Gambling strategies and stories.

Which form of poker?

I have been watching the poker games at recently with a view to playing on that site after a tip off from a friend regarding how soft the site was. This kind of led me to want to discuss just which form of cash game you should be playing for the most profit. Clearly then this all depends on your skill level and a whole bunch of other factors. I play NL100 full ring as a rule although I often drift one level either side of that.

If I drop to NL50 then it is usually because of the fact that there isn’t enough action at NL100 and if I play NL200 then it is because there are players that I know from NL100. I prefer full ring over six max for numerous reasons but the main one is because of the fact that I can measure the table dynamics more easily in full ring. While many players prefer six handed games, they are tougher to beat on average. The average VPIP figure is more uniform in full ring than it is in six max games.

There is a valid reason for this and it is because the greater number of players tend to make the game self-policing. By that I mean that the greater player numbers tend to prevent other players from doing things that are too out of line. This has an effect on the VPIP levels and in six max then the VPIP can be as low as say 15% for a very tight rock to something like 50% for someone who was very LAG. The norm in six max is 20%-30% but the two extremes of 15% and 50% are often encountered.

However in full ring then there is never this large disparity in VPIP levels. A really tight rock in full ring may play around 9% of their hands. On the other hand a very loose-aggressive player may play around 25% of their total hands. So there is only a 16% difference between the tightest rock and the loose-aggressive player.

In six max games then these two extremes can be as much as 35% apart. So this is why I prefer full ring more than six max because I can estimate ranges far better and put other players onto hands far simpler and this means that multi-tabling is then easier.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson plays online at 888 and is a poker ambassador

One of the best is 888

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that 888poker had increased player volume when I went back onto the site recently. This used to be a favourite haunt of mine some years ago. I think that it looks even better than what it used to and the software seems enhanced from how I used to remember it. For me then a poker sites needs to have numerous factors going for it to be a good choice for any serious poker player. Firstly it needs to have good solid player numbers and this means at least 30,000 active players.

It is essential for any online pro to have as much liquidity as possible to be able to sustain an income from the game. Let us say that 40,000 players are active on a poker site. Breaking this down still further could reveal for example that the average production per player in how much they contribute to the site or the winning players is $500/year. If we assume that 90% of the players are losing players and the rest are winning then we have 36,000 players contributing $500 which contributes to around $18 million in profits which is split between the site by taking rake and the winning players.

If we split this 50/50 as a broad general rule then the site would take say $9 million from the losing players and give the other $9 million to the winning players and so the +ev players have $9 million to fight over. Although that figure isn’t as high as what it sounds because if 10% are making money then that equates to 4000 players out of 40,000 and so $9 million divided by 4000 comes to $2250 per annum. It is fun to play around with these types of numbers because knowing how much the average player who makes money takes from the game is instructive because it can highlight how they play and what their motives are.

I like doing these calculations because it is instructive to know how much money the average online poker player places into the environment and also how much money is taken out by the poker site. I think the average winnings of a typical winning player is quite low although in the modern climate then any net plus figure really is an excellent score indeed.

So what this proves is that for any professional or semi-professional player to be able to make a good living from the game not only requires a certain number of contributing players but it also requires a good rake structure and a playing style that is different to the masses. In this case the masses are more than just the losing players but the combination of losing players, break even players and also average winning players which in all likelihood contribute at least 95% of the poker playing population. In fact this figure when expanded slightly to players who say make $25,000 per year or more from online poker would be at least 99%.

Carl Sampson is a poker pro and ambassador for 888poker

The life of a poker pro

I first started playing poker around 1994 which is eighteen years ago. That seems forever and many young hotshots who are killing the online games were only born around that time……amazing. I first turned pro in 2002 after starting playing online in 2000. I had it good for a few years and then the limit games became tougher and tougher and exit little old me.

After a brief hiatus playing STT’s (profitable but boring) then I switched to NLHE. Once again the money was easy at NL50 and NL100 even though I played a lot higher when I really shouldn’t have done. But anyway to cut a long story short then I have been through an intense coaching course over the past six months and returned to playing NL50 and NL100. I will be talking about some of my sessions on here as well as some of the coaching material and so hopefully you will find that interesting.

