Gambling strategies and stories.

Being too Aggressive in Poker

One of the key areas of my game that I had to improve on some years ago was in how I thought about equity in no limit hold’em. Raising from the button with a hand like J-7o may take down the blinds but what happens when the flop comes 10-6-2 and they check-call your c-bet? Then what happens on the turn when the Qh comes and they check-call your turn barrel? You either have to give up on the river or make an even bigger and riskier bluff with no pot equity at all.

This isn’t really smart poker and you are better off having the safety net of at least being able to have the best hand at showdown. If there is no chance that you can have the best hand at showdown then you probably shouldn’t have launched the bluff in the first place. Many players will say that J-7o is too weak to consider raising with. This is only half correct because if the blinds are super tight then the play can be profitable. If the blinds fold for example 70% of the time then you are making seven lots of 1.5bb which is 10.5bb. If you raise to say 3bb then the play is clearly profitable as long as you don’t spew the money back by making large post flop errors.

If you choose to raise widely with J-7o then you should be doing so if the blinds are both very tight and very passive on the whole. If you get called then there is nothing wrong with giving up post flop because your profits are coming from the pre-flop folds from your opponents and winning the blinds and post flop when you hit the board hard. So in this instance then you simply have no need to c-bet on a 10-6-2 board.

In fact checking the hand back can often confuse some opponents that expect you to c-bet with your total range. If the turn card was a queen and your opponent bet then you could simply fold. If they check then two consecutive checks is far more of an indication that your opponent is very weak and a bluff would carry far more weight on the turn even though your pot equity is the same. The increased fold equity makes the bluff viable now.

Many players realise that they need to be aggressive as soon as they advance past the novice stage of their poker progression. However if you take aggression too far then you will simply spew money both to weaker players that will not fold their one pair type hands and strong players that are good enough to realise that your range is polarised. Just because you raise pre-flop and the hand is heads up doesn’t mean that you have to automatically c-bet when checked to. This was a lesson that it took me a long time and an awful large number of lost buy-ins to learn.


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

Manipulating Your Range

When you move up the middle limits in no limit Texas hold’em cash games then your image and your opponent’s image plays a big part in many things that you do. At the lower stake levels then your opponent simply will not be watching you enough for you to have to worry about that. Let us look at an example of how your image can affect what your opponents do. Let us say that you open raise in a full ring game from early middle position with 10-9s and the button who is an aggressive player calls you.

The flop comes A-K-J and you make a thin c-bet and your opponent folds. On the next orbit you raise from an even earlier position with 7-6s and the same opponent calls you. The flop is 4-4-2 rainbow and you make a c-bet which gets called. The turn card is the 8h and you fire another barrel which also gets called. The river card is a queen and you fire a third barrel which ultimately forces your opponent to fold. Your image is one of aggression because your two lines have been raise-bet and raise-bet-bet-bet.

This is indicative of someone that once they decide to commit to the hand then puts their pedal to the metal and maintains their aggression. An observant and sophisticated opponent would decipher that your ranges are polarised on the river and call you down more widely. This is a time to switch and not stack off for a while with your bluffs and to value bet your opponent with strong holdings. This is what is known as range manipulation because you are manipulating the range of hands that your opponent calls you with in future pots.

So on the next orbit you may fold a marginal 9-8s from position and even if you do raise with it then you may elect to back off if you don’t flop a strong hand or a strong draw. However if you are fortunate to see a strong premium hand likes aces or kings then this opponent could easily 3/bet you light based on your previous play. Only a few days ago I stacked a player that had Q-8s when I held pocket kings. I had been aggressive and then raised to 3.5bb normally. They 3/bet to 12bb and I min-raised to 25bb and they shoved over the top for their remaining stack…..clearly they didn’t believe that I had a real hand.

When your opponents become more sophisticated then poker suddenly becomes a whole lot more interesting and not to say a whole lot different. When opponents observe you more then your own image affects what they do and you are going to have to be aware of that. Luckily we can use that information to affect our opponents thinking and to manipulate their ranges for future confrontations. It is for this reason why many players struggle when they move to higher levels. Their previous poker game and strategy no longer applies at a new increased level against better players.


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

Facing Aggressive 3/bets

When it has been folded around to you and you elect to raise from position then you have indirectly told your opponents that your range is quite wide. Everybody knows that nearly all poker players expand their ranges when there are fewer players still to act. When you raise then what you are actually doing is making the first play in what could be a 3/bet pot. Remember that for your opponent to 3/bet (re-raise) then there must first be a raise. If you make the opening raise then there is the possibility of a 3/bet.

Because many players expect you to raise from position then the more aggressive players will 3/bet you more often and you will need to learn how to handle these types of opponents. When you raise and are re-raised then you have several options available to you. Position is such a big factor in no limit hold’em that you ideally do not want to call a 3/bet when out of position. So merely folding your weak hands simply keeps you out of trouble. If you have a hand that is towards the top end of your range then you can 4/bet which thus eliminates your opponent’s ability to play their position against you.

When you 4/bet then you are escalating the pot to a level that is indicating that you are potentially committing to the pot. In these instances then your opponent will fold most of their range and you will win the pot uncontested. While 4/betting with the top of your range and folding the rest is a good method to use against 3/bettors, if they are in the blinds then you can possibly call and play some post flop poker with you having position on them.

Another way to handle aggressive 3/bettors is to simply fold and play tighter pre-flop and to only play hands that you can feel good 4/betting with. There is no shame in leaving the table and finding yourself a softer seat. If you do not feel comfortable in 4/bet pots pre-flop then you can simply play tight poker and go and find yourself a softer game if need be. It is better to do this than to play back incorrectly against your opponent and to call raises when out of position. How you handle players that aggressively re-raise you will go a long way towards defining your overall poker results.

Whether you play full ring or short-handed poker then you will always play more hands from late position than you will from earlier position. Your opponents of course will expect you to do this and the more aggressive ones will take counter strategies against you one of which is to 3/bet you. In six max cash games then it is imperative that you counter this strategy correctly. Having opponents that have a positional advantage over you is not going to lead to you being able to play profitable situations and neither is raising too often and then folding to a 3/bet. Playing correctly in 3/bet pots will be vital to your overall chances of making money.


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

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

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