Get Grinding: How to Play 12+ Hour Online Poker Tournament Sessions

Every tournament poker player in the world has at least two things in common: they want to win as many tournaments and make as much money as possible. Once a player has established that they are winning, playing a volume large enough to reduce the length of downswings and maximize profit is key.

The easiest way to maximize profit is to figure out how to be most efficient in terms of time spent playing.  Playing the most possible tournaments in the fewest hours is very important to your hourly winrate.

mousenailsSince multi-table tournaments (especially those boasting a guaranteed prize pool) occur at staggered times throughout the day, it is most efficient to play long sessions. The danger of playing short sessions is that you may only have the time to load up a few tables in order to stop playing by a certain amount of time.  This generally leads to a lower hourly win-rate since you can play many more tournaments in one twelve hour session than in three four hour sessions.

Hypothetically, the most efficient division of playing forty hours a week would be in one long, grueling block.  Obviously this is not realistic, but what can be achievable for most players is playing very long sessions—clocking in at twelve plus hours.  This way, you can play just 4 days, and focus your play on Saturday and Sunday, since they are widely regarded as the days with the highest guarantees and the largest percentage of recreational players.

Tips for enabling yourself to play the longest sessions:

1.      Create a space you will be happy to spend over 12 hours in.  Keep things around your desk that will help keep you in a happy mood even in the most tilt-inducing sessions, such as family pictures, and photos of things that inspire you. Having a tidy and inspiring desk will go a long way in helping your mind to play optimally.

2.      Playing long sessions can be tough on your body. Invest in an ergonomic chair to help avoid back-pain. Away from the tables, indulge in massages. To reduce eye-strain, play on high resolution monitors. Keep preservative-free eye drops handy, as well as any item that you find yourself reaching for a lot (for me, that means cherry Chap Stick and a nice hand cream with a pump for quick access).

3.      Have a plan for eating and drinking.  In my office I have a small fridge stocked with water and iced tea. It takes only a few seconds to swivel around and grab a drink.  I eat a meal before I play, and then keep nuts and berries around to snack on if I get hungry.  Finger food is obviously a ton easier to eat than anything with a knife and fork when playing, and the temptation is to reach for chips and other junk food.  However, this should be avoided as a sugar-crash can make you feel very tired when you need to maintain your energy.  It helps to have a nice husband or roommate willing to bring you an easy-to-eat healthy dinner to keep you going! I also love having a vegetable “party tray” since it is easy to pull out of the fridge and have access to fresh veggies. If you like coffee, keep a small machine by your desk.

4.      Plan your work space so that it is easy to run to the restroom.  My office is set up in a bedroom in my house, and the bathroom is only about 10 feet away.  It may sound crass, but as a multi-tabler proximity to a bathroom should be one of the biggest factors when deciding where to put your grinding setup.

5.      Make the most of the synchronized 5 minute breaks. I like to run outside for some fresh air, and do a few jumping jacks to wake my body up (I also find it a good idea to get some exercise before I start my session as it helps me feel focused and keep myself healthy.) Play with your dog for a minute, and do a mental check to insure that you have put any hands you misplayed or bad beats out of your mind.

6.      Make the most of all the available tools that can help you make the best decisions in the least amount of time.  Utilize a Heads-Up Display (HUD) to give you important statistical information about your opponents that will influence how you play against them.  Play with a calculator that has a large display.

7.      Make sure to get plenty of sleep.  Staying out until 5am and having a wild night doesn’t mix well with a long grinding session.  Schedule your fun nights so that you are not playing much the next day, and do not start a session (if you can help it) without feeling mentally and physically energized and able to play your best.

8.      Schedule a poker study session before you start your weekly grind, during your days off from poker.  Use this time to be critical of yourself and evaluate what you can do to continue to improve as a player.  This is a good time to have a coach or poker buddy to help you honestly evaluate your play. In lieu of that, review your tournaments in a replayer, post and respond to other’s hands in poker forums, or watch online poker training videos. Use this time to question what you can do better so that you do not have to use any undue mental energy while playing.

9.      Allow the length of your sessions to be somewhat flexible.  If you are three hours into a session that you planned 12 hours for, but feel very tired, tilted or for any other reason unable to play your best, then stop loading games.  Use the time that you would have spent playing to address what stopped your session short.  Have tilt issues?  Read one of the many great psychology poker books. Tired? Take a nap and figure out how to go into your sessions with more energy.

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Five Trouble Poker Hands and How to Play Them

Some players call them “trouble hands.”  Others call them “dangerous,” but regardless of name, these hands can be costly when misplayed.

