A lot of players tend to check their drawing hands. They want to catch a free card. Don’t do it! If you are holding any gutshot or flush draw, bet out – even if you are first to act. Same rules apply. A call could be a pair or also on a draw. A raise could mean top pair or better and it would be time to get out (unless pot odds dictate otherwise). This is more commonly known as a semi-bluff, but it is an information bet. You are betting really to see how strong your hand is… trying to gain information from the other players. But at the same time you DO have a chance of completing your hand.

Don’t play these bets too often though. Good players can and will pick up on you so choose your spots. Always be wary if you are called. Chances are that you are behind in the hand. Don’t use these bets if you are shortstacked. When shortstacked, you are ideally looking for a hand that you can go all-in with. Using a continuation or information bet could be costly as you will have more chance of being called. The bigger chipstacks will try to remove you, even if they are holding only overcards or bottom pair.

These are two strategy bets you should be adding to your game. You will find that they will pay dividends the majority of the time. If not in chips then definately in information.

As usual, comments are most welcome.


The Meet

September 27, 2007

I was going to bring you a post about continuation and information betting, but just not had time to finish it. Should be done and dusted for the beginning of next week.

And the reason for not finishing it??? The Pokerchipsquad meet!

The meet up takes place each September in Birmingham, UK. This year people came from as far as the US and Canada; from Denmark as well as the UK folks. Our first ‘International’ meet-up.

As expected, everyone had a fantastic time. There was so much partying went on, poker was starting to take a back seat! We played poker almost constantly but the craic was so good amongst everyone, that the games became like your friendly home games. No one was desperate to win – not to say that we were’nt trying – but the mood of everyone and the atmosphere dictated how the games went.

Gotmewrong was the most successful amongst us, reaching the final table at the casino £10 rebuy tourny, making 8th place for a return of £120! And she NEVER rebought! She then went on to win the forums ‘Briks ‘n’ Mortar Championship’ game the following day after an intense heads up battle with Bigjock.

Me, well I managed a 3rd place in one of our games for a £2.50 profit and that was me lot!! I just had one of those weekends. Got the starting hands and ended up getting outdrawn by a lesser hands. The golden horshoe was definately not in my vicinity!

I’ll take a lot of memories from this meet. None more so than the chocolate peanut incident!

On the Saturday night….. well 3am, Sunday morning, we had just finished yet another game of poker. Everyone was worse for wear and a few had started to get the munchies. Ash had bought a jar of chocolate peanuts and was throwing them in the air, trying to catch them in his mouth. Only thing was, the peanuts were landing in his mouth and bouncing out again and rolling across the table. KB, sitting at the opposite side of the table, thought that Ash was throwing the peanuts to him (he was very drunk…lol) , and there for started eating them. Absolutely hilarious. Had us all falling off our chairs with laughter! That was one helluva night!

I enjoyed meeting all the old and new faces. Special mention has to go to Pinky dragon, who flew all the way from Canada; Steph who came all the way from the US and Gotmewrong who came in from Denmark. Dedicated forum members, I’m sure you will agree, and such a pleasure and fun to meet.

It was good to eventually meet Paulie (Blagger) too! I’ve spoken to him often enough on skype, but didn’t expect to feel so comfortable face to face. Gotmewrong is a nutter, (as expected!) and Ash is just Ash – same good old chilled-out-constantly Ash. I wonder how he gets like that!!! 😉 🙂 And to Ruth… Hope you had a great Birthday!

Sue done as she said she would – grabbed two handfulls of my ass as soon as she seen me! Still mad as a hatter! Alan was completely different. I just couldn’t picture him walking – he had badly broken his leg at the last meet and was in a wheelchair. Popa, well what can you say? Just a star guy. A big gentle giant. Just glad he never brought any of his music along!!!

Everyone else was fantastic too…. Annie – crazy, Jock – Love the new look…lol, Karl and Slash – fantastic guys, Terry and Andy – the quiet ones. I don’t quite think they knew what they had let themselves in for when the came but soon got into the swing of things.

All in all a fantastic time that ended way too soon. I can’t wait for the next one.

