Friday, May 29, 2009

Alternative Line #1: The Limp Re-raise

The Criteria:

1) You have 4 or more players between yourself and the blinds.
2) Your stack is no more than 27.5BB.
3) There are no early posters.

Why do this?

The benefits of this line are very simple and were designed to avoid the negative nature of playing AK from early position. Before I get started, let's take a look at what happens when you open raise.

When you open raise AK from early position, you are necessarily folding out many weaker hands that you wish would have called you, such as A3 or K9. Naturally, not everyone is folding these types of hands, but it is a given that when you raise, the average hand that plays against you increases greatly in strength and players holding these hands are more likely to fold than if you had limped.

Now supposing that you had raised, you are now building a rather large pot out of position against many hands like pocket pairs who will likely put you to the test if you bluff but fold against your value betting boards that contain an Ace or King. And of course, there are many boards that come up so bad that you are forced to immediately give up (8h-9h-Th comes to mind) and concede the pot to a weaker hand that cold-called you in position such as AJ or AQ.

Although playing AK when you miss is actually one of the more rewarding aspects of being a short stacker since it is a real test of your hand reading skills, it is important to never lose sight of the fact that the only real reason that we are here is to learn how to make money. Many fledgling short stackers tend to either overplay or underplay their AK from early position, so limp re-raising is a simple way to counter costly mistakes with this hand.

The Benefits

The main benefit comes from players who are unaware of what you are doing and your tight image and mash the pot button in response to your limp. So if you limp and they raise and then abandon their hand, you have now benefited greatly, because not only have you picked up extra money from a pot-sized raise ($9 in a $1/2 game), you have won without a showdown and picked up the blind money, all without paying any rake. This benefit is magnified when there are several limpers between yourself and the raiser, thereby increasing the size of his raise and your potential reward. If there are cold-callers, all the better. In the past, I have more than doubled my stack several times with this play without ever seeing a flop!

The second benefit comes from one of the Great Truths of Poker, which is:

Once a player has committed money to a hand, he will trick himself into committing more money in blatant acts of denial.

Notice what happens to the sorry douchebag who calls my shove in the replay above. I was able to double up only because we got all in before the flop. Even a fish wouldn't 3-bet an early open raiser with this turd of a hand and also wouldn't stack away on this flop without hitting one of his cards, so I maximized my profit by getting all in pre-flop.

This is also why short stacking works. You often read on the forums about players who claim that they just won't pay off a short stacker, but the truth of the matter is that very, very few players actually play correctly against a short stacker. They tend to either call far too often or fold far too often.

The final benefit actually comes from when no one raises. Now you will usually be playing against only the blinds, only now YOU are position. When they check to you, just fire 2BB's and you can get folds most of the time on pretty much any board. If you are playing against other limpers, just check and fold your hand if you miss or lead out strongly if you hit top pair or better, fully mentally committing yourself to the hand.

The Drawbacks:

The only real drawback here is that you are making yourself very readable. But you know what? It doesn't really matter, because this play will still work over and over again, even against players that you have played thousands of hands against. Remember this: you will make the bulk of your profits by playing your hands in a straight up manner. You aren't doing this to be tricky, but rather because AK plays best when you get to see all five cards or never take a flop at all. Even still, since a few of your opponents will pick up on it and adjust, you still need to balance your range just a little bit by sometimes limp re-raising AA or KK. Just a little bit though...limp re-raising your very best hands is still playing sub-optimally and you will make the most money by open raising with them and generating a pot.

A secondary drawback is that this play does not tend to work very well at stakes above $1/2, even at Cake.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A New Series: Alternative Short Stacker Lines With Big Slick

AK is the lifeblood of short stackers. Being that you get dealt AK more often than AA and KK combined, learning to maximize your winnings with AK is crucial. Though you are essentially a coin-flip against lower pairs, AK profits most when you are able to avoid a showdown altogether. Combining hand replays with in-depth analyses, this new series is guaranteed to open your eyes to the dangers and opportunities available when playing NLH's most infamous hand.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

With Friends Like These...

This is a replay of a typical conversation that Lorin and I have in the afternoons under the guise of doing real work.