 Let’s look at five troublesome hands and see how each can lead you down a primrose path if you’re not careful.

Pocket Jacks: Not many starting hands are better than a pocket pair of jacks.  Only pocket aces, kings, or queens are ahead of you from the get-go.  So why the worry?

Jacks are both a blessing and a curse, and playing them correctly is not easy.  While jacks are tough enough to play in a limit cash game, where all a loss can cost is a few more chips, they’re even tougher in a tournament, particularly when it’s no-limit.  If you act rashly, you can easily lose all your chips with this hand.

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In a tournament, sometimes pocket jacks are a no-brainer to play, particularly if you’re short stacked and looking to make a stand.  Then you just push all your chips into the pot and hope.  If you’ve got most of the chips at the table it’s not all that tough a decision either. Just force any short stack that already entered the pot to commit all his chips or fold to your raise.  After all, you can afford the loss and even if your jacks aren’t the best hand right now, they can always improve and it won’t cost you any more chips to play out the hand. But most of the time jacks will force you to an uneasy decision that will be predicated on how deep your stacks are, whether you can afford to call a reraise, and how many chips you’re willing to risk on a hand that’s as vulnerable as it is strong.

 But it’s all those other situations that make for tough sledding. The following table contains the results from a series of simulations I ran to test the strength of a pair of jacks.  In these simulations, each scenario was played out 500,000 times.

-Pocket Jacks, when no overcards flop: Wins 20.8 percent of the time; each of the eight other hands wins 9.9 percent of the time.

-Pocket Jacks, when one overcard flops: Wins 14 percent of the time; each of the eight other hands wins 10.75 percent of the time.

-Pocket Jacks, when two overcards flop: Wins 10 percent of the time; each of the eight other hands wins 11.25 percent of the time.

-Pocket Jacks, when three overcards flop: Wins 12.9 percent of the time; each of the eight other hands wins nearly 11 percent of the time.

Jacks are very dependent on the flop, and a pair of jacks is lucky to see a flop without an overcard.  In these simulations all overcards were equally dangerous to the jacks, but real poker is quite different because many hold’em players favor ace hands but play fewer combinations of other big cards.  You see players call all the time with A-7 and Ac-5c, but you’ll seldom see your opponents turning up hands like Q-7 and Qc-5c.

The implications are clear.  If you hold a pocket pair of jacks in a real poker game, be a lot more wary of a flop containing an ace than one that contains a king or a queen as its lone overcard.  Better yet, if you can thin out the field with a raise before the flop, facing a one-overcard board isn’t nearly as daunting.  When you’re heads-up, chances that the lone overcard helped your opponent are less than they would be if you were involved in a family pot, where you can safely assume that the flop will help someone.

Eight-seven suited: You can throw a lot of other suited connectors into this hopper too, and 8-7 suited is emblematic of similar hands such as T-9, 9-8, 7-6, and lower connectors.  With this hand you figure to catch a pair on the flop about one-third of the time. That’s far more often than you’ll flop a flush draw or open-ended straight draw with this hand, which is really what you’re hoping for. This holds true for A-K too, or any other combination of two unpaired cards.  But with Big Slick one pair figures to be the lead hand most of the time, and that’s seldom the case with 8-7.  Even when you flop something like 8-4-2, you are still behind to a bigger pocket pair or a hand like A-8s.  Another worry is that someone has a straight draw.

Unless the flop hits you twice, or three times, you’ll seldom be sure of how your hand stacks up to those hands held by your opponents.  To be profitable in the long run, hands like 8-7 suited really need a lot of players in the pot, along with the chance to catch a flush or straight draw, all for the cost of one bet.

If the flop doesn’t generate trips, two-pair, or a draw to a straight or a flush, your hand is an uninspiring eight-high, and that won’t win many hold’em pots.  That’s why they’re dangerous.  So many players can’t part with them because suited connectors are just so many pretty faces.  They look good, and players persist in sticking around with them whenever they flop one pair, even when they really know better.

The simple truth about suited connectors is this: If you don’t flop a good draw, or the flop doesn’t otherwise hit you twice, ditch ‘em; they’re dogs.

Presto: That’s the nickname the internet poker newsgroup rec.gambling.poker has given to a pair of fives, and as was the case with 8-7, a pocket pair of fives is emblematic of other small pairs too.  If you are dealt a small pocket pair, you really need to know two things: How many opponents will you have in order to determine whether to call or raise with your hand, and whether anyone else has a really good hand and plans to raise too.Since you have to guess at the answers to these questions from early position, you should only play them in conservative games where raises are infrequent and many players call. Then you can treat your pair of fives as a drawing hand.  If you flop a set — and the odds are long at 7.5-to-1 that you won’t — you figure to win a big pot. If you miss, you can check and fold at the first sound of rustling chips.   If you are in last or next-to-last position and no one has called the blinds, you should raise with hands like these because any pair probably has it all over the blinds, which are random hands that don’t figure to rise to the level of a pair.