Recently I have been playing the games at 888 because the games are good. I am constantly searching for soft games and why not? I simply don’t see the point in trying to beat my head against a brick wall at mid-stakes. Some very good technical players have tried that and failed. The player pools are smaller and so the action is less. The stakes are much higher and players at those levels can often be the very best in the world.

So the learning process needs to be constant and the games are forever evolving. I have learned a lot of new stuff this past few months that I would like to pass on although many of you may already be aware of some of it but it may be eye opening to many also. Just trying to make the blog as interesting as possible and hopefully I will keep the energy up.

The journey of a professional poker player is a tough one and I for one am not going to say anything contrary to that. The games that you choose to play in will be tough once you get above certain levels. You will need to develop a style that suits you and then adjust that style based on what your opponents are doing and what they know.

This is easier said than done but it is a process that is vital if you are to stay ahead of the curve and remain a winning player.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro at 888poker

Advantages to playing poker at 888

In online poker these days then you absolutely need to get as much outside assistance as you possibly can with regards to external financial input. By that I am talking about rakeback, FPP’s and sign up bonuses. At sites like 888poer then you can get FPP’s and VPP’s instead of rakeback but you can still convert these to money. It is important for novice players and intermediate players especially to avail themselves of this almost free money. However it does need to be treated with caution because players cannot just base their entire game around reward points.

At the end of the day then you are not always getting a good result getting rakeback and it all depends on how well or badly you do on the actual tables. Let us look at an example here to show you what I am talking about. We will take Player A and Player B and Player A pays $60,000 a year in rake and gets a 33% rakeback deal and so makes $20,000 in rakeback. However he has still paid $40,000 in rake and that $40k could be the difference in how he makes money on the actual tables.

Because of that then Player A makes $5/hour and plays 20 hours per week. This is $100 per week and $5000 per year. Added to his rakeback then he makes $25,000 per year from online poker. However Player B plays a much tighter style and only generates $30,000 at the same stakes and so makes $10,000 per year in rakeback. However his much superior style is easier to replicate on more tables and so he makes $20/hr and so makes $400/week and $20,000 per year on the actual games. Now add that to his rake figure and he makes $30,000 per year from playing the same games despite only earning 50% of the rake of Player A.

The bottom line is though that as a professional player or a player that is serious about making as much money from online poker as possible then you absolutely need to take advantage of as many financial incentives and bonuses as you possibly can. This can literally make the difference between being a winning player and not being a winning player. The margins in online poker are very thin these days and you need to allow for that.

Any player that was only making say 2bb/100 from the actual tables and could make 2bb/100 in reward points is actually doubling their earn rate and this is the key stat in this situation.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro at 888poker

Improving your sports betting skill

There is an old saying about bookmaking and it is that it is a “licence to print money”. This is true but yet not true. The reason why it is true is because of the fact that large volumes of punters persevere in betting without any knowledge or any meaningful knowledge of the sport or game that they are betting on. At the end of the day the people that you are going up against are professionals but despite that they are also human and prone to making mistakes.

However in the betting industry then a “mistake” is not necessarily a mistake after all even if it works in your favour. Let us say for example that we are looking at the England football team and their chances of winning the 2010 World Cup.

After a very impressive qualifying campaign and having one of the best club managers in the world in charge then England were shorter than what they should have been to win the tournament. Bookmakers could safely offer incorrect odds because of the fact that a large percentage of the English betting public bet with their hearts instead of their minds.

Despite having a very poor history in major competitions then England had been as low as 8/1 and 10/1 with some firms. Clearly this is very poor value but it is also a wrong price that is on the bookies side. The advantage comes when you can get these prices on the betting exchanges because you can lay them instead of backing them.

