Gambling strategies and stories.

Understanding Gambling in General

I am sure that you have heard of the gambler’s fallacy before.  But just in case you need your memory to be refreshed, let me state it in simple terms.  The gambler’s fallacy is the belief that something that the odds can increase and decrease depending on previous occurrences, even for something that has a fixed probability.

The most common example used to illustrate the gambler’s fallacy is the flipping of a coin.  The probability of getting heads on any toss is 1 out of 2, or 50 percent.  Statistically, the odds will remain the same, no matter how many times you toss the coin.  However, the gambler’s fallacy dictates that perhaps if you flip the coin 9 times and each time, it turns up heads, the chances are that it would turn up heads on the 10th throw.  That is because the first 9 flips were heads.

Though at first thought, the idea makes sense, it really does not make any sense at all.  No matter how many times you flip that coin, there are always two possibilities – either heads or tails.  Hence, the odds remain at 1 is to 2.

Now some people extend this fallacy to other gambling activities like the roulette.  For example, they think that if the roulette has showed red for the past several spins, the next should still be a red.  You do not have to have much experience playing the roulette to know that doing so would be disastrous.  The odds of a red coming up are the same, no matter what.

The next time that you go to the casino, make sure that you know the real odds and that you do not bet on something simply because “it is due.”  Remember the gambler’s fallacy.

Carl Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online poker at 888poker

Improving your Mental State is Key in Poker

These are some of the most used clichés with regard to how one’s mindset can help affect the turn of events. Do you believe them? Are they true? Do they have a place in the world of gambling in areas like online poker or even in any other online gambling arena for that matter or are they simply restricted to live casinos only?

Perhaps. To be honest, I am not totally sure. I think that to a certain degree, it just might be true. But this will only hold true if you believe that luck has something to do with gambling. Some people will vehemently react against this statement. I know some people who would state clearly that many card games have nothing to do with luck and that it is all skill.

I believe, however, that in most of these games, there is a degree of luck involved. I am not making little of the important role that skill plays, trust me. I know how important a card player’s skills are. However, I also believe that sometimes, luck comes into play. And sometimes, it might make the difference for players – skilled or unskilled.

So what do you do about luck? It is not something that you can control. It is something that comes and goes. Now back to the original question – does your attitude and mindset attract or repel luck? Is there any truth to the idea that if you think lucky, you will attract luck?

I think that there is no clear cut answer to this. I know a lot of lucky people who think lucky – it must be true for them. Then again, I know a lot of people who think they’re lucky but always end up bust.

What do you think?

Carl Sampson is a poker ambassador and poker player at 888poker

Playing Better Online Poker at 888

Many people mistake what ABC poker actually is. Many people perceive it to be simply playing every hand in a vacuum almost like basic strategy in blackjack. Well as an experienced blackjack player then let me tell you that even basic strategy is a lot more complicated than what many people think. There are all different variations of basic depending on the individual rules variations. There are also essential deviations to basic strategy blackjack decisions that are geared around what the particular count is at that time. There are millions of people the world over who think that they know basic strategy when in actual fact all they know is a pretty decent generic basic.

So what has this to do with online poker at say 888? Well in my opinion then you need to be aware of how to properly deviate in selected spots to optimise your chances of making money. This applies at levels as low as NL10 and up to around NL50 where a good strong ABC will do well. However when I say “ABC” then I mean a basic strategy with strategy deviations rather than a basic strategy that has none!

If you think that you can simply go into a level like NL50 and make money based on simply playing your hands “well” then you are making a big mistake in online poker at 888. This is a level 1 game strategy and everybody at this NL50 level will be either already at that level or one or even two levels above it. In my experience then players at say NL25 and NL50 are either at level 1 or trying to exploit it by switching to level 2. The very best players at say NL50 may be able to switch to level 3 but these players are a rarity.