If you’re in a tournament, playing a smallish pair from early position depends on how many chips you have, and where you are in the tournament’s standings.  Most of the time you should toss your small pair away. The only time you shouldn’t is when you are very short stacked. Then the best course of action is to move all-in and hope that your opponent will fold his hand or call with a hand like A-K but miss the flop, turn, and river.

Smallish pairs are usually weak hands. If you win a hand with them, you frequently bag a small pot unless you were fortunate enough to flop a set and trap someone with a big pair or two. But if you lose, it can be expensive simply because it’s difficult to tell whether you are ahead or behind with this kind of hand.

King-Jack early: In early position K-J looks good: two big cards and unless an ace flops pairing either one of them makes it seem as though you have the best hand.  But if you call with K-J and someone raises behind you, or you raise and someone three-bets, you probably don’t have the best hand, even if a king or a jack flops.  You could easily be dominated by a hand like A-K, A-J, or K-Q. When you’re dominated, you have three outs, and three outs only and your opponent has his foot squarely on your throat.

Of course the same thing is true if you began with a hand like 8-8 and saw a flop of A-Q-9.  You started with a hand that looked pretty good, but if there is any action at all, someone figures to have made a better hand and you are relegated to drawing very thin; you’re trying to catch one of the two remaining eights on either the turn or river to make your hand.  But that flop is a very visual clue to you. Three overcards coupled with action from your opponents spells trouble and anyone can see it.  In a situation like this, a pocket pair of eights is easily released with no further damage inflicted.

But folding K-J isn’t that easy. Suppose the flop is J-9-3, or K-7-2.  In each case no one figures to have two pair or a set because few players are going to cold-call a raise with cards that would support that kind of hand. So your opponent figures to have top pair too, and your kicker looks good. As least it looks good to you. But if your opponent was the raiser, or worse yet, he three bet the pot after your raised, don’t you think there’s a good chance that he’s holding A-A, K-K, A-J or A-K and is now far ahead of you?

While there’s always a chance that you might be in the lead, all too often you’ll find yourself with your foot on the brakes, winning the minimum when you do win but losing a lot of chips when your opponent has you dominated to three outs and you never catch that miracle-card on the turn or river.

Big Slick: Ace-king shouldn’t be a troublesome hand, but it can be for some players. And that’s because they treat A-K as though it were a made hand, as good as a pair of aces or a pair of kings or close to it, when in reality it is a drawing hand with no immediate value except in it’s potential to render top pair with the very best kicker whenever an ace or a king flops.

There is one exception.  If you’re up against only one opponent, A-K stands a good chance to win without improvement. But in a family pot — even if it’s a small family — A-K needs to improve to win, and regardless of how hard you push A-K into a large field of players, if the flop fails to fit your hand, it probably fit someone else’s just fine.

These are just some of the troublesome hands you run into in hold’em games, whether they are cash games in your neighboring casino or big-money tournaments like the World Series of Poker.    Lot’s of judgment is required to play them correctly, because these hands carry the potential of winning a big pot or sending you to the tournament’s rail.  There are other troublesome hands in addition to these five, but if you’ve never stopped to think about the kinds of hands that most often lead to disaster, this group will do for a star

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Tell Tale Signs in Poker – Reading Your Opponent

In poker, we are surrounded by a wealth of information. And to a major extent, being a good player is about noticing, and correctly interpreting, this information. Bad players won’t even pay attention to anything beyond the world of their own cards; great players take in and examine everything. This everything begins with the tactical basics — the number of opponents in a hand, size of the pot, betting patterns, etc. But in live games, another part of this everything is the demeanor and body language of opposing players. In a word, tells. And while interpreting tells should never take the place of those basics, it can be an enormously helpful supplement, especially when faced with borderline decisions.

When it comes to reading poker tells, oftentimes we’ll spend so much time examining every nuance of each other’s faces, that we’ll overlook another part of the body that’s just as expressive — our hands. The human hand is incredibly sensitive and animated, and the fact that our hands are very closely wired into our nervous system means that there is an extremely strong correlation between whatever we’re doing with out hands at any given moment, and how we’re really feeling. Being able to correctly interpret what your opponents are saying with their hands can provide a goldmine of extra data. And as a bonus, hands cannot be hidden behind mirrored sunglasses or giant hats.