P.S. We would like to thank our graphic artist, Adam Hicks for the outstanding job he did on our site artwork. If you are interested in seeing more of his work, click here.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cake Results and Shameless Plugging

Ok everybody...I have been pimping Cake Poker out forever and I am finally showing why. The players there are either very bad or just don't care about their money. I only wish I could have had the Cake Hand Converter way back when, but the results would still be roughly the same. The Cake Hand Converter is a nifty little contraption that converts Cake hand histories into Poker Stars ones so that you are able to upload them into your PT3 or HEM database. I decided to start using PT3 for analyzing hands but HEM for the HUD (which I have been experimenting more with), though even with the HH's from Cake, it is still not possible to use a HUD.

A few notes about my progress at Cake:

1) The bad news: I play as many $2/4 - $3/6 games as possible, though sadly, they run sporadically and are not always available. The good news: the quality of play at at $3/6 (and some at $5/10) is somewhere between a $.50/1 and $1/2 game at Full Tilt.

2) The $5/10 game there is unique in that it does not have a core group of regulars. Since it comes together rather infrequently and is well above a typical (good) $2/4 player's comfort level, it tends to consist mainly of 6-max players and people looking to gamble it up. Beatable as it is, I am still easing my way into it, as you will often find yourself flipping for $200 or more, which can easily turn an otherwise good session at $1/2 into a quick loser.

3) A little more shameless plugging: the support staff is phenomenal and the payouts are fast. I have been getting pretty ticked off at Full Tilt for having screwed up a $5,000 cashout numerous times and basically leaving that money in limbo for 50 days and counting. I guess they threw the payout doomswitch on me. The better attention I get at Cake combined with the horrific level of competition makes it a solid winner in my book.

What's more? This is an incredible network to bonus whore and build a bankroll. Of the 4 skins offered at, all of them are no longer taking ANY deductions from your rakeback, including sign up bonuses and comp purchases. You can also change your screen name weekly- a short stacker's wet dream!!

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Further Examination of Relative Value: Moving Beyond Theory and Into Practice

This hand is a direct continuation of the concept presented in the last post with a very different outcome.

Raising TT under the gun is obviously a standard play and I am naturally hoping for only a single caller, but those hopes are dashed when LostOn4thSt enters the pot in the BB. However, being squeezed in position here is actually better than facing two opponents acting behind me, due to the fact that if the BB and I both check the flop and the last player takes an action, I effectively act last.

So we take a flop and it comes J high with a wet texture. Unlike in the previous example, wet board textures provide many more semi-bluffing opportunities and dilute the quality of the information you receive in response to your bets. Had this hand been heads up, I would normally lead out and give a crying call to a raise because there are many more opportunities for a lone opponent to take a deceptive action on a board texture such as this.

Naturally LostOn4thSt checks, but this isn't just a normal check. He insta-checks. It has been my experience that the insta-check is most often meant as a ruse to lure me into betting and then snap me off with a check raise. But that's not all: LostOn4thSt and I have a lot of history. He has probably won as much money off me as anyone I have played against as a short stacker, in various ways. He always either shows up with the goods or draws out horribly, as he did earlier this session when we got all in pre-flop holding KK and 55 respectively. I spiked my set and he caught runner-runner straight with his fives. The bad beat is not the point, however. He enjoys butting heads with me and would almost certainly enjoy cracking me for a third time in a single session. Therefore his range could be quite wide in this spot, though my experience with him tells me that he still would not pass up the opportunity to re-raise me with JJ+ and AK. It would not surprise me though to have him show up with many top pair type hands, J9 for 2 pair, or a set of nines or sixes. 96 is always out of his range, as he is a good player and though I am sure he would like nothing better than to crack me, he is not stupid either. Of course, he is playing a lot of tables and just as easily could have mentally checked out of this hand so as not to waste any more time than is necessary. However, his quick action definitely gives me pause.

I check my hand and evaluate the action behind me.

Now let's examine the cold caller's range. I have a note on this chap that he has cold called me with AA before, and that's clearly bad news. Truth be told, this is actually a great defense against short stackers that only the clever or the dimwitted tend to use. Typical players are so ritualistic that they just can't bring themselves to make a flat call with a big pair to be deceptive or draw other players in the pot. Opponents who break this long standing tradition give me fits. After all, I am folding TT if I get re-raised by anyone outside of the blind positions, but flopping good is a recipe to going broke against said players. So here is the problem: QQ, KK, and AA are all still in his range. JJ is mostly discounted because most decent players understand well the dangers of building a large pot with a vulnerable hand such as this.