As a rule then any player that evolved enough to be able to play poker at a higher game strategy level tends to move up and play NL100 and higher. So this means that if you can forego moving up then profits can almost automatically be made at levels like NL50 with a very good ABC game. Very good in this instance means playing a solid level 1 ABC strategy and being willing and able to switch it up at key selected moments. This process is not only part of a good solid ABC game but it is also essential to make money at all in the modern world of online poker at levels like NL50.

Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

Your Perfect Poker Style

Poker is a game that is so rich in subtlety and variety that the overwhelming majority of people never master it. This is why there is so much interest in learning what other people do because if one can mimic what a successful player does then it seems logical to assume that we can follow suit…….this is incorrect and wide of the mark. For example we could never blindly copy a composer and achieve the same results.

We also could never blindly copy a motor racing great like Michael Schumacher and do what he does. In poker there are many different ways to play and that is the games great appeal to millions. There are numerous different ways to play poker and so we need to find the style that suits us if we are to have an optimal effect in terms of making money. For example…..are you cautious about taking risks in real life?

Do you like the feeling of always being in control? Do you hate the thought of losing money or being worth less today than what you were yesterday? Is patience high on your list of virtues or are you impatient? All these questions not only need to be answered but they need to be answered honestly and objectively. The main issue here is that who you are as a person will dictate that you will be as a poker player.

You are already programmed to a large extent with regards to what you can do and what you cannot do. For example if you are prone to making rash decisions or playing too quickly then you may struggle to play six max games. Also if you hate having to play complex situations that involve a lot of thinking under pressure then you will struggle to play heads up games or short-handed.

This is akin to a chess grandmaster that performs optimally under normal classical time limits than at rapid or blitz chess. There are many winning styles that work in games like chess and poker as well. Being a successful poker player isn’t about discovering some set method and then copying it. The chances are highly likely that somebody else’s method wouldn’t work for you.

This lesson is one that it took me a long time to figure out in my poker career but it is also one that when I did figure it out led to me achieving a much higher level of happiness in my poker and thus my results. Under no circumstances should you listen to hype or blindly follow the methods of others without first undertaking to do your own retrospective self-analysis.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt then the analysis of what you do on yourself will be a thousand times more important than the analysis that you conduct on your opposition. This is because it will be you that will be responsible for playing every single hand while opponent analysis in games like full ring is less important.


Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

Fitness and Diet in your Poker Game

There are certain things that are connected to your level of play and how much you earn as a poker player that have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with how you play the cards. To be able to grind long sessions means that you can make more money and the more money that you make then the more successful you will be as a poker player. For any would be online player that is seriously considering playing the game full time then good fitness levels and a good diet are crucial.

It may seem strange to say that physical fitness is needed in a sedentary game like poker but in that aspect it is similar to chess. Physical fitness is in fact linked to higher levels of concentration and focus. Also if you are not happy about the state of the body then your mind is affected and poker at the end of the day is a mental game. If your mind is distracted for whatever reason then your level of poker will drop… is simple cause and effect at work.

For many years I was under the illusion that my session lengths were getting shorter because I was becoming disinterested in the game. Until I read an article on why physical fitness was important in chess and then I recall seeing players like Bobby Fischer doing strenuous workouts to stay in shape. If you are going to play poker full time then you will obviously spend large amounts of time spent sitting down.

This has to be compensated for in some capacity and you need to balance that out by exercise. This doesn’t necessarily mean joining a gym but just getting more exercise than what you are getting at the moment. Have you ever tried not moving for several hours on the sofa? The less that you move then you can find that the less you want to move. It is this effect that can happen when you play poker for too long without balance.

It can reach a stage where you no longer have the desire for exercise or to eat healthy foods and suddenly you weight starts to gain and your fitness levels drop. Then this impacts on your psyche and suddenly you find that you can no longer focus or concentrate for long periods anymore without becoming fatigued.


Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

3/Betting Strategy in Online Poker

It stands to reason that the more money that you put onto the table in a poker game that your edge is of greater importance. Let us say that you played against a certain opponent to who you conceded an edge of $2/100 hands. The only justification for playing such an opponent would be if you were making an even greater amount of money from other players. This is the reason for sitting at a table with technically better players. However if you played this opponent heads up then they would take everything that you had if you played them for long enough.