It begins at the simplest level: When it’s your turn to act, take a moment and look to your left. A surprising number of your opponents’ hands will be telegraphing what their brains are planning to do. This is especially true preflop, when that quick leftward glance can reveal some of your opponents already putting a chip on top of their cards, or else holding them in a close and protective manner — pretty obvious indications that they intend to enter the pot. Others behind you may be just-as-obviously itching to throw their cards into the muck already. So with this one glance, you can often get a more accurate picture of how many opponents intend to play in this particular hand. Which is crucial when you consider that certain types of starting hands play better against a large field, while others prefer only a few opponents.

This is as good a place as any to add the usual caveats. Put everything in context. It depends. Any tell means much less coming from an opponent who is a poker idiot — or a poker genius. People in the first group are too clueless to even know where they’re at most of the time, and people in the second group are too skilled at concealing their tells. So consider the source. Also, there is a universe of difference between interpreting the “hand language” of an opponent who is aware that you are watching him, versus somebody who is not aware. Players who know you are looking at them will often send out a false signal on purpose. A classic example of this would be the fake-grabbing-at-chips tell: As you’re ruminating over whether to check or bet your hand, an opponent will start grabbing at his chips, as if he is eager to bet himself. This is almost always a cheap attempt to trick you into checking.

So be wary. Always put in context. This includes comparing everything you notice about another player, with what body language experts call their “baseline demeanor.” Whether your opponent is drumming his fingers impatiently, rubbing his cards compulsively, or stroking his face thoughtfully — the real meaning if his actions lies in comparing this with his usual behavior. If he does this kind of stuff all the time, then it doesn’t mean much. But if these actions are sudden and out of the ordinary, then obviously they mean a great deal.

What about when a poker player starts tapping his fingers on the table, playing absently with his chips, or engages in some other repetitive meaningless activity? Well it can mean any number if things, most likely boredom, impatience, or mild anxiety. The one thing it almost certainly does not mean is that they are bluffing at you with bad cards. Bluffers are always afraid of being caught, and the body’s natural response to fear is to freeze absolutely still. Now, if a table-tapping or chip-shuffling opponent suddenly stops what he is doing, right around the same time he makes a big bet — then it’s quite likely you are looking at a bluff. By the same token, if that player continues to tap/shuffle/whatever after he has made a big bet, now this indicates a strong hand. The fact that he just keeps on doing his little activity without any break means he is not afraid. It’s also worth noting that a compulsive tapper/shuffler suddenly picks up the tempo, that most likely means he is excited and holds some quality cards.

You also may want to consider the manner in which your opponents touch, hold, and protect their hole cards. Whenever an object is valuable to us, we humans have a natural desire to guard it, touch it, keep it close. So a player in possession of premium cards will be apt to do one or more of the following: One, keep those cards physically close to himself. Two, carefully protect those cards from being mucked, if not with a chip/card protector, then with his own hands. Three, stack the cards very neatly on top of each other (again, compare with the baseline, how neat or messy is this person in general?). And four, just touch them a lot, whether it’s by rubbing the cards absently with his fingertips, or compulsively shuffling them back and forth, or whatever. Quite simply, the more precious an object is to us, the more we’ll have a desire to touch it.

While we’re on this subject, it’s worth mentioning that anytime we touch ourselves — typical examples at a poker table would be rubbing one’s opposing hand or arm, or resting one’s hand on a cheek — it’s usually done as a kind of calming/soothing gesture, in response to stress. Now the source of that stress could be any number of things —  a bad losing streak, frustration after a solid hour of nothing but garbage cards, or maybe it’s a tummy ache. But keep in mind that liars (e.g. bluffers) are putting themselves under enormous stress every time they lie. Partly because it creates an inner conflict, but also because they’re just plain afraid of getting caught. And that inner stress often manifests itself by self-touching, specifically, by touching the face. Once you know to look for this, it’s really quite amazing to see how often a liar will manage to touch his own face during a lie.

Also watch the way an opponent handles chips as he bets. In the poker tradition of weak means strong and vice versa, forceful, emphatic betting actions are typically a sign of  weakness, while soft, gentle betting motions are a signal that he holds the nuts. In the first case, they’re trying to scare you into folding, in the second, they want to lull you into a sense of false security. Along these same lines, any kind of  “palm down” gesture is aggressive and intended to intimidate you, while “palm up” gestures are submissive, aimed at luring you in.