Here's the kicker: just like the previous hand with QQ, I am relying on the third player in the hand to give me the information that I desire from my nemesis in the BB. But get this- in a three way pot like this, the wet texture of the board is now working FOR me rather than AGAINST me!! Here is how:

1) If he cold called me with QQ, KK, or AA, this flop has surely made him panic. If he was screwing around with any of the above hands, now is the time to quit fucking around and take down this pot. He might try a smallish bet against just myself, but with another full stacked player with an undefined range, he is virtually always betting 2/3-full pot with these hands.

2) If he did flop one of the many available draws here and decides to bluff at it, he will either play it strong or choose to take a free card. I know that he has picked up on my range and that he understands that I am just as likely as he is to play this flop fast against two players, so my check has clearly labeled my hand as bricks, specifically AK in his mind. Therefore if he is betting around 1/2 pot or less, he is clearly full of shit, the way I see it.

3) If he flopped a set with 99 or 66, I still expect him to mostly play it strong to build a good pot with the full stacker while his hand still has maximum value. He could have possibly chosen to re-raise me with 99, as players often do to me, but generally speaking a set is a rare hand, so I still am forced to play the odds here. Top two pair is virtually always going pot here, and I don't even concern myself with the possibility of J6 because even fish don't really play that hand.

But in any case....

After my check he bets $10, roughly half the pot. He's trying to buy it because he thinks I completely whiffed!

As soon as the BB folds, it's time to escort this gentleman to Value Town and shove it all in. Since players are never truly predictable in a vacuum, I can estimate that I am ahead about 85% of the time when he makes such a weak play, but there are even greater benefits here. When the betting gets back to him he is now getting slightly better than 2.5:1 to call, and just as importantly, he knows he has no further decisions to make. When I execute this play, I often see some truly horrific calls, like 22, A7, and sometimes even two undercards drawing virtually dead. So not only have I gleaned the value of my marginal holding using a bit of short stacker sleight-of-hand, I have also maximized value by doing so.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Glimpse Into the Mind of The Short Stack Hero

This is just an example of how I determine a line post-flop as a short stacker BEFORE I commit any money to the hand. This replay is a hand that had developed during a sweat session with one of my students. Although at first glance this appears to be nothing special, this is a common scenario where many short stackers tend to get lost because they do not understand the proper analysis. Though sweat sessions don't tend to be the ideal teaching tool, particularly for short stackers, I was very happy that this hand came up because this is a frequent danger spot.

Key concepts to note:
1) Position
2) Number of opponents
3) Board texture

When I raise from early position, as a short stacker I generally give my opponents credit for picking up on my tight image, therefore, I can usually (though not always) expect them to re-raise with better hands because they expect that I will be getting all in with them. So the first player calls. Given that the overcaller will be forced to play this pot out of position against two other players, I can expect him to re-raise all hands that beat me and even a hand such as AKo virtually 100% of the time, particularly because the original caller's stack is only 40BB. I can also expect him to re-raise with JJ and sometimes even TT.

Now that their pre-flop ranges are somewhat defined, we take a flop. The fact that the flop comes up K high is not necessarily a disaster. The board is very dry, particularly when coupled with the fact that I have removed two queens from the deck, reducing the probability that either of my opponents could be holding precisely QT, the only legitimate drawing hand that fits this flop. The only thing questionable here is my position after the flop.

Since AA, KK, AK, and JJ have mostly been eliminated from my opponent's ranges, this board is not particularly bad. A partial concern here is giving a free card that beats me, namely to gut shots. However with only 4 outs to a gut shot, I am far more concerned with getting my money in bad on the flop than letting either opponent draw for free. The question that remains, however, is how to get my opponents to reveal the accurate strength of their holdings without overcommitting myself in a potential two-out disaster.

