Poker Calculators

I was in 6, $10+$1 qualifier tournaments just this week at party poker determined to play in The Sunday Million for the 3rd week in a row. They have 60 players in each qualifier, and 1st and 2nd get entries while 3rd, 4th, and 5th get some cash. My poker calculator of choice for MTT’s is Hold’em Pirate, but most will give you at least the basic odds for making the right decisions, at least mathematically.

As it were, I placed in 4 of them, earning 2 entries (multiples are refunded in cash), and getting some extra cash in the other two. One tournament I did not place was the result of an ugly draw out by an inexperienced player. The other was a situation where I should have folded, but greed overcame me. Herein lies the beauty of using a poker calculator – it will give you the power to fold, when you are so inclined to take advice. That one tournament, I wasn’t. But here is a situation that arose in the other tournament qualifiers where I seized the art of folding.

Sitting to the left of a loose/aggressive in the early stages, Hold’em Pirate VPIP rating had the maniac clocked at playing a full 80% of the pots! I picked up AQs at the cutoff where there had been an early position, 3XBB raise from a somewhat tight player. The player after him cool-called and then the maniac put in a minimum raise bringing it to 4X the blind. Then came my turn. I was surprised to see my poker calculator giving a decisive FOLD recommendation for AQs. As I pondered playing, that minimum re-raise concerned me as it gave the other 2 players the chance to come over the top of the maniac, while the maniac seemed to be inviting such a thing. I correctly discerned that there was going to be an all-in situation with at least two players.

Had my poker calculator said call, I may have done so. AQs however, is a hand at this stage in the tourney where you do not want all your chips in the middle against 2 players. You are bound to be outdrawn even if you are ahead – which you are probably not. There are so many online players that would have been right in the middle of this hand with AQs – and OUT.

The early position tight player had KK, while maniac called his all-in with A9suited, and hit a silly flop that ended up turning a 6-7-8-9-10 straight for him. When you got a guy like this at the table, best to be way ahead, otherwise let the others get frustrated and and you will see a lot of high card vs low pair show downs, all the while depleting the field. In the meantime, you can cuddle up with your poker calculator and practice the art of folding.

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Online Poker Security

After completing the previous two articles about On-Line poker security, there were quite a few questions from readers that got me thinking about some areas that needed elaboration and possibly some viable, and free solutions, to help Internet poker players make their systems more secure by installing Microsoft Updates, if using Windows, and by suggesting a program that will handle and keep track of your passwords. This allows for the player to not have to possess a deep understanding of computers or operating systems and they do not have to make any alterations to their current operating system. If the previous two articles on this subject haven’t been read, or a refresher ‘course’ is needed, Part I can be found here and Part II can be found here.

There was no mention in the previous articles about system updates for Windows. The importance of these security updates cannot be stressed enough. There are several automated (or as automated as Microsoft can be) ways to receive these security updates or, if automatically downloading and installing is not preferred, then a notification can be sent to the computer. To choose the level of automation in XP, go to ‘start’, ‘control panel’, and then ‘Windows Updates’. You will then be able to choose when and how you would like updates installed. In order to manually install these updates, go to http://update.microsoft.com/ and choose ‘express install’. This will list all security updates and critical updates. From here, choose to download and install the updates of your choice (should almost always be all of them) and the rest is completed by Windows. Make sure that your work is saved and be prepared to restart Windows in order for these updates to take effect. If these updates have never been installed on your computer before it could take a while, but after the first time, it usually will not take anymore than 20 minutes from start to finish.

Passwords were discussed in part II of the the previous set of articles. The ‘design’ of the passwords that are best to use are 7-10 characters, a mixture of upper case and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. This ensures that a dictionary word cannot be used. The use of a passphrase was discussed in order to make remembering the password easier to remember. Another solution, that was not discussed, was software that keeps passwords for the poker player of all of his accounts, whether they are poker, rakeback, etc… related, in an encrypted database. This encrypted database uses one password to be viewed. Of course, with this one password there is always the risk of someone finding this password out and having access to all of your passwords. A solution to this is a ‘key’ that is placed on a compact disk/floppy disk, that can be used in conjunction with a password, or standalone, in order to open the database. This is ideal for those who want to have multiple passwords, user names, be able to create longer passwords, and be able to remember all of these details. One such program is KeePass. This is an open-source program that is free, in all uses of the word ‘free’, that not only will hold your passwords, but can also create passwords, allow the user to copy n’ paste the passwords, and is only available on your machine; i.e. the passwords are not uploaded to a website. The program is very easy to install, allows for multiple databases, has an active forum, and doesn’t require changes to the operating system or extensive knowledge about how the program actually works (but since it is open-source, it is possible to view how exactly it works). The KeePass home page is located at http://keepass.sourceforge.net/ and can be downloaded from SourceForge.net (do not download from another location to be on the safe side).