Finally, there’s the “shaking hands” tell. Whenever you see a player putting chips into the pot with trembling hands, if you don’t hold a very strong hand yourself, get out. They’ve got a monster. This tell is virtually 100 percent reliable —  unless you’re looking at a player who is elderly or sick (baseline again). So listen to what the hands are telling you.

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Mastering Tilt: Some Tips to Overcome Poker’s Mental Breakdowns

You know the feeling: you’re in the zone, playing your “A” game, and for the most part, getting the cards you need. There’s no one at the table you can’t compete with, and you’re feeling downright smug because your game is strong and your profitability shows it. Then suddenly, inexplicably, it all shifts.

It could be a set-over-set beat that takes all your chips and moves them elsewhere. Or maybe it’s a new player who sits down at your table – sometimes not even a good one! – who you just can’t beat no matter how much you try to trap them. It might even be something as simple as exhaustion setting in, or having one drink too many, or getting a text message from a love interest that unnerves you for some reason. But whatever the impetus, you are suddenly, unabashedly, on tilt, and your previously spot-on game starts to spiral downward faster than a drainpipe clog cleared with Draino.

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What to do when these inevitable downturns in poker play hit you out of nowhere like a tornado in Kansas? Well, you can, of course, simply pick up and go home; and sometimes, that really is your best option. But poker players as a group are not quitters, and few of us, feeling that we are losing our grip on the side of a craggly mountain with a dastardly cliff below, will voluntarily loose our grip and let go.

We’re stubborn, and we’re determined to turn our luck back around to its formerly glorious self. How does one do that, you ask? Well, surprisingly, there really are ways to overcome tilt and get back on track before you lose next month’s mortgage payment, or worse.

Following are a few practical guidelines that have worked for me over the years; while they are simple in theory to institute, they can require a fair amount of discipline in practice. Hopefully, with a little practice, they can work for you as well.

Rule#1: Take a long, hard look at your ego and emotions, and try to detach from them as much as possible

Yes, the toughest thing to do when you’ve been the butt of bad beats and worse players is to take a deep breath, back off, and find your inner zen; but that’s exactly what’s required if you want to get back on track. Just like in a real war zone, victory will ultimately go to whoever most keeps their wits about them while rockets and grenades come flying past! Yes, we know you’re smarter, and a better technical player than that opponent who’s beating you silly right now, and there’s nothing you want to do more than put them in their place and stack them off. Trust me, this is your worst move at this moment. Poker, like everything in life, has its own cyclical nature, and you need to get off the beach until the tides turn in your favor. Till then, play tight or better yet, take a dinner break and have a little relaxing cocktail to help you chill out. Then jump back in the fray relaxed and at ease, ready to take on whoever, but without a personal vendetta to prove or an opposition ego you want to crush. Just play your best poker, and ultimately, you should be alright.

Rule #2: Don’t second-guess your game

It’s easy to start reinventing yourself after going haywire on your usual tactics, but this off-road diversion is not likely to work. There’s a reason why you play the way you do, because 85% of the time, it gets you the results you want! Don’t let a little snowstorm send you into a mental blizzard in which you are not playing the way you feel most assured and are most likely to add substantially to your chip count. Stay focused and get back on track, and whatever you do, do not play scared poker! Be as aggressive as you usually are, and always make other players “pay to play.”

Rule #3: Fund yourself sufficiently

When you’re running badly and feeling literally poor, it can be tempting to play short; my advice is, if you’re in that dire straights, just pick up what’s left of your chips and head home for the night. If you decide to stick around – have enough cash, in your wallet and on your body, so that you feel psychologically armed for battle with enough “bullets” in your clip to take on all comers. Although it’s really more a mental edge than anything else, having enough bankroll in your pocket will allow you to play with more confidence and less timidity, which should, in turn, result in getting you back to top gun status sooner rather than later.

Rule #4: Be extra pleasant to everyone at the table

Nothing says “amateur” and “tilted player” more than someone who’s still muttering about the “unbelievability” of their bad beat an hour or two after the hand has come and gone. Glaring angrily at your opponents is also a sure sign that you don’t really understand the game and just have the fantasy illusion that the best hand going in is always going to hold up after the flop, turn and river. Reminder: It is not a) the dealer’s fault (and please don’t act like a two-year-old cursing them out and throwing cards at them, which may get you 86’d in some casinos, by the way!) or b) the poker gods raining down upon you; it’s just the way ebbs and flows of the game happen sometimes. Being a gracious loser and maintaining your composure will not only signify to the table that you are an experienced and unflappable player, it will also feed your own sense of calm, which will in turn put you in a better mindset to make the right decisions from here on out.

