Game of skill

It's luck when everyone else hits their out on the river. When I hit my out on the river, it's talent!

How much to bet?

After the flop, 3-h, 7-h, 10-h, you find that the A-h you are holding would need one more heart, in the turn or the river, to give you the nut flush. Your opponent raises the value of pot. Everyone else folds. Do you bet, do you call, or do you fold?

Here's the read, chances are, your opponent has already made the flush -- at least, that's what he is saying the way he raised pot. So you are behind. Let's assume that for the moment. Hitting another heart on the turn is a more or less 25% probability. Your opponent is asking you to pay 33% of the possible win for the chance to see that 25% turn card. That there is still the river card even if you miss the turn is immaterial at the moment, because your opponent can still raise and ask you to pay even more for the chance to see the river card.

So do you call with those numbers? That's your decision. But the odds are against you. You are betting 75 to get 50.

A-K suited strength

You drew A-K suited, it's a beautiful sight to see. But just how strong is it? Well, not really. Against any pocket pair, A-K suited is slightly behind on an almost 50-50 toss-coin. Against 2-2, an A-K suited still needs to hit an ace or a king, and this true from 2-2 to Q-Q. Against A-A and K-K, then A-K is dominated. But chances are, if you are pushing all-in with A-K suited, you are playing with 50-50 odds against a pocket pair, good enough for a newbie, but definitely not how real poker ought to be played.

Booted out

Came back to play the shootouts at Zynga after not playing for almost 3 years. On the third attempt, I got some momentum going and reached the third and final round. Continued with my tight-play strategy punctuated with all-in bets when I have the goods, and I got myself in the final three of the final table with the three of us practically having almost equal chip counts. It's the perfect spot!

But then it happened. Just like that, I got booted out. Nothing dramatic about it, one second I was checking, the next second I was at the lobby. I didn't even get an error message. Nothing. So I went ahead and tried to reach technical support, but after tracking links to what I hoped would be a way to send this error message to Zynga tech support, all I got was a note that basically informed players that this shit happens more than occasionally now at Zynga and they're doing their best to fix the problem. Wow. Good thing Zynga chips aren't real, this kind of incompetence simply won't do with real money stakes. Way to go Zynga.

Mind what are you saying.

Knowing how to read your opponent is one thing. Speaking to your opponent is another. And I am not talking about vocal chatter. Betting, after all, is the language of poker. While mid-level poker players can read their opponents, the next higher-level players know how speak with their betting.

Learn to say, get off the pot now, with a huge bet. Of course, poker being a competition, while you can say that, your opponent might not do what you tell him to do. And that is the game -- that is poker.

The simple point is, know that your betting is saying something about your hand. And your opponent is trying to read you. You can talk to him. For a example, the flop shows a flush draw situation. Your opponent raises, you call. He raises again at the turn, flush draw card didn't come, and you call again -- just call. At the river, flush draw card comes, he raises, you re-raise big. What did you just tell your opponent? It doesn't matter if you had the flush or not, you just told him you had it. Whether he believes you or not, that's the game.  

Switching gears

Up to this point, I've been selling the tactic of passive aggressive play as the main poker strategy in tournament play. That is, to sit and wait for a strong hand then allow your opponents to make the aggressive play against that strong hand.

This tactic works very well in big tables of 9 or 10 players. As the table dwindles to fewer players however, the more aggressive you need to become. By the time it comes down to heads-up play, you are no longer just playing your cards but must now also be playing your opponent.

What does that mean?

If you have been paying attention at how your opponents play, after a few hands or so, you should have a read of how they play. Whether they are tight, loose, a bingo-player, etc. The general idea is, when you are down to a few players, you are no longer just betting on your cards but are now betting against theirs.

To illustrate, if the table is down to a final three, if I am the first to act against two tight players, I would raise at least the blind amount even if I hit nothing after the flop. It doesn't even matter what hand I have, this is me not betting on my hand but betting my opponents have not hit anything on the flop. I am wary of course of the tight player who re-raise in this situation. I'd take the loss and get out of the hand.

Against an aggressive player, you are now counter-punching. You are now betting whether he is bluffing or not. And this is a lot more difficult. Which is precisely the reason why aggression, applied correctly at the end game of tournament play, is often rewarded.

Comments moderation

Hello everyone. I've not been updating this blog much lately, been busy with other stuff in life. Anyway when I came back to check on things here, I find that people have been spamming the comments section with links to phishing websites. There are NO FREE MILLIONS CHIPS. Not even zynga poker chips. I've deleted these links. I hope I have deleted them all (I will double-check later). At any rate, new house rule, any and all comments are now subject to approval by the moderator (me). If nothing else, I will not let this blog become host to these scammers. Lost 25 million zynga chips to them. I have not played zynga poker until now. Not even the other account with 13 million chips. As to my poker zero account, the checks sent to me cleared! Yey! Made a total of 110.50 USD to date (30% went to US Federal tax). Sadly, I have not been winning lately. Like I said, I've been a little busy, feeling a bit harassed and no patience whatsoever to win a long tourney style poker event. Must remind myself that poker is a game of patience punctuated by well-timed moment of extreme aggression. Well, once I have the time, I know I can win another Benjamin or two, totally free.