Today I am going to share a hand with you that I played last year in the $1,500 buy-in Monster Stack WSOP event. This event was different from other $1,500 events in that each player started with an overly deep stack. This was third hand of the day 1.
A 35 year old guy who I did not know raised to 525 out of his 15,000 stack at 100/200 from middle position. Everyone folded around to me and I called with 4c-3c from the big blind.
Both calling and folding are fine options. I strongly suggest that you learn to profitably call in these situation because being able to continue with a wide range of hands will make you much more difficult to play against compared to if you only play strong hands in an obvious manner. If you constantly keep your opponents guessing, they will make mistakes. If they usually know where you stand, they will play well. For those who do not know, you profit when your opponents make errors. When they play well, you do not profit.
The flop came Ac-Jc-4d, giving me bottom pair and a weak flush draw.
I checked to my opponent, as I tend to do with all of my hands, and he bet 700 into the 1,150 pot. I decided to check-raise to 1,700.
If the stacks were a different size, either shallower or deeper, I would likely have called. If the stacks are shorter, my opponent would be able to realistically go all-in, forcing me to make a decision for my tournament life with a hand that I know will win roughly 50% of the time (in general, if you have edge, you want to avoid coin-flip scenarios). If the stacks were deeper, my opponent could call and play intelligently on the turn, folding when the draws complete and calling when they don’t. With the current stack size, going all-in would be a huge over-bet and calling would allow me to put significant pressure on him on the turn by betting again, making all of his options somewhat marginal.
My opponent surprised me by 3-betting to 5,000, leaving only 9,475 remaining in his stack.
I was fairly confident that my opponent liked his hand. However, I thought that he could like a strong hand such as A-K or A-Q but still be willing to fold if I pushed all-in. I was aware that countless players traveled a great distance to play this event and would certainly not want to bust out on the third hand of the day. I did not care if I busted because this event was one of many that I would play throughout the series. For a professional, no individual event is emotionally significant.
This gave me the courage to go all-in.
While attempting to bluff someone off a likely strong hand is rarely a good idea, occasionally it makes perfect sense.
My opponent looked disgusted. He asked me a few questions, trying to get a read, but of course I did not reply. He thought for around three minutes before folding A-J face up. He proceeded to tell me that he knew I got lucky to flop a set and that anyone else at the table would not have been able to make the great fold that he made.
Be sure you are not one of these players who thinks you always make the right play. If I thought he had an effectively unfoldable hand like top two-pair, I certainly would not have tried this semi-bluff. When your opponents are looking for a reason to make a big fold, do not be afraid to get out of line and induce them to make a huge mistake.
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed it, please share it with your friends! Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post. If you are looking for more content from me, check out my books. I imagine you haven’t read them a
Today I will share with you a hand from the $1,111 buy-in Little One Drop event that took place during the 2015 World Series of Poker. This event attracted a huge field of 4,555 people. I managed to take 67th place for $7,215, which is always nice. When playing in a tournament consisting of mostly amateur players, it is important to steal lots of pots by making your opponent feel as if his entire stack is at risk while only risking a small portion of yours. It is also important to quantify your opponent’s range and choose bet sizes that will allow you to achieve whatever result you want. The following hand beautifully illustrates these concepts. I thoroughly discuss these concepts, and many more, in my best-selling book, Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Poker Tournaments. Be sure to check it out!
The blinds were 50/100. A tight amateur raised to 250 from second position out of his 8,000 stack. Another tight amateur with 13,000 called from middle position. I, with 15,500 chips, woke up with Ad-Kc on the button. In this spot, both calling and reraising are fine options. If I thought the initial raiser was only raising with premium hands, I would call because if I reraised and the initial raiser applied pressure, I would be in a tough spot. Even if he called my reraise, I would not be thrilled. If instead, I thought he was capable of raising lots of hands that are inferior to A-K, such as A-10 and K-J, I would certainly reraise. This time, I decided to reraise to 700. I picked this size in order to keep my opponents in with numerous hands I dominate. Notice if I reraise large, perhaps to 1,300, which is the play most amateurs would make, my opponents would fold the dominated hands I really want to keep in. Both the initial raiser and the caller called 450 more.