Rule#5: Don’t fall in love with your hand, no matter how good it is pre-flop

Poker is always a game of “where are you at now,” not “where were you at a minute ago”! You must constantly reassess whether you have the best hand with each new card that falls. Simply holding wired Aces or Kings pre-flop means nothing if the board comes 7-8-9 all of one suit that you don’t hold, to give but one example of many ways that high pairs can be crushed on the flop, turn and river, especially if you have multi-way action. Again, detach, detach, detach! You will get pretty pairs again, and they will hold up again, but if this is not the hand where they will do so, don’t throw your money away just so you can angrily turn your cards up at the end of the hand and show the J-10 what they crushed. Nobody really cares. Just accept the minimum loss, and move on.

These five simple rules should help you return to your “A” game when you hit those inevitable tiltifying moments, but let’s be honest, there are days when no matter what you do, you just can’t win. I remember a session during WSOP 2009, a cash game, where I literally played for nine hours straight, never once going on tilt, and could not win a pot to save my life. I finally just shrugged, got up, and went home. Fortunately, sessions like those are few and far between, but they happen to even the very best players. When they do, bear in mind that tomorrow is another day, and there will always be a game happening somewhere. It’s just a glitch in the road, not the end of it!

Here’s to as few tilts as possible, and getting back on your feet (and back to a winning mentality!) on those occasions when you do succumb. To err is human; to beat your opponents is divine

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How to Bluff in Texas Hold’em and No Limits – Learn the basics of bluffing and win hands with terrible cards!

Knowing how to bluff is an important part of winning in poker. Bluffing can be especially effective online, where you don’t have to worry about having a poker face. The point of bluffing is to win pots that you have no chance of winning with your cards. Good bluffing skills come in handy if you have been getting terrible cards and are tired of other people taking your ante. When you do it right, profits from bluffing can add up to a lot of money. I have seen players win hundreds of dollars in just a couple hours, because the know the right time to bluff. In other words, by knowing how to bluff, these people have won hands with terrible cards. Remember, this doesn’t include the gains they made from having good hands!

Texas Hold’em Bluffing

Bluffing in Limit Hold’em can be tricky because you can only raise a set amount, which sometimes makes it difficult to scare opponents out of the hand. If you’re playing at a $1/$2 table, raising that extra $2 on the last card to make your opponents fold is futile. Although knowing how to bluff in Limit Hold’em seems difficult, knowing a few things about how to do it will make the task extremely easy. Anybody can bluff and get away with it in Limit Hold’em, as long as they know what they are doing. Here are a few tips to help you bluff and win.

When Should You Bluff?
When you bluff, you need bet in a way or in an amount that will scare your opponent out of the hand. Because Limit Hold’em only allows you to bet or raise a set amount in each round of betting, this can make it difficult to scare someone out of a hand. For example, if you play at a $1/$2 stakes table, raising an extra dollar or two will make very few people fold. Usually, the people playing at the lower stakes tables love to call if they have anything (even the lowest pair) because most people who play for less money have less skill. Therefore, try to bluff rarely at the lower priced tables (once every 10 hands). Remember, you are playing with less skilled players, and there are other ways to take advantage of these low stakes players even if you’re a beginner yourself (See: Texas Hold’em Getting Started Tips).

Once you begin to play at higher stakes tables such as $5/$10, knowing how to bluff almost becomes a necessity. Raising an extra $5 or $10 can definitely make players think about folding over the cards and letting you take the pot. Therefore, you can bluff more often at the higher priced tables, about once every five hands.

Knowing and Playing Your Opponent
Knowing your opponent is extremely important in Texas Hold’em, especially if you want to bluff. Every time you play at a table, always watch how your opponent bets. Look for trends and changes in your opponents betting strategies. If you see that your opponent bets every time he catches a two pair or better, then you have a much better idea of where you stand. Likewise, if you watch a person bet on the turn card every time he has nothing, then you know you have him right where you want him next time around. If you have trouble reading your opponents, don’t worry. It takes a lot of experience to see changes in your opponents’ betting strategies. Usually, the people who are able to read their opponents well play at the highest price tables. Therefore if you are just starting out, you can still take advantage of the other beginners who don’t know the information we are providing. Remember, we want to make it easy for EVERYONE to win. Even if you are a beginner, following this advice immediately gives you an edge over other players.

Playing your opponent is much easier then knowing your opponent. When you first sit down at a table, you must establish trust with your opponents. If you sit down and begin bluffing right away, you will get called and most likely lose the hand. Play conservatively during the first 15 hands. Don’t raise or bet too much and always be honest. If you have bad cards get out of the hand. If you play conservatively, you will succeed in gaining your opponents trust. Once this task is accomplished, you can begin to bluff and start winning tons of money, even without having good cards no matter what skill level you may be!