Given that the board is so dry, this is surprisingly easy to do, though it really is a function of several years of experience reading common opponent tendencies and bet sizes. The small blind begins by checking. No matter the strength of the small blind's hand, I expect him to check every time. He clearly is never folding anything that beats me, but of those hands that do, I expect him to almost always either check call or check raise. Far more importantly, I am interested in how the last player to act will respond to both of our checks, but I already have my line in place.

After two players check, many online players will tend to bet despite the quality of their hand. I have noticed, however, that the size of their bets is often teeming with information. The presence of the third player in the hand tends to glean higher quality information than when he is absent, and coupled with the dry nature of the board and the effective stack sizes, I can expect that he will:

1) Value bet precisely between 2/3 to full pot with top pair and two pair strength hands with the full intention of commitment.
2) Check behind sets, which have pretty much been eliminated from both players' ranges, with the exception of a set of fours.
3) Check behind on a miss or weak draw.
4) Bet 1/2 pot or less with 2nd pair type hands, open straights, and sometimes even gut shots, and complete air.

Therefore my plan with this hand is to check fold if the last player bets EXACTLY $13 or more or bets $10 or more and gets either raised or called by the small blind. If he bets $12 or less and the small blind folds, I will check raise him all in, or if he bets less than $10 and the small blind just calls, I will check raise both of them all in, because now my stack-to-pot ratio is very good to get it in with 2nd pair and perceived weakness on both players.

I prefer this to leading out because in order to get back the right quality information, I need to bet a substantial portion of the pot, approximately $13 or more. At that point, it becomes a very expensive probe and I am nearing a threshold where I might find it difficult to fold even though I am almost always getting my money in with very little equity. Betting less than that will often get low quality information because it would appear exactly to be what is was: a probe with a weak hand. Furthermore, if I lead out and do not get raised (as I would expect to after giving the illusion of flop commitment and they like their hand), then I will have to push the rest in on the turn, barring some highly unusual information. Due to the dry nature of the board, I can reasonably expect that they might tread somewhat cautiously with the few semi-bluff type hands in their ranges, fearing that I may be slowplaying on a board such as this, yet even still, most players are so senselessly terrified of giving that free card that I can also expect that the last player will still bet a K even when he is highly suspicious of being beat and then proceed to talk himself into cashing away for the rest.

But that is not all- if the last player checks behind, I now get to see how the small blind reacts on the turn. I am somewhat concerned about an A or J hitting on the turn, but the quality of my hand has still not been defined enough to be all that concerned about getting drawn out on. Just to restate, I would rather get drawn out on holding a weakish hand having only invested $6 than be drawing to 2 outs having invested $45.

When the turn is a veritable blank and the small blind leads out for pot, most all bluffs have now been eliminated from his range and he is betting to take this pot down, most likely getting a little leery of the developing flush (once again, for no good reason). His bet sizing is unrestrained and very much looks like he is committed. I can now safely fold with a clean conscience.

On a final note, had the small blind bet another amount, I would have to re-evaluate how to proceed, but given the actual turn card and his decisive action, with the player left to act no longer being any concern and given his flop inactivity and barring any unusual draw out (namely a low set) I am effectively playing this hand heads up.

Drunken Musings on Poker and The Book of Five Rings

In his seminal work "The Book of Five Rings", Miyamoto Musashi laid down a treatise for out thinking your opponent in combat. A major basis for this philosophy was using all the tools available to you. For example, samurai at the time carried 2 swords. A long sword called a Katana (which was the standard weapon of the samurai) and a mainly ceremonial short sword called a Wakizashi which was basically carried to be used when indoors after the samurai had politely surrendered his Katana at the door. The right to carry 2 swords was reserved only for the samurai class, so as a mark of station they all carried them. In combat, however, no samurai used both swords. This seemed asinine to Musashi, if you had two swords, why not use them. He was never defeated in battle by the way and retired a legend (and still is today).

He expounds on this principle further when speaking of a carpenter and his selection of material. Know what kind of wood is good for what and use it accordingly (this was a note to Generals about the use of their troops but follow along). Use stong but gnarled and knotted wood for supports inside the wall. Use the straight and even but weaker wood for decoration, get the drift. Now take a second and apply that to your poker game.