The flop came 6h-4h-4d. My opponents checked to me. I could easily have the best hand on this flop but that does not necessarily mean I should continuation bet. If I think my opponents will only call with hands that beat me, such as 9-9 and 6c-5c, I should check behind. If I made a large continuation bet, perhaps 1,600 into the 2,250 pot, that would often be the result. However, I thought if I instead made a bet of 800, numerous hands I crush, such as A-10 and K-Q, would call to see what develops on the turn. It is important to always think about how your opponents will react to each bet size then pick the size that leads to the result you want. Since I do not want to give a free card to hands like Q-J and 10-9, I need to bet, but if I bet large, my opponents will only call when I am beat. This makes a small bet ideal. So, I bet 800. The initial raiser folded and the tight player from middle position called.
The turn was the (6h-4h-4d)-9c. My opponent checked. At this point, I thought that if I continued firing my opponent would likely fold all marginal made hands, perhaps middle pair and worse, while still calling with all draws. Since my opponent only had 11,400 remaining in his stack, I wanted to choose a size that would imply that I could go all-in on the river, reinforcing that he should fold his marginal made hands. Since the pot was 4,050, I thought a bet of 2,600 would make him realize that he could face an all-in river bet. Notice if my opponent calls 2,600, he will have 8,800 remaining in his stack and the pot will be 9,250, allowing me to go all-in on the river for a touch less than the size of the pot. You should always size your bets such that you can find yourself at the river with the ideal stack for your situation. Do not simply blindly bet any street for ½ or 2/3 of the size of the pot every time. You must think ahead if you want to succeed at poker. I bet 2,600 and unfortunately, my opponent called.
The river was the (6h-4h-4d-9c)-2h. My opponent checked. At this point, I thought my opponent either had a flush, an overpair, a stubborn middle pair or a busted draw. I assumed he would certainly check with his overpairs, middle pairs and busted draws. I was unsure if he would bet into me or check with a flush. It is quite common for amateur players to lead out when they complete their draw because they don’t want to look foolish when the river checks through. This led me to assume he had mostly one pair hands and busted draws in his range. It is important to recognize that I could easily have a flush because I would almost certainly play all flush draws the same way up until this point. I was also unsure if my opponent would be willing to risk his entire stack on the river by making a hero call. All of this led me to put my opponent all-in for his remaining 8,800 stack. My opponent looked miserable and thought for around three minutes before folding.
While this play is clearly risky, I think the bluff is mandatory on the river, especially against a conservative player. If I can make him fold all of his one pair hands, which should be a large portion of his range, an all-in river bluff will show significantly more profit than checking. Always be sure to quantify your opponent’s range and choose your action based on that range.
Do you have an interesting hand you want to share with me? If so, upload them to ShareMyPair and send the link to me on twitter @JonathanLittle. Be sure to check back next week for another educational blog post. Thanks for reading!
I don’t usually write about spots that come up infrequently but recently I witnessed this hand I thought was uniquely instructive. Everyone started with about 150 big blinds. Player A in 1st position raised to 3 big blinds, Player B, a good tight aggressive kid in 2ndposition, reraised to 8 big blinds and Player C, a mediocre loose aggressive kid in 3rdposition, 4-bet to 22 big blinds. Player A folded then Player B 5-bet to 42 big blinds. Player C elected to 6-bet to 68 big blinds only to watch as Player B decided to go all-in. Fun stuff! Player C, who was currently getting 3.7:1 pot odds, meaning he needs to win 27% of the time, proudly flipped his K-K face up and folded.
While I am all for making big folds when they make sense, in this situation, even though Player B will have A-A a huge amount of the time, folding K-K is a fairly large error unless you know for a fact that Player B will only go all-in with A-A. The problem with this hand is that Player B is certainly aware that Player C is a loose aggressive player. Because of this, Player B could easily have a wider range than only A-A.