Also bookmakers do not want to be out of line with every other betting firm and so it really takes good information and sources to significantly move a price. So if you see one betting firm reduce their odds from say 2/1 to 7/4 while another firm is still showing 2/1 then that could be an indication of value at 2/1. This would also be apparent if other firms were also lowering their prices from 2/1 also.

Carl Sampson is a full time poker pro at 888poker

Most Enjoyable Gambling Games That Require Little Skill

Most people give gambling a go at some point during their life.  Whether it is just for fun or to win some actual money, a number of us will give it a go at some point.

For those who haven’t gambled before but want to be amongst the hype, or not to look ‘dull’ amongst their friends – some people find many of the games too difficult to understand and therefore are either unable to partake, or are simply giving away their money by not knowing what’s going on.

Poker is a fine example.  Complicated rules and foreign terminology to a beginner gives them no chance in their first game.

If you’re one of those, then here are three games that you will understand and will be able to play amongst your mates next time to visit the casino:


Your mum knows how to play this one.  The game simply requires you to quickly identify the right numbers on your card that are called out – there’s really nothing more to it.

The games themselves only cost a couple of pounds to play, making it a fairly low-risk gamble whilst having fun. Read more

The complexity of a poker hand

Quite often you can play the same hand in a different way and be correct on both occasions in online poker. Recently I have been coaching a player that has been active playing online poker that came directly into this game from an online casino.

He was having problems bluffing in the right spots and was paying off in the wrong spots. This guy played NL50 full ring games and let us look at one such hand example to show you what sort of trouble he was having.

Let us say that a player open raised in early position. He held the As-5s on the button and he was folding these hands because of fear of domination. If villain is raising with say AA-TT and big Broadway hands then our hero has around 36% equity against their range. If they flop an ace then this beats all big pairs KK-TT and also Broadway hands like K-Qs and K-Qo. So we need not always fear an ace falling. Also an A-5s can make the nuts with the flush and a wheel and so it has added equity there as well.

If the flop came say 8d-7s-4c then we could even peel a card off here with the prospect of facing just overcards to see what our opponent did on the turn. We have the backdoor flush draw and straight draws along with the ace overcard. However what we cannot do is re-raise pre-flop because our opponents range is too tight from that position. When our opponents range is tight then they are less likely to fold post flop and so we need to bluff less. However take that same hand on the button against a cut-off raiser and we do not get paid off with our big hands when we make them post flop.

So we can be more aggressive because we are facing a wider range. So you can see how we are playing the same hand in the same seat but differently based on where the action has come from. We are also keen to play our hand differently as well based not just on the position of the raiser but the type of player they are.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is an online poker pro that plays poker at 888poker

Thinking ahead in online poker play

Let’s face it; nobody likes being suckered into someone else’s strong hand do they? You bluff raise the river and get called and then when your opponent checks the turn and you then fire a second barrel which also gets called. Your opponent then checks the river and you feel compelled to stick the rest of your chips in the middle but your opponent calls with the nuts or some other strong holding.

However there is a very good tactic for figuring out if your opponent is strong or not but do be warned that this play really only works when you have position and also if your opponent is a very straight forward thinking player. Let us say that your opponent raised to 3.5 big blinds and you called with the Jc-10c on the button. Both blinds fold and you go to the flop heads up which comes 8d-7d-4s giving you a gutshot straight draw with overcards. The stakes are $0.50-$1.00 and the pot has $8.50 in the middle and your opponent makes a continuation bet for $5.50.

You raise to $18 on a semi-bluff and your opponent calls. At any one time in any hand of poker then we can broadly categorise our opponents hand into three types. We can thus say that they either have a strong hand, a mediocre hand or a weak hand. When our opponent continuation bets the flop then they could have either with the probability being that they are either weak or mediocre. However that picture changes when they call our raise.