How to Bluff, the Basics
Once you have gained the trust of your opponents, you can now bluff with ease. Remember, when you are playing at lower stakes tables, try to bluff once every ten hands and when you are playing at higher stakes tables, bluff once every five hands. To bluff in Limit Hold’em, the first thing you should do is raise before you see the flop. Raising before you see the flop will not only make your opponents think that you have two high cards or a pocket pair, but it will also make many of them fold if they weren’t sure of staying in. There are two options you can take once you see the flop. If there are no high cards, then you should check (unless you pulled a pair) because people think you have only high cards and they won’t fold if they think you don’t have a pair. If the flop consists of high cards, then bet again because your opponents will think you pulled one of your high pairs and they will most likely fold.

Remember to keep in mind how your opponents have been betting. If they haven’t folded after you bet after the flop is revealed, they may be on a flush or straight draw, or have a good hand. This is where your judgment comes into play. It’s up to you to decide whether or not you should continue your bluff.

Of course you’ll get better with experience, but don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work every time … keep at it and you’ll be a pro bluffer in no time!

 

How to Bluff In No Limit Hold’em

Bluffing in No Limit Hold’em can make you a lot more money than in Limit Hold’em. If you can figure out how your opponents bet and on what hands they call or raise, the risk of bluffing in No Limit Hold’em will be reduced dramatically and the profits you can make will be in the hundreds, just by bluffing! When bluffing at the no limit tables, you must know you’re opponents much better than at the limit tables. Because this usually takes experience, we recommend that if you’re a beginner, play at the limit tables until you are able to gain enough experience to read your opponents with ease. Once you are able to read your opponents, bluffing at the no limit tables will be a joke and help you make a lot more money in a much shorter period of time. Here are a few tips on how to bluff in No Limit Hold’em.

Get to know your opponent
Knowing how to read your opponents well when playing No Limit Hold’em will result in huge profits. Learning to read your opponents in No Limit Hold’em can be difficult without having a face to look at and read. Because you can’t actually see your opponent, you have to watch the way he or she is betting. Look 

Scare Your Opponents Out of the Hand
Scaring your opponents out of the hand in No Limit Hold’em is much easier than in Limit Hold’em because you can bet any amount you want. If you’re the chip leader at the table and you see a $20 pre flop bet, going all in will surely scare people off much better than merely raising a set amount, like at the limit tables. There are many different ways to get the most out of your bluff in No Limit Hold’em. One recommended strategy is to bet a little bit during each round of betting until the river card is played. If the river card seems like it comes into play, going all in will surely scare people out of the hand. For example, if you have nothing, and the current community cards are ace of spades, king of spades, two of diamonds, and 9 of clubs, if the jack or queen of spades falls, it would be a good idea to go all because your opponent will think you pulled either a flush or a straight. However, if a six of clubs were to fall, it may be safer to lay the hand down and stop your bluff because a six of clubs wouldn’t help any draw and therefore your opponents will know that the river didn’t help you. Thus, going all-in in that situation has a much great risk. Another way to bluff is going all in when someone raises a decent amount of money before the flop is dealt. Most likely that person will think you have a high pocket pair or ace king suited and fold over the cards they raised on.

These two bluffing strategies will get your opponents to fold their hands and help you gain extra money with terrible cards. Remember, when you use these strategies you have to be aware of how your opponents play. You will make more money the more experience you get, but the tips we have provided will give you a huge edge even for beginners. Don’t forget to check out our advanced bluffing tips for more experienced players! Good Luck!

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Folding

The most common action you’ll take at the poker table is never glamorous and seldom memorable, but it ispoker’s basic bread and butter play. It’s a play we make more often than anything else. We fold.

Good players fold most of the time. That’s a major reason why they are good. The most common mistake made by most poker players is that they call when they should fold. Too many players get involved in pots with weak, unplayable starting hands. They are willing and sometimes eager, to see the flop with any ace in their hand, regardless of their position in the betting order, the number of opponents in the pot, or the amount of betting and raising that has taken place before it is their turn to act.

Many players fall so deeply in love with their hands that they will cold-call a raise, voluntarily investing two bets in a hand they should have folded. When you think about it, a much stronger hand is needed to call a raise than to do the raising yourself. You shouldn’t call a raise unless you have a hand that figures to be better than the one held by the guy doing the raising.