Suppose Player B’s range is A-A and K-K. Notice there is only one combination of K-K remaining, meaning he will have A-A 86% of the time and K-K 14% of the time. Player C will win the hand 22% of the time, making a call an error as he needs to win 27% of the time to break even. If Player B would go all-in with A-A, K-K and Q-Q, Player C would win 50% of the time. If Player B would push with A-A, K-K, Q-Q and A-K, Player C would win 57% of the time. If Player B is ever bluffing, Player C’s equity skyrockets.
The way I look at these situations, especially when I do not know my opponent’s exact range, is to average the ranges I think make sense. I imagine the equation for calculating Player C’s equity in this spot looks something like this:
EV = .3(.18) + .4(.22) + .2(.5) + .1(.57) = 30%
Clearly I do not do this math at the table. I have studied the game away from the table enough to know how this situation typically looks and how to react if I am ever in this spot. What this equation represents is 30% of the time Player B will have A-A, 40% of the time he will have A-A or K-K, 20% of the time he will have A-A, K-K or Q-Q, and 10% of the time he will have A-A, K-K, Q-Q or A-K. Given the numbers, it would be a small error to fold as Player C will win 30% of the time, on average, and he needs to win 27% of the time to break even. Since 30% is larger than 27%, he should call.
As always, one simple equation is not the end of the story. Notice I did not add any total bluffs to Player B’s range. If Player B is bluffing around 10% of the time and he has A-A 10% less often, Player C’s equity jumps to 35%, making a fold a clear error. However, there is always value in surviving in a tournament, especially if you think you are much better than your opponents. Assuming Player C is good, which he obviously isn’t because he folded K-K face up, he should lean toward folding, especially if he thinks the situation is nearly break even. If Player C is a bad player, significantly worse than his opponents, he should actually be much more prone to call as he can get all of his money in with around neutral equity, which is probably much better than he will do later in the tournament.
In my opinion, Player C made a large error by 5-betting to 22 big blinds. If he called, he could take a flop and likely see a somewhat cheap showdown. While he would still lose a large pot if his opponent had A-A, he would force his opponent to take a flop with all of his worse hands as well. Assuming you are a good player, you rarely want to get all-in preflop when extremely deep stacked. You are much better off winning lots of small pots, slowly grinding up your stack. By putting in the 5-bet, Player C set himself up for failure if Player B decided to go all-in.
As Player B mucked, he flashed his As-3s. I liked it.
In my new book, Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em, out of the 500 pages, quite a few are dedicated to in-depth range analysis. While most advanced players know how to put their opponents on a range of hands, it seems like very few of them actually get out of line and take advantage of their range assessment abilities. I recently played a hand in the $3,500 Borgata WPT event where I was fairly certain I knew both of my opponents’ ranges. The only problem was that one, if not both of my opponents had me in bad shape.
To start this hand, I had 340,000 at 600/1,200-200. I was crushing the table and running hot. The average chip stack at this point was around 90,000. I imagine I had a fairly loose image although in reality, I was simply getting a good run of cards. A loose, passive player with 170,000 limped from second position. He was limping with his entire range, both with premium and trashy hands. He would occasionally fold his limps to preflop aggression. Knowing this, when I woke up As-3c on the button, I decided to make it 3,500. I expected him to either fold preflop or call preflop then play in a fairly straightforward manner postflop. To my surprise, a tight, aggressive middle aged man with 150,000 called in the small blind. The initial limper also called.
The flop came Ac-Ks-2d. My opponents checked to me. At this point, you must realize that it would be relatively difficult to get much value from my hand. At the same time, if I checked behind on the flop and someone bet the turn and the river, I would be in a nasty spot because my hand would be fairly face up in a large pot. Because of this, I decided to bet 6,000 into the 13,500 pot, hoping to either pick up the pot or get called by a worse hand. Notice if I bet around 10,000, my opponents would likely only continue when I am crushed. By betting 6,000, I allow my opponents to continue with some worse hands. When you have a weak value hand, it is important to make bets that allow your opponents to stay in when they are behind.
