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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
It is common knowledge that you will play the majority of your playing hands around the blinds. Whether it is in the blinds or on the button or the two seats to the right of the button! Stealing and re-stealing play a very important part of your poker strategy. Let us begin by looking at a couple of hands taken from a no limit Texas hold’em full ring game played at the $1-$2 level.
Your opponent makes it $7 to go in the cut-off seat after the table folds around to them. You hold the 7d-6d and decide to fold your hand. On the very next orbit you are also on the button with the 10d-8d and the same opponent makes it $7 to go after the table folds to them. Now it is perfectly possible that your opponent may have been dealt good hands on two successive occasions but two raises from a known steal seat are more likely to be with a much wider range.
At this time then there are $10 in the pot with three potential opponents in the hand if you enter the fray. However if you call then several scenarios can happen. Firstly you can get three bet by one of the blinds which essentially forces you to fold. Secondly you can three bet yourself and thus put the blinds and the original raiser to a decision. The blinds hold random holdings and so the likelihood is that your opponents will all fold and you will pocket $10 in profit.
Against observant opponents then you will need to try very hard to balance your ranges. Every time that you call a raise in position in online no limit Texas hold’em or three bet then you are taking action against a single opponent. This will not go unnoticed by observant players and so you need to be careful how often you decide to play back at them and with what holdings. More aggressive players will not stand for being pushed around.
The dynamics of the situation dictate that you must fight your corner and your opponents will also know that you know that. The strategy is clear, you will attempt and your opponents will attempt to steal whatever you and they can get away with. Both you and your opponents will also look to steal from other players who you strongly suspect of stealing. The biggest winners however at the lower level or the lower middle limits of online poker are the players who take this to another level and re-steal from the re-stealers.
I often refer to that as level 3 game strategy and this is a factor that I mentioned or have mentioned in other articles. In full ring online cash games then the early seats tend to be played routinely and so this makes them easier to read. However it is when you get to the final three seats to the right of the blinds that you then need to be a little creative. Unfortunately this means that variance will increase because playing hands against raises in raised pots with less than premium holdings will increase your losses when you lose some of those hands.
Carl Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online at 888poker
Let us start off by looking at a hand example. You are sitting on the button with the Jh-10h and you have a stack of 112bb in online no limit Texas hold’em poker. It has been folded around to the cut-off who raises to 3.5bb and they too have a stack of 100bb……what is your play here and do you fold, call or re-raise? Well if your poker strategy is to re-raise then you have to remember that not only are you three betting a raiser but your hand isn’t all that strong either.
So you need to try and assess what sort of range your opponent is raising with to then estimate what your correct response should be. Let us look at an extreme example that shows the correct deviations at work. Imagine that your opponent raises with 100% of their range and now we have to assess how a hand like J-10s fares against a range like that. So now we introduce PokerStove into the equation which is a wonderful piece of software that is free to download online.
PokerStove shows us that we have 57.5% equity against a random hand and when you figure that we also have position on our opponent then we clearly cannot fold. This means that we can either call and use our positional advantage post flop or three bet our opponent and look to win the pot immediately. Both lines are viable online poker strategy. However there are two problems here and the first is that we cannot be certain that our opponent has a 100% range and secondly that very few opponents will range that widely.
So doing a little research will reveal to you what the average range is from certain seats but only close analysis of each opponent can really help you here. So let us try and construct our opponents range from downloaded data using say PokerTracker. After 5000 hands on our opponent in no limit Texas hold’em then you see that they open raise with 38% of their total range. Once again using PokerStove then we can see what a 38% range represents. So we then input our J-10s hand to see that we have around 45% equity against that range.
Now it isn’t possible to make these sorts of online poker calculations at the actual table. But using simulations and data like these give you a feel for certain situations that arise. Because 45% equity is much less the previous total of 57.5% equity that we saw against a 100% range then three betting becomes less attractive.
So calling the raise may be the best option here but what actually underpins everything is that you took the time to understand your opponents range and what that actually meant in terms of your own online poker strategy. Imagine also that your opponent was a rock and after 5000 hands you knew that their opening range was only 3% from early position.
This is roughly AA-JJ and AK and so now we know that a J-10s only has around 28% equity against that tight range. So we have a clear fold and calling can really only be justified if we know that our opponent is capable of making absolutely horrendous post flop mistakes.
Carl Sampson is a professional poker player that plays online at 888poker