I’ve held many a hand that I was preparing to raise with, only to have an opponent snatch the rug right out from under my feet by raising before the action got around to me. Sometimes that hand I was planning to raise with is not even a calling hand any longer and winds up in the muck. Hands such as A-J, A-T, K-J, K-T, Q-J, and J-T all fall into this category. So do those ace-anything hands you’d raise with from the button or even next to it, if no one had voluntarily entered the pot when it was your turn to act.

When their initiative is filched from right under their noses, many players become irritated, agitated, and their stubborn behavior can be costly because of their refusal to get away from a hand even when all the signs loudly shout that their opponent’s hand is better. You see it all the time, an angry slam-down of a hand like A-T because a player raised before they could act.

Players who do this are wearing their emotions inside out. Instead of being upset, they ought to be thankful. Their opponent’s raise just saved them money, and they should be relieved instead of angry. After all, money saved spends just as well as money won, and I’m a happy camper anytime I can get a free pass out of a pot because I’ve learned that my hand is too big a longshot to play.

When you are faced with a raise, the hand you’re holding quickly changes categories: Most likely it becomes a folding hand, although with a very big hand you should reraise. But it’s seldom a calling hand. If I’m in the cut-off seat (the seat to the immediate right of the button) or on the button and someone raises in front of me, I’m going to throw away many hands that I would have raised with if no one had entered the pot before the action reached me.

On the other hand, if I’m holding a big pair I’m going to make it three-bets in hopes of playing heads-up against the initial raiser. When that happens I feel like I have a big advantage going into the flop. Not only did I get the last raise in, I’ll have position on my opponent throughout the entire hand.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to play that hand down to the river – if, for example, I made it three bets with J-J and the flop contained an ace and a king, I’d be a fool to keep playing if there was any appreciable action. But if no overcards fall, I’m a favorite over anyone with raising requirements that typically range from a pair of nines through a pair of aces, as well as A-K, A-Q, A-J, and K-Q.

The lessons of a bet saved equaling a bet won and raising more than you call while folding more than you raise both come into play here. Like so much of poker, strategic ideas are often interrelated in a comprehensive approach toward winning poker.

While most of your folds will be relatively simple decisions that are made before investing in the flop, sometimes you’ll see the flop, or even the turn and river before confronting a decision about folding or continuing to play. The longer you’re involved in a hand, the more difficult folding becomes. Often the size of the pot is big enough to make drawing correct, even when your chances of winning seem pretty slim. The opposite can be true too. If you’ve flopped a straight draw against only one opponent in a hold’em game, chances are you will not be getting the right odds to keep calling.

Sometimes you’ll find out via the betting and raising that you are not the favorite even when you hold what is usually a good hand. You might have been the aggressor before the flop with A-K, been fortunate enough to see an ace hit the board, yet watch with shocked indignation when there’s a bet, a call, and a raise before it’s your turn to act.

Top pair, even with the best possible kicker, is probably no longer any good, particularly if the board contains three cards of the same suit or an obvious straight draw. Even when no flush is possible, one of your opponents might have made a set and is a big favorite. You can keep calling – your opponents will love you for it if you do – or you can do the smart thing and save your money for a better situation.

Sometimes it’s easy to fold, but other decisions are strictly judgment calls based on how well you read your opponents and your analysis of the betting and raising that’s transpired before the action gets around to you. Experience helps. So does your willingness to see things as they really are and not play poker with a denial mindset that allows you to talk yourself into calling with top pair because some part of your brain wants to believe that your opponent really did not make a flush, and that your hand – top pair with top kicker – is still good despite overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary.

The fact that the odds are always shifting about in poker, and that you don’t have to play a hand to its conclusion just because you might already have called a bet or two, is what enables good players to win. You don’t have this option in most casino games. You make a bet at a table game and for the most part that bet is still working until the particular confrontation you wagered on has ended. And even when a “surrender” option is available, the house will have the better of the deal.

Poker is different. You always have the ability to opt in and opt out. And it’s often the ability and willingness to fold your tent and steal away into the night – saved money clutched tightly in your hot little hands – that provides the resources allowing you to play another hand when you really do have the best of it.

I know you came to play. And getting involved in a hand and slugging it out with the guys and gals at the table is a lot more fun than sitting on the sidelines. But folding is what you have to do most of the time in order to be a winning player.

Watch the good players. They play far fewer hands than you do. If you don’t believe me, just look and see for yourself. It only seems like they’re always in there slugging because they play very aggressively whenever they do enter a pot, and that’s what you remember. But the one play they make above all others is the simplest and most boring in poker. They fold: before the flop and after it too.

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