The more money that you placed into action with a negative edge then the more money you would lose……simple. However if we break that down into individual hands of poker then the same concept applies. A 3/bet pot is one where there has been a raise and a re-raise. The placement of the blinds is the first bet, the first raise is the second bet and the re-raise is the third bet or 3/bet. It is simply called “3/bet” for simplicity. You need to have a very solid strategy in 3/bet pots because you are risking a much greater percentage of your stack.

It will be much easier to play for stacks and get all in when there has been a raise and a re-raise than if there hasn’t been. As soon as the pot begins to escalate then the chances of any mistake becoming a larger one increase several fold. You need to develop a strategy for 3/bet pots and specifically what you should do in situations where you get 3/bet. There are essentially two types of situation in 3/bet pots where it is you that is being 3/bet. These are when you are 3/bet when out of position and when in position.

There is a golden rule of most top no limit players and that is to never call a 3/bet when out of position…….either 4/bet or fold. If the stacks are deep enough then you could call if you had position like if you raised from the button and were 3/bet by the big blind for example. The difference in these two examples is that one has position while the other doesn’t. If you don’t have position and you get 3/bet then calling is a big mistake.

Not only have you conceded the initiative but you have placed a substantial number of big blinds into the pot with the increased likelihood that you will not win. You could raise with the better hand like with A-Qs and be 3/bet by 10-9s but if the flop came K-8-6 then you are in a tough spot. Your opponent will likely have a somewhat tight range to 3/bet although some aggressive opponents may 3/bet you liberally. The bottom line is though that you are going to have to think long and hard about how you play in 3/bet pots because of the increased number of big blinds that are at risk in these types of situations.




Carl Sampson is an online poker player and poker ambassador for 888poker

Game Dynamics in Poker

Some years ago when tracking software first became available then players were availing themselves of this piece of software from various manufacturers and getting an even bigger edge over their opponents. However the average player base became much tougher and players started to improve their poker games all round. So stats like VPIP/PFR/AF became more and more uniform and it became much harder to detect a difference in many poker games. This meant that the importance and key features of tracking software changed. These days the two key features of using tracking software is to keep a track of your results.

The second key feature is to review hands that you have played and see if you made any errors. Did you notice that I didn’t say to track your opponents? When you play at lower stake levels then you will encounter so many opponents that it simply will be impossible to track them all. Also players come and go frequently and players also evolve with regards to their poker games at a very rapid rate these days. This means that one of the key reasons for using tracking software has largely been diminished.

A very strong online poker player these days tends to focus on thin margins and large volume and this means multi-tabling. It is difficult to get loads of data in real time that means anything from your HUD (Heads up Display) when you are playing numerous tables at the same time. So this means that game dynamics and table selection play a huge part in how you play poker. For example if you have two short stack players to your left then you may need to tighten up your raising range from all positions.

Game dynamics are never constant and the behaviour or stack size of just one single player can alter a table dynamic totally. It is much more effective and better for your results to be able to read table dynamics and hand ranges on the fly than it is to over utilise tracking software. You can review your hands anyway on the hand history section of most poker sites and so this feature of tracking software is less effective these days. Being able to read hands and table dynamics at speed is the key critical skill for success in beating games like no limit Texas hold’em these days.



Carl Sampson is an online poker ambassador and online poker pro at 888poker

Advanced Poker Theory

I was having a conversation with another poker player the other day when he asked me if I balanced my ranges and how hard I tried to balance my play. While I think being balanced is very important, I do feel that a strong poker player is quite balanced anyway. For example let us say that you are playing Rush poker where you change table line ups all the time. This is an environment where it will be very difficult to take meaningful notes on your opponents and is also an environment where balancing is of less importance.