The player in the small blind raised to 12,000 and the player in 2nd position thought for a while before calling. At this point, I thought the small blind had a strong hand, probably A-J or better. I was not sure if he was raising with A-J to “find out where he is at” or if he was raising with a premium hand such as A-2 to try to get all the money in. All I knew was that he had something he thought was strong. Given what I knew about the player in 2ndposition, I thought his range was at best an Ace and most likely a hand such as K-Q. Notice there are already 3 Aces accounted for, one in my hand, one on the board and one that is probably in the small blind’s hand, making it fairly unlikely that he also has an Ace.
Knowing I am crushed by one opponent and probably in mediocre shape against the other, what should I do? While this may seem like an easy fold because I am behind, I think it is an excellent spot to reraise. I thought the small blind would view 2nd position’s call as strong although to me, it was clearly weak. I thought the player in 2nd position would certainly fold if I reraised unless he was somehow trapping with a premium hand such as 2-2. In the end, I decided to reraise to 36,000. Notice this sizing gives me an excellent price on my bluff while forcing both of my opponents to risk a significant amount of chips in order to continue in the hand.
The player in the small blind thought forever before folding, flashing an A in the process. The player in 2nd position also thought for a while. As he was thinking, I was trying to decide if I was going to call if he went all-in. It may sound insane to play a 300 big blind pot with top pair, bottom kicker, but given that he knew an A was in the muck, I thought he might think I could only call a push with a premium Ace or better. He eventually decided to fold and told me he almost pushed with a King. I had pretty much decided I was going to call if he pushed, so I suppose my thought process was at least somewhat reasonable.
I think most players simply throw their A-3 in the muck when facing the flop raise simply because they think they are beat. While it is nice to always have the best hand, you will find it quite difficult to win, especially at the medium and high levels, if you only win the pots that belong to you, even if you win slightly more money with your big hands than your opponents do. When getting way out of line, always think about your opponent’s range, how he views your range, and how he will react if you apply extreme pressure. You will find that most of the time, unless your opponent has a premium holding or is a world class hand reader, he will simply get out of the way and give you the pot. The next time you are playing, try to find spots where your opponent simply cannot continue when facing a raise. This will usually be when you think they have a strong, but not amazing hand, such as an overpair or top pair with a good kicker, on a scary, draw heavy board, such as Ts-9d-7s or 8c-7c-4d-Tc. As long as you know your opponent is capable of folding, these plays will show a huge amount of profit. However, you must be careful. If your opponent is a calling station, these plays will quickly turn your bankroll into a pile of ash.
For a thorough treatment of range analysis, I strongly suggest you check out my new multi-author book,Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em. There are a few chapters in the book detailing how to put your opponent on a specific range and also what you can do to get out of line and exploit your opponent. I will also be hosting lots of free webinars with the authors of Excelling starting at the end of this year and in 2016. To sign up for free, check out HoldemBook.com.
Every summer, poker players from all over the world flock to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker. Luckily for the professional players, most of these visitors have little to no chance to actually come away with a big score because they set themselves up to fail from the start. To last the seven weeks at the WSOP you must remain focused and ready to play your “A” game the entire time.
Here are a few tips that will greatly increase your expectation at any tournament series without even mentioning how to technically play poker. It should be noted these are tips for players who want to have the highest expectation possible during a long series and only care about poker. If you’re going to Vegas to party and to play a few tournaments on the side, these tips probably aren’t for you. Then again, neither is the life of a poker tournament professional.
Get a lot of sleep
To be ready to play your best at noon every day, you simply have to get a lot of sleep. I make a point to get home as soon as the tournament is over each day or around midnight, whichever comes last. For example, if I play a $1,500 tournament and bust in the first hour, I will play satellites or cash games until midnight and then go home. If I play the same $1,500 tournament and survive the entire day, I will go home when play ends, usually around 1 a.m. When I get home, I go straight to sleep. I don’t sit around and have dinner and watch a movie. I get sleep so I’m ready to go the next day.
Play side games
In the past, I never really played the side games during the WSOP. I now realize just how much money I was missing out on. I’ve played mostly $500 and $1,000 single-table satellites in my spare time and have been happy with my results. I also hear the cash games are excellent. I used to simply go home whenever I lost a tournament, which would often waste an entire day. Now, I’m earning around $200 per hour.