The above two methods will not only help with securing your system while playing poker, but also help with all of your Internet security and can help prevent ‘leaks’ while you are going about your day to day computing.

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The Fat Tricky Hobbit

Just like Gollum can’t live without the ring, some poker players can’t sit down at a poker table without trying to be tricky. If Sam can tell that Gollum is not being fully truthful in his actions, in this mighty quest of the ring, then Gollum’s master plan can fail. If your opponents can tell you are not being fully truthful in your actions, then your master plan can fail.

While deceiving your opponents is surely a step in the right direction towards poker success, you should always carefully decide whether a play is really worth it. Being tricky usually means not playing in the most profitable way, so you can profit more in later plays. You sacrifice a little equity in a hand so you can be less predictable and therefore profit on your future hands. However, I believe most of the times, it is better to simply bet your hand accordingly. Your opponents might actually not give you credit for the hand you are representing and that in itself might be tricky (without losing profit).

As you move up in middle and higher limits, most of the hands are going to be either heads-up or three handed. Many marginal hands now become raising and reraising hands. You might end up playing middle pair the same way you play top pair, simply because you can’t give your opponent credit for any hand (for example if he was in steal position). When you play in games like this, it’s important to get in your opponent’s head. How is he going to react to my bet or raise? What is he going to think I have? Is a straight forward betting approach the better play?

Let’s say a player open-raises from the button and you call from the big blind with 8h7h. Let’s look at some reasonable flops:

1- 8d 6c 2s (giving you top pair) 2- Ks 7d 6c (giving you middle pair) 3- Ah 6c 3h (giving you a flush draw) 4- Jd 9h 6c (giving you an open-ended straight-draw)

All these flops are ok. Some are better than others but considering the action before the flop, you should probably play these flops the same way: you should play them aggressively (by probably check-raising your opponent on the flop). But that’s not what typical players do. They’ll raise with flops 1 and maybe 3 and they’ll call with flops 2 and 4. But what if you had pocket sixes and had flopped a set? Now the typical player will call the flop and try to check-raise the turn. Many times this will lead to your opponent folding his hand on the turn. But if you really want to be consistent with the rest of your game, you probably want to raise on the flop. And guess what, since you might be raising with, top pair, middle pair, a flush draw or a straight draw, raising with a set is actually more profitable and way trickier! Even if your opponent has not flopped anything, he should at least call your flop raise. And if you get in your opponent’s head, he will not give you credit for a hand that strong, and he might end up overplaying his hand and giving you too much action.

Here’s a hand I played recently in a 30-60 Hold’em game. I was sitting in the big blind with 88. A player open-raised from early-middle position and I was the only caller. This opponent and I play a lot against each other and he knows I can be really aggressive with many hands in a heads-up situation like this one. The flop came 8 8 Q, giving me quads and an almost unbeatable hand. Chances are that flop did not hit him (he knows that I know that), and I might raise here with almost any pair, a queen, or a hand like JT, J9 or T9. But would I raise with an eight? If I want to balance things out and be less readable, I have to be aggressive with an eight too (and with quads). So I checked-raised his flop bet.

Most typical players would never be aggressive on the flop with quads. The fact is, I might lose him right now, but if he flopped some kind of hand, I might get him to overplay his hand. Plus like I said if I’m only aggressive with draws and marginal hands, I’m becoming predictable and that’s not a good strategy.

He reraised me and I capped the betting. When I’m out of position I don’t waste any time. He might have raised me to get a free card. The turn was a blank and I bet. He raised me again! That told me he had a good hand, top pair with a good kicker or better. I three bet and he capped! He probably put me on a Q if he had AQ, KK or AA. Or maybe he had QQ and put me on an eight. The river was another blank, and I bet out again. He finally just called and flashed AA when I took the pot.

Did I get lucky out flopping his aces? Sure. But the way I played the hand was the best way to maximize my profit considering the situation and my personal general pattern of play. In this case, playing straightforwardly was a tricky play. And, it was the most profitable way to play the hand. When you are playing at the higher limits, try to always put yourself in your opponents’ shoes. What will he think if I do this? How will he react if I do that? What will it look like? Then, you can decide which play is the best and the more profitable.

When Mike Caro coined his FPS, Fancy Play Syndrome, it was a great way to summarize the thinking of many typical / average players. The fact is that many times the trickier play is actually the play mediocre players will make; betting and raising good hands on the flop. And at the medium and higher limits, since you are going to be more aggressive with marginal hands in short-handed pots, you should counter this strategy by being as aggressive with your stronger holdings. It’s a balancing act, and the better you are at it, the bigger your profits will be.

Nicolas Fradet runs http://www.livestraddle.com, the leading resource for free online poker, http://www.livestraddle.com/poker-room-reviews”>online poker bonus for reviews of Party Poker, Empire Poker, Paradise Poker, PokerStars, Pacific Poker, Full Tilt Poker, Poker Room and Ultimate Bet.

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