We all have our own skill set. We have been trained through our devotion to this cruel mistress of a game to push all the small edges. Too often I think that we apply that concept to cards, pot odds, position, dead money and all the other galaxy of concepts that we try to keep in our head. When was the last time you tried to push YOUR edge? When did you use YOUR skill set to establish situations that give you an edge? Are you disciplined enough to wait for the right situation? Are you better at post flop play? Do you have the ability to fire a 3 barrel bluff when you need to? There is a reason that even Top Pros don't play exactly the same. Nobody would argue that Phil Hellmuth and Daniel Negreanu aren't both great poker players, but their styles are very, very different. They were both able (as well as every other truly great player) to figure out what they do well and use it. They took the wood they had and used it to build a palace....

Another great example of this is Bruce Lee and his Art of Jeet Kune Do. Unlike most other styles which taught all disciples to fight the same way, Jeet Kune Do stressed taking the natural strengths of an INDIVDUAL and finding the style that worked for THAT INDIVIDUAL. Bruce's system was based on Wing Chun Kung Fu, Boxing, French Fencing, and the Japanese Tea Ceremony (I couldn't make this up, I'm not that clever) because that was what worked with his personality and his bodies natural abilities.

Now don't get me wrong, we all have to work on our weaknesses. Which we all do. When was the last time you stopped and thought about what advantages you have over your oppenents? Lorin and I are pretty good examples. We have entirely different skill sets. He has more discipline (when it comes to poker) than any person I have ever met. He is also very competitve and very analytical. He wants to find THE answer. You put those together and he is fucking ICEMAN from Top Gun. He doesn't make a mistake and will wear the whole table down until they get frustrated and do something stupid. He is too proud to get impatient or make a mistake. I, on the other hand, have very little patience, rely a little more on reads and look for AN answer, not necessarily THE answer. We traditionally played very differently, but fortunately we have found a system that allows both of us to use our particular skill sets, and helps us develop those skills we lack while providing a safety net of sorts.

If you are reading this, you are either a serious devotee of the fickle Poker Bitch, or you have entirely too much time on your hands. Regardless, do yourself a favor and before you log in for your next session, put down the book that somebody wrote about how THEY play, and think about how YOU should play. What are your strengths (and how can you use them) and what are your weaknesses (and how can you not let them be a liability while you fix them). What is your second sword? If you can really master that, someday I will probably be reading YOUR book....

Good luck at the tables (and away from them as well)....

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Lesson in Creative Hustling- How I Beat Online Casinos for over $50,000

There is a saying that is abreviated as TANSTAAFL. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.” Bullshit, I say. To those who take this attitude, I say “you will never have YOUR free lunch.”

Almost 6 years ago, I decided that I wanted to be professional poker player. Being that the only knowledge I had of the game at the time consisted of what beat what, I decided that it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to search the internet for some tips. Lo and behold, when searching for poker strategy, I came across a paid link that said, “Cheat at Blackjack.” Funny…

So just to humor myself, I clicked on the link. It brought me to a page that had instructions on how to abuse online casino match bonuses by playing blackjack according to a card. I had dabbled with such bonuses in the past and had wondered on the house squeezed out your cash, assuming that the house always had the advantage in such a proposition, but this site had explicit instructions on how to beat the house at their own game. It offered a strategy card according to a given casino’s rules that allowed you to just fall short of breaking even, but when offered a great match bonus, you could expect to show a profit over the house- a very large one!!

Here is how it went:

Suppose Casino X offered you a 100% match on a $200 deposit. Therefore you deposit $200 of your own money, they add $200 to your stack and now you have $400 sitting in front of you. Since they aren’t quite dumb enough to let you cash out right away and squirrel away $200 of their money, they add a few stipulations. The terms and conditions say that you can’t play barracat, craps, roulette, yada yada. SFW. BUT…if you decide to play a game such as blackjack, you had to wager the sum of the deposit and the bonus 12 times. That means that you would have to make 12 x $400 ($4,800) in total bets. So if I were to bet $5 on one hand and lose and $5 on another bet and win, my balance wouldn’t change but I would have made $10 in total wagers. Ok, great, but how does this help my cause?

Now… suppose if you play a by-the-book strategy at this site, the house advantage would be 1.5%. So your expected loss after doing the required amount of wagering would be $72. (FYI, it’s been a long time, so I hope the math here is correct!). So $200 (the given bonus) - $72 = $128 would be your expected earn! When betting about $5 a hand, this originally took me about two hours to complete. As I got better, it eventually only took me about 30 minutes.