Assuming you play four hours of side games per day, you will find that you profit $40,000 by the end of the series. That’s a nice way to supplement the daily tournaments. It can turn a losing series into a break-even one and a break-even series into a decent winner. Obviously this will take time away from goofing off or enjoying the outdoor world, but seeing how the profitability of poker has been shot in the foot because of the problems with online poker, you simply have to make the most of every tournament series.
A few years ago, I lost around 40 pounds simply through eating right and exercising regularly. Throughout the WSOP, I make a point to eat a few eggs, some veggies and some lean meat as soon as I roll out of bed every morning. During the WSOP, there are a few food delivery services that will bring healthy food to the poker table. I have my healthy breakfast plus two meals delivered to my table each day. This allows me to not take dinner breaks, which will make me slightly more profitable, and it allows me to stay in decent shape, especially since I have to cut out a little bit of my routine workout time.
That being said, I still try to get in the gym at least three times per week, even during the hectic WSOP. Also, for those looking to quickly lose fat and keep it off, simply stop eating sugar, fatty foods and starches. This means no smoothies, potatoes, rice, yogurt, fatty meats and bread. If you cut these foods out of your diet, the weight will drop off quickly. Realize though, this isn’t a diet, it’s a way of life.
Avoid your vices
My past vices have been drinking and degenerate gambling. I never had a legitimate problem with either, but I realized they cut into the profitability of poker. If you have a few drinks at night you’ll find you won’t sleep as well and will wake up with a mild hangover, which will make you play worse during the day.
If you gamble on random things, such as blackjack or sports, you will find when you lose, you’re on tilt from losing and when you win, you would rather be doing those things than playing poker, both of which are terrible for your concentration. My advice is to cut these activities out of your life, and not just for duration the tournament series. If you do, you will find yourself a much happier person in the long run.
If you are going to the WSOP, I strongly suggest you spend some time preparing. If you simply show up and expect to succeed, you are almost certain to fail. I recorded a six-hour long training series for you that explains all of the preparations I make in order to ensure I have the best chance to do well. I also discuss how to play with the wildly varying stacks you will be forced to play with at the WSOP. Check it out here: Jonathan Little’s WSOP Coaching Series
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Like anyone who produces content that improves the lives of a large number of people, I get my fair share of haters. At first I just ignored them and focused on the readers who find my blogs useful. But I realize now that the haters have offered me a fantastic teaching opportunity.
The poker community is filled with countless amazing people. If you ever have the opportunity to get to know the people at the top of the game, you will quickly find out that almost all of them are kind, intelligent, loving individuals who want the best for both poker players and mankind. They strive to not only be good at poker, but also to impact the world in a positive way.
Unfortunately the poker community, especially in the small and middle stakes, is also populated with people who are disgruntled because their poker dreams have not been realized. Being disgruntled with poker is a common feeling that most poker players experience at times during their careers. Most humans irrationally think that they are supposed to win, especially if they used to win in the past. In my experience with helping disgruntled players, almost all of them used to be winning poker players who either no longer have an edge or have seen their edge diminish.
It is important to recognize that the average player’s skill is constantly rising. While some players learn much faster than others, everyone learns over time. If everyone is getting better, the people who improve the fastest will end up with the profits. Most disgruntled players learned how to play well enough five to ten years ago but have since become stagnant. Instead of spending time studying, they spent their time grinding out profit at the poker table. This resulted in them becoming break-even or losing players in today’s game.
I too fell into this rut about six years ago. When I first started playing poker, I was hungry for every bit of knowledge I could get my hands on. After building a sizable bankroll and having some success, I got lazy. While I didn’t understand this at the time, I realize now that I thought I was amazing at poker and that I no longer needed to study. My results eventually started to suffer. I found myself being jealous of people who were still having success. But instead of getting angry at them, I vowed to become a winner again.
I went back to spending at least a few hours each day studying everything I could get my hands on. I also set out to write down my poker strategy in order to identify spots where my thinking was flawed. I worked hard to fix the holes in my game. (This text eventually became my best-selling book, Secrets of Professional Tournament Poker, which you can get in theaudiobook format for free.) I put in the hard work and sure enough, I started winning again. I continue to work hard to improve constantly at both poker and life. I came to understand that studying is part of the game that must be embraced, especially by people like me who are not naturally talented at poker.