Now they either have a mediocre hand that probably doesn’t want any more action or they have a strong hand. With either holding they will check again on the turn and here is where we can check it back. If they really have a strong hand then our opponent will be fearful of checking again on the river in case we check it back and they miss value…….this means that they will bet. If they check then they have basically told us that they are trying to play for a cheap showdown and here is where a full or near pot sized bet can take down the pot……if you have the nerve to do it that is.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro that plays poker at 888poker

The history of online gambling

Gambling has had more than its share of negative publicity over the centuries.  Though gambling has existed ever since anyone can remember, many people still have an uninformed view about it.  For my part, I realize the negative things that can result from gambling.  Then again, I do know that there are certain steps that a person can take in order to ensure that these adverse effects do not happen to him.  Here are my top 3 tips for gamblers who want to stay on top of the game. These tips apply wherever you choose to gamble whether it is in the high street on in online card rooms.

Only gamble money that you can afford to lose Not everyone is rich and not everyone can be a high roller.  The basic premise is that one enjoys gambling because he enjoys the risk.  This means, however, that the risk is different for each person.  Just because another person is gambling more money than you does not mean that you have to do the same.  Always remember that you should only gamble money that you can afford to lose.  In that way, you will not find yourself in dire financial straits.  This is actually a method that will make it possible for you to continue your gambling activities in the future.

Limit gambling to a fraction of what you are willing to risk Talking about risks, you should set a limit as to what you are willing to risk.  Then take it one step further and cut that limit.  This way, if you lose your money, you will still have enough to gamble another time.

Don’t let greed get the best of you

Let yourself win a bit and then stop.  You can always gamble another day.  Do not make the mistake of keeping on wanting more.  That is the start of one’s downfall.

Carl Sampson is an online poker pro that plays poker at 888poker

Not just your poker future but your future

As a poker pro of eleven years then I am all too aware of the need to adapt and to change. Wasn’t it Charles Darwin that once said that the species that will survive wouldn’t necessarily be the strongest or the fastest but it would have to be the most adaptive to change? This is how my poker career has gone since 2002. A long constant stream of changing and of not being good enough to make money followed by being good enough and so on and so on.

If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be multi-tabling NL100 for a living then I would have thought that they were crazy. I simply wouldn’t have wasted my time playing so low. However times change and I cannot afford to be so choosy these days. When you need the money then you have to do whatever it takes to get it. I don’t really want to play 40 hours per week but if I have to then I will.

These days I struggle to even hit 20 hours per week because I just have had enough of sitting around on my backside on a chair when I could be outside doing other things that I enjoy. To make money these days and to do it consistently means having a completely different game plan to what you needed some years ago. I recall a friend of mine going to Vienna in the late nineties to play cash games at the Concord. He came back and told me that the limit Stud games were the loosest and wildest that he had ever seen.

He didn’t end the trip a winner but that was purely down to variance and playing live over a two week period and especially when you are playing Seven Stud doesn’t exactly mean that you will be guaranteed to crush the level. I calculated that he had played in the vicinity of around 3k hands over a two week period…….this is nowhere near enough to guarantee a profit. However the way to beat this particular game dynamic is to learn the theory first and foremost and then play very tight-aggressive.

What happens in a game like this is that you lose a longish series of small pots when you fold and then fold while chasing drawing hands that don’t connect. What then tends to happen is that these consistent small losses are offset by big winning pots. However in a tight-aggressive game then this sort of game plan fails to work because sitting back is what everybody else is doing. Then when your opponents are educated enough to only get all in with big hands in big pots then sitting and waiting for such pots is no longer the correct strategy.

To make money in any game dynamic then you have to play opposite that particular game dynamic. If you play the same way as your opponents then you cannot possibly gain an edge. This is one of the biggest flaws in the games of most novice and intermediate no limit hold’em players.

They simply do not identify the current game dynamic and then play opposite to it. If your opponent is tight-aggressive then it becomes difficult to beat them by being even tighter and aggressive. It is much easier to beat TAG opponents by becoming a LAG. This is why my friend was massively +EV in Vienna because he was tight-aggressive in a game that was loose-passive on the whole. So he was tight when everybody else was loose and he was aggressive when everybody else was passive leading to value town.

Carl “The Dean” Sampson is an online poker pro who plays online at 888poker

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