By the way, I seem to be the official forum ‘DEALER’. (The card kind that is not the drugs 😉 ) I quite enjoy dealing but you just don’t realise how tiring it can be. I was knackered afer the games! But hey…. it was all part of the fun!


Short-handed play

September 18, 2007

 postsplit

Well I’ve managed to get one last post in before going to this years forum get-together. A wee change for the good this time….. I’m back to writing strategies. Please be aware that all the strategy posts have been written by myself, and are my views on the game. As usual, feel free to comment on the articles or add to them if you want.

– + – + – + – + – + – + – + – + – 

I’ve read and heard a lot of people complaining that they do great in tournaments until they hit the final table, and end up going out on the bubble – just outside the cash payouts. Some of the time this is down to pure bad luck, but a lot of the time it is down to inexperience of playing short handed.

So what is shorthanded play? This is when you are at a table with 6 or less players including yourself. If you play sit and go tournies you should be familiar with this as most of the time only 9 or 10 players start. I know a lot of people who will normally go out in 5th place or less. If you play 6 seater sit and go’s you are into short handed play immediately.

When it comes to short-handed play you have to be that little bit more aggressive at the table. You have to expand on the starting hands you play. The usual concept of any tournament is to play tight, aggressive poker at the start. That is, only play the premium starting hands (top 10 starting hands) but play them aggressively.

Shorthanded, you can expand to playing the top 20 starting hands and being aggressive with them. But as always, remember position and knowing how the other players play is key. You don’t want to be raising under the gun with Qs Jd at the start of shorthanded play if there are 5 others to follow you.

The Start

If you have been playing a multi table tournament (MTT) then hopefully by the time you are down to around 6 or 7 players you will know the table dynamics. That is, you know roughly how the other players play – tight aggressive, loose aggressive etc…

You should be playing to position, as normal, but if you have a good hand in early position, you must push it. If you are holding Ah As or Ks Kd, DO NOT LIMP IN! At this stage of the game you want money in the pot. If it so happens that everyone folds to you, so what? If you had to limp in with Ah As, there’s a good chance that a few will come with you, holding mediocre hands. You do not want them to hit. You have got to be aggressive. The only time I would advocate limping in with a monster like Ah As or Ks Kd is on the button or in the blinds, as long as there have been no limpers before you. If you are in a battle of the blinds whilst holding Ah As you want the other player to hang himself. Let him get aggressive. Flat call any raises preflop and only re-raise if the flop looks scary… ie flush or straight draw possibilities. Remember though, slow playing huge hands pre-flop can be a dangerous ploy. You will hear of so many ‘cracked aces’ bad beat stories going around.

If you are in the blinds, you are hoping to see a flop if possible, no matter the hand. But that doesn’t mean call any raise. You have to work out what the pot odds are to see if its worthwhile. If you are holding 10d 9d in the big blind and its going to cost you $1000 to call and there’s $5500 in the pot then you are getting 5.5/1 on your investment. Not bad odds shorthanded! I would certainly call. However if there was only $2000 in the pot and its going to cost you $1000 to call then its a fold.

Don’t go overboard with you aggression. Remember that if you are up against any half decent players, they will be watching you… taking notes on you… waiting for the moment where they can challenge you and relieve you of your chips. Being overly aggressive – with it paying off for you – can breed overconfidence, or an arrogance that could prove costly in a single hand later on. Always watch the other players. If they deviate from the way thay have been playing up to that point, be prepared for them having some kind of hand. Unless of course, you are holding the nuts!

As more players drop out of the game, you must be prepared to expand your starting hands. With only 3 or 4 players left Ac 7s, Kd 9hQc 10h or similar can be played quite easily. At this stage, almost any ace should be raised. Chances are that if you are holding an ace, your opponents are msot likely not. If you raise with say Ac 9s and are re-raised,  don’t do anything silly. A 9 is not a hand for calling an all-in, even at this stage. Lay it down and wait for a better hand.

In summary, playing shorthanded requires controlled aggression. You want to try to bully the table, but don’t go overboard. Constantly re-evaluate the players at the table, and always use your position at the table to your advantage.

Next time out, I’ll talk about the continuation bet and the information bet and how best to use them.