Simple enough, right? But so few sign up bonuses and so much time. So then I make the call: “Hey dad, guess what? I found this great way to make money playing blackjack online, so…uh…can you spare me your identity?”

“Sure, Lor.”

“Oh, and by the way, I’ll need, like… $600 to get started.”

“Um… yeah, sure. I’ll give you my credit card to make a deposit. Just don’t tell your mother.”

Yeah, my dad was one of the pioneers of internet poker, so this didn’t seem all that far out of line for him. I had already made about $2,000 at this point, so I could hand him the cash to get started. In any case, I made the rounds again and scored even bigger. Eventually I got all of my friends involved. I’d give them $400 in cash and they would give me a unique IP address, a new name, and a place to cash out the dough. This may have been a breach of ethics, but come on now, do I really give a fuck? It was still legal!

Eventually the easy money ran out, so I had to get creative. I had become a master of manipulating the T&C’s of any casino and finding all of the best deals. But then came the greatest one of all…

Millionaire Casino…

They had a 100% match bonus of $350. The only catch was that you couldn’t play the standard restricted games and you couldn’t play blackjack either, or video poker, for that matter. To top it off, you had the pick of any sucker’s game and you STILL had to wager the whole thing 20 times! It seemed impossible to beat- but wait! I’m too smart for all that…

The interesting thing about this casino was that if you had lost the deposit bonus, you could just cash out your original deposit. Hmmm…

I spent about two days thinking this over and finally concluded that I needed to make a huge score to begin with and then I could afford to wager on a sucker’s game like Let it Ride to make the wagering requirements. So what paid out the best? Roulette!!

You see, betting on a single number on roulette pays back 35:1. The actual odds are 37:1, but I was playing with their money, right? Right!! The maximum bet you could lay on a number was $100. That meant that I had 3 ½ chances to make that big score. Furthermore, if I was lucky enough to get it on the first try, that meant I got a refund on the original $350 bonus, a $3,500 score, and I had already wagered $100 towards the total requirements. All 100% positive!

So I decided to place a $100 bet on the number 10. My palms were sweaty as the ball spun around the wheel. It graphically bounced a few times and landed on………10!!! My hands were shaking real hard at this point and I had to look at my balance to believe what I had just seen. It now stood at $4,200. A remarkable freeroll, if there ever was one! To make a long story short, I ended up getting lucky at Let it Ride and cashed out for about $4,350.

It wasn’t much longer that my tenure as a professional online sucker’s game player ended. I started getting the hang of poker and have made my living as such ever since. But when it was all said and done, I had collectively taken $55,000 from online casinos in a year and a half, beating them at their own game.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Trusting your "Gut"

Let me start this off by explaining in no uncertain terms that I am in no way superstitious. I don't play hunches. I did however realize a few years ago that certain "gut feelings" have merit. It was after I saw a social anthropologist talk about the subconscious and how it pertains to instincts. You see, the subconscious brain can analyse and interpret data way faster than your conscious, thinking mind can. Then it pushes you in the right direction.

Let's think about that. Have you every met anybody that you "just didn't like" and couldn't figure out why? You may have been picking up on subconscious gestures that he was untruthful or insincere. Later you found out some really shady stuff about the guy and said "I told you so". Or has one of your friends talked you in to trying to kidnap a Llama while drunk from a guy known to have a shotgun just to win a drunken bar bet? Yeah, I had a feeling that wouldn't work out very well, and it didn't. It wasn't that I could see into the future, it was that my brain added up all those layers of risk and realized that there was very little chance that this wouldn't end in some kind of disaster. Now, my conscious mind was way too hammered to see all those, but my subconscious (as drunk as it was) knew it was no good.

Even Lorin, as much of a tight ass stickler for the numbers as he is, finally learned to trust this about me, and himself for that matter. After spending years playing poker and watching hundreds of thousands of hands, you should have (as long as you weren't playing too many table to pay attention) accumulated massive amounts of information on the tendencies of players and the type of hand that is going to bite you in the ass. While you can process a lot of that information consciously (K9o sucks...period) quite a bit of it is just filed away in your brain, waiting for the chance to be used.