Whenever you are playing in a poker environment where your opponents are not observing your play closely for whatever reason then balancing is of lesser importance. Remember that you are balancing for a key strategic reason and that is so your opponents cannot exploit your play. However if this is not happening then there is less need to balance and in fact balancing can be harmful in this instance. The key priority is to play the most effective poker strategy whatever that is. For example if you played in a game with a table full of calling stations then you would be making a big mistake balancing your play.

The strategy to beat this game would be simple and straight forward. You simply fold the majority of your range and only play when you have a huge overlay or your opponents poor bet sizing is offering you good pot odds and implied odds. The average pot size is going to be far larger than it normally would be under normal circumstances and so you can afford to lose a lot of tiny pots because the pay-offs in the big pots will be substantial and more than compensate for that.

So just when should you balance and when should you not bother? In my opinion then you need to balance when your opponents are observing your play more closely and have more time to do so. This happens when you play higher stake levels and it is no longer possible for your opponents to play multiple tables or loads of tables. For example a very big winner at say NL50 who was playing ten tables wouldn’t be able to watch you very closely and would be taking broad notes on you but nothing too specific.

However if we changed that to one where the stake levels were NL400 and this was the only active table then the chances are that nearly all of your opponents would not only have a far stronger poker game but would also be watching you very closely. In my view then NL200 cash games is the level where opponents are really dissecting your game although this can change from site to site. When the player pools shrink because of decreasing stake levels then players observe you more. As a rule then there will be fewer games at NL200 than there is at NL100 and the players will be better on average…….hence the need to balance more.



Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and 888poker ambassador

How good are you at thinking about poker

Without meaning this to sound in any way disrespectful, it is just a process that all players go through and me included. There are three types of poker thinkers in online poker. These are novice poker thinkers, average poker thinkers and advanced poker thinkers. We can see these three strata’s of thinking when we consider certain types of hands and how each thinker plays in each. Let us take a hand like K-7o on the button. It is folded around to a poor poker thinker and they limp in because they simply want to play their hand.

A more advanced beginner may have done some research on hand values and folded it but whatever the reason there will be very little thinking process behind it. An average poker thinker would take different (or the same) actions. They would fully understand the weakness of K-7o and would more than likely fold for that reason. However a more advanced average thinker would determine that the K-7o was ahead of random hands in the blinds and raise to capture the “dead money” that is in those blinds.

The advanced poker thinker on the other hand understands about equity. They know that the equity of a hand like K-7o is quite low. They also understand how pre-flop play links with post flop play and select only the best suitable hands in which to play. If an advanced thinker does raise with the K-7o then it is because they have identified that the blinds are very tight. So a large part of their strategy is pre-flop aggression. If the blinds are folding 80% of their range then eight out of every ten blind steals will win the pot.

This is 12bb but if the raise was to 3.5bb then only 7bb is lost back when their opponent calls or re-raises. Even then our hero will flop a big hand some of the time and so the entire 7bb will not be lost back. There is not much wrong with having aggressive stabs at the blinds with low equity holdings if you are prepared to give up rapidly. This may seem weak but against very tight blinds then there can be profit pre-flop. Let us look at another example here from a NL50 full ring cash game. It is folded around to a player in middle position who raises to 3.5bb with a 100bb stack.

We have the As-3s on the button with a 100bb stack also and a poor poker thinker simply makes the call because he has an ace and his hand is suited. Apart from this then they have no further consideration. An average poker thinker understands that his ace is dominated and folds and looks for greener pastures. He figures that a large part of his opponents range will include an ace and he does not want to give reverse implied odds. However an advanced thinker makes the same play as the novice and calls but for more sophisticated reasons.

They understand how them merely holding an ace reduces their opponents combinations that involve aces massively. Even if the raiser came from early position and only had a 5% range then the A-3s stacks up well against many hands in that range. The raiser will have AA-99, AJs+, AQo+ but the number of ace combinations are halved as a result of us having an ace and so A-A is far less likely. If we flop an ace then we overtake KK-99 pairs as long as they don’t make their set.