People act out their frustrations in various ways. Some turn to drugs. Others start hating on people who have more success. Some quit poker. Others continue playing an outdated strategy until they are broke. Some commit suicide. The list goes on and on of what past poker players have resorted to. Fortunately, I decided instead to improve.
Today, I want to address the most obviously disgruntled group of players. These are the people who vent their frustrations by spreading hate. These players are angry and want to yell at someone. They want to bring the winners down to their level. They don’t mind looking foolish in the process. Clearly if you devote your time and energy to complaining about where you are at, you will not progress any farther.
It seems like these players fail to realize that in both poker and life, someone will always be higher up the ladder than you. Instead of working hard to improve to the level of those ahead of them, they get angry that they are not good enough or because they think they have failed. The haters turn to being vocal in a negative way in order to vent their frustrations.
Ordinarily when someone asks me for help, I do my best to help them. Haters scream loud and clear that they need help. Unfortunately, they are often so blinded by rage that they are unwilling to accept the help they so obviously need.
When I become a target of haters, I view it as confirmation that my coaching services are working well. If these mediocre, stagnant pros could still win, it would mean that the average amateur is not progressing very quickly. Conversely, if the average amateur improves quickly, it means I am doing my job well as a poker instructor.
Some people question why I want to help amateur players, when beating them on a regular basis is my primary source of income. The answer is simple. If I had not received a lot of help when I first entered the poker world, primarily through Sklansky’s books and the generous posters on the main poker forum at the time, I would almost certainly not be where I am today. I was eager to learn everything I could about the game and fortunately, a few open-minded people were happy to help. Their willingness to help an unknown random kid planted in me the feeling that I owe the same to the next generation.
While the haters only think about themselves, people who succeed work toward a greater good and look to impact the lives of other people in a positive way. I do not automatically dismiss a hater as a close-minded, ignorant person. About two weeks ago, someone messaged me on Facebook saying he was pissed that I was making his middle stakes games tougher. We had a long discussion and by the end of it, he came away realizing that his poker progression had stalled (just as mine had six years ago). He was no longer working hard to improve. I took the opportunity to transform him into someone who was hungry for knowledge. Successes like that are always gratifying.
If you find that you constantly have negative, self-defeating thoughts, I strongly suggest that you spend significant time working on both your poker game and your life. There is almost certainly something out of balance. If you are spending time and energy trying to tear positive things down, or are only working to benefit yourself, you will have a tough time living a fulfilled life. Instead, I recommend you spend some time helping other people. If you spread joy and kindness, you will find that you will live a much happier life, which in turn will help you realize your poker goals.
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I have been secretly working hard on a huge project for the last year and I am excited to finally be able to share it with you. A few years ago, I realized that the best poker players have a huge edge that amateurs will almost certainly never experience. Professional poker players have the ability to discuss high level concepts with other pros on a regular basis. While amateurs struggle to figure out the game by talking to other amateurs and watching other amateurs play, pros get insights from the best in the world and experience high-level poker on a daily basis. This accelerates the speed at which pros learn such that the amateurs will have a nearly impossible time catching up.
While I routinely give my followers access to my poker strategies and thoughts, I wanted to do more. I decided to give everyone a look into the minds of some of the best players and thinkers in the game by writing a book with 17 other top professionals and poker instructors. Together we produced what I am confident will be the most impactful poker book that has been released in a long time.
I present to you Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em.
I gave each author the freedom to write about whatever topic he or she wanted to because I know when I am passionate about something, I produce amazing content. The authors did not disappoint. Here is a list of everyone involved:
Excelling at No-Limit Hold’em (which will be roughly 500 pages long!) will be available for pre-order on 3/6/2015 wherever you buy your books and will be released on 6/13/2015 during the WSOP. We are going to have a launch event at some point, although I not exactly sure when.
I learned a ton about all aspects of poker while collaborating with the other authors of this book and I am confident you will too. If you are excited about this book, please share this post with your friends.