A hand that I played a few days ago, made this point screamingly loud. I had about 17bbs on the table and hadn't played a hand in FOREVER. I decided to use my tight image to steal a pot from the hijack with 87 suited. I raised. The small blind raised all in and the the BB called. I instantly went to muck my hand, but couldn't do it. I literally had the clicker over the Fold button and could not click it. My reads on my opponents were that the initial raiser had AK and that the BB had AA or KK. And I was pretty sure about this. I still couldn't fold. I thought about it for a minute and called. The SB turned over AQ (I was close) and the BB had aces. I flopped a pair of 8s, and a gutshot. I turned a flush draw and made the straight on the river to pick up a little over $100 pot.

I got up and immediately called Lorin because I had to figure out why I had done that. It was a hugely weird feeling. After a while, we cranked out the math and realized that with my read and the pot odds, my call had a slightly positive EV. We couldn't believe it. I think that my subconscious had worked that out even though all my training says that it an easy laydown.

To make a long story short, if you have been playing poker for years, don't discount experience. If all things are equal or it is a neutral EV situation, go with your gut. Now it may take you a while to figure out the difference between a gut feeling that is boredom or fear (or a bad burrito) and one that is a subconscious tug, but if you listen close enough, you can hear it. If something about a guy's betting pattern seems off but you can't put your finger on it slow down and listen to that gut. As long as it isn't an obviously mathematically stupid situation, go with it. That is why your teachers told you that if you didn't know an SAT question, just go with your first instinct. You know a lot of shit that you don't know you know. And now, hopefully you know that......

Good luck at the tables (and away from them too)

Short Stack Coaching and The Poker Power Nap

Due to the recent inundation of short stack coaching requests, we have decided to add that option for all aspiring short stack professionals. We are starting a new site that will going live hopefully within a week to accommodate all of those requests. For all of those looking for great and rare information about short stacking, please contact Travis on his profile page. Now that this matter has been settled, let's get back to business...

The Poker Power Nap

When the inevitable frustration builds from this game, the power of taking a single day off can dramatically increase both your mood and your profits. Of course, this type of advice is nothing new. But I have actually spent a lot of time figuring out how and why this always seems to work. But before I get into this, let's figure out how you know when to take a day off. It's not whether or not you are winning or losing, but about your overall approach to the game. Here is how you can tell: when you wake up in the morning and absolutely dread playing, yet feel obligated to do so because you have to pay the rent, break your downswing, win that rake race or achieve that next Iron Man level, meet your hour quota for the week or month, or achieve that lofty earnings goal you set for the month. For the record, all of these reasons are bullshit. The logic here is simple. If it will cost you a few hundred or a few thousand dollars to try and meet any of these goals, then obviously you have failed in each and every one of them.

That being said, if that feeling of dread is pervasive, it is time to take a day off. Or maybe two, or even more. You know it is time to come back when you have worked through your fears and misgivings and are actually excited about playing again. So the question is, what exactly happened to your brain during that downswing or God mode session? And this is what I figured out.

During an extended downswing or hot streak, your mind slowly begins to distort the true odds of a variety of occurrences and reverts to your natural human state of pattern recognition. Pattern recognition is the basis of our superstitious behavior and odd ritualism. Our minds are NOT hard-wired to understand the true odds of anything in a vacuum. That is why a typical player continually makes bad odds-based decisions, even though most of the time they still understand they are making long shot plays. On the converse, when running hot, we begin to overestimate the odds of our winning hands holding up. In fact, quite often a long hot streak interrupted by a moderately bad day can have devastating effects on the psyche as well, even though anyone looking over your shoulder would tell you that you have nothing to complain about. But of course, that is not how our brains actually work.

Most of us spend a year or more conditioning our brains to base poker decisions on true odds, thereby forsaking our basic human psychology. However, long bouts of play, particularly that which is not examined in the heat of battle or after, will inevitably erode that conditioning. Taking a day off releases that built up tension so that we can regain the effects of that conditioning that we have worked so hard to achieve. So next time before taking the reflexive action of attributing bad results to simply running bad, take some time off and allow your mental muscles to time retract and let things fall into focus on their own.