If we flop two pair then we could stack hands like A-K on boards like A-9-3 or at least win more than one street of value. If we make a flush then we can stack premium pairs and we can even make the wheel straight as well. However our opponent has hands like AJs+ and AQ+ in their range also! While we may have to pay off against these hands when an ace flops for perhaps one or two streets of value, we win pots by playing aggressively when they miss.

This means calling on small boards that have missed all of our non-pair hands. On a board like 9-5-4 then we have the ace overcard and the gutshot draw and so a flop raise would blow off all their non-pair high card hands. All this is even assuming that the raiser came from early position which in this instance they didn’t. So their range was even wider than 5% from middle position and so we can call more profitably.

These are part of the thinking processes of an advanced poker thinker. The difference between an advanced poker thinker and a lesser thinker is that an advanced thinker is looking to win the pot in several different ways and plans for that from the very outset of the hand.


Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and 888poker ambassador

Is Poker Really Your Game?

This may seem a strange question to ask but I honestly believe that many people that play poker are ultimately not suited to playing the game professionally. There can be a multitude of reasons for that and one such reason is that to play professionally means playing for at least 40 hours per week. To do so means that you need to have the discipline to ride losing periods and to play through periods when you don’t feel great. This is difficult to do and it is far better to play part-time than full time.

At least if you play part-time then you can pick and choose your points of confrontation. Remember the old saying about “it is the hunter that chooses the battleground and not the prey”. If you play full time then you start to lose some of that choice because you have to play poker every single day. I would never recommend to anyone to play poker full time for a living as it has far too many complications. Also if you don’t have the playing experience then how can you be totally sure that you can stick to your style and not tilt or go off on some wacky illogical bluff?

If you are no longer in the right frame of mind then you need to immediately log off. However you can ride this inaction as a part time player more than you can when you play full time. If you only play 15 hours per week then you can pick and choose the best 15 hours so that they are quality hours. However when you play or have to play 50 hours per week then many of those hours may involve you not playing your best game.

If you would struggle to play the game efficiently if you played it full time then you have flaws that are showing themselves within a poker environment. In fact if you cannot play for 40-50 hours per week without it causing some sort of problem then you have poker related problems with your personality. Likewise if you have discipline problems then certain forms of poker may not be conducive to you. If you are not a natural poker player then tournament poker may be more your thing. As soon as the blinds start to escalate then your stack rapidly drops below 100bb and so any error that you make will not be a large one.

However the bottom line is that in tournament poker then you have to win all of the chips in play anyway at some stage and so aggression is justified more than it is in cash games. If you are undisciplined in cash games then you will be punished, maybe not straight away but you will be eventually. In fact six max play may not suit you either and if you play too deep then a big mistake could cost you in cash games.

So you need to develop your own poker system that is designed around you and no one else. Once you can do that then you are well on your way to making money. Remember that you don’t need to be a great poker player to be able to make money. If you can be a solid poker player then you can do very well simply by playing solidly and not making big mistakes. To be able to do that takes some practice and probably means that you have to break into areas like pot control more.

This is where the dynamic changes when additional money is placed into the equation. If you are playing for sign up bonuses and rakeback then this extra money should in theory take the pressure off you. It would be almost like somebody paying for you to enter a poker tournament. In that instance then the dynamic of the tournament totally alters.

If I were to give you $1000 to enter a poker tournament and that tournament had a minimum cash of $1000 for coming say 120th then getting a minimum cash would be massive for you. In essence then your return on investment has been infinite as you have turned $0 into $1000. That is more than a pro that used say $1000 of their own money and then cashed for $10,000. Their ROI has a factor of x10 while yours is infinite.

This is similar to cash games with rakeback and sign up bonuses because this is money that you don’t have to earn by playing on the tables. Just like the tournament player with the free buy in that didn’t have to play to win to cash big, you can now take your foot off the gas and not bother pressing during the games. This is when online poker becomes a lot easier to play.


Carl Sampson is an online poker pro and 888poker ambassador

keep looking »

Other Sites

Recent Articles

GM Network News

Lottery Books